Monday, May 14, 2012

Kinetic Half Recap

It's long, it's strong, it's down to get the friction on. If I waited until I was less tired to write it this bad boy would never see the light of day.

Holy crap, I did it. 70.3 miles in 6 hours, 28 minutes, and 59 seconds.

Triathlons require a LOT of work. Friday night, we arrived at our rented house, and the three of us hopeful triathletes got to work packing bags, studying course maps, making lists, and diagramming how our transitions would look. 

We spent a lot of time like this.
We went to bed late, but I actually slept great and hopped out of bed at 4:15 Saturday morning to get ready.

We arrived at the race around 6am, an hour before the start, and stood in the packet pickup line forever. The temperature was in the 40s, my feet were paper white, they looked like they belonged on a corpse, and I couldn't feel my toes. At that point, jumping into a lake sounded less appealing than dental work without Novocaine.  

After packet pickup, I needed to get my tires pumped and pick up my timing chip. Thank God I had Eric because trying to navigate the race site with my bike and the two giant bags of crap that I would need would have been a pain in the ass.

Finally, we made it to transition. My intention was to follow my diagram and make it all organized but it still looked like a hot mess of random crap thrown underneath a bike.

Once all my stuff was under the bike, it was time to suit up!

Putting a wetsuit on isn't exactly an easy little task. It takes a lot of time and requires a lot of lube.

Next up - body marking!

It was finally time to walk down to the beach. This was where my heart started really pounding.

Can you find me?

We were swimming 1.2 miles and it was set up like swimming along three sides of a rectangle. There were orange buoys along each straightaway to sight (when you look up to see if you are going the right way or if you are going out to sea to die), and a big yellow triangle to signal where to turn. Jackie and Lily claimed they could see the first yellow triangle way off in the distance, but I saw no such thing. 1.2 miles was looking like a long way.

We got in the water to test it out - it was a good 20 degrees warmer than the air temperature. It felt like getting in a bath. My feet regained feeling.

I just kept repeating "it's really happening" because I really couldn't believe what we were about to do.

This is one sexy look.
The waves were only three minutes apart, so even though we were last, the crowd thinned quickly and we were up before we knew it! My plan was to let everyone go and start at the very back. Based on my Irongirl experience, losing a minute that way would be well worth the time I'd gain by not freaking out and panicking in a crowd.

Time to go!

And we're off! I have no idea which one I am.
My goal for the swim was to remain calm, and I totally did. As our wave walked out after our start, I waited until just about everyone had begun swimming before I started. Letting them all get ahead was the best plan ever - I think I may have slightly bumped another swimmer maybe twice. I was totally on my own. 

As always, the beginning felt terrible, but once I was warmed up and got into a rhythm I started to feel pretty good. The water was extremely calm, I could see my arms as they passed under my face, and I was warm without being hot. 

The downside was my sighting completely sucks and I think I did so much weaving that I swam more like 1.5 miles. I was sighting about every 3 or 4 breaths but I finally had to accept that it wasn't enough because I was looking up to find myself in the middle of the rectangle, and nowhere near the buoy. I focused on just getting from one buoy to another instead of thinking about the entire distance, but I still didn't see the yellow triangle and was getting discouraged on my way out. Suddenly, I passed a buoy and realized that the triangle was the next one, and it felt like winning the lottery. Once I turned, the swim seemed to go a lot faster.

On the way back to shore, we were swimming in to the sun, so I could barely see a thing, but I tried to head toward the giant yellow inflatable tube man at the swim finish. Once my hand hit sand, I stood up and ran.

I didn't think there would be wetsuit strippers, but there were! They stripped my arms in no time, then told me to sit down, and I slammed myself to the ground so fast I was afraid I'd broken my tailbone. They had the wetsuit off in seconds and saved me at least 5 minutes of transition time.

In T1 (transition 1) I saw Jackie. I was already feeling great because I'd done the hardest part of the race (swimming is scary) and seeing her really put me over the edge. She smoked me in the pool when we trained together so knowing that I swam "fast" enough to see her meant I'd done better than I expected. We said a quick goodbye and she took off on the bike.

Swim time: 48:22. 

The adrenaline in transition is insane. I got my gear ready for the bike, grabbed it off the rack, and ran toward the bike exit. 

T1 time: 4:12.

I was excited for the bike portion of the race. I really can't believe how much I love biking now.

When I started out, I did a double take when I saw my heart rate was 181 - I really thought the sun was in my eyes and it must say 81! But, no, the excitement from transition, plus sprinting up the first hill from the lake, running my bike up the second hill to the bike start, then riding up a huge ass hill for the first mile had skyrocketed my HR. 

It took a few minutes for it to even begin to come down. We did a tiny out and back portion (like, less than a mile) so I got to see Jackie right away and knew she wasn't too far ahead of me.

After that, I was riding entirely by myself for several miles. I didn't see even one other human, car, course marking, or anything, and I was starting to panic over whether or not I was on the race course or just out on some random country road by myself. Then I saw a hammer gel packet on the ground and knew it would all be ok.

Less than 5 miles in, I rode past the 50 mile marker and a huge spray chalk 50 mile sign. Some guy got all excited about how great that would be on the way back. Maybe so, but less than 5 miles in it was a bit of a tease.

I hadn't brought my phone, since I figured I wouldn't need it in a race, but seeing how empty the course was, I got a little freaked out. If anything went wrong, it could be a long time before I saw another athlete and they might not even be able to help me. I find triathlons a little nervewracking because there is so much that can go wrong. In a road race, you're basically guaranteed to finish unless your body completely rebels. I've never heard of anyone DNFing in a marathon because their shoes broke. In a triathlon, equipment can malfunction and end your race even if you feel great. My point here is, I was praying not to get a flat.

The bike course consisted of two loops on quiet country roads. There was really no place for spectators so it was mainly just me and nature. To break things up, I decided to keep an eye on my watch and eat a few bites of my granola bars every 30 minutes. I totally killed two birds with one stone - mentally chunking the time and making sure I ate enough. Nailed it.

In the first few miles, I started to have guys zoom by me on bikes that cost more than my car, and I didn't understand why they were in the back with the novice division people. It took me probably at least 5 super fast cyclists to figure out they were on their second loop. Duh.

Around mile 25 or so I caught up with Jackie and we got to chat for a little bit. I was really nervous because USAT officials were going around on motocycles and giving people four minute penalties for drafting, so if I accidentally got too close to talk to her I risked getting one. That's when I learned that a four minute penalty meant that they added four minutes to your official time. I had thought it meant you had to get off your bike and sit on the side of the road and spend four minutes thinking about what you did.

I took a quick bathroom break at mile 30, so quick that I was able to catch up to Jackie again in just a few minutes. We rode together for a few more miles and then around mile 35 I sped up a bit and we separated. 

I really enjoyed the bike course overall, it was pretty flat, with only two real hills, and even those weren't as bad as ones I'd done in training. I was tired at the end, of course, but I never felt overly exhausted or in an excessive amount of pain. 

Goals on the bike: 

1. Stay on top of eating and drinking - I was all over this. I even drank my entire bottle of Gatorade and didn't drop it once!
2. Keep my heart rate between 140-150 - major fail. It was usually closer to 160 when I looked down. Whenever I tried to get it down I felt like I was crawling, so finally I just gave up and went with it. 

During the last few miles on the bike I was starting to get really anxious about the run. I had no idea what my legs would feel like and I really wanted to get started and find out. Additionally, I've run 6 or 7 half marathons (depending on whether you count the one that was 12 miles) but I've never started one sometime around noon on an 80 degree day. I hate not knowing what to expect. 

Just when I was really starting to struggle mentally I passed the sign for the turn towards the finish and the 50 mile mark, and the rest of the ride flew by. 

We finished on a huge mile long downhill, which I thought was great. Until I was at the bottom and realized I'd have to turn right around and run up it. And then run up it two more times after that. FML.

It's weird to get to a finish line and then start another race.

Total bike time - 3:32:55. Average pace 15.8 mph, which is faster than most of my training rides.

T2 - 2:08. Switch helmet for a hat, bike shoes for running shoes, camelbak for water bottle, GO.

Transition is so freaking confusing. You enter and exit one way to set up, another way to bike, and yet another way to run. Of course I went the wrong way for my run. And of course Eric took a picture and tweeted it.

Utter confusion

Figured it out but somehow screwed up the Garmin in the process
The run was three 4-ish mile loops through the park. I'm a creature of habit who eats the same exact thing every day for lunch, so I love things like races with loops. Plus, we were finally back in the park, which meant I'd get to see Eric, Dan and the rest of our cheering squad at the end of each loop.

The huge uphill completely sucked, as expected, and my legs felt totally weird and off from riding. I reminded myself that the beginning of the swim and the bike had felt terrible until I got used to it, and the same was true for the run. 

The loop was hilly but the run had some pretty sweet upsides. There was an out and back portion, so I got to see Jackie on each loop and saw Lily on my second, which were huge boosts. They had two misting tents, and each water station had ice cold water. The last water station was right before a downhill, shaded paved trail through some woods, and when you exited the woods, you were right by the water and the crowds. I was nervous about passing the finish line twice (like, you literally have to run right past it) but it turned out to be pretty motivating.

Misting tent - my favorite part
I'd heard most triathletes aren't runners, and that seemed to be true. Most people were walking, and people were so impressed by anyone running, no matter how slowly. I was passing people like crazy, especially on the uphills (thanks, hilly neighborhood), which is always fun. I kept feeling better and better on the run, except that my feet were killing me, which is completely new. 

I gave myself permission to walk up the steepest part of the first uphill on the second and third loops (about a tenth of a mile), and I also stopped to pee and to take off my shoe when random piece of plastic got in there. Other than that I just ran what felt like a comfortably hard pace.

Goals on the run:
1. Stay on top of eating and drinking - I took two Gus, and refilled my bottle three times. 
2. Sub 10:00 pace - my average pace was 9:16.

The third loop was so exciting but things were getting so hard. I walked twice in the twelfth mile (only for 10-20 seconds each time) when I felt like I was going to die. Coming out of those woods and finally going towards the finish instead of past it felt like euphoria.

Run time - 2:01:24. I never would have thought I could run a 2:01 half marathon after all that other crap. I'm thrilled with my time but I'm also pissed about those walk breaks/plastic in my shoe/pee break - I could have had a sub - 2 half!

Getting that medal felt amazing.

My last goal of the race was to stay positive - that was easy, because this race was awesome, and while it was tough as hell I was happy almost the whole time. 

World's greatest husband, right here. I couldn't have done it without him.

Just as I started to feel really sick and laid down on the ground in the fetal position, Dan started yelling "Jackie's coming!" and I jumped up like my ass was on fire.

Shortly after that, Lily crossed the finish and we finally got to celebrate being Half Ironmen together!

That wasn't even the best part. The novice division does awards separately from the age group awards. We were getting ready to go when Jackie said we should wait to see if won anything. Moments after she said that, the announcer called my name as first place winner of the women's novice division!

Eric is amazing at capturing candid moments.
I sprinted down the hill to get my award.

Jackie took second place! We got to stand on the podiums and everything!

Out of 161 women (in the whole race, not the novice division), I came in 90th - not bad for my first half ironman! I was literally the last person to start the race, so I have to admit it felt pretty good to stand at the finish line for 45 minutes watching finishers who had started the race before me.

I was 142 in the swim, 131 on the bike, and 44 in the run. So the areas where I need work are clear, and don't come as a shock. 

It's official - I loved this half ironman so much that I would consider marrying it if I were single.


  1. great recap chica! I must say even reading this, when i saw the swim start picture, my heart started pounding again! way to kick some major booty! It was an awesome weekend and hope we can do it again next year! If anyone is contemplating doing one of these - this was by far the most organized and fun races I have ever done! Congrats again alyssa and thanks to you and lily for pulling me through this - couldn't have done it without you ladies (and dan, eric and madison of course :-) )!

  2. You're a damn rockstar! Congrats on an incredible race and run AND award!!! You killled it.

    And I loved the first sentence of this post.

  3. Holy hell, you did amazing!! I hope I can do half as good when I do my first! Congrats again!!!!!

  4. The absolute best part of your finish video is that Chad needs to return that wet suit. Chad is such a bastard.

    How can you put that picture of you finishing up the bike portion without a comment about what we are all thinking??

    I love the idea of some official coming up and making you sit on the side of the road for a time out. We should make a race that has that. That's one of those "You know you're a 3rd grad teacher when you..." moments.

    I knew you were going to kill it, but I had no idea you'd get a trivet out of the deal. You really are a winner now.

  5. Great write-up. I still can't believe you came in first in your division. Congratulations

  6. This is amazing!!! I laughed out loud & almost shed a tear, such an amazing accomplishment!!! Maybe I'll consider joining your crazy insane asses next year?!?!


  7. Love your recap :) Great job! Congratulations on the 1st place!!! You sure are knocking lots of races off your list. Very inspiring, but I'm positive I would drowned if I did a Tri.

  8. Ok, that was the longest ever race recap that I've actually read all the way through. Seriously, it was exciting to read! Congrats on finishing - well, more than finishing. Coming in first in your division! Can't believe you can run a half in that time AFTER the bike and swim. Amazing!

  9. Wow, awesome recap and congrats to you on an amazing job! Love the candid moment picture! I can't fathom doing a triathlon but loved reading about this. Congrats!

  10. That run time at the end of that race is AMAZING. I'm in awe. Your are INCREDIBLE.

  11. Wow, this just might convince me to do a triathlon. Someday. Maybe. We'll see. Either way, congratulations not just on finishing but being the first novice! That's awesome!!!!

  12. "I had thought it meant you had to get off your bike and sit on the side of the road and spend four minutes thinking about what you did".

    hahahahaha...once a teacher, always a teacher.

  13. I am in complete awe! You are such an inspiration. Congrats! Awesome recap!

  14. Freaking elite athletes with all their medals. Just like LPRM -- you seem like a nice person, you act like a normal person, but then *bang*, trophy time....

  15. But, great report. I also want to see photos of triathletes sitting by the road in timeout; that would be fabulous.

  16. I love that you thought the 4 min penalty was like a time out. You've been a teacher for too long.

    You KILLED this race! I'm so excited for you!

  17. How did that fat chick with the pink top finish before you after the bike? wtf?

    1. Someone finally asked what we were all thinking!

    2. Oh thank goodness...I thought I was an awful person for thinking it!

  18. Congrats on a great race! It was a hard run course!

  19. I totally love this recap! And I love that Brian said what I was thinking.^

    Congratulations! You make me want to get better and swimming and biking so that I could consider doing this.

  20. Congrats! I'm assuming the answer to Brian's question is that she started multiple waves before you.

  21. I love love love this! Congratulations!! You rocked it. Are you going to leave us lowly marathoners and become a full time triathlete now?

  22. Excellent job Alyssa! I loved this recap. I'm still so excited for you to have won the novice division for the women. That's amazing! Congratulations on a great first Half Ironman!


Thanks for commenting! Comments make me probably more happy than they should.