Doug and I drove to OKC early Friday morning and arrived around Noon and were able to check into the hotel early and drop off some of our gear. After grabbing a quick bite to eat we went to the race site to pick up my packet and do a short brick. There was a crazy long line at packet pick-up to check IDs and USAT cards, but after about 30 minutes of waiting they figured out they needed several more people helping and the line sped up considerably.
There was not a lot of information about the Aqua Bike race so I had to hunt someone down who could tell me how the finish was going to work (rack bike, exit transition and turn left to run to the finish line, IM and HIM athletes turn right to run the run course). Once I got that straight, Doug and I went to clean up and hunt down my pre-race pizza dinner at Hideaways after a side trip down Route 66. The pizza at Hideaways was perfect and then it was off to bed for me.
We packed up my gear and had breakfast at a hole in the wall place called Beverly’s Pancake House since it was open 24 hours. I had oatmeal while my dutiful Iron Sherpa hubby enjoyed eggs with biscuits and gravy and sausage … I wasn’t at all bitter about having to stick to my pre-race diet! :)
After breakfast we had to hunt down a parking spot at Lake Hefner, which meant getting a little creative, but we ended up with a great spot in the grass on a median. We checked with one of the race officials and he said it was ok to stay there – perfect!
All the while, I was somewhat surprised because I was really not nervous at all about this race. I guess I was successful at convincing myself that it is just a long, well supported training day at race pace. (I sure hope I can convince myself of that in November!)
I also ran into Brittany race morning too – even in the dark, the red hair and Army tri top could not be missed! I was so glad to finally meet another IMFL / Blog World / Beginner Triathlete friend in person!
Next stop, transition. I decided not to utilize the changing tents or special needs bags for this race in an effort to keep things simple. So, I laid out my towel, bike shoes and socks and then put on my wetsuit. Then the skies opened. So much for the weather forecast. It was actually pretty chilly with the rain, so I was happy to have my full sleeved wetsuit on.
It's raining, it's pouring ...
Athletes gathered (and shivered) for the pre-race meeting, while spectators did their best to huddle under tents to stay dry. I never thought that the rain was that heavy, but it was significant enough that one of the roads on the bike course was impassable so they chose to delay the start of the race. The first update from the race director (RD) didn’t sound much better when he said the contingency plan was to do a swim – run – swim. I felt terrible for those who were doing 70.3 or 140.6 for the first time, as I would have been freaking out. As it was, I was freaking out about what to do about my long ride for the weekend if the bike leg got cancelled.
Thankfully, the RD decided the race could go on with a mandatory dismount at mile 6 of the bike course to walk through / around the standing water and the race start was moved to 8:00 a.m. (45 minute delay).
I had a banana Hammer Gel and then I entered the water with everyone doing the 140.6 race. At 8:00 a.m. exactly, the shotgun went off to signal the start of the race. The first couple of minutes were nerve racking and I felt awkward in my wetsuit. I had a hard time finding my stroke and wondered to myself how it would feel to swim 2.4 miles like this. Thankfully, I quickly fell into a rhythm, found my stroke and started swimming buoy to buoy. I was very pleased with my sighting and was happily surprised when I completed the first lap and my watch showed a time of 36 minutes and change. My HIM swim times have all been closer to 43++ minutes, so I was stoked. Several of the people near me stood up for just a moment and raised their arms in victory for completing the first lap and the watching crowd went wild.
I was very confident about the second loop, given my time on the first loop, how easy my stroke felt and how well I was sighting. I was not expecting the physical contact that came next. I thought that once the crowd thinned, I would be clear from contact, but there were a handful of us all swimming about the same speed and I got kicked in the face several times, even after I made an effort to move away from the other swimmers. I actually had my goggles knocked loose once and I had to stop to put them back on. Everyone was incredibly nice though, and the guy that kicked me on accident actually stopped to make sure that I was ok. I tried to imagine how much more contact there would be in FL with so many more athletes in the water, and I realized that I was thankful for the experience at Redman so would know what to expect in November.
When I rounded the last buoy to start the home stretch, I was happily surprised at how great I was feeling, despite the fact that the rain had picked up again. I reached the swim exit, stood up to wobbly legs (only momentarily), smiled and started taking off my wetsuit.
The wetsuit strippers did a great job of quickly getting me out of my “super suit” (as Andrew and I call it, thank you, Incredibles) and I was off to my bike. At this point I regretted not using the changing tents and T1/T2 bags because all of my stuff was soaking wet. Fortunately, just then I saw Doug and that cheered me right up.
I managed to put on my wet tri top (I swam in a sports bra), rung out my socks, put on my bike shoes, sunglasses (maybe rain glasses would have been more appropriate) and helmet and I was off. I was at the back of the transition area, which made the bike out a bit tedious as you had to go up and down a curb (and they made you go this way), but I still managed to attempt a run out of transition. I saw Doug again as I was exiting the bike exit and starting on the first of two 56 mile loops.
It was still raining at this point and all I could think about was how unprepared I was for the weather. Thankfully, I was not too uncomfortable, considering I was soaking wet from head to toe … in a sleeveless jersey … in the rain … in coolish weather.
I got settled in after 2 miles or so and I was starting to get comfortable when I reached the first turn of the ride and the first down hill. Hmmm, my brakes don’t seem to want to work in the rain, so I took it pretty easy on the turns and descents until the rain stopped. This course was a lot hillier than I had anticipated, but nothing too horrible and it was actually a nice distraction. I still managed to stay aero 99% of the time.
I drank concentrated Infinit every 20 minutes and drank water from my aerobar water bottle. I knew that I was going to have to stop at the porta pottys because I was not sweating as much as usual and sure enough I ended up stopping once each lap. The volunteers at this race were incredible. Each aid station had tons of volunteers, all eager to make sure you had everything you needed. They even had a volunteer at the beginning of the aid station area asking what you needed so that the volunteer could yell to the other volunteers what each athlete required. When I stopped to use the facilities they held my bike for me and restocked it while I was in the porta potty. Talk about service with a smile!
The first loop passed fairly quickly and I used the aid stations as markers along the way. There course was more crowded on the first loop as the HIM athletes were still on the course. I actually saw Brittany kicking some ass on the bike as I was on my way out and she was on her way back in. As I was reaching the end of the first loop, I saw the leaders starting out on the second loop. I think I figured out that the leader was about 20 miles ahead of me on the bike :).
At the turn around at the end of the 1st loop:
I made it back to the turnaround and was relieved to see Doug. He asked if I was ok, if everything was going alright and I think I replied “yes, fine” – then we did a virtual fist bump and I took off for the second loop. There were a lot fewer people on the course at this point, but I was never alone and never felt lonely. I surprised myself by being content in the fact that I knew where I was going and what to expect along the course in the way of hills, aid stations, the turn around point, etc. It rained off and on during both loops but thankfully, the sun finally came out towards the end of the second loop.
To say that I was happy to see the turn around on the second loop would be an understatement – I actually almost got emotional! There is something about knowing that you are on the home stretch that is very powerful to me during a race. There was another section on the main drag, right before you turn to ride the last couple of miles on the dam, that was lined with volunteers who were all cheering, clapping or offering words of encouragement and I nearly cried again there. In both cases I felt great but it was just a bit overwhelming and magical at the same time.
The last couple of miles passed in a blur and I was thankful that I had not had any mechanical issues and that I was finishing my second loop as I saw folks who were just starting theirs. I was thrilled to see the dismount line!
T2 & Finish
I ran my bike to my rack, took off my helmet and bike shoes, not bothering to take off my socks, and high tailed it out of there to the finish line. The Aquabikers had to run a little less than a quarter of a mile to the finish. As I rounded the corner, the announcer called out my name and some personal information about me, I saw Doug (of course!) and then I crossed the line. I had so much momentum that I nearly collided with the person in front of me that was just standing there (oops!). I have to say it was pretty cool to cross the finish line in my socks!
2.4 mile swim - 1:15:53 (pace 1:59 per 100)
T1: 3:33112 mile bike - 6:25:25 (17.3 mph)
T2: 1:20Run to Finish Line - 1:05
Total Time - 7:47:16
After getting my gear out of transition and hitting the porta pottys, we took everything to the car so I could change for my 30 minute run. My legs felt great on my short run to the finish and I wanted to see how they would stand up after a couple of miles. I started my run, careful to avoid the run course itself, and was very happy about how I felt overall. My legs felt strong, my stomach felt fine and I was not hungry at all. I took one serving of cliff blocks with me and ate them over the first mile. They are so much more satisfying to me than eating a gel, and I like how I can eat them slowly over time instead of forcing down and entire gel.
I ended up running for 3.6 miles over 32 minutes (2 short out and backs, there was not a lot of non-race course real estate to be had). I saw Brittany on my run and she called out that I was looking good, which definitely put an extra spring in my step. I ended the run feeling confident that I could have finished a marathon and a little jealous that I was not on the run course completing my 140.6.
Overall, I think that the Aquabike was a great pre-IM, race environment test to evaluate how I felt about my pacing and nutrition and it was a huge confidence booster for me for IMFL.
Doug and I got cleaned up from the muddy race site and decided to go back to Hideaways for fried mushrooms and pizza – so good! We also stopped for a visit at the National Memorial, which was simply incredible, especially all lit up at night, then it was off to Marble Slab for dessert! Sweet cream ice cream with fresh strawberries and chocolate chip fixins in a chocolate dipped waffle cone. It was divine!
118 miles down, 22 to go!