Every year I try to put a marathon and a 1/2 ironman tri on my calendar...both of those seem to keep me pretty motivated to train hard throughout the year. Last year was the first time I attempted a 1/2 ironman, and so I thought I would make it two years in a row by signing up for the Toughman Half (full disclosure...I convinced my company to sponsor the race so I could get in for free...err, to market ourselves to this high household income, growing sport).
For the three weeks leading up to the race, I had been feeling pretty crappy, worn down, tired all of the time and not particularly motivated. I went to the doctor just to make sure I didn't have mono and when she said I didn't, I decided to suck it up and do the race. I had convinced Doug to do it with me as well, it would be his first 1/2 ironman. Luckily for him, he had to go to Russia at the last minute to meet with their government (my little James Bond:), so he got out of it. It's not like we would have seen each other at all during the race, but it's nice to have someone to drive to the race with, hang out with on the beach and then drive home with afterward. Someone that you can talk about the crazy things you saw, or how big that hill was, etc. I did make a couple of "friends" at swim start, but it's not quite the same.
Here's a recap if you're at all interested...if not, STOP here because it's fairly long.
My alarm went off at 3:30, but honestly I'd been watching it since 3am because I was nervous about missing it. I rushed around, stuffed down some food, took the dogs out, loaded my stuff in the car and took off by 4:20. After a few missed turns, lots of panic about missing the race because of missed turns, I finally found my way.
Point of no return
Setting up in transition
The race started at 7am, I was in the 4th wave, so I went off around 7:20. The swim is 1.2 miles and luckily, we had a great morning, no waves, overcast skies and low temps. We had a brilliant sunrise that was probably an omen for things to come later in the day (Mama always says - "red sky in the morning, sailors take warning). Unfortunately, the water was so shallow at the start, that you couldn't start swimming until about 300 yards in, so it made for a Baywatch-esque running start, so by the time I started swimming I was breathing pretty heavily. Other than that, the water was nice and calm, which made for a great, non-dramatic swim. The nice thing about this race is once you get out of the water, you just lay down on the ground and there are volunteers to strip your wetsuit off of you (I knew this ahead of time, so I made sure to tie my shorts nice and tight, unlike some of the mooners getting stripped next to me).
Since the bike is 56 miles, I decided to throw on a pair of real, padded bike shorts over my tri shorts, to make my ride as comfy as possible. The course took us through beautiful horse farms, mansions by where the Clinton's live and bridges over troubled waters...it really was quite scenic and I tried to take it all in, but I was in a world of hurt. Apparently the race is named aptly...Toughman. It seemed like I was going up hill the whole time and my legs were on fire! I had a really hard time focusing on anything other than my current discomfort, so I tried to find songs to sing, mantras to say and finally settled on repeating the pledge of allegiance a few times because I couldn't remember the full preamble. Ughh, it was never ending! I was also trying to eat as much as I could because I knew I would need the fuel on the run, but my stomach wasn't having it...maybe it was the two pair of shorts pushing in on my stomach while I was bending over riding...either way, I barely sucked down a couple of GU's and figured I would try to eat on the run. At mile 50, some guy rode up by me and said, "let's go, only 6 more miles!" at which point I responded with "ughhh, I'm soooooo over this!" When we finally got to transition for the run, I was getting really excited just to be in an upright stance for the first time in a few hours.
The run was 13.1 miles and was awesome...I mean, I was hurting a fair amount, but the course was beautiful and about half of it was on wood-chipped trails, so my legs were quite thankful. Like the bike, the course was super hilly, with the biggest hill at mile 10...it's called - wait for it - The Toughman. Yeah, I grunted, swore and sludged my way up that stupid thing, knowing that on the other side was less than 5K! Once over the big hill, I picked up the pace and finished the race pretty strong. The last 200 yards were pretty painful. I was dealing with some pretty back stomach cramps the last mile, probably due to lack of fuel, and I'm not sure I could have run 200 more yards than I had to.
I crossed the line in 5:26...12 min. faster than my 1/2 iron last year!! I was really thrilled with my time, but completely spent. It's hard to explain a feeling like that, except for overall discomfort. It hurt to sit, it hurt to stand, it hurt to lay down, stretch, eat, drink - everything.
Trying to get comfortable
I gathered all of my stuff out of transition and was heading to the car when I saw the race director posting results, so I wandered over to see how I did. To my utter surprise, I saw that I won my age group! I'll admit, I started feeling a little better and realized that I was in that much pain because I really pushed myself and had a good reason to be dead. So, I hung around for the awards ceremony and then took off.
The loot for winning my age group! (The elite woman who won, got $1500...too bad she beat me by an hour)
It started pouring when I got in the car ride, so we totally lucked out on that front! Worse than doing anything for almost 6 hours is doing something for 6 hours in the rain. The whole car ride home was spent salivating over post-race food (and talking to you LPF). I wanted everything...burrito, french fries, pizza, milk shake, DIET COKE. The pizza and diet coke won out!
After dinner, I walked the dogs and was in bed by 8:07pm!! Now I can officially say I'm a TOUGHWOMAN!