My first Half-Ironman complete!

Ok, so the posts have been a little thin…I’m not much of a blogger. But the big news is I completed my first half-ironman under my own power and feeling good.

My goal was the ubiquitous ‘just finish’ so I had fun and took it very easy. The truth is my training was no where near what I wanted so I didn’t feel the confidence that goes with feeling prepared. I had never swam the distance, ridden the distance, or run the distance. I had no idea what to expect. On top of that it was hot and humid. The heat index was reported at 101F. A lot of starters didn’t finish.

The big stressor of the day was warm water: for the first time in a long time (I heard 17 years) the water was too warm for wetstuits. Typically amateurs are allowed to wear wetsuits in water temps between 78F and 84F but aren’t eligible for prizes or placings. In this case the organizers, maybe because they hadn’t needed to deal with it in such a long time and didn’t have a method for recording who wore one and who didn’t, chose to disallow wetsuits for everyone. Well, for many of us this was not what we wanted to hear. In fact, at least one person didn’t start the “race” because they were so concerned. I never considered bailing, but I sure was nervous about it. The wetsuit is a safety blanket for us barely-ready-for-the-distance types. It’s not the cold we’re worried about, but the drowning. (Or at least the “using so much energy for the swim that we can’t lift our arms to put on our helmets.”)

The swim turned out to be fine, just longer than I hoped. Even being in the largest start wave of the day I was able to start clean, without any problems (of course there’s bumping any time that many people put their faces in the water and swim generally in the same direction, but no real kicks or swim-overs) and found my groove easily. There was a little extra effort and concern required after the first turn to swim across the current but no problems.

In T1 I took my time and put on plenty of sunblock. I knew I would be exposed to the all of the most direct sun. That’s another advantage of being fit and fast; you spend less time getting burned.

The ride was mostly uneventful. I really took it easy since I knew I would be suffering on the run regardless. I was going to be ok ‘suffering’ on the run, not ‘collapsing’. The ride is very flat, not technical, and scenic enough that I never really felt any mental strain for the 3+ hours. I rarely even got into Zone 2 heart rate and saved those times for when the wind was worst, just to keep a constant pace. I made sure to apply sunblock to keep the shoulders and knees from frying. Toward the end I definitely felt ready to be done with the bike, but that went away as soon as I got back into town and was reminded, by those already on the course, that I still had 13.1 miles to run. I’d rather stay on the bike another two hours, thankyouverymuch.

T2 was relaxed and slower than T1. I put on more sunblock and thankfully had brought another pair of socks for the run.

I had my first experience with leg cramps on the first two miles of the run. I say that somewhat tongue-in-cheek because they never really cramped, just spent a lot of time reminding me they were there and threatening to cramp. I figured I was a little under hydrated, astoundingly, so walked a bit and took Gatorade Endurance from every water stop. The bad news was even after the legs felt good, running for even 10 minutes put my heart rate in Zone 4…I can’t maintain that effort even on a day without the extra anquish that comes from heat and buckets of sweat. And there wasn’t any amount of ‘slow’ that was enough to keep the HR down in the sustainable range. I had hoped to run the whole 13.1 miles and that was now out-the-window. In the end I don’t know exactly, my Garmin 305 died at mile 5, but a conservative guess is I walked almost half the run. ah well. Next time more fitness and more hydration.

I finished in 7 hours 15 minutes. What’s more, I felt good. Don’t mistake, I was happy to be done but didn’t want to die either. I know my effort level for the whole day was not “race pace”, and in fact was less than “training pace”, but in the days following I felt good. Little blisters on the feet from the walking in soaked socks, good sunburns on my back where the jersey didn’t cover and I didn’t know to reach, but other than that no serious muscle soreness or pain. I went on a very light ride two days later and it felt great. We certainly didn’t push hard and it felt great to get the muscles moving.

Overall, I definitely erred on the side of caution, but I met all my goals: ‘Finish’, ‘don’t injure myself’, ‘don’t embarrass myself’, in that order.
Detailed results here.

Next year, a time goal!

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