So yesterday was the day of my first ever half ironman race. I have raced multiple full ironmans and countless olympics and sprints, but never got myself into the half distance. My season so far has been mediocre, and that is an overstatement. Poorly executed races, meltdowns in the heat, losing focus and more or less finishing the race by going through the motions pretty much sums up my year. So I came into the race with zero expectations, and more or less didn't treat it as a race.
Race morning was a balmy 55 degs and it felt amazing. I race much much better in the cold vs the heat, so I was liking the weather conditions. After finding the port-a-johns for my most repeated pre-race ritual, i found myself in transition with less than 10 mins b4 my wave went off. I grabbed my wetsuit quick and headed over to the lake. By the time I got to the lake, put on my wetsuit, and had a gel, I had 2 mins before the cannon shot. I had time to jump in and get a quick feel for the water, and realized that I felt pretty good (in the 10 strokes that I took after jumping in).
The cannon was shot and the race was on. I took it out mildly strong, but comfortable, and before I knew it I was in a 3 man pack out in front of the rest of the field. the only negative thing that happened during the swim was my goggles flooded with water, and I had to deal with that. But within 3-4 minutes I was used to it and carried on with the race. I came out of the water in a time of 27:10, which was good for the 12th fastest swim of the day, and the best part was that there was very minimal effort exerted.
Coming out of the water and into transition was a little rough, my eyes were pretty hazy from swimming with lake water in my goggles the whole race, and I realized that I was in the wrong aisle from where my bike was, so i had to turn around and correct myself to get to my spot. Overall I had a decent transition even with the mishap out of the water, and only lost about :20 sec to the pros transitions.
Out on the bike, the goal was to keep it strong but within myself so that I could really unleash on the run course. I was pretty much riding by myself most of the first half of the bike, passing a few pro women here and there, and at mile 30 2 guys from the wave behind me reeled me in, but weren't going insanely fast, so i decided to latch onto their group and see how long i could hang with. Long story short, I was able to keep with them for the rest of the ride, and came into transition only getting passed by 4 people total, 2 of which I stayed with. One of my better bikes in the past few races, and I came into T2 with some confidence. Biked a 2:33:23, and felt nearly fresh heading out on the run. I couldn't have written a better scenario on paper before the race, I kept it very smooth in the water and on the bike, and now I get to see how well I can run a half marathon.
Well, things started to turn upside down rather quickly. Less than a minute into the run my back started to tighten up bad, and my run went with it. I was through the first mile in 6:30, but was in a lot of pain. At mile 2 i was really feeling it now, in the most pain i had been the entire race, and it wasn't even aerobic pain, it was pretty demoralizing. I walked through the aid station at mile 2 got some coke and water, and started up a jog again. Just at that moment a kid from Oregon state in my age group passed me and was running pretty strong. I told myself, "you are leading your age group right now, you are not going to let it slip away that easy" and i gutted out a 200 meter stretch to get back up on the kids shoulder. We ran together for about 3.5 miles running very very strong ~ 6:00-6:15 pace, and it felt great. We hit a hill at about mile 4.5 and i felt a few moves by this kid, and countered each one, but was really starting to feel my sore back coming in again, which really got to my head. I made it up the hill with the Oregon state kid, as well as down the other side of it, but at the turn around where we headed back up the hill I didn't have it in me, and lost contact with the kid, and that's where my race took a turn for the worse.
The second half of the run was a major struggle, but I got through it. I eventually got passed by another kid who went on to run a 1:18 half marathon and run through the Oregon state kid, and finished 3rd in my age group with a time of 4:37:13. Through the first 5 miles I was on pace for a 1:25-1:26 half marathon, but the wheels fell off hard, and I finished with a 1:33:30. I felt like I could have run harder that second lap, but the combination of back pain, and bad blisters and chaffing on my feet really held me back, and caused every single stride to feel like it was going to be my last.
I was pleased with the first 2 disciplines, and the fact that I was able to pull myself from the depths at mile 2 to give a solid effort, but was disappointed that I fell off that bad in the back half of the run. Its a good starting point to my 70.3 career, and can definitely see myself doing more of these in the future. I even got to take home some hardware :)