Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pumpkinman Half Iron Race Report 2012

I did it!!!  I am a Half Ironman.  When I first started training for my Half Ironman in June, I never thought this race would be so hard and so rewarding.  Sunday's race was a mentally tough race that I will never forget and will forever be proud of.

My day started really early on Sunday morning.  Eric and I decided to camp in Berwick, Maine, as we usually do.  Unfortunately, we had a terrible storm hit us Saturday night.  It rained all night to the point that I covered my head with my sleeping bag so that I couldn't hear the rain.  I have slept in a tent over 60 nights in the past five years and this storm was one of the worst that we had to sleep through.  I did manage to get some sleep before my 3:45am alarm.

I got up early so that I could get breakfast in my stomach as close to three hours before the race that I could.  I ate my oatmeal and started drinking EFS sports drink.  I had packed my transition bag the night before, so I felt pretty relaxed that I wasn't forgetting anything when we headed to the race site around 5:15.

My nerves went crazy as soon as we arrived at the beautiful race site.  The Pumpkinman Triathlon Festival was held at the Spring Hill resort in South Berwick, Maine.  The day before Eric did his sprint triathlon there so I was able to appreciate the beauty of such an amazing location.  When we arrived on Sunday, it was still dark, so it was all business.  Seeing all the amazing athletes and bikes arriving made me question whether I belonged.  I was a new triathlete.  Was I really able to do the same race as these obviously experienced athletes?

After picking up my timing chip, I got marked up, and headed into transition.  I was nervous I wouldn't be able to set everything up as planned so I was very careful with the unloading of my transition bag.  I put two bottles of EFS on my bike along with my fuel bag that contained all my gels for the bike.  I attached my Polar RCX5 to my bike and put my sunglasses and gloves in my helmet.  I laid out both pairs of shoes and put Aquaphor on the edges to make it easier to put my feet in.  I also folded my socks down and put them in my bike shoes.  There was no going barefoot in this race, but I didn't want to lose precious minutes in transition.

After everything was set up, I grabbed my wetsuit and headed to the porta potty.  Within minutes of my last bathroom break, I quickly slipped into my wetsuit and the pre-race meeting was already starting at the water.  There was a dedication of the race to a former triathlete who died of ALS and then it was time for the National Anthem.

Now, I have to admit, I cry at races during the National Anthem.  I usually cry because I am so happy and excited.  On Sunday, I cried.  I cried because I was scared.  I was moments away from 5+ hours of hard work, and I was scared for it to begin.

The race began and I waited for my 4th wave to enter the water.  We started 8 minutes after the elites, but I loved our position in the race.  At 7:08, the announcer yelled "Go, go, go!!!" and I was off!

The Swim
Total Time: 34:52
Pace: 1:39/100 yds
Overall Place: 99/400   Gender: 23/164  Division: 11/30

The swim went as well as I could have expected.  I started out in the middle of my group as far to the edge as I could get and still stay on the mats that they had in the water for us.  On go, I just started swimming and tried following the girls in front of me.  Within about 50 yards I concentrated on sighting since our pack was already starting to spread out, and I couldn't rely on the others to lead me into a direct line to the buoys.  I didn't push too hard in the swim but rather went for a steady consistent swim.  I made sure to pull hard, rotate, and sight every 3-4 strokes.  The swim course was a two loop course and the first loop went by very quickly.  Just before starting the 2nd loop, I noticed I was getting past by the elites that were finishing their 2nd loop.  This messed with my head for a bit as I was anxious that I had to do that distance once more.  I kept on swimming and began picking off swimmers that were on their first loop.

My second loop was harder than the first because it was much more crowded.  I had to swim through a lot of people and did my fair share of kicking and hitting to get around people.  One of my biggest fears of Ironman is the physical contact in the water and I hate that I contribute to it, but unfortunately when swimming, I am focused on moving in a straight line and you don't see people until it is too late.

Before I knew it, I passed the last turn and I was headed to the finish.  This was the hardest part of the swim as I was trying to pick up pace but it was hard to determine where the finish was.  They have a finish chute but it was hard to see while swimming.  I tried following the girls I had swam with the whole time so didn't get as strong of a finish as I would have liked mainly because I wanted to make sure I was headed in the correct direction.

Time: 3:55 (including Powder Hill climb of 1:37)

I hit the finish chute, put my feet down and started heading for shore.  I looked at my time and about patted myself on the back as I thought I would have seen 40 minutes not 35.  I started running and within moments I got a huge side cramp.  This race is known for their hill climb out of the water into transition.  I was planning on running up the hill, but with my side cramp, I decided to walk the hill.  This was 200 yards I did not plan on walking at all, but if I had a chance at meeting my goal, I needed to calm down.

I got into transition and focused on not forgetting anything.  Helmet on, number belt on, sunglasses in my back pocket, gloves on, socks on, shoes on, grab bike, and head to Bike Out.  I was proud of my quick transition time and as soon as I was out, I hopped on the bike, quickly clipped in, and started my ride.

The Bike
Total Time: 2:47:33
Pace: 20.1 MPH
Overall Place: 151/400   Gender: 26/164  Division: 5/30

My bike started out AMAZING.  I was afraid of getting a drafting penalty, but also didn't want to get stuck behind people so I spent the first 5+ miles jockeying for position.  I would pass someone and then I would get passed.  I had no idea what my pace was, but I knew my heart rate was still high so I was trying to slow it down but still maintain as much position as I could.

After those initial miles, I settled into my ride and started my nutrition.  Every 30 minutes, I hit the lap button on my Polar so that I could keep track of when my last gel was.  I started my gels early and I feel that helped to keep my energy high for the entire 56 miles.

The ride was on a lot of rolling hills.  None of the hills were hard, but there was a lot of up and down going on.  (Only about 2000 ft of elevation gain on the course) Going up hills, I would pass a few men, and then coming down they would pass me back.  I only saw about 3 women the whole time so I knew I was holding my position in the race pretty well.

The bike course was a 2 loop course and I came through the first 35 miles feeling strong and fast.  At about mile 40, the mental game started kicking in.  I was pretty alone out there at this point and I got to thinking about my race ahead of me.  I still had almost an hour left on the bike and 2 hours left to run.  I was tired, my hip was aching, and I questioned my ability to hit my goal.  I tried shutting out any negative thoughts, and pushed as hard as I could on that bike to maintain as good of a pace as I could.  I wasn't going to have a slow bike split after pushing myself so hard for 40 miles already.

In the final 5 miles, I started getting excited.  I was still passing men and feeling pretty good.  I was familiar with the final road so knew my ride was almost over.  My total time was on my watch on my wrist and I knew I was ahead of schedule.  We also started seeing runners heading out and I didn't see too many ladies ahead of me.  With only my run left, I thought maybe I had a chance at an award.

Heading back into Spring Hill, the crowd was awesome and I quickly got off my bike.  I heard my sister and my coach cheering and I got excited thinking that they finally knew how well I had ridden.  I hopped off my bike and headed into transition.

T2 (Where I showed my newbie status to all)
Time: 1:02

I know you are thinking.  A one minute transition?  How is that a newbie transition time?  Well, it is, because after I hit the Run Out mat, starting my run time, and turned the corner, a few people yelled to me...."Your helmet, you have your helmet on!"  Oh snap.  Did I forget to take off my helmet?  I started running back toward transition while taking off my helmet and someone offered to take my helmet for me.  So then I threw it to him, turned back around, still wearing my bike gloves and started ripping those off.  I figured I could throw those to my sister who I had seen was not far ahead.  This is not how I planned on starting my amazing half marathon, but it is what it is.  :)

The Run
Total Time: 1:45:46
Pace: 8:04
Overall Place: 86/400   Gender: 16/164  Division: 3/30

I started my Garmin after my little helmet mishap, so my run was actually 30 seconds faster than this time.  I would love to move those 30 seconds over the T2 but oh well.

I started running and my feet were NUMB.  They were tingly and my pinky toe felt like I had the biggest blister on it even though, post-race, I had no blisters.  The numbness was that bad.  I started passing guys immediately and looked at my Garmin and saw 7:30 pace.  Umm, yeah, way too fast.  We were heading down a hill so I let my legs carry me and figured I would eventually settle into my goal pace of 7:55 or so pace.

Now, to me, this was not an easy half marathon course at all.  It had a lot of rolling hills.  It was also a 2 loop course so you hit a pretty big hill twice.  Needless to say, this was a tough course.

Luckily, for me, running is where I am strong so for the first 10k, I ran strong and passed a lot of people.  I was maintaining my sub-8 minute pace and was feeling pretty good.  I pulled out my salt tablets that I had tried taking on the bike and took one immediately.  I had a headache the entire bike and wasn't sure if it was my sinuses acting up or if I needed more electrolytes.  I figured more salt would help and it seemed to make a bit of a difference.

The turn around was in a neighborhood.  My coach had advised me to run the tangents in the neighborhood so I was running back and forth.  I may have looked like the goofball, but I was one of the few who wasn't complaining that the course was long at the end of the race.  I made the turn around and started heading back.  

The second 10k is when things start getting a little blurry for me.  I have had this happened to me before so in hindsight, I can tell you what my problem is, but in the moment I had no idea.  I was becoming incredibly dehydrated at around mile 8.  I took my last gel at mile 7 and was grabbing water at every aid station.  I sweat a lot, so I should have been taking 2+ cups at those aid stations, not 1.  I was still maintaining around an 8 minute pace but was slowing down.  I was really getting tired.

The turn around to go back on the loop was around this time and I saw my wonderful, motivating friend, Meaghan.  She was in the right spot at the right time for me.  She was one of the reason's I picked Pumpkinman for my first half Ironman and here she was on the course cheering for me.  She encouraged me telling me that I only had 4 miles left, I could do this in my sleep.  She was right!

The next 2 miles back were not too bad.  I was passing more people as there were a lot of people on their first loop and here I was with less than four miles to go.  At this time, I started focusing on my overall time which was on my stopwatch.  I knew I wanted to go sub-5:15.  This was my A goal, that I never admitted to anyone.  That 5:15 was within reach so I did the math to see what I could run in order to make my goal.  I figured even with 8:30 miles, I should be able to make it, so I pushed for that.  Mile 9 was a 8:33, my slowest for the day.  Mile 10 was back down to 8:07 and mile 11, 8:29.

At mile 11, I started running with someone.  She was on her first loop but we were running a similar pace.  I told her to go ahead because I felt like if I kept that pace up I would throw up and she said we were good together.  We talked for the next 1.5 miles and she probably saved those last miles for me.  I hit an 8:08 mile and felt tired and sick, but so happy to only have a mile to go.  We got to do about one more half mile together before she had to turn around and I got to turn toward the FINISH LINE.  I was less than a mile from the finish line and had rolled past 5 hours for my total time not long before that.  Mile 13 was an 8:22.  The last 1/4 mile of it was so hard as it was up another hill.  I asked a guy next to me if it was supposed to hurt this much and he laughed.

I peaked the hill and got to turn back into the race venue.  I saw my coach yelling for me.  I almost started crying.  I was done.  I turned the corner and saw my last corner ahead of me with yet another amazing volunteer congratulating me and pointing me to the end.

I hit the final downhill at a 6:37 pace and was so happy.  I was all done.  I saw my family on the side cheering.  I enjoyed those last moments of my race and I crossed the finish line.

The Finish

Total Time: 5:13:09
Overall Place: 101/400   Gender: 17/164  Division: 2/30

I am a Half Ironman.

After stopping both timers, I immediately put my hands to my knees and couldn't move.  I was beyond exhausted and another awesome volunteer helped me to a chair and gave me water.  I drank the water and sat there celebrating but also feeling like I wouldn't be able to move for a very long time.

Other racers were finishing and I had multiple people congratulate me telling me they thought I was going to fade and thanking me for pacing them.  (Thanks for the encouragement.)

After about 15 minutes and nearly two bottles of water, I got up to walk to get something to eat and then I was done.  I started getting very dizzy and was incredibly cold.  Eric said he asked me to go to the med tent but I don't remember it.  I do remember two ladies putting their arms around me and leading me back to the med tent where they had me lay down and covered me with blankets, took my temperature and blood pressure, and had me start downing gatorade, coke, broth, and salt tablets.  My hands went numb like at Boston, so I knew I was low on electrolytes and after about 25 minutes, I came around and felt a million times better.

And just as fast as I got sick, I came back to it and was able to leave the tent without an IV, thank goodness.  Instead of heading straight to the food, I went to the finish line results.  I wanted to see how I did.  My coach was looking at the same time and she pointed out my 2nd place finish in my age group!  I placed!!!

Not only did I meet my A goal for the day, but I also got to stand on the podium at the award's ceremony to accept my age group award.  Now if standing on a podium doesn't convince you to do a triathlon, I don't know what would.

It was an amazing day.  This was one of only a few races that I mentally stayed in the race the entire time and the results show it.  It was the hardest race I have completed, yet the most fun.  I left nothing on the course and have no regrets.  Now, somehow, I have to do twice the distance next summer.  :)


portia o. said...

Amazing Robin! I am so proud!!

Erin said...

YAY ROBIN!!! I am SO stinking proud of you!!!! What an awesome race (and what an awesome race report too!) I think you are a natural triathlete - you were strong in all 3 sports. Super inspiring! Congrats on the incredible time and for getting on the podium. So so cool! I hope you are enjoying the recovery and celebrating. Big hugs!

Kylie Fouts said...

Congratulations!!! Great job!

jobo said...

WOW. I am so SO impressed. You are incredible!! You did freaking awesome, not only doing well with all your transitions (lol on the helmet! totally what I'd forget!) but hitting your A 'secret' goal!! Way to GO! And I love that Meaghan was there, she's awesome and SUCH a good cheerleader at races!! (btw, I LOVE Spring Hill! My friend got married there, and it's about 20 mins from where our place on a lake is in Acton Maine. Gorgeous place to start, but lots of rolling hills!)

Jess said...

Oh MAN I sat here reading this absolutely GLUED to my computer screen, taking in every single word, every single piece of this journey of yours...to half ironman status. You are simply INCREDIBLE. I am SO proud of you and just LOVE what this race became for you...such a shining moment and a true testament to your athletic abilities and your mental endurance too. Amazing. Congrats my friend!!

Jess said...

Oh MAN I sat here reading this absolutely GLUED to my computer screen, taking in every single word, every single piece of this journey of yours...to half ironman status. You are simply INCREDIBLE. I am SO proud of you and just LOVE what this race became for you...such a shining moment and a true testament to your athletic abilities and your mental endurance too. Amazing. Congrats my friend!!

Jess said...

Oh MAN I sat here reading this absolutely GLUED to my computer screen, taking in every single word, every single piece of this journey of yours...to half ironman status. You are simply INCREDIBLE. I am SO proud of you and just LOVE what this race became for you...such a shining moment and a true testament to your athletic abilities and your mental endurance too. Amazing. Congrats my friend!!

Bill Hurley said...

Amazing Robin. You did awesome. Your hard work paid off. Congratulations

Laura @ Mommyrunfast said...

This was so much fun to read! Like Jess, I was taking in every word, so curious to see how it all played out. Incredible job!! I can't imagine holding that pace on the bike for 56 miles, and then running a half marathon on top of it, also at an awesome pace! And second place on your first try?? Congratulations, Robin! I'm so thrilled for you. :)

Meaghan said...

I am so so so so so proud of you, and SO happy that I was able to see it all unfold first hand. I was teary when you finished, both because I was so proud, but also because I remembered how amazing crossing that line was last year. You are amazing, and I'm excited to see what the future holds. For now, bask in this awesomeness - you deserve it. xoxoxoxo

Erika said...

Congratulations!! What a great race for you and an amazing time!!!

Cristina said...

woo hoo! congratulations. you are a rockstar! what a great race recap, i was there the whole way. I am nowhere near as fast but i sure know that feeling. congrats again

Cristina said...

woo hoo! congratulations. you are a rockstar! what a great race recap, i was there the whole way. I am nowhere near as fast but i sure know that feeling. congrats again

Cristina said...

woo hoo! congratulations. you are a rockstar! what a great race recap, i was there the whole way. I am nowhere near as fast but i sure know that feeling. congrats again

Cristina Ramirez said...

woo hoo! congratulations. you are a rockstar! what a great race recap, i was there the whole way. I am nowhere near as fast but i sure know that feeling. congrats again

Ana-Maria said...

I am so impressed with you. You did amazing. All 3 legs were just perfectly executed. People who have never raced a tri have no idea how HARD it is to do a half ironman, both mentally and physically. I hope you are still celebrating! Huge congrats to you!

Sarah Jordan said...

Wow...I loved reading this. Every word. You did great :) Very very awesome!

Christyruns said...

Great job! I loved the part where you forgot to take off your helmet! Congrats on being a half iron man and doing so awesome at it!

Heather said...


Suzanne said...

Congratulations! Hooray for placing second in your division!

Danielle said...

wow! awesome job! what an inspiration. congratulations! (:

Heather said...

Wow - you are FAST!!!!!!!!!!! What an accomplishment - congratulations!

Brenna said...

You are truly an inspiration!

Stephanie said...

Yayyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am not sure how else to put it. Congrats, you deserve it!

Amanda Loudin said...

You crushed it! Seriously, fabulous time for your first 1/2 IM! You should be really, really proud of that!! I'll be interested to see where you go from here--you are just scratching the tri surface!

Looking forward to seeing you in October-will be so much fun!

Sweat Is My Sanity said...

Wow. Way to go, I don't know how you do it! You're definitely a die hard. :) I'm so impressed. Jessica

Kerrie T. said...

Awesome, awesome! Congratulations!

Tall Mom said...

CONGRATS lady!!! You ran that Half faster than I will this weekend.. Way to go on the Age Group award... You Rock

Jill said...

AWESOME!! You did amazing, so very happy for you!! :)

Corey said...

WOW!!! That is an incredible time for your first half Ironman! I am so impressed!! And this is a great report...love your recap of the run. I felt like I was right there along with you! Congrats (even though it is a little late :)) I am glad I found your blog!

Hit The Road Jane said...

This is so inspiring to read! congrats that is just incredible dedication and work ethic out there. Amazing job!