TandemHearts

Barb’s Race – Half Ironman Triathlon

August 3rd, 2008

My donation page for this race was called “How hard can it be?” Now I have the answer – Wicked, wicked hard! I have found it mentally tougher to complete some double centuries, but physically this was extremely challenging. A big “Thank You!” to everyone who donated. I raised $595 for local cancer charities.

  • Smiley faces still make you faster.

The race starts in Guerneville, on the Russian River. The route goes up the river to the Dry Creek area and crosses into Alexander Valley before returning to the town of Windsor in Sonoma County. Most of the route is flanked by vineyards. Usually the Guerneville area is covered by a layer of clouds, brought in by sea breezes at night, until mid morning or so, which is great for keeping the temperature down. Race day dawned bright and sunny. I was happy to see the sun, but I knew it would make for a hot day.

My swim wave started at 8:20, 1 hour and 35 minutes after the first wave of full Ironman competitors. It went really well, better than I had expected. It is a 1.2 mile swim in the river and I had expected to be up around 40 minutes. At the start I just concentrated on not freaking out as I was kicked and pummeled by other swimmers and getting into my own rhythm. When I started passing people two waves in front of me, I knew I was having a good swim. Each wave has a particular color of cap. My wave was purple; the wave in front of me was blue; two waves ahead was green. I passed my first green cap on the way out. That was really good for my confidence. At the end of race I told Thom, “I’m a swimmer!” Well, duh, we knew that. 🙂 I estimate my time at around 34 minutes.

  • There's no time to look at your watch while swimming.

I had a hard time in the swim/bike transition getting my wet suit off. There were wet suit pullers at the entrance to the transition area, but I decided I could handle it. I probably should have gone to the pullers.

Once on the bike, things went pretty much as I had expected they would. I wasn’t quite sure what kind of speed I could expect to put out for this 56 mile ride. I had hoped for between 15 and 16 mph. The course had a lot of rolling hills and two little climbs. The first climb was to get over the ridge between two valleys. The second, Chalk Hill Road, crossed back to return to the Russian River Valley. Heading north into the first valley we had a headwind. I was happy to cross the ridge and start heading south. By the time I got to the third aid station, at the beginning of Chalk Hill Road at mile 40, I was running low on water and my water/Gatorade mix. It was hot and I was not wanting to eat solid food, so instead of grabbing a bottle of water, I grabbed Gatorade. In retrospect, I should have gotten both. The Gatorade alone was just too sugary and not sitting really well. Once over Chalk Hill, I backed my effort level down a little bit, hoping that would ease my stomach. It didn’t really help much. It was a fairly flat ride to the bike/run transition at Windsor Hill School. I was happy to see the finish of the bike, but I was dreading the run. I finished the bike with an average speed of 16 mph.

It was hot. I felt like the air was just pressing down on me. I ran maybe half a mile with my legs feeling heavier than lead. I got to the first turn and decided it was time to walk. I thought I would just walk until I got to the first shade. I walked and I walked. There was no shade for a long way. I walked to the first aid station at mile one. Right after the first aid station there was a guy spraying people with his hose and a mister. That felt good. I ran a little, I walked. I got ice at one of the aid stations. Sucking on ice was very nice. Eventually I made it to the turn around at mile 4.2. Lots of thoughts were going through my head. Most of them having to do with how hot it was and how much I really wanted to be done. I walked. I ran a little. I sucked on ice. I got smart at the aid stations and starting asking for two cups of ice. I combined them into one cup and the ice would last nearly to the next aid station. Eventually I got back near the transition area and there was Thom. I was happy to see him. He encouraged me to run more. I told him my legs were toast. As I headed back out for my second lap, the race announcers were talking about how hot it was – 97 degrees!. YOWZA! I only had to go out 2.2 miles this time. There were a lot of people walking. I just kept moving and sucking on my ice. I was so happy to see that turn around sign. Once I saw that, I knew I was going to finish. I never really considered DNFing, but the amount of walking I was doing was a bit discouraging. As I went by mister guy for the fourth and last time, he congratulated me on being nearly done. I ran the last bit through the transition area and under the finish line.

  • The time shown is from the first wave, so Veronica has to subtract 1 hour, 35 minutes to get her personal time.
I DID IT! And I managed to finish third in my division.

So, now I can say it. How insane I was to think I could be ready for a race of this magnitude in 15 weeks!!! That’s just crazy talk. Yet, I am really glad I set myself up for this challenge. I love this sport. Yes, running is still really hard and I know it sounds like not much fun, but it’s getting better. I actually do enjoy going out for a 4 – 6 mile run now. I look at what I accomplished in 15 weeks of training – from running 0 miles to being able to run 8.5 miles without stopping and I am proud.

I’m not sure what my next race will be. There is a race at the end of September that I think has the same course as my first race. That has a lot of appeal as I’d like to see how much I’ve improved over the summer.

For next year I’m thinking the Auburn Triathlon. It’s billed as “The World’s Toughest Triathlon”. The bike course has a .4 mile section of 12% grade. It sounds like it’s right up my alley and with a name like that the t-shirt ought to be pretty cool.

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