9/15 UPDATE: Just checked the results again, and my swim and finish times are different, in a good way! Not sure what happened, as that's what I get for racing without a watch. But I'll take it. So now it's a 16 minute PR...even better. :)
The short: I PR'd, by 16 minutes. I'm still in awe, I love my family more than anything, and my teammates are the biggest rockstars EVER.
If you want to keep reading, here's the long version. You know I like to ramble. Don't say I didn't warn you. ;)
At our team meeting, a paper was sent around. For us to put our estimated times. It was just so Wil and Steve could know when we'd exit, so they could get pictures. But I really didn't want to write my times on there.
I still felt like I didn't really deserve to be there.
What business did I have being there? Who was I kidding? I still have a backpack on. It's smaller, but it's there. I'm not sure how much, because I was afraid to know before the race. Ignorance is bliss, right? Regardless, I hadn't run more than 9 miles in training. Most of my rides were no longer than 50 miles. I was lucky to get to the pool twice a week, and lately, it's been more like once.
I didn't feel like I was really in half-ironman shape. I know I trained a lot, especially given the circumstance. But I didn't train as much as I would have before.
What do I write on this paper?
That I might crash and burn? Admitting that was just something I didn't want to do.
My best race ever would have been Steelhead, but since it was turned into a du and the bike was a little short, I really don't know. So I guess my best was officially New Orleans, which really didn't feel that great. And it was a 6:00.42. I know that, because I remember cursing those 42 stupid seconds.
Go hard or go home. Maybe if I wrote it on the paper, it would come true.
Swim: 40 minutes. Because I always seem to come out around then, even though I should be a good deal faster. Most of that is my fault. I know I can just wing it, and I sort of do. And I just pulled my wetsuit out of the garage for the first time since....wait for it...NEW ORLEANS 70.3 IN APRIL OF 2009. I didn't even know if it would fit me. That might be the dumbest thing ever.
Ride: 2:50. That was pie in the sky, since Steelhead was a 2:45 but it was a little short. The wind would be bad tomorrow, and I knew that was aiming high.
Run: 2:00. I've never gone 2 in a half ironman. I think the best I have is 2:03. I felt REALLY dumb writing that, given I hadn't ran more than 9 miles. Who was I kidding?
Factoring in what I knew would be super slow transitions, and I was writing down that I hoped to go 5:35.
I then came to my senses and realized how stupid that was, so I put a big question mark and wrote "NO CLUE." Because I felt like an idiot saying I would be attempting to do anything UNDER 6 hours. But I was afraid to admit that I couldn't. I know what I'm capable of, if I was at race weight and had put in the miles, and it would be lower than that. But I'm not, and I hadn't. So even 5:35 seemed absolutely ridiculous. Like I was suggesting that I could turn Chuck Norris into a ham sandwich by hopping on one foot and casting a magic spell. That kind of ridiculous.
I passed the paper on.
That night on the way to an awesome dinner with my teammates, I decided I was going to do what it took to come as close to those numbers as I could. I felt like I really owed it to Matt and my Mom, for all the help they gave me all summer so I could train. I felt like I owed it to myself, to see just what the head and the heart are capable of. Because, I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm no natural at this. Some can get by on a lot less training that I can and do MUCH better. But I almost cracked a few times training for this race. It was a little more than I could chew six months after having a second baby. So I needed to make all that worth it.
This would be my fifth time at this distance. I just had to come under 6. Even if it was just by a minute, I needed to. I had to make this one count, and I had to go out on a good note. I hoped that my imperfections like my backpack and my lack of as much training as I had hoped to do would be overshadowed by the fact that I just knew I could. That's really all I had going for me. That, and knowing my family was going to be at the finish line.
This race was a true test of my head.
I decided I was sick of coming out midpack or worse at the sport I've been doing since I was 2 years old. For crying out LOUD. Seriously. I knew I wasn't in any shape to do what on paper I should do, but I just really was due for a good swim.
I zigzagged all over the place.
I'm pretty sure I swam more than I needed to, since the pack was often WAY to my left. But I just kept thinking, "formformform, pull, reach, PULL" as much as I could. I didn't even have a watch on. I totally swam blind. I managed to catch a bunch of the guys in the wave ahead of me, so I knew at least I wasn't having too bad of a day. I felt like it was a decent swim. Hit the beach and saw Iron Sis Wil, which was super awesome. I got to T1 and the jaw dropped in my brain--there was only one bike gone in my rack. Considering the trek to T1 took a little bit, I figured I must have finally come in under 40 at least. Still nowhere near my best time, but better. A good note to leave on.
Get this: I can't make this up, folks...Time including the run up to the beach?
39:07. Under 40--yahoo! I must have come out around 38. Still not my best, but I did come out 13/39 in AG. I'll take that, for sure.
TI: I'm pretty sure I could have knit a lovely sweater for you in the time I spent in T1, and T2 for that matter. Over FIVE MINUTES. I know. Stupid. But I am so rusty on those--I just never really got time to practice, and getting the wetsuit that I hadn't put on in a year and a half while also putting on arm warmers I hadn't tried to put on wet since Ironman Wisconsin in 2006 was a comedy of errors.
Of all three disciplines, this is the one I felt the best about. I had a great last long ride that really built up my confidence. I knew I still was carrying around my backpack, but I also knew this race didn't have really any hills to write home about. Hopefully, the backpack wouldn't hold me back too much.
I passed quite a few people, and I noticed a few were in my age group. That always feels good. My heart rate was SUPER high, even by my standards. I tried to just spin easy on the causeway and get it down while getting in some nutrition. I was trying to hold my watts right between 140-150 or so. I knew the wind would make things tough, but I knew the tailwinds would hopefully give me a little back.
True story: somewhere in the middle of the ride a girl pulled up next to me and said, "Have you ever peed on the bike?" WHY YES! I replied. I have! Once, and only once. "Is it faster?" DEFINITELY, I said. I then gave her a few pointers on how to successfully urinate all over yourself while riding. She sincerely thanked me, and we parted ways.
I felt really, really good for most of this ride. There was a part in the middle where I doubted things a bit, but looking back it was just the wind messing with my head. I knew I could still call this a good ride--not my best, but given the wind I was happy to see what the Joule said when I got back to T2.
Here's the Joule's stats:
Ride time: 2:57.43
Temp: 68 F
Avg Watts: 138
Avg Cadence: 97
Avg MPH: 19.0
Avg HR: 169 (that's actually low for me--I have the heart of a hummingbird)
Max Watts: 511
Normalized Power: 148 (Very happy with that--basically hit my goal dead-on!)
The race results say basically the same thing, except that I'm an idiot and can't figure out their splits. One thing is for certain, though--I moved up to 8th in my age group. BOO-yah.
T2: Seriously. What is wrong with me? I read War and Peace, baked a batch of cookies from scratch, and then apparently decided to start running.
So I just got my Garmin out now to look at the splits. I really hadn't even done that yet! That's not like me. And I kinda LIKE it. :)
Anyway, I started running and felt surprisingly good. I've been running well lately, even if it hasn't been that many miles. I knew I'd be good for 8 miles for sure. After that, well...it was going to hurt. I knew that, and I accepted that.
Right about a half mile into it, I met my running buddy for the day, Randy. Randy is pretty much awesome. We realized we had the same goals--we were both going to try to hold 9s. So we set off on our quest for 9 minute miles.
Everything was going fine for a while--a little too fast at first, even though I felt fabulous. I knew that might hit me later, and it did.
Randy and I talked about our kids (he has twin two year old boys! I gave him BIG UPS. That's gotta be busy!), jobs, the wind, and when I couldn't talk anymore I apologized and told him that I'd reply with one-word answers. We zig-zagged all around Sandusky. Around mile 5, I saw the Jackson Street Pier, which was a nice little boost. I thought of Jackson at the finish line--they were probably there by now.
It started to get hard around mile 8 or so. The wind sucked the life outta me at parts, but then we'd turn a corner and get a little relief. At this point, we were on pace for a 1:57 or so, and I was in a bit of shock. However, I could literally feel my legs filling up with lactic acid...they were getting SO heavy. I kept telling Randy to leave me, but he wouldn't. He kept me from walking, and I'm really thankful for that. Once I started walking, I was sure I wouldn't stop. I had done the math in my head. I didn't know by how much, but I knew I'd probably come in under 6. That kept me shuffling a little faster than I would have otherwise.
The last 5K was a full-out suffer fest for me. Looking back at my splits, what felt like 12 minute miles were really high 9s/low 10s. It could have been worse, I know, but it really, really hurt. I was ready for it, though. The Causeway was beautiful, but windy as hell, and I realized that I was about to run out of steam. The only thing keeping me moving at that point was knowing Jackson, Emery, and Matt would be at the finish line. That was IT.
In the parking lot of Cedar Point, the wind was INSANE and I might have said loudly, "F THIS WIND!" except not just with a letter. And then I apologized. Because poor Randy didn't even know me and I really shouldn't be dropping F bombs like that. But he didn't seem to care.
I told him to GO and finish strong, and we thanked each other. Randy took off--he had a great kick and totally could have left me, but didn't because he's just a nice guy. Reason #246,831 why I love this sport: good people rock. I eventually thanked him after the race about a million times.
But for now, I headed to the chute.
Christine Lynch of New York, NY, although I don't know you, I have to say, you had a smokin' fast run according to the results, and I give you mad props. However, despite that, any other day and I would have blasted down that chute, and you, my unknown friend, would have eaten my dust. You ran by me in the chute and I let you go, so you technically finished 3 seconds ahead of me. I would have been 8th out of 39 in AG, and 35th out of 267 overall. But I let you go...because of this:
my first Ironman. I won't say that this means more than that. But I will say that this race means just as much. This race showed me just how far your heart can take you. I had no business finishing in the time I did, but somehow, I did. 7 months after Jackson, I ran a half marathon and that was difficult enough. When I crossed this line with Jackson's hand in mine, I truly felt like I could do anything. They make it all worthwhile...all three of them make it all possible.
Total time: 5:44.38 (16 minute PR)
36/267 Total Females
Somehow, I've gone from barely faster than 7 hours at this distance and decisively back of the pack, to top fourth of my age group and even remotely in the same breath as top 10% of females. And to do this, on this date, given these circumstances, has left me utterly amazed and so happy. I know I can walk away now from this distance for a bit...I still have a lot to learn, for sure, and I'd be lying if I didn't say that since crossing the line yesterday I have wondered what I could do next season with another 15 or so pounds down. But I know that to do this distance the way I want to do it would require time that I just don't want to give right now. I think a year away might do me some good. And I feel comfortable walking away now.
My team is awesome, but that's another post. I am so lucky to be in this group of amazing people, and I can't wait to race with them next summer at our team race. Having them there this weekend was really the icing on the cake.
Overall, this race was quite the experience. I think I'll remember this one forever and ever and ever. And I have decided that if I can take 15 minutes off my 70.3 PR six months after having Emery, then there's no doubt in my mind I can take 18 minutes off my marathon PR next year. So you heard it here first: I will be qualifying for Boston--either in the spring or in the fall.
Thanks to all who have managed to read this far, and to those who have encouraged me through all of this: especially my family, my superawesome Coach Emily, and my teammates. It was a bit of a crazy ride, but somehow, I made it.
And I couldn't be happier.