Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pumpkinman Half Ironman Race Report

Get cozy my friends - this race report has the potential to be of great length. I promise some pictorial interludes throughout, to break up my wordiness. I want to capture in words the incredible day that I had on Sunday.

As all of you know, I came into this race untrained and with zero expectations. Prior to the race, I had completed exactly 3 bike rides over 40 miles, and 1 over 50 miles. I had been in the water exactly 3 times, and those were open water swims between 20-40 minutes. I have not been in the pool since last summer. As in 2010. However, I felt a pull to at least give this a go. I was banking on my run fitness to get me to the finish line. Nothing more.

I dropped off Caitlyn Saturday night at Scott and Lisa's house - they were having a sleepover, and bringing her up to watch the race on Sunday. I knew I was leaving her in spectacular care, and was excited to know I was going to be able to see her smiley face while on course.

Race morning came fast - a 4:30am alarm for a 5am departure from the house. I was surprisingly not as pukey as I usually am before a race, and was able to get down a decent breakfast. Phil provided me with constant reassurance, and distraction when necessary. Such a rockstar.

I held it together very well until we pulled into the parking lot - then, cue meltdown. I told Phil there was no way I could do this, I needed to go home. I had no business being there, I wasn't trained, and I just wanted to leave. Tears, tears, and more tears. It was ugly. He promptly kicked me out of the car, told me he would put my bike together, and we would meet back at the car when I was done registering. I cried while picking up my chip and packet -it was messy.

Finally got a hold of Amanda, who proved to be my saving grace race morning. I latched onto her quickly, as she helped me set up transition, provided me some hints on what to do, where to go, etc. She reminded me that I COULD do this, and that I was going to be okay. More than okay. I took a deep breath, and remembered a friends words from the day before "take in every single moment, and soak it up". I did.

                                                      *how obvious is it that I was crying?*

Lots of hugs, kisses, good lucks, and we headed down to the water. There was a delayed start due to the fog. It was freezing, but I was too busy trying to figure out how I was going to survive a 1.2 mile swim - my God that looked far. Nevermind the fact that I'm not used to swimming with people. Yikes. Luckily, I'm a very confident swimmer, so I knew if I could stay positive, I would be okay. At about 7:45, the race started.

It was a 2-loop swim, and I was in the last wave - which meant we were starting the swim as the elites were coming around for their second loop. I got caught up in a sea of people, was kicked and pushed around. I think it was a solid 10- 15 minutes before I could get into any kind of rhythm. I kept trying to find feet, and stay calm. My goggles were so foggy, I couldn't see much. I was relying on the feet in front of me to take me the right way. I went off course a couple times, but all in all, finished feeling like I hadn't exerted much energy. Good. I have a LOT to learn about swimming with lots of people - my swim time was probably slow for me, but it was very much stop/go/swim, versus an actual 1.2 mile swim. Swim = 41:44.

There is a huge ass hill coming into T-1. So big that there's actually a "hill climb challenge" - fastest person up the hill on the day won a special award. Yeah, that person was NOT me.

I took my time in T-1. I needed to remember everything, and I haven't done a transition since August of 2010 - my last triathlon. I chatted w/ a couple people (I REALLY need to stop talking to people during a race), grabbed my stuff, and was off. T1= 2:50

I saw Phil on the way out - all I said was "here goes nothing!" with a big smile. It was so awesome to see his face as I was heading out. The bike was the big wild card of the day. I'm not confident on the bike at all, and I've barely been on my bike this year. I had only practiced bike nutrition once, and that was when Sara and I did the course preview. I decided I was going to find a comfy place, focus on getting in my nutrition, and enjoy the ride. My hope was to hold 15mph for the 56 mile jaunt. I spent the first 10 minutes or so just getting comfortable and clearing my head. I found a pace that felt strong, and stayed there. As people passed me, I repeated to myself "half marathon, half marathon - do not chase, I'll get them on the run". Then it happened - I ACTUALLY PASSED SOMEONE ON THE BIKE!!! No, seriously, I don't think this has ever happened before. I was so psyched! I forced myself to hold back though, listen to my breathing, and chatted it up w/ people as they passed me, I passed them. I had a huge smile on my face and was enjoying every minute. "Take in every single moment".

When I looked at my watch (I had my timex on one hand that I was using for nutrition timing, and my Garmin on the other to collect data), and saw I was at an hour, I glanced at the Garmin to check mileage. SEVENTEEN MILES in an hour?!?! Oh shit. I was feeling too good, and this was WAY faster than I expected. The bike is such an unknown to me, that I had zero clue if I could hold that pace for another couple hours. And you know what? I didn't care. I smiled, and just kept going. The gels were going down, my stomach was behaving, and I was cruising. I even experienced my first bottle exchange (now THAT was interesting!) with a smile on my face. And yes, I cheered outloud for myself when I successfully grabbed a bottle without dumping off my bike. Don't you dare judge me.

I did some hazy bike math at hour 2, and then again at hour 2.5. My pace seemed to be staying around 17ish mph, and I felt good there. I was talking, eating, and having so much fun. I had no idea what was going to happen when I got off the bike, but I decided I would worry about that in T-2.

As I came into the transition area, I spot Caitlyn and Lisa on the side of the road - I screamed for them, and they looked VERY surprised to see me. Phil said afterwards he was shocked to see me as well - I was 1/2 hour early! Seeing everyone got me even more excited as I pulling into T-2. Bike = 3:11:45/ 17.5mph

I did one brick, about 2 weeks ago. Aside from that, the last time I ran off the bike was at my last tri - over 1 year ago. Due to that, I really took my time in T-2. I assessed my body for any tweaks, soreness, anything that could be flirting with injury. I sat down (!!), put my run shoes on, and walked a few steps towards the bike out. It was slow, but well worth the time I took. T-2 = 1:55

I heard cowbells and lots of familiar voices as I came out of T-2. Caitlyn was holding a sign for me, with Phil, Scott, and Lisa right there smiling and yelling for me. I pulled over, gave Caitlyn a kiss, and was on my way. I made a decision at that point that I would NOT look at my Garmin the entire run. I also decided that I was allowed to walk through every aid station, but had to run/shuffle/jog in between all of them. Crazy, right? Notsomuch. My run has been in such a horrid place lately, and I was having way too good of a day. I didn't want to be discouraged, and I wanted to savor every moment of my first 70.3.  So I started my shuffle.

My support crew managed to fly out of T-2 and get to the mile 2 mark, where they would be able to see me 3 times on the run course. When I saw them, I stopped again. This time I kissed all of them, and told them how much fun I was having. As I'm typing this, I'm thinking about how much time I lost stopping and chatting during those 13.1 miles. Oops.

I saw so many people I knew, due to the nature of the double out and back. I was in such a great place in my head, that I cheered for everyone. Amanda was flying, it was so much fun watching her destroy the run course. I smiled, danced through waters stops (no really, I did), and stayed positive. I picked up Lisa at about mile 7, she was going to run the next 6 miles with me. I wish I could put into words how awesome it was to have her there - having someone that knows you so well, doing what we do so well together was simply priceless. As we shuffled along, I was recapping my swim and bike, asking about Caitlyn, cheering for everyone on course, and having an awesome time. I looked at her at mile 12, and said "I can't believe I'm doing this!!". She said to me "remember all of these moments, you'll never have your first 70.3 again".

Caitlyn really wanted to run into the finish with me, but it's not allowed per USAT rules. However, she was allowed to run about 1/4ish mile stretch with me right before I entered the finishing chute. As I came up to her, I grabbed her hand. We held hands running, Caitlyn looking up at me with a smile on her face. She kept telling me how well I was doing, and of course, how sweaty I was. Having those moments with her on that run, on that day, was so special. I can't wait to see the pictures from that. Run = 2:04:27 (ouch).

Lisa grabbed Caitlyn off course as I "charged" into the finishing chute - I crossed the line with a huge smile across my face.

Total time: 6:05:09

Caitlyn came flying around the finish, and couldn't tell me enough times how proud of me she was. Phil was so damn happy for me, Scott and Lisa were nothing short of amazing. Amanda kicked ass, and scored 2nd in our age group. We giggled like 10 year old girls about how happy we were for each other. Sara and Patty had strong races, and it was awesome to see them out on the run course. I am a very, very lucky girl.

I am in love with this distance. I had an incredible day - I took in every single moment with a smile. I stayed positive, and learned so much. Given the lack of training, and first attempt at this distance, I'm sure I have LOTS of room for improvement. However for now, I'm just going to bask in the glory of my finish.

Thank you for all of the support and encouragement - it truly means the world to me.

Happy Training!


  1. this is awesome! what an amazing race, congrats!

  2. Thanks so much K - appreciate it!

    And to all the other 50+ people who have viewed this post today- I can SEE all of you lurkers who aren't commenting. It's totally cool, I'll just assume you're sending virtual love. Hahahahaha!

  3. Congrats...! Some people would consider using 70.3 miles and the word "fun" in a race report:

    berserk, bonkers*, cracked, crazed, cuckoo, daft, delirious, demented, deranged, dingy*,
    dippy, erratic, flaky, flipped, flipped out, freaked out, fruity, idiotic, insane, kooky,
    lunatic, mad, mad as a March hare, mad as a hatter, maniacal, mental*, moonstruck, nuts,
    nutty, nutty as fruitcake, of unsound mind, out of one's mind, out of one's tree, out to lunch,
    potty, psycho, round the bend, schizo, screw loose, screwball, screwy, silly, touched*, unbalanced,unglued, unhinged, unzipped, wacky

    I guess you proved you can cover 70.3 miles and have "fun" doing it. Great job!

    Inspirational, not only to me, but I'm sure Caitlyn as well. Love the picture of you guys kissing.......Priceless!


  4. Congratulations, it sounds like such an amazing day.

  5. Thanks to you both - it was an incredible day.. I can't wait for the next one :)

  6. So happy for you! Congrats! That pic of you and Caitlin is priceless...

  7. I don't have to tell you how proud I am of you, but I will again anyway! And the only thing more priceless than yours & Caitlyn's kiss is seeing you smiling at the finish. Now THAT'S priceless :)

    Well done!

  8. I could cry reading this, I am so happy for you! I know how you were having such self doubt and trouble last week. You are AMAZING!!! What a rockstar.

  9. Thank you Katie, Lisa, Nicole, and Lauren.. Your support means the world to me - thank you!!!