And we were off!!
1.2 mile SWIM
The swim felt great. The sun was blarring so it was hard to spot but I tried to do the best I could. I felt like I was having a great swim - ahead of a group behind me but not in the lead group. I stayed focused on my stroke since I have been working on my catch, head position and reach n' roll. Yes - after 19 years of competitive swimming I still "practice" swimming and have to think in the water.
Nearing the end of the race, I felt like I was finally getting my groove. Perhaps not doing a half ironman in 2 years but completing 2 Ironman's since 2011, I have long-distance mentality when I "race" the short distance races. I felt great and as I exited the water, I didn't look back as I made my way up a steep, short climb to the transition area.
And this is why I love this course.....
Well, more like love this challenging course.
It's hard for me as a Floridian to describe this course because for someone who loves hills but rarely gets to train on them, it's all very relative in my description of this course. But I will be honest and no matter who describes this course, they will say it is challenging. One big loop but a super safe and bike friendly course....although you will get the occasional 1 or 2 (or 3) dogs chasing you along the rolling hills.
The temperature was comfortable but it was getting a little warm (but not crazy). Again, as a Floridian, I didn't find the temps unbearable but rather really great for this day. The wind was picking up a bit and I could feel it on some of the flats and climbs.
My goal was to take it easy for the first 3 miles for if you see the map, the course really starts around mile 15. Therefore, I wanted to build my effort for the beginning punchy hills and to not overdo it. This has been a focus of mine in order to have a strong run off the bike and to ease some of my worries for not having the energy to run strong off the bike..now that I am not injured! :)
I was passed by Kelly around mile 1.5 and she was gone. However, I rode my race (despite my power meter not working - this has only happened twice before in training) so I just focused on what I could control and I monitored my cadence, HR and speed with my new Garmin 500 (happy birthday present from Karel!).
I felt strong on the entire bike and never tired. I sipped on my bottles every 5 miles or 15 minutes and despite being passed by several guys, I remained third female until mile 53. Dee passed me quick and knowing she is a phenomenal runner, I didn't try to go crazy and chase her down but just kept focusing on my race.
I ended up grabbing cold water at the last of 3 aid stations in order to take a sip and to pour on my body to cool my body and to reduce core temp the best I could, before the run.
I saw Karel on his mountain bike around mile 55 and he snapped a pic and cheered me on. I'm the dot in the right of the pic...way up there climbing another hill.
I felt great and had a full tank of energy...questioning if I took it too easy, I just stayed focused as I still had a half marathon to run and that would let me know how well (or not well) I paced the bike. For I pushed the best I could without my power meter working but didn't overcook myself. In analyzing my file and past races (both half and full IM), I know I have a lot more work I can do on the bike. Specifically, I need to get more comfortable pushing a bit harder in the half because I felt as if I was just getting warmed up around mile 50.
13.1 mile run
However, I did have a quick low moment at mile 2 when I thought to myself "oh, I just want to have fun and not race." But that quickly passed when Karel told me that I was fourth female and no other girl was in sight. By mile 2.5, my fun decision stayed with me but I was also ready to race.
With Dee, Kelly and Nina (3,2 and 1st) in a totally other zip code than me on the run, I was reminded by Karel (pre-race) to just "race my race". Yes coach!
And this is why I paced myself on the run. There is no shortage of hills on this run and with a slight climb to the finish line area, you are either going up or down on this course.....my body will admit that I felt like I was going mostly up!
I sipped my gel flask every mile at the aid station and sipped cold water at every aid station. I had the volunteers pour water on my head (multi-task) as I sipped the water. The volunteers were AMAZING and the cheers were non stop from athletes. I guess I was smiling the whole race because I had a lot of people tell me great job and "great smile". Well, I was happy with how I was feeling and couldn't help but smile...I love what I am able to do with my body!
Since it was hard to monitor my pace on this course, I controlled my heart rate the best I could and when I found it getting high (either from hills or heat), I just jogged (or twice I walked for about 5-10 seconds) for a few seconds to "recover".
Amazingly, not once did I have a low moment. I felt so energized and the race just went by SO fast! I was feeling SO great and I LOVED this feeling....so THIS is what pacing is all about!!!
Having the run of my life, my legs got a bit heavy around mile 10. I saw Bethany in the other direction (age grouper who I met after the race and an incredibly talented athlete) nearing me and she was within 1.5 miles from me. Knowing that she started 9 minutes behind me, I had a feeling she would bump me out of 4th place overall female because she was running FAST but in order to place top 5 for prize money, I didn't take any chances with anyone else behind me and gave everything I could for the last 2 miles.
Something came over me around mile 11 and with my legs getting really heavy I just told myself "well, duh Marni...it's a half ironman and you are racing!"
Oh yeah...racing - Totally forgot what that felt like at this distance...and to be able to "race" a run felt A-mazing!!
My last mile - like always - was for Campy as I always do my last mile of my runs with Campy. It is always a special mile for me because it is fun to see his happy face, running so freely with his 11lb body.
I managed to pick up the pace and just smiled from ear to ear as I was nearing the last 1/2 mile. I was hearing my name from volunteers (which I later learned were blog readers of mine - thank you!) and I gave everything I could to "sprint" to the finish.
Swim: 35.14 (2nd open, 3rd overall female)
Bike: 2:48.2 (4th overall female)
Run: 1:42.4 (11th overall female) - 6 minute PR on this course and my fastest ever run off the bike!
Mile 1: 7:33
Mile 2: 7:47
Mile 3: 7:27
Mile 4: 8:00
Mile 5: 8:06
Mile 7: 7:52
Mile 9: 7:51
Mile 10: 8:06
Mile 11: 8:21
Mile 13: 7:00 (thank you legs for letting me put my training to the test!)