Monday, September 5, 2011

Great Illini 70.3

It’s been a long time since I last wrote a blog post, but I know I’d be upset with myself if I didn’t write down some (a lot) of thoughts about the Great Illini 70.3.
To back up, at the beginning of this year, I decided that doing a Half Ironman triathlon was going to be a big goal for the year. Before I decided to do it, I didn’t really think it through, it just seemed like a natural progression with what I was trying to accomplish with my physical goals for the year. While I didn’t follow a formal training plan, all I could think of after completing an awesomemarathon in February was focusing on my triathlon training and completing the 70.3 distance.
The week leading up to the race I went through many of the emotions that I normally do before the race. I was feeling anxiety with a little excitement and a lot of stress, and this time a big fear that was not ready for what I had gotten myself into. Since I had developed my own training schedule which was more catered to my life, I had some big fears I undertrained and wouldn’t make it through the event. In addition, Summer had decided to stick around with extra force and the high of 98 on race day was not exactly exciting me.
Upon arriving in Effingham, myself, my husband Nathan, Sarah (who was racing the Olympic distance) and Tim all went to the race site to pick up our “packets”. I say this loosely because the packet contained nothing more than gels and our t shirt. No pre race instructions or race map. Normally this would concern me but at this point I had adopted the attitude that whatever happens, happens. I was almost over the whole thing, and not 20 minutes prior I had lost my sh*t on everyone in the car because we were lost in the midst of the corn fields and no one else seemed concerned. My attitude at this point was poor and I made the statement at dinner that I wasn’t having any fun. Sad, but true.
I woke up the next morning feeling pretty good. I always feel rushed race morning, no matter how organized I am, but I was relatively calm and getting in a good mindset. We arrived about 40 minutes before the start of my race, which is cutting it a little close, but I was very organized and knew exactly how I wanted transition set up.
After that I was happy. I knew it was going to be a tough day, but I quickly decided that if I didn’t start out with a good attitude now, while it wasn’t 100 degrees out, I wasn’t going to have one the entire day. So I talked to some fellow racers and made some new friends. Let me just tell you, if there had been a “Miss Congeniality” award at this triathlon, I would have won. Plus, I was wearing the most obnoxious vintage pink and green flowered swim cap so that it would be easier for me to be spotted, so you kinda have to embrace that and go with it.
After some instructions, the “gun” went off and my long day started. I went into the swim knowing I could be going faster, but I was nervous to push too hard on the swim. Swimming is my strongest event, but the last couple of months I had backed off on swimming to focus more on the bike and running so I thought pushing too hard was a gamble. I still was surprised at how strong the other swimmers were in the field. Even on a bad day, I still consider myself a strong distance and open water swimmer, but the other racers were seriously blowing me out of the water. I finished the swim in around 53 minutes. (side note: at the time of this post my official times are still not posted)
I got out of the water and calmly went up the beach to transition. I had the plan to take time on transitions to stay calm. Again, it was going to be a long day, and I doubted my abilities in the heat, so for me, pacing smart and not over doing any part of the event was my safest bet.
The bike ride was pretty uneventful. I was the only one on a hybrid, and that certainly showed. I kept my average pace around 14 mph (which was my plan) and stopped for a couple minutes every hour to eat sport beans and drink Gatorade. Stopping for a couple minutes was also a good way to break up the race mentally, as I could count down to being able to stop every hour. Again it wasn’t a fast strategy but mentally the best thing for me to do on the ride. The ride was flat and fairly boring 2x loop but I made friends with a few of the volunteers that were very encouraging when I saw them. As I approached the bike finish I saw Nathan ahead and was so happy to almost be off of the bike. It took me around 4:05 with my hourly stops, which was about what I expected.
Nathan asked me while I was in transition how I was feeling and I responded with, “I feel like I just rode 56 miles but I’m good…..HOT…… this run could take awhile.” He told me it didn’t matter how long it took, just that I did it. This transition didn’t seem to go so smooth and calm. I tried to eat a little, took my inhaler, put on sunblock and my visor, changed my shoes, and worried about getting enough fluids to carry with me. I left transition and realized not only did I not grab my iPhone, I didn’t even have my Garmin. I saw Sarah about a mile in and asked her to grab them for me so that when I completed the second half, I’d have them.
I ran for a few minutes, but walked the majority of the time just like 9 out of the 10 racers on the course. It was just SOOOO hot. I found out later that the temperature had hit 102 degrees and that really showed. Everyone just looked miserable. I honestly think a lot of what saved me was wearing a visor, which I had never done before and had decided the day before to go out and buy. I dumped water on my head every mile, put ice in my bra, and drank more fluids than I can even comprehend.
The run was a 3.25ish mile out and back twice, which was super boring, but I’m glad I was able to see Nathan, Sarah, and Tim before starting the second half. It was a little push and I was able to run a little more the second half. I felt good when I hit the last turn around, knowing I only had about 3 miles left, so I started running a little bit harder than before. It didn’t last long though, as I started feeling really overheated. With two miles left to go and no volunteers left on the course I started to get scared. All of the sudden I just felt AWFUL. I was getting dizzy and all my movements were taking a huge effort. I just tried to keep calm, and told myself it would all be over in less than 30 minutes. Longest 30 minutes of my life.
With a half a mile to go my pace slowed from a swift walk to feeling like a 17 minute mile was a HUGE effort. The last few minutes are a blur, but I don’t think I even had enough energy to jog across the finish line. As soon as I crossed, I went to the nearest shade, grabbed some water, and asked for a soda. I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out, but I was just dead on my feet.
I finished somewhere around 8:32. My goal was under 8, but honestly I was just so excited to finish in that heat, that the extra 32 minutes doesn’t bother me. Clearly, I lost those minutes on the run, but I know myself and had I started running a normal pace in that heat, I wouldn’t have made it. I may have raced conservatively, but racing conservatively was what got me to the finish line.
Saturday was truly one of the greatest days of my life. I’m still in shock that I was able to finish in that heat and I will take pride in my accomplishment for a long time. I can’t thank my husband and Sarah and Tim enough for being such an amazing support that day and putting up with my not so always fabulous pre race attitude. And of course all the family and friends that have cheered me on during and after. I am always so overwhelmed by the messages and calls, it makes the accomplishment that much better.
The two biggest questions I have gotten the last few days are: “what’s next?” and “why did you do it?”. Well, what’s next still remains to be figured out. I still have a big goal to run a 5k in under 30 minutes this year, but I’m still debating on the rest of my fall race schedule.
And the always “why did you do it?”. This always comes up but it’s actually a pretty simple answer. And I know so many of you have heard this story before and get sick of me telling it but you can just skip this part. ;) When I started Couch to 5k in February of 2009, I couldn’t run for more than 3 minutes and felt so defeated, but I kept at it, completed my first 5k a few months later in around 43 minutes and decided I just wanted to see how much more my body could handle. Two and a half years and around 45 lbs of weight loss later, I still haven’t found my limit but have enjoyed the challenge.
With that said, I have no doubt in my mind that a Full Ironman is in my future. I was thinking about shooting for one next fall, but now I’m thinking it may be more like two years out for me so I can improve in all areas of triathlon and purchase a road bike. But I have no doubt I can do it.


  1. You are SO amazing and I'm so proud to call you my friend!!

  2. Great job! I wish I were a real athlete like you! I am shooting for a half Ironman next year but I am still not sure I can do it. Many, many congrats on your accomplishment!

  3. I mean.....its kind of lame you weren't able to finish under 8. Congrats though.

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