Half IronMan is 70.3 miles and broken down into 3 disciplines: swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run 13.1 miles.
I honestly had no idea what to expect on race day. I had no idea how long it would take me. I knew I was physically ready but ANYTHING can happen on race day.
The 1.2-mile swim is the first event. The level of nerves associated with the swim cannot even be expressed in words for me. I just really started open water swimming about a year ago and it's not my strongest discipline. This swim was in Lake Taupo, and while it was amazingly clear, I normally swim in warm salt water. Adjusting to a full wetsuit and freezing face, feet and lungs was a lot to overcome on race day! My goal was to survive the swim and make it under the 1 hour 10 min time cap. On the way out the sun was in my eyes and blurring out the yellow buoys that I needed to sight on. I picked a mountain in the distance and just kept it in my line of sight and stayed the course. When I hit the 6th buoy at the turn around point I had settled into a comfortable pace and felt a sense of calm rush over me and I knew I was going to make it.
The transition from the swim to bike was a bit longer than what I was expecting. Race organizers said it was a 400m distance (think, one lap around a track) but it FELT longer... I kept slow jog pace up the transition mat using that time to start getting out of my wetsuit. My feet and hands were frozen so I was hoping the jog would help warm me up. When I got to my bike I was happy to see that there were still bikes on my rack (we were racked by age group) so I was not the last one...not that I would have let that discourage me, but it was a bit of a boost!
The bike is normally my jam! A 56-mile ride is an easy Sunday in my world. I would consider it my strongest discipline of the sport but like I said before...anything can happen on race day. My legs were cold and my feet were numb, I could not even feel my toes! The bike course started with a climb, which felt harder than normal because I needed to warm up. After the first climb we had a gradual decline but since I was still cold I did not gain nearly as much speed as I wanted to. Riding stiff and cold caused my back to tighten up a bit, but it was manageable. At the halfway point I FINALLY felt like my legs were warmed up. However, at the halfway point the course turned and we had a gradual climb back in. This was a non - drafting race, meaning you have to stay 12 meters behind the bike in front of you. If someone passes you, you have to drop back the appropriate distance and if you are going to pass someone you have 25 seconds to complete the pass. They do have officials riding motorcycles on the course to monitor this. You get 3 warnings before you get a penalty card that costs you 3 minutes. I did get 1 warning for not passing quickly enough so after that I was super cautious with my passing times and distance. I was hoping to finish the bike in 3 hours or less but I came in at 3 hours and 13 minutes. While it was not as fast as I wanted I was still happy!
When I came into the transition from bike to run the first female pro was coming over the finish line! It made me laugh a little that I was JUST starting my run and she was done for the day, but it also motivated me. I quickly changed my shoes, threw on my hat and ate my banana as I took off running. About 1/2 mile in I realized that I still had my cycling gloves on and I literally laughed out loud! I almost threw them out but since they were new I just shoved them in my back pocket... this is a rather expensive hobby that I have and I would kick myself later for ditching them.
13.1 miles as a finisher, I must be crazy! It's important to pace yourself out of the gate. Your legs want to move fast because you have had them in a fast cadence for the last few hours. If you start out too fast though you will pay for it on the back half of your run. I could not believe how good I felt for my run! Normally I shoot for a 10:00-10:30 pace off the bike, but the cooler weather in New Zealand is a bit easier to run in than tropical Guam! I felt comfortable in the 9's so I kept it there. The run was a 3 lap course of rolling hills, with one at the end of the lap that was a little aggressive. When I started my 3rd lap I could not believe how good I felt, I remember thinking "that's it?" and I knew I was going to finish.
The emotion I felt coming down the finish shoot was overwhelming! Everyone is cheering for you and yelling your name, I felt like a rock star! I picked up my pace and pushed hard for a strong finish! 6 hours and 10 minutes after I started my swim I was done. It was an emotional finish for me filled with tears of joy and random hugs.
Something this big takes a team. While I physically ran the race, it took a tribe to get me there! Some days I would open up my training calendar and just stare at it in disbelief and was certain that my coach made a typo (he never did)... He told me from day 1 to "trust the process" and he was right! Thanks, Coach Cam, I could not have done this without your awesome programming and I can't wait for the next one!
I am also extremely grateful for my training partners, while there are a ton here (the entire Guam Tri/Cycling community) I had a few ride or die gals, Allyssa and Rachel. On days that I did not want to train, I knew that one of them would be there to suffer with me...not letting them down made me stronger. It's an individual sport but I was driven by their dedication, motivation and general badass-ness! Love you ladies and I appreciate you more than you will ever know!
Lastly, I could not have done this without the support of my husband! He believes in me more than I believe in myself. For the last few months my days started before the sun came up and if I was not in bed when it went down I was asleep on the couch... no matter how tired, sore or let's be honest, whiny I was he reminded me of my goals (and that I signed up for it, haha). Even when I do crazy things like sign up for races 3,000 miles away, he supports me. Nothing fills my heart more than seeing him cheering for me on the race course and hugging me at the finish line. I love you, babe!