My goal for the swim was to break 30 minutes. Okay, that’s ALWAYS my goal for the half IM swim but I haven’t done it yet. I was feeling good about my chances here at Steelhead but the water was a little on the wavy side. Not short little chop but big swells type of wave. And because I only swim in rivers and/or stagnant lake water, I wasn’t sure how big lake wavy water affected things.
It should be mentioned that Steelhead is an on-land start. Which is kind of funny for me because I am so clueless when it comes to running into water or dolphin diving or whatever that is called. See, I don’t even know what it’s called! Steelhead is the only place I haven’t started in the water (I guess you could also count the NYC triathlon but we dove into that water so it wasn’t a choice of how I was getting in) so it always makes me a little anxious. And the water is pretty shallow for quite a while too (almost all the way out to the first buoy) so it’s not like you can just jump in and start to swim.
I watched the pros go and they ran like crazy, almost all the way to the first buoy, and then started diving/swimming. I declared it would be a game time decision for me when the starter declared "GO"!
Unfortunately, pretty much the worst case scenario happened – the starter yelled go, I went running out into the water and promptly fell flat on my face. And because I started in front, like 20 people ran over me. Oops. :) It was fine though, I got up and ran a little more, dove in, hit the bottom and started to swim. It wasn’t pretty but I did finally get to some deep water.
The swim went pretty well from there but I do admit it took me a while to figure out how to sight. Like I said, the water had like these big gentle waves, swells almost and about the first 10 times I sighted I was low and the water was high and all I could see was…water. No buoys, no other swimmers. After a bit I started to get worried I had taken a wrong turn somewhere!!! I finally figured out that I had to sight when I was on top of a swell and the buoys were low. Oh yes…much better. :) I kind of felt like I was all over the place but I swam hard and when I got out of the water and had taken a few steps onto the beach I looked at my watch and saw 29:30. WOO-HOO!! Now, my official time is 30:34 or something like that BUT that’s because the chip mat was about 50 yards away (of which you had to run through DEEP sand). Hmm… I’ve thought about this and while I won’t count this as an official under 30 split, I’m at least getting closer!! Now I just need to find a half IM where the mat is within the first 2 steps of getting out of the water and I should be good to go. :) In all seriousness though, I do take great pride in my swim because I have worked very, very hard to improve it and it certainly hasn’t come easy. Two years ago in much calmer water I swam over 2 minutes slower at this race and while 2 minutes improvement over close to 5 hours of racing doesn’t seem worth it to most, it’s important to me to be able to swim with the top people in my age group. I don’t think you can win a half IM in the swim alone but you can certainly lose it there.
I felt good riding and this course is pretty fast although there are some rough roads and this year the wind would play a role in the last 18 miles. I cruised through halfway in 1:13 and thought – “hmm…maybe I can bike around 2:30?” That would be a pretty fast split for me but I also knew that on the last 18 mile stretch we’d have a pretty stiff headwind. The wind was definitely kicking up throughout the morning. The pros likely had the best conditions. I was one of the middle waves so the wind was getting pretty darn strong by the time I was through 40 miles and those last waves of the younger men…wow…I feel bad for them. I felt great riding but I definitely struggled into the wind from 40 miles on. There was times I was riding 13 mph on the flats!! And I was getting blown all around too. So needless to say, I was very glad to finally get off my bike and start the run! My final bike split, by the way, was 2:37:xx so yeah, that 2:30 bike split didn’t exactly pan out. :)
The Run: (warning, this a little graphic so if you get grossed out easily, you might want to skip to the next section :)
Now would be a good time to mention that pretty much since half way through the swim, I was nauseated. Yuck. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you might remember how I struggled with nausea in all of 2007. It was pretty bad. I threw up in just about all my races and by the end of the season was ready to throw in the towel! I tried all different types of remedies but it wasn’t until I went to my doctor and he gave me Protonix (an anti-reflux medicine) that I was cured. I don’t normally have acid-reflux but apparently the stress of racing causes it for me. I didn’t have the nausea trouble at all last year, as long as I took the Protonix and I haven’t had it yet this year either. But halfway through the swim, that old familiar (but very unwelcome) feeling was back. UGH.
I can deal with the nausea on the bike. I sort of have to choke down my nutrition but it will stay down. But the run is a whole different story. The jarring motion of running is too much for my stomach to handle. And sure enough, as I started to run I was feeling majorly pukey.
In general if I don’t push on the run it’s okay. But I wasn’t exactly happy to be running 8 minute pace. This was a race afterall! I could do 7:40 pace okay but anything harder and my stomach was UNhappy. The shame of it all is that my legs felt good! Darn it!
So by mile 3 I devised a plan to try and make myself throw up so that I would feel better. I knew I would feel better if I could just throw up! So I pulled over for a bit and tried but it was sort of just like gagging and I really didn’t feel that much better. So I just started to run again. I continued on for a while and was feeling worse and worse. I saw O around mile 8 and he told me I was about 2 minutes down on 2nd place (in my AG) but I was just feeling so…bad. It was time to try to throw up again so a little before the 9 mile mark I tried again. Nothing really. And then finally just a little after that I was ready. And oh man did I throw up. It was all the gel, water, Gatorade, etc… that I had taken in all morning. I’m talking it was coming out my nose! Oh so gross. (don’t say I didn’t warn you!) When I was on my knees in the grass some nice soul yelled “are you okay?” to which I just groaned. I felt like laying down in the grass and dying. But at the same time I also knew I was probably going to feel a lot better once I got up. So I did – got up and started running again and it was a thing of beauty. I felt great! Woo-hoo!! Of course at this point I only had 4 miles left. I was able to start running 7:20 pace – the pace that I had wanted to run for the WHOLE half marathon, not just the last 4 miles, but hey, what can you do?
I’m not really sure why the nausea came back yesterday. The first thing to come to mind is nutrition but I was feeling sick before I even started taking my race nutrition and I didn’t change my breakfast at all. So…what? Who knows. I am thinking the wavy swim didn’t help matters. My coach asked if I get motion sickness on a boat but I don’t really know. I’ve never really been on a boat! (I did go on a cruise once but that was a really long time ago and you don’t really feel the waves on a humongous ocean liner).
Overall I was pleased with the race. I went 4:54:02 and was 4th in my AG (another girl passed me when I was throwing up) and the 7th OA amateur. I was faster overall here 2 years ago but it’s hard to compare when the conditions aren’t the same (much windier this year but it was also hotter 2 years ago). I certainly was aiming for a faster run split (I think I went 1:41?) – I haven’t given up hope on running under 1:35, but I was proud of myself for keeping my head in the game and pushing on when my stomach was just NOT right. One of these days the stars will align and my legs AND my stomach will cooperate and I’ll run like I want to at this distance! It’s hard to put all 3 together as the distance gets longer!
O put the race results into Excel and then we ranked the swim/bike/run times so I could see where I stood amongst all the other amateurs and where my strengths and weaknesses were. My swim was 12th best, my bike was 11th best and my run was 17th best (yes, I come from a running background but I’ve learned just because you can run a fast open race does not mean you can run fast in triathlon – different ball game my friends). Hmm..not being the best math student I inquired to O (a math teacher) as to how I could be the 7th overall amateur but be 11th/12th/17th. I mean wouldn’t I at least have to be 7th best at something?? :) To which he replied “well, you are just average”. Hmm…thanks. :) His point being though that I wasn’t a super star at anything but I also wasn’t really bad at anything. So I’m just kind of that balanced, never going to win the swim/bike/run primes that they have at some races type of triathlete. For a long time swimming was my weakness. Now I’m not so sure I have a weakness per se as much as I just need to make all 3 better to reach my goals. Hmm…I kind of liked it better when I just had one thing I really needed to work on. :)
It was a great learning experience though and of course a great time overall. I got a chance to see many friends! And Steelhead is one of my favorite races! I mean who doesn't like a 7 hour drive?! (on the way home I might have had a rather large meltdown in the middle of Indiana because I was STARVING and people in Indiana apparently don't eat food because there was absolutely NOTHING TO EAT ANYWHERE). O and I had a blast. And we also settled a small dispute as to how the "Eau" in "Eau Clair" is pronounced. Let's just say I lost that battle and had to listen to "Eau" jokes for most of Thursday and Friday. I think O only let up on Saturday because he felt bad that my stomach was so upset. :)
Big thanks to everyone for their good luck and good job wishes! Your support means the world! So onward we go! I get to race again in a short 3 weeks. WOO-HOO!!