Once I was all marked and set up, I headed down to the beach to start warming up for the swim. It was pretty overcast at this point, and I briefly wondered if I'd made a mistake not renting a wetsuit, but once I actually got into the water it was pretty pleasant and not too cold.
Just before we took off, they had the kids surf n' turf event, which was pretty cute to watch. The kids got a good audience, that's for sure!
Then we all lined up on the beach, and took off. I didn't really have a chance to get overly nervous, which is probably a good thing!
The swim went pretty well. I was with the pack for the first little bit, and then fell back somewhat. I was swimming mostly on my own for most of the distance, which always makes me a little nervous that I'm the last one or something, but every time I came around one of the buoys and the ends of the course, I saw that there were still about a dozen people behind me, so I was pretty happy with that. I felt strong and comfortable, and didn't feel worn out at all at the end of the swim. I checked my watch when I came out of the water -- 49 minutes. I was pretty happy with that.
Then there was a long (300m) run up to the transition zone. Up a hill. Ick. I've gotta say, I wasn't entirely impressed with some of the details of the course design, especially some of the ways they'd changed it from previous years. But more on that later.
T-1 went pretty well. I sprayed on my spray-on sunscreen and ended up with some in my mouth, yuck! But did at least manage to get some on my arms and legs. (It became clear yesterday that I hadn't really gotten my shoulders, because they are really badly burned. Ouch. But at least I managed to protect most of me. Also, there is a really funny skinny little red stripe of burn on my lower back where my shirt didn't *quite* meet my shorts.) The run from the T-zone to the bike course was pretty long, too, which was a pain.
And then the bike!
Oh, the bike. That was a long time to be on a bike. And I did much better than I'd really expected to! The first three laps, I was averaging 40 minutes a lap (each lap=15km; 6 laps altogether), which is pretty blisteringly fast for me (although not fast at all compared to, oh, everyone else). The last three laps were a few minutes slower (I did not succeed at holding back on the first half of the bike like I was supposed to, clearly), but not too much. FInal bike time: four hours eleven minutes. That is a very long time to be on a bike.
fairplaythings was a very helpful pit crew/cheering section for the bike leg. He handed me gatorade when I needed it (although the organized bottle exchange was actually working much better than I'd expected it to, so I probably could have managed with just them -- it was nice to know I had a dedicated person to count on, though), and, perhaps more importantly, had made a bunch of signs to cheer me on with. The signs were awesome -- they were great for the mental encouragement that I needed!
Towards the end of the bike I had my first spot of stomach trouble. I'd been eating Luna bars and dried apricots and drinking Luna bars and water, which was working pretty well. I tried a sports gel on the back side of the last loop, and stuck to water at that point (sports gels + gatorade = very unhappy stomach), but even still I got really queasy for a minute and actually thought I was going to throw up. Not Good. But I got past it, and just focused on getting out on the run.
Getting off the bike was a bit tricky. One of my shoes got stuck in the pedal (this has happened before. It is very annoying, but at least I wasn't surprised this time), so I had to actually take the shoe off to get out. Thank goodness I was half-expecting it, and managed not to fall over. Then I had to run all the way back to the T-zone with one shoe on and one shoe off, which was a little comical. Sigh.
T-2 was nice and fast. More sunscreen applied, more sunscreen ingested. I had brought an MP3 player in an arm cuff, but ended up leaving it behind, in part because I didn't want to have to worry about it, and in part because I wanted to be completely "in the moment," as cheesy as that sounds. I mean, what's the point of doing a half-ironman if you're just going to try to take your mind off of it? No really, it makes sense in my head. Honest.
And then... the run! And this is where it's a little bit frustrating, because the run is where my legs were feeling pretty good, but my stomach just couldn't handle it. It started out okay, and I was doing a really good job of having long run intervals and short walk intervals. And then the nausea started again. It pretty quickly became clear that any time I had a sports gel, my stomach would start to rebel. So, proving that I can, in fact, learn, I quit the gels entirely. I also quit gatorade at this point, not wanting to stress my stomach any more. I did keep downing as much water as I could. And they had coke at one of the aid stations, so I was using that for energy. And, believe it or not, that worked better. My stomach stopped acting up, and I was able to run for longish intervals again. Hurrah!
The run was three long loops of a little over 7km each. Each loop ended back near the finish line, at the top of that big hill we had to run up after the swim (yippeee). That was a nasty hill. There was another nasty hill on the course, too, but they cleverly stuck an aid station in the middle of it, so I felt completely legitimate walking that one. In past years, the run has been two loops (and the finish line wasn't at the top of the hill!), so this year's course involved rather more hill-climbing than in the past. That wasn't fun. The increased number of loops did mean you were around the spectators more often, though, and you were passing and meeting other runners more often, so it was a less isolating run. So I guess that's the tradeoff. But oh... those hills!
Anyway! I managed to complete the run in 3 hours 6 minutes, which is not too shameful in my opinion. And I had enough energy to run across the finish line with a big smile (although I most certainly did not have a sprint left, I was able to finish with a strong run and not a hobble!). Final race time: 8:18:52.
I had sweated so much that I had actual salt crystals crusted on my arms by the time I finished. Yikes. I did down plenty of gatorade post-race, to get my system back to normal, never fear!
And yes, I was the last person to finish the half-ironman. But I finished it! And I am pretty darn proud of myself.