Sunday – May 18, 2008 –
When I woke up this morning, I felt like a walking zombie, but I knew I had to race. I only slept a few hours because of nerves, but I had trained for years to get to the Ironman series races, so I wasn’t going to quit now. Even though this was the 70.3 mile (formerly called half-ironman) distance, it was still a formidable challenge. I had cycled centuries before, but I had never swam 1.3 miles, cycled 56 miles and run 13.1 miles back to back. This was going to be a challenging race!
Among the elites, Craig Alexander highlighted a competitive field at Ford Ironman 70.3 Florida. Other pros inlcuded Viktor Zyemtsev, TJ Tollakson and Chris Lieto. In the ladies division, Ironman competitors included Nina Kraft and Leanda Cave.
I don’t know what my luck is with swim starts in triathlons. When I raced Chicago, I had to wait for three hours before my wave started! So today after getting body marked, I realized I was again in one of the last waves. At least at this race it was a beach start in Bay Lake. I heard there were alligators in the lake so I hoped they were scared of big throngs of swimmers!
The race started at about 6:20, but I didn’t enter the water into 8 a.m. When we finally started, I was surprised at how fast and aggressive the swimmers were. I had one guy swim over the top of me and another kick me in the face. Not a fun way to start, but the worst part was when I started cramping about a quarter of the way through the swim. This was not the start I was looking for, so I decided to stop a few times on the safety kayaks and relax the muscles. At this point I realized finishing probably wasn’t realistic so I was going to find ways to extend my day as long as possible.
When I arrived at the swim transition, I heard Jeff and Dad (but couldn’t see them) cheering me on. I decided this was going to be my slowest transition ever. I think I spent 15 minutes downing Gatorade and eating a banana. I was probably one of the last people out of the transition area, but I decided to go hard on the bike. I passed tons of people and I don’t think anyone passed me during the whole 56-mile cycle leg except when I later stopped for a break. About one third of the way through the course, a monsoon rain started for most of the bike portion. I slowed my Cervelo P2C down after I saw several nasty crashes. My time was going really well until I started cramping again. I stopped for about 10 minutes around mile 48 to eat bananas and get some more Gatorade for my aero-bottle.
Honestly, I was really surprised I had made it so far giving my challenges. I am a pretty good runner, but the heat was BAD and record temperatures for mid-May in central Florida. To make matters worse, the sun had come out and we were running over grasslands that was evaporating moisture into the air. I could feel my face radiating with the heat, so I had to alter my running style. I ran the first few miles of the 13.1-mile half marathon that consisted of three loops. Then I began walking half miles and running the other halves.
As we ran over the grasslands, we passed creeks with alligators. We could see them out there! Some of us were joking calling it a run through the Serengeti! There was an aid station at every mile with palettes of ice! I hit every aid station along the way dunking ice in my trisuit and in my hat. It would just about melt immediately, but it was a lifesaver. The unfortunate side was my shoes were getting soaked and I was worried about blisters, but I didn’t really develop any that were too bad. I would take blisters any day over a trip to the hospital. Some people were passing out from the heat and I saw more than a few people being loading into ambulances.
By the time I made the last loop, I was pretty tired. Then around two miles left, I had to use the portable restroom. I spent probably ten minutes at the restroom before running the last mile and half mostly to the finish. I heard Dad and Mom cheering me on. I think Jeff was even impressed. Wow, what a tough race! I was proud to finish and receive my medal and I could care less about my time. Most of all I was happy I did not quit when I knew the odds were stacked against me. It was a great life lesson. However, I wished I had some of that snow I had ridden in earlier in the year in northern Alabama!
After the race was over, I went back to cabin to eat a snack and take a nap. That evening, we went to the Downtown Disney, a shopping district with dining and shopping. We ate a nice meal at Portobello Restaurant. I was still pretty wiped out, so we walked around and looked at the shops and Legoland before returning back to Fort Wildness.
We all slept well tonight!