Monday, September 7, 2009

The Great Illini Half Report

I'm smiling big today. Wow, what a difference good hard training and iron pills can do!

Saturday, Waddler and I completed our second half iron distance triathlon and this time it was "officially" 70.3 miles and our Garmins can prove it. Last year, we both did Steelhead in Benton Harbor MI as our first half. However, due to strong winds and nasty 10-15 foot waves, the swim portion of the race was cancelled. We, therefore, raced a duathlon instead (run 2 miles, bike 54 miles, and run 13.1 mile---apparently the bike course was short due to road construction). My time last year was 6 hours and 50 minutes. I had crossed the finish line in an extreme amount of pain. I had broken the golden rule of racing: I had massacred my nutrition BIG time. And oh, did I pay for it; all the muscles in both of my legs had cramped up as soon as I had gotten off the bike and headed on with the run. It was a horrific moment for me as both my legs seized up....I had wanted to end the race right then and there. If it weren't for some encouraging words from a fellow racer, I might have done just that. That race was quite the experience for me. Yes, I finished and I was proud that I did under the circumstances, but I also learned that day that I had a lot to learn about endurance races.

This year, I'm extremely proud to report that I came in at 6 hours and 25 minutes (under my goal of 6 hours and 30 minutes). AND I did it with a swim included as well as running the entire portion of the run (I did walk for about 20 -30 seconds at every aid station to down some water---all per plan).

The particulars:


Waddler and I woke up at 4 am and I downed two Ensures (a nutritional first for me) and water for breakfast. We drove to the race start, in basically the middle of nowhere, Illinois....lots and lots of corn and soybean fields and one very fine looking lake (Lake Mattoon). We set up in transition the best we could; it was so dark outside with very few lights (I guess it wasn't in the budget). A flashlight at that point would have been nice. This race was extremely low key; boy, did that seem to take the pressure off things. To Waddler and I, it just seemed like another routine training day all except for the timing chip around our ankles.

As I was still finishing up in transition, the announcer exclaims we have 5 minutes to race start. Whoa, I was still struggling with my wet suit. Luckily the men went off 3 minutes before the ladies and I had a few extra minutes to acclimate myself to the water. The course was a .6 mi loop in which we were to swim twice. Waddler and I wished each other good luck and off we went. I seeded myself in the middle of the pack and just kept a nice easy pace through the entire swim. At one point on the first loop, I had caught up to some male swimmers who were 5 abreast; it was as if they were holding a defensive line so as to not let any females through. I tried to swim around the group but didn't see the last guy on the end. As I was attempting to pass, I must have elbowed the guy to my left. The next thing you know, I feel someone deliberately pushing my back down into the water. What the heck? I come up for air and I yell "HEY!".....The guy replies back..."You hit me in the f*#king eye!" I just turned around and kept swimming but I was mad. This is a race and although I'm sorry I hit the guy in the eye... I didn't know I did it and furthermore, I didn't deliberately do it either. "Dude, it's a race and you should expect that in the water. Don't try to drown me because you're a slow swimmer".
Time: 44:40 min

I took my time...wasn't much in "racing"mode, and I didn't want to forget anything. One good thing was that my mind was much more focused than my last race --the OLY(can you say "scatterbrained"). Time: 5:14 min

Quite honestly, the bike was uneventful which was probably a good thing. What I did right... I drank my water, Infinit and ate a package of shot blocks. I fueled my body for the run. It wasn't an earth shattering time but I got it done. The course was flat with one small section that was crushed stone. I had trouble going over it and noticed my mph dropped to 11.5 mph. D'oh. Time: 3:13:52 (avg speed 17.3 mph)

A little long but I didn't care. Time: 3:05 min


I started the run a little fast. My first mile split was around 9:30 min/mile. The legs coming off the bike were going too fast for my plan...I should have been doing a 12 min mile. Oops. If I had one complaint about the entire race, it was regarding the run course. The road out and back was crowned, broken up and just all in all in terrible shape. It was awful, crappy, whatever word you want to use. Yuch! Anyway, my ultimate goal for the run was to actually run the whole course. Sounds simple, but yet for me this is big. Anyone following my blog, will know that I've been struggling due to an iron deficiency. The Olympic distance in June proved to be hard for me and I seriously doubted my ability to run long distances thereafter. However since then, my endurance has significantly improved with the help of iron supplementation. I am in no longer in the red zone and my iron is back to normal levels.

Translation: I could run; I didn't experience the off-the charts heart rate, chest pains, or any struggles with my breathing. I ran the entire thing. Again no earth shattering times, but I am ecstatic about my improvement.

Time: 2:18:55 (avg pace 10.36min/mile)

During the race, it started to rain at about mile 6 for me. It was a steady rain but not horrible. I saw Waddler several times on the course and we high-fived each other, it was great to see her. At mile 10, my left foot was going numb from the freakin' crown in the road. I tried my best to find the flat sections of the road, where there was a road. I could tell other people were trying to do the same thing. Ughhhh.

At mile 12, I was thinking, "I can do this, I'm going to run the whole thing!" On the home stretch, I saw Ed waiting for me (he came to see me at the finish line). I was grinning from one ear to the other and exclaimed to him that I had just ran the entire run. Running through the finishing chute couldn't have been more perfect, "We Are the Champions" was playing over the sound system, my time on the clock was showing a sub 6 and 1/2 hour time, and Ed was waiting for me with open arms. Last year, I cried because I was in pain; this year I cried because I was so elated.

Overall Time: 6 hours 25 minutes 47 sec
Happy Dance, Happy Dance!

Figure in the additional time it would have taken for the swim last year if it was included, I would have done Steelhead in about 7 hours and 15 minutes. That's a 45-50 minute PR!

did great as well, she met all her goals! Great job!



I'm sooo glad you had a good day. I know how good that feels. You will have so much more confidence now as you finish your iron training, and going to the race. Good for you, and keep up the good work. You are always in my thoughts and prayers!

beadmobile said...

Hi, I did this race too & was just found your blog. Wow - very interesting about the swim - last year I think I accidentally hit someone, but no one came after me - that's just not right. Great job on your race & training. I finished, but I am very slow & feel like I have a lot of work to do if I want to try this again. Thanks for the race report :-) Amy

ShirleyPerly said...

Congrats on a great performance, Rhonda!!

Glad you were able to do all 3 events at this race and finish the run in much better condition this time. I've had some anemia problems in the past and now take iron supplements regularly. What a difference they have made.

Onward and upward to B2B!!