However, feelings of exhaustion aside, yesterday went relatively well! Bryce and I arrived in Kerrville, a part of the Hill Country we'd never been to, on Saturday. Check in was fast and easy. There were two transition areas, but the maps given by the race made it simple to find where to go. We received bags for morning clothes, bike, and run gear, much like Ironman branded events, making it easy to split everything up and drop it off. I had Bryce change my bike chain in the parking lot because in Colorado last weekend I noticed the shifting was off and my chain tool confirmed my hunch.
Thanks to his aunt, we stayed for free at the Motel 6 a few miles from T1, which worked out really well. It was nice and clean- a great bargain for $0! We woke up later than we have all season, getting out of bed around 5:45am, and drove down to the swim start, where there was plenty of easy, free parking. He dropped me off to set up my bike and went to find breakfast.
I borrowed a pump (forgot mine!) and helped the girl next to me bolt on her saddle bag, thanks to the bike tools I keep in my bag. I decided to not clip my shoes in as I have all season, since for a 70.3 I'm less concerned about a flying mount and more concerned with staying safe. Also, the mount line was at a slight incline and on asphalt, so I knew not being barefoot and wobbly would be best.
The swim started on time with a time-trial start for Age Group athletes. Once again, women under 40 were the last to go, which was pretty frustrating and would end up bugging me mentally later in the race.
I will never not look like a total dork in a swim cap and goggle. I embrace this. The swim was in the Guadalupe river and the water temperature was about 74 degrees- warmer than the 65 it was outside. Since my wetsuit is in Colorado right now, I was chilly waiting to start! The water felt great, and although murky, was clean with no plants to get tangled in, so that was nice. I began my swim and thought I was pretty on-pace for my normal speed at that distance, until I realized with 4 buoys to go I was already at 44 minutes. I have no idea why it took me a total of 49 minutes (very slow for me! Last year's 70.3 I killed it at 42 minutes) I honestly think I just got bored and stopped concentrating. My resolution for IM Boulder training is to stop resting on "well, I know I sure won't drown or be that tired" when it comes to swimming and work harder at it. Hard work beats talent when my middle-pack talent doesn't work hard.
I got out of the water feeling fine, since obviously I took my time, and hiked the VERY long hill up to T1. No way I was running that. I got to my bike, not moving at super fast speed but getting things done, and got on my way.
I almost forgot my bike shoes, since I was so used to having them on my bike! Thankfully, I looked down to make sure everything was back in my bike gear bag so it would make it to the finish line and saw them. I was a little discouraged because it seemed like almost ALL of the bikes were already gone, but I had to remind myself that was due mainly to being one of the last ones in the water and that triathlons are all about racing your own race.
Bryce takes his photography assignments very seriously. So seriously, he almost missed this high-five opportunity as I rode out.
The bike went very, very well, all things considered. The road conditions on the course are atrocious, and that's coming from someone who has raced both the Austin 70.3 and IMTX, notoriously poor bike courses. There was loose gravel, chip seal for miles, and portions of the course where we were forced to ride in the traffic lane with vehicle traffic present. There were two aid stations with no "aid station ahead" warning signs. I didn't need them on the first loop, but on the second I was almost out of water and completely missed the first one because riders in front of me crowded in before I realized it was coming. The second one was like a ray of light from heaven, because by then I was OUT of water with about 12 miles to go. I grabbed the bottle on a hand-up and went to fill my tank, only to realize the sweet volunteer hadn't taken the top off. No big deal, she probably didn't think about it. I stuck it in my mouth to pull off the top and at the same time hit a crack in the road. Boom, there goes my lower lip. Ozarka gave me a bloody lip! I didn't even care, because the water was cold and so, so good.
The good news was, for how incredibly hilly Kerrville is, the course wasn't a lot of climbing at all. It was two 28 mile loops and there was one short steep climb and then about 3 miles of uphill on the back end. Overall, pretty fast considering the road conditions. I saw how much my bike fitness has truly improved as well. Last year my 70.3 was a 3:15 bike split. This year's was 2:57- almost 20 minutes faster! I was really happy with that, and tried to relish is, because as I was covering the last few miles, I knew it was getting hot outside.
When I parked my bike I took off my SOAS top and decided to run in just sports bra and shorts. HEB had given out sunblock samples and I thankfully had remembered to pack one in my bike bag. I changed, grabbed my gear and immediately found Bryce, who is the best ever because he covered me in SPF despite being already grossly crusted in salt and dirt. That's love, folks.
I went on my way for the run, feeling pretty good. I really, really did not want to run a half marathon, but tried to focus on changing my attitude. Rather than thinking of how far it was, I framed it as "OK, I am only 13 miles away from the off-season and a good rest." After 7 races, approximately 300 miles of racing until that point, 13 wasn't so bad, right?
Well, yes and no. The running trail was two out and backs you did twice along the river trail. Parts were shaded and beautiful, parts (that seemed forever) were directly in the sun. The aid stations were stocked with Cliff products, water, and best of all, plenty of ICE! My bottle was full for the whole run and nice and cold. I think that was what kept me able to continue. I really, really wish the aid stations has Vaseline, band aids, or something like that. My left shoe decided it was done, and the heel cup had begun poking through the inner liner. My heel was bleeding and it took finding the medics, who happened to be stopped at mile 4, to get some tape. That turned my run around as well, as now I was able to start a pattern of running 2 minutes, walking 1. That carried me through, as I told myself I can do anything for two minutes.
Despite mental tricks and pushing myself to just get the damn thing done, that ended up being the worst half marathon I've ever done. It took me 3:10 minutes. Nearly 11 minutes longer than my 70.3 last year, which I remember being a very miserable run. I ran as hard as I could, but felt feeling nauseous and could tell my heart rate was way up. This Texas girl is just not good at running in the heat. I'm going to try to speed train more next summer to keep my IM Boulder run from being a complete death march, but hopefully it'll also not be in the 90s.
Bryce found me as I started the last 1 mile out and back and rode alongside me on his fat tire bike. I had hoped to have him the whole second loop, but we completely missed each other when I came around the first time. (I got irrationally upset about this, but thankfully checked my emotions before I saw him, knowing they were definitely fatigue-induced, since he is never anything short of incredibly supportive)
<My time was 7:06:28. Literally 40 seconds faster than last year. I really, really wanted to go under 7 hours, but I honestly think that won't happen until I pick a race with conditions more suited to my strengths (maybe a race in Alaska?!) At least it wasn't worse, and it got me 4th in my Age Group, which was NOT dead last, so I was happy enough. It was really discouraging being one of the last across the finish line since I started almost 30 minutes back from most of the pack, because that plays with your head. It turns out I finished faster than about 80 people, so it's never what it seems on the ground, but I'd like for races to space age group starts differently. I think this order is what High Five does, but many other race companies are different. And of course, if it wasn't F25-29 complaining, someone else would be. so what can you do?
I am so, so glad to be done with race season. I plan on mountain biking, trail running, shooting my bow, hiking, horseback riding- pretty much anything but swim, bike, run on the road for the next 5 months until Boulder training starts in March. I love being outdoors and active, but need a break to re-focus and remember what I'm doing is something I love, rather than a chore. I'm proud to have completed the entire Texas Tri Series, plus my first Ironman. That's a hell of a season, and now comes a well-deserved break! If I get good enough on my mountain bike, maybe there's an Xterra race in my future.... :) (Never slow down, never quit!)
Up next I have two just for fun races- the eSprit de She Dallas Duathlon I'll be running with my fellow Luna Chix, and the Yosemite Half Marathon, a race we're doing for my bachelorette party along with some camping and hiking. I am very much looking forward to October, and not just because the Rangers are killin' it right now!