I always seem to procrastinate on post-race write-ups, but I have decided that the longer I wait, the less likely I’ll do the event justice! If you’ve been around me in the last couple weeks, you’ll know I’ve been gearing up for my half ironman debut at Musselman.
I chose this race because:
- It has a cute mascot – the zebra mussel!
- In 2011, my first year in triathlon, a woman at the local pool was raving about her experience at Musselman. She said that if I was ever to do a half, I should do this as my first—it’s very friendly to first-timers.
- My locker neighbor at the rec centre (who KILLED IT on the weekend!) signed up and peer-pressured me into it. …Just kidding, she asked me politely and encouraged me, though!
- Instead of doing a 70.3 (aka Ironman-branded) race, I wanted to avoid the tri-hards (and pay a little less to enter as a bonus, though I got my registration gifted to me by the awesome owners of the spin studio I work at!).
- I could drive there!
As the week went on, I got more and more nervous for the weekend. First there was rain in the forecast, and then I rolled my ankle out for a walk with Brent. I am a really clumsy person, but I had all of these scenarios (and contingency plans) in my head of things that could go wrong: rolling my ankle was not one of them. Luckily a little physio and a visit to the chiropractor (because better safe than sorry) helped me to rest assured that I would be okay to run, even if it hurt, just knowing that I was doing my recovery a disservice if I chose to! I had some encouragement from some of the women I look up to in the sport (like Angela, who I thought of lots during my race for inspiration!). I had some athletic tape packed and I put my mind to it and got myself all ready.
I felt a little frantic running around town buying gels and bars and water bottles I wouldn’t mind tossing, etc. My friend Katie was a life saver along with Angela and all the other people I asked for advice. My coaches (for swim, Balance Point Triathlon with Gabbi and of course my coach Chris Helwig) gave me a lot of encouragement and of course advice. I got a card from the people I swim with and it made me feel so much more excited—such a simple gesture but also greatly appreciated! I finally had my things together and hit the road! I was going to do a quick swim because with the ankle situation I was feeling a bit sluggish, but the pool was closed so I just went for it.
I drove down to Geneva on Friday afternoon. It’s about a 4.5 hour drive, plus whatever the border adds, which in my case was just less than an hour! I got there in time to pick up my key to get into the “Athlete’s Village,” where I booked a room for less than 50$/night. It was in an old college there, which meant no air conditioning but my friend advised me to pack a fan and it really wasn’t so bad. I also made it to the grocery store to grab some things and ate my last vegetables before the race (tapers are hard, not eating like normal is hard) along with my first big ol’ dose of pasta! I got a pretty good night’s sleep on Friday and then on Saturday I was up early enough to drive to course and head down to the site of the event to watch the “Mini Mussel,” a sprint triathlon, finish.
I got lost a lot on the drive, but the course was beautiful and looked like a pretty moderate ride – not many hills I’d be avoiding if I was at home, but water so I was anticipating some wind. I got more and more excited as the day went on, and my ankle was bugging me less and less. I met up with one of the women from London, Jennifer, and watched her husband cross the finish line of the sprint tri (he’s training for an ironman and is twice as crazy as I am). She did her first half not too long ago and was super encouraging, even though we were both pretty nervous! Her son did the kids’ race on Friday—talk about a family affair!
We had a pre-race meeting on Saturday afternoon, but in between I rode my bike a bit (felt slow but good) and jogged around the campus a bit to prove to myself that I would be fine with my ankle. I also made it to the outlet malls about 15 miles from Geneva, which was a welcome distraction and let me get a visor that I was grateful for on Sunday! The meeting gave me butterflies. As I sat with Jenn and Ileana, the friend who roped me into this in the first place (:)!), I could feel us all getting more excited and nervous. I did have lots of my questions answered, though!
Ileana and I went to the pre-race pasta dinner, which was small but nice. We made friends with some people from Connecticut and also met up with some more people from London, who we don’t train with but were sure we recognized! Both of these couples were encouraging the day before, at the race in the morning, and post-race, of course! Triathletes are so friendly. We racked our bikes the night before, which was new for me, but nice since it was less to carry on the long trek from parking to the transition area Sunday morning.
Besides a little freak out before bed, which Brent had to put up with but also helped me with, I had a good evening preparing myself mentally and trying to get to sleep early. I probably got about 6 hours of sleep before my 4:25am wake up call. I managed to get some coffee and oatmeal with peanut butter and banana in before heading to the park. I drank Gatorade and chatted as I got ready for the race. There were lots of first timers, which made me feel better.
I did basically 0 warm-up, though I did hop in the water and get myself ready. We went in waves, with the gals 25-39 going second (after the young bucks). My goal was not to get caught by the ladies I was with – Jenn and Ileana and Pam, who is in her 60s but KILLED it and got second in her age category! By the time the national anthem was sung and we were getting shuffled into the water for the start (waist-deep), I felt ready to go!
Swim – 1.2 miles – 41:31 (1:59/100m)
The swim course was good for me. The buoys (doritos and cheese balls, in my head) were large and I could see them with the light just fine! I didn’t get too off course, and the waves don’t bother me as much as they do other people. I swam most of the way with one other pink capped gal, who breast stroked a lot for someone keeping up with me while I was swimming along steadily, but whatever! Some of the next wave (or two) caught us, but I ended up with an average pace faster than a lot of my shorter races. I liked starting in the bigger lake and then heading into the canal, where it was harder to swim off course. The swim training must have paid off a little. I think my new wetsuit and going to open water practices with Gabbi made a big impact, too! I was 10/25 in my age category, which makes me feel pretty good too! I peed in my wetsuit, yes, and I hope I left the water smiling because the worst part was over in my head.
Bike – 56 miles, 3:05:30 (29.1km/h average)
I wanted to bike in 3 hours really badly, but I am more of a 29 averager I guess these days. I used to have in my head that anything below 30km/h was not very fast, but I’m happy with this time. I was 5th in my age category for this leg of the race and not that many women passed me. It was windier than I thought it was going to be and I pulled over once to check my tire because I thought it was rubbing. I am NOT good at grabbing water bottles, and I definitely underdrank and did not eat enough – one gel, one pack of shot blocks, and most of a clif bar with two bottles. I felt okay though. There was one gravelly stretch, but I really enjoyed this bike course, which went along two coastlines and was relatively flat. There was one hill, and I passed a lot of people on it! Go me.
Run – 13.1 miles 2:04:43 (5:56/km average)
The run was HAWT, but there were sponges, kids with hoses on their front yards, and aid stations at every mile to help my case. My ankle not hurting kept me happy enough to ignore all the other pain I was in from running up hills and from a blister I got on my other foot. It’s all minor. I walked through each aid station and drank a mix of water, hose water, Gatorade, etc. I ate a few shot blocks but probably could have had more as I was hungry by the end. I was conservative at first and ran just over 6 minute km, which I tried to make shorter as I got further along. I walked up 2 hills but otherwise chugged along just fine. I was so happy to be doing it and realizing that I was going to finish made me feel like I could go a little faster, so I did. I got passed by a few people at the beginning, mostly men, but I passed some myself. I was 11th in my age category on this part. With the walk breaks, I still managed to finish in a respectable time, in my opinion, and I knew a few miles before the finish that I could make it in less than 6 hours (my private goal, with my out-loud goal being to finish between 6 and 6 and a half hours), so I had plenty of reason to kick it up a notch. I almost teared up when I saw the finish line, but I managed to cross the line with what I hope was a smile (or at least a grimace). My only regret? Not putting my hands up for a finishing photo (which you can check out, with the others, here!).
My total time was 5:58:10. I did it! I don’t ever have to do another one, but I probably will. My interwebs history would show that I’ve already researched other races. I was 8th in my age category out of 25, and in the top 50 of over 200 women. That made my ego happy, but I was just feeling proud of myself for achieving my goal, regardless of what other people did! And as for a full Ironman, maybe before I’m 30 seems like a goal that’s far enough away to seem realistic but pressing enough to keep me planning on continuing to train, albeit a little less, for this sport! I’ve got a new gig working as a Personal Trainer / Coach at Hybrid, which I am the most excited about. I know that being in that environment keeps me excited about all the strength sports (weightlifting, powerlifting, CrossFit, even Strongman) that are out there, and keeps me training for health and well-being, which is so important! I have been putting the two together personally and I know lots of members with triathlon on their bucket list or who have asked me questions about endurance stuff so I’m really glad to be working there now! With teacher’s college in the fall, my schedule obviously has less time for mid-afternoon bike rides or for long workouts on Tuesday (love grad school for that), but I know I can find a balance that will of course look different from these past few years but that will hopefully leave me racing, healthy, and happy!
As for the rest of the summer, I don’t have a plan. I am registered for Vulture Bait (a 25km trail run in October) but have decided I’m on the fence about keeping up the long distances. I’m feeling run down, but I know I need to give my body a chance to recuperate before I make any decisions. I’ll be making an appearance at the triathlon in my hometown, Bluewater, in two weeks, and hope to do something else later in the summer! Some bike touring and workouts with friends for fun sound like a good way to use this fitness I’ve got.
Speaking of recuperating, since I did an admittedly bad job of eating and drinking on the bike, I felt like a whole lot of crap on Sunday afternoon. I finally stopped rolling around and feeling sorry for myself late afternoon and drank some water and some Nuun from Ileana. I was able to eat dinner / suffer through (ha!) some ice cream, but I did not eat as much as I would on a normal day, let alone one with 6 hours of exercising! Headaches, nausea, all kinds of GI things you don’t want to hear about…it all sort of has lasted longer than I wish it had. I’m not very sore, but the aftermath of the dehydration has demonstrated the importance I’ll place on figuring out how to drink more during my next go at this kind of race!
I also called that I’d be having a migraine this week and sure enough, one hit this morning. It was nothing a 3 hour nap couldn’t help me get past. I often get the migraine attacks with weather, post-stressful periods, and with my hormones. All three are coinciding so I’m really not surprised, and I will take feeling a little crappy for having that check off my bucket list! I’m drinking extra water and taking it easy this week—light swim yesterday, mobility at the gym today, working on my bibliography (home stretch!)—and am going to get back to more “training” when I feel like I’m ready, not when my ego says “GO!”
All in all, I am so glad that I signed up for that race (thanks Ileana for encouraging me!). I had great coaching to get to it. I had support from my friends and family and people who listened to me talk about this thing for months. I had wonderful company there (the women I was with ALL ROCK and everyone was SO NICE who I met!). The weather worked out great. I would recommend this race to anyone who is going to do their first half, or someone who wants to travel somewhere and stay a few days. Geneva was beautiful and I would have loved to stick around. I have to go back, mostly because I missed out on the “Wine Slushie” advertised in the region. Darn it, dehydration!
Setting a goal that seemed like it might knock me down along the way—and it certainly tested my resolve—was as cheesy as it might sound, exactly what I needed right now. I know that there are people who would call me out on being a sports evangelist, but all those pinterest quotes about achieving goals/focusing on the journey/sport making you a better person are true to me right now! I sometimes think of myself as a quitter, or as fragile. I’ve seen that I’m pretty darn tough, and I’m also more badass than I let myself feel sometimes. I can run in the snow. I can suck it up on the trainer. I can wake up early when I’d rather sleep in. I can do things I don’t want to or don’t think that I can! Maybe I can resist chocolate after all…nah!
Last month, I did that CrossFit competition and felt so friggin’ strong picking up a heavy barbell and swinging around on the bars and climbing ropes and things. This month, I showed myself that strong doesn’t mean I can’t still have success in triathlon or in doing the other things that I love. This race coinciding with me submitting my thesis has made for a pretty big week, if I say so myself. I may be tired, but I am feeling more accomplished than I have in a heck of a long time! Right now I’m relishing my accomplishments, but soon I’ll be setting some more goals, and with the reassurance that I can do the things I set my mind to!
Have you done a triathlon?
What’s your favourite distance to race?
Do you write down your goals?
What are you working towards right now?
What’s your proudest athletic moment?