When I originally signed up for this race, I had no idea that it was going to be the week after the National 24hr Bike Challenge. Even though I am a glutton for punishment, this took that to a whole new level and resulted in this being the hardest back to back combination of racing that I have ever done. After moving to Texas, I had several conversations that lead me to believe this is one of the toughest half ironman races in the circuit. It certainly didn't let me down!
I really enjoyed seeing a lot of speedy athletes/friends out on the bike and run course! Always a great day when you can race among wonderful company. Big thanks to Trivillage Multi-sports for gearing me up and Vespa, Optimized Fat metabolism (OFM) and Generation UCAN for giving me the nutrition I need to do insane endurance challenges on back to back weekends.
Pre-race: Had a great 8.5 hr total road trip over to West Texas with an overnight in Abilene. It was very scenic and I definitely noticed that hills started becoming more prevalent as we neared the race site. Check-in for the race was super simple at the Clarion Hotel in Lubbock and I indulged in Cracker Barrel, a local gastropub with Homemade buns and delectable burgers, and Chick-Fil-A for pre-race grub. No wonder I am at my heaviest now! I spent the night before the race in Post, TX, about 30 minutes from Transition, and it was a perfect small town to stay at. The hotel even offered military discount, which is always nice. I organized all of my gear ahead of time and spent a while deliberating what to wear for the race. I opted for treating it more like an Ironman so that I could represent US Military Endurance Sports and Team Red, White & Blue/ Team RWB Houston on the course.
Race Day: In the morning, we departed the hotel around 4am and were parked by 4:45. By the time we walked from the car to transition, down a rather large hill, transition had opened at 5am. I set up all of my gear by light from my cell phone and got to appreciate a beautiful sunrise over the Lake and catch up with a lot of friends that were racing. Foolishly, I had intentionally left my wetsuit at home since I had been convinced there was no way it would be wetsuit legal in Texas in the summer. Joke was on me!
I actually was really excited for the swim for once, as I have been working on my form. Speed is still in the works, but I felt really comfortable in the water and had a much easier time sighting than I have in the past. The entire swim I focused on my drills and thought "stab the push, pull the rope, toss the fish" because it is my little way of reinforcing the entry pull and push motion. I couldn't be happier with a fresh water, non-wetsuit 39 min swim. That is definitely a step in the right direction! In a way, I was glad that I didn't bring my wetsuit because the water temp was perfect and I got to race like I had been training. I took my time in transition and the chip seal like transition area was not the most fun to run over, but we all had to do it.
Biking was a treat, but I was a little worried about how my legs would hold up after last weekend. We started off on a decent couple of hills and it was several miles until we got to smooth road. I decided to leave my Garmin flipped outwards so I wouldn't focus on speed, distance, or time. I went completely by feel and just enjoyed being in my element. True to my norm, I didn't religiously study the race course, so each hill was a nice surprise for me. On the longest climb we had, it had a couple of switchbacks. As I approached, I wondered whether I should switch to the small chain ring, something that I rarely do and generally despise doing. As I approached the base, there was a sign that said something to the effect of "small ring, lol" and it made me think of Andreas Ultrabikexstudio yelling me in the studio to switch my gears early on. Thank goodness, because I am not sure I would have made it up that without switching! The whole ride I had a couple songs in my head..."Battle Scars" by Lupe Fiasco and "Cheerleader" by Omi which reminded me of my crash in Ironman Texas and everyone who was cheering me on/supporting me. I also couldn't help but think how grateful I was to the amazing, wonderful men that helped me to bike so far in the National 24hr Challenge...without them there is no way that I would have had the energy to do this race. I imagined my brothers pulling me when I was cruising into a headwind and did a whole lot of praying to God to give me strength. The hills in west Texas are a force to be reckoned with and we were very lucky that we didn't have worse headwinds, even if we did have to fight one most of the way back to transition.
Starting the run, I knew it would be the hardest thing that I had done that day. I had ran a couple miles on Friday and my legs had started cramping up towards the end. The first mile, I could feel how exhausted my legs were, but I bribed myself by saying I would just shoot for 13 1-mile repeats and walk the hills since there is an 8% grade one towards the 3 mile mark of the 2-loop course. My goal was just to keep it below 2 hours and to, most of all, have fun and enjoy the race. I know a lot of people who would have loved to be racing in my shoes, so thank you to each of you for keeping me motivated! True to form, I smiled the majority of the bike and run and tried to cheer on all the other runners whenever I was able to. I even snuck in a couple of jumping photos and planked mid-course. Photos soon to follow! tongue emoticon I felt great running after my legs warmed up a bit, and I carried my Nuun Hydration with me to keep leg cramps at bay and stay hydrated in the heat. The aid station volunteers were wonderful and the course was very beautiful as it wrapped around the lake. The hills weren't too tortuous, but there wasn't too much in the way of shade, so I was glad I wore a hat. Walking the hills/aid stations was a great strategy for me, one that I learned at St. Croix last year while racing on tired legs post Boston marathon. As I approached the finish line, my legs started to cramp, so I am sure it saved me from a much longer day on course!