An hour later we found a good-enough spot to park in Racine (Score!) and walked the five minutes to transition. My bike was racked yesterday in the best space I was allowed to take, so I simply needed to walk in and lay out my stuff. Towel down first, then running shoes in the back with my lucky green Wicked socks inside. Water bottle nearby to rinse off sand from the feet. Bike shoes in front, first two velcros open and ready to receive my feet. (Give the inside of each a quick dash of baby powder--helps ease of entry when feet are wet. From the water bottle.) A dozen gels and two energy bars split into two piles, one to pocket for the bike ride and the other to bring on the run. Bike pack attached to the back of the seat post and filled with electrolytes, one for every 15 minutes on the ride. Timing chip transferred to my ankle from the bike stem (placed there yesterday by the bike check-in guy so I wouldn't lose it), as it won't do me any good on my bike stem. The bag o' crap is now empty except for the stuff that comes with me--wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, and body glide, my saviour. Good thing too, as the loudspeaker has just announced that Transition will close in two minutes. What the? We arrived early! No matter. I exited just in time.
Body markers were standing just outside the exit--convenient, as I was not marked. With "264" on my arm, we began the walk to the starting line.
Twenty minutes later, I understood why they closed Transition early. (I'm a slow learner.) The swim is parallel to the shore and (thankfully) close enough to avoid large waves. If the swim is 1.2 miles and the end of the swim is at Transition, the swim start must be...about a mile down the beach. It takes a while to walk that far.
About halfway down the beach, I stopped to apply the Glide and don the wetsuit. It wasn't easy. Sand everywhere.
Erika stopped her walk there (I don't blame her--I would've too), so I hugged her goodbye and walked the rest of the way alone with my fears of the next seven hours. At the start I warmed up a little (a swim warmup and a pee-in-my-suit warmup) and chatted with some fellow triathlete friends I've made along the way. It's now time to line up.
My swim wave seemed big. Bigger than the normal 50 or so athletes surrounding you in a mass start, and it felt bigger when the horn went off. I had assured a friend a few weeks ago, worried about a mass swim start, that contrary to the horror story she'd heard no one will swim on top of you. In this mass start, I was grabbed, slapped, and actually swam on top of. The crowd thinned out a little after ten or fifteen minutes, to my relief.
I'm in a rhythmn and feel like I'm doing well. I was passed early and often, but now I'm doing the passing. No idea how long I've been going. Suddenly...the big yellow buoy was in sight. It was almost time to turn in.
Once on shore I started the cruelest part of the race--after a half-hour swim, they want you to run 50 yards across the sandy beach to get to your bike. In a wetsuit. I reached back, unvelcroed the wetsuit collar thingy, and pulled the cord to unzip it. Whip! Out came my arms. I heart Body Glide. I checked my watch. What the? The swim was about ten minutes faster than I planned! The wide-eyed look of shock on Erika's face as I jogged past her (wetsuit halfway down by now) confirmed it. Either the swim was measured quite short of 1.2 miles or I was having a rockstar of a day.
I reach T1, the transition area. Normally I'm in a frantic hurry to get in and out, but when the race lasts most of the day I don't feel as much of an urge to rush. Plop. Down I go. Zip! Out come my legs and feet. (A small catch on the timing chip, but nothing Body Glide can't handle.) Squiiiiirt! Extra water bottle=no more sandy feet. Gels in the pouch. Shoes on. Sunglasses on. Helmet on. I'm ready to go.
(I'm the one in the middle putting on the helmet.)
Erika and Greg watched the transition from beyond the fence. Apparantly Greg thinks I have a nice back. He should see my belly! (Oh wait...that's not right.)
Bike mount, smooth. Up the little hill. (I remembered to put my bike in a small chain ring before racking it yesterday. The worst thing in the world is setting off on a hill in a big ring. It feels like pedaling through cement and tipping over is a distinct possibility.)
I'd only done one 3-hour bike ride before today, and it was with a group of friends. We chatted, stopped for potty breaks, cracked some jokes, and overall had a nice leisurely time. This race was not like that. No one talks. We're in a constant state of passing and being passed. There's nothing rude or vindictive about it, it's just...boring. I looked forward to water stations just for the chance to talk to someone.
About 2 hours in and my butt is sore from sitting. My neck is sore from looking up. I want it to be done. In a 56-mile bike ride it's encouraging when there's only ten miles left, until you remember that ten miles is still over half an hour with no TV and no one to talk to. Good news--my pace is smokin' (for me). I'll finish far before my projected finishing time.
T2 is in sight. I slip out of my bike shoes for the dismount. My mother-in-law is wildly jumping around and screaming, which was more a sight for sore eyes than I care to admit. I dismount on the wrong side of my bike, but I don't care. I'm in no hurry.
Into transition, and why won't my legs work? My jog is gimpy and fractured and I can only assume it won't stay that way.
Found my spot. Hang the bike. Pop off the helmet. Slip on the Wicked socks and shoes. Gels in the pouch. I'm ready to go. With my surprise, of course...
This was the first race in which runners weren't required to wear numbers--who knows why. I used the opportunity to make a sign for my Lobster. It read "For my Lobster". I wore it on my number belt to show her that I race for her. I couldn't be where I am today if it weren't for her undying support and encouragement. She's the best athletic supporter in the world.
My legs started working again and I'm thinking I can actually do this! I can finish a half-Ironman! I stick to my "take it nice n easy and walk through the water stations" plan and it's working. My stomach is revolting a little so I stay away from gels--nothing too serious, right? At the halfway point I see friends Candice and Matt with their young 'uns first, then a large posse of Erika, the in-laws, Greg, Ben and Liz closer to the turnaround. I whip around the curve, thinking an hour or so from now and this one's in the bag.
Oop! Not so fast. The mild uprising in my belly has turned into an all-out coup and stopping at the port-a-potty is inevitable. Three times. In an hour. Unbelievable.
Three miles left, and my legs are screaming. They wanna be done. Where the hell is that finish line?!!? They said I looked strong when I crossed, but it felt more like a lame hobble. I was done.
The medical staff approached me in the finishing chute and asked if I was okay. "I don't know". I really didn't know. She walked with me and suggested I stop off at the tent to be sure. By this point Erika had found me. Her job was to meet with me and walk me back to the group. I could handle that. I turned down the kind offer from Medical. (Ooh! Do you think they would've given me a ride in the ambulance if I amped up my pain? Or an IV?!!)
The walk back to my group was slow but rewarding. The medal hung heavy on my neck and my legs protested every step, but my friends and family collected there were proof that I had just finished the Racine Half-Ironman, my goal for over 5 months, my obsessive target, my dream.