After not being allowed to finish at Kona in June, I had to have closure on the Half Ironman distance. About 6 hours away in Muncie, Indiana, the Ironman series offered an event. I had registered before our place even left Hawaii.
What was I thinking?! Work got hectic. I got lazy after coming back from Hawaii. Work got hectic. I got lazier. You get the picture. Training become non-existent and now I was scheduled to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and run 13.1 miles. Oh man, it's a good thing I'm not a quitter.
Meg joined me at this race. "Joined" is the nice way of saying she had no choice. She's my companion on all things crazy. How in the world this kid managed to entertain herself is still a mystery. Not even she knows the answer!
We met my parents and brother/sister-in-law in Columbus. My brother and sister-in-law were visiting for the week and weekend and were kind enough to take Bridget for the next 36 hours. Bridget was beyond excited to stay with her older cousin, Zoe, so it was a win-win for everyone. Poor Meg, she would be stuck with me on a 36-hour adventure that would be one of the weirdest for her and I and that's saying a lot!
We arrived in a little town outside Muncie for the triathlon check-in, mandatory event coverage session and a little expo shopping. The event was held on the grounds of the Prairie Creek Reservoir. Gotta love Siri, but she routed us to the opposite side of the reservoir, told us to park our car and walk to the reservoir. Are you serious?! We were separated by water...no way we could walk! Ugh, it took us nearly a half hour to find our way around all the county roads before finding the check-in. The funniest part...there was a super simple direct route that I would eventually find later...and thank goodness.
This is a pretty cool race in a remote location and with a neat camping and RV lot the race start. I started thinking that if I did this race again next year, we might have to rent a camper. Might be fun to have an evening under the stores and then to celebrate with S'mores. Don't you think?
We pick up my race packet, listen to the race announcements, fret, pace, you know the drill. Eventually, I check in my bike into the Transition area. This was a much easier, more traditional check-in. I got to lay out my towel, organize my bike and run stuff. Not a lot of space between bikes, but at least there was only one transition area. Seriously, that ended up being so much easier than Kona. I also learned many lessons from Kona...including simplifying my transition set-up. This would turn out to be a smart move.
We headed back to Richmond, Indiana, about an hour from the race, but the closest place to get a hotel. I will make sure I book earlier for the 2015 race (and yes, I'll be doing the 2015 race!). Our carb loading meal was at the Olive Garden (blech!), but when you're in a town of chain restaurants, you can't be picky. We hit up Kroger to get some food and snacks for Meg's marathon wait and then headed off to the hotel for some shut-eye.
I tell you, Meg and I could have fun in a paper bag. She's such a good sport of making the most out of a really boring location!
Time to get up before the Sun! Phew, it was early. The Hampton Inn was kind enough to prepare for us a to-go bag, except it was stuff that was so processed, there was no way I was putting that crap in my body. And I say this "tongue-in-cheek" because the week prior to the race had included late night evenings of work and no healthy food. I think I had the unhealthiest diet in my 48 years that way alone. Not a good thing, but it is what it is.
Got to the race start around 6:00 a.m. I did a practice swim, made a quick trip to the port-a-potty, hung around nervously until my neon orange group of ladies entered the water. Lots of people wore wetsuits because the water temp was slightly below the wetsuit cutoff. I made the decision to just wear my swim skin, which was smart because you overheat after awhile in the water and I didn't want to dehydrate myself. It was going to be a super hot and humid day so I needed to be smart about not overheating and drinking plenty of water.
I was scheduled for an 7:45 a.m. swim start. My swim went well. I shaved a minute off my Kona swim time. I was super impressed considering I had only been in the water maybe 4 times since Kona. I would have shaved another minute, but I got hit hard by another swimmer within 50 yards of finishing and it disoriented me a bit. Overall, I was happy.
Now run to the transition area, not walk! Pulled on my socks, cycling shoes, a little lube, a quick bite of Gu, sip of water, slid on the sunglasses and helmet and busted out of that transition area.
While I did finish under the cutoff, my bike portion was disappointing. Next time, I will include a steady workout of plyometrics to improve on my leg strength. I also need to work more on better gear shifting. I made some key/rookie errors. My bike is a heavier one (I really missed that lightweight Cervelo I had in Hawaii!). The course had a lot of rolling hills and was very challenging in the heat and humidity. It was a bit of a boring course, which made it tough to take my mind off the fact that my legs were like jelly. I had pulled over for about a 5-minute stretch and inner complaint session when a police officer came over. She asked if I was ok. I told her, "Yes, I'm just tired and bitchy, but I'll pull it together." It was very nice of her to care, but I was 40 miles into a 56-mile course and, yes, I was tired and bitchy! But I'm not a quitter. So I pulled my act together, got back on that bike and hauled my ass into the transition area.
Well, I made it past the bike cutoff with about 20 minutes to spare. Not a lot of time. And I needed to finish the half marathon in under 3.5 hours. Ok, in full disclosure, since mid-May, my longest run has been 10 miles and that was in mid-May. My longest post-Kona run was 7 miles. This half marathon was going to be more mental, than physical. If I could get my mind to finish this daunting distance, then my legs would suck it up and do it, too.
At one point, I was pretty whiney. I wanted to quit, but I couldn't because that would be selfish and unfair of me since Meg had been patiently waiting since 6:00 a.m. and I couldn't quit. What kind of message would I be sending her - that it's ok to quit when things get hard. It's not ok. So I trudged along. At the beginning of the run, I hooked up with another runner and we incorporated a run/walk method of 2 minutes run, 1 minute walk. It helped and got us through the first half of the course. We managed to beat the turn around cut-off by about 10-15 minutes. It was a day of beating the clock. I eventually had to go on my own because she was wanting to walk more and run much less. I had to finish under the cutoff. Disqualification was simply not an option. So I headed off solo until I caught up with another runner around mile 10. Funny thing is that he told me he did the whole swim course using the backstroke. And I remember seeing him in the water.
We ran two cones, walked one cone until we ran out of course cones. At that point, we ran one full guardrail, walked a few mailboxes, until the awful hill. We fast-walked the hill, but did so with a smile because we knew we were within a half mile or less of the finish line. And we would finish well under the wire! We hustled through the finishing chute to the sound of the Black Keys playing. The sound of the Akron band greeting me at the finish line was perfect. But even more perfect than that was Meg greeting me at the finish line. I actually cried and hugged her because this was one of the hardest things I had done and was so glad and proud that I finished!
Finished in 8:30 and change. Unbelieveable experience. I will definitely do this again next year. Muncie, I'm coming after you!
Best story ever from Megan. I asked her what she did while waiting for me. She said she wasn't sure, but she managed to kill about 10 hours. I asked if she slept, she said "No." I asked if she read her book, she said "not really." I asked if she ate, she said "some." Hysterical. Only a 20-year-old could waste 10 hours and not have any idea how. She did meet the third place male, Andrew Starykowicz, and had fun celebrating with his group. She got to hang out with some of the faster triathletes and enjoyed people watching. What a sport!