Monday, September 19, 2011

Half Ironman or "How To Eat Continuously While Doing Exercise"

Two weekends ago I finished my longest triathlon to date; a Half Ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run).  Finished in 6 hours 25 minutes - a tad slower than what I expected, but overall pretty solid.

There were about 250 athletes competing, and for this event it was a considerably more fit crowd.  I didn't see any of the portly 40-something moms, or the gray-haired grandpas on mountain bikes that you might see at the shorter Sprint events.  The event started at 7am, which meant the sun was barely up at 5:45 when I started setting up my gear in transition.  I setup quickly, took my pre-race bathroom stop, slipped on the wetsuit, put down an Espresso Love 2x Caffeine Gu Energy Gel and we were off.

The swim was fairly unremarkable - or as unremarkable as 39 minutes of continuous swimming can be.  The swim course was an out and back course, and on my way back to shore some woman veered wildly off course - and came barreling into a couple of us.  I mostly just laughed at how off course this lady was.  I finished the swim in the top 1/3rd. 
Once into T1 I move pretty quickly, and I actually had the 19th fastest transition of all finishers.  I've never been in the teens in anything, so I'll take the small victories where I can.  I had my bike loaded with 4 Gu's, 2 Waterbottles, my Aero Drink with a Nuun Energy Tablet, and I stuffed my Tri Jersey with 2 Honey Stinger Waffles, and a pack of Honey Stinger Caffeinated Lime-Aid Chews.

After 39 minutes of swimming, you're fairly hungry - so I got right down to eating within the first couple miles on the bike.  I started off with a Waffle and a couple good swigs of Electrolyte drink.  Then for the next 3 hours I basically just peddled while having my on-bike buffet.  Not only are you eating to fuel this 56 miles of biking, but you're also trying to replace some carbs and sugars so that you have energy for the impending half marathon.

What's remarkable is that the bike leg turns into a constant eating bonanza.  I felt like I was constantly shoving food in my mouth or drinking something.  The upside is that all this feasting really passes the time.  Also, about half way through the bike the sun started to come out - and temperatures climbed.  I drank all 3 of my waterbottles, and picked up 2 more from the aid stations along the course.  In total I bet I took in about 800 food calories, and maybe 150 ounces of water/electrolyte drink.

This was actually the longest ride I've ever done, and my hamstrings started to tighten just a bit around mile 40.  I upped the fluid intake, and avoided any cramping - however I think I slowed my speed a bit while I worked through the tightness.

In T2 I picked up my race belt with an additional 3 Gu's, and took a can of Campbell's Sippable Chicken & Stars Soup - and off on the half marathon I went.  The high sodium content of that soup tastes incredibly good and rejuvenating, with the additional benefit that the salt replacement will fend off cramping and replace what you've lost in sweat.

The Sun.

The sun came blazing as soon as the run started.  Things had been relatively overcast and cool on the swim and bike, but the mercury was rising with every step of the run.  I did my first 5 miles pretty much on pace, but then started to slow considerably with the heat. I think it got as high as 83, which is pretty warm for mid-September.  I wasn't so much out of energy or fuel, just felt the effects of the heat considerably (I always suck running in the heat).  After mile 8, I kind of pulled up a bit - and decided it wasn't worth killing myself to save 10 minutes in my final time - so I just enjoyed the run at an easy pace, got sprayed by about 5 different Boy Scouts with hoses, and dumped 10+ glasses of water over my head.

All in all, it was a good tune up for the Official Half-Ironman Poconos race coming up on October 2nd.  It also was a good piece of mind toward tackling the full Ironman next August.  I was pretty well trained and prepared for this race, and I was fully recovered within a day or so.


Half Ironman October 2nd
Atlantic City Marathon on October 16th

As a personal pat on the back, every race I've done this year has been a PR.  PR in the Half Marathon earlier this spring, PR in all my Tri events, PR (first time) in the Half Ironman, and will be shooting for a PR in the marathon in about a month.