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Pacific Crest Half-Ironman Race Report

Borrowing from Eryn’s format for her half-ironman, I have a short entry and a long entry.

The short entry is:
I finished up at 5:55:43, beating last year’s time by a fantastic 22 minutes. I took third in my age group, and got a pint glass for my efforts. This race was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Afterwards, I felt like I had just climbed Kilimanjaro again.

The long entry is:

I headed out to Bend and Sunriver on Friday afternoon with Charlie and our mothers. I got to sleep around 10:30ish and, per night-before-race usual, tossed and turned most of the evening. The front desk incorrectly called to wake us up at 5, instead of 5:45. On the road by 6:30. Charlie, Allison (my former roommate and rock-star triathlete who kicked butt even though she was sick) and I had three numbers right in a row, so we were set up on the rack together, along with another Ironhead, Kaytee.

Swim Time: 42:43
Swim Rank: 446
My swim start was slightly frenzied. I picked a bad spot and spent the first 15 minutes getting kicked. The water temperature was 63 degrees – two up from last year, but the outside air was considerably warmer and I was never cold.

I did considerably better with my sighting (it helped that, unlike last year, the buoys were a different color than my wave’s swim caps). However, I realized – yet again – that I’m no good at pushing myself in the swim. My heart rate was probably around 130 (aka, really low) and I could have definitely gone harder if I had actually thought about it.

T1: 3:01
The run up from the swim is difficult – a long transition area. Our bike rack was on a lot of dirt and wood chips, so I was covered in black, sharp things when I got on the bike. Luckily, I had few problems with them poking me during the bike. Non-essential additions were my socks and sunglasses, plus two bars and a gel.

Bike Time: 3:04:03
Bike Rank: 259
Nutrition: 1 bottle with 2 scoops of perpetum, 1 bottle with 1 scoop of HEED, 2 plastic aid-station bottles of water, 1 half-bottle of aid-station gatorade, 1 lara cookie bar, 2 endurolytes

The bike. My favorite part of a triathlon. The one sport of the three that I’m actually decent, and can entertain notions of actually staying away on the run, and enjoy passing the hundreds of people that can swim faster than 100 m in two minutes (and believe me, there’s a lot of them).

However, at this race I discovered that the bike is NOT always my friend, and, indeed, there is such a thing as ‘looking forward to the run’.

My first hour on the bike is best described as ‘uncomfortable’. I had some not nice leg cramps, didn’t enjoy being wet and was very frustrated at my speed. I had no speedometer, and so looked to the aid station for a ‘benchmark’. Supposedly, it was at 17 miles. However, I didn’t reach it until 1:10 into the bike, causing the panicked thought of ‘I’m averaging 15 mph. This leg is going to take me 4 hours.’

At aid station one, I sat up to grab a bottle. It’s always a frightening moment, grabbing a bottle from someone, even if you’re going 3 miles an hour. I was able to get three successful handoffs at the aid stations, a small blessing.

So, I grab the bottle, throw it in the cage and lean over to get back into aero position and….my hamstrings wouldn’t go. I couldn’t do it. It was like trying to force yourself into a yoga position and your muscles just won’t relax. I wanted to cry. I tried everything. Standing, stretching, you name it. They wouldn’t let go. The only thing for me to do was ride upright, and then lean over to adjust.

Ten minutes after the aid station, I saw Allison, who had turned around at the aid station after accidentally throwing out her full, nutrition-laced water bottle. She told me that the station was actually around mile 24, a definite consolation. We rode together for about 15 minutes, while she talked me through some of the pain. I was drinking enough, I ate endurolytes, I just didn’t know what was wrong.

The next 13 miles were some of the hardest I’ve ever had on the bike. To paint the best picture I can – imagine that you’re on a bike. It’s hot, with no shade, and you’re at altitude (4,000 feet to 6,000 feet). You’re in your smallest gear and although you have the power and strength, you can’t get into a position that lets you use it. You know you could go harder, if you could find that power. If you’re wearing a heart rate monitor, it’s at around 140. When it spikes up to 175, you’re standing, barely moving, on a climb you had expected to stay seated, in your lower bars. You are passed by 100+ people like you’re standing still, including the people you flew by earlier. This whole time your hamstrings are screaming at you and you’re wondering, what am I doing here?

That, my friends, is what it was like for the next hour. 13 miles. In one hour. Suffice to say, when I got to the top, I hated triathlons.

The next twenty miles were considerably nicer – namely, because 14 miles of them are downhill. I was able to sit in the aero bars without putting pressure on my hamstrings and coast for at least 8 of them. I was never so happy to see the end of a ride.

Place after swim/bike: 271
T2: 3:17
I changed socks at the transition and got rid of the wood chips that I had been carrying around. Threw on a number belt and visor and took off.

Run Time: 2:02:38
Run Rank: 206
Nutrition: 2 gels (mile 1 and mile 6), half-can of red bull (mile 9), 2 endurolytes, 5 cups of water, 1 cup of gatorade
I still managed a lower-than-expected time for my bike, thanks, I’m sure, to Kurt’s wonderful Felt. My goal for the triathlon had been to beat 6 hours. As I got on the run, I guesstimated that if I ran 2 hours, I’d be able to make it. I wasn’t positive, since I didn’t have my watch on during the swim, but I was hoping to salvage the day.

The run was…a run. My timing chip rubbed terribly on my ankle, and I had to throw vaseline on the chafing arms of my uniform. It didn’t really help, as I now have an assortment of sores. Eventually I gave up stopping and trying to fix the articles of clothing and did my best to focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

Concerned about dehydration (and needing a break), I walked through the first 5 aid stations to grab water. I lessened it to every-other-one after that, as I realized I might actually make my two hour limit. Somewhere around mile 7, a deer hung out 50 feet away and then went crashing off across the path.

The last two miles were agony. I gave it everything I had and tried to remind myself that it would all be over soon. I knew I was close to two hours, and hoped I had made my 6 hour goal. I heard my mom at the finish, saw Charlie in the athletic tent, and promptly collapsed into a chair.

Post Race
I was more or less miserable for two hours after finishing the race. Charlie had a good swim and a fantastic (9th fastest) bike. However, he was in a lot of pain on the run and vowed to do more run training before his next tri. We both ended up an assortment of sunburns, especially Charlie’s shoulders/back, making sleep on Saturday night elusive. We skipped awards – I was very surprised to learn of my third place finish. I was third by a long shot – second place finished 30 minutes in front of me, and fourth place finished 30 minutes behind me. I better enjoy being in this age group, because I’ll never win another award again once I move up into the intensely more competitive categories.

When picking up the bikes from the transition area, I noticed that the seat had an unusual angle. Upon further inspection, I realized that it had loosened, and, probably when I sat up to grab my water bottle at aid station one, titled upwards. As a result, I had ridden the finishing 30 miles with my seat angled upwards, pushing me away from the pedals, hence the reason my hamstrings would not give and I could not power them back down into aero position. It was a relief to have some reason for the pain – although next time I’ll make sure those screws are tightened!

I’m not sure when my next race will be – I’ll probably take on another olympic-distance race and possibly do more bike training. I’m not sold on the idea of another half-ironman, but ask me again in a few weeks and we’ll see if I’ve forgotten how much pain I was in (and don’t let me see this entry!)

Here are the numbers:
Overall: 224/651
Time: 5:55:43
Age Group Rank: 3/7

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-3 responses to “Pacific Crest Half-Ironman Race Report”

  1. Jeff says:

    That’s a fantastic time, especially going over the shoulder of Bachelor. You’re obviouly really good because that run is very hard at that altitude and in heat.

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