Yesterday morning I was feeling a tad miserable, but today the euphoria has set in (along with the DOMS). Okay, I wasn’t completely miserable. There was some laughing, crying and holding conversations with myself. I was in my own mind for a little over 6 hours so there really isn’t too much else to do if you want to forget about the burning in your calves, the cramp in your neck, the chaffing in your armpits or the aching in your hip.
I felt good right before the race started. For the first time ever, I had adequate sleep the night before a race. I forced oatmeal, peanut butter, a bagel and a banana down my throat. I had spare time to calm myself before the start. Then I suddenly had no time. I didn’t get a chance to take a quick swim or get my goggles right. For some reason they weren’t fitting like they had been during yesterday’s quick swim in the lake. Of course. It was time to go and I was still fighting with my goggles. Then I was arguing with my mind who started saying that it was going to be flight, not fight. I suddenly was worried that I didn’t know how to swim. The buoys were sooooo far away. I had a panick attack that lasted about 5 minutes. People were swimming away from me and I was still stuck in place. Instead of waiting to screw it all up, I told myself to get moving. My body eventually listened and I started swimming just like I knew how.
It felt like a very long swim. A never-ending swim. I must have ingested about a gallon of lake water and crashed into about 10 other swimmers (but at least I knew there were other swimmers around and I hadn’t fallen all of the way behind). I focused on getting from one buoy to the next. I was so grateful when I turned back towards shore that I started swimming like I should have been all along. My clumsy body dragged itself out of the water and nearly fell over as I tried to find my land legs. Strippers were waiting on the shore (um, not those kind of strippers… these ones are there to take off your clothes… or rather your wetsuit). One person pulled off my wetsuit in a mere 5 seconds and I was off to get on my bike.
The first half of the ride was rather uneventful (thankfully). I felt so great that I worked it. Yeah, I probably worked it too much. But people were still passing me. At least I was happy to think “hey, I must have beat you in the swim… thank goodness I wasn’t the last one out!” It didn’t take long for my legs to get tired. Okay, they were on fire. I turned onto a new road. My new least favorite road ever. A road that goes up an incline for 10 miles. Yes, I am serious. About a medium incline all the way up. My legs were really on fire by the time I made it up fighting the wind the whole way. You will not believe how happy I was to see the turnaround point. I knew that meant downhill for 10 miles! It was a fast 10 miles! But of course things can never be so easy. I had to go uphill again (fighting the wind again) for the last 5 miles. Those 5 miles seemed to last an eternity. I couldn’t wait to be done even if it meant running 13.1 miles.
I hopped off that bike and starting running. Um, why does it feel like I am running at snail pace? My legs were pure jello. It took me about a mile to get them working right (after having to climb a few steep hills). I came to the crest of the third hill only to be blasted with 20 mph winds. OMG. Really? I have to run in this crazy wind with jello legs? I just decided to dream about my last half-marathon I completed this past winter. I thought about how wonderful it is to run a half marathon when you don’t have to first swim 1.2 miles and bike 56 miles. Oh, those were the good old days.
Those positive thoughts (or maybe my many years of running experience) must have helped because I totally kicked butt on that run. I met those people who passed me in the swim or on the bike. They became tiny objects in my rearview mirror. Sure, I couldn’t get them all, but I sure as heck tried. I willed my legs to stay strong and do what they do best: run. That was my proudest moment throughout this whole race. I am proud to call myself a runner! Thank goodness I became a runner before I decided to become a triathlete. But I do know what I need to do now in order to become a better triathlete (swimming in a lake would be one of the obvious things).
I finally saw the finish line. I tried so hard not to slow down. In that last half a mile I passed at least 6 other people. I was soooo ready to be done! I pumped my arms into the air and crossed over that magical line. Someone handed me a medal while someone else took off my timing chip (since there was no way I could be bothered to bend over and do it). I continued walking. And I walked some more. Then I stopped to pee. Yes folks, I hadn’t peed for over 6 hours. I knew I had that kind of stamina for a marathon, but now I know I can last a whole half ironman!
I continued walking because my body didn’t seem to want to quiet down. As soon as I stopped I felt a sudden urge to throw up. I felt worse than I ever did during the whole race! I was okay after about a half an hour. I had to force down half a bagel and then lay in the grass for a few minutes. I started thinking about how I never wanted to do that ever again. I feel differently today. I wish I could go for a run right now, but my legs aren’t working right.
My official time was 6:19:21. I came in 6th in my age group (and for some reason they had me in 35-39… I didn’t realize my birthday came 2 weeks early this year… I guess it doesn’t matter much because I would have been 5th in the 30-34 group). I came in 151 overall for the swim, 135 overall for the bike and 67 overall for the run. I guess that really makes it obvious that running is my strength!
It took me about 2 hours to recover enough in order to make the 4 hour drive home. If only my drive home could have been as uneventful as the race. I had to drive through a snow storm! Ironically, we had just taken off the snow tires 3 days earlier. I also had to stop every hour to stretch my legs (yes, I was out in 32 degree weather wearing shorts and a t-shirt). Finally I made it home!
And to my surprise, I walked in to find a few of my friends gathered in the living room. My most amazing husband had gathered them together to celebrate my accomplishment. It was the greatest feeling and I am so thankful to have supportive family and friends. They have always been there to push me along. From my first day of learning how to rock climb all the way to my first half ironman. Don’t worry though, the story isn’t over yet.