This would be the first race of 2014 to see where I am fitness wise and to wipe away the rust from not racing in a little bit. I knew doing a race in Florida may not be ideal because of the long drive down and the possibility of feeling the sun on my pasty white skin for the first time in many months. All things considered, I would say the race went alright and showed me areas I need to work on and gave me more motivation to train harder. It was also nice to meet some people from the online world…hi Maria and Sam!
I have been working on my swim for the past 3 months and knew I wanted to push rather than just survive. I was told to go out hard and find feet. It was a rectangle swim with a beach start (need to work on that dolphin thing rather than a belly flop thing). I am starting to feel a sense of confidence going in to this part of the race, which is always nice. Not much to talk about here…I didn’t get bumped too much in the beginning but failed to get on feet for the first quarter of the race. Right before we made the turn to head back I was able to get find some bubbles. I felt the girl was zigzagging a bit but by the time we turned for home we caught up to another small group of girls and stayed together till the end. It was fun to finally feel like I was in a “pack” for the swim and I was able to push hard at times if I ever fell off for a few seconds to catch back up. As we exited, I wasn’t quite prepared for the uphill sand run but the wetsuit came off and bike stuff went on.
I knew racing in Clermont would be hilly especially after driving around the day before and it certainly was. I used the first 20 minutes or so to settle my HR a bit since there were a few pitchy hills at the beginning that spiked it pretty good. Once settled in, I just focused on my power numbers and tried to do some catching up and see how long I could go before a guy caught up (women went first – no idea why!). There was one out and back section early in the course where you got to see where people were, much to my surprise I wasn’t too far behind the top girls. One being Nina Kraft – yes that Nina Kraft. At about mile 20 a girl came up from behind me and passed me but I was able to stay with her for the rest of the race. We traded positions a few times always staying legal but neither of us could out push the other to pull ahead.
During the bike portion for a half – I take 2 bottles with me of Infinit along with GU Energy Gels (peanut butter and strawberry banana are my favorite) and always take water at the first or second aid station. This race said there would be three aid stations on the course with water, Gatorade and bananas. Not so much. There was ONE aid station at mile 40 at the top of Sugarloaf with water and Gatorade but here is the kicker…they handed you the bottle without a top on it! I was kind of shocked to get the water and just chugged as much as I could and threw the rest on the way down the steep decline. After that, I just tried to ration the rest of the bottle I had to make it to the end.
The course was tough – it had a lot of pitchy inclines with the one steeper and longer uphill on Sugarloaf. There was nothing huge but they did make you get out of your saddle and work. The only other thing I would note about the course is the section where the roads are pretty terrible around Sugarloaf that make it difficult to get much speed and to stay aero as you are bouncing around so much.
As I came into T2 – I was ready to run and try to catch the leaders as much as I could.
As I headed out on to the run course my legs felt pretty good and I clocked the first mile at around 7:00 minute pace and was pretty happy with my effort level for that. Mile 3 – hit the time I was looking for and as I got to the turn around still feeling good and in 3rd pace. The sun started to come out and I felt my pace drop a bit but was still running OK. The run was basically an out and back that you did twice…after the second turn around to head back I could tell I was slowing down because 2nd place was farther ahead than before. I didn’t have the jump I needed to push the pace…could have been the heat or lack of water on the bike but I stayed strong mentally and just kept running. I got passed around mile 11 by the same girl who had been with me all day and just could not pick it up enough to get passed her again.
Result: 5:03 – 4th Overall Female
Looking back – I am happy with my swim and bike for this race after looking at the times of other competitors but still question the run a little. It’s been awhile since I ran a 1:42 half marathon and whether the course was long or not I think I need to get in the hurt box a bit more out there. I don’t usually wear a Garmin for the run but I am starting to think seeing my pace may give me a bit of motivation to keep running strong or that I need to push it more especially when the mile markers are off like they were in this race. I also know I need to drop weight if I expect to hang with the top girls on the run especially in the heat. I have told myself this from the beginning of the year but to be honest have probably been half assing it a bit since I eat pretty healthy anyway but not anymore. I read a blog post recently and she put it perfectly, “nothing changes unless you change”. I need to make the changes and I need to make them now! That’s why we race to see where we can improve and give us the focus and motivation to work harder and this race absolutely did that for me.
After the race, we drove the 9+ hours back to NC which was absolutely miserable and painful but now it is Tuesday and my legs and body feel recovered and ready to get back to work!