Thursday, October 27, 2011

Austin 70.3 Half Ironman Race Report

So this was THE race I had been planning for all year.  
The 70.3 Austin Half Marathon.
Starting Temp: 63 F/Finishing Temp 90 F 
Total Time: 8:13:21 

Pre Race
Alarm went off at 4am.  The LaQuinta Airport was gracious enough to put out food at 4am.  I had a banana, toast and egg white.  I had nervous stomach so it was a challenge to eat that.

We get to to the race site.  They gave us bags for all of our gear and we were required to keep it all inside these plastic draw string bags.  So there was no laying out the gear like I am used to.  I felt nervous because we had to check in the bike the night before and I was not able to pump my tires in the morning like usual.  That was probably more of a superstition than anything else.

We were shuttled to the swim start and had to wait 2 hours until our wave time.  We laid out our towels under a tree, and shockingly, I actually fell back asleep with the wet suit as my pillow.

Swim:  Wetsuit or no wetsuit?
1:01:53 (1.2 Miles)
I am not a fan of the wet suit.  It is hot and cumbersome.  But it does allow buoyancy...and being a slow swimmer, I need all the help I can get.  So it was a wetsuit swim. We had 2 waves starting behind us, both of them, men 30-34.  We start swimming and I am swimming quite well with the pack, that is until I notice ladies stopping all around me.  I am back to the anxiety hitting me again and this makes it hard to breathe with my swim stroke.  I stop and start several times.  I hear the countdown of the wave behind me and see the men coming towards me in a triangle formation (like birds flying together in the sky).  I swim towards the nearest kayak and hold on until the massive group flies by.  After that, I finally found a groove and just went buoy to buoy until I finally made it to the end.  The water was cool and calm and I found myself enjoying the swim in this lake. 

When I jumped out of the water, I had a surprise waiting for me.  My friend Juliana was waiting for me and cheering at the top of her lungs.  I did not know anyone was planning to be there.  My demon of the triathlon is the swim so to conquer and have this behind me was already an emotional moment, so when I saw her, it took all my strength to NOT bawl my eyes out.  It was a magical, powerful moment, so if I ever get the chance to pay it forward, I am not passing up on it.  If you are a spectator, dont ever underestimate what you do for your athlete and for all the people out there you dont know.  Your presence is so powerful. I am always so grateful for ANY words of encouragement.  Thank you so much for all the well wishes and everyone who was rooting for me in spirit.

Well,considering you have to finagle out of a wetsuit, and shove it into a tiny little plastic bag, this was not gonna be a quickie for me.  In the meantime, I am still trying not to bawl like a baby after completing the swim so I am intently trying to focus on each item. 

 3:45:21 (56 miles)
So, I loved, loved, loved the bike.  I enjoyed every moment of it and it flies by for me. There are hills but there are not any I wasn't prepared to handle.  I am holding back on my speed to keep my legs fresh for the run. I have my nutrition timed out, my electrolytes paced out.  I went through 3 full tanks in my Camelbak of sports drink and ate a Hammer Gel every hour like clockwork.  I think all is well, or so I thought.

As I dismounted the bike, a volunteer asked me if I was okay.  I told him I was doing well as I hopped off the bike.  I sat down to change my socks (blister prevention).  Downed another pair of Endourolyte pills and chased it down with some more sports drink.  And off I go on the run.

3:10:21 (13.1 miles)
I am surprised how easily I am able to run....until I hit the half mile mark. 

My quads begin to lock up. 

Now, I have had charley horses in my calves before...but not like this in my quads in the beginning of a run.  I am not sure what to do.  I try walking, high knees, kick butts and stretches.  Nothing seems to help. It is now 90 degrees and it is hot.  When I try to compensate for the quad cramps, my feet cramp up or my calves.  This was so not cool.

At every rest stop I am double fisting with water and Gatorade.  I am craving salt, but all they have is sugar, cookies, coca cola and gels and all I want is pickles...or potato chips...or even chicken broth.  I am in the worst pain.  I take more Endourolyte pills which give me temporary relief and this enables me to run in short spurts but it does not last long.  I am walking most of the distance.

A man is laid out on his back on the road with the same problem.  An EMT dude is helping him stretch.  I see a lady in tears, and another EMT kinda tells her, "it sucks to be you but you can do it!" (in so many words).

I can see now I have limited options here.  Quit, or keep going.

I joked on Facebook about having to crawl, but now I am willing to do anything but quit.  I did not come this far to finish at 66 miles.  I start to hear the music of the finish line and I am determined to run it in.  My legs cramp again so I shoot my legs the finger because there is no way am I walking across the finish line.

I am not sure how I pulled it off, but I finally finish and unfortunately, it is in tears. 

Although it wasn't pretty,  at least I completed every tiny inch of it. Thank goodness I did not quit.

At least I can finally say, I completed a half IRONMAN. 

Post Analysis
Wow, did I learn alot from this 70.3 race.  Next time, I will bring a salt back-up.  After talking to my coach and reading some articles, I learned my cramping was due to sodium loss also know as HyponatremiaAnd here I thought I was doing everything correctly, even with  my Endouralytes pills. 

When you read the label of the bottle...each pill has 40mg.

A heavy sweater (that is me) can lose up to 1-2 grams of sodium per hour which is equivalent to 1000-2000 milligrams.  You will notice that most of the labels are in milligrams.

So if I was taking 2 Endouralyte pills an hour, plus the Gatorade which has 140mg a serving....that STILL does not even come close to recovering the sodium I was losing, and I do not even need to be a math major to figure that one out.  

Interesting lesson learned here.  My sweating was accelerated when I jumped off the bike with the heat.  I also refilled my Camelbak with water at the last stop, assuming that the sports drink that was left at the bottom would be enough electrolytes to carry me through.  That only diluted the sodium levels I had left in my body.

Oh well, next time, I will know how to beat those stinkin cramps.  Oh yes, there will be a next time...Galveston 70.3, do I hear you calling my name? are my top 10 favorite moments of my Austin 70.3 Half Ironman experience.

10.  The training.  Yes, I actually enjoyed the training and I am not ready to give it up yet.

9.  My body.  The changes to the body are amazing.  Especially since I have never been a swimmer.  Swimming really has really reshaped my upper torso. It is an added bonus that my clothes fit differently now.

8. Wearing the cool visor, tshirt and staring at the medal. They all remind me that I did it!!!  Even if it was painful, I still did it!

7. The sunrise over the lake.  The swim was really beautiful once I started to relax.  Bright blue skies and the Austin shoreline was so breathtaking.

6. The music as you are waiting for the gun to go off.  It is an AWESOME feeling!

5.  The music as you get closer to the finish line.  Need I say more?

4.  Crossing the finish line and hugging Charlie and Jessica. 

3.  Getting your photo taken in front of the 70.3 backdrop.  (Especially when you get to pose like the Hulk)

2.  Seeing all the amazing support from all my coach Pam, friends and family back home on my Facebook page and seeing and hearing Juliana cheer for me as I exited the swim.  Those thoughts, words and moments were just priceless.

1.  Completing the race with two of my wonderful friends, Jessica and Valerie.  To have them to confide in and share tips in all through the training and on race day was invaluable.  I am so grateful for my two rabbits.  There will never be another first with the 70.3 event and I was able to share it with them.