I survived! I made it through the 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run!!!
After four months of training with Tri with Skye my whole family packed up Saturday morning and headed to Haines City. We made it into a mini-vacation weekend for the kids and while they played in the pool at the hotel, I went to the Race Expo to check in my bike, get my race packet, listen to the athlete’s meeting, and of course shop! I couldn’t stop with the free gear so I had to buy myself a mug and of course the Ironman 70.3 emblem for my car. I met up with my coach, Skye, and we ran through the swim course, the transitions, even where my family should stand to see me racing. It felt good to go through everything the day before the race and it definitely helped me sleep that night.
I woke up at 4:00 am after barely sleeping because I was so excited! I arrived at the race ready to get body marking (they write your bib # and age on your legs and arms) and set up my transition area. I laid out my towels, socks, shoes, race belt, set my helmet and sunglasses, packed my nutrition and water, grabbed my swim cap and goggles and headed down to the water to get ready for the start. It was still dark and looking over the water I couldn’t believe I was going to jump in there in just minutes. The first gun went off for the pros and it was ON.
I lined up with my cap color, which told which wave I would start with (Women 35-39) and I began to mingle with everyone. I found a few that this was also their first Half Ironman and little did I know that one of them would be vital to me finishing the race.
The gun went off and I jumped in the water, started powering through the swim with no fear and then… someone pushed me under right when I was about to get a breath. So instead of air I inhaled water, and swallowed a gallon (of lake water!). I popped up started breast stroking and coughing and almost reached for a canoe. But then something happened, a woman behind me began to freak out. She literally started saying, “I’m freaking out!” I remembered what my coach said, “People will fall apart all around you, don’t let them get to you, and don’t be one!” As I floated to the back of the pack I decided, “I WILL NOT be one!” I put my head back in the water and I was determined to finish, even if I was the last one out of the water. As waves of people swarmed me I just breast stroked and let them pass. I finished in 54 minutes. I had allotted myself 1 hour.
As I ran into Transition 1, all I thought about was rinsing my feet of sand and getting on the bike. We had practiced the course a month earlier, which was pivotal to my race strategy. I began to run through the hills in my mind and everything Courtney had told me about my gears. I found the girl I had talked to in the water and used her as a carrot. My goal the whole time– pass her and keep her behind me. I stopped twice at two Aid Stations for water, nutrition and to stretch my hip. She passed me both times after I had passed her. The third Aid Station I saw her right ahead of me and I knew I wouldn’t have time to stop. Instead I caught her, passed her, and kept her behind me. The hills on the course were grueling, but I passed people every time thanks to Courtney’s tips. I finished in 3 hours 16 minutes. I had allotted myself 4 hours.
As I rode into Transition 2, I realized I didn’t know how long I was on the bike because I had accidentally lapped my watch. I had no idea I was 45 minutes ahead of my predicted time! I ran into transition, put on my running shoes, had the volunteers slather me with sunscreen, and off I went into the run. I started my interval timer to my Galloway pace of 3 minute run, 1 minute walk and started my first of 3 laps around the lake. I turned a corner and saw a hill that is comparable to our bridges in Jacksonville. My pace slowed way down and I started to fall apart. The first few miles are always hard but that hill took me out. A few miles into the run, the girl that I talked to in the water, used as a carrot on the bike, passed me running. But then she stopped and walked and I realized– she’s running Galloway! I ran up to her, reintroduced myself, and asked her if she wanted to do this run together. She was happy to have a running partner and we were determined to help each other through the next 11 miles. We shared our swim and bike stories, our lives, and our journey to our first Half Ironman. I tear up just typing this. It was one of the most incredible experiences in my life. We did it together. It was Kelly and Galloway that got me through that run. It was Kelly that kept me smiling! I finished in 2 hours 32 minutes. I had allotted myself 2 hours 27 minutes.
I completed the race in 6 hours 51 minutes, 39 minutes FASTER than I predicted!!!
The journey to my first Half Ironman was amazing. The women I trained with, met, and raced with, inspired me in ways they will never know. It was the MOST incredible experience.
Check out my sister and I talking about my experience yesterday. She had some questions that maybe you do too!