…continued from Pre-Race and Swim.
This was the leg I was worried about the most at Lake Stevens, as the bike course poses a few challenges with steep climbs and sharps turns. When Justin and I pre-rode the course over the July 4 holiday, I was a little freaked out by the amount of hills/climbing. Going into Sunday’s race, I honestly did not know what to expect but my goal was to finish in three hours like I did in Boise. As soon as I made my way out of town and into the countryside, I could sense that it was going to be a strong day for me on the bike.
The course is absolutely beautiful and you travel along dense forests, lakes, and rivers. I was SO thankful that it wasn’t raining and the road was only semi-moist from all the participation in the air. In case you didn’t know, the western part of Washington gets a lot of rain and drizzle, so that is a coin you are flipping if you sign up for this race. On three different occasions within the first 20 miles of the course I came upon riders who had crashed and were in need of an ambulance, all in areas where there were sharp turns or wet pavement. I said a prayer for my own safety and pedaled on.
At 28 miles and halfway into the course I was averaging 21.7mph. This was incredibly fast for me and I started to worry that perhaps I was pushing it a little too hard. I decided to be a little more conservative on the second half of the ride, especially because there were more hills and steeper climbs to get through, and because I wanted to have something left in the tank for a 13-mile run. If I had it to do over again I probably would have kept up my faster pace, but it’s all a learning experience.
This course is definitely more challenging than Boise, as there are a few steep climbs (one was 22% grade) and a number of sharp turns that you have to really slow down for. That being said, I would do this course over the Boise bike course any day of the week. It’s more scenic, the rolling hills are really fun, the temperatures are cooler, and there are a couple descents where you can really fly!
Once again, my nutrition was spread out perfectly. I switched off between Osmo Active Hydration and a Carbo-Pro/Nuun mix, and had GUs or Bloks every 30-45minutes. I never once felt as though my energy levels were beginning to let up. If anything, I felt better as the ride went on.
When I exited the swim I was in 993rd place overall, 304th among women, and 49th in my age group. After 56 miles on the bike, my position had improved to 305th overall, 35th among women, and 8th in my age group. Those positions continued to improve on the run, which only reinforces my strengths (bike and run) and weaknesses (swim). While I will continue to improve naturally on the bike and run, I am hoping to make big strides in the swim over the coming months!
Bike Time: 2:45 (20.3mph)
T2 Time: 1:52
T2 was pretty uneventful. I ran with my bike to the ugly mess of chaos and disorder around my transition area, racked it, changed shoes, thanked a few volunteers (as I did throughout the day) and was off toward the big “Run Out” exit. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw my family, even if they had a bullhorn and were repeatedly yelling “run, Kristen, run” into it as I headed out of T-2 and onto the run course.
That first mile is always an adjustment, but my muscle memory is definitely getting better because that adjustment is shorter each time and I didn’t feel at all wobbly in the legs. I settled into a good pace and was off on a two-loop, 13-mile journey to the finish.
During the first 4 miles I was experiencing a really odd sharp pain on the right side of my lower back, which was probably due to being in the aero position on the bike for so long. I could feel this pain shoot down my leg and into my foot with every step. When I saw my husband at Mile 5 he told me to press hard and hold my thumb on the spot for a while, so I did. And what do you know, it worked. Smart man.
I had a great cheering squad and my husband, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law really outdid themselves. Not only at the race, but in the days leading up to it as well with their cards, cupcakes, patience, support and encouragement. Every time I saw them I felt a burst of energy and it kept me going.
After I finished the first loop, it dawned on me that I was now only minutes, not hours, from the finish. Although my pace started to slow a bit, I never stopped and never let the aches and pains get me down. Trust me, there were moments when I could feel my left calf and foot starting to cramp. I think I actually looked down at my leg at one point and, taking a page from the Jens Voigt “shut up legs” school of thinking, exclaimed out loud “shut up, not now.”
The run course in Lake Stevens is really interesting because part of it loops around an industrial/commercial area on the back side of town that is not very pretty or exciting, and part of it does an out-and-back along the shoreline of the lake with beautiful views and terrain. The course is not flat, but the hills aren’t horrible. The total elevation gain was roughly 600ft.
At mile 12 I started the descent back to the large crowds and finish area. Yes, it is a bonus that the last mile is mostly downhill. I passed by people whom I had seen cheering throughout the day and high-fived a number of kids as I zipped by.
I picked up the pace down the finishing stretch, made my way through droves of people three layers thick, and raised my arms in pride as I crossed under the beautiful blue finish line.
Run Time: 1:44 (8min/mile)
Total Finish Time: 5:17:24 (6th AG)
Was that really my time? Did I really just knock 28 minutes off my first half Ironman in Boise? I hugged a volunteer, grabbed a bottle of water, and found my husband. My spirit turned into a little firecracker and I was jumping up and down all over the place in celebration. I could see the pride on Justin’s face as well. We did it!
I found my coach, who had also participated in the race and finished with a crazy fast time of 4:37, and shouted the good news (still jumping up and down). He was ecstatic. I ended up finishing 6th in my age group. It wasn’t about that though. It was about months and months of hard work coming to fruition, doing something that I love and am passionate about. When I’m out on the course, I feel alive. There is no feeling in the world quite like that of crossing the finish line.
Justin and I did not stick around too long after, as we still had a 7-hour drive back to Bend ahead of us. I picked up a huge slice of pizza for us to share, along with a couple beverages, and then we headed to the transition area to gather all of my belongings. I cleaned up, changed, and we were off on the road, as if the race were just a dream.
A magical dream. One of my favorite dreams ever. It was the race of a lifetime (so far) for me.