70.3 miles is a long way. Most 70.3-mile car rides are enough to produce at least one round of "are we there yet?"
The idea of a self-propelled 70.3 miles was enough to make me very nervous on Friday, very gratified today…and very tired on Saturday.
I did it! I completed the first (non-annual) Skoog Half Ironman Triathlon. And I beat my target time.
Here's how it went:
Swim 1.2 miles 38:24
Transition #1 3:46
Bike 56 miles 2:53:40
Transition #2 6:55
Run 13.1 miles 2:24:10
This was the easiest possible half-ironman triathlon. It could not possibly have been easier. So I hereby acknowledge the following areas which diminish the value of my DIY tri versus an organized event.
1. Pool swim. This was huge. Especially since my swim technique is so terrible that I don't do flip turns. I got a clean breath every 25 yards. And I always knew exactly how far I'd gone and how far I had left to go.
2. Pool swim WITH NO ONE ELSE IN THE POOL. Okay, this is getting a little bit ridiculous. Not only did I not have to fight a kicking and flailing crowd… Not only did I not have to circle swim and share a lane… I didn't even have to deal with anyone else's ripples. It made for a REALLY simple swim. 88 times across the pool. Not a problem, even for a swim-hater like me.
3. Straight-line bike course. Unlike a normal race that starts and ends at the same place (and, therefore, has to loop around and head in all directions), my race was from Sartell to Osakis. And I had winds from the SW. That means I never had to fight the wind and sometimes I had a tailwind.
4. Biking on the Lake Wobegon Trail. Former railroad bed. That means never more than a 2% grade. No evil climbs.
5. Course measurement via MapMyRide rather than some officially certified course organizer. There were slight variances between MapMyRide and my bike computer and MapMyRide and my Nike Fit chip. I went with the MapMyRide distances (which were shorter in both cases) for logistical reasons.
There. That's it. I'm done apologizing. I went 70.3 miles (according to MapMyRide). Quit your bitching.
This whole thing went so smoothly because of the people I had helping me. It started with my sister, Christine, getting me into Gold's in the morning and patiently, supportively cheering me on while I swam.
Then there were Eric Nacey and Jon Kern, who kept me company and helped me set an aggressive pace on the bike. Eric came along till Albany. Jon stayed with me till the halfway point. After that it was just me and my iPod. (Oh yeah, that's another difference between my tri and an organized race. Yes, I wore my iPod. Got a problem with that? Go screw yourself.)
But the end-all-be-all of race-day support was Corinne. She unracked my bike and set up my gear in transition while I swam. She drove ahead while I biked and met me in Avon, and in Melrose with water bottles. She drove ahead to set up the transition point (which she had researched and selected in advanced).
(Yes, she thoroughly caffeinated herself for the trip – see photo.) Then, after I started running (this is where it gets
ridiculously awesome), she drove ahead to Alexandria, parked the truck at the finish point, unracked her bike and came back down the trail to meet me with a backpack full of water and Gatorade. (It's a sweet little insulated cooler backpack with a Leinie's logo on it that I won at HOP this spring.) She caught up to me just before halfway on my run and then kept me company for the rest of the run. She's officially the coolest. Believe me, I know it.
Finally, there were my parents, who met me at about three points as I trudged through Alexandria toward the finish line. They cheered me on, then rewarded me with a great lunch, an even better shower and a couple of fantastic Leinie's Summer Shandys.
Weather couldn't have been better. A slight breeze (sometimes at my back). Mostly sunny – with just enough clouds to keep the temperature down and occasionally provide a few cooling sprinkles. Great day. Great weather all around. (Well, we ditched Alexandria before the severe thunderstorms rolled through in the evening.)
We were totally lucky when we set up the course. Corinne mapped it out for me and found cross streets at the appropriate distances. But when we got there, it was even better. Both the bike-to-run transition area and my final turn off the trail had nice, open space and public access parking lots. It was perfect.
What did I ingest?
I'd often wondered how people fuel themselves for real distance races like this. Usually, for sprint triathlons, I'm pretty low-tech. I'll have a bowl of cereal or a donut and a can of Diet Coke. This spring, when I did the 20-mile race, I hit a few of the water/Gatorade stops and had a GU or a Hammer gel or whatever they were handing out around the 14-mile mark.
For this distance, I knew I'd need more. Especially since the forecast was for 89 degrees. So, in case you're curious, here's what I did, and the consequences.
Friday I made sure I got in a solid gallon of water.
First thing in the morning on Saturday, I drank a pint of water, ate a banana and had a Clif bar (black cherry – yum!).
After the swim, I had one of those new Gatorade Perform01 pouches that you're supposed to drink "before" your workout.
On the bike I had a water bottle with me, plus Corinne met me with a bottle of water in Avon and a botttle of Gatorade in Melrose. I had a Clif gel shot just before Melrose and another about 10 miles outside of Osakis.
In transition I had another banana, a bottle of Gatorade and I carried a bottle of water with me (which was good, cuz Corinne wouldn't catch up on me till almost halfway through!). I had another Clif gel shot at about the 5-mile mark.
When Corinne caught me (for the last 7.5 miles), she had a backpack full of goodies. I had three bottles of water and a bottle of Gatorade in that time.
At the finish line I had two more bottles of Gatorade. Outside of a mile or so on the run before Corinne caught back up to me, I never really felt dehydrated. I think we managed it really well.
The only downside was that, by the end of the race, the roof of my mouth was killing me. And it only got worse. I was starving at lunch time but I couldn't finish my burger because the roof of my mouth felt completely raw and sore and swallowing any kind of food was tremendously painful. It's still that way. I get anywhere from 5-10 bites of food in before the pain starts. By 20 bites I'm practically crying. I'm starving…and I only managed to get down one piece of pizza and two chicken wings tonight for dinner. My first thought that it was some kind of acidity thing. After all, I had four 12-ounce bottles of orange Gatorade Perform02 and three Clif shots. Corinne started researching allergic reactions. But I think we're settling on just dryness from spending just about 6 hours breathing through my mouth. Don't know.
How did it feel?
This seems like a dumb question, but it's one I'd always wondered about racing at distances like this. So, how did it feel? I mean, in the past when I've run things like half marathons or the 20-mile race this spring, my knees or my hips or my ankles have started to wear out. You know what I mean? Searing pain in a particular joint/muscle with each step? Terribly painful blisters? Excruciatingly painful chafing?
This race? None of that. Or at least not much of that. I had one blister on my toe. And I had some pretty painful chafing going on. But nothing beyond what I'd expect. Other than that, I was just straight-up, garden-variety tired. Seriously tired. No joint pain at all.
And that's a good thing. Because, even though I was able to auto-pilot my way through a 20-mile run and just keep cranking out the miles, I couldn't do that with this 13.1 miles. I did a bunch of walking. If my hips hurt as badly during this run as they did on my 20-mile or some past half marathons, I wouldn't have been able to start running again if I stopped. This time I managed it just fine. So I set myself up doing half-mile on, half-mile off. And it didn't hurt.
So I made it. That's it. The end. (At least it's the end for now. Next the question becomes, "What future goals does this achievement open me up for?")