Georganna’s recap of her first 1/2 ironman:
Reaper training and the payoff. After beginning the summer with a 400-mile bike tour with my brother and a friend, I decided that this was going to be the summer I did a half ironman. After all, I’d gotten a good start to my bike miles, right? I wanted to build on that base. I’d never hired a trainer before so I wasn’t sure what I was in for when I chased Dave Quinn and Rudy down on Constitution Trail one late afternoon in early June. I’m glad I did. I might have been able to complete the half ironman without any help from a trainer but it would have been really ugly and the ugliness would have begun a lot earlier and lasted for quite some time after the event. I would have over-trained at the beginning of the four month period (In the beginning, I was eager for Dave to give me more workouts than he was willing to give me.) and would have been completely burnt out long before the end (At the end, I was tired of the training and actually took the days off that Dave told me to take, and did so happily—exactly where I needed to be, I think.). So to have a trainer tell me when to work out, what to do during the week, how long to workout, what type of workout to focus on, and to take a day off was tremendously helpful. Dave also somehow knew where my limits were and how far to push me (which he always did). And as much as I didn’t look forward to the track workouts, I’ve been reaping the benefits from them. Plus there was accountability: Dave texting me, reading my post-workout comments, touching base with me over a cup of coffee.
The event was Deer Creek Fall Challenge in Mt. Sterling, Ohio on September 29th this year. It’s located at Deer Creek State Park, a wooded area with a lake created by a dam, just south of Columbus, Ohio. It was a good choice for a first half ironman for me. It’s a 5 to 6 hour drive from Bloomington/Normal. It’s not expensive. And, it’s in late September, something that was very important for me because I don’t do well in the heat. The weather was almost perfect. When I began the bike leg, it was 63 degrees and didn’t get hotter than 75. It’s also a small event. It’s limited to 650 participants, but that includes seven races, beginning with some mini-tris, sprint and olympic distance tris, it includes a couple duathlons, and culminates with the half ironman. There were only about 100 contestants in the half ironman out of the 650 participants, so if you’re a racer rather than finisher (which is what I am), then your chances of medalling are pretty good. If you’re a finisher, they give you 8 hours to complete the half ironman. I told Dave that since I had been training for so long I was going to stretch out the half ironman as much as possible, get my money’s worth, and finish in 7:59:59.
The swim is a two-loop swim parallel to the beach in Deer Creek Lake. Being parallel to the beach I think helped me keep on course, one of my perennial problems. The water temperature was 70 degrees so almost everyone was wearing a wetsuit. Other than a hard elbow to my head by a big guy, which momentarily brought stars to my eyes, I was very happy with my swim (41:14).
The bike leg of the event is a pretty three-loop, mostly flat, ride with a few hills beginning at around miles 10 and 16 (total elevation gain for all three loops of 643 feet). I ended the first loop of the bike ride very nicely averaging 17.5, but my new saddle and new shoes (purchased the week before!) changed my position on the bike enough that by the third loop (with the help of an uptick in the wind) I was down to a 16 average because my legs were suffering. What I learned from this? If, on your longer training rides, your feet are getting hot spots and your ass feels like someone has taken a jackhammer to it, get those shoes and saddle a lot earlier in the training so you can work out the kinks. If you can’t do that, consider riding with the hot spots and sore bottom because it’s what you’re used to. I also learned that I need to train more and earlier with the nutrition I am planning on using for the event. The sport drink that I used during the event made me a little nauseated, which threw off all of my nutrition for the remainder of the day. Both of these lessons seem like no-brainers . . . now. Given all of that I was satisfied with (and understand) my bike time (3:22:19).
When I began the run, an out and back twice, my legs were so spent I thought to myself, “one and done.” (My sister, who traveled with me to Ohio, was probably thinking similarly because, when she came back to the park to pick me up after spending the afternoon with our cousin, the first thing she did was look in the back of the ambulance to see if I was there. Ever the optimist!) Part of the run was on grass (about 2 miles total). I don’t like running on grass because I have a tendency to trip on even little tiny blades of grass. Part of the run (about 2 miles total) was along the top of the dam so I was getting a little vertigo if I looked off to either side of the trail. In the end, it took me about 4 miles to get my legs back enough to where I could sort of jog like I might normally, though I was doing it at a much slower pace. It wasn’t until mile 9 or 10 where I felt like my legs where finally back and, even though I still needed to walk because my legs were toast, when I was jogging, it was a real jog. The run ended up being better than I thought it was going to be given how my legs felt after the bike ride. My fastest half marathon prior to that was about 2:30 and this one ended at 2:56:57, so I was disappointed, but I completely understand the time. And, by the end, I thought to myself, “ok for my first half ironman” (7:07:24).
~ Georganna Rundblad