With my third half-ironman triathlon in the books, I’m beginning to wonder if there is such a thing as a perfect race.
Here’s my Lake Havasu (HITS series) race report … and a few pictures!
At the crack of dawn, two hundred athletes line the beach of Lake Havasu waiting to launch into 65º water. Chaos breaks out at the sound of a gun — welcome to the mass start which initiates everyone into the swim at the same time. Black wetsuits splash, bump, and swim over one another like sea lions fleeing unknown predators into the ocean.
Within minutes, the sea lion image fades and I begin to think lemmings. I can’t see the turn buoy so I follow the swimmers around me. At one point another swimmer pops up and yells, “we’re going the wrong way!” Without thinking, I blindly trust and follow the turning swarm. Within minutes, I find the buoy, turn, and keep swimming for the fastest 1.2 miles of my life — my race is looking good.
The bike ride is my strength and begins with gentle rolling hills. With fresh legs, I accelerate and relish in my awesomeness as I pass each person. But then I remember the incontrovertible fact that every person I pass finished in front of me during the swim. I remember to keep my pride in check.
The jewel of the bike route is the “roller coaster” consisting of 5 hills ranging between 10% and 14% grades over a six mile stretch. I stand during the climbs so that I don’t fall over and tuck low into downhills reaching speeds over 40 miles per hour.
I feel strong over the 56 mile ride with an average speed over 17 mph. I’m beginning to feel the perfect race come together.
The run is always my nemesis. During my first triathlon, I struggled with my IT band flaring late in the run. On my second triathlon, 95º heat left me battling dehydration and cramps. But today will be different — I can feel it. Since I’m ahead of my time goal, I run conservatively using a run/walk method. I run 4 minutes, then walk 1 minute saving energy and maintaining a good pace. 8 miles and 82 minutes into the run, I still feel good. I feel a personal record (PR) coming.
Then, I hit the wall and my perfect race falls apart. Between mile 8 and 9, fatigue hits my legs, and the run/walk becomes a walk/run. At the mile 9 aid station, I take in water and electrolytes, and then I see the potato chips. I don’t usually consume chips on the run, but I eat one. That’s the best chip I’ve ever eaten in my life. Clearly my body is craving both carbohydrates and salt.
Between miles 9 and 11, I eat, digest, recover, and run. At mile 11, both hamstrings and calves teeter on the edge of cramping. Even though my race fell apart at mile 8, I decide not to walk across the finish line. I dig deep and run the last 1.1 miles crossing the finish line with a smile on my face.
I missed my PR by 3 minutes … the perfect race is still out there!