I achieved that goal but this year that was just not enough. I wanted to finish with people behind me.
I have the most amazing friends. They attend my races and make a party atmosphere that would be the envy of any competitor. You know you have true friends that will stand around for 8 + hours and wait for you to complete a race, cheer you on, make t shirts celebrating your attempt at 70.3 miles and all the while in 100+ degree heat. So to Joy, Karen, Mike, Vi, Sandi and Debbie, I tip my sweat soaked hat in your general direction. You are the reason I am even writing this blog. It is because of your support that I swear I survived this event.
I was up early..as always. I make my training partner, Beth, absolutely nuts with my early wake up calls and desire to be at the transition area WAY IN ADVANCE. Im up, I make coffee and oatmeal and go through the same routine before each race. But God love Beth. She was very patient with me and got ready and headed down to our transition area to set up.
Now Beth was nervous. This was her FIRST Half Ironman. I had no doubt that she would kick ass...and she did!!! She set up her transition with great detail..as I did and we headed down to the beach for the start. My wave went off almost 20 minutes (or maybe more) before hers so she had some time to think (maybe too much time).
I hate the wait before the start. Its that mixture between panic and the desire to upchuck that really gets me going but as I entered the water, I had one thing on my mind: cut down the damn swim time.
The horn went off and we were in the water. Unlike last year where it took me a good 10 minutes to catch my breathe at the beginning of the swim, this time I was focused. Compared to the waves and water of Panama City, the lake behind Fort Wilderness looked like heaven. I counted markers...and then the turn. I was in the zone and feeling great...and then the next turn...I finally look down at my watch and realize I am 10 minutes ahead of last year's time and 5 minutes ahead of Gulf Coast. I kept moving. The last leg of the swim seemed to take forever but, at last, I was out of the water 11 minutes faster than last year!! Fantastic!! Goal number one achieved.
Second goal: Run to transition. At Disney, the distance between the water and the transition area is significant including pine bark trail, cement and numerous little twists and turns. I ran out of the sand and around the corner only to slow down and walk. I still don't know why I did this. I heard everyone yelling for me but didn't see them until i got to the bike. At the bike, I rushed and didn't think straight. Debbie was taking pictures and screaming her heart out at the fence which really helps to get me pumped. Helmet snapped, glasses on, and shoes on the right feet...I was on my way...well...sorta.
Third goal: Kick but on the bike time. Last year, I really let the bike course scare me. For most triathletes, the hills on this course are minor. For me, they are a big deal. I threw on my gear and booked out of transition. I was just about to mount my bike when I realized, in my haste, I had neglected to remove my swim skin. I wear a swim skin over my tri suit when a swim is not wetsuit legal to help with speed. (well..they say it helps). Great in the water...not so great on a 56 mile bike ride. I put my bike down on the sidewalk, remove my race belt, strip out of the skin and left it on the side of the road. No kidding. My $200.00 swim skin left behind. I tried not to think about it as I started to pedal out of the campground. See...sometimes you can be too focus on getting on the road.
Lets get back to that goal of kicking butt on the bike. Hector had given me a goal to keep my rpms between 85 and 95. I set my bike computer to the cadence mode and focused on keep my form and rpms between those numbers. The miles clicked by and I felt amazing. Other people pasted me (ok...ALOT of people pasted me) but I kept to the plan. Suddenly, around mile 25, I started passing people. Slow, steady and consistent can sometimes win the race. Around mile 30,the rain hit. Its that kinda rain that isn't so hard that you have to pull over but hard enough to make you nervous. I rounded a corner in the rain and hit two small OPEN manhole covers (about the size of a dinner plate). I felt my back wheel slide and my aerobars came untightened and lunged forward. After collecting myself, I realized that my computer was offline...it literally said "tilt" on the screen. DAMN!! Now how am I going to keep that cadence. I rode the last 26 miles just listening to my legs and my body and made it into transition 30 minutes faster than last year - rain and all!!
Coming off the bike, I felt like superwoman. I looked at my watch and couldn't believe my time. Could I really be 30 minutes ahead of last year's time? I made a speedy transition and off to the run. Reality quickly set in. The rain had cleared to produce bright sun and over 95 degree temps. The run course at Disney has to be one of the most disheartening courses in the world. Here we are in the land of the Mickey with beautiful theme parks and gleaming roadways and where do we run?? On a dirt path next to retention canals full of algae and alligators. As I made it through mile 4 on what soon became the "death march", I got very dizzy and lightheaded. I decided to walk. It wasn't worth dropping out because of heat exhaustion. I was going to finish but not the way I had envisioned. I walked the next two laps of the course and for once totally enjoyed the people, the volunteers and the experience.
The run course did have a positive note. I got to see my friends coming and going on the path and this made the run fun. I knew if I just kept going, I would get to see them again and hear their cheers. Just hearing them cheer made a world of difference for me.
From the swim with a personal record to the bike with yet another personal record, my finish time was not what I had hoped but I learned a valuable lession: train hard, race easy. I think if I had run more in the heat of the day, I would have achieved so much more during this race.
I entered the finishing chute to cheers and screams. Another half ironman!! This time last year, I had to go to the medical tent. This year, I felt amazing. I can only hope to feel this good after 140.6 miles.
My husband had been flying during the race and following my progress at every break he got. His shift ended and he returned to Orlando to give me big hugs that evening. There is nothing better than the arms of your hubby after a long hard race :) I am so blessed.
I know this blog is behind but I am determined to get back on track with my writing. I am thrilled to know that several people do read these words. If you do, please leave me a comment so I know you were here. Just like those cheers on the road at a race, your comments here help me so much in the quest to become an Ironman :)