HalfMax Nationals 2011

So my last and final race is done-zo!  To say I’m sad to wrap up this amazing season would be a bold-faced lie.  I have raced my little tail off, have had a blast doing it and have had a great season overall, but I’m delighted to be done for a few months.  I will post a “season recap” sometime later.

Halfmax has been on my calendar for quite a few months and as I’ve said, there were two “stresses” about this race.  1st, I’ve never done a 70.3 while not knee-deep in full IM training and 2nd, knowing it was both my last race and my longest race of the season made it somewhat “daunting”, for some odd reason.

Nonetheless, having a good race at Pinehurst mentally prepared me to race hard this weekend.  I had a great pre-race swim and run Friday morning.  I swam my first 1:25/100…two of ’em actually, which again, is still slow as shit compared to the good swimmers, but I gotta focus on baby steps.  Dawn and I got on the road about 11 and I was pleasantly surprised to see my Garmin only said it was a 3-hour drive.  I had my mind set that it was 4, but I guess that’s from driving to North Myrtle to see Emily’s parents so much.  So, 3-hours later, we arrived in Myrtle, checked in, and headed to the hotel.  My mom arrived shortly after and we made our way to an early dinner.

I got up race morning with exactly enough time to get to the race in time, but without tons of time to spare in my usual fashion.  I hate the waiting around of these races so I try to time it just right, and usually get pretty lucky.  As I checked into transition, the race announcer was announcing all swim start times had been pushed back 15 minutes to give the tide a chance to go out.  Apparently high tide is at 8am so the closer you can start to 8, the better the water conditions.  I was the 2nd wave, so 15 minutes wasn’t too big of a deal and I’m happy to wait around for something that might help make swimming easier or more enjoyable.

The “most interesting” part of race morning was turning on my Garmin to see “Low Battery”.  CRAP.  I managed not to panic, there was not much I could do about it at this point.  I charged it all day Friday and it was definitely off when I stuck it in my race bag, but every now and again, the power button gets hit while it’s in there, and I’m certain this is what happened.  I faintly thought I heard the sound of the beep on the way down in the car, but then figured I was just hearing things.  Sure enough, it must have turned on and drained itself overnight.  LUCKILY, I have an amazing sister who was ON it as soon as she saw it was dead.  She began searching at all the tents and race booths for a charger.  Around the same time, I bumped into Tom and Troy heading to the swim, and Troy mentioned his charger was in his car.  Sister was on the ball, and at his car in a jiffy to get his charger to plug mine in during my swim and ride.  I really don’t rely on it until I’m running so it was okay not to have it until then.  I was very very thankful to have it.  Crisis diverted.

Anywho, I bought a new Aquaman Bionik wet suit the day prior to the race, which is an amazing (and expensive!) wetsuit and I was actually really excited to swim in it!  It fits like a glove and I feel much less claustrophobic and restrained in it that the wetsuit I’d previously been wearing.  Sadly, I don’t think it’s built-in motor was functioning 😉   hahaha.  Nah, as a whole, this swim went pretty good for me.  The water was black as coffee, unable to see your hand 6″ in front of you, which always makes things interesting.  The fast girls took off after the first 300 or so but I was able to keep them in site for around the first 800.  The began to pull away after the turn, but that is to be expected and I was still in a good grove with a fair amount of other girls around me.  The faster guys who started behind us caught us with about 400 to go, but I refused to let getting pummeled over the head by male fists bother me.  I swam a good line, I was very calm and comfortable in the water.  Total time, including a pretty long run to the transition mat was 36:50, with swim time of 35:40ish (1:41/100).  All in all, it was a decent swim.

The ride was also pretty good.  I’ve had a lot of dialogue with Stacey today and yesterday regarding my bike fitness.  Other than a once a week computrainer class and a few bike races here and there, I really have not been riding my bike at all.  I knew this was what I was signing up for when I began working with Stacey as she tries to make me a more balanced triathlete, but it really showed today as I felt generally un-fit on my bike.  I’ve written about this before, but my bike has always been my “safe-haven”…the one thing I could always rely on to feel “good”.  This is starting to shift a bit and it’s a tough pill to swallow.  The course was virtually dead flat, and only included one bridge that we went up and over twice.  The big factor, as everyone told me, is the beach wind, which was absolutely brutal.  We headed out on Route 17 along Myrtle, took an exit ramp onto the highway (literally) and rode out and back along the highway for about 40 of the 56 miles.  The out was dead into the wind.  Full 1/2 IM race power on this totally flat road got me17-19mph at best.  At times, less.  Working pretty damn hard.  The turnaround was great as you got to head the other direction with the tailwind, though my teammate Michael and I agree that there were times when we were supposed to have the tailwind that still felt like there was a bit of a wind to the front.  Nonetheless, I rode just under 2:35 (21.7mph), which was a few minutes shy of my goal, but I was still pleased.  I did a great job of “constraining” my desire to ride any harder as I had a big personal run goal looming.

My goal was to run 1:39:59 (7:38/mile pace) – a pretty stiff PR compared to a 1:44 and change at Augusta in 2010!  I got off my bike feeling fueled, hydrated and ready to run, albeit stiff at first from being bent over in aero position for over 2 1/2 hours straight with few breaks.  I set out nailing just under my goal pace, which I planned to do knowing regardless, the last few miles would probably be slightly slower than I wanted.  I was running 7:25 – 7:35’s and feeling amazing through about 7 miles.  The pain definitely starts to set in around the 1 hour mark and it’s all a mind game from there.  6 more miles is NOT almost done.  45 minutes of running sounds like an eternity at that point.  But I wanted it today.  I wanted so so badly to finish this race and this season strong.  I wanted this race for my sister and mom who are always there cheering me on.  I wanted this race for Stacey who has spent countless hours with me over just the last 4 months and I wanted this race for my athletes that I offer guidance to on a daily basis.  I did not want to quit….I knew that for sure….but let me tell you, I sure didn’t really feel like running anymore.  🙂

I focused on each mile marker, ticking off one at a time.  It’s amazing the things you try to force yourself to think about when you’re suffering that only briefly work, before your mind reverts back to how much physical pain you’re in.  What kept me going is all the people in Kona who were about to start a much more physically demanding and mentally challenging endurance event.  I continued to remind myself to be thankful I only had to run 13 miles and not 26 and that it also wasn’t 100 degrees.  It honestly helped.  The miles continued to tick off, just shy of my goal pace as I quickly walked for 3-5 seconds through each aid station to be sure I got fluids down.

I ran the last mile at 7:18 pace and gave it all I have but still crossed just :45 seconds shy of my running goal.  I’m pleased with my run of 1:40:44 (7:41/mile pace) but having just missed my goal it’s bittersweet.  I will run a sub 1:40 off my bike next year and, further, I will run a 1:35!  I don’t put things in writing I don’t think I can uphold.  My 1:40:44 is still a 4 minute PR so I have to be pleased though I’m not 100% satisfied 🙂  5th female run split of the day.

All in all, I went 4:55 and took 7th overall and 2nd in my Age Group.  So, I qualified for Long -Course Worlds in Spain next June but don’t think I’ll be going with New Zealand on the docket.  7th overall is bittersweet but just fuels my desire to keep working hard, training smart under an extremely nurturing, knowledgeable (and bossy) coach, and improving my performance.

Want to congratulate Michael Starkey, my One2Tri Racing teammate who dropped a 1:23 off his 25mph average bike for a 5th place overall and a 1st place AG position.  You’ve got no where to go but up from here stud!

Tom O’Donnell had a phenomenal day with a 4:45 total time and a 10th place AG position and a great all around performance.  And Troy, I’m happy for you sticking it out and congrats on a WORLDS spot!!!

Cheers to 2011 season….and bon voyage.  🙂  It’s been fun!

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