In January, around the first of the new year, I sat down with my calendar and started planning out my races for 2016. My first goal was to run a marathon in order to qualify for the Boston marathon in 2017 and my second goal was to complete a half ironman distance triathlon. I spent quite a bit of time searching for local races and trying to plan out my race calendar to accommodate my goals. It made sense to do a spring marathon to qualify for Boston and a late summer/early fall half ironman. I chose the Steamboat Marathon in June and the Harvest Moon Long Course Triathlon in September. In June I achieved my goal of qualifying for Boston (while winning the race). On September 18th I also completed my goal of completing my first half ironman distance race, but it was not easy.
I knew it was going to be a hot race because I followed the weather forecast during the days leading up to the race. I was happy that it was not going to be cold or rainy. Race morning it started out a little breezy. When my swim wave was about to start there was a gust of wind out of nowhere. The wind did not stop there. The swim started off like any other race, but when we reached the middle of the lake it was choppy with white caps and occasional large and unpredictable waves. I struggled to find the buoys and got off track a few times. After sucking in a few gulps of water I was only able to take breaths on one side, which threw me off of my usual bilateral breathing and made it even more difficult to stick to a straight line. I never once felt like I was going to drown and never panicked, which I owe to the horsetooth triathlon training open water swims this summer. When I finally got the home stretch I really started to feel good. I just wanted that damn swim to be over so I swam as hard as I could for the last 400 meters to the finish.
I was the most worried about the bike portion of the race. I had to change a tire the day before the race due to having a staple (or something similarly sharp) stuck in my tire. I changed the tire, but was unable to take the bike for a test ride. So I pumped the tired full of air and made sure I had everything I needed in case I got a flat on the course. I got on the bike and felt relief to be done with the swim. After heading out of the reservoir and onto highway 36 I started to really notice the wind. I decided I would not let it bug me because I was not the only one out there having to deal with it. It got so bad a few times I had to get out of the aero position because I thought it might blow me off the road. I finished the first lap in good time, but was worried about my run. I have traditionally always felt great during the run in olympic races, but this was over twice the distance on the bike. I decided to take the second half a little easier and save my legs for the run.
By the time I made it back to transition it was getting hot. The wind was still blowing, but it was not a cool wind. It was a warm, blustery wind. I got my running shoes on and some nutrition and headed out for the run. My legs felt a little heavy, but they always do when I first get off the bike. After about a half mile I started to get in the groove. I made sure to stop at the aid stations for water or gatorade. I was passing people, lots of people. My pace was good, not too fast. I made it through the first lap feeling good and glad that I only had one lap to go. I felt good until about mile 9 and then my legs started to feel heavy again. I drank half a coke, a handful of pretzels, and 2 large glasses of water. Maybe I just needed some instant sugar and fluids. That helped for another couple of miles, but the heat finally got to me. By mile 11 I was hurting. I kept thinking to myself “just put one foot in front of the other.” After mile 11 my pace significantly slowed, but I finished. I was so relieved to make it to the finish line. I did it! I completed the half ironman triathlon. The weather was not perfect, but I did not have any major technical difficulties or medical emergencies.
I ended up finishing 19th overall female and 3rd for my age group. For my first race of that distance I am happy. I know with a hectic summer schedule of vacations, weddings, and professional conferences that it was difficult to get all of the quality training sessions that I would have liked. I set up a plan and I knew I would have a few breaks in the training, but I did the best I could.
Before this race I was contemplating doing an ironman triathlon. In fact, I was thinking of doing the Boulder Ironman next June. It would be tough just two months after the Boston marathon, but I was thinking it might be a good challenge. After this race I am having second thoughts. I feel that it would be too much to put on my plate to train for both Boston and an ironman. I also can’t contemplate doing a triathlon of double the distance. I am sure I could do it, but I am not sure I want to. I feel that I would need to designate almost an entire season just to training and preparing for an ironman. So I have decided to focus on the Boston marathon and maybe another half ironman, but I may also try my hand at an ultra marathon. For now I will relax, focus on strength and conditioning, and start building my Boston marathon training plan.