I woke up at 4am, 10mins of yoga to warm-up a get loose, grabbed a breakfast of plain bagel with peanut butter and a banana and headed to the race. Rikki had to drop me off and then go park somewhere off site so I was on my own. I set up my transition area and then did a short run to loosen up. I was in one of the last waves so I got to watch the Pro men and women start (and finish!) their swim. I did about a 500m swim warm-up and then waited for my wave to start.
I looked at the athletes around me and positioned myself on the beach near the athletes wearing racing goggles. Usually you can tell the fast swimmers by their goggles. I was a bit nervous that I was wearing a two piece tri-suit and most of the other athletes were in one-piece tri suits, bathing suits or a sports bra and tri shorts. I would definitely have a bit more drag than some of the other swimmers. Oh well. Before I had too much time to worry the horn sounded and we were off! It turned out that I guessed right about who the fast swimmers were and I was able to find a nice pair of feet to guide me through the swim course at a good pace. Other than a few people in the waves in front of me that tried to climb on top of me as I passed them, it was a good swim and I exited the water 3rd in my wave and 2nd in my age group. The 1.9km swim + a bit of a long run to transition put me at a 29:16 swim time. Only 7 seconds behind the lead Pro!
The transition was a bit chaotic as usual. I landmarked where my bike would be, but then confused myself when I saw the numbers on the rack were around 1100. My number was 1072, did I miss it? So I ran backwards and then realized that the numbers were ascending in that direction. Oops! So ran forwards again and found my bike exactly where I thought it would be (before I confused myself). Grabbed my race belt, sunglasses and helmet. Uh oh, where was the second helmet strap? After searching around for a bit I had to take off the helmet and realized that the strap had been stuck on top of my head. Another Oops! OK...so then put the helmet on, clipped in the straps and ran my bike to the mount line. Foot slipped into my right shoe which was already on the pedal and then I pedalled my left foot on top of my left shoe until I slipped it in at the first opportunity. At least my bike mount was relatively smooth!
Bike. This was a beautiful bike course! It was mostly shaded and on very smooth roads. There was about 810m of climbing (50m less than Mooseman) and about the same amount of climbing as there is on the Vegas 70.3 Course. The only problem was that it was sooooo crowded. Due to the fact that there were a lot of turns on the course that would only accommodate 1 cyclist at a time and I constantly found myself braking and going quite slow to avoid slamming into the person in front of me. The other issue was the 5km “no passing zone” due to a stretch of road that was riddled with the worst potholes I’de ever seen on a bike course. Luckily they were clearly marked with an orange circle around them, but my power output was literally less than 100W for that entire 5km stretch to avoid passing people and to avoid a repeat of the flat tire situation I had to deal with in my last race. I must be the most timid cyclist ever! The last 5km stretch was very technical as we made 90 degree turns every 500m or so. I was pretty happy to enter T2 with a bike time of 2:45.16, although looking back on the race I think all the times I had to slow down for a turn or to avoid another cyclist really added up and I should have been faster. My nutrition was pretty good (so I thought). I went through 1 ½ bottles of eload, 1 bottle of water, 1 gel and about a package of those strawberry-banana gel blasts. The strawberry blasts were a last minute purchase as I forgot to pack my strawberry-banana gels which are a race favourite for me.
T2. Had a smooth bike dismount and located my spot on the bike rack with no difficulty. I quickly slipped on my shoes and grabbed my hat, which was on my head before I left T2. Perfect! I was excited to start the run.
Run. Felt great during the 1st km. Then I hit “the hill” which is a 1km long hill and 50 vertical meters ! I almost had to walk about 2km into the race. This was not a good sign, especially since I would have to run up this hill again on the second loop. I moved into first place in my age group at the 4km mark. This gave me a bit of extra motivation, which was soon lost when I turned the corner and was running right into the wind. Just before the second loop there was a second hill. It was steep, but at least it was short and soon after I saw my parents, Sara and Rikki cheering me on. I found a bit of extra energy that got me to the top of the 1km long killer hill, but after that I was just exhausted. I had chills all over and my quads were starting to cramp. There were so many people on the run course at this point that it became a battle to even get any water or Gatorade at the aid stations. With 2 miles to go I honestly thought that I wouldn’t make it to the end. I was having trouble breathing and my legs felt like lead. I kept repeating to myself “mind over matter” in my head. Something my swim coach would always tell us during hard swim sets. Eventually (and honestly I don’t know how) I made it to the finish. That was the hardest half ironman I have ever done! I was trying to control my breathing while the volunteers kept asking if I was OK. They were worried I wasn’t speaking, but all I wanted to do was breath. I couldn’t waste breath trying to respond to their questions. Then they put me into a wheelchair and started wheeling me to the medical tent. Halfway there I decided I was fine and told them I could walk there. I talked the Medics out of giving me an IV and chugged two bottles of water and a bottle of Gatorade. Once my blood pressure was back to normal they let me leave. Need to figure out this hydration business for Vegas!