2009 Miami Man Half Iron Triathlon
1.2 mile swim – 56 mile bike – 13.1 mile run
Total Time: 6:36:09
Run: 2:15:46 (Garmin Data)
Overall Place: 444 out of 677
Gender Place: 99 out of 189
Category Place: 17 out of 28
Where to start ? It’s been quite a journey. I feel surreal sitting here, sore, but elated about my most recent victory. It is certainly not one of my typical victories. Physically, I walked away with a finisher’s medal and nothing more, but emotionally, a feeling of accomplishment that is immeasurable.
Although this was the longest event I’ve ever done, it was certainly not the hardest. I’ve been in deep, dark places before, but only experienced patches of gray yesterday. The reason, I think, is because I didn’t push the envelope. For me, not finishing is not an option. The thought of a sugar crash or hitting the proverbial wall terrifies me, so I tend to take precaution during endurance events. That kind of attitude will never secure optimum performance, but it will always get me to the finish line.
The last few months have been trying, but a good learning experience for me. I’ve learned a lot about what not to do when training for a big race. Scheduling so many races so close together was a huge mistake. I don’t know what I was thinking. It really hit me when I started coming down with a cold last Sunday. I took more vitamin C this week than in my entire life combined. I slowly started to feel better, but even on the eve of the race, my head was foggy and my throat felt raspy and sore.
The race was about 50 miles from where we live, so we decided to stay in a nearby hotel the night before. I went for a ride early in the morning and got a preview of what the wind situation would be like on race day. Nothing we can do about that, so I didn’t dwell on it much. Then we loaded up the car and drove down to packet pickup, where I dropped off my bike and went for a quick dip in the lake. It was gross, but not as gross as the previous lake I swam in. Later that day I went for a short run and had a nice Thai dinner with some great friends.
I woke up around 4:30 on race morning, got ready and ate breakfast: banana, peanut butter cereal with almond milk and half a bagel with peanut butter. I also drank lots of water.
Unfortunately, I made it to transition about half an hour before it closed. Things happened, other things were forgotten. It was a frantic, not fun, very unsettling time. Here’re a tip. We’ll call it Liz’s HIM Tip #1: take whatever amount of time you think you will need to set up your transition area and multiply it by two. Give yourselves enough time. Trust me.
I actually had some friends doing this event which was exciting. I took one gel about 20 minutes before my start time and chatted with them while we waited for our waves. It was a nice way to pass the time, rather than obsessing nervously like I normally do.
And seriously, there’s no reason to obsess nervously. I learned that yesterday. So, here’s Liz’s HIM Tip #2: don’t obsess about your weaknesses. It is a waste of time ! Do your best and learn from your results. For example, I realized just how pathetic of a swimmer I am. I can’t swim a straight line to save my life and I am embarrassingly slow, but now I know what I need to improve and will work on it for my next event. I’ve already come a long way by learning to conserve energy instead of spazzing out in the water.
The swim was two laps. Fortunately for my ego, I forgot to start my watch when I got into the lake. So, naively hopeful, I started it as I went in for my second lap. I came out 33 minutes later, felt crushed for half a minute, but quickly got over myself. I’ve let bad swims cripple my races before and I wasn’t going to let that happen this time. I had a long day ahead of me.
As far as the swim itself, it was nice. The water temperature was perfect and apart from the times when I was being blinded by the sun or swimming in circles, I actually enjoyed myself. Those guys on kayaks helped steer me back on course, bless their hearts. If not for them, I may still be swimming in that lake, trying to find the exit. Sigh…
Despite the crazy winds, I was excited to get on the bike. The bike course went out for 13 miles and did two 15 mile loops before returning to transition. I did the first 20 miles in under an hour. I wasn’t taking full advantage of the tail wind, though, and I’d come to regret that later. Just after the first hour, we turned into 25-30mph winds, though closer to 25. It was torture. Some people couldn’t push past 10mph and they were angry about it. I kept a steady speed but it wasn’t very impressive. I met “closer to 30″ when I came around the bend the second time and it was painful. The winds had picked up which sucked for the slower swimmers (me !).
The last 10 miles back to transition were sheer agony. I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown. Nasty thoughts crossed my mind and I could tell everyone around me was in the same mood. I guess we sometimes remember things differently after we’ve finished a race or just forget the bad parts. Funny how the mind works. If someone had given me a free entry to next year’s race during those last 10 miles, not only would I have insulted such a person, I may have even threatened to hurt them.
Liz’s HIM Tip #3 is simple. Train alone. Not all the time, but make sure you do some hard rides by yourself. They will help build the strength you need to fight those nasty demons that creep up during individual events like triathlons and time trials.
My nutrition plan worked for the first two hours. I alternated between gels and Lara Bars every 30-45 minutes. After the second Lara Bar, however, my stomach started cramping up and I had to figure out why. I opted for the worse of two possible reasons – I was eating too much. Fortunately, I was right. I waited until the last 15 minutes on the bike to have my last gel.
Despite fearing that my legs wouldn’t hold up for 13 miles, off I went. I actually stood around my transition area for a few seconds, making sure I had everything I needed. Suddenly I felt so light.
As soon as I took off, I knew it would be a slow run. My legs felt like bricks and my stomach was still feeling a bit queasy. I waited until the second mile to have my first gel. By then my stomach felt better. I saw many people struggling during the run, much more so than during the bike. I also saw a lot of people quitting while others shouted “don’t give up !” I saw a woman on the ground, semi-unconscious, my worst fear. Fortunately, that didn’t happen to me and it won’t happen to you if you follow Liz’s HIM Tip #4: eat and drink even when you are not hungry or thirsty. I burned 4000 calories yesterday and I am not a big person. Proper nutrition is important. I had a total of 3 gels during the run as well as Gatorade and plenty of water.
The run didn’t actually feel like a Half Marathon. It just felt like a really long run. I’m not sure if that is because I was running so slowly or because the last Half Marathon I did was so horrific, but even today my legs don’t feel half as sore as they did after the Atlanta mess. Whatever the case, I really didn’t expect great things from my legs during the run. I haven’t been able to train properly due to injuries and it showed.
Some of my friends come out to cheer for us. It was great to see them on the run course, the hardest part of the race. Some of them had brought their kids who were also cheering us on and holding up signs. It was really amazing. I was also happy to see Geoff each time I came through or around transition. After the race, he mentioned I’d never looked so happy during an event. Each time I passed by, I had a big smile on my face. Perhaps that is the best tip I can give you, Liz’s HIM Tip #5: when in doubt, smile. No matter how you feel inside, having a smile on your face makes you feel like a million bucks, or at least makes you look like you do and throws off the competition. You’re welcome.
So overall, there were good bits and bad bits and then there was the finish line – still the best bit of all. I know what you’re wondering. Will I do another ? Well, of course. And I’ll even pay for it.
But before I rush off and sign up for anything else, I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all who have helped, supported and believed in me. I am forever thankful for your positive thoughts, tips and well wishes. They mean the world to me and truly helped me throughout this journey. Most of all, I want to thank Geoffrey for being the most understanding and supportive partner anyone could ever have.