I realize this is a bit overdue, but for some reason, I had a tough time getting my thoughts together. I apologize for the length ahead of time. I guess a long race gives way to a long report. If you would like the abridged version, here it is – it was really, really hot, but I survived and finished my first attempt at Eagleman! For the longer version, keep reading.
Friday evening, I ran a few miles with Melissa, Hector, Chip, Jen and Kelsie at the Relay for Life. What a wonderful event; I just wish I could have participated more! The whole thing was very inspirational, but more importantly, provided a healthy dose of perspective. When you take a moment to look at the big picture, Eagleman was a very small thing…
That doesn’t mean that the nerves weren’t absolutely ridiculous race morning!! This was my 2nd Half-Iron distance event. When I signed up, I couldn’t wait to see just how hard I could push it, just how much I could improve on the first one. Then I injured my shoulder in February. That took a lot longer to heal than anticipated by anyone, so with minimal time in the pool, it became how much better can I do on the bike and run? Then came the weather forecast… While it added a degree of difficulty, Jen and I agreed the heat actually took some pressure off – you had no choice, you couldn’t push too hard. Therefore, all prior goals went out the window, and truly, the only goal was to survive the heat and finish. That forced some changes to the game plan though. I wasn’t “racing” – I didn’t care who was passing, how fast or slow I was moving. Nutrition and hydration would be critical, and for the first time in a race, my effort level was dictated strictly by heart rate.
The water felt great, but this just wasn’t a great swim for me. I am not a fast swimmer. However, I am usually very good at sighting and swimming straight. I don’t know what happened here, but I felt like I was making minor corrections to my path every time I looked up. Then there was that extra set of orange bouys… I even looked at the swim course before I got in!! My shoulder didn’t bother me and I didn’t get too dizzy, so I guess it could have been worse. Still, I really expected a better swim time, but it sounds like most everyone’s were a bit long.
Nothing really to report here. Just took a minute to really make sure that I had everything I needed.
Bike: 2:56:54 (19.1mph)
The bike was the biggest change to the game plan – originally the intent was to go as hard as possible and maintain well over 20mph. Instead, I went strictly by heart rate, making sure that I stayed aerobic. I had my concentrated formula of Sustained Energy and Hammer Gel in one bottle, and had water in the others. I stuck with my plan of taking in some of the concentrate every 20-25 minutes and consistently drinking water in between. I also took endurolytes at the start of the bike and about ½-way. My lower back and my right IT band area really started to hurt with about 20 miles left. There were several contributing factors – insane life leading up to the race with no time for massage to work out some kinks, again no time for Tricia’s core class which really helps my back, and then staying aero essentially the whole bike to that point. I am very comfortable in my aero bars, but obviously never noticed how often I really come out of them. Once I started stretching and moving around a bit, I knew that it was too late – sitting straight up was the only thing that made the pain go away. Unfortunately, each time I sat up, I felt like I was getting stopped by a headwind. I mentally checked out of the bike with 10 miles to go. Disappointing since I am usually very good at the mental game. I got bored, zoned out a bit, really slowed, but didn’t care. The drafting, pack riding, blocking were all getting much worse at this point as well, so that definitely added to my desire to be done with it.
Finally, I started to see the runners out on the course. That kicked me right back in gear – good to go!
Ok, I lied earlier. I had a second goal for this race aside from just finishing – I did not want T2 to be the procrastination area that it was for me at Patriot’s! No straightening my area up, looking for other things to do, or people to talk to… Mission accomplished! I took time to reapply the sunscreen and make sure I had everything, but then got on my way.
I have to say that this went much better than expected. I am not the strongest runner in the best of conditions, but my body is not very tolerant of the heat either. Not a great combination when you start your run at 11:45 on a day like that!
All I can say is that I must have nailed my nutrition. My plan was to stay aerobic, hopefully run between water stops, but then walk through each stop to cool off and rehydrate. I carried my HEED, Hammer gel and endurolytes with me. At each stop, I took 2 cups of ice water and 1 cup of ice – I drank one cup, poured the other slowly over me, and then stashed the ice in my shirt. As I ran between the water stops, I took sips of the HEED. The mantra was very much “water stop to water stop”, so much so that I forgot to take my gel at mile 8 because I wasn’t paying any attention to how far I had gone. Incredibly, I felt really good until the last couple of miles when I started dragging a bit crossing back through the `Death Valley’ section they decided to add to the course. Missing that gel probably didn’t help, but I would have expected to start tiring at that point anyway. I was hoping to avoid a quick stop at the port-a-john with 2 miles to go, but never would have made it!
As disappointed as I was with the bike, I was thrilled with my run. Not saying it was fast by any stretch, but it went exactly as I hoped given the heat. I’ll take it!
Final time: 6:06:26
I survived the heat and finished!
Thanks to Jean, Tim and everyone else who made the club tent possible for us. Between the nerves and the heat, I just can’t imagine getting through that day without you guys! It was a very long day, but please know that your efforts were appreciated so much more than you can imagine!!
I think I will have a tough time deciding whether or not to try that again next year. While flat sounds nice, I learned that I like a bit more of a rolling terrain to mix things up, and whether it’s wind or heat, Eagleman weather tends to be a bit brutal. At the same time, it is so much fun to do a race with so many club members. Amazing what a difference that can make in your day!