I have to open with this photo of Gary at the Expo. I made him hold up these awful (um...I mean..wonderfully colorful!) men's bottoms. He's going to be mad I put this up here, but it's dang funny.
Ok. So I’m aware I haven’t written in a thousand years and it has been four days since the race. Vegas will do that to you. It will eat you up and spit you out if you let it! Don’t get me wrong, I have a great time here…but getting up at 2:30am after you just raced a half ironman to fly here on Monday would not have been my ideal situation by any stretch of the imagination! I guess that’s why they call it work!
Getting back to the race… The evening before the weather forecast was predicting showers for the morning. I woke up early (but not early enough, there is only one way in and out of this park and traffic was a bear!). After wondering if I might only have 10 minutes in transition to put my stuff together, I realized there was no way they were going to shut out over half of the athletes. I was number 83, right next to the pro rack. I was fairly calm considering it was race morning and I was about to put the pedal to the metal for 70 miles.
I got into the water to warm up and it seemed rather dark for 6:45 am in the morning. Before I knew the pros were off and my wave was coming up quickly. I would be starting with about 100 other women, so no small wave. I lined up near the front and when the gun went off, for the first time ever, I fought to stay toward the front! It was a good effort and I swam fairly straight. It seemed like I was out there for hours though! I lost much of the group and thought I might see a decent time when I checked my watch out of the water. Nope…not happy with that at all, I thought. It was time to move on though! I had my very FIRST wetsuit stripper experience (yes, all the men are like – what? there was a stripper in transition). It was great not having to do that myself! I ran right to my bike and executed a pretty dang fast T1. I ran out and as I mounted my bike, the small pellets of rain began dropping. For the first 25 miles or so my legs did just not feel right. I’m not sure what the problem was even to this day. My bike computer wasn’t reading cadence for some reason, but I knew I was keeping it high. Nevertheless, my legs felt heavy and tight as I tried to get my heart rate down. I tried to think about light legs and feeling fresh, but it just wasn’t happening. It could have been the non-perfect taper that went on during the week. My heart rate was fine, and even was a bit lower than I wanted. Coach told me to be conservative for those first 25 miles. However, I don’t think he meant this!
Then the hills came, as did the rain. It was a nice cooling off period, but it made for a slick course. I had two very close calls on the bike this time, one that took my breath away it was so tight. As I was going up a hill, another male rider was coming down and crossed the yellow line into my lane. We came within inches of each other. He was probably going 30 mph, and I was only doing about 10 mph! Other riders around me gasped, and afterward I said "thank you Lord" about twenty times. I meant it! I was thankful that didn’t end my race and my season.
The rain slowed everything down, and I had enough issues of my own. I lost a bottle off the back of my bike at mile 30. In addition, the bottle in the cage must have leaked out a bit as the bike was turned sideways in the car leaving me with only about half the liquid to drink as I started the bike. My salt tablet dispenser wouldn’t work, despite all my efforts to get one of those dang things out! To combat all of these nutritional mishaps, I took gel religiously to make up for my lack of calories. I grabbed water from the aid stations and prayed my plan B nutrition strategy would work!
When the bike finally came to an end, I was soaked and covered with dirt. I had eaten quite a bit, too, from other people’s wheels and my own!
My running shoes were soaked and heavy but the clouds were overhead and I had a half marathon to think about. Coming out of T2, I felt fairly decent. I checked my mile 2-3 split and when it came at 6:53, I decided I was a bit overzealous and had better back off a tad. The flat course in the beginning served us some hills coming up and out of the park. I dug in and tried to concentrate on the two or three girls in my age group that I had seen go into T2 ahead of me. I felt fairly good until mile 6 and 7 started coming along. Everyone was so nice when I went by as we encouraged each other. We sure do have amazing people in the sport. I saw Charisa whiz by me as she came the other way after the turnaround. We cheered for each other, as did ELF and I. It picked me up a bit and I tried to get moving again. Between mile 8 and mile 10, I was really hurting. I started really feeling those earlier miles in my legs and I was struggling hard. I prayed and sang and talked to other athletes a bit. I thought of other half marathons I’d done and tried to picture myself running strong and smoothly. I’m pretty sure I didn’t look anything like that!!
Finally, miles 10-12 started to come. We headed back into the lake area and I just kept trying to keep my miles around a 7:30 pace. A women and I hooked up and tried to run together. I drafted off her for awhile, but then decided she needed some help more than I did, so I let her tuck in behind me. I caught a glimpse of a girl in front of me that looked about my age around mile 12. She just seemed so out of reach, but I put on the gas even though my legs were falling apart. I tried to make up some ground, but I’m sure she was pushing to get to that finish line too. I couldn’t see her age, but I was hoping I wouldn’t regret not going after her earlier.
As I crossed the finish line, I gave it everything and was just so happy to be done. I honestly don’t think I could have squeaked out another drop.
At the awards I found out there were two Kona slots in my age group. As the spots got close to rolling down, I started to have a small panic attack. I hadn’t really considered what I would do if it came my way. That decision never needed to take place though. When Mike Riley called the girl’s name in front of me, she took the second slot and even though my heart sank a bit, I knew it was probably for a reason and for the best. I’m not sure I can do Ironman this year. I’m going through so much, it probably wouldn’t be the smartest of ideas to go back to Hawaii right now.
I raised my hand for the Clearwater slot and I’ve never been there, so I think I might try it. We’ll see. I need to talk to my coaches.
The awards were great, and the best part was getting to see Gary go up and accept his age group win and his Kona slot. I was as proud as a parent as I went up to the front and took pictures from every angle. He really worked hard and beat the next 70-74 year old by over an hour with a total time of 7:01. Amazing, my friend, amazing. I’m your biggest fan!!
I met some great people and connected with some of my friends. To all those who raced – you never cease to amaze me. Thank you for encouraging me when I was down. So many people yelled “go Mark Allen Online!” It was wonderful.
Thank you to my sponsors for helping me to get to the race, and to all my family and friends who were watching online. I had calls immediately after, and I know I couldn’t do it without you all. I know God was protecting me that day and I know he was with me helping me to not be afraid and do my best. It was a great experience, and I’m not sure I could have asked for anything more!