[Here’s where I tell you this will not be a normal race recap, because nothing about this race was normal. And that’s right. A 26.3]
The start was 30 minutes outside of town, with T1 and T2 being that far apart. You had to arrive by 10:30 to reasonably get everything set in time for T1 close. We arrived at about 9:30 after stopping at every drugstore in the city of Boise to try to find throw-away gloves because
I’m insane I like to be prepared. At 9:30 it was dry. At 9:45 it was not dry and it continued to rain pour for the next 3 hours.
When we arrived the air temperature was in the low 40’s with windchill being in the 30’s. The water temperature was about 57 degrees. The wind was increasing and with 30 minutes until the pro’s wave start Ironman officials announced that the bike would be rerouted and (severely) cut to 12mi due to high winds and risk of hypothermia. Hence the 26.3 title. I didn’t see a single person who wasn’t visibly shivering by the time we were herded to the water, but nothing can tell the story about how we all felt better than this video that Garth took. Brutal.
Waiting to get into the water was more terrifying than anything I’ve ever done. In fact, it was so far past terrifying that I almost couldn’t acknowledge that it was happening. I didn’t allow myself to think about the fact that I was expected to swim when I couldn’t even move my fingers enough to cup my hand. But as my wave entered the water I had to acknowledge what was happening around me, and though it sounds dramatic it was pure chaos. Women started panicking, crying, and one tried to flag down a jet ski for rescue BEFORE THE GUN WENT OFF.
As I got further from shore I tried to focus on only myself and my confidence that I’d survive grew, but at the same time the general scene became more grim. I saw at least 6 people pulled from the water, with a few others being questionable rest/rescue missions. Garth saw people coming out of the water on backboards, with plenty of others on stretchers like mummies. The issue with so many rescues was that the traffic increased the wake and noise, so in addition to cold, wind, and panicked swimmers we were having to be conscious of with boats. The swim felt like it lasted an eternity.
The bike felt like it lasted about 10 minutes. The first descent on the bike was frightening. Because athletes knew they wouldn’t have the normal 2.5 hours to make up time everyone who looked even remotely comfortable on a bike gunned it into town and rode all out from the start. A great strategy in theory, but the roads were slick, we had a number of sharp turns to corner, and we were limited to 1/2 a lane in most areas so there were few opportunities to safely pass. I came up right behind a crash that looked gruesome, but I couldn’t stop for fear I’d cause a pile up too. I also had to pull to the side and fix my brakes – a velcro tie had gotten stuck between the pad and wheel – and given the nature of the day I wanted to be safe rather than sorry. And then before I could even drink my water I spotted T2, and we were done.
The run was a non-event after experiencing the first half of the day. The sun came out, we dried, and dare I say it, but I even got sweaty! I wanted to push the run but didn’t know what I’d have in me only having had run a long run of 7 miles prior to the race. My goal was an 8 min average and I came in at an 8:05 min average. I’ve gone back and forth about feeling proud of my run and disappointed (my 8min/mi goal should have been post-56mi ride), but in the end I feel content. The morning took an awful lot out of me, and though the bike was short there’s no doubt that the trauma from earlier had taken a toll.
In the end I finished in 3:13:20, in 10th in my age group.
As with the run, I wouldn’t say I’m proud of my time. But I would say that I’m proud that I had the guts to start and push myself through the challenges of the day. I’m proud that I didn’t have a breakdown during the process and stayed calm and strong. And I’m proud that from the moment I got in the water I never once thought about quitting, but rather focused on getting to the next buoy, and the next, and the next. A swim like this is my biggest fear, and though I didn’t kick its ass I think I showed it who’s boss.
Was there a moment (or many) during which I thought about not starting? Certainly. A significant number of athletes pulled out at the last-minute due to the weather and course. Right before I headed down to the water I gave Garth my morning clothes bag and told him that I didn’t know if I could do it, that I was scared. I was shaking with cold and fear. He knew what I needed, didn’t acknowledge that I had said a word, took my bag, and kept filming.
Truthfully, I don’t know if I mentally committed to getting in the water until I literally set foot in it. But the very act of telling myself that I don’t “have” to do something makes me HAVE.TO.IMMEDIATELY.RIGHT.NOW. I also know that if I have a fear or anxiety I’m better off facing it as soon as I can or it will grow and build. And after all that negotiating with myself a valuable lesson was reaffirmed: That I can do it.
I truly don’t know who had a harder job that day though, me or my #1 fan. He stood in the elements for no reason other than to watch me torture myself, and in the chaos he missed me exiting the water and thought I may not have made it out. That alone would have brought me to tears! Then he had to race back to town, run to the run course, and still managed to spot me, get some video, carry more of my stuff, and stand around while I came to the reality that I was done and it was all over. THANK YOU to my Iron Sherpa for the love, support, and documentation that all Boise survivors can use to prove to friends and family that it really was THAT bad.
So, since I finished a Half Ironman in 3:13:20, do you think that counts as a PR? 🙂