And thank you, Kelly, for providing your race recap. They are getting long so I will do my best to draw out the helpful insights/lessons learned as best as I can.
Swim: It takes time to figure out where to best position yourself at the swim start. There is nothing wrong with starting on the outside. Many athletes do so if they are weaker or less confidence swimmers. By staying out of the pack, they often minimize the amount of kicking and impact. You might swim a bit longer but you also have more open water. In the end, it all comes down to your comfort level. Are you okay with impact? Would you prefer to swim in more open water? If you are a less confident swimmer, you can line up on the outside and/or back. If you are a strong swimmer, line up in the front. If you are a confidence swimmer, you can line up closer in (knowing there will be some impact) and front to back according to your speed.
Transition: After getting burnt to a crisp on my ride this past weekend, I wished I had those magic wings too! However good advice to reapply sunscreen as often as you can (particularly after coming out of the water when it will likely get washed away).
Bike: Good lesson learned…technology is technology. It’s a friend and a foe. However, nice work taking the time to reset your watch so you did the important metrics to monitor (and I am glad you have the bike computer data as well for a continuous effort). I like your strategy to focus on cadence in order to maintain your HR and mental state. I often share a similar strategy if you get anxiety in the water. Practice the catch up drill. Not only will it keep you long in the water, it will take your mind off of your stress/anxiety. So nice work here doing what you must to make the most of your bike leg.
Run: Nice work shifting your run/walk to fit your needs. This is why I love the run/walk. It is so scalable!
It seems the hills were a surprise to you. Have you been practicing hills in your training? Hill training will not only help you with hillier terrain but it will make you stronger and faster on flat terrain too. Hills are the best training tool so don’t shy away from them 🙂
As for your disappointment, why are you disappointed? When it’s your first attempt at a new distance, a finish is a finish and a PR. This is why I don’t encourage a time goal (even know you still beat your time goal). If you want to be faster, leave that for your next effort at this distance. We were preparing you to take on a new distance so training was based on endurance. If you want to get faster, once you get your endurance base in place, then you start adding in appropriate speed. You are welcome to take on another HIM race this fall. However this doesn’t give much time to start working towards this goal. In the end, it comes down to what you hope to achieve with your next race attempt. Do you want a redo just to try to avoid the cramping and put together a better executed race? Then maybe a fall race is a good option. Do you want to race faster? Then giving yourself time to start executing build cycles with more race specific efforts is needed. This will require more time so a HIM next season would be then recommended.
In the end, you finished your first Half Ironman. Congratulations! This is a huge accomplishment! However I feel like this got completely lost in your race…