I think I had a pivotal shift after the Ironman Texas 70.3 race in Galveston this past weekend. I hung around for much of the awards ceremony and was in awe of the podium finishers both young and old (a few were T3 teammates!). What made it interesting was that instead of wishing I was as young and fast as the young chicks, I found myself hoping to be as strong and beautiful and amazing as the women in the older age groups...(that I'm continually creeping closer to each year). These women don't get older. They just get more powerful and strong-willed and determined to be the best they can be regardless of age. THAT was inspiring and that was an incredibly important lesson I took away from this past weekend.
Swim: Lots of people have been talking about how hard the race was in Galveston. They're right. Was it the hardest race ever? Nah...I'll reserve that one for St. George. It was tough certainly. It had its challenges. It's a Half-Ironman. It's supposed to be hard!! The swim was particularly difficult because of the direction of the wind. My age group started over an hour after the pros, so the wind gusts were even more mighty before my little butt jumped in the murky, brown, salt water of Galveston Bay...yummy. It wasn't a swim of technique or form. Every Masters workout I've attended was negated by the conditions. Truly, it was a swim of mental strength and perseverance. For the "long" stretch, it felt like every stroke was followed by a wave that seemed to lift me up and push me back about five feet. I never felt nervous or panicked. I just started to get mentally frustrated saying boogerish things like, "Can we just get this crap over with so I can get on my bike?" (You know it's bad when I'm looking forward to the bike). I got blown off course slightly a few times, but nothing major... In a swim that would normally take 36-38 minutes for this Little Miss Mid-Pack, I exited the water after a laughable 44 minutes.
I actually do think I was laughing having just looked at my shiteous time.
Best Part of the Day: The Wetsuit Strippers!!!
Bike: When you're on a hilly course, you want a flat course. When you're on a flat course, you want a hilly course...The grass is always greener, eh? The course truly is a pancake flat out-and-back right along the seawall of the Texas Gulf Coast. Road conditions were average with stretches of awesome pavement and not-so-awesome chip seal. I rode the first half very conservatively...on purpose. We were in a headwind. I spent the first half thinking, "I can't wait to turn around and coast this puppy back to transition with the tailwind." I thought I'd easily be able to average 22-23 mph on the way back. WRONG. True to what everyone else is moaning about, it really did seem like a headwind on the way back to town too. We'll call it even and just say it was a powerful crosswind. I did negative split the thing mainly because I was nowhere near the goal time I originally wanted (thinking I'd get that tailwind). So, yeah, I tried to kick it up a notch on the way back to town. Form fatigue and wind exhaustion kicked in around mile 45. You'd see people standing up and coasting on their bikes just to change position. I, myself, came out of aero just to make sure my back and hip were still working. I was definitely feeling pinches of deep pain in my bad hip (almost 3 hours of time trialing will do that). I was also feeling general weakness in my hip flexors. Again, I think it was just form fatigue. I got my overall average up to 19.4 before the last mile that slowed me down just a tad. Not bad, but I was honestly positive I could go over 20mph. Damn cross winds!!
Kinda looking like a real cyclist
Run: I turned the four mind-numbing loopty loops into a mental game of "I Spy." The T3 tent was positioned right out of transition so I was lifted by hi-fives and screams every loop from tons of those guys. You have no idea how much that can do for a mind that is bordering on apathy. I also got to the point where I knew where friends were stationed. Suzanne and George were in one spot. Chris Marquette and Coach Liz were on the back side. Michelle, Charles and Mo were wandering and full of positive affirmations. (Or just plain, "Keep Running, Bitch!") Plus, it was impossible to go more than a few hundred yards without seeing someone I knew. If I wasn't acknowledging them, they were acknowledging me. Caught a glimpse of Michelle Jones who was cheering on us lowly age groupers. I think I even said, "That's Not Fair" as she was standing under a shaded tree with a medal around her neck and a bottle of water in her hand. I still had 9 or so miles to go.
What can I say about the run? I tried to play it conservatively and hope for a huge kick on the last loop. It didn't happen, but I'm still incredibly proud and happy with my residual fitness. I ended up averaging 8:16s for the whole Half Marathon. I have to remember (and remind myself repeatedly) that I've done NO run specific training besides going out and running a few miles here and there. I've done NO track workouts since last Spring. I've done NO hill repeat workouts. I haven't even practiced my "fast finish" runs like I normally do. In fact, on most runs, I cool down the last mile so that my leg/hip won't lock up. While my hip was aching a bit, I was actually suffering more with an occasional quad or calf cramp that would kick in whenever I tried to speed up. I certainly felt like my nutrition included enough sodium (including about 10-12 salt tabs during the day.) I took three gels with extra sodium. I was even drinking Gatorade (ick). Still, though, I was in the very beginning stages of little cramps. You'll notice my splits were reflective of that little annoyance.
The best part of the weekend BY FAR was simply being in the presence of so many amazing friends and athletes. The whole race felt like a tidal wave of emotion as I ebbed and flowed throughout the entire 5 hours and 32 minutes. The energy surrounding these types of events is certainly contagious to those who are fortunate to witness them. I always get those "Yep--this is EXACTLY where I belong" feelings when I finish a race. Of course, I also have the "Why the hell am I doing this again?!" feelings before each race. I found myself looking at the Texas Gulf Coast (as brown and murky as it was) and felt so blessed to be there. God knows I had enough time to reflect while riding. This year alone, I've been able to do two Half-Ironmans on the coastlines of two major oceans. I'm witness the wonders of the world, both in nature and in what my body is able to accomplish. For that, I am so utterly grateful and fulfilled and satisfied.
So here's the official breakdown... I ended up 15th out of 90ish people in my age group. Yep--pretty good for a chick who hasn't really trained. It really pumped me up for what is to come...I know it's there.
And here's just a sampling of what made it AWESOME!!