The summer solstice this year brought my very first half Ironman triathlon! This race report was getting too long, so I broke it into two parts. For those of you who can’t stomach even that, here’s the extreme short version:
- Swim: Fun!
- Bike: AHHHH!
- Run: An odyssey and a HALF!
Read on for the full story.
Before race day:
I am a chill person. My feathers are not easily ruffled. And yet I was incredibly anxious before the race. For the first time in years, I was doing a distance I had never conquered before. I had no idea what to expect. I felt pitiful and underprepared. I googled like a maniac. Then I asked myself, “Caroline, is there anything you can do to control this? The hills? The weather?” Then I asked again, “And what’s the worse that happens if it doesn’t go well? Are you going to SUFFER MIGHTILY or DIE?”
No. For goodness’ sake, this is what I choose to do. As a HOBBY.
So the anxiety morphed into a sense of resignation. I do not know what to expect, therefore I should not expect this to be fun. Upon picking up my car rental, loading up, and starting the 4.5 hour drive from Brooklyn to Syracuse, I spent long stretches of I-81 contemplating all the things that could go wrong. Don’t get to bib pickup in time or miss the athlete meeting; barred from starting the race. Wetsuit chafes somewhere new. Get kicked in the face during the swim and have nosebleed all day. Extreme low blood sugar. Extreme high blood sugar. Lose control going down a steep hill, fly head first over bike. Get a flat tire and wait 45 minutes for a support vehicle to help fix it. Downpour during the bike. Miss the bike cutoff. Cramp on the run. Barf on the run from too much solid food on the bike. Thunderstorms and lightning, barred from finishing like the 2013 race. Finish the whole race but lose my timing chip so none of it counts.
Don’t worry, I was listening to U2 the whole way so at least I could sing along to peppy music while envisioning various methods of my destruction.
I arrived at the park just in time for the final athlete’s meeting. (Phew, there goes one nightmare.) Checked in, attended the briefing, popped the front wheel back on my bike, rode around the parking lot to make sure nothing was amiss, wheeled it half a mile back to transition, and set up my transition area. Managed to relax a little more once I double- and triple-checked my transition stuff (minus everything I’d bring in tomorrow, namely the diabetes supplies).
I then drove back to the hotel, dropped the rest of my stuff, connected with my TNT friends also doing the race, and headed out to an early dinner at the Empire Brewing Company. I had fajitas. Apparently the Italian restaurant around the corner had a 90 minute wait. Despite being shut down for health code violations within the past two weeks. Think outside the box, you guys!
Came back, assembled all my race day gear, posted the “evaporated triathlete” photo on Facebook, and hit the hay at 10:30 with a BG of 170 (and a 2 unit correction dose).
Pre-race, early AF morning:
3:40 AM came in the blink of an eye. And it was particularly unwelcome with a BG of 219. I pre-bolused and corrected (7 units total) and stumbled to the hotel lobby for coffee. I had meant to be out the door between 4:15-4:30 AM, in order to avoid the piles of traffic. As usual, I was way late in heading out. First I struggled to manage the logistics of mixing my Generation Ucan powder when I had it all in a baggie and left the scoop at home. The hotel sink looked like a cocaine nightmare. Then I quadruple-checked everything I needed to bring. Then I got in the car and realized I had less than 20 miles until I ran out of gas, which then involved a trip to the gas station in which loud drunk girls were yelling at each other while I reached into the depths of my memory and operated a gas pump for the first time in…..six years. While finally eating my Clif bar and banana for breakfast.
No surprise that I got caught in all the race traffic anyways.
And then….the rain started.
Rain walking to the start village. Rain waiting for the Porta-Potties. Rain during body marking, which rendered the Sharpies all but useless. Rain while setting up transition with the rest of my gear. Rain while drinking my Generation Ucan. Rain while attempting to check my BG with wet fingers (186, solid for a race start).
It finally let up about five minutes before the start. I didn’t notice because I was busy frantically running back to transition because I forgot to Bodyglide. Except my wetsuit was already half on, so it was more like…frantic waddling.
For the next forty minutes before my wave start, I got the rest of my wetsuit on, swam a warmup lap in the lake, and waited in line with my wave, staring at the water and wondering what the day would bring.
The rain was completely gone as we waded into the water. “Welcome to the Jungle” was blaring from the speakers. “I’m going to think of this song if it starts raining again,” I said to the other 25-29 and 55+ female athletes around me.
“I think we lucked out with the weather!” one girl declared.
Bit early to make that judgment, I thought with a frown.
The horn blew and we immediately began to swim from our waist-deep start line. I was pleasantly surprised by how calm I was in the midst of my most crowded open water swim start ever. No freaking out, I just found my spot and got into my 3-stroke alternate-side-breathing rhythm.
I felt a thrill when I picked off my first athlete from the wave before me. Four minutes later the thrill dissolved when I saw the first athletes from the wave after me swim past.
I have no complaints about the swim. It was pretty much as I expected. The best part was when I was about 3/4 of the way through, swimming towards shore, and with every breath I saw beams of sunlight breaking through the clouds and burning off the early morning fog. It was gorgeous. I felt lucky to be there, no matter what the bike and run would hold.
And then I wobbled out of the water and experienced wetsuit strippers for the first time. Wheeeeeeee!
Swim time: 42:25
I tried peeing in the lake during the swim but apparently I lack skill in that department. Used the Porta-Potty, put on socks and a cycling jersey over my tri suit, applied sunscreen, arranged my fuel in various pockets. Checked my BG and it was 266. Blergh! I took 3 units of insulin….part correction and part bolus for the food I was about to stuff in my face. Speaking of which, I pre-ripped my Honey Stinger Waffle packets open while in transition, which was BRILLIANT given how many times those things have gone flying when I try to open them while on the bike during training.
I walked my bike out of transition because….I wasn’t going for time, so what’s the rush? Nevertheless, I was slightly shocked to find that my T1 time was a whopping 18 minutes and counting. Oh well….I’ll go quicker next time.
Then I mounted my bike and pedaled on to adventure…..to be continued!
You can read part 2 here.