I didn’t like the run course at all. I’m pretty sure the Ironman executives sat around a table and agreed that all 70.3 events should be three loops in a city centre; that’s how each and every one of mine has been.
For Zell am See this meant a lot of hairpin turns, switchbacks, steep up and down grades, and both pavement and gravel surfaces. The only thing that I think they improved on is how we got our spongy bracelets with each loop.
For most triathlons, even though we have a chip that records your times they still want a way to confirm you’ve run all the loops they lay out on a repeated course. So, they give you sponge bracelets. I personally look at it as another way to entertain myself while I run. You can see how far a person has gone by how many bracelets they have on their arm.
In Italy the bracelet exchange was a mess. They shouted at you asking which loop you were on and you had to think about it. In Zell they had door-like gates you went through; one, two or three. I drew up this lovely rendition because it was the exact spot where they had the gates set up.
When I run the half marathon in a 70.3 I divide it mentally into three parts: 5km + 6km + a countdown of the last 10km. Or maybe that’s twelve parts. In any case, when I got off the bike I felt pretty good. I ran the first 2km to get to the loop and then started running around with everybody else like a hamster.
I took a gel at 2.5km and then another at 7.5km and then promised myself that when I got to 11km I could start drinking Coke (or Pepsi). I am not normally a soda drinker but the sugar really helps in the last leg. You just have to be careful not to take it too early or it’ll give you an immediate sugar high but then send you crashing. I wanted enough high to get me to the finish line, then whatever happened after that was fine.
The rain had stopped just after I got off the bike, so it was perfect running weather. For the first half I tried to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, occupying my mind with thoughts other than “ouch, this hurts!”, and high-fiving friends I saw on the course.
During the last loop I started to get an endorphin rush. I realized that I was going to finish, maybe even in good time. I started smiling so much that my mouth ached. No tears, but I think I let out a squeal or two.
I did walk a few times for a minute. The last walk was at about the 18km point, going into the last stretch. Four women ran past me as I walked, but I let them go. I had my last swig of Coke at a water station and told myself to run the rest of the way. It hurt, but I concentrated on my feet and pushing myself forward.
Then I started to re-pass the four ladies. When I got to the last one I knew that I had to push a little faster (gulp, so unlike me!). I circled around the hairpin turn and on the way back high fived the lady I had just passed. Up the hill and down the finishing shute…
Half marathon run time: 2:18:03
Total race time: 6:39:41
So many people have asked me, “Why do you think you did so well this time?” I bettered my time by over 20 minutes and that’s a big chunk to take off for a PB. I’ve come up with this list:
- I race better in cool temperatures. The previous three races of this distance were all done in super high temperatures. I hate (hate!) running in the heat and do much better in the wintertime.
- My meds finally kicked in. From my blood tests I’ve had this hypothyroid condition for a few years and so raced my previous events in sub par physical condition.
- Getting my bike fitted paid for itself. I had my bike fitted in February and now it’s super comfy to ride. This is the first time I’ve gotten off the bike in a long triathlon race where I wasn’t aching all over. I could have gone on for longer, no problem.
- I train with an occupied mind but race with an empty slate. I have a really hard time leaving my work and problems at home when I go out to train. I had a really difficult summer for a lot of reasons and I know that I tried to solve a lot of those problems while I swam laps or road in the hills. When I go to a race I close all my work, let clients know I’m unavailable, and really let my race experience be a vacation. It was a vacation for me to be out racing.
- I’m starting to finally nail my nutrition. In the month leading up to Zell I was tracking my food. Not to “control” but just to see how much I actually ate, and how much I actually needed during my training and racing. For the record, between bars, gels, energy drinks and Coke I ingested 1782 calories for 400 grams of carbohydrate. I still don’t think this is enough so I’ll be looking into modifying that in the future. In the meantime it’s good to know what my body works best on.
- I perform better by starting out slow. I’m like a diesel truck. I like to take the swim easy, to mentally get warmed up. Since swimming is strangely always my best out of the the three, I think I’ll stick with this.
When I looked at my age group I can see that I need to improve my cycling skills and with a run tune up I might be able to perform better on the run. That endorphin high in the last half hour is still hanging around, so I feel pretty inspired to give it another go. I’m already back to training and feeling wonderful. Can.not.wait to see what 2014 has in store for me. I’ll give you a sneak peek in a few weeks!