Barb’s Race – Half Ironman (70.3)

2010 Barb’s 1/2 Ironman (70.3)

I’m an athlete who enjoys setting a time goal and training hard to try to achieve this goal.  However, no matter how many times I calculated my times, I would not break the 6 hour mark this year. This was a goal that I wanted to achieve.

Unfortunately, with only 1 year of swimming and biking experience, my skill level just wasn’t there. I decided that I should be proud of my achievement and not be disappointed with a 6 hour finish. I was ready! I had spent 5 months training for this event. Let’s do it! That is how I was feeling until 2 weeks before the event.

I don’t know what happened, but 2 weeks before the race, I had a tough few days. My goggles were leaking, I went to buy my energy bars and they were out of them unsure when they would receive more, my Garmin watch wouldn’t turn on, my jog bra had torn up my skin, I got a big blister on my toe, and my hip was sore. Am I really going to be ready? This was the first time I doubted myself.

Little by little I tackled each problem and gained my confidence again. If I can get through the next week and stay calm, I will get through the race! The alarm finally chirped at 5:45am on Saturday morning. I was excited to get up and start the day! I had been tossing and turning most of the night anyway. I got up and got dressed in my lovely tri shorts and tri shirt. I ate my yogurt and made a hot tea. I wasn’t really hungry, so I made my peanut butter sandwich to take with me to eat in the car along with a banana. 30 minutes later, we were loading up the car to leave.

Mark, my husband, dropped me off at the swim start which was also the transition to the bike. I started walking toward the entrance of the transition area and remember thinking that there were so many people. I thought that there were only going to be 400 people. I had to remind myself that we were mixed in with the full ironman participants as well as the aquabike participants. There were a lot of people! A guy was yelling, “Body marking.” I thought, ok, I might as well get this taken care of. He marked both my arms and both my thighs with 1618 and then my left calf with my age. It was cold and I was glad when I could put on my warm clothes again.

I continued on and found the rack where I was to set up my transition area. Wow, this was crowded! I was practically bumping butts with the gal behind me. I started making small talk with 2 of the girls along side of me. I guess I had a lot of nervous energy. Ok, my stuff was set up, now what? I went to use the lovely outhouse. After that, I don’t know how, but I found Mark who was ready to take photos of me and my fellow tri members. I put in my race music for a few minutes and tried to chill before putting on my wetsuit.

Once I wrestled on my wetsuit, the time seemed to speed up. Before I knew it, I was walking down to the river. I saw my coach and some other tri members which brought on a comforting feeling. The plan was to start close to the front, so I could use the energy of the others to my advantage. Once I was in the water waiting for the start, I became really calm. I knew that I was well trained due to a great coach. Months earlier, I had to give in and trust her (which is not easy for me to do, but I realized I didn’t know how to train) and follow the training calendar (which is a strength of mine). I was ready for this day. I was going to do this no matter what! The horn sounded and we were off.
I began swimming trying to find my rhythm, but could barely find any space. Gosh, there were people everywhere. I was walled in, bonked on the head, and then I felt someone a little too close. No one was going to swim over me. A friendly breast stroke kick let her know to back off. I continued swimming hard and found that I had to swim around people. I didn’t realize it was going to be such an obstacle course. At the turning point, there were people walking in the shallow water, but I decided to continue swimming and I ended up passing them. I remember passing several people, so I guess I didn’t start as far up as I really wanted to. It was a great feeling to see the finish of the swim although I felt it came sooner than I anticipated. I exited the water and loved the help of the volunteer who yanked off my wetsuit. I was on to the transition.
As I was jogging to my bike, there were people walking in front of me. “Let’s go ladies,” I found myself saying. I didn’t work this hard to dilly dally! (I kept that in my head). I quickly rinsed my feet, put on my socks and shoes, put my helmet on, struggled putting on my arm warmers since my arms were wet, and put on my gloves. I packed up my wetsuit and grabbed my bike. Again, the women were walking to the bike start. Did they know that transition time counts in their overall time? I had decided I was going to run up the small hill to avoid crashing right out of transition. Once on my bike, I was freezing! There I was. It was overcast, about 60 degrees, and I was wet from the swim and riding at about 17 mph. BRRRRRR. I remained cold for the first hour of the ride.
About 30 minutes into the ride, I dropped my chain. Damn! I had to pull over, unclip and put the chain back on. I was proud of myself for remaining calm and knowing what to do. And, I would much prefer this than a flat tire. I was quickly back on my way. I was surprised at how many bottles and snacks were dropped along the road. I approached the first aid station and slowed down enough to throw my bottle and grab a new one. This was a challenge for me since I typically leave my right hand on the bike, but had to through and grab with my right hand. At least I was successful! The ride was beautiful. We passed many wineries and vineyards and I had to remind myself that it was a race not a scenic tour. When I approached the infamous Chalk Hill, I looked at my odometer and thought that it was too early for Chalk Hill. However, at the top, I verified that that was indeed Chalk Hill. All the hill training we endured truly prepared us! I then realized that if my odometer was off, then so was my average speed. I started to calculate the remaining miles and how long it would take me and the time I would come into transition 2. I suddenly realized that I going to come into T2 just over 4 hours. That meant that with my transition and the run, I could possibly finish under 6 hours. This was a dream that I had given up on for this race. I had to rethink this. And, I didn’t have long to do it. A strong emotion of pride came over me. I calmed myself down and continued riding. Mark and some of the members of the EDH tri club were cheering me on as I finished the ride and entered transition 2.
I racked my bike, tore off my arm warmers, gloves and shoes and socks. I quickly put on my running socks and shoes, put on my Garmin watch and switched my my helmet for my running hat. A quick spray of sun screen and I was off to the portapotty. I had so much liquid in me that I know that I peed for at least 1 min straight! Once I hit the road, I told myself, “Go slowly, go slowly.” I have to work on pacing myself. My legs felt great and I was excited to see what I could do on the run. After training in the heat (90 – 100 degrees), 82 degrees felt great! The course provided enough shade and there were plenty of aid stations. However, I didn’t care for the course since it was a 2 loop course. The first loop was 4.3 miles out and back. There was 1 big hill and several rollers. It was nice running by and seeing Mark and my coach as I headed back to the start to begin loop 2.
I began the second loop and my coach told me that I needed to pick up the pace just a bit to be able to break the 6 hour mark (She knew that this was what I really wanted to do). I felt like I could and ran a bit faster to the turn around point. By this point, I was checking my watch several times to make sure my pace was on target. I really wanted to come in under 6 hours. It was down to these last few miles. I could feel a blister on the bottom of my foot. Please don’t let this stop me now. I wasn’t going to slow down. I passed our club’s tent for the last time and ran as hard as I could to the finish. I saw Mark and Kari, my coach, and another tri member at the finish. I finished my first half ironman!!!!!! What a sense of accomplishment. But, did I make it? What was my time? I could barely wait to find out. Mark had an unofficial time of under 6 hours. Great! I couldn’t be more excited. I had trained so hard and tried so hard and I did it!
My official time was 5 hours 56 mins. I came in 5th in my age group, 47th overall and I had the 9th fastest run time …..not bad for my second official triathlon and my first half ironman!

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