I literally don’t even know where to begin this recap. There is so much to share. I know most of you have no desire to read all the details, and this will probably be the longest post ever. But I want to put it all down, so I have it for me. I want to remember this race well. The ups, the downs, the struggles, the lessons learned. It was truly a roller coaster ride………………
|Who knew Salmon-o-rama would be going on at the same time as Racine 70.3|
I had set my alarm for 3:40 am. The hotel was awesome and had an athlete breakfast at 4, so my whole group was planning to meet at 4am to eat and then be ready to head to the race around 4:45 am. I woke up and felt itchy. I turned on the bathroom mirror and saw my face. I had welts on my eyelids and under my eyes, on my chin, on my back. I looked awful and I itched like crazy. I immediately panic and think we had bed bugs from the hotel, but Jim had no bites! I still don’t know what the issue was – nervous hives, an allergic reaction to something…who knows. I dealt with it for the rest of the weekend, with new places cropping up each day, including the palms of my hands and the bottoms of my feet. I was an itchy mess for 3 days. This was no way to start my race morning, but what could I do? I put some cortisone on and started getting ready.
In my itchy state, I forgot about the pre-race dance pics. I had already told everyone to be prepared for them and they were actually all game. Later, we snapped a few on the beach before our swim wave, but we didn't have our full group...fail!
|Our attempt at a pre-race dance...we had already lost part of our party. Swim, bike, run, recover??|
|We thought it was funny anyway.|
We sat at breakfast and watched the forecast. It was 4am – current temperature was 72 with 82% humidity! High temps would reach 88, and it would be nothing but sun all day. It could be worse, a lot worse, but it was still going to be HOT and hot it was. I don't do well with the heat at all and I was worried about the run, but thought I would be fine for the swim and bike.....just fine...I would just have to survive the run. This thought would prove to be wrong.
We headed to the race and got our transition areas set up. Transition closed at 6:45, but 6 of the 7 of us had swim waves between 8:08 and 8:14, so we had a long time to wait. We opted to hang near the porta pottys for awhile since there were none near the swim start. The swim start was a mile from transition, so we still had to allot about 20 minutes to walk down. It was hot. Once we finally made our way to the swim start we were all sweating. I wanted to cool down. So we all went ahead and put on our wetsuits and got in the water…..so did most people. It was crazy to me just how many people were in the water, but I was so glad it was allowed. At many race it’s not.
Before I knew it, it was 8am and close to the start. I hugged my friends Kristi and Nikki who were in the swim wave before mine and wished them luck. We all started lining up in our waves.
The Swim 1.2 miles 50:13
I was in swim wave 23 of 26, so I was at the very end. Finally 8:11 comes and it’s time for my wave to start. The water temp was 69 degrees in beautiful Lake Michigan, which was so refreshing (water temps at home are already in the upper 80s). The water is extremely shallow at the swim start, so it seemed like you had to walk forever to start swimming. I wasn’t running into the swim like so many other people because I didn’t want to get my heart rate up too high at the very start. So I immediately find myself at the back of the pack. The males 35-39 are the two waves behind me, so I know I don’t have too much time before they come trampling over me. I start swimming, and find myself settling in relatively quickly. The water is crystal clear which is so awesome. You can literally see the bottom the entire 1.2 mile swim. Within minutes, as anticipated, the men’s swim waves, come rushing past me. The water is very choppy with all the swimmers and I get hit, kicked, etc for quite some time. But after awhile that kind of settles down and I don’t have too many swimmers passing me or even really around me. For awhile, I wondered if I was the last one in the water, but I could see other people around me most of the time, so I knew I wasn’t totally alone.
The Bike – 56 Miles 3:48:01
Jim has been following me from the swim through transition and then the bike start. He’s cheering me on which is awesome!! I head out on the bike which is a huge incline. I’m trying to get clipped in, while adjusting my gears, and still holding on to my cliff bar. Before I know it I veer hard to the right. There is a couple there spectating with their legs over the curb. They immediately roll back and put their legs in the air to keep me from totally crashing in to them. Sorry I yell, and they say it’s ok. Somehow I managed to recover and not crash.
My goal for the bike was to be under 4 hours, but honestly, based on my recent long bike times, I thought I could do about 3:30-3:35 pretty easily and be below goal. There were 3 aid stations on the bike. In my mind they were roughly every 15 miles. I thought they were at 15, 30, and 45. I was wrong about this, which would later cause some major problems for me. I had 2 water bottle cages on my bike. In one I had a bottle of Perpeteum. This was my supplemental calorie bottle. I had planned to take this slowly over the course of the 56 miles. My other water bottle had water and NUUN. I was planning to trade this bottle out at each aid station. My plan was to take plain water at 15, Perform at 30, and water again at 45. I would also eat a Bonk Breaker Bar and take salt capsules every 30 minutes to an hour. I had practiced this during long bikes, and it seemed like it would work just perfectly.
The first ten miles of the bike went by very quickly. Although there weren’t many riders behind me, there were tons of riders on the other side of the out and back, so there were athletes everywhere, which was nice. As my Garmin beeped after each 5 mile lap, I was happy to see that I was averaging above 15 mph each lap. Awesome I thought, I am going to kill the bike!
The water in my water bottle was warm because it had been on my bike since 4:30 am, but it wasn’t super hot, but I couldn’t wait to dump it at that first aid station and get refreshing ice cold water. The aid station creeped up on me a bit soon – at mile 14, I wasn’t expecting it yet. I had only gone through half of my water, but that was ok, I was glad to trade it out for something cold. I had never done this on bike water exchange before, so I was kind of nervous. I discarded my bottle just before the aid station and slowly rode through the line of volunteers. I grabbed a bottle of water and yelled “Yeah that was my first exchange!” Somehow it was kind of exciting. I had water and had managed not to stop or wreck. Great job! I opened the cap and drank. UGH, hot water! HOT WATER! Are you kidding me? The water on my bike was so much cooler and it was warm. I wished I had just kept it – at least it had electrolytes in it too. I drank the water of course and sprayed a little bit on my body to cool down. It was already getting really, really hot. By about mile 25 I was feeling the heat and the gradual incline, but I was doing well for the most part. I was averaging around 16 mph and was happy about that. But I was also getting dangerously low on water, I only had a few drinks left, and the aid station was still 5 miles away.
My water was gone by mile 28. The aid station I thought would happen at mile 30…no not there, mile 31….no, mile 32….,no. Crap, I had no water and was so thirsty and I was starting to get nauseous. I still had my perpeteum, but you are supposed to drink that with water and I was afraid if I tried to drink it by itself it would just make things worse because it would make my mouth so dry. So I had no water, and no nutrition….not a good combination at all. Finally close to mile 35 I see the water station! It was 21 miles between aid stations – in this heat!!! I needed calories and electrolytes, so I should have gotten the Perform drink, but I was hot, so I wanted to pour the water on me. So I stuck with water again here – thinking the next aid station was 10 miles away, so I should be ok. I poured water on me, not using too much, but trying to cool down. I drank my perpeteum and drank the water…quickly. Before I knew it, it was gone and I was only at mile 40. Well, I would be ok for another 5 miles right? Wrong. I started to fell a little sick about mile 30, but from mile 40 on things went bad. When I looked back at my Garmin after the race, my pace on the bike for the first 40 miles was 15.8 mph which was a great average for me. But by mile 40 I needed water bad. It was soooo hot, I could feel the heat accumulating in my head from my helmet. There was no cloud cover or shade. You were out on country roads with nothing around for miles. There were no other bikers. I could see no one ahead of me, no one behind me, and we had already split off from the other riders. It was lonely, I was hot, and I was thirsty. I was tired and wanted to rest. I just kept telling myself to not stop til the next aid station. Then I could stop, get off the bike, dump an entire bottle of water on my head and get some recovery drink.
I kept moving........slowly. Every time I looked down I was averaging 10 or 12 mph – and remember most of this was on a slight downhill. I hit mile 45, and still no aid station. It must be close. I see other cyclists on the side of the road stopped…standing in the shade, heads on bikes, or sick. I hear the ambulances coming by to get the weary. I want to stop too, but I want to get to the water. I see discarded or dropped water bottles all along the course and seriously consider picking one up – wondering what’s in this one or that one, wonder if it’s cold. Finally at mile 48, I hit the last aid station. I stagger in and hover over my bike. I ask for water, and pour the entire thing over my head. I said to the volunteer – these aid stations are way too far apart on a hot day like this, way too far. I’ve been without water for 25 minutes. I don't know what I expect him to say or do. They are just volunteers. What are they supposed to do?? Nothing.
I took a couple of orange slices and the Perform and got on my way. I thought it might get easier at this point, knowing I only had 8 miles left, but it didn’t really. I still felt nauseous and was having a really hard time imagining how and the heck I was going to run a half marathon after this. When I finally came back into town it was nice to see people again. But, because I was so late in the race the run was already well underway and part of the bike course and the run course are on the same path. This was very, very frustrating, especially with how I felt. I had to weave in and around runners and yell - "biker, move over" because the runners were in my lane. It was so frustrating! I make my way into transition and of course Jim is there cheering me in. Great job baby, you’re doing great. Then he looks at me and says “are you ok?”, I could see the concern in his eyes. “I don’t know I said, I feel really sick”. “Can you do this?” he asked. “I really don’t know” I replied. And at this point, I really wasn’t sure. How the heck was I going to run 13.1 miles in this heat when I was already feeling nauseous? “Just try to get cooled down baby, you’ve got this” he says.
There is an aid station inside the transition area, so before I head out to the run I stop and ask if they have ice. Sunscreen?? they ask me…..no ice I said…before I know it they are lathering me up with sunscreen. This is probably a good thing, but I just wanted some ice. Something cold. They tell me there should be ice at the first aid station – which is at mile 1.
The Run 13.1 Miles 3:31:09
I decide it’s probably best to walk the first mile and see how I feel. Luckily, they have an aid station set up just outside of transition and I don't have to wait til mile 1. They have water, Perform, soda and ICE. I pour some ice down my shirt and get a quick drink of water. The water is warm. I reach for a soda…..oh that will do the trick, a cold soda with lots of sugar. It was so hot, it tasted like coffee. I spit it out, kind of like what was that?? Seriously, I couldn’t believe how hot all the drinks were. But the ice certainly helps cool me down.
|I'm actually fake running here. Looks pretty realistic huh?|
I reached mile 1 and I was actually feeling better so I decide to start run/walking. I decided to do a tenth of a mile run, followed by a tenth of a mile walk. The run seemed to go by so quickly that I decided I could do a .2 mile run and then .1 mile walk. This was working. I felt ok and at least my pace was coming down from a 16 min first mile to around a 13ish minute mile. It was going to be a slow run but that was ok. I stopped at each aid station and dumped water on my head and got cold drinks and ice when they had them. It seemed like about every other aid station had ice, and everyone other one had no ice and hot drinks. Even at the ones with ice, you had to beg for it. Please do you have ice??? Give me 3 cups.
The run was a double out and back, so on the first loop there were still tons of runners and I was amazed by how many people were walking. Almost no one I passed was running. I guess I wasn’t the only one struggling in the heat. I made it to the first turnaround at about mile 3.1 and was feeling pretty good. I was working really hard to keep cool, but I was feeling soooo much better than I did on the bike and beginning of the run. I reach about mile 6.5 and I see a guy laying on the pavement heaving uncontrollably and I feel so sorry for him. Medics are tending to him and I know the heat got the best of him that day. It was hard to watch though.
Shortly after that I see my friends Tina and Glenn who were spectating/following us on their mountain bikes and I smile and wave. Glenn says how are you doing? And I said great, I’m actually enjoying the run far more than the bike. Then I come in toward the finish line….not for me, but for a lot of people. And of course so many people say – keep going you are almost there, but I’m not, I have a whole loop left. This is really tough. You can see the finish line. You either go right to finish, or left for loop two. It’s tough. You can hear the crowd and the announcers and you just want to go that way, but you have to go back for round 2!! I see Jim and he runs with me for a bit. He says “You look great, you look strong! I was so worried about you”. Yes, I’m doing pretty good I think, I’ve got this! This was at about mile 7ish. He runs with me for a bit and asks if I want him to stay with me, “no I replied you’re not supposed to I could get disqualified”. So he falls back, but then Tina joins me on her bike. I tell her I’m doing pretty good, but need to walk for a minute up this hill. She says ok, she’s going to catch me in a few minutes and then rides on.
And then it falls apart……completely. I’m at about mile 7.7, and I try to run again and I feel hot, so hot, and so sick. The last aid station had no ice, and I’m so hot. I stop and walk. I want to stop and sit down. But I can tell that if I stop, I’m going to be sick. I’m going to be that guy on the side of the road I just saw. I can feel the waves of nausea sweeping over me. I am staggering and walking so slowly. I don't know how it happened so fast, but it did. I can’t finish. I can’t. There’s no way. I’m sick. I need to sit down. Don’t sit down I tell myself or it’s all over, don’t sit down. I am fighting internally. I want to rest, but I know if I do it’s over. I know if I do I will vomit. I keep moving, but I'm moving slowly. Right about mile 8 or so there is a guy standing out in his front yard with his water hose. Several people had sprinklers and hoses out, but he’s at the right place at the right time. I stagger over to him and he asks if I wanted to get sprayed. “Yes please, give me all you’ve got, really get my head”. I must have looked awful because he says “are you ok”. “No, I’m not" I replied. "I feel really sick”. “Do you want some Gatorade or something?”. Yes,, yes, please? “Hold on” he yells, “stay right here, I’ll be right back”.
But I can’t stand there, I have to move. I feel so sick. About this time Tina and Glenn come by again and see me. “I’m sick, I don’t think I can make it”, I tell them, “but that guy is getting me Gatorade, but I have to keep moving or I’m going to throw up”. “Can you go back and get it for me?”. So I keep slowly walking, I want to cry. I want to stop. I am so mad. I’ve worked too hard, trained too hard, spent too much money for this race to be over. I think about all my friends finishing and me being the one that doesn’t…..it sucks, why??? Tina brings me the Gatorade and I instantly feel better! It’s cold. ICE Cold. It’s the first super cold drink I’ve had all day. I keep walking and sipping Gatorade and getting under whatever sprinkler I can find. And then the next thing hits. The shivers. I’m freezing. I have chill bumps everywhere. Crap, that can’t be good. I yell to Glenn and Tina “I’m freezing – think that’s a problem”. Glenn looks at me and says “Michael, that’s not good. You need to stop. This could be serious”. “But I don’t want to stop, I can’t, and I feel better”. He said “well maybe it’s just because you got cooled down….but be careful and if you keep feeling that way, we are going to make you stop.”
Glenn and Tina basically continued beside me for the next 4 miles, making sure I was ok. They are amazing friends. Although technically “illegal”, I was so happy to have them as my safety blanket. I knew if I got into trouble they would be able to get help to me quickly. I didn’t run another step after about mile 7.8. Walking those last five miles was hard. So much harder than running would have been. It took so long, and the whole time I just didn’t know if I was going to make it or not. It was the longest 5 miles of my life. I just took my time. There were times when I wanted to run again, but didn’t want to chance it. I took every opportunity I could to get wet and stay wet, to drink and to pour all the ice down my shirt that I could.
I finally reach mile 11 and I think….I’m going to do this. I am; I’ve made it past the worst part and I’m still standing. I can do 2 more miles. I come around the corner, where my angel gave me Gatorade at mile 8 and he’s still out there with his garden hose. I walk over to him and say “Thanks, I just want you to know you saved my race, seriously”. I asked him his name and he said Eddie, so THANKS EDDIE!! You were such a life saver!
|Right before mile 8, still feeling good|
Finally, I round the corner with just over a mile to go and I see Jim running toward me…panicked. “What happened??, I thought you’d be done 30 minutes ago.” I tell him what happened and he thanks Tina and Glenn for hanging with me. He said everyone is worried about you – I told all of them how strong you looked when I last saw you and then everyone has been waiting and waiting on you to finish. He was so worried about me. It was really sweet. Jim continued to walk with me most of the rest of the way. Again, he’s technically not supposed to do this, but I also wasn’t supposed to get outside assistance in the way of Gatorade from Eddie, or have Tina and Glenn follow me, but let’s face it, I wasn’t out to win anything this day, so I don’t think people were paying too much attention to us last few finishers. And thank goodness Jim did stay with me. As I tried to wrap up that last mile or so they had already taken down the cones so I didn’t know where to go. Yes, I had already done this loop once, but I’ve been outside in the heat all day. I’ve been going at this thing for over 8 hours! I was tired, sick, and a little delirious. This was yet another frustrating experience of the race. I mean there were still a few people behind me. And even if I was the last one to cross the finish line – why would you take up the cones before the finish?? Why not just tear down the finish line too? It doesn’t make you feel very good. That’s for sure. Anyway, we finally get to within ear shot of the announcer and I told Jim I didn’t think I could run to the finish line, I was just going to have to walk in. He said “who cares you’re going to finish”and he was right. I knew I was.
As I got closer I could still hear the crowd and then I heard my crowd. All of my friends were lined up right in a row with huge smiles on their faces cheering me in. It was the best site ever! I didn’t even notice when they called me Michelle Weatherly as I crossed the finish line. When I saw them I started to run. I ran through the finishers chute with a huge smile on my face as I high fived each one of them on my way across the line. And in that moment the whole day was worth it. The training was worth it. I did it!
|My own personal cheering crew|
I received my medal and my hat and was immediately greeted by a volunteer asking me if I was ok and recommending I go see the medic. I was fine I told them and I was. My friends came and hugged me and then urged me to go to the medic as well. They took a few vitals though and told me I was right, I was fine and sent me on my way.
I still didn’t feel great, but I didn’t feel bad either. I couldn’t believe it. Often after a race I feel very bad for an hour or two, and I have to stay in the potty awhile if you know what I mean, but I didn’t even have that issue. It was kind of crazy. I had apparently managed to get my over heated state in control during those last 5 miles. And that was it. It was over. It was done. I was a Half Iron-woman. I had just completed 70.3 miles. I didn’t do it in the time I wanted to do it in. I didn’t have the experience I had hoped to have. But somehow, I had dug deep, and I mean deep and finished.
I finished in 8 hours 20 minutes and 15 seconds. A good 20 minutes past my goal time. The results showed over 400 people finished behind me. This is not true. I went through the results to see – there were actually only about 25 people who finished the race behind me. Those other 375 didn't have a finish time. I don't know if that many people truly showed up for race day and didn't finish, or if some just never showed up at all. But I saw so many people that had swim times, or swim and bike times with no final time. So many people didn’t finish. It makes me feel strong that somehow I did. All my other friends finished and had great races – I was certainly the weakest link. finishing over an hour after any of them. But I finished!
We didn't wait around long after the race. I just wanted to get in a cooler climate and take a shower. I had heat rash from the top of my hips all the way down to my ankles. Yes, between hives, heat rash, and nausea I was seriously a total mess. Jim took a pic of me in the medic tent. He said it was to remind me, when I thought I wanted to do this again. But the thoughts are already there. Part of me has no desire to ever try this again, but part of me wants redemption for such a bad race. Who knows?
|See, I told you I was fine. Look at my fake smile.|
Overall I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. It's just not the race I wanted. But, I'm glad I did it. It was an experience I will never forget, even if I would want to. I had a wonderful group of friends and at the end of the day I crossed the finish line and I didn't get injured. It took something out of me, as I'm still not feeling quite right several days later, but I know I will fully recover. And from now on I will forever be a Half Ironwoman!!
|The turtle got it done, slow and steady.|
1. Try not to get hives on race morning, it makes the day far more stressful.
2. Race with friends, it can make all the difference.
3. Do not be an idiot in the aid stations. Take your time and stop if you need to. The few minutes you will add to your race may save it later. Take the time to pour water on yourself if needed and then grab another bottle. They don't limit you to one bottle, it's ok to take more.
4. Do not be an idiot in the aid stations. Take additional water. I have no idea why I didn't put water bottles in my bike jersey. It just didn't cross my mind until after the race. I could have carried at least 2 bottles in my jersey.
5. If possible, have at least 4 water bottle cages on your bike. This would have made all the difference in the world for me.
6. Do whatever you can to keep from getting overheated in the first place. Once it starts, it's almost impossible to feel better.
7. Don't underestimate any part of the race. I thought I had the swim and bike in the bag. I was wrong.
8. Don't forget to do your world famous pre-race dance pics - it was clearly bad luck to miss such an important part of my pre-race ritual.