Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Oliver Half Iron Race Report

The Day Before - June 5, 2010

We drove down Saturday morning and I dropped Erik off with his bike in Penticton so he could get a ride in. I went straight to Tuc el Nuit Lake in Oliver and sat on the beach, taking it all in. There were quite a few triathletes in the water and on the beach, so I decided to put on my wetsuit and go for a short swim while I waited for Erik.

I took my time and put my suit on slowly and carefully, getting it halfway on and then I just stood there with the arms dangling down, staring out at the water, trying to psych myself up for an OWS alone. Finally, I decided to put the rest of my suit on and just get it over with. As I put my arms in, something seemed to be wrong, and I had to struggle a bit to get them both in. As I reached down to zip up, I suddenly realized what I had done. I had the damn thing on backwards. I'm sure I turned several shades of red as I stood there looking like an idiot on the beach amidst all the other athletes and was a bit surprised that not one person even commented that I was putting it on the wrong way. I turned to the two guys standing beside me and laughed at my dilemma (if only so they'd know I had a sense of humour) and then I quickly took it off and put it on properly. Sheesh, what a n00b.

Since I was swimming alone, I didn't go out too far and really, I just wanted to get enough of a swim in to ensure I felt comfortable in the water. Erik arrived just as I finished so we headed over to the package pickup and I got my number #1048, and my swag - a nice tech T, a running cap, and a few others token items. By now it was close to 2pm so we decided to drive to Osoyoos and see if we could check into our hotel early, as we have the last two times we've been there. Unfortunately, our room wasn't ready and they apologized saying the hotel had filled (for the first time - new hotel) and they were scrambling a bit to get caught up. They promised us the room would be ready no later than 4pm (check in time) and took our cell number. We left for awhile and sat on the beach at the campsite we stay at during the summer and then headed back to hotel at 4pm only to find out they were JUST starting to clean our room. Clearly they wouldn't be ready in half an hour when we had to leave to go back to the race meeting so we left in a bit of a huff and said we'd be back around 6pm. So much for hanging around and resting my legs.

The race meeting was well organized and full of people, but try as I might, I couldn't find any of my twitter friends (Michelle, Don, Mitch, Auggie's Dad, Brent...). After the meeting, we went back to the hotel and had our dinner. This time, I cooked it ahead of time and brought it with us so I didn't have to go searching for GI-friendly food at a strange grocery store. We had my usual pre race dinner - chicken souvlaki, rice, pita, tzatziki, and greek salad with graham crackers for dessert. Then I set to work to get all my water bottles and hydration pack ready. My intention was to mix all of my Nuun/Carbo Pro fluids the night before, freeze half of it in ice cube trays, and some of it in my hydration pack so I would have cold drinks during the race. I find I drink a LOT more if it's cold.

Unfortunately, we had a mini fridge instead of a regular sized fridge in this particular suite and the freezer compartment was so small that nothing was getting cold, let alone freezing. Eventually, I took the ice cube trays out and left only the hydraton pack in, hoping that it would be frozen in the morning and then I went to bed. It was just a little past 9pm but I was tired. I slept well and woke up to the 5:15 am alarm.

Race Day - June 6, 2010

We woke to an overcast morning, unlike the beautiful sunshine of the previous day, with a threat of rain later in the day. The temperature was about 12C and the predicted high was supposed to be about 20C (68F). I figured as long as the rain held off until the run, I'd be fine.

I was happy to find the hydration pack frozen and I was able to fill my aerobottle and my water bottle with regular ice cubes and extra strength Nuun Carbo Pro mix so it was all good. I managed to eat a little yogurt and we packed up and headed out, stopping at Timmy's for Erik's coffee along the way.

Once in Oliver, we were able to park right at transition and I joined the long line for body marking and timing chip. I had been carrying my aerobottle in between my knees in the car so it wouldn't dump over and now that I was in line, I realized that my pants were soaked and I seriously looked like I had peed my pants. I tried to hold my bag in front of me but you can see it clearly in the photo. ---> LOL! Hopefully none of the people remembered me as the girl in the backwards wetsuit from the day before... (PS I am making my "I'm really cold" face in that picture... ;)

I was getting a bit anxious as time was getting on and I still had to set up transition, and get into the long line to the bathroom once more before the swim. Erik passed me stuff over the fence, then left to get my hydration pack from the car, while I went to the bathroom. (By now, I had gotten rid of the wet pants and was just wearing my tri shorts, although in retrospect, I may have been able to get to the front of the line if I'd worn them ;) The first wave was almost ready to set off and a lot of the young men were asking to cut into the front so they didn't miss their wave. By the time I got back to my spot, I had to rush to get my wetsuit on and get down to the beach.

The Swim

I was in the third wave (45+ men and women) which was a group of about 300-350 people. When the gun went off, I just waded into the throng, probably in the middle, and headed out. This was the longest OWS I've ever done so I just swam steadily, and focused on being calm. I was happy to be able to swim bilaterally this time, and could actually focus a little on my stroke for a change. My new Aquasphere Vista goggles were great although they did fog up a little about half way. For the most part, I was able to negotiate a fairly clear spot to swim and the swim was uneventful. I did sneak a peek at my watch a few times and I could see I was going to be fairly close to my goal time so I tried to swim fast for the last 500m. I was out of the water around 43 minutes and up on the beach to wetsuit stripping. I crossed the timing mat at 45:12 and ran, well mostly I walked, the 300-400m to transition.

Swim time 45:12 (goal 45:00)

706/972 overall
290/446 women
25/42 AG

Pace 2:16 / 100m

T - One

I had to run on the road and it hurt my feet (which have been sore lately) so I ended up walking most of the way. I got to my spot and put on a jersey because it was chilly and threatening rain, my helmet, sox, bike shoes and gloves. Erik was at the fence so I chatted with him while I got ready. I had my stuff in a large plastic bags so it took a little longer to get ready but it was worth it to have dry gear in case it rained. Then I took off with my bike only to realize a few moments later that I had forgotten my sunglasses. I left my bike on a rack, ran back, got the glasses and left for the bike course. Because I was at one end of the area, I had to run the full length of transition to get to the timing mat and bike course.

T1 time 9:40

910/972 Overall (LOL)
411/446 Women
37/42 AG

To be honest, I did not try to hurry in transition at all so I really didn't care if I lost time here, but clearly, it's an area that I could work on if those couple of minutes would actually make a difference in my overall time. :)

The Bike

I had a good bike overall. I felt strong and climbed well, always passing men and women on the hills. It was a bit difficult not to push really hard but for the most part, I was able to keep my heart rate in Zone 2 and 3 and only go into Zone 4 for the climbs. My goal was to do 27-28 kmh avg speed and after the first lap (40km) I was at about 28 kmh. I seemed to hang with the same group, leap frogging each other for most of the ride. Part way thru the first lap, the elites who had begun 20 minutes earlier, began lapping me. It was kind of funny to see them fly past us so fast. I was able to stay aero for a lot of the ride and my nutrition plan worked well for me. I drank my aerobottle the first hour, dumped in my extra bottle the second hour, and grabbed a 3rd bottle of water at an aid station an hour later. They poured it into my aerobottle while I dumped in some nuun and carbo pro premixed in a baggie in my bento box. In hindsight, I wouldn't have minded having a fourth bottle, especially if it was hot. I may buy one of those bottle holders for the back of my seat.

Erik was there to cheer me on at at least 4-5 aid stations and it really perked me up a lot to see him. Later on, during the run, it was the only thing that kept me going.

At about the 60km mark, my left knee started to bother me a little. It occasionally hurts a bit on long rides of 2 1/2 hours or more but never bothers me once I get off my bike. However, as the ride went on, I started worry a little about how it was going to affect my run so I slowed down a bit. At this point, I was averaging about 27.5 kmh so I figured I kept it just to 27 even, I'd meet my goal and protect my knee a little. We had some wind on on the sections heading North but it wasn't too bad and only slowed me down a little.

I found the last 12 km of the ride harder. I was tired and getting achey and just wanted to get off the bike and start running. But finally, I was on the final leg and back to T2.

Bike Time 3:22:43 (goal 3:20-3:25 yay!)

821/972 Overall
337/446 Women
31/42 AG

Avg Speed 27 kmh

Quite frankly, I'm surprised my ranking on the bike is so low, even in my age group, in fact lower than my swim. These people are amazingly fast, it was awesome to watch them fly by me. LOL...

T - Two

As soon as I got off the bike, I knew I was gonna be in trouble. My left knee hurt and buckled a little as I ran into transition. First order of business was to pee though and thankfully, the port-o-johns were available right at the entrance. All that liquid nutrition does have its downfalls. ;)

Again, I wasn't in a rush to change. Erik was chatting with me over the fence and I told him my knee was sore (left, outside). I put on my sox and shoes and was about to leave when I realized I'd forgotten my Zensah Shin Sleeves. D'oh. Off go the shoes and sox, on with the shin sleeves, quickly racking up the T2 minutes. Hat, sunglasses, hydration pack - finally I was ready to go. The timing mat was close to my bike but the actual run start was another 300m away.

T2 Time 8:49

934/972 Overall
428/446 Women
41/42 AG

The Run, ah the Run... or perhaps I should say the walk....

Right away, I had to run up a short hill and as I ran, I could feel my right calf tightening up a lot so I stopped and walked and then stopped to stretch it out a bit. My left knee was definitely sore and felt weak, like it didn't want to bend properly. I set off running and found my pace was too fast right off the start. My goal was 7:00 km for at least the start and I was already running 5:45 AND hurting so I tried to slow down a little. It's funny when you come off the bike, you just naturally start off hell bent for leather.

The first 2 1/2 km are rolling hills so I ended up walking the hills because it was putting too much pressure on my knee. I remember passing the 1km marker and thinking to myself, this is going to be a race of mental fortitude because I cannot believe I still have to "run" another 20 km. When I got to the first aid station, I stopped to stretch my calf again and it felt a lot better. I didn't see Erik, but he was there, taking pictures.

I just kept hobbling on. I decided that I was going to focus on a goal of 7 min /km for the entire race and be content with that. But I kept having to stop and walk when my knee hurt too much, or when I had to climb the stairs to cross the creek , or climb up and down the smallest of hills. In fact, going downhill was almost impossible. It hurt to run, and it hurt even more to stop running but walking was ok. Soon I found I was "running" at an 8 min km pace. And eventually, even slower than that. I was pretty disappointed and sad that I was moving along so slowly and I kept hoping that eventually my knee would kind of "numb" out and I'd be able to run a little faster.

The run course was a mentally challenging two loop, out and back course. When you've done 10k, you're back at the finish line, only to turn around and go back out for another beating. Not surprisingly, I was being passed by a steady stream of people all throughout the run, many of them already on their second lap. It was more than a little frustrating. On the second loop, Erik knew I was in a fairly bad way and he kept popping up in the most surprising places. He'd run or walk along with me for a little way to bolster my spirits and cheer me along.

By now, everything hurt - both knees, both calves, both achilles, my lower back, everything. I took a couple of ibuprofen and kept on the death shuffle. All I could think of was "I'm *never* going to do this again, never". In my heart, I knew it was probably like childbirth and that I'd probably forget the pain, but at that point, I was determined to remember it. ;)

Finally, I was on the final 5 km leg back to the finish. It still seemed an interminably long way to go. There seemed to be hardly anyone left on the race course now and even the few people who I commiserated with along the way at one point, had gone on ahead of me. Just before I turned the last corner, a man who was walking by, encouraged me along saying it was only 1/2 km to go and I was almost there. I nodded my thanks and then after he passed, started weeping out of pure emotional and physical exhaustion. I was horrified that once I started crying, I wouldn't be able to stop, so I shook it off as quickly as I could so I could go arrive at the finish line in some reasonable semblance of dignity.

I knew I was really close to an abysmal 3 hour half marathon time and was determined to stay under so I forced myself to run that last km without a walk break. I least I think I did -i t was all a blur near the end really.

The funniest part was when I got to the finish line, there was a short, very steep downhill to get to the timing mat. I didn't think I'd be able to run down it but since everyone was watching and Erik was there taking pictures, I gave it a shot. After the first 2 steps, both knees buckled just like the famous elites runners who run super super fast do at the finish line. Haha, at least I looked hard core, LOL... No one else was coming in at the moment so I had Steve King's announcements all to myself. He was probably stoked to have something interesting to say for awhile. He commented that it looked like this runner must have had a tough time on the run, as I struggled to walk down the hill.

Seriously, I could barely walk, my knees kept buckling, but only because it was downhill. I started laughing and trying to explain that I wasn't in that bad of shape, it was just the downhill I couldn't do. Luckily, when I got to the bottom, it leveled out and I was able to run across the finish line and get my medal! Yes, they even give medals to slow pokes.

Run Time 2:58:05 (goal time 2:30 max)

907/972 Overall
414/446 Women
39/42 AG

Overall Time 7:24:28 (goal time 7:00 max)

892/972 Overall
398/446 Women
38/42 AG

So how do I feel about the whole thing and what did I learn?

Well I would be lying if I said I was happy about the race. I was extremely disappointed about my run and although I've thought about it a lot, I'm not sure what I could have done differently, given the amount of time I had trained.

Yes, yes, I know, just finishing a half iron is a great accomplishment and of course, I am proud and happy that I finished, but I really an disappointed that I had such a crappy run. I knew that it wasn't going to be easy and I was ready for some pain, but my goal was always to run the whole thing, NOT walk/run it. I SO did not want to walk/run the race. In fact, I often said, back in February, that I didn't want to do a Half Iron if I expected to have to walk/run it. I'm not talking about the odd walk break every 5km or so, or even walking through aid stations, I'm talking about having to take walk breaks every 200-300m. I did not want to do that and yet, that's exactly what I had to do. And while I appreciate all the encouragement and congratulations, I know in my heart, that I did not do what I set out to do and that pisses me off just a little.

That being said, I was very happy with my swim and my bike despite the fact that I didn't really do all that well on paper, as far as rankings go. I was really happy and proud to meet my goals in both areas and for now, that's what I will focus on. :)

What did I learn?

I learned that a half iron race is a really, really hard race and you need more than 3 months to train for it if you want to do more than just "finish." I also think it's probably better if you run a half marathon distance first and do longer bricks before your race too. That's not saying I think my training should have been anything different than it was - Coach Jeff did the best with the time we had and for that I am grateful. Three months ago, I couldn't run 10km, now I just did a half iron. :) But seriously, I would probably have been better off training for the run all year and setting my sights for Oliver 2011 instead of 2010.

I also learned that it's really important to have a family member for support. I could not have made it through that run without Erik encouraging me all along the way. No way. Not a chance. I also kept the good wishes of my friends in my thoughts, both online and real life, and those positive thoughts helped keep me going. After all, I could hardly tweet that "the run was too hard so I quit" right? :)

As for my knee, it's still an anomaly. I have only had that pain a few times this year and I don't really know what's up. I suspect it's a cleat issue on my bike shoe so that is what I'm going to look into first. I'm also going to do some more strength work to keep working on those adductors etc. I guess another trip to the PT is in order.

My knees were both pretty sore that night, and all day Monday, especially going up and down stairs, but I didn't feel injured, just sore. I had a good post-race massage yesterday and today, I am only a little achey.

So there you have it. I hope you don't think I'm being too negative on my analysis. I'm a realist AND and optimist and I call them how I see them. I wanted more of myself and I didn't get it.

At least not this time. :)


Anonymous said...

Great race report! I loved reading this and getting some insight since my half ironman will be here before I know it! Sorry you had a tough run :( I hope your knees are feeling better! Congrats!!!

JayDub said...

Great report Barb. I'm just staggered that anyone could do what you just did. It's just amazing. And think how this experience is going to set you up for your next half iron!

Milk The Cow Baby said...

Good job Barb!!! I got some good insight out of it too. I am going to try and do 2 more half marathons before my half Mary in the next two weeks to try and get me ready. I have been running the whole thing so far but i wondering if i should do 9min run 1 min walk in the half IM. Hopefully it is not 9min walk 1 min runs! YOu did fantastic. I know your hard on yourself but it still amazing that you did it!!! Good job on Erik too!

VeganLisa said...

Thank you for sharing your race experience. I love listening to your podcast. Your determination is huge source of inspiration for me.

Keep moving forward. Congratulations on this huge accomplishment. I was cheering you on from Toronto.

Kabekona tri girl said...

Barb, what a great read, thank you for sharing! Even though you didn't meet the goal you had hoped, you finished and accomplished far more than most people! Great job! And next year you will kick your time from this year to the curb. :D

PunkRockRunner said...

So much can happen over the course of these events that can, and will, impact your time.

I had a great swim at my last 70.3 and thought it was going to be "my day" AND then the bike reminded me that it's not over until you cross the finish line.

Thanks for sharing this amazing race report. You did great and should be very very proud.

All the best,


Heather said...

Amazing job Barb!!!

It is disappointing to not perform the way you know you could have, but you did do something amazing, and you always have time to improve. Plus, your swim and bike were incredible, so you must feel really proud of that!!!

I don't have much of a mental game, so I think I'll be struggling like you were!

Amy (@2for1) said...

What a great report! Loved it.
Sorry your day didn't pan out the way you had hoped. But know that you are inspiring THIS girl to keep at it and push herself.
Thank you for sharing this!

She said I need a goal said...

Thanks for the great race report. It's amazing that you trained for and completed a half iron in 3 months! I loved all the detail here. I am inspired, maybe half iron in 2011 for me..

Kovas Palubinskas said...

Congratulations on finishing your HIM! Even though you are disappointed, most of your times were close or bettered your expectations, which is amazing over those distances.

Ian Chitson said...

Congratulations Barb. Really great interesting race report and well put together. As for your race..Wow you've just completed a half Iron. Take all the positives and learn from the rest. Great acomplishment.

k said...

Great report! It really is disappointing not to feel like you did your best...I hope you recover well. Congrats on a great swim and bike and a really gusty run! It takes a lot to suffer like that.

Maria Simone (@maslife) said...

I understand being a realist. But, I hope you also realize this is a great accomplishment! ANd, when you do your next one, you will have all of the knowledge you gained from this one to ensure you meet goal time.

I had a disappointing bike at Mooseman, so I do understand your disappointment. But, you did an awesome job - stayed tough and did what you had to do to finish.

That's awesome.

Aunt Ashy said...

Awesome report, Barb! I agree with Tara that it is great insight for a first timer. My first will be in July of this year. I'm so nervous about it, but after reading your report I feel like I know what to prepare for mentally. Sorry your run was hard, I hope you don't give up on your goal of a marathon! Good luck in the rest of your summer training!

Jasminn said...

Wow! Well said, a great read. I think after listening to all your podcasts I could actually hear you reading that report :)

You have a great sense of humour!

I can totally relate to the disappointment (so much that I didn't even do a race report on my last race... I'm sure I'll regret that!)... but I think it is so great that you met your goals in all the other areas and had so much fun.

Must be like childbirth... since I see from twitter you are already talking future races ;) I'm glad... cuz it's fun to follow your adventures!

Sara Cox Landolt said...

Well done! Cool medal & great detail in your report. I get the frustration, it's ok to be driven for more. Use it & enjoy.

Paul said...

I kept looking on BT for your report. Should have looked here first. Way to go Barb! You have done amazingly well in just one year. You have a lot to be proud of.
I saw you a couple of times on the course and shouted out to you but I believe you were focused on the task.
Hopefully I'll be able to join you next year if you're coming back.

Anonymous said...

Great report; love the detail. Congratulations on completing the race. It makes me want to try a tri!

PS. As you can tell from all the comments above mine, you didn't have to worry about your post not being read :)

cherelli said...

Hi, Just stumbled on your report - well done! Oliver was my first HIM two years ago - and after it I felt maybe like you - HOW can I be so slow on the bike (we could've ridden together actually!)? And that run....oh how it seems to drag on and the suffering seems endless! But I went back last year to try and prove to myself I could do it and enjoy it - and you know what? My time was a mere 30secs different overall (after ALL that way!) but I had a blast. You will too on your next one - but good luck on the knee rehab first!!

Stuart said...

Barb I wanted to email you but it’s all blocked at work but I can post to the blog so here you go!

I listened to the podcast and read the report today and all I can really say is that…YOU TOTALLY ROCK!

Let’s be honest here you have gone from not being active to being a Half Ironman in what 2 maybe 3 years! Yeah you are still struggling with the running but you have nailed the swim and it seems that most tri-athletes, and don’t kid yourself you are an athlete, falter at the swim! You will nail this running thing…I have every confidence!

I totally agree with you that with age comes strength from within, it’s not muscular it’s mental and you have it in spades, in fact your mental strength is only matched by the size of your heart; it’s big trust me!
You’re an inspiration to many, myself included, who have listened and followed your on this journey. We have listened to your setbacks and breakthroughs and would have been on the sidelines screaming for you and at you were we not 1000s of miles away!
I am sure there are plenty more stops on this journey I am surer and I for one am looking forward to being on the Barb train as it gathers steam and momentum.

Relentless Forward Motion!