Now that is a comprehensive race report! Wow! Let’s start with the goal…you finished! Congratulations!
Since you shared the ins and outs of your day, let’s use this as a good learning lesson for everyone else (and provide some feedback to you, Katie)!
Training: Here is a great lesson to not train like a princess! It’s easy to sit on your trainer when it is hot and humid outside. It is easy to do flat terrain when the hills populate the race course. Not only should you train how you want to race, there are benefits of training in more challenging environment than what the race course may offer. No more training like a princess! 🙂
As for your pre race nutrition, you took in a lot of calories. I recommend a solid breakfast of 400-500 calories before your race. However since this is decent amount of calories, it is recommended that you have 2.5 – 3 hours for full digestion. Some athletes will take a gel 15-20 minutes before the race start (washed down with water). However research is inclusive whether this really is helpful or not. That’s it! Another 200+ calories from the Clif bar was likely just too many calories and tipped the scale. Calories this close to the race start will just sit in your stomach due to nerves and cause GI issues. Thus it’s not recommended.
Swim – It is obvious that you put a whole lot of hard work into your swimming, in particular open water swimming, and it paid off. It was your proudest moment and from the data/results, it looks like all of that hard work served you well. Nice work keeping calm, executing smartly and enjoying the open water swimming.
Transition – Did you do a pre-race brick? This is where the hope is that you go through all of your gear and equipment and ensure that it is working properly. HR was quite high for both transitions. This is a missed opportunity as this is when you want to get it down as low as possible (versus keeping it up or higher). You do NOT want to spike your HR in transition.
Bike – Your nutrition plan seems better than I often see. Perhaps your nutrition wasn’t the problem (it wasn’t). Your pacing was. Taking a peak in Training Peaks, I have the ability to review your data and you just completely overcooked the bike. My hope is not to shame you (I usually have these discussions in private with my individual coached athlete) however I would like to offer this as a learning experience for everyone. The Half Ironman distance is raced purely in zone 3. You spent 17% of your time in zone 3. 60+% in zone 4 and another 17% in zone 5. Zone 5 is anaerobic. So what this means is that you sent lactic acid into your bloodstream, then into your muscles and your body has no option but to slow down. Homeostatis will force it to protect your organs from shutdown.
While you might have had some heat exhaustion (we don’t know your exact ounces per hour drank but it seems decent), your symptoms were likely a reaction to completely pushing way too hard on the bike, spending over 30 minutes in zone 5. You are lucky you were even able to continue on.
Also, your overall cadence was very low. This tells me that you were pushing too hard of a gear, training the wrong muscles and this, too, will just wear you down physically (and mentally). This is why you need to practice hills and rolling terrain! Everyone listening!? 🙂
Run – Again, you are lucky that you were able to run at all. Unfortunately there were no HR zones set in Training Peaks for your run so it is my guess that dialing in HR zones didn’t happen during your race specific workouts nor is a well planned out race plan. You were still able to complete the run at high zone 3. However instead of maintaining a similar pace (or better yet, negative splitting), your pace continued to decline. You hung on and still crossed the finish line. So you should be proud for this accomplishment!
Also, your run cadence is also quite low. If you are not careful, you are at a great risk for injury.
Overall – You finished. This was the goal! So congratulations! However, for long course racing, you just can’t race smart or successfully without a firm grasp on HR zone training, proper pacing and dialed in nutrition. They are absolutely vital for long course racing.
Since you are going to keep at it (and I hope everyone else is going to too), now you have a lot of ‘opportunities’ for improvement. If it was easy, it surely would not be as rewarding! Congratulations Katie for sharing! You were brave to do so and it was that same courage that helped you cross the finish line. You did it! 🙂