In light of last year, a funny thing did happen this year before we even left the house at 4:45 am race morning. Our arms full with Janna, diaper bag, stroller, car seat, breakfast bagels, etc., and . . . oh, yeah, my race stuff already in the car. (Our pre-race packing is a little more involved now.) Suddenly Anna can’t find her diamond engagement ring - the very one I smuggled to this race under her nose last year and gave to her at mile 64! We spend 20 minutes (that we didn’t have btw) frantically searching Janna’s diaper and clothes, tossing sofa cushions, bed linens, and moving furniture . . . the house looked like it had been hit by an earthquake or vandals when . . . “got it!” . . . on the dark carpet underneath a piece of furniture. No way could we go to this race without it since I spilled a lot of blood to give it to her last year! Now 25 minutes late, it made for a little more “spirited” 70 mile drive to the race for the 7:30 a.m. start, but we made it. No worries mate. (Maybe she should have kept it in her shoe like I did last year. :-))
The swim was barely wetsuit legal (water temp 76 degrees). I had a good swim, about the same as last year. 1.2 miles. The water was calm and I felt very comfortable, having no trouble spotting the buoys heading due east on the way out into the blinding sunrise. Fortunately I wore dark goggles and had cleaned them with anti-fog solution. Swimming with fogged goggles into a blinding sun makes a long and difficult swim – been there! Swimming is my weakest event, and the hardest for me to train. I can do bike and run workouts at odd times and places, but the pool doesn’t travel with me or stay open on my schedule. I came out of the water about where I needed to be, top 10 or so in my division, always hoping for a few minutes faster, but many of the swim times appeared a few minutes long after the race. But no time to fret in T1. Time to attack the bike.
My race strategy is always the same: limit losses on the swim, attack the bike and make big time gains, then keep pushing and see if I can hold it or move up on the run.
A quick check of my blood sugar on my One Touch Ultra Meter in transition showed I was way too high, over 300! Ugh!! Not again! That’s very rare after the swim, but I knew it was my fault for hastily drinking some high carb drink and eating half of a Clif Bar right before the swim, concerned that it was dropping. I was a little afraid to bolus too much insulin right now, so I’d try to bring it down naturally on the bike.
I know the bike course well, my 4th time in this race. 56 miles, lots of rolling hills, and gradual climbs and descents. The air temperature was unusually cool, mid 50s Fahrenheit, so dehydration and sweat loss was not a concern like in hot weather and full Ironman distance races (i.e., IM Louisville). But because I was fighting a 300 high blood sugar, I could not consume as many carbs as I needed. (Hmmm. . . race a half Ironman on a starvation diet, yeh, . . . this will work out well.) I drank only two 25 ounce bottles of straight water and only one 18 ounce Gatorade (35 grams carbs), and ate just 1 Clif Bar (42 grams carbs). That’s enough hydration but less than half the calories and carbs I need for cycling 2 ½ hours at race pace. My testing at Gatorade Sports Science Institute earlier this month showed that I need about 70 – 80 grams of carbohydrate per hour, so about 180 grams for a half Ironman bike. I consumed only 77 grams.
Maybe that was a reason, because this year I had my worst bike time ever, 2:35, only 30th fastest out of about 450. I was even passed twice in 56 miles, which rarely happens to me, but I never know all of the fast cyclist in the field and where they may have come out of the water. This year was also more windy, so I expected to be slower, but I rode 9th fastest overall in 2005, and 16th overall last year (even peeling some of my back tumbling down the asphalt). Maybe this year I’ve been changing too many diapers! Ha!
A quick check of the blood sugar in T2 on my One Touch UltraMini meter showed it was still above 300. Ugh!! But too high is better than too low as long as the stomach is okay, and I still felt strong. But I knew I was going to hit the wall soon running 13.1 miles if I could not get some calories and carbs in me. You can’t do a half Ironman triathlon on 1 Clif Bar and 1 bottle of Gatorade. I also spent what seemed like forever emptying the bladder in T2. (okay, sorry for the details but that’s part of being a diabetic triathlete!) I knew the high blood sugar was causing that usual kidney flush of all my fluids trying to purge me of all that sugar. Dehydration and nausea would be a major problem if this were a hot day and longer than a half Ironman. I punched in a quick bolus of 3 units of insulin on my Omnipod PDM in transition, and let it inject as I took off running, 13.1 miles (half marathon) to go.
A funny thing happened as I started running . . . I felt great. Comfortable, in control. I can always tell in the first 500 meters when I do a quick “system check.” Stomach? Feels good. Quads? A little sore, but plenty left there. Hamstrings, calves, Achilles? Check, check, check. I had every reason to feel horrible, high blood sugar, no carbs in me, building dehydration, and a poor bike time . . . but it was cool weather and I felt great. I saw Anna holding Janna in the crowd about 500 meters out of transition and stopped for 2 quick kisses for both as I ran by. I’ll always have time for that.
I decided to hold a 7:30 pace pretty comfortably, waiting for my blood sugar to come down. Finally I sucked down a gel at about mile 3, and took in some Gatorade about every other mile. At about mile 4 I saw my friend Peter Kotland coming the other way from the turn-around, a few minutes ahead of me running strong in 3rd place overall. Since I still felt good I wanted to run fast the 1st lap to build a cushion in case I did hit the wall in lap 2.
I sucked down another gel at mile 7 and still felt strong. Maybe I can hold this pace to the end. It got harder (imagine that) but I kept the same 7:30 – 7:40 pace as the miles 8, 9, and 10 ticked off. I was passed a few times over the 13.1 miles, and passed a few others. Even on my best days, I expect to get passed by some of the elite runners in the field, so I felt good that was not happening much today. On the 2nd lap it got harder to tell who was on their 1st or 2nd lap as slower athletes were starting on their 1st lap.
I ran a 1:40:30 half marathon for a 7:40 pace so I was pleased that I stayed consistent the whole run. I made it to the line in 4:58, not my best by any means, and about 10 to 15 minutes off my target time, but good enough for 2nd out of 64 in my age group, 37th overall out of about 450. I was hoping to be top 20 but my slow bike (12 minutes slower than last year) and transitions killed that. But I was glad to be able to run well. My blood sugar at the finish was a stellar 128. Perfecto! That small bolus and 13.1 miles of running had really brought it down from over 300 at the start of the run. I felt good at the finish but was happy to have a seat and take the rest of the day off!
Next for me is the Half Ironman in Miami, FL November 11. See you then, and keep going for that Finish Line. You will get there.
[Note: A few hours after the race I developed a nasty sore throat and congestion, and spent the next 3 days fighting a miserable cold. I didn’t feel it race morning, but maybe that had something to do with my poor bike split…or all that time changing diapers.]