1/2 Iron!

Posted: October 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

montauk

So usually my updates here are about injuries and setbacks– this one will be a positive. Last month I completed my first 1/2 Ironman! On Sept 28th, I raced in the Mighty Montauk, out at the very tip of Long Island. Overall, I had a positive experience; my first major concern was allayed when we arrived to warm 80 degree weather. In the weeks leading up to the race, fall had descended in full force and I was concerned that the swim would be very cold. When I slipped into the lake race morning however, it was comfortably warm, which was a great way to start.

During the swim, I felt good. I’m not the fastest swimmer, but fortunately I’m not the (absolute) slowest either. However, I did have significant problems with sighting– I kept veering off-course on the return portion of the out-and-back 1.2 mile swim, and am fairly confident I tacked on to up an additional 1/5 of a mile.. I was feeling frustrated by this, and so was very pleasantly surprised when I emerged from the water in just under 48 minutes, which was more or less what I had been shooting for.

I’ve never really taken transitions seriously. In my mind the race is so long that if I take 1 or 2 minutes extra to catch my breath and change clothes, it’s ok. That being said, I probably should be a bit quicker– my T1 was just over 5 minutes, which is pretty long. Once I was on the bike however, I felt good. The course was rolling, with a couple of climbs. Ultimately I think I prefer this sort of course to a flat one, since a flat course requires consistent, all-out effort for the whole time, whereas on a rolling course, there is a bit variation in effort, and reprieve on the back sides of climbs. I did the vast majority of the course in a road position instead of on my tri bars. This was a result of my primarily training in this position, and as such, I didn’t develop a preference for, at least comfort with, that position over extended periods of time. That wasn’t a mistake on my part though. With all the pedestrian traffic in Central Park (where I do 99% of my riding), and the uptick in accidents, its just not feasible for me to train in an aero position.

Coming off the bike, my legs felt a bit heavy, and I knew I would be in for a tough run. I finished the bike in just over 3 hours, which was much quicker than the 3hr10 to 3hr30 I had anticipated. What I didn’t realize however, was just how much I was going to pay for that on-the-bike speed (avg of 18.5mph). The first mile or two out of transition were absolutely brutal. I was barely able to muster more than a shuffle, and the thought repeatedly crossed my mind that I wasn’t going to finish, that I should just drop out. Mental toughness is undoubtedly a part of triathlon, and I had to dig deep to focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

From the suffering in those initial minds I knew I couldn’t focus on the full run length that remained before me, or just how much longer I had to be on my feet. I decided to buckle down, adjust my expectations of race pace and finishing time, and take it one slow mile after the other. Making matters worse though, the course was tough. There were lots of steep climbs and I felt no shame in walking up the inclines. I’ve always been a purist in racing, feeling that I had to run every step of a marathon, that I had to push as hard as possible every step. At this point though, I realized that this was about finishing a race, not about time, and walking up the hills was the most practical way to save myself for the rest of the course. From several books about ultramarathoning I’ve learned that the athletes often walk up hills too. It turns out its not that much faster to run uphill (unless you burn all of your matches taking them fast), and in saving yourself, you are able to bomb the downhills and the flats, ultimately resulting in a faster performance.

The run was a two-loop course, and it was pretty demoralizing that the end of the first loop, to be just feet away from the finishing line. Knowing what you just went through, and that you were so far from the actual finish while being so physically close, was rough! Anyway, by this time I was feeling better. I think the first couple of miles were about getting my feet back under me, and loosening up from 3 hours on the bike. After that it was just grit, and a commitment to keep moving, no matter what. When I finally brought it home, 2hrs11 later, I was absolutely thrilled that I had beaten my expected finishing time. It turns out that even though my run was 13 minutes longer (a bit over 1 min per mile slower) than I had predicted, since my bike was so much faster, my cumulative time of 6hr09 was about 15-20 minutes faster than I had expected at the outset.

Just yards from the finish line I saw Brisa, which really perked me up, and she was able to snap this perfect picture:

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In the immediate minutes, hours and days after the race, I could not possibly conceive of doing double what I just went through. But deep down inside I know I’ve already set myself on that course, and will next year, be able to call myself an “Ironman”.

-kd-

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