So it's been two days since my second crack at Barb's Race half ironman. My second chance, my second go, my second time racing in the beautiful place I call home. But this time I got here in an incredibly different way and the results were better then I imagined.
If you didn't know this already my training going into this race was a complete experiment. Reading through my race report from my last go around it was clear to me even in retrospect that after that race I was burned out...severely. I gave up the sport of triathlon entirely for over a year and then only raced short course for the next two years. I vowed to find a way for that not to happen this time around. So the experiment began...
First I had to examine what went wrong last time. I had a great coach, great friends, and the will to work hard...but I didn't have the time. I tried to pack traditional long course training into a very non-traditional schedule. I was a full time night shift nurse, I had two small children, I had a husband who needed me, I had a home that needed time/effort, I had friends that valued my time...basically I was busy and my schedulewas abnormal to say the least. It just didn't work. I was trying to fit in workouts in between 12 hour night shifts that were just too long or I'd try to move them around to fit better...but with one kid still at home (Addison was only 3) it was impossible to fit all the training into my schedule so I'd end up feeling depressed and defeated by something that others managed to make look easy. And again, my coach was amazing, but unfortunately if you don't live the married with kids and a crazy night shift job life...you don't entirely understand the demands of it.
This time around I still have a full time night shift nursing job...I also managed to add in a job as a Naval Reserve Nurse Corps officer...and one as a contract flight nurse. I have two children who thankfully are no longer small and both in school. I have a husband who still needs my time. A house that still needs work (though we did hire a gardener!). And I still have friends who value me and my time with them. My demands had actually increased...so how do you figure that out??
You hire your USAT certified mom to be your coach. She also happens to live with you and knows the details of your schedule and it's unique challenges better then anyone. You hatch a plan to increase the overall quality of the training and decrease the quantity. No more crazy long training days...more really, really hard sets on the track, in the pool, and on the trainer. Double days to maximize time and a whole lot of..."Hey, let's just run with this and see what happens!"
The numbers in training looked good. I was also playing around with my diet and adopting a more paleo diet based upon the book by The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain and Joe Friel. It was changing everything...I was dropping inches (not a pound at all!), feeling better, getting faster, and my long term GI issues were resolving as well.
We were happy...but it remained to be seen how this would hold up on the long course. The truth was leading into the race that I had yet to complete a workout over 4 hours. In over a year. Seriously. So I honestly wasn't sure if at some point past 4 hours the proverbial wheels wouldn't just fall off and leave me feeling completely flat...but it was time to find out.
We traveled up north on the Tuesday prior to the race and I checked into hotel de Dad (aka my dad and step mom's house with my kiddos). Mike wasn't able to make it up this year as we had just returned from a vacation to see his family in Tennessee and he was out of vacation days.
The days leading up the race were filled with family, rest, food, and small/short bits of last minute keeping it loose training. I felt relaxed, calm, and happy. I had made it to the start line without burnout or injury. I still loved the sport and was actually getting excited to race.
Race morning arrived and I woke feeling rested and ready. I had an 8:36 wave start but still wanted to get there early to get good parking. I ate 2 slices of dry GF toast (according to the Paleo diet for athletes you do add carbs back in during the time surrounding longer races/training days), and 2 eggs washed down with the Clif Shot powder in water. I grabbed a banana and Clif Shot gel for later and a cup of coffee for the road. I had taken my pre race Immodium (if you are an endurance athlete you get this) as well as some Claritin as my allergies were kicking my butt! I woke up my Sherpa-in-training (my little brother, Danny), and we headed out.
In a stroke of complete luck we found a parking spot directly across the street from the swim start as someone pulled out of the space in front of us (hello good omen!). I borrowed a bike pump from a fellow athlete as mine wasn't working and pumped my tires a bit under the recommended pressure since I knew the roads were less then smooth on this course. We then made our way down to the beach and I quickly set up my transition area...nothing fancy there. I showed Danny around and he bodymarked me and helped with my sunscreen as I ate the banana. We watched as the Vineman athletes went off and slowly filtered in. Then it was time for me to warm up and eat my Clif Shot...a quick run followed by a swim and I was ready. I said goodbye to my brother and entered the corral with my wave (the last wave of Barb's race athletes).
The Swim (33:32, 1:36/100 yds, 7th in my division):
The water was comfortable, I positioned myself at the front towards the left side, and I took off with a vengeance when the horn went off. I fought to stay with the leaders until we were a solid distance away from the main field. I felt awesome. The only hitch in the swim was the fact that no matter what, if you are a fast swimmer you inevitably end up swimming through other waves. And here, in the river, those swimmers turn into walkers...suddenly and without warning. So I spent plenty of energy dodging swimmers and walkers and sighting to see where the next human obstacle was. But no matter, I finished in a time that was comparable to my training and was a 3 minute PR over last time. I ran up the ramp, had my wetsuit stripped, and threw my bag of gear to my waiting Sherpa (did I mention yet how awesome he was?!). I transitioned and didn't even attempt to mount my bike at the bottom of the hill...I just ran up and mounted at the top (lesson learned from last year!).
The Bike: (3:11:36, 18.0 mph/avg 1st half, 17.5 mph/avg 2nd half, 10th in my division):
The bike has always been my Achilles heel...I've never been the biggest fan. After a stellar fit by Rachel and the team at Moment Cycle Sport I felt ready to tackle the bike this time around stronger and more comfortable. Well I WAS stronger and more comfortable...but unfortunately my bike time was 2 minutes slower then last time. At first I was pretty discouraged by this as my goal was to do 2:45. But looking at the race times, only 4 women in the entire field went even near that time and only 17 went sub 3 hours. It was a windy day out there...and I don't know what else...but I felt great nonetheless and know I gave it my all. I chowed down on half a PocketFuel chocolate espresso, a handful of custom paleo coconut lemon cream Healthy Bites, and a pack of Honey Stinger chews. I drank water and Clif Shot lemonade. I took half a banana from one aide station but that was it. I knew I had made the mistake previously of over eating and I wasn't going to do that this time around. I played leap frog with a few racers but wisely minded my USAT P's and Q's as I knew marshalls were out on the course and didn't want a penalty hanging over me on this draft happy course. I came into transition feel strong and actually excited to run.
Run: (1:52:01, approx. 8:30 min/mile avg, 3rd in my division):
I unfortunately had to visit the port-a-potty pre run as I didn't think running with a full bladder was going to benefit me in any way. Luckily it was a quick stop and I was off. I knew in training on flatter, coastal (read: cooler) roads I could average nearer to an 8:00 min/mile for the distance. I wanted to break my half marathon PR of 1:49 but I had set that on a flatter course as a stand alone race (not after a swim and bike)...so I was just ready to roll with the miles and give it my best. I was thirsty and hot out there in the hills with minimal breezes...so I tried to grab ice when I could and would grab a sip of water at every other aide station. I also grabbed a few cups of flat Coke and took my first Honey Stinger gel at mile 1 and my second at mile 6. It was funny because I felt like I was running slower but I would glance at my watch and see that I was indeed running under 8:30's unless I was heading up a hill. I passed people often and got a lot of comments about how strong I looked...unfortunately responding was not currently in my grasp so I tried to smile when I could. I didn't really hit any kind of wall until a bit after mile 10...I wanted to lay down and I wanted a tall glass of ice water. That's all I wanted. But I knew my family was at the finish and I knew I was doing well...so I sucked it up...said a few words to myself...and kept on trucking.
Coming into that finish line was beautiful. I could see my dad, brothers, kids and my brother's girlfriend. They had the Barb's Race tape up across the line so I actually got to feel like a rockstar and hold it up for a brief moment. I was quite shaky and wobbly after crossing but so, so happy to be finished and still be happy about the whole experience. I got my medal and beelined for my family. Over the next few minutes I found out I had taken 4th in my division. I had set many goals for myself and one of them was to come in the top 5...mission accomplished...total time 5:43:43 and 4th out of what looks to be 60 women who completed the race in my division. It was also a 16 minute PR on this course for me. But more importantly I completed it happily...with plans in my head to race this distance and longer again.
Hypothesis proven. You can race this distance on less then the "normal" training volume and still reach goals and do well. Did I win? No. Did I learn many lessons? Absolutely. I know I need more time on my bike...and more time in aero. I need to brick a bit more. But otherwise I'm beyond happy with the results.
I have so many people to thank now...but overall just a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me, prayed for me, encouraged me, and been there for me. A huge thanks to my family....without their love and support I would never be able to do this sport that I so love. And the biggest thanks of all to my Coach Mom...thanks for believing in me when I don't believe in myself. For your willingness to try something new...for your adaptability...for knowing me so darn well...for keeping me sane...for loving me through it all. I look forward to our next adventure and experiment.
As I head into ultra marathon training now and then a large triathlon break due to deployment I'm already excited about the years to come. I have so many goals and a renewed love for this sport that constantly pushes me to find my limits and push right past them...
Thank you all...