Wednesday, September 14, 2011


This weekend I completed my first half ironman triathlon (1.2m swim/56m bike/13.1m run). It was AWESOME!!!! Before I talk about the race, let me tell you what I did leading up to the race. Thursday night I did a nice easy 3 mile run with the Lowell Ladies. It felt strange only doing 3 miles. I think that's the shortest run I've done in months. I knew it was what I needed to do to be prepared for the half ironman though so it had to be done.

Friday, I met up with my friend for lunch at Life Alive and we talked about training for Chicago and I tried to avoid thinking about my upcoming big challenge over the weekend. I was starting to really freak out. What had I signed up for? Was I ready? Did I train enough? What was I going to eat on race day? What if I had to pee while I was on the bike? Like I said, freaking out. I tried my hardest to be distracted and not think about it.

Saturday, I got up pretty early and REALLY wanted to run but resisted the urge and decided to go shopping instead. I got new running shoes considering Chicago in a month out and I have a bunch of big races coming up. I picked up a few other things and then went home and found the most awesome delivery in my mail; the Forks Over Knives DVD and Book, plus the Engine 2 diet book - all stuff on plant based eating (for athletes not just for vegetarians and hippies). I spent the afternoon/evening packing and trying to mentally prepare for the race and reading and watching Forks Over Knives. It's so good it's scary. I HIGHLY recommend it. Oh and I went to Life Alive for dinner. :)

Sunday morning I got up at 3:30am and loaded my car to head up to South Berwick for the race. I ate breakfast and had a cup of tea. I tried to relax and reassure myself that I would do awesome, but I always get pre-race jitters and I felt like I was going to vomit. It took me a little more than an hour to get to the race and then there was a huge line for body marking and check in and the race was going to begin in less than an hour and I still hadn't even racked my bike or set up my transition. Freaking out.

I got everything and started to set up my transition area and they were making announcements for the pre-race meeting down on the beach. I still hadn't filled my water bottles or put on my wetsuit or peed one last time. Freaking out. I scrambled to get everything set up just as I was kicked out of the transition area. Got down to the beach and there was so much fog over the water that the buoys were not visible. Not sure if this helped me freak out less or made me freak out more because I couldn't see how far we had to swim. They ended up delaying the start of the race for 45minutes due to the fog for safety. So, I had to stand there ALONE FREAKING OUT!!!! And shivering because it was cold!

Finally, the fog lifted and we could see the buoys and they started the race. Heart now pounding in my chest, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. The first wave was sent off with a cannon blast that scared the crap out of me and then each wave afterwards had 3 minutes between them and then the race director yelled, "GO! GO! GO!" into a megaphone. I was in the last wave. Before I knew it, I was swimming and I had started my very first half ironman. I tried to just think of it as another triathlon, just a little longer.

I was a little congested and had trouble breathing which made the swim even more difficult for me, but I kept moving, with the words of Dean Karnazes in my head, "Do what you have to do. Just keep moving forward and NEVER EVER GIVE UP!" I made it around the first lap of the double loop course and I couldn't beleive it. I felt pretty good and I was still ahead of some people and even passing people from the wave ahead of me!

I got out of the water and looked at my watch - 42 minutes! Not bad for someone that only swims in races. I thought for sure it would take me way longer. Just a giant hill to the transition and then I could get on my bike. I was a little disappointed they didn't have wetsuit strippers, but to be honest I was a little worried about a wardrobe malfunction having someone else pull my wetsuit off anyway.

I got on my bike and I was off! I LOVE the bike. I'm totally comfortable and blow past people screaming "on your left". I tried to remind myself that I was going to be out there for 56 miles though and I should save a little for the run. It was hard because I was having so much FUN! Thanks to my friends I had a new nickname and a new running/biking mantra "I AM A MACHINE! M-A-C-H-I-N-E!" So, I was singing/chanting that to myself as I powered up and over every hill past people struggling and sailed past more people on the descents with ease - watching the miles fly by on my bike computer. 10 miles, 20 miles, 28 miles, first lap done, 40 miles, only 16 to go then I get to run, 50 miles, only 6 to go. Oh and inbetween my mantra and other random thoughts I was singing Queen's 'Bicycle' to myself too. "I like to ride my bi-cycle. I like to ride my bike."

Made the turn onto the road leading to the transistion and I was WICKED excited to run! I can't remember being that happy and excited to run 13.1 miles ever, especially after biking 56 miles and swimming 1.2 miles. I saw Kim standing at the corner waiting to pace me on the run and I raced into the transition and threw on my shoes and hat and sprinted out to meet her and start the run.

I was so excited and feeling so good that I ran the first mile out of the transition at a 7:45 pace! Kim was having a hard time keeping up and I knew I couldn't maintain that pace (I can't even run a 5K that fast!). I slowed up and settled into a more reasonable pace. The miles flew by. At mile 5 Kim said she thought she was slowing me down and was going to stop and pick me back up on the second lap and run me in for the last 4 miles. I felt AMAZING and just kept going. In no time at all I was back to her and we were on our way to the finish!

We approached the turn to the finish and Kim said go get it, I'll meet you at the end. I kicked it up and sprinted in and crossed the line at 6:10! Still felt AWESOME! I DID IT! I finished my first half ironman and I could have kept going! I felt like I was on top of the world!

I still think it was a dream. I'm still riding the endorphin high 3 days later. I can't believe how far I've come in just 5 years and can't even imagine going back to the couch potato fatty mcfatterson version of myself that I don't even recognize anymore.

Here's a photo of me right when I got home, still basking in the glory of the finish:

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