Muncie 70.3 was a late addition to my schedule. I like the race, and had been doing well. So….in looking for a warm up race for IM Louisville it was between Muncie and Lake Logan. I chatted with Matthew (my coach) and considering scheduling and life, we opted for Muncie. As things progressed in the (relatively) short time between Raleigh and Muncie, I started to believe that I could finally break 5 hours. Being a bit superstitious and wanting to keep things low-key I told few people I was racing, and only one person (my coach) my inkling on being able to go sub 5. I knew it would take a solid swim for me (it’s a lake swim so no help from a current or tide) and a very strong bike. I knew I could repeat my run from Chattanooga as I have been feeling healthier and stronger with each passing day.
And so, with all that in mind, Carlos and I headed off to Muncie, IN.
It’s fun to do a race you’ve run before as you know what to expect in terms of logistics: crowds, driving, location, etc. Muncie is at the Prairie Creek Reservoir and there are no hotels (well, very few) close by. Most people stay about 30 minutes out. After the luxury of being right on site the past two races, it was time to have to wake Carlos up ungodly early so he could drive me to the site as we had to go together if he wanted to be at the race. And then he has to wait with me. But as a bonus, it means I get to eat my breakfast while he drove.
I slept horribly the night before. In fact, sleep would be a loose term. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose at sleeping the night before. This time I lost.
Transition opened at 5. We were off by 4:30 to the reservoir and could just follow the steady stream of cars there. We arrived by 5:09 and got a great parking spot such that we could easily walk back and forth to the car if need be…which we did a couple of times after the race.
I set up transition. I had located my spot the day before, and went straight through it. I also walked through to bike out. I always do. I have lost my transition at a race once before and I don’t like it. Remember this detail…
I did my warm up routine and then found Stacy and her dad. He gave me a big hug (much needed and appreciated) and then I went and sat next to Carlos for a bit. As usual I cycled through the bathroom, went through my pre-race drinks, and then got in the water for my swim warm up. It’s always brief but I am always glad I do….I felt the “out of breath” experience and once it passed, started to get out of the water. They were getting ready to start and we’re going to sing the national anthem soon.
I headed over to the swim start, found my age group and started looking for Stacy. She showed up, said hi, took my hand and lead me straight to the front of our age group. And we lined up at the front. I wasn’t nervous about being there; I didn’t have time to have it dawn on me to be nervous (where as if I had planned this I would have gotten nervous). I don’t think I would have lined up on the front line, and had such a great start position if she had not have said “let’s go”. Holy cow….it made for a fantastic start. After the race I did thank Stacy, and learned a valuable lesson: from now on if I am doing a race with Stacy I am lining up with her. And if she’s not there….I’ll spontaneously head up to the front because if I plan it I’ll get nervous and doubt myself 🙂
The horn sounded and we were off. I soon lost track of Stacy and was swimming. No anxiety, no shortness of breath. I did have to ease back after the first 50 meters or so for about 5-10 seconds and then I kept going. The swim out, around the first buoy and to the second turn was smooth and easy. I felt great and kept thinking how much I enjoyed this swim. And I also kept focused and keeping a good pace for me. About 1/2 down the way back in, I started to get hit a few times and I thought of how rough Ironman Wisconsin was. But…since it was late in the swim I was unflappable, and kept a steady pace forward….siting often to keep on course. I honestly feel like this was one of my most successful swim since I didn’t seem to wander off the main line much. Siting on the way back in was harder….I know they weren’t but it seemed like the buoys were shorter and harder to site. Granted we were swimming towards the sun but I wasn’t blinded by the glare.
As we came in it felt like most people were to my left, but when I sited I was straight in for the swim exit arch so I kept steady….and swam until my hands brush the sand and then stand to start running.
I head out of the water, take off my cap, goggles and earplugs and realize the wetsuit strippers are close to the water exit. I quickly unzip my wetsuit and start taking it down past my butt and pick a couple of guys and sit in front of them. I think they all were a bit disorganized as no one was calling for people and it took one of the two a second or two, and me saying “I’m ready!” Before one of the two pulled my wet suit off and tossed it to me as I got up and scooted away. I quickly headed up the ramp and in to transition.
And I knew where my bike was. And I totally messed it up, and was one or two rows too far back! Argh! I quickly glanced around got my bearing and spotted my bike. Luckily the age group between my bike and me had left so I could run under the racks. Grumbling at myself I got over it quickly….I had other things to do, but the thought “if I narrowly miss 5 hours I’m going to be angry with myself” did float through my head a couple of times on the run. On the other hand…it also gave me incentive to push a bit more, I think.
Finally at my bike I tossed my swim items in my general transition area, and put on my riding gear. It amazes me how little gear I have to put in (shoes, helmet) since everything else is on my bike, and my helmet has a visor.
I had checked transition in the morning and, even though it had rained, transition wasn’t muddy so I had my shoes on as I ran through to bike out. I stopped for sun screen and hurried to the mount line.
And like that I was in my bike and saying “left” from the get go. My heart rate was more in line with what I am used to for starting a race, low 140s. And it stayed low throughout the race despite my power readings and what my legs were telling me…that they were giving a half IM effort.
The course is a 6 mile trek out to a double loop, and then Six miles back to transition. The six miles out is downhill, so it gives that coming in you are going mostly uphill. What’s fantastic is that the road is officially closed to traffic and so outside of an occasional resident/lost soul (most of the residents are aware of this race by now and just do something else or plan ahead I believe) there are no cars. It’s all bikes. And that helps with going around some of the rough spots on the road.
The roads are rough mostly on the out and back part (about 2/3 of it is a lot of bumps and cold patch), and then pretty good for the rest.
On the way out I did have my front wheel did go in to a large break in the asphalt, exposing a lower layer, but safely got out without any harm.
The course is mostly flat. There are a couple of small hills (actually easy rollers), and I chose to go in to my small gear about 2-3 times, including on the 6 mile jaunt in.
I started off feeling my effort, and flashed back to the first time I tried to sustain a hard effort…Augusta in 2013. This felt in line with it, and I knew…if it was easy everyone would do it. I can do it…I just have to trust my body and fuel it. I’ve trained for this. So I kept going.
Before the race I had the passing thought that it’s been awhile since I had had my bike serviced. I quickly banished all thoughts as I didn’t want to jinx it and, well, it was too late now. At one point I did try to shift to my small gear and it didn’t shift. I tried it two more separate times and it didn’t happen. I figured if it had to happen, this was the course for this kind of malfunction and so didn’t worry about it (rarely did I go out of my big ring, and when I did….it was just smart racing, but could make do in the big chain ring without excessively wearing out my legs). However, I did have success at the other 2-3 times I shifted to my lower gear. Time to go to Podium and have it checked out.
I have learned to not be shy with saying left. And in fact, most people appreciate it and I get thanked a lot.
The loop part is an out and back on the same road. Which means you have to pull 3 U-turns. I actually went out by our hotel the previous night on the dead end road and practiced a few U-turns just to make myself feel better. I know I can do them, but a little confidence kick before a race is not a bad thing. I am happy to say that I managed all 3 without unclipping. There was plenty of room. On the first turn one guy pulled tight (on the inside of everyone else) and managed it very skillfully. They second time around at the same U-turn I was behind a man who wasn’t quite as skilled and slowed way down and unclipped. I smiled and thought “that’s why you practice.”
Being an out and back loop meant you do ride through more slower racers than a single loop course as you loop in behind them. No problem. Been there, done that. I did ride well, and started in an early enough wave that I wasn’t looped so only the typical amount of getting passed. Which isn’t too much. I did get caught in a loose group for a bit. And I did play back and forth with a couple of different people, especially with one guy from Cincinnati. We saw each other about 5 times on the course…and exchanged a few pleasantries.
About an hour in to the ride I felt like I had to pee. And I laughed as I think each time I’ve come close to 5 hours I’ve had to go to the bathroom. It kind of gave me a confidence boost.
On the way in (in the last 3 miles of the bike) one guy passed me and said “Tag! You’re it!” I smiled. Apparently he’d been following me for a bit.
Soon I was heading in. I un-velcroed my shoes and had my feet out, ready to dismount before the little uphill to the finish. I was actually following the lead of the guy a bit ahead of me.
And at the line I dismounted and headed in to transition. My legs felt the bike….but also ready to run. I know the two are separate.
This time I did not get lost. Hooray! I quickly took off my helmet, changed shoes, and put on my hydration belt and hat. I started putting on my race number as I ran out…and putting my extra sunscreen down my sports bra. I hit up the sunscreen volunteers as I headed out and was off….hoping I had fueled well enough to have a good run. As I hit the transition button on my Garmin I saw 3:10. No way had I taken that long in transition! Then I realized….that was my total time so far. I had 1:50 to run a half marathon to break 5 hours. Game on!
It’s funny the games you can play with yourself when you want to hit a goal. I had no idea what pace I needed to run. I tried various forms of math and estimating but was hopeless. I knew I could run somewhere between 8 and 8:30 minute miles but had no clue what. So I switched to the time I needed to hit the half way. Which really is useless as the course is mostly downhill on the way out, and uphill on the way in. So fine. Just run. Don’t relax on the downhills…use them for speed, especially on the way back in…keep your pace more consistent than last year. In other words…race! Duh.
And that was most of my thinking. That and “don’t give up, no matter what the math says…keep going.” Luckily it was never an issue….but it did help me push a little harder.
In the first mile a guy passed me and told me I had that bike figured out. I thanked him and said “Now I hope I have this run figured out!” I was still working on the math at that point.
I also passed the guy from Cincinnati that I had played back and forth with on the bike. And then I passed the guy that had said “tag!” To me. He said “Now I’m it!” As I passed (somewhere around mile 2) I said…I’ll see you again. And he said probably not.
At every aid station I took ice…pouring it down my jersey or shorts. I sometimes took water, and coke a couple of times, but mostly stuck with my fuel…taking sips every mile or so….remembering to fuel myself. And kept chugging along. I felt the bike effort but knew I could do this. The bike and run are separate entities…I’d trained for this. I just had to fuel it (notice any repetition yet?).
Around mile 3.5-4 or so I stared seeing people coming back in…the speedies.
I finally saw Laura and just smiled…glad to see her. She was coming back on the out and back.
As I hit the turnaround point I wasn’t sure if I had done it in time to break 5 hours. Really…high math when running a race is hard. And by high math I mean adding two numbers and getting the same result both times.
So I kept going. And then I saw Lindsey heading out. She was closing the gap between us and was having a great race (her swim wave started a fair bit after mine). And then I saw Stacy and she told me to “keep running”. I wasn’t going to give up but felt fueled in my resolve upon seeing her. I figured she knew something I didn’t and kept pushing.
Around mile 7 I wasn’t sure I had run well enough so far.. My math was saying I had to run sub 8s to get it. I was pushing but didn’t have that this go round. But I pushed…fast in the downhills…shortening my stride and quickening my pace on the uphills. My heart rate had been low the entire race and I knew it still would be, but I also knew I could push it higher and handle it. So I kept at it. And around mile 9 I looked at my Garmin and I had 40 minutes or so to run 4.1 miles. Hope springs again! Don’t give up! Don’t slow down! Build in as much time as you can!
And the last 2-3 hills spectators noted that I was going faster on the uphills….digging and pushing. And they cheered me for it.
I passed the marina…knowing the finish line was shortly thereafter. Did I have it? Doesn’t’ matter….just keep going!
As I neared the finishing chute I saw Libby and smiled…and kept driving in. And hit the finish line.
Soon I found Carlos. I hugged him…sweaty mess and all. We waited for the results to catch up to be sure it was official…and get the results. He hit refresh and few times and….4:58:19 and fourth in my age group! Woo hoo! It all came down to a PR swim for a still water body (no river current or tide to push me along) and a new bike PR! My run was a little faster than at Chattanooga. And what I loved was that even though slower than last year, my out was slower but my back was 1 second per mile faster (yes…a WHOLE 1 second!!). Which means (to me) I ran stronger on the way in this go round.
I heard Lindsey’s name and so hustled over to see her and congratulate her. She did fantastic…loved hearing her adventure out there.
I went to get athlete food., Carlos went to buy lunch for him and we relaxed and chatted with spectators at the picnic table waiting for their athletes to come in. Carlos did buy me chocolate milk. Yum! I didn’t eat too much…I still needed to cool down. I nibbled, and hydrated. Then we wandered to the car, and saw transition was open. I grabbed my stuff and realized…I had yet to go to the bathroom. It was about time! I’d only had to go for about 3.5 hours now.
I grabbed my bag and texted a couple of people…let the world know I’d hit a goal, and then went to shower (there are showers there). It felt fabulous. Clean with clean clothes on, I returned to the car. We waited. And then headed back to the race area. We were going to stay for the awards but I decided I was really tired. And just wanted to go back to the hotel. So I went over to pick mine up. And they couldn’t find it. The volunteer was very nice, and we looked through all the awards twice. So they took my name and address, and promised they will mail it to me. They will, and I do not mind the delay.
Carlos and I wandered to the hotel where I stretched and relaxed. The great news was my hamstring hadn’t bothered me at all on the run and now, if I hadn’t known what I’ve gone through, wouldn’t have given it a second thought…no extra soreness, full mobility, all the good stuff. Yes!!! On Cloud 9.
At Augusta 70.3 in 2013 I had run it in 5 hours even. And have tried to find my race to break 5 hours. I have raced three races between 5:00 and 5:01, including Muncie last year. But I knew…breaking 5 would happen when my body was ready.
Last year I raced on a bad hamstring, and spent last fall and this winter and spring recovering and building strength again. It’s been a long, slow process. And at last…my body is ready. I know it. My coach knows it. And we are ready to train for Louisville. I can finally say I am excited for Louisville and mean each part: the swim, the bike, and finally…the run.
Swim: 33:45 (a lake PR – no current, no tide….did wear a wetsuit) – 8th AG (I think this is the highest I have ever ranked getting out of the water too!)
T1: 3:17 (Had it SO easy with my transition spot and I got lost.)
Bike: 2:31:33 (22.17 mph), NP = 169 Watts (NP PR for me, and a speed PR – first time over 22 mph), Average HR = 142 bpm – 3rd AG
T2: 1:51 (didn’t get lost this time)
Run: 1:47:53, pace = 8:14 min/mile, Average HR = 157 bpm – 4th AG
Finish: 4:58:19 – 4th AG (first time placing above 5th!) Half IM PR, first time breaking 5 hours