Warning, this is a long recap! Pictures to be posted in the next week of so.
I spent the majority of the week leading up to the race in Hershey, PA over-indulging on all accounts (eating, drinking, staying up far too late and generally have too much fun for pre-race activities). I got back to Houston Friday afternoon and spent the evening with the boys and un-packing and re-packing for the trip to Austin on Saturday. After staying up far too late again catching up on the likes of 90210 and Gossip Girl, I decided to sleep in Saturday morning which put us behind for our entire Saturday schedule. I figured it was my schedule, so I could break it J While I finished packing and did my 30 min easy brick (the last workout before the race), Doug took the boys to Mom Mom and Peepaw’s for the weekend. I hated to leave them behind, but a 6+ hour race is not exactly fun for little kids.
We finally left for Austin at 11:00 a.m. or so, a good 3 hours later than planned – but still ok by me. I read a magazine and slept on the drive over and I woke up pretty sluggish and my left arm was really bothering me. It was tingling and a bit numb to my elbow. I still had good range of motion, but it just didn’t feel right. Plus, my allergies started to act up and I was pretty congested. Talk about timing!
When we arrived in Austin we went straight to the Athlete Expo for packet pick-up and to visit some of the booths of the race sponsors. It is a great source for last minute supplies. I picked up a bento box for my bike, gels and a pair of sunglasses – all of which proved vital on race day. I also spent time with an ART (Active Release Technique - Link for more info) specialist who worked on my neck since it was nerves in my neck that were affecting my arm. The ART work immediately improved my arm but it was still not 100%.
We left the Expo and made the trek to Decker Lake to drop off my bike, which was required before the race. It was nice to not have to worry about that in the morning. I checked out the transition area and then Doug and I went to REI for a new CamelBak for me (nothing like waiting until the last minute!) and a lock for him.
With all of our errands behind us we went to DT’s house (an old friend of Doug’s from high school). DT kindly offered to let us stay with him and use his house after the race too, even though he was leaving town Sunday morning. We had a great pizza dinner at Frank and Angie’s, went for a boat ride on his boat on Lake Austin and then relaxed on the couch watching Knocked Up. I also took a Claritin D which helped with my congestion and my arm was feeling normal again too. I finally fell asleep just shy of 11:00 pm. I was mostly nervous that I would oversleep. I was glad that I double checked my Blackberry because the alarm feature is automatically set to NOT work on weekends, so even though I had set the alarm for 5:00 am, it would not have gone off. Yikes, glad I caught that! I had set Doug’s as a back up as well though …
(Low Temp – 65, High Temp – 90, Avg Temp – 85. Overcast with light sprinkles and some bright sun)
We woke up at 5:00 a.m. and I had my usual oatmeal and we were out the door by 5:30. There was quite a line to get into the parking area and for the buses, so it was nearly 6:45 by the time we got to the race site (1 mile away from the parking area). They were running so far behind, that they actually made spectators, including Doug, wait for later buses. No fear though, Doug made it to the race site 10 minutes behind me so we were not separated long – he actually ended up riding his bike instead of taking the bus. They pushed back the start of the race to be sure that no one missed it because of traffic.
I meticulously prepared my transition area to ensure that I would have everything I needed easily within reach. I put my gloves on my aerobars, laid my helmet on my seat and put my sunglasses on my bars so that I would not forget anything. My fuel (gels, bars, and Perpetuem) were on the bike waiting for me. At this point I was getting pretty hungry so I had a banana and a handful of Sport Jelly Beans before the start of the race.
After one last kiss and hug good luck from Doug, I headed to the swim start area with the other athletes. I chatted with a couple of people nearby and then before I knew it, we were singing the National Anthem, the Pro Wave countdown started (10, 9, 8, …), and then it was my turn.
The Swim (1.2 miles, 38:39.30, 84/90 Age Group, 1694/1929 Overall Place, 2:00 pace)
I got in the water, which was a perfect 77 degrees and waited for the horn. For the record, the race ended up being wet suit legal (you can compete for age group awards and wear a wet suit as long as the water is below 78 degrees), but I had never swum in a wetsuit and I was not about to try something different on race day, so I went without.
The first leg I stayed far to the right and away from the main pack because I was worried about being mauled by the other swimmers. It didn’t take long for my competitive juices to start flowing and for me to realize I was putting myself at a disadvantage (e.g., swimming further) so I made my way closer to the buoys and the main pack. After the first turn, I spent the rest of the swim with the main pack and I am happy to report that I didn’t get kicked a single time! There were definitely people swimming by me, but I held my line and they went around me. I also did a better job sighting (looking for the buoys and the shoreline) on legs 2 and 3 of the swim. That, combined with the fact that I was able to draft a bit off of the faster swimmers (totally legal), made the swim fly by. I looked at my watch at the last buoy and was shocked that it read 35 minutes. I made it out of the water in 38:39. I was worried that Doug was going to miss me because I told him that the earliest I would be out of the water was 40:00, but that it would likely be closer to 45:00 or 50:00. There was a long run from the shore to the transition area and the chute was lined with spectators clapping and encouraging us – it was phenomenal. About 2/3rds of the way up I saw Doug holding a sign that read, “No more water … Run baby run” and then he immediately went into shutterbug mode.
I knew right away the swim was short because even with the best drafting in the world, there was no way I would be faster in the open water than in the pool. The Pros estimate that it was likely 200 yards or so short, which would have added about 4 minutes to my time (which still keeps me under my goal time), but it was a USAT sanctioned event, so the swim will be recorded as 1.2 miles and my time will just be a personal record (PR)! I am disappointed, but from what I hear it is pretty common for the one portion to be off a bit, and in particular, the swim.
T1 (3:56.50, 46/90 Age Group)
I got to my transition area, sat on my towel, put on my socks, and slipped on my bike shoes, which I had already loosened the straps on to make sure they went on quickly. Then I just grabbed my CamelBak, put on my sunglasses and helmet and started running with my bike towards the bike start. Doug was there again to cheer me on holding up his great sign.
The Bike (56 miles, 3:22:25.45, 59/90 Age Group, 1524/1929 Overall place, 16.6 mph pace)
I hopped on my bike at the bicycle mount line, clipped in and took off. I spent the first mile putting on my gloves and getting adjusted and then I settled in for the long ride. My nutrition plan was to drink water and Perpetuem every 15 minutes to be sure that I had a steady stream of calories coming in so that I would not bonk on the run. This really helped the time pass quickly as I was really only counting down in 15 minute increments. The course was fairly hilly, although only a couple of steep hills and there was quite a bit of headwind. There were four aid stations on the course where they do bottle handups (volunteers stand by the side of the road and hand bottles of Gatorade and water to bikers as the speed by). This is a pretty dangerous undertaking because many bottles hit the ground leaving debris in the way of the next cyclist until the volunteer can safely remove it. I stopped at the second and fourth stops for bathroom breaks. My bladder was full and I didn’t want to compromise my nutrition (not drinking because I was full) and I wasn’t ready to do it the other way (on the bike while you are riding – ewww). There was actually a wreck directly in front of me at my first stop which was pretty scary. Both cyclists were able to get back up without any medical or bicycle issues. I had a power bar at about 1.5 hours into the ride that really hit the spot as well and I took a salt tab to make sure that my electrolyte balance stayed in line. There was a timing mat around the 28 – 30 mile mark so technically people could track you on the course, but no one that tried to track me seemed to be able to make the program work. Before I knew it we turned the corner and enjoyed a tail wind for the last 10 -12 miles. I kept a good pace on the bike, but I was not pushing as hard as I could because I wanted to save my legs for the run. In retrospect, I could have pushed a bit harder, but my time and pace were respectable and I was happy with the outcome. The good news is that I was not exhausted when I got off the bike, so I had done something right! I hopped off my bike at the dismount line and ran to my transition area to change into my running shoes. I didn’t see Doug at first when I got off the bike, but he yelled and waved at me as I was running into transition.
T2 (2:15.00, 27/90 Age Group)
I ran my bike to my transition area, racked it, took off my helmet, swapped shoes, put on my running hat and grabbed my gels and power bar and I was off. Once I was on the course, I found places on my tri shorts and top for the gels. My T2 was faster because I didn’t have to deal with changing socks and the run from the bike dismount to the run start was not as long as the run from the water to transition.
The Run (13.1 miles, 2:13.26, 42/90 Age Group, 807/1929, 10:11 min/mile)
The start of the run really set the tone for the rest of the race. There were tons of volunteers handing out Gatorade, water, gels, food, towels, sponges – you name it. It was awesome! As soon as I rounded the corner I saw Doug again holding a sign that read “Nice wheels, now let’s see those sexy legs!” It made me smile and laugh, which was perfect timing right before I headed out to run the hills. I started the run a good bit slower than my normal average pace, but I was not sure at first how much slower I was going. I ran the entire time, hills and all, but it took my body a bit to adjust. My calves were a bit tight but that quickly passed. If I struggled on a hill at all, I reminded myself how much easier it would feel when I got to the top. My only complaint would be that each mile was not clearly marked so it made it difficult to judge my pace. I finally just decided that I would run until I was finished, so it didn’t really matter where I was …
I was really proud to run up a steep hill dubbed “Quadzilla” that many middle-of-the-packers like me were walking. Doug rode his bike to see me a couple of times on the first loop and at one point rode by and screamed, “I love number 830” and some guy next to me responded, “Me too!”. It was pretty funny.
The only thing bad about doing a two loop course is having to run by the finish line and keep on trucking, but by the start of the second lap I was feeling great and I knew I would be able to finish the race (my #1 goal). I caught Doug at the beginning of the second lap noshing on some nachos, I think he was surprised to see me! Starting the first round of hills on the second lap I ended up running with a 31 year old guy from San Antonio (I only know his age because it was on his leg and the announcer at Quadzilla said he was from San Antonio – more on that later). It was GREAT to talk to someone and it not only helped to pass the time, but it really picked up my pace. We ran together for a couple of miles and then I dropped back as I felt him pick up the pace. As we parted he said, I am sure we will run into each other again.
I ran the next section by myself but I said good job to almost everyone that passed me or that I passed. I got back to the park section with 2.5 miles or so to go and saw Doug again. He asked me if I had about 2 miles to go and I said I was not sure (turns out it was about 2.5 miles). At that point I felt awesome and my pace really picked up considerably, and sure enough, as I was running up Quadzilla for the second time, I saw my buddy from earlier in the race walking. As soon as he saw me started running and said that was just the motivation he needed. I shared the pretzels I had picked up at the last aid station with him and we chatted for a mile or so. We crossed the Quadzilla timing mat together and the announcer sitting there said, “I have two people pushing hard, Anne Moore and I Don’t Remember His Name from San Antontio.” The timing mat was there because they gave a prize to the person who had the best split up Quadzilla. I didn’t win, no surprise there! The pretzels were a great snack (thick pretzel sticks so they were easy to hold) in addition to the gels that I had every 45 minutes or so. I think I took three gels on the run course, in addition to a couple of electrolyte tabs. This time, my buddy from San Antonio had to drop back and he wished me a good finish and I took off.
I passed a lot of people on that last half mile or so and I felt so fresh. When I entered the finisher’s chute I went into a full on sprint and passed one last person as I heard my name and I crossed the finish line and did a fist pump. I can’t wait to see the photos.
It was awesome.
Total Time – 6:20.43
Overall Place – 1206/1929
Gender Place – 287/513
Division Place – 51/90
As soon as I crossed the finish I saw Doug holding a sign that read “I love my half-iron chick” and I saw our friend Matt and his new finance Honey as well. I did not know that they were going to be there, so I was really excited to see them. After someone took off my timing chip, I got my medal, water bottle and finisher’s towel and took my finisher photo and then went straight to Doug for my hug, which he gave without hesitation even though he hates sweaty people!
The first thing I told Doug was that I could do it again (meaning, I could have kept going). After chatting with everyone for a bit we went to the athlete tent so that I could get my Freebirds burrito and then I went to wait in line for my post-race ATR.
After waiting for about 10 minutes, it was my turn for ATR. The doctor worked on my hamstrings, quads and calves and it hurt like hell, but I felt so much better afterwards. It was amazing how quickly I went from feeling like “I could do this again” to tired and sluggish. One of the reasons that I did not stop to walk at all on the run was that I knew if I stopped it would be so hard to get going again and this post-race experience only verifies that premise for me. The adrenaline was really working its magic in the last portion of the race.
After my ATR and Freebirds I went back to the transition area to pick up my bike and my belongings and then we all walked about a mile back to the car … so really it was 71.3!
Doug and I said goodbye and thank you to Matt and Honey and we made our way back to DT’s house to shower and rest before driving back to Houston. I laid down as soon as I finished my shower and fell straight to sleep!
Around 6:00 pm, we packed up and headed back to Houston. To Doug’s surprise (and my own!) I didn’t sleep on the car ride home. It was nice to chat with Doug and recap the race.
There were so many people in the days leading up to the race that wished me luck on the blog, by phone, in person, and by email. It was so nice to have so many people rooting for me from afar – family, friends, colleagues. Words cannot express how much it meant to me. It goes without saying that Doug, as always, was my rock. He was there for me through every step of this process and his presence at the race made each step that much easier knowing that I would see his supportive face just around the corner.
This trek, 6 months in the making, is over, but the overall journey is just beginning.
Side note - The race was nearly 75% men. Overall place includes both men and women. Age group (AG) is women aged 25 – 29 (and we apparently had a very stacked division).