One of the biggest problem I have during endurance racing, be it running or triathons, is low blood sugar and energy. After a few hours my body somehow doesn’t signal out to dip into my fat reserves. I’ve tried all kinds of tricks like running on empty or low carbs but that original blue print must have been misplaced. So my Half Ironman plan was to never be hungry:
- Breakfast meal: oatmeal, almond butter, bananas and peaches, a boiled egg, a cup of tea with honey. I ate this at 7.00 a.m. and had five hours to digest.
- If I got hungry before the start I could eat another banana.
- On the bike segment: Mini sandwiches with whole wheat bread. Two were filled with almond butter and jam, two with Bresaola (a dried, sliced beef). I also had plenty of gels and bars to choose and plenty of water and energy drinks. I knew most of the athletes were only having gels and drinks but I knew my body and it needed “real” food.
- Run: only water and drinks offered on the course.
Luigi, Maria and I were at the start area with plenty of time to spare. I made sure my bike was still okay by checking the tire pressure. I set out all my running gear and shoes. I went to a bar for coffee, found a bathroom and then sat under a tree trying to relax before the start.
Triathlons start in “waves” and I was in the very first one along with about 200 other athletes. When they blew the horn to start I was lined up in the back. I didn’t want to get trampled, but once I hit the water I discovered something worse: getting whacked on the head by male athletes that roam aimlessly on the course! I tried to swim as far away from others as possible but there was little room. Plus, there were waves. Big waves. Being the girl from California waves are my specialty and I tried to swim as straight a line as I could while only breathing on my right side. If I mistakedly switched to my left I’d accidently gulp a big mouthful of salt water. Doing that once was enough of a reminder. At the turn around I switched breathing sides. For one hundred terrorizing meters the first group swimming back collided with the second group swimming out. The waves meshed us all together and if you weren’t an expert swimmer it was a little scary. I purposely swam a few meters to my right and then went back on course towards the finish. The waves helped push me back to shore and when I got out of the water I let out a little scream when I saw 38:18 on my watch for my 1.900 meter swim!
I ran to my bike and swigged down some water to wash the taste of salt out of my mouth. I’d chosen to wear a one piece trisuit for this race so the only thing I had to take off was my wetsuit. With my bike shoes and helmet in place, I put my sunglasses on and took off.
I had no idea what to expect on the bike ride, all I knew was that there would be hills on country rodes for ninety kilometers and I now had four hours and twenty minutes to get the job done. The road went along the coast for a few kilometers and then we started climbing up winding hills. I started to get passed by the second, third and fourth waves of athletes. Every once in awhile somebody would shout out “Go Julia!” as they passed and I remembered that my name was on my bib which had to be positioned on my backside for the bike segment. The course was gorgeous, We went through little towns with people out on the roads screaming encouragement as we rode by. The roads were perfect and I later learned that the city had signed a five year contract which included repavement for 30% of the bike course. It rained, it hailed, but I could also see that there was moving black cloud and if I just stayed on the bike and pedaled I could move through it faster than stopping and waiting for it to pass. Just after I left the storm there was one magical moment when I knew, I just KNEW that I was going to finish the race. I was pedaling downhill and this thought flashed before me:
…if you can see it, if you can visualize anything so well that you can actually taste it and touch it…then you can do anything you dream of…
Just a mere eight weeks ago I could barely pedal for more than an hour and yet there I was flying down a hill in the middle of a Half Ironman! Just think how many other wonderful things I could dream up for myself. This thought kept me entertained for quite a few miles. I stopped eating in the last hour of the bike ride and only took in fluids. I started getting anxious to get off my bike seat. When I turned the corner and saw the transition area I started smiling like a goon. I got off my bike, found my post, and changed my shoes. Still smiling, I began the final portion of the race: the half marathon.