Finally... my second half Ironman! My first was June 2011 in Hawaii, which was a total sufferfest. It took me 7:20 to complete that one thanks to a terrible swim and having to walk most of the run.
My original goal was to cut a full hour off that time. Thanks to my recent setback I modified that to a goal time of 6:30. As I'd feared, I had a lot of problems on the run and had to walk most of the second half... but fortunately my swim and bike were good enough to get me close to my goal time. Garmin says 6:33, official time was 6:36. Whatever. I'll take a 44 minute PR any day. This was a good training race as I made some mistakes on the bike that contributed to my lousy run. Now I know better for Miami 70.3 next month!
It was a beautiful day to drive down to Santa Cruz. I hit registration (with the tiniest expo I've ever seen!) and then headed to the rental house that I shared with 5 others from the tri club. Chivalry wasn't exactly flowing as the two single guys claimed the twin beds leaving the girls to make do with a cot on the floor and the pull-out couch... I got the couch. Yay. (tiny rant: everyone thinks it's ok to split the total house bill equally, even though one couple got a gorgeous master suite. Something seems wrong with this picture but apparently this is how it's done with this group? Is this normal in the tri community?) Anyway... I didn't sleep great but it didn't faze me. I was just excited to be there.
Race morning: my overnight oats plus a swig of Ultragen and I was good to go. We rode our bikes in the dark for 10 minutes to transition, and then had 40 minutes to set up before they cleared the area. Yes, they don't allow anyone in transition after 6:45 am, so it's good to get there early! All athletes headed down to the beach and were greeted with a fogless sunrise and a totally calm ocean... absolutely gorgeous. I wish I had a photo. We acclimated to the 57 degree water and then waited for our wave start. We saw that there was a current pulling people to the right, so the goal was to start left and get pulled in towards the buoy.
Swim: 37:08 (Honu: 51:08; 14 minute PR!)
I like ocean starts... plenty of room and no one gets beaten up. I need to do a better job starting out fast; I tend to settle right into my sustainable pace, but since everyone else starts out faster it leaves me quite a ways behind. I think the current shifted right after we started, because everyone kept swimming to my right... I couldn't get on anyone's feet and I ended up swimming alone for almost the entire way. By the back half I was swimming scared. I was pretty sure I was dead last in my age group, which was such a crappy feeling! Fortunately I got out of the water with a very experienced gal from my tri club, so I figured I wasn't too far off base. (Looking at the final stats, this woman finished 4th in our AG with a 5:45 but had a pretty slow swim time. Makes me wonder what the point is of working hard to improve my swim!)
This race has a looooong run from the beach up to transition. Times here ranged from 5:27 to 12:48, so I was in the mix.
Bike: 3:18 (Honu: 3:29 on a flatter course... 11 minute PR!)
This bike course is billed as "relatively flat." Relatively being the key word here. It's 2500 feet of climbing with a couple pretty good hills. If you're used to the 3k - 4k types of rides around San Francisco, it's a piece of cake. I, unfortunately, am not good on hills -- or headwinds -- and this course has plenty of both.
The headwind going out was pretty ridiculous. Not Honu-strong, but close. People were swearing out loud. A couple pelatons went by. I went out harder than I should have, both hating the slow pace I was seeing on my Garmin and thinking that "hey, I pushed harder the bike at my last Olympic race and it didn't hurt my run, I can do the same here!" Yeah, doesn't exactly work that way, as I learned later on the run.
About 1.5 hours in, I had to pee. There was no place to pull over, and I figured there'd be a porta potty at the turnaround. So I stopped taking in fluids (bad idea) until I could find a place to pee. No, I couldn't make myself pee on the bike... too many people around! I hit the turnaround... no porta potty. Great. I started drinking a bit -- most of my calories were in the bottle and I didn't bring enough gels -- but it wasn't until my porta potty stop at mile 45 did I really restart my hydration and take a couple more gels from the aid station.
So... went too hard, only took in 2.5 bottles, and back-loaded my calories. Not a good recipe for the run. Good news, it's a lovely course along the ocean and the tailwind coming back is FANTASTIC. I was flying.
Yeah, I could have done a lot better at this. With some calf cramping on the bike I decided to pull on my compression sleeves for the run. But then forgot once I got into transition. So I pulled on my shoes, then remembered my sleeves, took off my shoes, then dug through my black tri bag for my black sleeves... pulled them on, got my shoes back on, started to run and then remembered I wanted to bring more salt tabs. Not smooth, Jen. Again, good practice for Miami. (Question: if you wear compression sleeves while racing, do you put them on before your wetsuit and swim in them? Or put them on in T2?)
Run: 2:32 (Honu: 2:50, 18 min PR)
My plan was to run easy at 10:00, then drop to race pace of 9:45. Went out too fast... 9:20 felt really easy! But managed to get it down to 9:45 by mile 3. Ok, now is when the legs start coming back around, right? Nope. Mile 4 I was trudging, mile 5 I realized I needed plain water and a LOT of it, but I had another mile to go before the aid station. My legs were sore and my energy was lagging. I first started walking at mile 6... uh oh. This is going to be a long run.
Miles 6 - 9 were pretty bad... I blame my poor nutrition and hydration on the bike for a lot of this. But I got enough fluids in and my energy started returning. The remaining problem was my legs... both from my recent setback (tight hamstring, piriformis) and I suspect from going too hard on the bike. The entire back half was a run/walk combo that wasn't pretty. The last stretch of this race is on sand -- through kids, families, tourists having a beach day, which was pretty bizarre -- and I was able to run through this part to the finish.
Here's the only race photo of me! You can see how deep the sand is at the end of the race, which is somewhat cruel.
For a good part of this run I was thinking, I should cancel Miami. I can't do another sufferfest on the run. But now I look back and I know that part of this is attributable to nutrition and pacing and thus are fixable. I'm also going to put a focus on some targeted strength training (core, hips, glutes) to address muscle imbalances and get some regular bodywork. I might try a chiropractor as it feels like my left hip is locked up.
So I have mixed emotions about this race. Partly I'm excited... I'm pretty sure I can get down to a 6 hr race next year if I put in the time working on strength/power this off season. Partly I'm discouraged as I'm not sure I can fix these muscle imbalances that have plagued my longer-distance running. But damnit, I'm going to try.
If you're considering doing Big Kahuna, I recommend it. Scenery is gorgeous and it's well organized (other than limited porta potties... I only saw one at mile 6 on the run). Prepare for headwinds and rollers on the bike, and 3 - 4 miles of dirt trails in the middle of the run. And sand at the finish. Plan for aid stations every 2 miles vs. every one on the run.