But, to back up a bit, I'll start with the early morning wake-up call. We were staying at Michael's brother's place which is a mere 2 miles or so from the Reservoir, so it made for an easy drive to parking and the transition zone. I could not believe how calm I felt yesterday morning, and it totally surprised me that I did not forget anything major (just chapstick which I did regret). By 6:20 I had racked my bike and set up my transition area (messy as usual), and then headed to the bathroom where I took care of business. Then, Michael and I headed to the swim start area - time to get going!
The swim was wetsuit legal, thank goodness! After some waiting around, I suited up and we waited around some more. We did watch the first two waves go out - Pro Men followed by Pro Women. The Pro Men start was pretty stupid - about half of the group headed to the right of the buoys, and some of them did not correct. I'm not sure what happened, but when my wave got into the water, they announced to be careful to go around the buoys on the LEFT (duh) or be DQ-ed. I lined up around 7:10 and got ready to go!
The swim ended up being my worst leg in terms of anticipated performance, but I'm happy overall with it. My sighting could have been better, but my breathing was great and I felt relaxed throughout MOST of it. Some parts did seem a bit mercenary, especially some woman pulled at me pretty hard. I'm used to the touching and bumping, but PULLING at me? I was completely unsportsmanlike and kicked at the person - and then suffered a momentary muscle cramp. Total karma, but I didn't care. In other ways, the swim was beautiful - I could see the Flatirons which made for an awesome view, even while swimming!
Exiting the swim, I saw Michael which was awesome - there were tons of people, so I wasn't sure if I would see him. Then, time to get on the bike! My transition time took forever, probably because I lathered up with sunscreen. One of my other goals (I had many minor goals) was to not get sunburned, so I wanted more sunscreen post-swim. Taking off on the bike, I felt pretty good and waved good-bye to Michael (really, I did wave)!
And then I was off! The bike leg went really well - I'm not super speedy by any means, but I did keep a pace that I was comfortable and very happy with. While I think that I could have pushed it, I did not want to trash myself for the run. Plus, I wanted to enjoy the experience, and on the whole, I did - the course, as I knew, offered great views of rolling hills, the "hogbacks" in northern Boulder, and farmland. Even the boring part - along Diagonal Highway - was pretty scenic, and it was fun to pass a kennel and hear all the dogs barking! The first loop felt like it passed in no time, and I kept a good pace (for me) for the second loop too, but my butt was DONE with the saddle by Mile 30, I would say. Still, I kept pushing on and finally I turned into the Reservoir and knew that it was time to run!
I did feel good coming off the bike, and started the run at a good clip. My first thought when I started the run was "Hey, maybe I can run the entire 13.1 course and not walk at all!". I quickly banished that thought, reminding myself that I wanted to feel good at the finish line. So, I did not push myself to whatever limit possible, a decision that I do not regret. Even walking uphill and through the aid stations, I kept a good pace, especially for the first lap which I completed in about an hour. I saw Michael as I started the second lap and gave him a wave and a smile.
As soon as I started the second lap, I knew that it was going to be a tough push, but I also knew that I'd make it, one way or another. I wished, for a moment, that I had put in one more longer training run, but ultimately, I'm not sure that it would have helped me THAT much more. In addition to deciding to walk up the hills, the other great decision I made was to buy a smaller, hand-held water carrier. Between aid stations, I either had water to drink or to spray on my head, and I think that it kept me going. Also, I read about the ice-down-the-shirt-trick, and this also proved to be a go-to trick during that second lap - it seemed to cool me down and helped me move along. By the time I hit Mile 10, I knew that I would be able to run in the final few miles, which were still very exposed (no shade for the entire run course!) but were relatively flat.
The final mile was great - yes, I was exhausted, my feet hurt thanks to the rocky run, but I looked out on the Reservoir and the mountains and felt so emotional that I started to cry a bit. I then told myself "Hey, you're going to be smiling at the finish, so no tears, not even tears of joy!". I gave it a bit of a push at the end, passing someone in my age group in that last mile (yay!), and savoring the moment when they announced my name crossing the finish line. Huge smile as they put the medal around my neck and gave me a cap, and feelings of joy and immense relief.
As I said, it could not have been a more perfect race for me. I met my goal pace, more or less right between 6:00-6:30, and while I could have improved my time tweaking this or that, I am damn happy with the time. As far as the different legs are concerned, my swim time was a bit slower than expected, but the bike and run were right on target, more or less. Finally, I felt great at the end - yes, I was tired, but happy and still feeling good physically, and I did not suffer a sunburn!
I must say that Michael was/is a trooper - while this was definitely "my race experience", he has had to put up with me for the past six months or so, and it lifted my spirits when I saw him out there yesterday. I didn't train with a team or a coach, but I do feel that I couldn't have gotten to this point without his encouragement and, often times, his company on rides or at events. He probably suffered more than I, as he waited around for me and got sunburned feet!
In terms of Boulder 70.3, the event itself - I loved the experience, but I know that there were several factors that accounted for such a positive reaction. First and foremost, the weather cooperated. Yes, it ended up being somewhat hot, but it wasn't miserable while I was out on the course, and I know that the run could have gone south if it had warmed up earlier in the day. It also helped that I knew the course quite well, especially the bike portion, so it seemed familiar. While this took away from the newness of the experience, it gave me a sense of familiarity that probably bolstered my confidence. Also, I felt pretty good throughout the race. While I did tire on the swim and the bike and my feet hurt on the run, I never thought that I couldn't make it and I knew that my suffering was minimal compared to that of other people that I saw on the course. My training was certainly not flawless, but it was good enough for my goals, and I trusted the work that I had put into the race. Also, I stayed on top of my nutrition - although I got so tired of drinking fluids and eating "performance" food on the run that pretzels and soda came as a welcome change! Finally, the event was very well-organized, which it should have been (with the amount of money for an Ironman-sponsored event...), but it definitely helped to have so many aid stations, especially on the run, and such great crowd support throughout the race. There are obviously some very serious athletes here in Boulder (professional and even "amateur"), and I was afraid that I would feel completely intimidated, especially on the bike, but everyone was great, and I had a fantastic experience!
I am looking forward to shifting my focus over the next few weeks/months, but I'm so glad that I signed up for this back in November and that I was able to focus, train, and enjoy the experience. I thrive on goals and deadlines, and to have such a BIG personal goal was daunting at times, but, ultimately, fulfilling in so many ways. Three summers ago, I was gearing up for ACL surgery, so to go from that to this, I can't be happier!
And, yeah, it is kind of a big deal for me to say that I've completed a Half-Ironman!