There’s another half Ironman in the books.
Let’s start back at Ironman Victoria, the half Ironman we did in June, which was insanely difficult and made me declare that I would never do another half Ironman.
Fast forward a week or so, and Eric and I signed up for, you guessed it, another half Ironman.
We spent two more months of our sweaty, temperature record busting summer, swimming, biking, and running.
Then, two weeks before the race, Eric crashed his bicycle and broke his collarbone, leaving him in a sling and me all alone to do the race.
So, last weekend, we drove up to Lake Stevens, Washington during the first thunderstorm we’ve seen in a year, which turned our 3.5-hour drive into a 6-hour traffic fest. Clearly, everything was working in our favor for this race.
You should also know that it is beautiful and swoon-worthy (just like Chris Pratt), and just like everything else in the Pacific Northwest. Although we didn’t really get to see much in the way of mountain scenery while we were there, thanks to some pretty intense cloud cover in the mountains and fog in the valley, apparently you can see mountains from the lake (or so a Google image search of “Lake Stevens” tells me).
Race morning was pretty chilly and foggy, which is my dream exercise weather (sunshine and warmth are my kryptonite, as you know). It also made for a gorgeous scene on Lake Stevens, but a pretty tricky swim course. Once I got in the water, I couldn’t see any of the buoys because the fog was so thick and low on the water. So I just hoped for the best and tried to follow the swim caps I could make out in front of me.
I’ll say I enjoyed this swim quite a bit more than the swim in Victoria. For one, the water in Lake Stevens is clear, which is much less terrifying than swimming in murky water. And I was in one of the last swim groups, thanks to my age and gender, which made for far fewer people passing me in the water. And those who did pass me were women, who were all around my size, as opposed to the giant men who zoomed past me in Victoria, which made feel as though I were being overtaken by whales.
I cut 2 minutes off my swim compared to the Victoria race, which doesn’t seem like much, but felt like a bit of an accomplishment to me. I had a really hard time getting my wetsuit off during the transition time though, as I felt kind of disoriented and dizzy from not being able to see anything during the swim, so I actually had to sit down and pull it off my legs so I didn’t fall over. I could tell that a lot of other people were equally disoriented, as everyone was kind of wobbling out of the water, looking frazzled.
And then came the bike ride.
I was feeling pretty confident about the bike portion of the race, even thinking I could knock 15 or 20 minutes off my Victoria time, as I’ve become a slightly faster cyclist in the past few months (read: still much, much slower than the folks who win these races). And the first half of the bike ride was fantastic. I was feeling pretty good, the scenery was INCREDIBLE (dreamy fog, horse farms, forests, big barns, Christmas tree farms), and it was actually chilly outside.
And then the hills began. And they just didn’t stop. People were actually getting off their bikes and walking up the hills instead of riding. I was going 3-6 miles per hour up these hills, and I was passing people at that speed. And on the downhills, I was flying. I got up to 42 miles per hour at one point (!), which literally made my lips flap in the wind. It was terrifying. But all of the downhills were kind of short lived compared to the uphills. The worst hill of all had to be almost 2 miles long. It was pretty defeating, and added quite a bit of time to the second half of my ride. Still, I only finished the bike 20 seconds slower than my Victoria ride, so I guess I held it together alright.
Now, I’ve gotten my nutrition plan down pretty well, and I knew exactly what I needed to eat to keep my energy levels up. But every time I ate something, I felt sick. I didn’t realize it at the time, but apparently I wasn’t drinking very much, since it’s really hard to hold a water bottle and drink while moving really slowly uphill, and dangerous to hold a water bottle and drink while flying downhill. I would drink on the flat sections, but those were few and far between. After the race, Eric looked at my water bottles and saw that I barely drank from either of them.
And I think that’s what hurt me on the run.
I really wanted to finish the race in 7 hours (for a time comparison, the guy who won the race this year finished in 4:28). And even though my bike ride took longer than I hoped, I still had a little over 2 hours to do the run and finish in time. But by the time I started the run, I was feeling pretty sick. I remembered my snacks (unlike last time), but I couldn’t eat them. With every running step, I could feel everything in my stomach rising up against me. So I ran the first couple of miles, and then walked until I didn’t feel sick anymore. I continued this walking and running pattern the rest of the race, but the running portions kept getting shorter and shorter until I knew it wasn’t possible to finish in 7 hours. So I switched to my next goal of finishing faster than the last race (7:31). And then that passed.
I should also mention that the running course had zero shade (sunshine = kryptonite), and lots of hills. There were some friendly neighbors who set up a misting machine to shower us with cool water along the course, as well as a woman with a water hose, offering to spray anyone who wanted it. I just wanted to jump into the lake and float to the finish line, but apparently, that’s not allowed.
Finally, I crossed the finish line, feeling so sick and tired and disappointed, 12 minutes slower than the Victoria race. Bummer.
At this point, Eric has been instructed to never let me sign up for another half Ironman, as I’m pretty sure I just don’t have the physical power to do well in one of these races. But I’ve been known to change my mind pretty quickly about things like this…
We kicked off doughnut season (let’s make this a thing, shall we?) with a pit stop at Top Pot Doughnuts on our way home. I had a blueberry cake doughnut covered in cinnamon sugar, and a chocolate cake doughnut with raspberry glaze. A delicious ending to an exhausting weekend.