Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Great Illini Challenge: 1, Alyssa: 0

Alternative title: Oops, I did it again.

I guess all these N*sync reappearances are making me think back to my horrific  middle school days and that makes me think of Britney Spears.  Oh Britney and you're school girl outfit...

Wow, got a little off track.  That's how my mind works I guess.

I went and did another half Ironman. Why? Well I really, really want that sub-6:00 time.  And I thought to myself, "I trained for 18 or so weeks for one race and now I want to do another. I feel good so why not?"  Was it a good idea? Well, you can be the judge yourself.

August 31, 2013, 6:45 am
Half Ironman: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

When I was looking for additional HIMs I found two options, this one or the Rev3 in Branson, MO.  The Great Illini Challenge was a lot closer and much cheaper.  Granted it was only two weeks after my last big race, but I signed up anyway.  

Mattoon is only an hour drive from Champaign so I headed down after work on Friday to spend some time with my friend Laura.  Traffic had other plans and the drive took over an hour than it normally takes me so I rolled in pretty late.  We made the best of our limited time and talked while I enjoyed dinner and a beer.  The talking could probably have continued well into the night but I called it quits at about 10:30 pm so I could get some sleep before the race.

Since I needed to pick up my packet yet and make the hour drive I got up at 4:15 am.  After the coffee, bagel, peanut butter, and banana breakfast and packed up the car at 4:45.  The drive as pretty lonely at that hour so I made good time getting to the race.  Registering so late, meant my name wasn't in their system yet so one of the race guys helped me fill out the paperwork so I could get a race number.  

This was a very small race--I heard only 200 participants in the half Ironman and another handful for the Olympic distance--and I had no problem getting plenty of space in transition.  The air was already heating up even before the sun was up and I knew it was going to be a hot day.  The water was just cool enough to be wetsuit legal so I hurried up and got mine from the car.  I did get a chance to talk to Amanda before the race too! 

After the pre-race meeting, time moved really quickly and I barely had my wetsuit on when the race started.  No swim warm-up for me!  Again, it was a small race field and the men took off first followed 3 minutes later by the women.  Once, we were told to go I went.  The swim was easy, but I could definitely tell I had only been in the pool twice since the last race.  The swim was a two-loop course and I was getting a little tired of swimming by the end.  When I came out of the water I could not believe the clock said 45 minutes already which meant the swim took me 42 minutes! Later the race director (possibly the race director, not sure?) told me the swim course was short but I'm calling bull and saying it was long.  One of the spectators told me I was fourth woman and that was exciting but I don't think my position lasted long!

The bike course was very flat and was also a two-loop course (notice a theme here? It continues) including two out and back sections in each loop.  That meant I had to make five 180 degree turn-arounds and I freaking hate those.  I'm not sure why but they are difficult for me and I lose almost all my momentum going around them.  Part of the course was on seal coat roads which was also a pain because the vibrations were making my hands and feet go numb and become very uncomfortable.  Thankfully that wasn't a huge section of the course, but it still wasn't fun.  

By the second loop the heat was already getting to me.  Feeling sluggish and warm already were scaring me for what was to come.  I hit three aid stations during the bike and I drank 5 bottles of fluid on the bike including 2 with Nuun.  I still felt dehydrated.  Eating sounded really unappetizing as well and I struggled to get down fuel.  It was lonely out there at times on the bike course.  Sometime during the second loop, I realized that sub-6 was just not going to happen today.  

Once I was off the bike, I was not looking forward to the run at all.  I questioned whether I should even start the run because I was already so hot.  Then I forgot my hat in transition and that just made me sad. 

Even though an aid station was located each mile, it just wasn't enough for me. The course was surrounded by field of corn was had like 30 feet of shade total .  It sucked hard core.  I walked so much of the run course.  So so much. At the end of the first loop, I highly consider taking a DNF.  I've wanted to quit before in races, but never have I actually consider walking off the course.  I was miserable to say the least.  Was it stupid to continue to run? 

But I went back out for the second loop.  And guess what? I walked most of that one too.  It was so hot that the tar on the road was bubbling and melting.  My shoes sometimes stuck to the pavement.  Or the asphalt would shift beneath my feet.  

I was taking cups of ice, ice water, and coke at the aid stations.  I really don't even like coke and this was the first pop I've drank since 2012! But the aid stations didn't have oranges and I couldn't stomach the idea of taking in calories any other way so coke it was.  Just convincing myself to run was taking so much energy.  Finally seeing the finish line was a huge relief because I knew I wouldn't need to stand out in the sun any longer. 

Swim: 42:38
T1: 1:45
Bike: 3:17:08, 17.0 mph
T2: 3:32
Run: 2:54:56, 13:21 min/mile

A personal worst by other 30 minutes.  It's also hilariously cruel that in a race where I was trying to go sub-6:00, I couldn't even go sub-7:00. 

The funniest thing about this whole ordeal was that I got second place in my age group and I got a huge trophy to go along with it. 

Did I mention there were only two of us that finished?
I think the other smarter members of our age group decided a finisher's medal just wasn't worth it.  

In hindsight, I am a little glad I finished but I really think it was just stupid.  Had it been my very first HIM, I would definitely have finished.  But with this being my third, I should have just cried uncle.  It took me the entire rest of the day to rehydrate just so I could go to the bathroom.  And my body is exhausted! So yeah, I finished, but at what cost?

I grabbed a bottle of water that wasn't even cold (sob!) and stood in the shade for a while before eating a piece of crappy pizza.  I was hungry though so I had to eat.  I waited for Amanda to finish to make sure she didn't lay down in a corn field before heading back to Champaign.  

Part of me thinks the race director should have cancelled the half Ironman distance and forced everyone to complete the Olympic.  According to the results, only 60 people finished.  Out of a supposed 200 participant race field, that is just sad.  Several people are listed as DNFs but I wonder how many people just didn't even show up to race that day.  After the race, someone mentioned the temperature was 95 degrees and 105 degrees with the heat index, but that was around 1 pm and it could definitely have gone up by 3 pm.  Last year, Muncie 70.3 was shortened to around an Olympic distance when the heat index was similar.  I do think it was unsafe for participants to be out there in those conditions.  

This will be my last HIM distance for this year and with my big goal race for next year being Ironman Wisconsin, I don't know if I will get a chance to go sub-6 next year.  I still think it is achievable for me and I will get it someday.  I probably won't try doing long race two weeks apart again either.  Even though, I felt okay, I doubt that I gave my body enough time to fully recover.  I also realized that I've competed in 3 triathlons in 6 weeks! While that's awesome, I can't expect to be in tip-top race shape when I do so.  

Cost: $165
Pros: great medals and trophies, good volunteers
Cons: sad pizza as post race food, two-loop course is boring and the roads were not in great condition
Horribles: the weather (I realize this is not in the race's control but I still hate the weather
Would I do it again?  Possibly. 
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