Leading up to race day, I did my best to have a smart week. I got a massage, did some deep stretching with a trainer, ate smart and slept as much as possible. I did a good bit of running around (and some light open water swimming) the day before the race, and finished the day with a meal consisting of salmon, quinoa and a mixed greens salad. I hydrated with too much G2 and water to mention and called it a night at 9 pm, finally falling asleep around 11 pm.
On race morning, I set my alarm for 4:15 am and managed to drag myself out of bed at 4:30 am. I wasn't tired nor too nervous and made some gluten-free toast with coconut oil and coffee to take in the car with me. We set off around 5:15 am and after picking up our friend Cheryl, made it to Stony Plain around 6:15 am. I unloaded my gear, finished my transition setup, made the all-important trip to the porta-potty, ate a PowerBar, drank a G2, ate a package of Honey Stinger energy chews and lined up on the beach for the start of the race. I knew I may have trouble getting in enough calories later, so I figured the more I could take in early on, the better.
Coming out of the water was a bit rough for me (as expected) with my vertigo; I was quite dizzy but before I knew it the amazing wetsuit strippers were there to save the day! They asked me if I wanted help, I said yes, they shouted "butt to the ground!", and the next thing I knew my wetsuit was off and I was running to my bike. It was awesome, and I'd like to give them a belated virtual hug.
PS - if you want to see a really funny swim photo of me, check out the official site here.
Split Time: 31:01 (1:34/100m)
The bike course was two loops with an initial starting point on the Yellowhead, one of Alberta's busiest highways. We were riding only 7km on this road, but between tractor trailers in the lane next to me and bike bottles flying off the bikes back at me, I was glad to get into town and then onto the steady, rolling range roads.
I had ridden the course previously (I highly recommend everyone do this if you have the chance) so I knew what to expect. I was most nervous about mechanical issues with my bike, shifting my gears and drafting penalties so I know I was more conservative on the bike than I needed to be. I was planning to stop at aid stations to take in nutrition, but ended up not having any problems drinking my Gatorade from my bottle between my aerobars and eating a PowerBar and package of Honey Stinger energy chews from my BentoBox.
Halfway through each loop, I passed Shaun and the pups and our shop owner Rich which really energized me! It was so fun to see them and give them a thumbs up and a smile to let them know I was feeling good!
Split Time: 3:27.15 (26.1km/hour avg)
I made the decision from the start of the run to walk through each aid station to consume a mix of water and Ironman Perform. While this is definitely reflected in my run time, I think it was the smart thing to do.
The run course was also two loops, and a portion of each loop was on a trail through neighborhoods. I loved the trail portion of the run. It was distracting and also where Shaun and the pups had stationed themselves so I was able to see them four times! And yes, I stopped twice to say hello and get some licks. (Again, not winning, might as well run happy!)
It poured rain twice during the run, and other than the soggy shoes I was left with, I must say I didn't mind it at all. (It made me think back to all of my Pittsburgh Half Marathons in the rain!) At mile 10, my stomach reminded me that it needed fuel so I ate my packet of Honey Stingers.
By this point, the race was almost done and I couldn't believe it. Here I was, about to finish (and finish strong!) my first Half Ironman! Something I had dreamed about for years and stayed committed to even in tough times. The next thing I knew, I was crying. And I'm talking full-on waterfall tears. (Thank goodness for sunglasses!) I couldn't control my emotions; I was so overwhelmed and proud of what I was about to accomplish.
With my tears ceased, I ran into the finish chute and crossed the line. Completely forgetting to look at my time but just beaming as I saw my friends and training buddies waiting for me. My medal was placed around my neck and I told them all that I felt good. I grabbed some water and a handful of pretzels along with my finisher's shirt and found Shaun and the babes. I had done it!
Split Time: 2:13.02 (6:19/km average)
Overall, I was pleased with my time but now wish I would have pushed for an under-6 hour race. Although I need to remind myself that this was my first HIM and there's something to be said for that, which is sometimes a challenge when you're training with fast gals that come in at 4:54 and 5:08, respectively :) I definitely learned what my body could handle (in a good way) and where I can improve for IM Canada. I feel good about my swim and know that if I stay in the water a couple times per week from now through race day, I'll be strong there. I need to ride more hills and focus on a faster cadence while in my aerobars. And I need to run more. Between bricks, long runs and temp runs, I have my work cut out for me there, but know I will be OK on race day if I train smart. T-minus 6.5 weeks...
A Special Thanks
And now's the part where I tell you that you too can do this! Yes, the 'if you can dream it, you can do it' line may be a little cheesy. But it's the truth. Sure you will have to sacrifice and there will be plenty of days during which you'll want to throw in the towel, but I promise you, it is FUN and it is WORTH IT. Surround yourself with the right people in life and you can accomplish anything.
As my favorite quote goes: that which does not kill you, only makes you stronger. Preach it.