Monday, October 18, 2010

Austin 70.3 Race Report

This half Ironman race was the coolest race I've ever done. Maybe it's because it was a perfect, beautiful day outside with fabulous racing conditions. Maybe it's because I was on my own out there, which meant the results of the day were all up to me. Or maybe it's because I really trained my behind off for this race, so I appreciate the results more. Whatever the reason, it was an amazing day, and I still can't stop smiling.

Short Version:

Swim: 39:32 (2:04/100m)
T1: 5:46
Bike: 3:09:18 (17.75 mph)
T2: 3:34
Run: 2:30:59 (11:31 min/mi)
Total Time: 6:29:09
Age Group Stats: 58/132 (38 swim/51 bike/58 run)

Long Version:

Robert and I got stuck in traffic on the way to the race due to an accident. Even though all the other cars in the 30+ minute traffic jam were also triathletes who were desperate to get to the lake before the transition closed, I was certain that I'd miss it, that the race would start without me, and that my day would end right there in the car. But, they got traffic moving; we got the car parked and I ran to drop off my Run bag in T2, hopped on the shuttle to go to the lake, and sped to T1 to drop my Bike bag and fill my tires with air.

That's when I hit the first snag of the day - our pump broke. As I pumped up the front tire, the pump let all the air out of it. Brian and Orissa came to my aid and helped me find another pump, and to confirm that it was a pump problem and not a tube problem (thank goodness). Transition closed minutes after we finished with my bike, and we walked out in time for the national anthem to play (that was cool; a guy parachuted down to the lake with a giant American flag waving in the rising sun as the anthem was performed. Awesome.)

Time sped by and it was time to swim. As I stood in the pack of blue caps, I couldn't help but think of cows entering the slaughterhouse. We are all just willingly lined up to do this. We don't know what's ahead, but we're all about to walk in. I threw that thought aside as the announcer introduced us as his favorite age group, and 132 ladies waded into the water, found our positions, and got ready to swim.

The swim felt good; the water was fresh and cold. It was a counterclockwise triangle swim marked with nice big buoys. I took a really wide arc around the buoys just to stay out of any scrapping. I think it added time and distance to my swim, but I feel like the time sacrifice was worth it for the peaceful swim I had. I got back into the fray on the way back in, swam all the way over the top of one guy, got pushed aside by another, and swallowed some water and started coughing. I actually stopped swimming to cough and get my bearings, then looked behind me and saw another pack of swimmers coming along. I took a look at my watch and saw that it read 37 minutes. Realizing I could make my "A" goal for the swim (40 mins), I hauled butt to the shore.

I have never felt so strong running out of the water before. I got a glimpse of Robert, which provided a huge boost. This course has you running up a good hill to T1, but I hustled up it without even noticing. Stopped halfway up to have my wetsuit stripped off. One of the wetsuit strippers unzipped my suit and told me to lie on the mat. Another pulled my suit off from the waist and it popped right off my feet. Then another hauled me to my feet, handed me my wetsuit, and I was on my way.

Running through transition, someone told me I looked strong. I felt so much energy as I approached my bike, transitioned as I had practiced (in the dark, in the hotel room the previous morning, while Robert was sleeping). I slammed a gu, noted that my water bottle was still half frozen, and ran my bike out of transition. Running out of transition, I saw Robert again and shouted "I love you!" at him. He said later that everyone turned their heads to look at him after that. I stopped once I got to the pavement to check for sticker burrs (which had been present the day before after rolling through the grassy transition). I found none. Jumped on my bike and headed out!

It took probably the first 20 minutes to settle in. My heart rate was around 150, and it stayed in that range for most of the bike portion of the race. Since Shelly and I had ridden the course about a month and a half ago, it was all familiar. Having tons of cyclists passing me was NOT familiar. Some of these guys were going so fast with their aero helmets and their disc wheels, I just had to look on in awe. But my pace was pretty good too. I'll attribute that partly to the fabulous race wheels that I borrowed from Matt at Bicycle Heaven, and partly to adrenaline. I passed my share of people in the first few miles, which was the hillier portion of the course.

Things I had never experienced in previous races were mile markers on the bike course, aid stations that included water and gatorade hand-ups and porta-potties, and race officials on motorcycles looking for misbehaving cyclists to penalize. I saw two guys taking a "natural break" next to two very embarrassed female volunteers. I rolled up on the aftermath of a crash in which one cyclist was lying motionless in the road, her head supported by another cyclist. I went through a part of the course where all the traffic was backed up because of the race, and cyclists were weaving through the cars (myself included - it was either that or stand still waiting in traffic). I saw a training buddy, Rocky, race by, only to see him minutes later on the side of the road with a blown tire (he repaired it with a $10 bill and finished the race smiling). Luis passed me and shouted encouragement (it was his first half Ironman too; he finished in 5:30 - amazing).

I felt strong for the entire bike portion of the race. I passed tons of people, and it felt so cool. I stayed on my nutrition plan as well as I could (I carried 3 bottles of Infinit). Unfortunately, one of the bottles was still half-frozen, so I switched it out early for a less-frozen one. I drank every 10 minutes, but not as much as I had in training. The end result was one full bottle of Infinit left unconsumed at the end of the bike. I was worried the entire time about flatting, which never happened (thank goodness). As I approached the mile 53, I thought, OK, I can flat now. I can push my bike 3 miles if I need to. Mile 56 came up before I knew it, and I was flying into transition. I saw my Dad cheering for me, came around the corner and saw Robert and Mom. This pumped me up even more as I ran my bike into transition. I finished the bike 21 minutes faster than I'd hoped. Wow!

T2 felt long but I didn't spend the entire 5 minutes that I'd planned in there. Some might say that a 3+ minute transition is long, but for me, it was better than expected! I ran out of T2 carrying a bike bottle of water and a bag of gu which I stuffed into my race belt. I started eating and drinking immediately, but stayed away from the endurolytes that I'd brought because I thought they'd be too much of a pain to get to. Instead, I decided to drink Gatorade at every other aid station.

The 2-loop run course was pretty hilly. Nothing outrageous, but there was hardly any flat on the whole course. I usually prefer rolling hills to running on flat, so this was OK with me. The part that wasn't OK was the off-road part. Probably 5 of the 13.1 miles were on grass and mulch. I was much slower running through those parts. But on the first loop, I was feeling so strong! I looped back to the arena, where I passed the tents of cheering spectators, including the Trisition Area tent. I slapped high fives with a bunch of people, and ran off for my second loop.

As I approached mile 8, I thought, wow, this is amazing. I feel great. I didn't think I could feel so great! Maybe I jinxed myself because immediately after that thought passed my mind, both Achilles started twitching. Then my calves began cramping, enough that I was scared that I'd get full on cramps that would make me stop. I slowed to a walk and started eating all the endurolytes that I had ignored earlier. Tried to get more salt in to stop the cramping. But from mile 8 to the finish, I ran as much as I could until I couldn't bear the cramping, and then I walked. It was incredibly frustrating feeling so full of energy and ready to run, but not being able to because of the cramping. I wasn't tired. But I couldn't keep running. The walk breaks saved me and I ticked away the miles. I checked my watch and realized that I could make it to the end in under 6:30 if I hustled. Having a general goal of "anything under 7 hours will make me happy," the thought of 6:30 moved me along.

As I approached the Trisition tent for the second time, I saw that Jessica and Angel had made it out to watch me finish. Jessica even made a cool sign with my name on it, using the letters of my name to spell out "Kris, Run, bIke, Swim." That was so awesome to see. I had to start running then, even if it made my legs cramp worse. By that time, my hamstrings were cramping too. I ran past them, ran past my parents, ran past the tent of cheering Trisition folks, and took the turn into the arena, where the finish line was.

Running into that arena to the finish line was hands-down the coolest race experience I have ever had. Ever. The chute was packed with spectators on both sides. The announcer shouted my name "KRISTINA SWANN CORDOVA!" and the crowd cheered so loud for me. I wanted to cry and I slowed down to experience the feeling; I made myself listen to the crowd and feel the energy and remember the feeling.

And then it was over. I walked through the end of the chute, saw Robert and my family, and got a big hug from Robert. I was incredibly emotional. And then we headed out into the sunshine to hang out in the Trisition tent and cheer for the finishers there. I saw Dawn, Lorena, and Marco and got big hugs from them. Saw Luis and exclaimed together over how we are both now half Ironman finishers. Waited for a while for Orissa to come in, but missed her while I was getting my bike. Went out for pizza with Robert, Mom and Dad, and came home sunburned and smiling.

Everyone told me that I was smiling the whole race, and I'm glad, because that's certainly how I was feeling. Robert and I looked through his photos when we got home, and sure enough, I was smiling in each one. What a day!