Wow, what an experience. Sure, I could spend some time complaining about the logistical nightmare of picking up my packet and setting up my transition area, but I’d rather talk about the fun I had on the course. Honestly, although I would have loved to earn a Clearwater spot, the two biggest reasons that I competed in this race were:
- To get the REV3 monkey off my back. My first HIM was in June and I had just returned from Afghanistan. I wasn’t ready and it showed. My total time was over 7 hours.
- I wanted to see if I could race, rather than just finish, a HIM. Doing that would help me understand the commitment needed to get to Clearwater and to learn how to pace myself for such an effort.
I think I accomplished both of those goals, and although I didn’t come anywhere close to earning a Clearwater slot, I think I know what it takes to get one. That’s a goal I plan on tackling this off season. I’ll take my shots at HIM Florida and Eagleman.
I normally try to be at least an hour early to races, but for large events like this I like to show up a bit earlier than that. My wave started at 7:42 and I got there around 6AM. I took the bus to the transition area and took some time to get my bike, bottles, and food ready. I put on my shoes for a run warmup, and then downed a Hammer Gel before I took the bus to swim start. The lines were long, but I got there with enough time to put on my wetsuit and watch the pro’s start.
The swim was down the Savannah River with a slight current and a bit of seaweed to contend with. If I remember correctly, the water was around 68 degrees, which was perfect for a wetsuit swim. The 30-34 AG had 2 waves, but each was huge and there was a lot of fighting over good spots in the water. When the gun went off, I spent a good 2 minutes dodging feet, trying to get a clear spot to actually start swimming. From there, I got into a pretty good rhythm and eased my way into a moderate, but manageable effort. I didn’t want to blow up early, as I remember the REV3 swim feeling like an eternity. Once my nerves settled and I started feeling good in the water, I picked up my stroke and tried to keep up with or catch some of the swimmers in front of me.
Since the shore was to my right, which is my favorite side to breath, I gave up on the bilateral breathing effort (water was too choppy anyway) and focused on just breathing deep and going fast. I had to make sure I used both arms properly, because I noticed my left arm getting tired first. It wasn’t long until I saw the swim finish buoys and I remember thinking about how quick the swim seemed to have passed. I still had plenty of energy and for the first time ever, as I approached the ramp, I felt like the swim was too short. What a change from past races!
I looked at my watch and almost did a cartwheel when I saw I finished the swim in under 30 minutes (29:46). Sure, there was a current, but this meant that I was ahead of my goal time by 5 minutes. I decided to take it easy during transition to make sure I didn’t miss anything, as 56 miles on the bike without proper nutrition could have been disastrous. They had a wetsuit pulling detail, but I opted to skip it and do it myself. Piece of cake. I got my gear on and took off towards the mount line. T1 time was 4:07.
The bike was where I blew up earlier this year and I was determined to avoid that in this race. Although I was much more prepared for the distance this time, I paced myself early to make sure I had enough left for the 2nd half of the bike and the half marathon afterwards. I was cruising at around 20-21 mph and people were still passing me. The competitor in me hated this, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I had some Perpetuem on the downtube, which I took in at 15 minute intervals. My Profile Design Aero Drink was filled with water and served me well for staying hydrated. I also had two Hammer Gels taped to my stem, and I took them at the 1 hour and 2 hour marks.
There were a few hills on this course, but nothing compared to what I faced in Middlebury, CT in June. I maintained a speed of 18+ for most of the leg, including the rollers, and slowly upped my pace after the halfway mark. Looking at my watch, I knew I was looking at a 2:40:00-2:55:00 time on the bike, which was right around my goal time of 2:45:00. I tried to push it a bit harder towards the end, but I could feel the fatigue in my legs building, so I backed off slightly. I got to the dismount line and crossed the pad at 2:51:04, which put my total time at just over 2:25:00. As I spent the 2:05 in T2 getting ready for the run, I had visions of a 5:15:00 or under finish, but I knew I’d have to push it on the run.
This is where things started to go wrong for me. I felt great getting off the bike, but for some reason I started to feel bloated and I felt my HR going up. I slowed down to give myself a chance to ease into the run, but I still couldn’t get my HR down. I thought I was going to puke and I was having trouble breathing, which isn’t normal for me. I thought maybe I took in too much water on the bike, which might have been the case. I also think I should have taken another gel before the run, because it wasn’t until after the halfway mark when I took some Gu Chomps that I started feeling better.
Still, I gutted through the early portion of the run with a slow pace, hoping I would feel better. I walked through a few of the aid stations, trying to take in some Gatorade and water. The iced sponges were a lifesaver! The sun was out now and even though I was drinking plenty of fluids, I felt extremely dehydrated. The Endurolytes were helping a bit, but not by much. Still, there were so many spectators on the course that I didn’t have a choice but to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Finally, around mile 9 or 10, the bloated feeling passed and I had my legs and lungs back. I picked up the pace a bit and worked my way towards the finish line. I could hear the music blaring and I was ready to get that finisher’s medal!
I crossed the line at 5:39:38, with a run total of 2:12:39. I didn’t meet either of my goals (5:15:00, 5:30:00), but I blew my REV3 time out of the water. My family was there to welcome me in and I felt good knowing that I’d improved by so much in such a short period of time. With a little bit of work (who am I kidding, a LOT of work) this off season, I’ll be ready for a sub 5 next year.
The good news is that I got the REV3 monkey off my back and I’m a bike to run transition from being able to race the entire HIM distance.