I am so excited to write this post.
I had the best time at Rev3 Quassy this weekend. And by “best time”, I mean in the “enjoyable experience” kind of way. Not the “time on the clock” way…because let’s face it, the winning pro woman (Heather Wurtele) completed the ENTIRE COURSE in 4:22:18….which is 23 seconds faster than my bike time alone. That is just so funny to me…unfathomable! I’m literally laughing out loud thinking about it.
So, where do I even start?!
I woke up at 4:40AM, four years TO THE DAY of my very first marathon. (Ironic, right?) Everything was already meticulously packed. I had a couple “absolutely must bring” bags, one “bringing this stuff just in case something
terrible unexpected happens” bag, and then a bunch of water bottles that I couldn’t put in bags. So I grabbed my millions of items, made a cup of coffee, and off Brendan and I went. (Thank goodness he was there because there’s no way I could carry everything myself! My tip: save yourself the juggling and bring a nice person willing to carry all your stuff. Promise to buy them dinner later.)
We had a 35 minute drive in which Brendan calmed my nerves by saying “YOU DID THIS TO YOURSELF!”…in a loving way of course. We parked easily and walked into transition. Thankfully my spot was right along the edge so Brendan was able to hang there and chat with me. (I finally got to meet the lovely Maggie too!) After a short while, it was time to head down to the beach.
We did a short practice swim – literally just a couple minutes out and back. It was so nice that the race organizers allowed that – they had a special section roped off simply for warming up. (In the athlete meeting on Saturday they talked about their safe swimming initiative…they focus on educating athletes, and with that stress the importance of getting your heart rate up a bit before starting the race and feeling comfortable in the water…hence the warm up swim.)
So, after waiting impatiently through about 40 minutes of waves, mine was finally called. There I was on the beach, lingering at the back of the pack like an introvert at a high school prom.
I felt fine in the water…I brushed up against people a few times and felt hands on my feet, but no kicks or punches thankfully. To pass the time I counted. I tried to count to 9 (I breathe every 3 strokes) and then sight the buoys to make sure I was on the right path. I kept veering to the left and having to correct myself. Especially after we turned and started heading back toward the beach…right into the sun. I couldn’t see ANYTHING. I kept having to stop my stride to squint into the sun, and again, correct myself from going too far left. I could have been swimming to the opposite shore and would have had no idea. I just looked for little splashes in front of me and was searching for the kayakers; it was all I could do. I started getting annoyed when the fast swimmers from the wave behind me started passing by. I had absolutely no idea how long I’d been out there and started wondering…what if I don’t make the 70 minute cutoff?! Alas, I was fine. Once my hands brushed the sand three times I stood up and did a wobbly jog into transition. Brendan and one of my coaches were there screaming that I did awesome, so that made me super happy!
Swim Time; 1.2 miles: 44:37 (2:19/100m)
My transition was uneventful, thankfully. I wasn’t in a hurry but maybe I should have been…
Swim to Bike Transition: 4:50
I owe everything about this 56 mile ride to a positive attitude. I got on the bike ready to dominate the hills of Quassy like they dominated me last time. I was feeling great. It was gorgeous outside. I knew the hills were coming and just took it easy…I didn’t push. This wasn’t my goal race and I wanted to be fresh for the run. I reminded myself of something I’ve heard more than once in reference to pacing yourself on the bike: “Average bike ride=great run. Great bike=walk.” More than once I caught myself thinking…”THIS IS AWESOME!!” (Who am I?!) Especially on some of those downhills…I wanted to yell and laugh and scream out loud about how much fun I was having (I didn’t though, don’t worry). I got up to 35 MPH!
I got passed by a lot of people, but it didn’t phase me this time. Since I had completed the course before, I knew there were NO flats and that I wanted to take it slow. One thing I noticed: almost everyone I came in contact with mentioned the “fun” they were having on the bike course. Basically every comment was in reference to the hills being fun; either sarcastic in nature, as in “that was fun” (read: that uphill sucked) or “that was fun” (read: that downhill was sick!)
The key for me on this bike course (the second time around) was nutrition. I stayed on top of it. It was hot out so I made sure to hydrate constantly…I was taking a sip of water or Gatorade every 5 minutes. Throughout the ride I had two full bottles of Gatorade and three full water bottles, along with a couple gels and a whole sleeve of shot blocks. I couldn’t get myself to finish the powerbar I brought (although I did eat most of it). Also, I perfected the art of putting sunscreen on while riding. Minus the very back of my shoulders, because who can reach there?! (I was super paranoid about getting sunburnt and thankfully I came out of the day ranking “still pale” on the scale of tan-ness (minus a tiny spot on my back.) Win!
Up until mile 51 I was smiling ear to ear and thrilled with how strong I was feeling. But then the ridiculous last 5 miles happened. Just when you get a taste of being done (only 5 miles left, I can do this in my sleep!) you find yourself in your tiniest gear, trudging along as the people already on the run fly downhill. But my “on top of the world” feeling returned as I crossed the dismount line. The bike, the scariest part for me, was done!
Looking back now, I’m excited to see some of the splits on my Garmin; I had more than a few full miles at 25MPH and a ton over 17MPH. I finally learned to push on the downhills. The uphills just slowed me down so much; I was almost afraid to push too hard. (I would really like to see what I could do on a flatter course!) I’m just so glad I finished with a smile on my face.
Bike Time; 56 miles: 4:22:43 (13 mph average)
I didn’t even try to run into or out of transition. I needed a minute to cool down and prepare myself. And sunscreen myself up. Which Brendan did for me. What a gem, he is!
Bike to Run Transition: 5:52
I ran the first mile in 10:30. I grabbed some pretzels at the first aid station and carried them with me in a little cup for a mile. I ate them so slowly…it was so hard to eat. I’d chew, and then hold it in my mouth. Yes, that sounds so disgusting, but I just couldn’t bring myself to swallow. I had to give myself a pep talk…”you need the salt! Eat!” It was just so hot.
I kept shuffling (semi-deliriously) through until mile 4 or so, when the big hills came. Now I know why everyone calls the first huge hill the “dirt hill of death”. It was a mile + long, winding dirt road. Miserable. I walked along with everyone else. My pace dropped significantly…like 14 minute per mile pace. I didn’t want to walk, but there were a couple times that I thought if I didn’t, I’d make my fogginess worse and probably pass out. So again, I took it easy and reminded myself that this wasn’t my goal race and I was just out there to have fun. By mile 9 I started feeling fantastic and by 10 my pace was back down to 10:19. And then…my Garmin died!! It lasted a lot longer than I thought, but I was bummed that it ran out of battery right as I was picking up the speed.
I ran the last 5 miles without stopping (except at the aid stations) and felt incredible. Absolutely incredible. I don’t know where it came from – I’m sure it was partly due to the long downhill, but I think it was also because I got into a groove mixing Gatorade and water, and I stopped trying to force gels down. I started putting ice on my back at every aid station. (I need to add – the volunteers were simply amazing. They were so helpful and cheerful. I kept apologizing for being dirty and gross every time they threw ice down my back, ha! But they smiled and congratulated me every single time.)
So, I felt like a runner again. I was passing a lot of people, and very few people passed me. I was finally in my favorite triathlon leg! One man told me I was his inspiration to keep running instead of walking. At mile 12, the Tri Life group at the aid station congratulated me and commented on how happy I looked. After seeing my shorts and hat, they said “we love Team In Training!” which made me smile even bigger.
At 12.5, a lady cheering shouted “Wow, fresh legs! Keep it up, you look so strong!” and that made my day. I felt strong and knew I was definitely going to finish 70.3 miles. Looking at my results, it shows that I was in 909th place when I started the run and 884th when I finished. Either I’m really dumb and am missing something, or that means I passed about 25 people…which I felt like I did. By no means did I run a fast half marathon, but I’m so happy that I got that second wind and drilled it home!
The last 1/2 mile was a big uphill – how rude! But once I got over the top I could hear the people at the finish line. I said to the guy next to me, “point one miles, we could do this in our sleep!” to which he just sort of grunted. Oh well. I flew on by, through the chute, and saw Brendan and his family cheering (wearing Iowa shirts, might I add)!
The BEST THING EVER was the ice cold wet towel they draped over my shoulders at the finish. It felt soooo good! Plus it helped wash away the sticky sunscreen and dirt all over me, which was a plus more so for my cheer squad I’m sure. Then they gave me my awesome medal, a finisher t-shirt, water, and sent me on my way to the free athlete’s “buffet” to get a hot meal. I grabbed a cheeseburger which I couldn’t eat and promptly handed over to Brendan. (It looked delicious though!)
Run Time; 13.1 miles: 2:42 (12:22/mile)
I know I could definitely improve on this time in future 70.3 distance races. Need to work on those hills!
Official Finish Time: 8:00:11
Sooooo not even close to what I was hoping for (closer to 7 hours) but hey, I FEEL FANTASTIC and that’s all that matters, right?! This was a tough, tough course (according to evvvvvveryone, not just me, I swear)! My goal race is two months away and even if I keep the same easy pace for Lake Placid, I’d still finish under the cutoff time of 17 hours.
My day ended with a phone call to my excited parents in Iowa recapping the race, the best shower in the history of showers, a delicious dinner with Brendan’s family (ice cream cake included!) and an early bedtime after driving back to NJ. Perfect.
Strangely enough, the part of me that’s most sore is the spot on my ankle where I wore the timing chip. Go figure! Other than that, I’m not very sore today, one day post-race. Also, random, but I couldn’t take a deep breath during the run or for a few hours after the race without coughing. I guess because I was breathing so quickly/shallowly for so long? Weird! All good now though.
Now, to end the longest post in the history of blogging, I just have to say that I am officially in love with Rev3. What a phenomenal race experience from start to finish. I’m already hooked and looking for another one I can do! Who’s in? I mean, come on. They give you FREE finisher photos! So nice.
Thanks to each and every one of you for the well-wishes, the support, and for always believing in me. I honestly couldn’t have done it without the positivity and love you sent my way. Every message made me smile and helped boost my confidence. If I could send you all a puppy and a bouquet of flowers I would. THANK YOU.