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I'm a half Iron Woman! My day in Cambridge...
CREATED: 06/16/09 by rah2774 REPLIES: 9
rah2774's ravatar rah2774    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 345
I'm a half Iron Woman! My day in Cambridge...
POSTED: 6/16/09 5:02 PM

First of all, I want to thank everyone who supported, encouraged, and sponsored me as I geared up for my first 70.3 half ironman distance event. When I signed on to do this in March (training/fundraising with PVA) I had no idea what I was getting into. It's been a lot of hard work. There have been some aches and pains. I've doubted myself and the training. I've wondered what the heck it is I'm trying to prove… but at the end of the day, I'm glad I did it. I had a great time, I made some new friends, and I accomplished the goal I set out to achieve.

Now, how did my race go? Well, simply finishing meant a PR, which is great. But, I'm happy to say that I surpassed my own expectations and finished just a hair slower than my "if all the stars are in alignment and God is smiling on me" time. No complaints! Seriously, it couldn't have been much better!

My story starts on Friday afternoon when I checked the DC Tri webpage and saw a post about the race. Apparently Terrenzo Bezzone (?) was in town and went swimming in the Bay to warm up. Jellyfish. The tri club post advised us to wear a full suit (meaning it has sleeves) or lube up our exposed extremities with Vaseline. Ugh. I have a john (meaning, sleeveless wetsuit). Crap. What do I do? I have enough to worry about. Paula has a full and a john – and we're the same size. I left her a message asking to borrow her suit. She worked it out with her hubby to find the suit and leave it out for me before he left the house that night. Niles was shocked I didn't check about the water conditions earlier...I had NO idea the comings and goings of sea nettles was something that was tracked and web pages were developed for… Live and learn.

Saturday morning I get up uber early (normal weekday wake up time of 5:30) and hit the road just before 10. The drive was smooth sailing. Stopped at the Panera in Easton on the way there for lunch. Funnily enough as I was just starting my lunch in walks the vertical swimmer himself, Tuan. He was making a quick pit stop on the way to the expo. Although he wasn't eating, he sat down and we chatted as I had lunch. Then off to Cambridge to the expo for packet pickup followed by bike racking and the team dinner… rest of the day pretty much went off without a hitch. We had dinner and headed to our hotel (which, I should point out was a 45 minute drive… not thrilled with that… and on the way we got stuck in a torrential downpour. At least I had a tarp over my bike).

I don't know if it's because it was my first half ironman or if it's because I'm still new to the sport, but I didn't sleep Saturday night (have yet to sleep a wink before a tri). Believe me it's not because I wasn't tired… but my nerves were just not gonna let it happen. Crap. I had a very long day ahead of me. Oh well… I tried to relax…

My alarm went off at 3:30 AM. WTF am I doing this to myself for?! I brought a cooler of food, water, Gatorade, etc… and tried to eat a bagel with peanut butter and a banana. I wasn't into it but I knew I needed it. Gulp. Slathered on body glide and sunscreen like it's going out of style. Get in the car at 4:15. In its own right that was insane. The race doesn't begin until 6:40 (my wave didn't go off until 7:09), but the parking situation wasn't ideal and I had to be sure I could actually find a place to park. 3 of my teammates had already hit the road. Yes, I am definitely at home with this group of people! I got to the soccer field that was the main parking lot just about 5am. The field was a muddy mess. I had to slow down at one point and I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to drive through; I was sinking fast and worried… fortunately I didn't have to stop (or I would have been stuck for sure – a guy did get stuck on the way out of the field post race because he had to stop. Ugh, how awful for him)…

Get to transition where my bike was racked. Uncover the bike and shake off the tarp. Transition was one big mud and mosquito fest. Gooey and gross are the only words that come to mind. Go to the bathroom. Go back to transition and check my lay out. Walk the transition to get my bearings (swim in to my rack, out to bike out, from bike in to my rack, to run out…) then I walk the lot to check the swim course and run into Tuan doing the same thing (actually he was counting buoys… long story much better told by him). Hit the bathroom at least one more time before going back to transition. See coach Andy, get his bike pump, pump my tires… go to the bathroom (again) since my wave is at 7:09. Back to my transition area to grab my swim cap and wetsuit and drop my shoes. Quick photo with the team… and it's time to put on my wetsuit … the race is starting and I'll be swimming soon….

I made my way over to the swim start area to wait. As my wave was ushered to the shoreline a few green caps (the wave in front of mine) ran in… jeez nothing like waiting til the last possible second. Truly amazing is one man got into the water without zipping up his suit. We were all hollering at him and he eventually figured it out and fixed it. Next thing we knew, he was running back out of the water. WTF?! He took off his wedding ring and handed it to the volunteer manning the water entry – he said it comes off when he swims and he'd find her after the race… Wow, no pressure for her or anything… amazingly enough I had the presence of mind to look around and start calling out to spectators trying to find someone with a pen. One of the other races spotted a race worker with a clipboard. I borrowed his pen and ripped the corner off the paper he had and wrote the guy's race number on it and handed it to the volunteer… She was so incredibly thankful. I hope the guy got his ring back. It certainly wasn't because I didn't try!

So my wave gets in the water. I adjusted my ankle band (with the timing chip), tucking it under my wetsuit so it didn't slide off or slip around… and the horn goes off! Show time. I got clobbered. Really clobbered. Unlike any of the races I'd done before. Banged in the head and it loosened my goggles kind of clobbered. Had to tread water to fix the goggles. Banged in the arms. Just clobbered. I got a bit disoriented from that – but no panic attack or HR issues. Actually, I swam strong the whole way – no sidestroke, no head out of water freestyle so I could calm down and put my face in the water. After the clobberfest that lasted through the first turn my sighting was off and I went a bit wide right instead of straight towards the yellow buoy. Corrected that without too many issues and stayed true to course the rest of the time, actually keeping very tight turns and hugging the buoys. Good… really only got crowded for me as I approached a buoy. Well, except for sharing the water with sea nettles. I got a couple good forearm stings. It was annoying, but really not awful. 3 strokes to a breath, a few breaths to a sight check… Passed some greenie meanies (the wave in front of me) and red devils (the wave before the green)… I was pretty happy with that considering the waves were 9 minutes apart. All was well until final turn…Blammo:jellyfish to the face. Wow did that suck! Putting my face back into the salty water was torture. It was on fire. Thank god that sucker didn't get me in the face til the last turn, that surely would have made the swim absolutely miserable.

After the nightmare that was my transition in Columbia I decided to take my time. Heck, I was expecting a 3+ hour bike ride. I wanted to be sure I had everything I needed and was good to go… I think just having my head in that place was good for me. Off with the wetsuit, on with the gloves (both of them this time), beanie, helmet, glasses, socks, shoes. I took an electrolyte tab, put my gel flask in my back pocket, put on the bib belt… think I had everything… I was off. Ran out of transition to the bike mount area, hopped on the bike and away I rolled.

And rolled I did. The first 35ish miles of the ride were absolutely incredible. Seriously. Overcast skies, low temps, low winds. I was in heaven. This was what I prayed for; this surpassed my greatest hopes. Every time I looked at my computer my speed was in the 20-22 mph range. I couldn't even guess what that would translate into for finish time… could I hold on to that pace? It was about 35 miles in that the clouds parted and the wind picked up, but not that bad… my pace was dropping to the 19-20ish range…every so often, in a windy spot down to 18 (sometimes lower). Some time around 49ish I realized my computer wasn't working – 7 miles to go per the computer reading and there were some major landmarks I hadn't seen yet… what the heck… I was not happy. I was ready to get off the damn bike. I feel awful someone asked me how much longer we had as I passed her and I told her 7 miles which thrilled her to no end… when all was said and done, it was really about 12. It may not sound like much, but when the ride is 56miles and in the 3 hour range, it means a lot. Mentally I was ready to be done. I had timed my nutrition for what I thought my mileage was. Ugh. Apparently the master mechanics at Conte's calibrated my computer for 700 wheels. My wheelset is 650. Whatever, nothing I could do but keep pedaling… but it made me wonder what my speed really was.

I got to the bike dismount area and Andy was there cheering for me and that was nice. I hopped off the bike and started running through transition to my rack and realized my watch wasn't on. It still read my swim time. What? Apparently instead of hitting "lap" to time my bike split I hit "stop." I had absolutely no idea what my bike time was. Grr….. so I continued on my way. Racked the bike. Took off the helmet and beanie. Put on my visor and shades. Changed shoes. Took off the gloves. Took another electrolyte tab. Sprayed some sunscreen on – or attempted to. Apparently there were only drops left in the can. Great… okay, I think that's everything. Wait, chapstick. All of that took over 4 minutes. I have no idea how that took longer than T1, which involved peeling off a wet wetsuit. Who knows, but I had the same philosophy. I will be out on that run course for a while…I'm not gonna win (or even come close). I want to be sure I have what I need…Okay. Now I'm ready. Flip the bib belt around to the front of my body as I'm running out of transition. 57.2 down, 13.1 to go. Okay. I hit start on my watch so I could at least time the run.

I can't say much about the run. It was and flat as a pancake and out and back with no shade or cover whatsoever. The only nice thing about that out and back was it gave me a chance to see all of my PVA teammates and the DC tri folks I knew – I cheered for them all and high-fived them when I could. It was hot. My legs were tired. I had shin splints the first 2 miles (which is actually a not uncommon thing for me as I run – but I know that as I warm up they loosen up). The first water stop was maybe a mile in. I grabbed some water, walked through the stop and planned my course of action as far as fuel, etc. I had to go to the bathroom but didn't see a porta-potty there. Next stop for sure. I don't care if the line is 15 people deep. I'm not gonna win this damn race. Next rest stop was around the 2 mile marker. 2 bathrooms, no line. Woo hoo. There was a man by the door of the second unit –his kid had just gone in, he saw me and opened the door to get her out so I could go first. She was obviously very confused (and young, maybe 4), but I was most appreciative. I did my business – thanked the dad, he wished me well… continued the run feeling 10 pounds lighter and considerably happier… well, except for it being frickin HOT. I decided that at the next stop I'd have some gel and rinse it down with water. It was probably that stop where I decided to take the ice they were handing out and put cubes down the front and back of my sports bra. Seriously, I don't think I would have survived that run if it hadn't been for the ice and the stops every mile! I took ice and water at every stop. Ice went down my shirt and on my face (which was still stinging from that damn jellyfish). Half the water was drunk, the other half got dumped on my head. I had Gatorade at maybe 2 stops. I had potato chips at 2 stops (salt is goooooood).

That was the hardest half marathon I've ever done (and I've done many (some attached to full marathons :-) and at least two in ridiculously hot conditions like that). Nothing hurt per se. I was just beat up. I could keep going, and I did. But the tank was quickly approaching E.

I finished the run with a 9:59 pace. Considering I walked through every water stop and had a bathroom break, oh, and I swam 1.2 miles and biked 56 before I started, I was perfectly content with that. I had hoped/expected 9:30 or quicker, but I honestly gave it everything I had left at that point. There was no sprint to the finish for me. Just fist pumping and an ear to ear grin.

Through the chute there were DC tri clubbers manning the finish. Sandy gave me my medal and a huge hug (kudos to her for touching me). Julia took my timing chip off. Hugh gave me some Gatorade. It was great to see friendly faces!

All in all it was a great experience. 70.3 is not easy. I surely can't imagine doubling that and becoming an ironman, but who knows. Never say never. I can say it's not on my list yet. But, Eagleman 2010 is looking pretty good to me right now!

Okay…. if you're still reading here's how I stacked up:

age group place: 32 (out of 78)
overall place: 893 (another list says 870); I can't tell how many finished
swim time: 35:15 (22; 625)
T1: 3:30 (36; 896)
bike time: 2:56:56 (28; 890)
average bike speed: 19.1 (seriously think my stunt double was riding my Felt)
T2: 4:25 (47; 1060) - (what the heck was I doing?)
run time: 2:10:40 (41; 918)
average run pace: 9:59

TIME: 5:50:45

I was hoping for 6-7 hours. In my wildest dreams I thought a 5:45 was possible if all the stars were aligned (and that really translated to a better run, I never dreamed I'd break 3 hours on the bike… that was a very welcome surprise to me). Finishing around the middle of the pack is absolutely amazing to me considering this is my 4th tri and first HIM. Wow!

toma's ravatar toma    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 21
RE: I'm a half Iron Woman! My day in Cambridge...
POSTED: 6/16/09 5:13 PM


The DC folks in the finish tent was like icing on the 70.3m cake!!!!

smakane's ravatar smakane    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 50
RE: I'm a half Iron Woman! My day in Cambridge...
POSTED: 6/16/09 7:19 PM

Outstanding race! Congrats!!!


mccannjl's ravatar mccannjl    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 216
RE: I'm a half Iron Woman! My day in Cambridge...
POSTED: 6/16/09 8:38 PM

That is the best race report EVER! Fantastic race! geeze you make it sound so easy!

suzkinsky's ravatar suzkinsky    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 121
RE: I'm a half Iron Woman! My day in Cambridge...
POSTED: 6/16/09 9:22 PM

Yay, congrats girl! You were smokin' fast!

vatriathlete    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 685
RE: I'm a half Iron Woman! My day in Cambridge...
POSTED: 6/17/09 9:19 AM

eagleman is like that, on a nice day you will see speeds like you have never seen before on teh way out on the bike course but the headwind the last 12 miles always sucks.

glad you enjoyed yourself and had a good time.

remember 1/2 IM races are SUPPOSED to be hard, that is what makes them FUN!!!.

if they were easy everyone would be doing them.

trithis73's ravatar trithis73    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 525
RE: I'm a half Iron Woman! My day in Cambridge...
POSTED: 6/17/09 10:45 AM

That was an awesome race report, and you did an awesome job racing. Congrats. I can't wait until next year to take a crack at Eagleman.

steph_430    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 33
RE: I'm a half Iron Woman! My day in Cambridge...
POSTED: 6/17/09 11:49 AM

What a great story! You are inspiring! Congratulations on your first IM! Sounds like you went through a lot to do it and totally deserve that awesome time! Bask in the glory!

amacos's ravatar amacos    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 157
RE: I'm a half Iron Woman! My day in Cambridge...
POSTED: 6/17/09 4:45 PM

Big Congrats, you did it! great report! Cheers!

nomisdc's ravatar nomisdc    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 621
RE: I'm a half Iron Woman! My day in Cambridge...
POSTED: 6/18/09 8:07 AM

Congrats on a fantastic day Becky. And thanks for doing it for PVA.

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