So, yeah, this is a little late, but here goes....
My goal for this race was to (a) finish smiling.
In January and February, that goal was not even on my radar. Smiling was for losers. Winners go super fast, kill 'em all, tear it up, take no prisoners, and a bunch of other equally aggressive metaphors.
Then, March, April and May came along with a move and yet another race where I raced while sick (ING Half Mary) and I was done.
Done with pretending I was Rambo. Done with 9 mile death marches. Done with puking on the side of the road. Done with 6 hours of bikerun on the weekends.
Done with all that, but just getting started on the "I just want to be a normal person" whines.
So, I changed my goals. I just wanted to enjoy Gulf Coast. I really love this race and I didn't want to end up hating it, myself, everyone out there, the sun, the wind, the heat just because I wasn't having a good day.
Goal accomplished. (5:35)
Woke up race morning ready to go. Not super pumped to get out there, but not hand shakingly nervous like before IM. Feeling okay. Force down my bagel and bar and head down to the water which doesn't look like it is supposed to. It is supposed to look like glass when I am racing.
Swim -- While I was out there to enjoy myself, I did still work hard and wanted to race as hard as I could...I had some tentative time goals. I was hoping for around 33 for the swim.
Yes, I was off. More like OFF. This was the roughest swim I have ever done...the Gulf was super choppy. Lots of whitecapping waves. It quickly turned into survival mode, interspersed with lots of breaststroke, and some shaky positive self talk ("strong and steady, strong and steady, you can do this. F@#$!, F@#$*!, F#@!, I can't even see the buoys anymore!!!"). I was just happy to finish. Honestly. I was scared out there.
Bike -- Uneventful bike. It actually went by pretty quickly for me. I was so concentrated on making sure I hit my nutrition that the hours flew by. The bike at Gulf Coast is what you would expect, flat, fast and not much to look at. There was a pretty strong headwind a few times, but other than that, it was not bad. Way cooler than it is normally. I was hoping for under 2:50, but ended up exactly that. Run -- My goal on the run was to aim for under 1:50. I was going to try to run 8's and see how that felt. Yeah, that felt good for about 4 miles and then it got harder and harder and the walks through the aid stations became slower and slower. Even though I ended up slower than I was hoping, I never felt broken down. I felt fairly strong throughout and these days will take that over the defeated shuffle that I had in my last half marathon. I think I could have pushed harder on the run, but it just wasn't in me today. I already knew that finishing under 5:20 (my hoped for time goal) was long gone in the Gulf. So, I just smiled and ran my 8:30s. Saw Mike, smiled even bigger and finished strong.