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Grand Columbian Half Ironman 2010 – Geek Turned Athlete

Grand Columbian Half Ironman 2010

Not all races are supposed to be great ones. I learned that on Saturday. I was humbled more so than I have ever been during a race. I try to be real about how my training goes 100% of the time on the blog, but honestly after this race, I didn’t want to talk about it. It was just bad. A couple days passed and along with the soreness in my legs dissipating (with the exception of my right calf), my embarrassment/ego bruising faded as well. Here is what happened:

The day started off great. The race started at 9am which meant that I actually slept in until 6! This is quite unusual on race days, and I actually felt rested. I had a bowl of cereal and a banana for breaky, loaded up the truck, and headed out to the race site. Here was the view from our hotel that was a mile away from the starting line:


When we got to the venue, the hubs helped me put air in my tires, and there was a bike mechanic walking around the transition area asking if anyone needed any last minute adjustments. He came up to us, and said that if we needed anything during the bike portion to just have one of the volunteers call him, and he could help change tires, etc. I told him that I was extremely happy about this since I HATE changing tires!! Remember that conversation folks for later in the story!

I started getting a little nervous, but the hubs and some friends kept my mind off of things. :)

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The Swim: 43 min 51 sec

I loved the start and the logistics of this particular swim course because the half ironMEN and relay teams (white caps) started five minutes ahead of the half ironWOMEN (yellow caps). I did not have to worry about being run over! Plus, the course was very well marked. The women out there were great. They kept joking about how they could be shopping right now instead of doing this. There were some 60 year olds in there!


And we were off!!



The swim went in a triangular pattern. The first 700 meters, I was really freaking out and trying to catch my breath. I felt like I was suffocating in my wetsuit. These ladies were fast! By the first turn, I thought I was the last yellow cap left in the water. I tried to find a good pace as I made the turn.

I started burping up cinnamon and banana from the breakfast on the next 500 meters. Then, I actually started throwing up my breakfast while I was swimming. The weird thing is: I was calm about it. It was quite odd especially since I was have never thrown up while swimming, and it just kind of came out naturally? I ran into a few white caps who had started five minutes before me. It made me feel better that I wasn’t the last one out there! I did feel bad that they had to swim through my chunks though. Sorry, left over white caps!

On the last turn, I finally found my pace and passed a few more white caps. I never passed any yellow caps. ;(

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Getting out of the water was a painful experience, and I looked like a dainty lady stumbling over the rocks instead of running over them like a “hardcore triathlete.” hehe Yes, that woman who looks like she is dancing like a robot, that is me.


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I was so dizzy coming up out of the water. It is weird to be in a horizontal position for over 40 minutes, then to force yourself to be upright again in a hurry! Other people were stumbling as well!


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Transition 1: 6 min 23 sec

I was so tired from the swim that I had a hard time getting my wetsuit off, and I was kind of out of it. I need to work on this transition in particular.

We had a changing tent which was nice, but it made me forget about the urgency and talking to other ladies about the swim was inevitable. I found out that I wasn’t the last yellow cap to get out of the water so that was a good thing! I really need to learn to shut up during transitions!


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The Bike: 4 hrs 42 min 03 sec

Up until the bike, even though I threw up on the swim, I thought that I was doing just fine. I don’t claim to be a great swimmer, and I was just happy that I made it of the lake alive without being eaten by a huge 8 foot catfish. Have you ever seen River Monsters?

Anyway, it was going just fine until about a mile before the 2nd aid station. I heard my tire pop. I have no idea what I ran over. Then, I heard all the air come out of the tire. I road it to the aid station and jumped off my bike to change the tire. I took out my tools, managed to remove the damaged tube, ran my fingers along the tire to make sure there was nothing else sticking it, and put the new tube in. I was so proud of myself for actually changing my tire in record time.

Now time to pump up the tire. I looked in bag. NO CO2 cartridges. NO pump on my bike. What?!!!!!!!! How could I forget one of those things?!! I asked one of the volunteers if they could call the mechanic and have him meet me there. They called and were told there wasn’t a mechanic. What????!!! What about that guy in transition before the race started? No one had any clue as to what I was talking about.

Then, I asked the volunteers if they had a pump. They had a bike pump in one of their cars. We tried it. It didn’t fit my valve on my tube. They drove up to their house around the corner for one of those pumps that you plug into the car. That didn’t fit my valve either. They drove my tire up to the fire station to see if they had something there to pump it up. Nothing. Meanwhile, I’m watching everyone and their mom pass through the aid station on their bike. I was helplessly stuck there. I made the call to Steve to ask him to come pick me up. It sucked. I was holding back tears.

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Then, one of volunteers called one of his cycling friends who had nothing to do with the race. His friend rode down to the aid station and pumped up my tires. Evidently the back tire had a little leak, but I only had one tube. I thanked his friend profusely, called my hubs to let him know he didn’t need to come pick me up, and I was off.

I looked down at my watch. FORTY-FIVE MINUTES had passed. Although I passed 3 people on the bike for the rest of the ride, I was not a happy camper. First of all, they were in their 60’s and 70’s. I’m in my 20’s. I should be passing them.

Second, how could I be so stupid and forget a vital piece of equipment needed on the bike? I spent the rest of the bike ride bawling and mentally berating myself. I’m sure it did not help my pace at all. I’m not really proud of that time on the bike. I let my mind get the best of me in bringing me down. I really just wanted to crawl under a rock instead of dealing with the endless amount of hills combined with my utter embarrassment over the whole situation and the fact that after I passed those 3 people, I didn’t see anymore cyclists ahead of me for MILES!

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Transition 2: 3 min 48 sec

I sort of just went through the motions of getting myself ready for the run. I wasn’t really feeling it. I was so upset, still!  I’m not perfect, and I have my five year old moments.


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The Run: 2 hrs 13 min

Once I got out of transition, and I started running my mood changed dramatically. My legs felt fine! I looked down at my garmin, and I was running at an 8:30 pace for the beginning at least. I started passing people, finally! Then, I started talking to people to see what lap they were on. You see, there were two laps of the half marathon course. Most of the 20 people that I passed were all on their second laps, and I was on my first. The other runners were great on this course. Almost everyone that I passed was like, “You go, girl!” or something like that. And I was cheering people on too. It really helped lift my mood.

Well, almost everyone was nice. I was passing a guy going up a hill, and I mentioned that I really wanted these hills to stop, then I laughed. He mumbled underneath his breath, “Has anyone ever told you this before? I hate you. I want you to go away to the finishline.” I thought, ‘how rude!” and then I just ran faster. He probably had a bad day like I did. I didn’t blame him after I thought about it. We all were a little loopy out there.

I came around to the turn around expecting to see my husband, and I didn’t see him there. The crying started up AGAIN. I swear, I was a basket case of emotions on Saturday. It sucked. My body was so tired, and I was not having a very good day. I can’t even describe how hurt and disappointed I was not to see my husband there. It was as if I was holding me breath waiting to get to the surface to take a breath, and the surface ended up being 10 feet higher than I thought it was. The crying lasted for about another 3 miles. I was out there by myself anyway on the last lap besides maybe about 10 racers and a few volunteers.

When I got to the last aid station, they had already packed up their table, and the cups of water were set on an ice chest.

Now I know what it is like to be one of the last people finishing at a race. Wow. This sucks.

I finally ran through the finishline with an official time of: 7 hrs 49 min 42 sec. Immediately, I started crying again. To add insult to injury of being one of the last people to finish the race, they had run out of medals. I fell into my husbands arms, happy to be alive and finished with one of the hardest things that I have ever done in my life.

After a couple of minutes of crying, and people staring (oh yes, they did). I asked him why he wasn’t at the turn around. He said that he didn’t even know where it was at, and he would have rather been there than sitting in the grass by himself for the past 2 hours. It was all a misunderstanding.


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On our 1 1/2 hour car ride home, the hubs mentioned how much I smelled.

“This is what a half Ironman smells like!” haha

Then I lifted my legs up on the dashboard, and the smell got worse.

“You really smell like S^&t!”

“OMG, I know! Wow. I’m sorry you have to smell this for an hour and a half. Thanks for being out there for me today.”

I stretched and pulled my right foot to where the bottom of my shoe was facing me. There lied a piece of dog poo. Hmmm. No wonder it smelled like S^&t!

So, even though I probably spent a good 3 hours crying out of the 7 plus hours I was out there on the course, threw up on the swim, got a flat tire and completely forgot the means to put air in it, the race running out of medals, and to add a cherry on top, stepping in dog poo at the end of the day, I wouldn’t take any of it back. You want to know why?

Not every race is meant to be a good one. In fact, I probably learned a lot more about myself during this race than any other race I have competed in. I could have quit at so many points during this race (and trust me, I wanted to), but I didn’t. This race was physically demanding for sure, but all the physical did not compare to the mental anguish (self-induced) that I put myself through that day. If I hadn’t kept mentally punishing myself for the stupid tire pump over and over and over again, it probably wouldn’t have been that bad, and my time would have been so much better! I need to learn that, especially in a race, S^&t happens (literally and figuratively) and to keep focusing on the negative will only make it worse. I needed to accept that it happened, get over the whole tire thing, and focus on what was next.

Another thing I learned: Pack with all triathlon stuff with a list so as to not forgot anything! I will never forget a bike pump or CO2 cartridges again!

A Half Ironman is no joke, and for anyone to do it as their first triathlon is crazy. This wasn’t my first triathlon.  My body handled it quite well, but it was my mind that got me in the end.  It was very humbling.

Some thanks in order before I end this extremely long post:

The Hubs: I was so pissed at you for not being at the turnaround, but I no longer want to kill you. haha. We both (mainly me) probably needed to work more on communicating exactly what I needed you to do during the race along with locations. Thank you for being out there for long without any beer!

Friends and Family: Thank you for always listening to my long and dramatic training/racing stories even though I know you are bored out of your mind!

Bloggie and Twitter Friends: Thank you so much for always taking the time to encourage me even though you don’t know me in “real life.” This blogging community is one of a kind, and I’m glad to be part of it. 😉

I really don’t want pity from anyone so please don’t comment “well, at least you finished!”. This is me, this is my life. Most of the time it is roses, but sometimes it’s dog poo and no medals. I was laughing about the race the next day. If I didn’t have a sense of humor about most of the crap that happens to me whether it is self induced or not, I would not have a very happy life. Life is too short not to laugh at yourself and learn from your mistakes for that matter. 😉

On the plus side for next year: I will have a huge PR for this race!!!


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