Oceanside 70.3 2011- Her side of the story

“Triathlon is 90% mental strength and the other half physical strength.”
Read on a poster somewhere in Camp Pendleton.

First, I finished, which there were several moments in the race I thought that might not be possible. With the weather this winter I did little to no outdoor training. I rode a total of 4 times on the road! The rest was all done at the new TRIMORE Fitness Computrainer Studio.  My longest run outside was 9 miles and most of my runs were on a treadmill. Forget about the swim, the day of the race was my first time this year in the open water and I had only been to the pool about 6 times. So, why would I even attempt this race being so undertrained? Well, I signed up, I had to at least try to finish. I felt pretty confident I could at least get through the swim and bike and if I had to I could walk the run.

So, we drove down to So Cal on Thursday and dropped the kids at the Grandparents in Orange County and then drove down to Oceanside on Friday.  We walked to the end of the line for packet pick up and there we found Alicia and John. It was nice to see them and we all checked in together. Afterwards, Eric and I rode the run course and went down to the boat launch to check out transition and the swim start. Nothing too intimidating, I was not feeling nervous at all and was excited for the race.

Fast forward to race morning. I woke up at 4:00, took a shower and had breakfast, Oatmeal with dried cranberries, a cup of coffee and a Carnation Instant Breakfast drink. We loaded up the bikes and headed out. We were staying in Carlsbad so it took us about 10-15 minutes to drive up to Oceanside. I started getting really nervous, almost panicked.  We had to ride from the pier parking lot to Transition, about 1 mile away.  We saw Miranda Carfrae warming up on the way, I was a little star struck.  Eric asked where the “fat guys” were and we realized this was not a field of people just wanting to finish. It was a very competitive field.

I gave Eric a kiss and wished him luck and I went to find my rack and set up my transition. It was still dark and I was glad I had my head lamp. It was pretty breezy already and I was cold so I got my wetsuit on early to try and warm up. I grabbed my goggles and cap and headed towards the swim chute as they were closing transition. I saw Alicia setting up her transition and wished her luck and told her I would look for her on the run (since it was loops).

Transition closed at 6:30, but my wave did not go until 7:30. I had a banana that I snacked on while waiting for my wave and watched the pros run by as they exited the swim.  Got more nervous as I saw Andy Potts run by and realized he had done the swim in 22 minutes. The swim is a water start. You enter the water at the boat ramp and swim about 50 yards to the start. My wave entered the water to swim over to the start. I was pleasantly surprised how warm the water felt. I was able to just put my head down and swim. But as soon as I reached the swim start, the gun went off. I was not ready to start, but no choice now, game on. The first 3 buoys and I was in trouble. The inner chatter had started and all I was hearing is, “you can’t do this, you won’t even be able to finish the swim at this rate”, blah blah blah! I turned the first corner and tried to keep it together telling myself if I could just get through the swim the rest will not be so bad. I kept swimming this whole time, I never did stop or alter my stroke. I also did not sight. I found myself way off course and had to swim back to the center buoy line. About 1/3 of the way in, the men’s age groups that went off after me started catching up and they were just plowing over me. I am used to being in the waves with all women and in general the women are pretty gentle on one another at the back. I was not used to getting beat up so much in the water and I was pissed.  This may have been just what I needed because I stopped the “I can’t” and focused on just getting the “F” out of the water! The water got a bit rough at the turn around, but it was ok. When I made the last turn and was headed back I felt relieved. Swimming back up to the boat ramp I had every intention of swimming until I felt the ground, but before I could get there, volunteers were lifting me out of the water and unzipping my wetsuit. It was very disorienting. I ran back down the chute and into transition looking for the 2 balloons I had noticed hung 2 rows down from me. I am glad I had that noted, it was a huge transition with over 2200 athletes.

Swim: 52:53

At my bike, all was going smooth until I reached for my spray on sunscreen and it was jammed. I could not get it to work, so I left it and figured I would deal with it in the next transition. Off I went and I was so happy to be on my bike. I was actually passing people now and felt like I could make up for my terrible swim on the bike.  About 8 miles in I hear someone behind me say “go TRIMORE” and it is John coming to pass me. It was nice to see a friendly face, commiserate briefly about how much the swim sucked. I was cruising along averaging about 17.5 mph with my HR in low zone 3 which is good for me, but then somewhere along San Onofre I had to go to the bathroom so stopped, but the bathroom was locked. Stopped again at the next one where I saw volunteers holding other people’s bikes. Jumped back on the bike and tried to get back in my rhythm but never got back up to that 17 mph.

Hit the first hill at mile 28 and could not believe how many people were walking their bikes up the hill! It was steep, but short. I powered up, trying to get around the walkers and probably let my HR get too high, but I was happy to be to the top so quick. Little did I know the worst was still ahead. Headwind. I can deal with climbing, I am not good in a headwind. I don’t know what it is. I tried riding in my drops and keeping my head down, but I would get uncomfortable and sit up. And then those “walkers” started passing me down on their aerobars and I was not happy. I just could not get my speed up the last 20 miles. I was also still trying to keep my HR in check and “save some for the run” as Neil had been drilling into my head for the last several weeks.

Bike: 3:50:52

Back in transition, I try the sunscreen again. It will not budge. I pound it on the ground. Nothing. I ask a volunteer if he has sunscreen and he says no. I am in trouble. I am already feeling like I am getting burnt. Oh well, off on the run I go. I realize 50 yards out of transition that I forgot to grab my Garmin off my bike. Too late now, just run. I am in a bad place mentally at this point and my Achilles are killing me. I run slow for the first mile and keep my stride short. I see Alicia, she is on her way back from her 2nd loop and within a mile of finishing. I am excited for her, but feeling sorry for myself.  About another mile goes by and I see Eric, he too is on his second loop, headed home. This sucks. But I realize I am still running and my achilles is not hurting anymore. I look at my watch and tell myself I want to finish in 7 ½ hours. Whether I finish is no longer a question, I know I will finish. This is only my 2nd half ironman, my first last year I blew up in the run and it took me 3:19. I know I can do better this time. I make my plan, I will walk the up hills, ok sloaps (not many and they are short) and I will walk the aid stations, I will run everything else. This works well for me.  Other than the fact that I am now sure my back is completely sunburned, I feel pretty good.  At mile 8 I think it is starting to rain only to realize I had just gotten shit on by a flock of pelicans…I tell myself it is good luck.

The run is a 2 loop course.  I was in a much better place mentally on the second loop than the first. I chatted with a few other women in my age group on the second loop, also moms, about kids and the challenges of training. The common theme was that of the 3 women, all of them had a husband who was also a triathlete and understood the demands of training and supported them with the kids. I will never underestimate the role Eric plays in allowing me to indulge in this sport. He got me into Triathlon and has supported me every step of the way. I am a lucky gal for sure.

As I cross the bridge back to the harbor I start to pick up the pace. In the last 100 yards I see Alicia and she starts running and cheering and am reminded of my first 70.3 where she ran me in.  I hear Eric yelling “go Mishy” and then I see John putting his hand out for a high five. This is it, I am finishing! I raise my hands in the air for a proper finish as I cross the finish line and claim my metal. It was great to have Eric, Alicia and John all waiting for me to cheer me in. We took a photo op and went to put our feet up in the Athlete’s tent and waited to watch the awards presentations.

Run: 2:42:52

Total Time: 7:36:33

Aftermath: When we got home Sunday night I looked up my splits from Barb’s race as I could not remember my total time. It was 7:36:34! I finished Oceanside 1 second faster! So a PR of sorts…a stretch I know, but I will take it. Now on Saturday I felt pretty good about what I had done. Sunday I started comparing myself to the rest of the field and found I was no longer content with what I had done. I was especially disappointed in my bike. I was however pleased with my run, because for me I run a ½ marathon in that time usually, I am not a runner. So I guess Neil was right when he said I would see the results in my run.

This was the first race I have done where I did not cry at any point in the race. I think subconsciously I did not let myself.  I knew it would not end well. On Friday morning before we headed to Oceanside, we went to Menifee to visit my Grandma who is currently in hospice care. She is not expected to live more than another few weeks. My aunt who was there told her “Mom, Mish is doing an Ironman tomorrow.” My family does not get that there are different distances and to them a ½ may as well be a full. But it did not matter anyway, my grandma did not understand. She is not very lucid right now, but she knew who I was and that was enough for me on this day.  I said good bye to my Grandma that day for the last time and just kinda felt numb for the rest of the weekend. Monday morning as I drove to work, soar, exhausted, not ready to return to work, the weight of it all hit me and cried all the way in on my drive to the city. I know my Grandma would be so proud of me and that made me feel a bit better. My aunt told me that she was inspired by me and she is planning to sign up for a ½ marathon this year.

As for me, I plan to sign up for Barb’s Race again and I am setting a goal of 7 hours. I know several of my fellow TCMers will be on course doing the Full Vineman so if you see me, be sure to remind me I have committed to 7 hours.

Thanks for reading. See you on the road.

Michelene

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