Sunday, July 17th was my third attempt at the 70.3 distance triathlon. They say, “Third time’s a charm,” right? After my duel with the swim at Steelhead, and my opting out of the swim in Austin (I will write a race report one day, I promise), this race needed to be successful.
After Austin, I made the decision to take on Door County Half Distance Triathlon. I was told it sells out in less than 24 hours. On New Year’s Day, I woke up and was registered for the race by 3am. With a goal set, I had to start the training. I put in hours upon hours of training for the swim. I enlisted the expertise of a swim coach. I completed drill after drill to make me faster and stronger, and ready to take on 1.2 miles in the open water.
We left Friday afternoon to make the three hour trip to Door County. We arrived at the race site around 4pm, and Nick and I checked in for our races. The volunteer handed me my race packet and number – I was #35, which happens to be my racing age. I felt like someone had a lot of confidence in my ability. I later figured out, numbers are given out numerically according to when you checkin. Regardless, my number made me feel fast.
Saturday morning, Nick raced the sprint. I eyed the water conditions, which looked perfect all morning long. I watched his wave take off, then tried to get to the bike out. With both the bike and run being an out and backs in different directions, I had very small opportunities to see him on the course, and I knew my timing needed to be spot on.
By the time I made it to the bike out, Nick was already on the course. I walked a ways, partially to keep moving to not be eaten alive by mosquitos, and also to get in a good spot to see Nick coming in from the bike. At the one hour mark (or as best as I could estimate it), I had the camera ready. I noticed his orange handlebar tape in the distance, and snapped a few photos and cheered as he passed. He was cruisin!
I made my way to the run course, hoping I could see him at the run out. I was too late. I watched a few athletes, then headed to the finish line area. I knew his run was only going to be about 30 minutes, so I didn’t have much time to waste. I stood alongside the finishers’ chute, with visibility of the road. As Nick came down the chute, I cheered him, knowing he had a great race.
After the race, we hung out for a little while, then made our way back to the hotel. We ate lunch and decided to walk around for a few minutes. We noticed a bike shop directly across the street from the hotel, so we stopped in to see what they had to offer. While perusing the store, I noticed there were a few mechanics working. I asked if they could take a look at my bike, as it had been making some noise when climbing hills or riding hard on the trainer. The guy was more than happy to help. He made a few adjustments, then asked me to ride up a nearby hill to see if I could get the bike to make the noise again. Nothing. I thanked him and offered to pay for his services, but he wouldn’t charge us anything, just wished me luck on my race on Sunday. So, if you’re ever in the area (Fish Creek, WI), I highly recommend going to Nor Door Sports and Cyclery – their customer service is outstanding!
The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful. We ate dinner and hung out at the hotel. I got all of my stuff prepped for the race, and we turned in early, as we had to be at the race site at 5:30 in the morning.
Nick and I woke up around 4am, although I’m not entirely sure I slept. We loaded the car and were on our way. Nick volunteered at body marking, so we were one of the first people to arrive. We parted ways as soon as we arrived.
I was the third person in transition. I racked my bike and filled my water bottles. I had over two hours until race start, so I decided to wait to set up transition until later in the morning.
I picked up my timing chip from the stage, then got a cup of coffee. Shortly thereafter, I heard the announcer say, due to upcoming inclement weather, athletes were advised to stay in their vehicles, a pending update at 6:30am. Well, I had nowhere really to go, so I hung around the stage, talking to a few people.
The update came, and we would have to wait until 7:45 for an official update on the race. At 7am, I went and set up my transition area and returned to hang out near the stage to hear any further updates. At 7:45am it was announced that, due to a storm system in the area, the race would be officially delayed. Athletes were encouraged to take cover in their vehicles, and tune in to a local radio station. There would be another official update at 9am regarding whether the race would commence or be canceled.
At this point, Nick was relieved of his volunteer duties and we decided to get a cup of coffee before the storm hit. While waiting in line, we saw a mass exodus of bikes. I decided to go to transition to pick up my stuff, in hopes of keeping my shoes as dry as possible. On the way there, I crossed more and more people removing their bikes from transition.
I saw two race personnel, so I asked if we had to remove our bikes from transition, as I thought maybe i missed the announcement. He told me it was recommended I take my bike, in case the race was canceled, then I wouldn’t have to locate the bike and bring it to my vehicle in the storm. I thanked him and continued in to transition. I decided to leave my bike there, but take all of my personal items with me.
As I walked out of transition, I saw a lady walking her bike, she handed her timing chip to a member of the race staff. Before I even realized what was happening, the employee lady asked for my timing chip. I told her I hadn’t dropped out of the race, my bike was still in transition. The employee explained, they were collecting timing chips now in case the race was canceled, then the athletes wouldn’t have to worry about turning them in. If they decided to have the race, we could pick up the timing chips from the stage as we had done earlier that morning. She continued, it was easier this way, for the race to keep track of the chips, and not have to go through the expense of replacing chips that people accidentally took home with them. So, I reluctantly handed in my timing chip (she wasn’t taking no for an answer).
As I walked back to meet Nick, I sent him a text, “They’re going to cancel.”
Once I met back up with him, I explained what happened. He agreed, they would probably cancel the race. Between the two race personnel encouraging me to take my bike to the car, and the lady making me turn in my timing chip, it seemed inevitable.
The rain began, so we made our way to the car, and sat and waited for the official announcement. Nine o’clock came and went and still no update. About 5 minutes after, we saw a few people walking their bikes toward the race, we also saw people walking their bikes to the car. With the movement of people, Nick got out of the car to find out the race was one. New starting time was 9:30am.
We hurried out of the car, grabbing my stuff. I had 20 minutes to get my timing chip, and back to transition to set up my area. Nick walked with me to transition, it was still raining. Transition was buzzing, I was glad I had left my bike, one less thing for me to worry about. I set up my area, I had one plastic bag for all of my bike stuff, and one plastic bag for all of my run stuff.
Nick and I then walked back to near the stage area and swim start. We stood under the beer tent to take cover from the rain. The race started approximately 9:45am. The swim had been shortened to 1/3 mile, the bike and run remained the same. The course was now 69.35 miles. The MC announced, if there is lightning while you’re in the water, swim directly to shore. Don’t worry about a DQ or anything, safety is top priority. (This was not comforting).
I was in wave 15, so I watched each wave go off. I also watched several athletes walk up to the stage and turn in their timing chip (I later found out 759 of the 1,000 athletes started the race). Wave 8 was about to start, and the rain began pouring down. While standing there, I thought, “If I turn in my chip now, no one would fault me for it. It was a bad day. The weather is awful. I can just walk away.”
When the horn blew signaling the start of Wave 13, I made my way to the swim start. It was still raining, but a light rain. I lined up with my group, and Wave 14 was off. It was time for us to get in the water. I positioned myself near the back, on the right hand side. No need to get in all of the hustle and bustle. The horn blew, and we were off.
I had to swim straight through the yellow buoys, make a left turn at the big orange buoy, then diagonal towards swim out. Volunteers lined the course on both sides. As I was nearing the yellow buoys, I heard a volunteer ask, “Are you okay?” I thought, I didn’t realize I looked so bad swimming, I was actually doing pretty good considering the conditions. I was going to answer her, then I realized she was asking the lady just beyond me. I continued swimming. I saw so many people hanging on to the paddle boards, kayaks, etc. I just kept swimming.
About 100 yds out, I was ready to be done. The thought crossed my mind, “How in the heck would I have swam the whole 1.2 miles today, if I can’t get through 1/3 mile.” That’s when I sighted and realized I was almost to shore. Not too much further, just keep swimming, so I did.
I stood up when the water was lower than waist deep and walked up the ramp. Two volunteers motioned for me to come over. They pulled my wetsuit down some and told me to sit on the ground, I complied. In one swift motion, they ripped the wetsuit off of me
Swim time: 12:08
My bike was racked on the first row out of the swim. Being a little disoriented out of the swim, I nearly passed my row. I decided I would take my time in transition. It was still raining and everything was wet, no need to be in a rush and hurt myself. I got to my bike, wiped my face and hands with my semi-dry transition towel, then ate an applesauce. I put on my socks, shoes, helmet and sunglasses, unpacked my bike, and I was off.
T1 time: 4:37
My coach had given me power numbers for the bike. That all went out of the window when I was riding on wet roads, and the race MC announced for athletes to avoid riding through puddles on the bike, as you don’t know the road conditions in them i.e. potholes, etc. My new goal for the bike was not to fall and to finish (sorry coach, had to make adjustments on the fly).
Two weeks prior to the race Green Bay Multisport (a huge THANK YOU to these guys) hosted a swim and bike clinic. They had both the sprint and half distances available for the athletes to test ride, along with support and nutrition along the way. Having already ridden the bike course, I knew what to expect. There were a few patches of rough roads and some potholes that could come by surprise in the rainy conditions.
I kept my eyes on the road, a bit nervous of the wet roads. I don’t think I even looked at my watch for the first 10 milesof the ride. The rain continued. I didn’t mind the rain so much, it stung at times, hitting my face with force. But the wind…Oh, the WIND! We had upwards of 20mph wind. It felt like a headwind, but when the scenery cleared and we were riding along the lake, gusts of winds came from the side. There were a few times my bike wavered in the wind, and I just held on tight, hoping to keep my balance. The wind was relentless. Every time I thought it calmed down, I would make the next turn and battle the wind again.
I kept pedaling. I fought the wind and rain and continued on. Around mile 28 I stopped at an aide station to refill my aero bottle, and wiped off my sunglasses. The rain had slowed, but the wind was still very present.
I made the loop and was on my way back. The roads were still damp, but at least the rain had subsided. The wind was slowing down, too. At some point the sun came out. My legs were getting tired from fighting the wind for so long as well as not taking full advantage of the downhills for the upcoming uphill. With the wet roads, I was really careful not to gain too much speed on the downhills due to having to weave around puddles of water. This in turn, made the uphills a little more difficult than I was planning.
I remembered there was a big hill around mile 48. I had already made up my mind, if it was too tough, I would walk it. I was tired and ready to be off of the bike. At mile 46 I went up a large hill. I was quite winded at the top and out of water, so I stopped again to refill my aero bottle. The hill had taken it out of me, and I still had the “big” hill to go. After riding awhile, I realized I had miscalculated and that was the hill I was waiting for. I was proud of myself, I made it up the hill like a champ. Okay, maybe I was going slow, but I didn’t have to get off of my bike. Okay, I know I stopped at the top, but I definitely didn’t walk my bike.
Another huge THANK YOU to all of the volunteers and spectators on the bike course. They were out supporting athletes in the wind and rain. Your encouragement was needed and very my appreciated.
I was less than five miles out, and excited to be almost done with the bike. It had been a pretty stressful ride. I pedaled hard. I saw Nick as I made the turn into transition.
Bike Time: 3:25:3
I dismounted my bike, and walked to my rack. When I got there, it was a disaster – stuff thrown everywhere and bikes crammed on the rack. I tried to rack my bike and couldn’t lift it high enough to get the seat over the metal bar. I knew my arms were tired, and was starting to freak out that I lost my strength to lift my bike. I moved the bikes on either side over some and tried again, nope. I frantically looked around transition for someone, I saw a girl on the next row and asked if she could help me. She said, “What’s wrong?” I told her, “I can’t rack my bike.” I tried again, no success. (I was about to have a mental breakdown. How in the hell could I not have the strength to rack my bike?!) She pointed out the problem, my bike was getting caught on my neighbor’s back tire. I lifted my bike again, this time using my foot to keep his wheel out of the way. Success!!
With the bike finally racked, I changed shoes and hat, grabbed my run nutrition and water bottle. I made a brief stop at the port-a-potty, then exited transition.
T2 time: 6:34
I spoke with my coch regarding my run prior to the race, I decided to run based on heart rate zone. He told me to find my “all-day pace”. So that’s what I did. I came out of transition, careful not to run too fast. I settled into a pace I could keep for the next 13 miles (well, sort of).
I saw Nick just after the first turn. He said I was doing great, I asked him if he knew my time on the bike, and he guessed it was around 3:45. My watch wasn’t set to display time, rather I was looking at my power, cadence, and speed. I really had no idea how long I was on the bike and was a little disappointed in the number he gave. I wanted to ride faster than that, even through the tough conditions. I remember shaking it off, telling myself the roads were wet and the wind as strong.
I ran what felt like an hour, and my watch buzzed indicating I had hit my first mile. Great, 1 down, 12 more to go! For the most part, I ran the first five miles. Only stopping at the aid stations to refill my water bottle.
Then the demons began to appear. – – The little voices in my head telling me to stop. Questioning why I was doing this. How did I think I was ever going to finish this race? Who’s bright idea was it to sign up for a half (and full) ironman? – – The good thing is that I have recognized when self-doubt creeps in, I’m usually in need of nutrition. So I grabbed a Boom gel out of my pocket and downed it. Within a few minutes (okay, maybe a little longer), I perked up. I dismissed the demons; they weren’t going to ruin my race today.
At mile 6, just beyond the aid station, a volunteer cautioned me of the upcoming hill and said after that it is a nice long downhill. I took one look at it and decided I would walk it. A cameraman was stationed just before the top of the hill. He asked if I could run a little bit. I complied, and began running again. The volunteer was right, the downhill to follow was exactly what my legs needed; a decent break from climbing.
Miles 7 and 8 were pretty uneventful. I was looking forward to mile 9. I reached The Bluff. To my surprise, it was much steeper than I imagined. I began walking up this hill. I laughed when I saw a road sign that said, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” There were two ladies in front of me, both walking. About midway up, one of them turned around and started walking backwards. At one point I was sure she was going to crawl up. I could appreciate the her pain.
I finally made it to the top. Two volunteers were there cheering us on. Another road sign, saying something like “Hooray, you did it!” Then you make a sharp 90 degree turn and continue going up. There is another sign that says something to the effect “Just kidding, almost there.” I laughed a little, but it wasn’t funny; my legs were screaming in pain.
The bluff got the best of me. I walked for about a mile afterwards. The remainder of the course was a run/walk combo. There was no relief from the heat – no shade and no wind. For as windy as the morning was, the afternoon air was stagnant.
The night before Nick and I were looking at the course map. I was planning my stops at the water stations, etc. We noticed there was an “F” near about mile 11 1/2, the key indicated this was Freeze Pops. We laughed a little. Well, I finally made it to mile 11 1/2, and there was an older gentleman volunteer holding two freeze pops, one red and one blue. He looked at me and said, “It’s what you’ve been looking forward to all day.” I smiled and I took the red freeze pop from him and continued on my way. As soon as I took the first bite, I knew he was right. I had no idea this would be the moment that stick out in my head as the best part of the race….a red freeze pop! It was so refreshing and a little motivating.
The remainder of the run seemed to go by much faster. I made the last turn and could hear the crowd at the finish line. Just before the finisher chute, the road began descending. While my legs typically enjoy the break of a decent, the bottom of my feet weren’t so thankful. I could feel a blister and was trying not too focus on the pain. The next thing I knew I was at the finisher chute, just a steep incline to the finish line.
I saw Nick and smiled. I was happy to have sunglasses on, as a few teardrops fell. I was smiling from ear to ear as I crossed the finish line. I did it! I finally did it! I finished the Door County Half!!!
Run Time: 2:52:59
Total Time 69.35 Miles: 6:41:49