The last time I attempted to do a Half Iron Distance race was in August of 2005. It was the CATS Degray Half in Arkansas and I ended up DNFing it after completing the swim and the bike, I just didn’t feel up to running the half marathon. I had planned on going out to the Deuceman Half Iron Distance race last year, but that hadn’t worked out. Since TriSports.com renewed my sponsorship this year, I decided I would make the trip.
I always start races highly optimistic. Not that I always think I’m going to win, realistically I know I’ve only won a couple of small triathlons and duathlons. But I always think there is a possibility I might do really well and place in the top three or something, it is part of what keeps me coming back for more. The Deuceman Half was no exception, even though it was at 6,600 feet of elevation and even though I should have known I really wasn’t ready for a half.
6:34am race morning found me in the cool (67 degrees) water heading out on a 1.2 mile swim, the longest continuous swim of the year for me. Due to the high altitude and the resulting lack of oxygen, I made it a point to start slower on the swim and try to stay relaxed. There were only around 100 or so swimmers in my wave so I thought it would be pretty uncongested, however it seemed that I had people swimming over me and cutting across my path for the first 5 minutes. I’m sure part of the problem was the difficulty spotting the swim buoys. Until we reached the first buoy, we were swimming almost directly into the sun. To make matters worse, the turn buoys were red pyramids. One little known fact of pyramids, the tips of them are their smallest feature. Too me it would have made a lot more sense to put the smallest part of the pyramid in the water so that we could sight off the base of the pyramid, oh well, I guess everyone can’t be as smart as me… On three different occasions I had to stop, tread water and remove my goggles to verify I was headed in the right direction.
After what seemed an eternity, I finally found myself heading back into the cove where the race had started. I fully expected this to be one of my slower half iron swims, but when I checked my watch and saw 34:15 I was pleasantly surprised.
For the last 5 minutes or so of the swim, I knew I needed to pee and I had tried to do so, however I can’t pee in the water while I’m swimming. So I had to make a quick pit stop in transition.
Earlier in the morning when I was setting up my bike, I realized I had forgotten the “yellow netting thingy” that fits in my aero bottle and keeps it from splashing everywhere. I had decided to use the aero bottle anyways and had filled it and my water bottle with Gatorade. As I was running my bike out of transition with Gatorade splashing on my hands I realized what I was in for. Once out on the course my fears were confirmed when “bump” went my wheel and my face was dowsed in Gatorade. I quickly drank as much as I could hoping to minimize the splashing once the liquid levels dropped. This helped a little, but I never was able to make it stop, I just decided to live with a sticky face, fingers, legs, bike… More important than stickiness was staying hydrated so I continued to refill the aero bottle throughout the ride.
I had driven in on one of the roads that I knew I got to, er had to ride, so I knew it would be a tough course. Fortunately the long stretches of climbing were offset by some long flat and slightly downhill stretches. I wasn’t using a speedometer, but since I was continually passing people I knew I was having a decent bike.
When I finally came in off the bike my watch read 3 hours and 18 minutes. If I could run under an hour and a half for the run, I would be in the vicinity of my PR time of 4:45. Leading up to the race I had thought I would be able to run 1:30 or better for the run. I hustled as fast as I could out of T2, that is once I stopped and used the porta john again… Once out on the run course I felt decent, but not as fast as I’ve gotten used to running. When I passed the first mile marker in 7:15 I wasn’t too worried though since I figured I could get faster as my bike legs switched to running legs. However, the second mile went by in 7:40. At this point I made a discernible effort to pick up my pace and was able to lower my time for the next mile by 4 seconds. This was only a temporary improvement that quickly came crashing down as my next mile went by in 8:35. My sub 1:30 half marathon was no longer a possibility.
I continued on as best I could. Seven miles into the run we returned to the transition area and headed back out for a final 6.2 mile loop. For the next several miles I continually re-adjusted the expectations I had in my mind. “If I can run this last 10k in 40 minutes I’ll break 5 hours”. “Ok, that was a slow mile, but I can still break 5 hours maybe.” “Hmm, if I can run a 24 minute 5k, I’ll break 5:10 and still qualify for Halfmax based on time.” “Ok, if I can walk a little this mile, I’ll run the next one.” “What the heck was I thinking signing up for this stupid thing…”
Finally, with my watch reading 5:16:06 I crossed the finish line and collapsed into a chair.
I’ve been running a lot lately, upwards of 60 miles a week so I figured I was ready for a half, looking back now at my training log I realize I was substantially under trained. My longest block of continuous training was around two and a half hours, longest bike ride of the year was 47 miles(two months prior), and my longest swim workout was 2400 yards back in January. I was really disappointed at the time. I had hoped to maybe set a PR or at least place in my age group, the trophies were really cool sculptures. Instead I had placed 4th in my age group and had been reduced to walking on the run. Looking back now, I realize I was remarkably under trained, I was racing at 6,600 feet, and yet I had still managed to complete a half iron distance race with my second best ever time. I think I enjoyed the race, I finished it, and best of all, I had even been able to start it…