On Saturday morning, Jessica loaded the bikes on her car. Those are some sexy bicycles, for sure.
Then we hurtled eastbound down the highway, and I tried not to look at the speedometer. (Just kidding, Jessica. Sort of.)
Once into Ohio, we made a stop at a triathlon store for Jessica to pick out a wetsuit. Regrettably, I did not get any pictures of this. I did, however, pick up a book on training for one’s first triathlon. You know, just in case.
We also made a stop at Trader Joe’s. It lasted all of seven hot minutes, and we tried to get as many snacks as our arms would hold:
For dinner, we visited her grandparents at their swanky new place in a retirement community. When Jessica explained what she would be undertaking the next morning, her grandmother charged me with notifying them in the event that she sank to the bottom of the lake:
For the evening, we crashed at Jessica’s aunt and uncle’s house. Before hitting the sack, Jessica tested the sealing power of her goggles in the bathroom sink. Then I read her excerpts of my newly purchased Your First Triathlon book because, in fact, the half-ironman was her first triathlon.
I slept like a rock.
The next morning, we drove to Deer Creek Lake state park at the asscrack of dawn. It began to get light as Jessica pumped up the tires:
We picked up our race packets and set up our transition zones.
I had no idea what to do in setting up my transition area, so I put things on the ground in a semi-organized fashion. Transitioning from running to biking and back again didn’t seem so stressful, so I mostly wandered around and talked to more experienced racers. There were so many expensive bikes; it was rather intimidating.
With everything set up, we hopped in the car to choke down some bagels and peanut butter…and got really nervous. From conversations with Kya, a few cars away, I gathered that Brian was also nervous.
Oh, I forgot to mention that it was 37°F with strong winds in the forecast. At this point, a lot of triathletes were switching down to the duathlon distance because of the wind and waves on the lake.
All of the duathlon distances started at 9:00am. While waiting, I talked to the woman standing next to me, a sprint athlete who had downgraded to the sprint duathlon. Her name was Lara (“Foster”). Unlike major road races, the start involved gathering behind a sandwich board next to the port-o-potties and some race official counting backwards from 5. Then he yelled, “GO!” and we took off.
Run 1 (3.1 miles) – 26:23
My first 5K was not particularly eventful. My goal was to run a relatively fast 5K, though by no means a PR. It was an out-and-back course with a half-mile stretch of grass (Death for my legs!). It also ran across the lake’s dam, where it was so windy that one of my braided pigtails came undone. I ran even splits, each about 8:30 minutes/mile. Even though this was not my fastest 5K, it still felt uncomfortable. A 5K will be a 5k, I suppose.
Transition 1 (Run-to-Bike) – 1:55
I have no idea whether this is a good transition time or not. Basically, I ran to my transition spot, secured my loose pigtail, put on my helmet and bike shoes, and ran to the mounting line with my bicycle, all while trying to put on my gloves. Then it was off for the bike!
Bike (12.4 miles) – 51:05
Let’s just say that this was not the optimal course for my fifth-ever bike ride. By the point the wind was up to 20mph. Additionally, a good section of the course had just been stripped of the top layer, leaving a gravel-strewn mess. My goal for the biking portion was to maintain over 15mph, but this didn’t quite happen. The gravel slowed me down a lot, and the last miles had two hills. In truth, I don’t think the hills were that big, but I crawled up them. I’m sure it looked pretty pathetic from the sidelines, but I am proud that I didn’t have to dismount and walk my bike up the hill. I didn’t do any walks of shame during college, and I certainly didn’t want to do one during my first duathlon.
It is worth noting that I passed ONE other racer during the bike section, a 12-year-old on a mountain bike.
Transition 2: 1:22
After clipping out of my pedals, I hit the ground running, literally. This is because when I watch the Kona Ironman on TV, the triathletes always run into the transition zone. It probably works because they are professionals. I, on the other hand, tripped and stumbled my way to my station, thanks in part to trashed quads and the cleats on my bike shoes.
Jacket, gloves, and helmet discarded, I put on my Ravennas and started running…
Run 2 (3.1 miles) – 29:32
…Actually, I started shuffling. I had no idea what to expect, and the transition from biking to running was a nasty surprise. My quads felt tight and unresponsive, and my cold feet felt numb, especially where I had been pressing into the bike pedal. Immediately, I told myself, “I will never do an Ironman. This is terrible!”
It was so unlike a road race, where the running doesn’t feel terrible. My legs felt heavy, and it seemed like everyone was passing me. At one point, I even walked to fix my hair. Instead of feeling demoralized, I was just in awe that Jessica and Brian were attempting to run 13.1 miles after a much, much longer bike ride.
Fortunately, my legs loosened up in the last mile. This didn’t mean that I got faster; I just felt less crappy. With an out-and-back course, I was able to cheer on the racers who were behind me. In the last half-mile, a fit-looking woman behind me said, “Where is the finish line?!?” I yelled back, “Just up ahead! Come on, pass me! Do it! You’ve got this!” As she passed me, she said, “Stay with me!” While I did not manage to stay with her, I appreciated her support. The feeling of camaraderie and support out on the course was very refreshing!
In the final stretch, my new friend Foster was at the finish line, and she started cheering loudly for me. This boosted my morale immensely, and I was even able to kick and pass a man in front of me.
My goal for this duathlon was to beat my half marathon PR (1:58:55), and even with the adverse conditions, I did just that.
Total Time: 1:50:19
It felt really good to finish, and I was somehow surprised that we all got finisher’s medals. Immediately, I spotted Foster, and we went to check the official race results. What a surprise, we came in one-two in our age group.
Can you believe it? Second-place in my age group! I’m tickled.
With my race done, it was time to find Kya and get my spectatin’ on. It was chilly!
Watching Jessica and Brian was a really neat experience. With so many out-and-back loops, we were able to cheer them on multiple times. Brian had a rough start in the swim, so he was pretty far back in the pack. However, in typical Brian fashion, he had a smile on his face and seemed generally amused with the whole affair (like when his handlebars loosened and nearly slipped off his bike, mid-race). In fact, I think he was posing in this picture:
Jessica, on the other hand, was going balls-to-the-wall.
With Kya to keep me company, the four+ hours flew by. We cheered for Jessica and Brian and the other racers, ate some snacks, walked around the course, and even managed to do a little homework sitting in the car.
Finally, it approached 2:50pm, and it was time for Jessica to finish! I ran out a half-mile and waited until I saw her approaching. (I also saw Brian going out for his last lap, and he called out, “Hey! Tell Harrison that we need to hang out some time!”) When she rounded the corner, she picked things up and we took off.
It was just like the Cleveland Marathon, except this time, I was running Jessica to the finish. She ended strong, despite major bonking and some IT-band pain. In fact, she won first-place in her age group, finishing way ahead of everyone else.
She also had a sexy dirt smudge on her face. I kindly told her that she had a 5:00 shadow.
Brian made up a lot of time on his run, and before we knew it, he was rounding the last corner. In a move that made my ice heart melt, Kya ran the last quarter-mile with him and even planted a big kiss on his cheek. Awwww.
Check them out! Newly minted half-ironman finishers!
(Brian told me that to avoid cramping, he ate seven bananas during the run portion alone. He is actually nuts.)
Jessica didn’t have her finisher medal for this photo, so I tried to share mine:
Then it was time to pack up the bikes and the gear and head back to Illinois! We made it home in good time because Jessica was still somehow a functioning human being. I, for one, am still floored by her endurance.
And that, my friends, is the story of my first multisport event. Even with the less-than-ideal conditions (last-minute swim cancellations, wind and cold, swim freakouts, etc.), I think we all made the best of things and had a good time. I know I did!
Thanks to Jessica, Kya, and Brian (and new friend Foster!) for making this a very entertaining and memorable weekend.
(This is a really long post with an ass-ton of pictures and text. I tried to make it interesting, but I’m not going to lie. I mostly write these posts for myself.)