Leah here. More catching up on race reports, this one is only about 2 weeks old at least!
When I first targeted this race I had all sorts of goals. Then, I read horror stories of how HARD it was with the hills and the wind and the heat. And then, I went and got injured, so I had 6 weeks of real training before the race to go from running 1.5 miles to 13.1 after an already long day.
I’m actually quite pleased with the day I had, considering the circumstances, and hit almost every one of my goals. Let’s get to the recapping, shall we? Settle in, this will be a long one…
We had a company fun day at the driving range, which was bad because everyone was getting drunk and we had to be teetotalers (hehe), but great because we got to get on the road much earlier than expected. For lunch I ate a full plate of veggies, salad, some mac and cheese, and a few bites of beef and salmon. After we got in the car, it was calorie infusion time (as I’ve been operating at a debt, I don’t want to go into a race underfed), so I nommed on some pretzels and sesame sticks, we split a small DQ chocolate cherry blizzard (that made me feel a little sick, WAY more sugar than I’m used to), and when we got to our stop in Abilene, I ate a chicken burger and a TON of fries at Red Robin, to the point where I felt overfull. It could have been healthier calories, but mission accomplished. We chilled for a bit, hit the hot tub, and I slept well.
We drove the rest of the 2.5 hours to Lubbock (if we knew we would have been able to leave early we would have done the whole drive Friday, but it was fine). We rolled into packet pickup around 1 (and they delayed opening it until 1 so it worked).
Got our shirts, bought some visors (they weren’t giving them out at finish, rude), Joel bought the tri top he had been looking for but couldn’t find for 25% off, and then we headed out for some lunch. We hit up Baker Bros Deli, and I got a santa fe turkey sandwich and a salad. The same meal, essentially, I had at Play Tri that worked really well.
Then, we set off for adventure – driving the bike course, the run, and swimming at the lake. We started out, things didn’t look so badly (one killer, but manageable hill), and then we took a turn and HOLY CRAP we got sent off pretty much a rollercoaster chute down (and then up) a horrible, gravel, unstable road. We both started freaking out until Joel took the map from me and looked again. I sent us in the wrong direction. Oops. While one hill actually haunted our nightmares (it was about a mile of steep switchbacks), it was nothing like the gravel monster that we were both looking at and ready to pack up and go home. We counted the hills – one up/down/up out of transition, one canyon, the canyon coming back, the switchback of doom, the long, steady, kill-your-quads climb, and then the last “screw you” hill for the last half mile before transition. 6 hills.
Then we tried to scope the run course and couldn’t find the exact route out of the lake area, but knew it would be a STEEP hill, and then saw the massive down/up getting to energy lab II, which was a nice, flat stretch near a power plant, with no shade, where we did about 3 miles out and back (then, back to the steep hill, down the killer hill into the lake area, and then back home). 3 killer hills. I knew it wasn’t going to be a fast half marathon, but I was way more concerned about the bike. We tried to swim, but there were so many boats out on the lake, we just put our feet in, noted it was lovely, and then took off.
This all took many hours to do, so we didn’t get back to the hotel until way too late. We made our organic mac and cheese and Joel lubed up the bikes, and we got all our pre race stuff together and settled, and headed to bed at 9, falling asleep at 10. Considering parking opened at 4:30am, and we had a wakeup call at 3:30am, this was also way too late. However, my brain did a good job at turning itself off quickly, I just asked my body to hold it together tomorrow, and zonked pretty well.
Woke up at 3:30-ish, groggy, and really wishing for many more hours between then and the race start. I drank my tea, ate my mint oatmega bar, had a good use of the facilities, dithered around, unpacked and repacked my transition bag, did some other stuff and holy crap, it was 4:45. We got our stuff in the car, I ate my second Rise bar in the car, and got there around 5:20, and sat in line for ~40 mins to park. Woah. We are usually at transition at open, and while we expected that we were running later than normal for us, we didn’t expect to be rolling into transition to get body marked 10 minutes before RACE START.
Let’s just say my nerves were running at 110% at that time. I didn’t have time to do anything but rack my bike, take 2 minutes to lay out my stuff (thank goodness it’s second nature by now), and get out just before they kicked me out. I kinda wanted to try and use the portas one more time, but there was no time. We got down to swim start just as the pros were off, and I realized that swim exit was on the other side of the lake – no time to get my flippie floppies over there so I just ditched them on the beach, gave Joel a kiss and sent him off to his wave, and I just tried to breathe and center myself. I really, really, really was nervous and rolling into the race so late (no warmup run, swim, potty, second chance to check transition stuff, etc) was not helping but I lined up on the beach (my first running start), they counted down, and then it was go time.
I got somewhere in the middle of the pack, high kneed my way in and started swimming as soon as I hit thigh deep water. There was a little jostling but it wasn’t too bad. The one thing I had neglected to really analyze was the swim course, so the little plastic castle (buoy) was a surprise every time… and we were swimming into the sunrise. Stellar. Actually, I did a REALLY GREAT job sighting, so great, in fact, that I got swam over EVERY TIME the front pack of a wave decided to make a break for it. M dot events – much more full contact swimming than I’m used to. I had some stray thoughts of “I don’t belong here” but when I did get relief from the mob, I really felt like I was swimming strong at minimal effort.
About 3/4ths of the way through, I smashed my hand into someone and looked up to take a breath and thought, that dude has Joel’s goggles. I breathed again to that side, and it WAS Joel I ran into. We smiled at each other a few more breaths and swim-waved, and then I took off ahead. First time actually bumping into him in the water. That made me happy.
Since I hadn’t studied the swim course, I wasn’t sure after the next turn if we were done – I saw a big round orange buoy ahead that looked different than the other ones, which made me think it was over, but I remember there was some sort of zig zag in the course that I wasn’t sure we hit yet. I swam towards it and lo and behold, it was swim exit. I was almost sad to be out of the water, both because I felt pretty good in the water, and because I was not looking forward to that big hill out of transition.
Swim time: 42:30 (1.2 miles – 2:22 for 100m pace). I’m jazzed. I knew I’d beat Kerrville’s time of 53:55, but I wasn’t thinking it would be by 11 minutes and 25 seconds. Also, I know next time I can give it a little more. I probably had a sub-40 in me, but I knew it would be a long day, I was undertrained, and I just wanted to finish. Very content with this.
Not having my sandals sucked. The concrete was rocky and hurt and transition was BIG, so I had to walk the whole way to my bike. I was even walking so funny a volunteer asked me if I was ok. I missed my rack, found it, and then did a nice slow, smooth, methodical transition. I tried to get a little bit of sunscreen on my body and apparently did a crappy job, but I didn’t want to take enough time to suncreen up completely. I was walking out and I heard Joel in transition say he’d see me on the bike, which made me happy.
T1 time: 4:44. A little slow, maybe, but not offensive. Pretty much the same as my last 70.3.
Got out to the mount line, got on my bike (almost fell over just being dumb next to the railing), got going, and steeled myself for the first hill. I felt like how that hill went would set the tone for the bike, and it kinda did. I put my head down, spun through it in an easy gear, and emerged at the top… sorta fine. Then we went down the rollercoaster, and I rode my brakes a bit and was scared, headed over a bridge and then got to work again on the second part of hill one. Oddly enough (to me, I’m sure this is old hat to anyone else that’s been riding a bike for more than a day), getting in granny gear and just chugging up hard hills works. I got to the top feeling a-ok about the day, especially because I knew the flat we had here would last for a while. It dawned on me then I’d forgotten my ride glide (or any sort of chafing protection anywhere), but nothing I could do about that now.
My goal was to eat something every 2 miles. This didn’t quite pan out, but I got quite a bit of nutrition down (about 3.5 packs of chomps – 700 calories total). I also took a little more caffeine than normal, topping out at about 2.5 cups of coffee equivalent on the bike, which for this lady is a LOT (I drink one diet coke or iced tea and I’m wired for the day). At one point, I took a caff chew and my stomach twinged a bit, so I moved to the half caff and no caff ones. I got down about 3/4 of a camelback with one lemonade nuun in it. It was still pretty cool (probably mid to upper-70s on the bike), so I didn’t feel dehydrated through the race at all, which was nice (considering the expectation of the possibility of the bike ride starting in the upper 80s and the run being in the 90s to 100s like last year).
Back to the course, I spun easy and conservative on the front part of the course – I knew I hadn’t trained to push a hilly 56 mile course and I didn’t want to be too cooked on the run, so I kept with my ~3:40 per mile pace. Oh yeah. Another thing I forgot to do with the time crunch was set my garmin to bike mode – so it was giving me run pace on my bike. Oops. Killed some time trying to figure out what pace = speed though, so there’s that. I screamed (literally) down the downhill at 10 (hill 2), and got to work on the mile uphill at 11 feeling fine. This picture did not do it justice, it was pretty steep.
Right around then I heard Joel come up behind me, pass me, and work his way up the hill just a little faster than me and I never caught him again, he stayed about 3 minutes, give or take, ahead of me the entire time. Then, we went back to what I thought was flats and saw my speed keep improving. Killer! I might kick the crap out of my Kerrville bike split!
Then, we hit the turnaround and I realized two things – 1) tailwind is nice, expect when you have to head back into it for 10 miles, especially when you didn’t notice it on the way out and just thought you were doing well, and 2) false flats only suck on the way up, which is the way I was heading. So mile 18-28 or so was just slightly uphill and into the wind (minus the return of the up and down screamer, which sucked worse into the wind – hill 3!)
Around that time, the lack of ride glide and the lack of training, plus a dose of chipseal road into the wind, made me hit a pretty bad low on the bike. Everything hurt, I was only halfway through, I still had the evil switchback road, and I whined to myself a lot. After I realized I was down, I stuffed a few chomps in my face, and then hit the really pretty 2.5 mile downhill part of the course through a little canyon and trees!!! (the only shade of the course) and I felt better.
Then, we headed down the road to the switchback, which I neglected to remember was also uphill (grrr), and then got to work on hill #4. I got in granny gear again (a little too early, oops) and chugged and chugged and read the chalk writing all the way up (I especially liked the “Shut Up Legs”) and passed some people and then holy crap – I was up it.
I approached the turnaround and saw Joel and we exchanged the conversation of:
Me: “OW MY CROTCH!”
Joel: “something something wonder day love something something”
Apparently I gave him the seeds for the “crotch song” which went something like “My crotch, your crotch, all our crotches hurt together”, which he sang for the next 10 miles. Oddly enough, I didn’t have much of the delirious moments this ride like normal. After mile 30, every time I caught myself out of aero position and hurting I told myself “everything hurts, get fast and it will be over quicker”. I spent a lot of the first half on the drops because I felt more stable, but the second half, minus some position changing for relief, I stayed in aero almost exclusively to the point where the muscles holding me in aero hurt.
The nice long downhill on the way up wasn’t even that bad until the end (hill #4 – around mile 40), and then we hit flats and then the chipseal again, which I expected to be miserable… except this time the wind was at my back so I got in aero and just cranked as much as I could. I kept thinking to myself “I am so ready to be done with the bike” and then for some reason had to clarify to the universe that I meant I wanted to be done with the bike at mile 56, in transition, not on the side of the road wrecked or flatted. I did this clarification each time, probably about once every mile and twice once we got to the 50s. I know what happens when you are not specific with your wishes.
I still saw people going OUT around mile 28 as I was coming in at mile 48. It was nice to know I wasn’t dead last. I got off the chipseal, around the corner, and thought I was back at the park – NOPE. A couple miles to go. Everything was hurting, and I was SO SO SO READY to be off the bike (which I had to keep clarifying with the universe). As I headed in, the wind hit me head on and miles 52, 53, 54 went SO SLOW (not in terms of pace, but each minute took at least 5 in my head, I swear) and I was getting really, really, down, I just wanted to cry. My body was over it. Finally, I hit the screamer downhill, the bridge, and the crazy half mile uphill right before transition. A spectator really helped me and talked me up it, and then all of a sudden, I was riding my brakes into transition. I dismounted a little before the dismount line, and the lady told me I could go a little further and I said “NOPE, I’m ready to be off the bike, like, about 26 miles ago”, and walked it over the dismount line and into transition.
Bike time: 3:45:46 (14.88 mph). I would have loved to be closer to the 3:31 I did at Kerrville, but it was a WAY harder course, and I was WAY less trained this time. I’ll take it.
I was definitely out of it after that bike. It took a lot out of me. I did my thing, made another half-hearted attempt with the sunscreen, and got going (walking) and got halfway to run exit, and then two things happened simultaneously. First, I noticed I still had my dang bike gloves on. Second, I heard a “LEAH!!!” and there was Joel next to me. Well, I wasn’t going back to drop my gloves, so I stashed them in two of my tri suit pockets and did everything I could to make with the quickness and head out of transition with my husband as they announced our names.
T2 time: 4:29. This was incredibly slow, but I was incredibly out of it. I sort of wanted to sit down for a bit, maybe take a nap, maybe sit in a corner somewhere and rock back and forth. I did none of these things, so I’ll call it a win.
Joel started jogging slowly out of transition, so I did everything I could do to match pace. It was SO, SO good to see him, but we kinda tanked our first couple miles running together. Instead of inspiring each other, we both walked whenever the other one was feeling weak, so the first 5k took us something stupid like 40 mins. This was before the first giant hill, which we had planned to walk, but we were wimping out on the rollers. Joel stopped to use the potty, I walked so he could catch up, and then he caught me and wanted to run, but we were almost at said gigantic hill, so we walked. At the top of the hill, he wanted to run, I wasn’t ready, so I just sent him off. I walked about 100 more meters than he did, and we turned onto energy lab II (named because it has a power plant, and it’s almost a perfect replica of the stretch of the same name at Kona – hot, flat, boring, no shade).
While he was in the restroom, I finally popped my 303s (herbal muscle relaxers). I had 2 with me on the bike which I resisted, but I.just.hurt.so.bad on the run and I wanted to not suck so bad at running anymore, so at mile 4, in they went. Around energy lab start (mile 5), they kicked in, and I decided I was going to run until the hill at 9. Ambitious, because the most I had run without stopping so far was maybe half a mile, but on I went. I passed Joel, and I was cooking down the street at 11-ish minute miles. And I didn’t stop at mile 6, or 7… I walked .2 before mile 8 because my stomach did a belly flop after taking two chomps, but then it went away and I picked it up. Joel was behind me close enough I could hear him talking with other people and saying delirious things, but I needed to just ZONE on the road ahead and play the quiet game, so I stayed ahead.
Mile 8.5 found the epic downhill (which was the epic uphill before), which I ran down in the 9s (wheeeee!), until my shoes started melting and sticking to the pavement. Seriously. That’s what I thought. Actually, it was TAR that heated up and stuck to my shoes, but it made every step feel like I was walking in gum once I hit the flats. HOLY DEMORALIZATION, BATMAN. I stopped at the bottom to rinse off my shoes, and then I decided it was walking time even though I wasn’t to the hill yet. Joel caught up to me there and we talked and got water and ice and powerade in the hula station at mile 9, and then hiked up the half mile hill.
We then did our own thing. Joel was running pretty steady at 13-14 min/miles, I was run/walking – 11 min miles when I could muster it, and better on downhills, but anytime I hit an incline, my legs shut down and I had to powerwalk, so we kept ping ponging. Finally, he got a bit ahead of me the last 2 miles (always in my sights, but I could never catch him), and then I ran into the finish and tried to do a silly little jump, but my legs weren’t working, so I’m sure that didn’t turn out.
Run: 3:04:15. Yeah, that bad. This was easily one of, if not the most challenging half marathon I’ve ever run (even standalone), coupled with the fact that I’m so under-trained, and it kicked my hiney.
Total time: 7:41:44. This would be 17 minutes longer than Kerrville, but y’know, I’m stoked to finish and not die. Six weeks before this race, I couldn’t even run and barely bike, and Sunday, I did a half ironman that was SO much harder than my first, and only missed my time by 17 minutes. My HR wasn’t the limiting factor either – it was average low 150s on both the bike and the run. I just hurt too bad and my brain died.
I went with Joel to the med tent, he needed ice for his knee that seized up, I took some cold towels to cool off and some electrolyte water, but I was remarkably… fine. The rest of the day involved hiking our friggin bikes up that stupid hill out of transition to the car (one last leg of the tri…), a stop at sonic for a burger and some tots and a diet cherry limeade (I wanted nothing sugary after all those blox), and then climbed into bed and drank beer and ate mac and cheese and tried to nap unsuccessfully (too much caffeine during the race) and watched cartoons. It was lovely. The next morning we packed up all our stuff, ate BBQ, drove 6.5 hours home, ate tacos, drank a margarita, and relaxed.
A few other thoughts:
- No post race sickies. I felt awesome. Total win.
- Soooooo sunburnt. Time crunch = no sunscreen application before, and I tried in both transitions to sunscreen but it was a big fail. I caught a bit of my arms but that was it. I look like a dumb triathloning lobster. It’s hilarious. My age is sunburnt into my leg due to bodymarking.
- It is pretty clear to me what I need to work on before Kerrville, in which I actually care about the time, but we’ll get to that later.
- I gained SEVEN lbs of water weight between Friday AM and Tuesday AM’s weight. Crazy. The first half of the week after the race, I was peeing like every 5 minutes and everything felt swollen for days (though I was back to normal weight by the second half of the week). Though I did enjoy the diet of crappy carbs, the aftermath sucked.
- I took a full week off after, and my body appreciated it. Now, I’m really fired up for the second half of the season and the July/Aug/Sept training plan!!
Thanks for hangin’ in there, if you’ve gotten all the way through this! This race was killer, but I don’t regret doing it at all. It helped me whip myself back into shape after being injured, and was a great mental toughness training day.