September 14, 2009

Patriot's Half Ironman Race Report

Hi guys! I was really hoping to have this post up a couple of days ago but sometimes life just gets a little bit hectic. Busy, busy busy! Anyway, I finally found a few moments to tell you about the race so here we go!
The Patriot's Half Ironman is an awesome race. I absolutely love the course and the challenge of racing a half ironman. This is the second time I have done this race but in a lot of ways it was completely different from the last time I did the course. The swim, bike and run course were all different from the first year although the race was held at the same venue. It was a little bit strange to recognize portions of the course and then turn and go in the opposite direction of what you remembered. I loved the new course though and I am excited to do this race again next year. Let's back up though...

H and I arrived in Williamsburg on Friday afternoon and made a quick stop by the race venue to pick up our packets and check out the swim course.
The weather was absolutely beautiful and we had a fun time walking around and chatting with the other athletes. After the race expo, we found our way to the hotel and spent the rest of the evening relaxing and getting our gear ready for the next day.

Saturday morning started with a super early wake up call. I ate my typical race morning breakfast, packed up all of my gear, checked out of the hotel and made my way to the race site.
It was a cold, dark morning and I had quite a difficult time getting my transition area set up. I finally had all of my gear straight, my tires pumped and my game face on, then it was off to body marking.
Once all of my numbers were in place, I pulled my wetsuit on and made my way down to the race start. It was about a half mile walk down to the start of the race and there was nervous anticipation in the air.
I was in the third wave of swimmers (the pink caps), so I found my way into my wave, made sure my goggles and swim cap were situated and before I knew it, we were off.
Now, anyone who knows me well, knows that I really whine about swimming all the time. I claim to hate it but the truth of the matter is that I hate the pool. I absolutely love to swim in the open water, especially the ocean. It took me awhile to get over my fear of sharks and to not freak out every time I felt something touch me but over time I have really grown to love the open water.
As the swim portion of the race started, it took me a few minutes to get into a groove and then I was off. The swim was almost 2000 meters and I was feeling great for the first 1200 meters or so. As I made my way to the final turn buoy to head back into shore, I took a moment to sight and was blinded by the sun. I couldn't see anything. I had no idea where I was or how to get back to shore. There were about 10-15 swimmers near me and we were all looking for the buoy. I spent a good ten minutes treading water and doing circles in the water before I finally found the shore line. I was very frustrated at this point in the race but I was determined to stay focused and keep my mind on the race. I finally made it to shore after more than 50 minutes in the water and started to pull my wetsuit off while running to the transition area.
I was so disappointed to see my swim time but I was determined to not let it blow my race. The run to the transition area is a long one (my guess would be about 600 meters or so) and makes the T1 time very long. I was in and out as quickly as possible and set off for the bike portion of the race.

The bike course at Patriot's is pretty flat and fast with a couple of exceptions. There are one or two medium size hills and some rough pavement that makes it very difficult for me to stay in aero position. As soon as I was situated on the bike, I started sipping on my sports drink and tried to get some calories in my body. I have been training with fruit chews, gels and Nuun drink and I was very anal about making sure to stay hydrated and fueled throughout the bike ride. I didn't wear a watch on the bike because I knew it would stress me out but I did have my bike computer going so that I could keep track of my speed and mileage. I managed to maintain just over 19 miles per hour and finished the bike portion (which was almost 58 miles) in 3 hours. It was a great ride and I loved every moment of it. I was able to shave more than 16 minutes off of my previous bike time which is a huge deal to me. I don't really consider myself to be very good at cycling and so it was nice to see that I have made some improvements over the last couple of years. As I rode my bike into T2, I was feeling awesome and was super excited to be at the running portion of the race.
I love to run and so I am always excited to have the swim and the bike behind me. I pulled my running shoes on, grabbed a bottle of Nuun, secured my race number and I was off.

The run portion of the race was completely different from the last time I raced Patriot's. We had to run a short out and back for the first mile and then made our way to the Virginia Capital Trail where we ran two loops of a great course. I really loved the run course of this race and I am planning on making my way back to Williamsburg very soon to run the course again. With that being said, I absolutely hate to run two loops of a course in any race. It is very frustrating to pass mileage signs that you haven't reached yet and to watch the front runners finish their run as you set out to start yours. I remember finishing my first loop during Florida Ironman and wanting to sit down on the pavement and cry when I realized that I had to turn around and do it all over again. Ever since that moment, I have felt nothing but loathing for a two loop run course. Anyway, let me get back to the race, I started my run off feeling really strong and was almost certain that I was going to reach the goals I had set for my race but at mile 4, everything fell apart. I am not sure what is causing my nutrition problems in the run portion of longer races but I was SICK through the last nine miles of the run. I had to stop in the bathroom twice to get sick and walked a good portion of miles 9 and 10. I couldn't keep any liquids down at all, I stopped sweating and everything was spinning. I remember holding onto a tree in the woods at one point to steady myself but beyond that, the last few miles were a blur. I was trying to choke down sports drink, gels and electrolyte tablets but nothing would stay down. I managed to score a cup of ice at one of the aid stations and that helped immensely but eventually even that came back up. This is the exact same thing that happened to me at Ironman and it is so frustrating. My body was feeling awesome and able to run but my stomach and head were killing me and refused to cooperate. I was determined to keep going but I was really angry with myself for falling apart on the run and embarrassed to be so far back in the pack. I know that I sound like a spoiled child but it is really frustrating to be passed on the run by people you could beat any day of the week.
I managed to cross the finish line after two long hours on the run course and promptly burst into tears of frustration.
I had set quite a few goals for myself with this race and I failed at almost all of them. I remember competing in this race before and feeling awesome on the run...I even sprinted the last two miles. I just can't figure out what I did wrong in regards to my nutrition. I have been trying to figure out the nutrition aspect of triathlons for almost two years now and it is very frustrating to still not have it figured out. I never have problems with nutrition when I am simply running and even in training, I felt great. Do any triathletes out there have any tips for me because at this point I will try just about anything?

So, as disappointed as I am with my race, I still managed to set a PR and come in the top ten in my age group. I finished in 6:01:24 and crushed my previous bike split. I also was very blessed to have my awesome husband at the finish line to give me hugs, wipe away my tears, make me laugh and remind me that we can try again next year.
Oh yeah, he also made me pick up my finisher's medal to remind me that I can finish even when I don't feel like it. All in all, I enjoyed the race and I am happy to have another half ironman under my belt but I am also eager to figure out this nutrition issue and come back next year to accomplish some of the goals I have set for myself. As for right now, I am going to focus my attention on the century (100 mile bike ride) I have this weekend and learn what I can from this race.
Thanks for hanging in there with me through a very long race report. I will be back to regular blogging tomorrow...I have missed you guys! Talk to you soon!


  1. I am very PROUD of you.Amazing you are just amazing I love you...

  2. Sorry about the race. You still finished with an awesome time. Not many people can say they finished that kind of race at all. Remember that.

  3. Great race report. It sounds like you did awesome, but I know what it's like to be disappointed with yur performance. I look forward to reading some commenters' tips on nutrition. I haven't done any longer tris yet, but in my last 2 marathons I was sick the second half even though I changed nothing from my training routine. Very frustrating.

  4. Sorry about the frustrating aspects of the race. But at the same time I'm in total awe of you and think you rock!!! I'm doing my first sprint tri next weekend and I really enjoy reading about the amazing races you are doing and it sounds like you do great. Thanks for posting this race us all something we can take away from it and learn.
    Rock on and rock out your next event!!!
    Adventures in Tri-ing

  5. H - I love you too! A lot!

    Matt - Your words mean so much to me! Thanks for the encouragment!

    Amy - What are you using in your marathon training? I have had a lot of success with nutrition in marathons, which is why the tri thing is frustrating to me. Let me know if I can help in any way.

  6. I'm "blown away" by both you and H!! "Momma said there'd be days like this" but your great attitude shows your character as does your support of each other. Shake it off and the answers will come.

  7. Aww I am sorry you had a rough race, I thought about you all day Saturday!

    Strange your marathon nutrition isn't working for your longer tri's it does seem to be a tricky thing to figure out and it's different for each person which sucks! One of my tri buddies uses those PB&J Uncrustables during her rides before she runs, and also started trying rice crispy treats, has the same calories as a gel but is easier on her stomach. Just a thought, maybe try real food (well as real as rice crispies are!) as opposed to gels.

  8. You had never mentioned on how H did in the race...what was his official time ?

  9. Aaah, sorry i'm so late in reading your report! i looked on sunday, but then the week got busy ;)

    H is amazing, and has said all the right things. I can only imagine what you must be feeling right now--hugs!! just remember the positives-- you completed another half iron AND rocked the bike (which you were trying to improve). Sometimes everything doesn't all come together, but it will!!

    I've not done such long races, so i've got no ideas about nuritions... ahve you talked to any sort of coach about it??