Well, it's done. I completed my first ever half ironman on Saturday!
I started playing with the idea of running a half iron about 2 years ago when I ran my fourth marathon and didn't do very well. I was super frustrated with the way it made my body feel and was looking for some other way to push my physical limits without having to put more miles in for running. A half ironman just seemed like the next step. It seems like whenever I have a goal I keep it to myself and toy around with it for a little bit before I bring it up to Brad. I waited until after I had Caleb and brought it up to him. Of course he was super supportive and made me believe that I could do it so I signed up!
I chose to run the Provo Utah Toughman race because why not come back and run in a city I love? My parents had already planned to come to Provo for education week so it worked perfect!
I flew into Utah on Wednesday to give me some time to settle and rent my gear before the race (I had to rent a bike). It also gave me time to hang out with Becca and Annie who were also in town (how did we not get a picture all together?!?) The night before my race I made myself a delicious baked potato topped with grilled fajitas, avocado, and greek yogurt. Dessert was my mom's lemon cream birthday cake...it was all for carb loading sake, right?
I had been trying to get myself on a good sleep schedule so the night before the race I was able to go to sleep around 10:30. Unfortunately Caleb had one of the WORST nights ever and for some reason was woke up at midnight and wouldn't go to sleep until 2. I had a couple break downs while trying to get him to go to sleep because I knew how much I needed to sleep before my race! He finally went down for good at 2 so I was able to get a good 3.5 hours in before waking up to get ready!
My dad and I woke up and got to the race at 6am. I set up my transition spot, ate a bar and a pb&j, went to the bathroom, and got my body markings by 6:30 when the pre-race started. I was amazed how calm I felt that morning and was feeling "in the zone".
I did have a moment of serious freak out when I started to compare myself with every one that was there. I have done a lot of races in my life and have always felt really confident in my knowledge and preparation. When I showed up and saw all the gear and perfectly fit bodies I was feeling way over my head. I felt like there was not ONE out of shape person. It then hit me that this is the REAL DEAL. People run half and full marathons all the time without actually training. But people don't run Half Ironmans without training. I was apart of a group of elite athletes that were crazy enough to sign up for this. I was one of them. I was just as strong as they are and could totally do it. Once I got this through my head I was able to relax and just enjoy the day.
During the pre-race the director spoke to us and told us about all the legs of the race. I had no idea what to expect but was just trying to not think about it. Instead I watched the sunrise and kept praying that I wouldn't die and that everything would be ok. Can you tell I had a lot of mixed emotions?
The swim started at 7:15 and every 2 minutes they sent a new heat out. I was in the 39 and younger woman heat that went out at 7:21.
The 1.2 mile swim was in Utah Lake harbor. If you know Provo you know this is kind of sad. First, the water was only about 3 feet deep. I could literally touch the bottom the whole swim. Also, the water was so dirty from tall the sludge being kicked up I could not see ANYTHING when I stuck my head in the water. Oh, and there were dead fish at the entry point as well.
I had a difficult time connecting my freestyle stroke with my breathing so I mainly stuck with breast stroke the whole time. For some reason my left ear was also hurting so I didn't want to breathe on that side. I did hit a really shallow part about 3/4 of the way through but was able to just pull myself along the bottom for about 100 yds. I wanted to finish the swim in under 40 minutes so I was happy when I check my watch getting out of the water and it said 37 minutes!
I quickly hurried to the transition, put on my bikes shoes, gloves, and helmet and packed all my food for the next 3 hours. My dad was there outside the transition cheering me on and asking me about the swim. I felt really good and was excited to get on my bike.
The bike ride seems like a blur looking back, but it the moment it felt REALLY LONG. 3 hours long to be exact. The course was an out and back along country roads that led you to the south end of Utah Lake.
I made sure to eat right away and drink a lot of water. I ate 2 bars and a whole pack of dummies during my ride and never had any stomach or cramping issues. Luckily it wasn't too hot so I didn't sweat very much (until the run) so I didn't have to replace too many electrolytes.
I was really stressed about the bike portion and getting a flat tire or crashing but everything worked great. About 2 hours into the ride my sit bones i.e. my crotch started to hurt but that is only to be expected on a bike seat with limited padding. But I either went numb or my adrenaline kicked in because the last 10 miles went by super fast. I held a pretty good pace of 18.6 the whole way and was REALLY happy to be at T2.
My mom, Annie, and Caleb had joined my dad at the park so when I came into the transition they were all there cheering me on. The second I saw Caleb and he started waving his arms at me I was so proud to be his momma and his energy gave me a little extra boost to start my run with.
It took me about a mile to get my muscles to switch over to running but once I did I was able to settle into a really good pace. I checked my watch the second mile and I was at an 8 minute pace. I thought this might be too fast to maintain but was feeling good so I just listened to my body and ran as fast or as slow as I needed.
I had brought food to eat with me but by that point I was so tired the thought of even chewing something seemed daunting. My energy at this point was obviously really low and I was using everything just to keep my legs going. I knew I had to stay focused and fueled so I decided to just drink gatorade and water at every station to keep me hydrated and give me a little sugar.
The only major complaint I have about the race is that the run was a two loop route that we did twice.
I understand why they did it but it SUCKED. The first time through was pretty good, but when I saw my family AND the finish line but had to keep going my mental strength took a major dive bomb. It took me about a mile to pick myself back up again and just keep pushing. What other choice did I have? I didn't really watch my pace very well the second half but I was somewhere around a 9 min mile for the last 5 miles.
I have a goal to always sprint through the finished line and I usually have enough energy in me to do so, but this race I was totally spent by the end. I did pass someone right before crossing so I am gonna count that as a win.
I had calculated what my pace should be for each event so my goal was to finish in under 5 hours and 45 minutes....which means I beat my goal!! The day really couldn't have gone any better.
Man, was I so happy to be done when I crossed the finish line. My body didn't hurt like it does when I run a marathon, but I was just physically exhausted. Energy stores completely depleted.
I am grateful that my parents, Annie, and Caleb could be there to cheer me on the whole day. They gave me exactly what I needed when I needed it. I am sad Brad couldn't be there but he was also a huge support during my training and through everything. He gave me the confidence to sign up and allowed me to spend countless hours out training while he watched Caleb (before dental school...... :/). You know you've scored big when your husband will rub your legs and back for hours in the days following your race.
So what now? Will I run another? You betcha. I placed 5th in my age group and I hope to someday place top 3. Call me crazy but I have also set a goal to run an ironman sometime in my life. Probably after kids so I can have time to train. But for now I plan to continue training and hopefully qualify for Boston in the coming years. Onto the next challenge!!