I got to Tempe in the usual dark of the night to get my stuff organized, pump up my bike tires, get body marked and stand in a long line for the porta potty. I was in a daze because I am not a morning person. Waking up at 3:45 doesn’t help. I always wonder how I am ever going to have the energy to race, but it always happens. People milled around to get ready. Since it is a local race, I chatted with people that I knew. I tried not to think about how long the day would be.
We lined up to jump in the warm seventy-four degree water. The rising sun pinked up the Mill Avenue bridge, the buildings lining the banks of Tempe Town Lake and the mountains. My wave, which was the last one, bobbed around in the water waiting for the start. I stayed to the back.
We started off, and swam into the sun. I waited for people to go off, because I couldn’t stay with them. People would kick me if I was in the way. It was hard to sight off the buoys in the glare of the light. I saw moving arms and splashing arcs of reflected water ahead of me.
I swam onward at a steady pace, not hating it, but not enjoying it. It was just work. I was hot in my wetsuit. After a while, a few souls were still in the water, but most had left. A kayaker paddling along side annoyed me. They were supposed to save us if we were drowning, but I didn’t need rescuing and I wanted to be left alone.
Finally, I reached the end. Fifty-nine minutes. That was slower than I wanted. Volunteers stripped my wetsuit off and I ran to my bike.
I started to ride and found out that my bike computer wasn’t working, so I had no idea how fast I was going. I wanted to be conservative anyway, because fifty-six miles is a long way to ride hard in the heat. It felt cool right now, but that wouldn’t last.
The bike course was still crowded with people on their second and third laps. I took note of where I was going because by the third lap, I would probably be alone. I didn’t want to have the disconcerting feeling of being unsure where I was going when no one was around to follow.
I wanted to have a personal best time on the bike section, but not to overdo it. I stopped to use the porta potty and to fix my bike computer. The sun was more intense by now.
I noticed half way through that I wasn’t feeling well; the nasty feeling I got on the edge of heat exhaustion. I thought to myself, this isn’t good. I poured water on myself to keep cool, but it would evaporate in ten minutes. I was tired and my legs and feet hurt.
By the third lap, the course was empty, with a few souls bravely plodding along. I didn’t like riding up an empty freeway ramp by myself. Creepy. I was relieved to see anyone. The tedium was occasionally broken by vehicles invading the bike course. I saw a semi crossing ahead of me, blowing through an intersection and somehow avoiding the orange cones. My pace was about what I wanted to do-sixteen miles per hour. I finished in about three and a half hours, a P.R..
The real fun is the two lap run. Now it was eighty-eight degrees. One year, I did the run in ninety plus degrees. My heart rate had soared, I had been dizzy and my fingers had tingled. I had to walk the second lap and the run took almost four hours. I had desperately wished at the time that someone would have pulled me off the course. I wanted to avoid that horror.
I accepted the mediocrity of running the first lap slow. This wasn’t good for my ego, but it was survival and I might as well not feel bad about it. I would rather run both laps, then walk one. I poured water on myself at every aid station and stuffed ice down my bra. It helped keep me going, but I was still fried. The walking dead accompanied me. Negativity entered my brain. I hated the people who had already finished. I thought how this race was dead to me and I would never do it again. People better not get in my way. I was fighting the heat, fatigue, pain and mental misery. I wondered who was on their last lap. Probably everyone but me. I kept running, but slower than I wanted to.
In the midst of my dark mood, I met up with a friend. We talked as we ran and I didn’t think as much how miserable I was. I could run faster with someone to pace me. The temperature rose to ninety degrees. It was me versus the heat and I was winning. The miles went by. The end was near.
racers. Courtesy Camelback Coaching
We ran together under the finish line in seven hours, seventeen minutes total time. I usually finish half irons alone with no one to cheer me at the end, so this was a bonus. This was my fastest overall and 2:37" run time ever in a half ironman. The race was harder and felt much worse than I thought it would. I had had a faint hope that I would feel great doing this distance. Reality beat me down, but not the heat. Some challenges make me pay dearly to overcome them.