Okay, I'm going to try and not make this 10,000 paragraphs long. But I'm not promising anything. :)
Team Shutt (that would be O and I) and our friend Ben left for Cambridge, MD on Friday afternoon. Ben, a training partner and one of O's co-workers, was going to be doing his first 70.3 and I have to say, I really enjoyed traveling with him. He is a breathe of fresh air and all the questions he had kept my mind busy before race day - which meant I WAS NOT thinking too much about my own race. Very, very nice. :)
Anyway, we had a lot of laughs throughout the day on Friday and Saturday. We had very in depth discussions about things like "what to do when you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the race" and "if you were on death row, what you pick for your final meal". My last meal would be Sunchips, pizza and a chocolate xtreme Blizzard from DQ. Obviously. :)
On Saturday we did a little training including swimming in the Choptank River in our wetsuits. Holy hotness. This is when I secretly began praying the swim would not be wetsuit legal. In my 15 minutes of easy swimming on Saturday I thought my wetsuit was going to turn me into a puddle. I couldn't imagine swimming hard in it for 30 minutes.
Doing a little ride the day before the race with Ben.
Also on Saturday we drove the run and bike courses. Boy, they weren't kidding when they said the course at Eagleman is flat. Indeed, Eagleman makes Clearwater look hilly. :)
I slept great on Saturday night (always do) and awoke Sunday morning very excited at the fact that it hadn't stormed/rained overnight and it looked like it would stay dry during our race too. After Columbia, I was ready for a non-rain race! Of course it was also about 75 degrees with 1,342,432% humidity at 4 am, but hey, what can you do?
Needless to say, I was so excited to race. I was excited to do this new course. Excited to do this distance for the first time this year. Excited to see so many great friends that I've made through the past couple years. And finally, REALLY excited when they made the announcement that wetsuit were NOT legal. Thank God. I may melt later on in the run but at least I wasn't going to melt in the water too!
Oh, and excited to try and get a Kona slot.
I've gone back and forth about the Kona thing so many times. I had always thought that IF I ever got to do Kona I would like to qualify at a half IM and have Kona be my first full distance race. But then I started to see the negatives of that. And I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself to qualify for Kona because I feel like a lot of people really chase those slots and that's what it's ALL ABOUT and I really didn't want Kona to turn into that for me. There are so many other great opportunities and races in our sport.
However, if I was REALLY honest with myself, I truly did want that slot. Perhaps I just didn't want anyone to know I wanted that slot. :)
ANYWAY - time to race!
Swim was great and I mean great! I really don't like swimming in wetsuits because they make my shoulders so fatigued, so imagine my happiness when we got in that nice cool water without them! And all the chop that we had swam in the day before? GONE!
Even though Jen and I are in different age groups, they combined all the women 30-39 for one big swim wave, so we got to start together! I have a picture very similar to this one a few years ago when Jen and I both did St. Anthony's. I almost drowned that day. My swimming has come a long way. :)
Anyway, despite our big wave size I had a pretty contact free swim (except going around the buoys when we were catching the waves in front of us). I felt good and I swam relatively straight lines. And I exited the water in 33:xx. Ooops! Thought it was faster than that! Although looking back at the swim times EVERYONE (including the pros) were slow. When Sam Warriner (former ITU star) barely breaks 30 minutes, you know something is up. Everyone says the swim was long or they were blaming the slow times on the current. In truth it was no big deal because I KNEW I had a good swim as based on who I exited the water with. Oscar wasn't able to tell me what place I was in in my AG (since we started with the the 35-39 AG also) but after looking at the results, I was 4th out of the water for my group and less than a minute down from the leaders. Trust me when I say, that's an excellent swim for me!
And so begins the bike! Where my specific instructions were - CHILL OUT! :)
So chill out is what I did. I rode comfortably. I ate. I drank. In fact I took in close to 750 calories which is BY FAR the best I've ever done. I expected really heavy winds but never really felt them. I've heard very bad things about the bike winds on this course but I think we got a calm day yesterday (either that or I was expecting something much worse and when it didn't come I felt lucky :).
I was on the hunt for women in my AG but mostly all I found was women in the 50+ AG. I made the concious decision early on not to go with Suzy McCulloch because she was hammering from the start and that was not part of my plan.
So instead Petey and I just hummed along and tried to stay cool. Literally. Because it was getting REALLY hot.
Finally around mile 40 or so I caught someone in my AG and it was Mandy McLane. I was incredibly surprised because honestly I've never beaten Mandy and in fact I've never even caught her in a race because she is a really strong swimmer, and biker, oh and runner too. :) I suddenly worried that I was going too hard but my HR and effort level were in check so I just continued to push on.
Around mile 50 or so I caught Amie Krasnozon. Amie and I played a little cat and mouse for a bit and pretty much came into transition together. Overall I was very happy with my bike - a 2:27:37 split and 2nd in my AG.
As I was running into T2 I saw O and he told me I was in 2nd place and 90 seconds down. I knew Suzy was the one I was hunting down and I felt good about catching her on the run. However what I didn't feel good about was the fact that Amie and Mandy were right on my tail. Two very, very good runners.
Here we go! :)
Starting the run I felt like a big pile of pooh. And that's putting it nicely. I knew it was going to be a tough run - first because when we were coming in on the bike I saw the pro runners out on the run course and, quite frankly, they looked bad. And second, at this point it was in the 90s and Lord only knows the heat index. And everyone knows, running a hard half marathon when the temps are in the 90s isn't really that fun. :)
I expected to feel badly though so I was prepared and told myself repeatedly "you will be OK!" Plus for once I KNEW I hadn't gone too hard on the bike so I didn't have those demons or negatives in my head. Just put one foot in front of the other.
But boy did I feel bad. And nauseated. Yup, it was going to be one of THOSE runs. Ugh.
I swear I wasn't even a mile down the road when first Mandy came storming by me and then Amie. Like I was standing still. CRAP! Get your head in the game Shutt!
First things first I had to take care of my nausea. So I forced myself to throw up. That helped some but I knew more needed to come up. I'll spare you the details of the next 5 miles but it went a little like this - take some Gatorade, throw it up, try some gel, throw it up, decide I was done with anything but water and ice and still, throw up. It wasn't pretty.
But in between throwing up, I can usually get moving on the run (because my stomach feels temporarily better) so at around mile 4 or so I actually did catch Suzy and moved myself into 3rd place again.
Finally after the turn around point (the run is out and back) I threw up one last time (kind of) and REALLY started to feel better. OKAY - TIME TO RUN!
Now granted, I probably went from running 8:30 pace to running 7:45 pace but still, it felt like I was blazing. :)
My new goal was to survive from aid station to aid station. I would take ice and water every time and be SOOOO sad once I had drank all my water. At times I literally felt like I was going to melt right into the blacktop. And wow was there a lot of carnage out on the run course. Many people walking. Many people shuffling. Despite how slowly I was moving I was still passing people left and right.
I was going pretty well until about 2.5 miles left in the race. At which point I think my body had just had enough. Enough of the heat and enough of this running. If I hadn't been in survival mode before, now I was REALLY in survival mode.
It's hard to put into words when you are hurting that badly, what goes through your mind. I wanted to walk SOOOOO desperately. I truly did. And that's not a feeling I have often in races. But in those last few miles it was then that I realized that I really did want a Kona slot because in all honesty, the hope that I still MIGHT get a slot is the only thing that kept me moving forward, albeit extremely slowly.
You see I knew for sure that Mandy (who was winning our AG) didn't want the slot. And although I thought that Amie (who was in 2nd place) did, I deluded myself into thinking that our AG just might get 2 slots. And I knew Suzy wasn't far behind me. So it was time to get moving.
I saw Oscar with about 2 miles to go and of course he was ever encouraging and just seeing him lifted my spirits incredibly. I kept pushing, "one foot in front of the other" became my mantra. The time ticked on SOOOO slowly. WHERE in the world was that 12 mile marker? Finally I got there. Not soon after that I saw Lindsay J and she told me to "empty the tank". I smiled and again it really lifted my spirits. If only she knew, the tank was empty about 5 miles ago! :)
I refused to look back but I knew that Suzy had to be gaining on me. And I won't even mention my concern for the fact that my friend Jocelyn (who is an amazing runner) was probably also making up some serious time. Please, JUST HOLD ON!
FINALLY, I made it to the last stretch. And I saw Oscar and I could tell right away - Suzy was right behind me. O didn't even have to say anything, I could just tell by the way he was looking at me. And then he said it "Beth, you HAVE to go right now. You have to go."
My body was in shambles. Seriously. And now I had to sprint the last 0.1? Dear Lord, that is the LAST thing I wanted to hear. But you do what you have to do and I never would have forgiven myself if I DIDN'T get a Kona slot because I didn't want to feel a little additonal pain for another 45 seconds or so.
So I sprinted. And beat Suzy. Barely. When I crossed the line I knew my body was upset. I crumpled to the ground. Felt like I was going to die. Threw up about 5 more times. Apologized profusely to the volunteers for getting sick all over them. Race volunteers are the most awesome people in the world aren't they? They just told me it was okay and dragged me over to the med tent where I also found Mandy and Amie. Tough day to say the least. :)
Wanna know the funny part? AFTER the race I found out that Suzy already has a Kona slot (that she got last year). So I didn't really need that last sprint. Funny how things work out. :)
Oh my that run. My slowest half marathon by far (1:45:12) but you know what? I couldn't be more happy with it. I survived it and did the absolute best that my body would give on that day. And that's pretty much all we can ask for!
So after being revived in the med tent for a while and being reunited with O, I started thinking Kona. :) Again, I knew that Mandy didn't want the slot but I thought Amie did. I wanted to ask her but didn't know if that was rude, plus she was still in the med tent and that was not a good time to ask. :) I actually know Amie too! We met about 2 years ago in North Carolina when Oscar and I went to a masters swim with Bri Gaal while visiting my sister! At that time, Amie had just had knee surgery (or was just going to have it). I never imagined we'd be racing each other a few years later!
Finally the awards rolled around and I saw Amie sitting a few people down. I got up the courage to walk over and chat with her (she is so nice of course!) but before I could even say anything, she looked up at me and said "the slot is yours if you want it."
Well how about that?!
Thanks to this gal, O and I will be on a plane to Hawaii in October! :) (and thanks to Mandy too of course)
I have to admit, I feel kind of like I'm cheating because I got the slot only through a roll down. I felt badly about it for a while but in the end I think beggars can't be choosers! And I was proud of my race because I didn't give up, even when my body really wanted to. It would have been a harder pill to swallow if I felt like I had thrown in the towel on the run and got the slot anyway. Nope, I suffered like none other on that run! :)
So Hawaii here we come! :) And I have to admit, I got a little teary eyed when I was writing the check out for Kona. Partially because I don't like writing checks for $550 of course. :) But mostly because, well, Kona really is a dream come true.
(Of course I'm already scared because as hot as it was yesterday, I'm sure Kona is like 10,000 degrees hotter. Oh, and the distance is double. Very small details :)
Okay, this really is turning into 10,000 paragraphs.
Needless to say it was a great weekend and a great experience. I had so much fun seeing so many great people. We had a great time watching Ben finish his first 70.3 in style. It was awesome to see Jeremy win his AG and also take a Kona slot. And just to see so many people do so well! This sport is certainly about working hard to achieve your goals but it's also very much about the awesome friendships you make along the way.
Heather , Jen and I baking at the awards ceremony.
And finally, I would be remiss if I didn't say a HUGE thank you to everyone for your good luck wishes and your awesome comments of encouragement after the race. It was a long drive back on Sunday night but you all kept me smiling from ear to ear. :) And of course, thanks so my coaches as well! They have always prepared me to do battle and without their support and direction I'm sure I would never even make it to the starting line!
And what do I say about Oscar? Geez, there aren't words. He apologized to me after the race for making me sprint that last little bit. Of course I told him I would have RUNG his neck if he didn't tell me and Suzy caught me! :) But in all seriousness, he really is the best support anyone could ever ask for. And anyone who has ever raced with me knows this! If he knows your name, he will cheer loudly for you and be ALL over the course. But he's much more than a cheerleader. Let's just say, I'm pretty sure I couldn't do any of this without him!
Now...seriously, how hot is it in Kona?
(I'm scared :)