We're back from FL and the place of a million dreams. This race was going to be anything but a dream, but I want to tell you about what I learned about me, other racers and the BOP. Going into this race I wasn't nervous (I was excited to see what I could do, but certainly not nervous in any way.) I was very relaxed. (Credit Dean Hewson - every time I felt myself getting a bit to excited or concerned I thought about a conversation with Dean where he tells himself, "This is fun" and calms himself down. He and I draw strength from this and when I am focusing on myself no other competitor can hurt me.)
It is always hot and humid - I think our weather was officially 94 and near 100% humidity as it rained during the race...until the run when the clouds burned off. Oh my! The heat was searing! If I was carrying raw shrimp we could have eaten them about mile 3 of the run - it was that steamy. This was my first experience in 2008 of temps above 78 F and it showed. I didn't do any attempt at heat acclimatization and I will change that for next year. Just pumping up my tires I was dripping in sweat and got a few "Dude, are you alright?" responses.
Going into this race it was really odd. My cycling was solid. Swim was good but I have not really cranked up any speed work this year yet and knew it would show. My run would be dreadful and a death march but I honestly didn't know how my body would respond. Not a good place to be going into any race let alone a half Ironman. Knowing how a body responds to heat, carrying 189 lbs. it would be a hard race for sure.
Hotel - we stayed at Riverside (Port Orleans) and it was very nice. I prefer to stay at Ft. Wilderness or Wilderness Lodge but the price difference was $1,100 or so for the week. Riverside it is! The hotel was much like a small city on the Mississippi River. Very nice.
Dollar rent a car - continues to earn my business versus some of the other discounts I get at Avis or any other place. They gave us great service and an insane deal again. $136 for a van for the week...Nice work!
Pre-Race - we offered a gal we met (whose friends blew her and the race off) a ride to the race site. Apparently, she took a cab that was meant for some other folks. We drove those three to the race. (I figured we'd need all the good karma we could get.) You know how those pre-race scales are screwy. Well, I weighed in at 199 - after lunch and FULL hydration (meaning I was drinking a lot of liquid before the weigh in). With a little coaxing of the scale, I was 200 on the nose and officially a Clydesdale. (I'm really between 188 and 190 right now.) John called our friend Bill and I told him I was racing Clydesdale and the phone erupted in laughter! (It made the trip.) "Welcome to the men's division Bob!" Bill is an awesome guy. (BTW ladies - he is single and will be racing in Racine.)
Swim - my plan was to line up on the buoy line and let someone who had done the speed work pull. Well, in my wave...I was first. First by a lot. The water was 81 F and felt awesome. I swam strong but smooth and at a much lower heart rate than I normally start a half at. I was about 160 which is like warm up pace for me in the water. Normally, I am at 178 to 183. I swam through a lot of groups with relative ease. It was really a weird swim in that I was consciously going slower yet faster - better form I guess. That is Dean's influence on my racing. I was 34:58 on my watch coming out. OK for this year but I've already got eyes on next year's time and how I will change this.
Bike - my plan was to start comfortably and then "go to work" on the second half. Coming out of Ft. Wilderness I had a tail of four 30 something females. (Hey, if I was going to draft...I'd draft someone like me.) It was really getting me mad. They'd drop off when a marshal would come around and then work together to come back. One woman was 154x- never saw the full number. (MOSTLY...there wasn't a ton of drafting. Probably the least drafting I've seen in the history of this race.) I started the bike comfortably and went through 25 miles feeling warmed up at 1:10:57. Time to go to work! At 26 or 27, the skies opened up. Hard rain and wind. You had to chill out on the turns and S curve section of the course we were on. So I would drill it on the straights and then back off on the curves. The rain felt cool and good. At mile 40 or so we ran into traffic on the course and a 3' wide shoulder and it became a no passing zone. Then we went off the road onto plywood in a construction zone. The plywood was covered with carpet and seemed a good alternative...right until I ripped open my tubular. So here I am right after that section fixing a flat in the pouring rain. I caught a break and got some assistance to hold my bike out of the mud from a bike tech who rolled up right when I was getting off my bike. Sweet! I changed the tire in 6:13 total but right as I finished rolling the new tube on my hand slipped. In my haste, I had the gear cog set up and I impaled my finger on the 11 gear. Blood everywhere. The disk wheel, gears on my legs. "Put a dab on your face, it looks cool" said the bike tech, "Let me see if I have a band aid or duct tape." I'm good! I'm off! It was raining so hard the blood was gone in almost an instant. Thanks for the help. The bleeding stopped shortly after I got on the bike. I probably wasted a few more minutes screwing around with the mud and trying to find a place to put the bike. When you take out the "screwing around" on the bike - flat - I rode a 2:38 which is good in the weather we had.
Run - arriving back at transition, my shoes and socks were soaked. First thing I did - ring them out. My plan was to run 10 minutes and walk 2 minutes for the entire half marathon. I figured this would allow me to extend my running longer than my fitness would really allow. I ran the entire first lap. On the second lap, my feet felt as if they were broken. Experience tells me that this is just from a lack of actual running. I was forced to walk. I wasn't too hot. I wasn't tired. My feet hurt - they still ache today. I walked from mile 4 to mile 11. Several times I tried to jog or shuffle but the leg bones actually hurt so bad...well, I won't go there. I knew 38 people in the race and 76 times I had someone beg me to run with them. Next year, I promise. At mile 11 the pain in my legs was starting to let up a hair. I started to jog a bit. Nope, pain came right back. Pain or not. I would be running at mile 12 for the last 1.1. At 12, I told the folks I was walking with that I would start running at 12 and asked them if they'd come with me. (No takers.) "See you at the finish. Well eat some pizza together." I wasn't running hard but I was flying past people at the end. My run split was slower than my bike and swim split and all three of my Disney Marathon times. That is slow.
Lessons Learned (or reminded of):
- Being relaxed saves a ton of energy and helps with efficiency
- The shortest route on the swim is the shortest route. Figure out how to navigate the crowd
- When changing a flat tube put the gear side down (big dummy)
- Tendons and muscles need to be ready for long distance races
- BOP people deserve something on the course, maybe we can put DJs out there or something because they work hard just don't have the time to train (I walked with a teacher, a truck driver from the UK and three women who must freakin' power walk because I couldn't walk with them.)
- There is honor in "just" finishing
- Finishing two hours after your last 1/2 IM time really sucks and is strong motivation to come back hard in my A race
- 1:10:57 going easy on a half IM bike with only a three day taper...I'm on track
Pictures later this weekend.