For the swim we were heading straight out into the lake and taking a left hand turn at the first buoy. Then, we swam parallel to the beach until reaching the final buoy and turning left toward shore. As we lined up, I started in the second row and to the far right. By the time we abandoned running for swimming it seemed that most of the red caps were pulling away from me. I noticed the lead swimmers hitting the first buoy when it still seemed far ahead. Dang! Then, arose a burning in my stomach. Maybe we could call it nausea. The sensation radiated from my stomach out towards my limbs and relocated a strong sensation of warmth on my forehead. Uh no! I thought. I am .1 mile into this race and I already feel like puking. Maybe it was the banana I ate about 1 hour before the start of the race? And why so soon? I'm doomed. I'll be responsible for the recycled breakfast floating on the swim course....uh boy.
Luckily, the nausea was short lived. Maybe it was just my nerves giving me one final bit of trouble before I settled in to "my race." This swimming thing is still pretty new to me after all. Either way, by the time I reached the first buoy I was feeling like a slow swimmer, but not sick. I let it go that I thought nearly everyone was ahead of me and focused on long, easy strokes and body positioning....exactly what I've been focusing on all summer in the water. I felt someone swimming up on my feet, but it was more pestering than bothersome. As I took my breathe's towards shore I would look directly into the sunrise. The lake was perfectly calm and I felt relaxed and tried to site as little as possible. My zig-zagging seemed minimal. The lake was murky, and as I rotated my head with each stroke I would see grayish murky water, then bright sunlight behind sandy beach. Murky water. Bright sun. Murky water. Bright sun. Look ahead....buoys and swimmers.
Murky water. Bright sun.
Throughout the swim, as the sun continued to rise and the light shining in my eyes with each breath continued to get gradually and steadily brighter. Then, head back down into the murky abyss. Repeat. Repeat.
It is meditative.
Halfway through the swim, I began to consider checking my watch. I was wondering how far along I was. I refrained, convincing myself I'd be on the shore soon enough. Swimming within arms length of a buoy I had to laugh as I noticed the giant shark like grimace that was looking directly at me. The buoy's were giant inflatable shark heads!! Better than the real thing, I suppose. I wondered if there was any way for a shark to "sneak" into lake Erie. Before I knew it I was reaching the last buoy. As I'd site, I could see folks heading towards shore. Yeah, that's everyone that smoked me in this swim, I thought. My next thought was that the swim was an incredibly fast 40 minutes. It seemed like 15. I kept swimming towards shore until my hands began to drag on the bottom of the lake. And I stood....and stumbled. I felt like I had drank a fifth of whiskey. If my swimming wasn't too zig-zagged my run into T1 definitely was. My stomach began to feel testy again as I imagined falling over with my sea legs, or puking in front of the scores of friends and family members that gathered at the swim exit to cheer on their triathletes. Then, I looked at my watch and saw it ticking at 31 minutes and change. Whoa!!! Maybe my swim wasn't so slow. I stumbled out of the water, up the beach, and towards T1 and Amaterasu.
1 mile Swim time: 31:38
I arrived into T1 feeling punch drunk, confused, and surprised at my time. Wobbly legs, nauseated stomach, slow cognitive function. I sat down next to my green towel to take off my wetsuit and remembered that I was racing in a half-ironman and I just had the fastest swim of my life and I smiled....until I had began to struggle to get the wetsuit over my ankles. Come off, damn it...this is a freakin' race!! (one which I had absolutely no chance of winning, but a race, nonetheless). After the wetsuit came off I reached for my socks and cycling shoes and realized that my ankle bracelet with my timing chip was gone.
I thought it must be in the legs of my wetsuit and checked there. No timing chip. I put my arm all the way up both legs of the wetsuit....twice, at least; and besides some grains of sand there was nothing in there. I sat idle for a moment. This sucks, my race is over. I looked to Rob, whose bike was racked next to mine and told him the bad news. "My timing chip is gone!!" I could tell he felt for me, but that he was more concerned about getting on his bike and moving along; and understandably so. "My chip is in the feakin' lake!! Now what??" Do the race without an "official" time. Finish the race to be an "unofficial finisher." Is there really such a title, and if there is do I really want it?
I sat in a dripping wet heap next to my bike and thought about this for a minute. I was looking around on the ground for the timing chip that I knew was floating in Lake Erie. I had begun to accept that my first half iron would land me finishing the swim...and then....DNF!! I'd have preferred to puke in front of the spectators than DNF.
Then, on my black racing suit, directly in my lap, I see the black timing chip and strap. I grabbed it, somewhat unbelieving (how would it land in my lap??), held it up in the sunlight, admired it for it's beauty, then put it back on my ankle and proceeded to put on my cycling shoes....elated. I'll finish this freakin' race after all. It's time to hop on my bike, where I feel at home, and peddle my way towards the finish line.
T1 time: 3:45
Not bad considering I sat there for what seemed like 5 minutes wondering how easy it would be to find a little black strap in one of the Great Lakes.
I hopped on the bike and began drinking water out of my bottle. Heading out of Headlands beach the steady headwinds and false flat had me riding at around 17mph. I wondered if I was going so slow because I was drained from the swim. I told myself not to worry about it and decided I would stay in the little chainring for the next few miles, like I planned, until I recovered from the swim.
I began getting passed on the bike immediately. As difficult as it was, I knew this was just the beginning to a long day, so I watched all of them go. After about 15 or 20 minutes I switched to the big ring and began passing a couple of folks myself (although not nearly as many as passed me).
Just stay steady. Ride within myself. No burning on the climbs. Eat and drink. That was the plan for the bike. I had finished my bottle of water by the time I reached the first aid station and I grabbed another. Heading through the back of the course, with the ascents, I was feeling good. Just before the cresting the final ascent and cruising the 12 or so miles downhill towards the lake, I saw E-Speed, who was so energetic and uplifting.
Throughout the bike my stomach never calmed down to the point where solid food sounded good. I ate half of my energy bar about 45 minutes in, had to force it down, and decided I'd stick with gel every half hour or so for the rest of the day. That combined with water and sports drink, which I planned to take approximately equal parts of. I have begun putting my gels in a flask and watering it down a bit to help with digestion, and swallowing the stuff. It was working well.
After the first loop of the bike course I felt quite good. This only lasted until I started the climb on the back of the 2nd loop. There was a short steep, steep, steep section that began our ascending and despite shifting to my granny gear and standing out of the saddle I generated a nice burn. Damn!! Not part of the plan. I tried to spin easy through the rest of the ascending. When I came back to E-Speed I knew the toughest part of the bike course was behind me (or so I thought) and she snapped the pic below (thanks!!).
After the ascending was over for the day I began to feel a burning in my nether regions. Uh oh, chafe city. This may have been brought on by the fact that I squirted off my lap and right leg with about half of a bottle of water...it took me probably 2 or 3 tries to actually need the fresh water on my leg. My right shoe was....wet. That's all I'm going to say about that experience.
If that wasn't enough my back started to bother me. Over one bump I felt it spasm, which at least distracted me from the saddle sores that were developing. Over the final 20 or so miles of the bike I couldn't wait to get off. I was uncomfortable from my "sit bones" on up to my neck. As I peddled the last few miles of the course, 2 loops of a TT like false flat section, I would not have imagined I would be excited to get off the bike and head out on the run, but I was. I was ready to take on what I knew would be the biggest challenge of the day, my first half marathon.
56 Mile Bike Time: 2:56:29
Avg. Pace: 18.8 MPH
While on the bike, I ate and drank:
1 half Raw Revolution bar
4 watered down Vanilla bean GU's
1 full strength Vanilla bean GU
approx. 60 oz.'s water
24 oz.'s Razzberry GU20
approx. 30 oz.'s Gatorade Endurance Formula
It seemed to work and I realized that solid food and racing don't go together very well for me.
Headed into T2, hopped off the bike, and decided to take my good ole' time here. I grabbed my fuelbelt, racebelt, visor, and changed shoes. I stopped to talk to Treetop and Julia for a few seconds on my way out to the run. They volunteered earlier in the day and were out on the lake during the swim in kayaks keeping everyone safe. After that, they took over duties as my support crew. Thanks you guys!! You're awesome!! I would have loved to talk with them for a bit longer...maybe tell them about the swim and bike over a beer....
But I had a half marathon to run.....
T2 time: 1:42