While my big goal this summer was to complete a half-iron distance race, this race was probably the one for which I was most excited. I mean, who doesn’t relish swimming with their shoes?
This race is truly unique in that it was 10 legs, 2 bike transition areas, 42 miles, lollipop-style course, and you were responsible for carrying your own gear. Which I totally had an awesome plan for…until my bag filled with water. But I digress…
Anyhow- short summary of the 10 legs so that you can understand better when I am relating the craziness below:
- 1.5 mile run – mass start; 20.5 mile bike to a second transition area; .5 mile swim across Clear Lake; 4 mile run; .25 mile swim across Mill Lake; 3.4 mile run; .7 mile swim across Crooked Lake; 3.3 mile run to your bike; 5.8 mile bike back to 1st transition area (the short way); 1.5 mile run (same as beginning)
I arrived early, and we started on time. My plan was to keep it slow and steady the first leg, as we had a long day ahead of us. I have been practicing my nose breathing while running a lot, thanks to the continuous hint-dropping of Shawn Kitzman, the amazing movement/manual therapy genius from Synergy Movement Therapy. I actually had to run the race without my HR monitor, since my Garmin strap thingy crapped the bed after 6 months. This was OK, though, because I had my breathing! As long as I could run and breathe through my nose, then I knew I hadn’t moved out of my aerobic zones and into my LTHR (or “Oh Shit” zone, as Shawn likes to call it). All told, my running splits beginning to end were INCREDIBLY consistent, as best as I could tell from my Garmin which ducked in and out of GPS range. AND, I never tired. I mean, that was about the longest distance I had run in 1 day, EVER! Not that I was aware of that before the race! A couple of people behind me on the first leg were talking about how if they weren’t out there, they would be “pounding out 14 miles on the pavement, so I guess we will just do it here instead…” and I blurted out, “WHAT? We are running 14 miles today?” and the guy was like, “What? You didn’t add it UP?” and I was like, “NO! I am really good at compartmentalizing!” And then I went into “Oh Shit” breathing for a second, but pulled myself together and got back in my box.
The plan on the bike was to HOLD BACK. That was super hard. Every time I went to pass someone who was just a wee bit ahead of me, I had to stop myself. I told myself that I could pedal like the wind on the second bike leg if I felt up to it. So I held back- still at a good clip, but saving myself for later. This was a good plan.
As we entered the first swim, I was thrilled. I couldn’t tell how I was doing at all, but I was bunched up with a whole lot of ladies. I was like, “Look how great I am doing and we haven’t even SWAM YET!” So I stripped my backpack off, grabbed my bag with shoes and stuff, and zoomed into the water, passing a ton of people. The bag stayed on my back and the shoes stayed pretty dry, although they were pretty wet by the time I ran in them a bit and dripped water all over them from my tri suit.
Running was going well, as it was all trail and gravel road, which is what I run on pretty exclusively. There was a moment during that 4 mile leg (4th leg) which I realized that I was so blissfully happy to be in the woods and running in a race, but on a trail, and fairly alone, encountering enough people to feel like I was on course, but not so many as to feel bunched up or pushed or anything. It was GLORIOUS! The varying terrain also made the runs go by quickly, which became more important as the race went on.
Lake #2 was upon me, and I had read that it was essentially chock-full of lily pads. I was rushing to take my shoes off and get in the water, as I imagined some of the women I passed in the lake had made up some ground on me in the run. I forgot to zip my bag and headed into the water. I felt the bag getting heavier (2.5 gallon Ziploc) and I was like, “WTF?” I turned over and tried to grab the bag. Unfortunately, the lily pads and seaweed were so thick you couldn’t tread water much with your legs, which meant that immediately, I was flailing trying to empty out the bag over my head without pouring out the shoes, gel, and body glide. Which of course came to the attention of the closest rescue kayaker who started vigorously paddling toward me. I waved them off saying, “It’s OK! I got this, my bag just filled with water! I am not drowning!” Anyhow, I mostly emptied the bag, stuffed it up my back, and pulled my way through the lily pads and seaweed, repeating “Don’t look down, don’t look down…” That swim was not for the open water faint of heart, people. I hope everyone was OK out there.
The wet shoes were a burden for the rest of the swim/run legs. I searched at a couple of aid stations for Aquaphor (the aid stations were well-provisioned, including with bug spray, an evil necessity!) before finding some at the beginning of Leg 8, after the last swim. The women there were awesome. They gave me salt tablets since mine had dissolved in the bag breakdown, and let me take 3 mini tubes of aquaphor to slather on my developing rubs. The swim at Leg #7 was beautiful and fantastic for me as a strong swimmer. I know that it was very difficult to have the longest swim last for those who are not strong swimmers, but that was part of the challenge and fun in my opinion.
The run back to the bike was the hardest. My feet hurt, it was starting to get hot, and I was tiring a bit. I kept after the breathing, walking as necessary on the hills when my breath became out of control. I figured I would let loose on the last 2 legs, since they would take about a total of 25-30 minutes. I had no idea how I was doing, and I figured I was pretty middle of the pack until I ran into transition 2, and someone said, “Third woman!” and I was like, “Wha!?” That gave me a surge of adrenaline and I just hammered the bike leg as hard as I could (it must have been very ugly to watch, because it felt ugly to perform!), dropped my bike in transition 1, and then ran like a maniac until I got alone in the woods, where I promptly… walked. I was pooped! Once I regrouped, I kept on at a steady pace until I could hear the announcer, and then I started sprinting for the end.
Success! I would call this race successful, although I had no expectations or goals going into the race about time or placing. My runs were incredibly successful, as was my strategy on the bike. Equipment wise, I think I did OK, although I would consider socks next year for the later legs? I did have a second pair of shoes to put on in Transition 1 for the first and last legs, but they rubbed in the same places as the other shoes, so it wasn’t much comfort. Fueling was easy, as I fueled a lot on the first bike, and kept fueling through the aid stations, which was key to avoiding cramping and having enough energy to finish.
Final words? BEST.DAY.RACING.EVER. Enough said!
First in AG 35-39, 3rd OA female, 14th OA