I didn’t think it was possible to sum up my weekend and half Ironman race in one blog post, and once I started typing it out I decided to split it up into two posts. I’ll post the rest of it later this week, since I now have some free time on my hands. There was a lot to it, and I want to do my race justice with my recap! I’ll start by saying the race itself surprised me with the parts I expected to struggle with were actually the smoothest part of the day.
We headed out on Friday the 24th. Two adults, three kids, two bikes, all in a loaded down VW.
It was a family trip to go see family, with a nice bonus of me putting in 70.3 miles on Sunday. With a little over a six hour drive to get to my brother’s house, the scenery headed west just couldn’t be matched. (Ha!)
When we got to my brother’s house we talked about the race, and what our plans were for the next day. My sister-in-law had done a little bit of research and my brother had actually been out to the lake several times to fish the past year, and even ran a couple of road races in the area.
Side note: I’m a football coach’s daughter, and my brother is a football coach. Sports were, and still are, a big part of our family. As kids, my brother and I were always brought to each other’s events because my parents wanted us to support each other in everything we did. To show up at my brother’s house for a triathlon, and to see their excitement about the race meant so much to me.
Saturday morning we loaded up two vehicles and drove in to Lubbock. My brother, his wife, their three kids, and the five in my family all descended on the expo for packet pickup. I was excited to find my name on a shirt.
After we ate lunch, my sister-in-law took all the kids to a movie, while my husband, brother, and I headed back to the expo for a Q&A I wanted to go to. My nerves were pretty much building throughout the day. After listening to some of the questions and discussion about the hills (where the word “treacherous” was mentioned about one of the descents), I was basically a knot of nerves. We headed out to drive the bike course so I could see what was up. Or down.
I knew going into this race that there would be “five challenging hills.” But all throughout my training, I imagined climbing – not descending. I also spent so much time worrying about getting my swim pace down, that I didn’t consider much with the bike. Until we drove the bike course, and all swim worry got tossed out the window.
No, I’m not kidding.
I am still a beginner when it comes to cycling. I’m a chicken on the downhills. I slow considerably to make a turn. I’m not very fast. But I feel like I have one strength on the bike, and that’s climbing. I like to think my running background helped with that, because of all the hills I run. But these hills were nothing like I’ve tackled in my training. Not even close. And it wasn’t the climbing that worried me while driving the course; it was two of the descents that scared me. I was thankful that we drove the course though, because I knew what I’d be facing and tried to mentally prepare. My husband reminded me to go slow, use more pressure with my rear brake, and I would be fine.
The rest of the evening, my nerves were on full blast. I had trouble sleeping, imagining coming down the hills. As silly and irrational as it seems now, I couldn’t shake it. It kept me awake until after 11 pm. Then I woke up at 1:30 – a full hour before my alarm was set – and couldn’t sleep any more.
Race morning was a different story. I had a lot of people praying for and thinking about me. I felt calm and purposeful. I had all my gear together, and my husband and I loaded up early to get to the park before transition opened at 5:00. My brother was going to come when the race started at 6:30 and my sister-in-law was bringing all the kids later.
Even though we left so early, we were not the first ones there by any means. I thought we had the early arrival down, but this was no running race. Triathletes take it up a notch on early mornings. We parked and loaded up all the gear to trek down the steep hill (climb number one on the bike). I got my area set up in transition. I noticed someone tied a green shoelace on the end of the rack, and I made a mental note to look for it coming in to get my bike.
The swim was “barely wetsuit legal” (75 degrees) and I knew I’d probably get hot, but I needed all the help I could get with buoyancy. So my husband helped me into it, and I headed down the steps to the lake for a little warm up.
It seems like the time before the race flew by. I couldn’t believe it was already time to start! I was in the third swim wave, and the first two went quickly. The time cutoff for the swim was 70 minutes from the last wave (which gave me an additional 15-20 minutes). Surely I could make that! The weirdest part was not being able to see the layout of the swim because of the way the lake was, but the instructions were to turn left at the yellow buoys.
Once in the water, I settled into a rhythm. The water was calm, and I focused on really stretching out my arms. When I get in open water, I tend to forget about my stroke because there are so many other things to think about. My goggles started to leak a little, so I flipped over on my back to fix them. I had trouble with them fogging up during the whole swim, even when I tried to fix them again. Whenever I got frustrated, I would somehow spot a buoy and knew I was still on track. The only other hiccup for me was the guy who slowly passed me who made such a big splash every time his arm entered the water. I couldn’t get around him so I slowed until he finally pulled ahead enough not to give me a face full of water. I glanced at my Garmin once and couldn’t see the time, so I knew I messed it up somehow. I shrugged it off and just kept swimming until I saw the last turn and people getting out on the dock. One of the main positives was that this was the first race for me that the buoys were on the left. I’m a left side breather and it made sighting much easier. Since my Garmin was messed up, I didn’t know how long it took me to swim, but I knew there were people still coming in behind me and no official stopped me with “I’m sorry, but you didn’t make it in time.” 🙂
I was grateful for the volunteer who helped me get out of my wetsuit. There is no gracious way to do it, but she was awesome! Then I ran to find my bike. It’s a good thing the racks were numbered, because I forgot about the green shoelace. Unlike Texasman, there were still quite a few bikes in transition. I ate half a Clif bar, reset my Garmin to start biking, and then headed out to face the hills.
Out of transition, beginning the first climb on the bike, I heard my name and saw my husband and brother cheering for me. I smiled and called out, “I made it!”
My first hurdle – the swim – was done.