If you’ve been following my training journey, you know that I’ve been working toward a lifelong goal of completing an Ironman-distance triathlon. I registered over a year ago for Ironman Wisconsin, originally to take place on Sept. 13, 2020. In my training, yesterday marked the day I completed half of the distance as a training session.
It was a very different feel than when I raced my Half Ironman (HIM) at Old Orchard Beach, ME in 2018. To start, I was terrified in Maine. I thought I was ready, yes, but because I am not a strong swimmer, I specifically wanted to do an ocean swim. But when I got to Old Orchard Beach, those waves gave me the willies! I honestly didn’t think I could finish the swim. But I did. I finished.
Fast forward almost two years later, and I got another chance at the HIM distance. Obviously, every major race so far since March has been cancelled due to COVID, so I had my own self-supported, solo event. I set up my car as my transition station at the beach, planned my race course, and honestly wasn’t even the tiniest bit nervous (a complete 180 from the emotional rollercoaster that was Maine).
What I learned this weekend is that there is no such thing as an easy race. I don’t think I was overly confident going into “race-day,” but I knew I had done this before. I figured that the course itself was a little more flat, and therefore easier, than what I tackled in Maine. I am excited to say that I finished, but oh. my. stars. was it more of a challenge than anticipated!
The swim went well. I felt pretty good in the water, and was lucky that Lake Erie was exceptionally calm on race morning. I have started going over the things I need for each transition station toward the end of each leg before them, just to put my mind at ease and remind myself of anything that I tend to forget. This has been really helpful for me, and calms me down a bit as I finish one discipline and head into the next.
The bike course was fast and flat. While I think this could be a bonus, I also think I got a bit over-zealous and may have fallen into the speed trap of tiring out my legs a bit on the first 28 miles. The way back was into the wind, and I definitely felt it. But overall, the bike still went pretty well. It was already over 80 degrees though, so I stayed hydrated and downed every bit of race fuel I brought with me.
The run is always where things start to break down for triathletes. And break down they did. Because I was doing this self-supported, I planned a loop course of sorts on the run portion, so that I would pass by my car as a sudo-aid-station at about the halfway mark in my half marathon. I thought this was pretty smart, so that I could fill up my water bottle if needed. What I didn’t realize is that I didn’t bring enough hydration for how hot it ended up being on race day. I never go through two full bottles on a short 56-miler, so I assumed I’d have some extra from those. I did not. I brought another full bottle in case I did need it, but I ended up drinking that all during my transitions. So, I ran right by my aid-station without refilling. I ran out of hydration around mile 7.
I finished. But it took a lot of positive self-talk (and refusing to give into the Mean Mind comments my brain wanted to throw out at me) as well as doing a decent amount of run/walking over the final couple of miles. This was super disappointing to me because I felt so ready and this felt like a failure. I felt like I was going to crush the First Ever, Not Annual, Fairport Harbor Half Iron. But I felt crushed at the end sadly.
There is no easy race. Prepare. But don’t compare.
My goals for the HIM Fairport Harbor looked like this:
A goal – 2 hour run portion + finish
B goal – 7.5 hour or under finish
C goal – just finish
So even still. I finished. And I even finished under my B goal timeframe of 7.5 hours. So take that Fairport. I’ll focus on the good.
It was encouraging to look at my Maine times from 2018 next to my Fairport Harbor times from this weekend. I was significantly faster on the bike, and pretty equivalent on the swim and the run. With it being a lake swim (FH) versus on ocean swim (ME), I’d say that I was actually a good bit faster in the water, too, although my times don’t reflect that because well, salt water. So, I am really happy with all of that!
As I continue to build up for the full-distance, all I can do is keep taking steps forward, and learning from every day. And for goodness sake, always bring significantly more water than I think I’ll need.
However, I did get some bad news as soon as I got home. I can’t say I’m surprised, but I am disappointed. Ironman Wisconsin has been cancelled for 2020.
So, as I find myself halfway there, I am starting to come to terms with the fact that I don’t really know what I’m halfway to anymore. I’ll take some time to figure out what my plan is, and when and where I’ll race. Big goals never have easy roads to get to them, but danggggg girl. What a gut-punch.
I don’t want to end this post on a sad note, so I’ll just leave you with this:
A bend in the road is not the end in the road, unless you fail to make the turn.Helen Keller
Until next time, y’all.