Yesterday was the culmination of months of training harder than I ever have for anything in my life. Pumpkin man 70.3. It was epic, it was hard, it was exhausting, and it was awesome!! I must admit, I did feel a few tears after I got my medal and it really hit me that I had just done this huge thing that most people will never have the opportunity to do. Yes, it took me longer than I was hoping it would, but I so completely don’t care! Here’s how the day went:

The alarm went off at 4:50 AM – oh so early! I honestly hadn’t slept all that well anyway, so it was kind of a relief to just get up and get started with the day. I had to force myself to eat so I could get fuel for the big day. We were out of the hotel room by 5:20 and on our way to start this day that I had been anticipating for so many months.

Transition was bustling and there was very little room on the racks for us to set up all of our stuff. It’s great to be super organized and lay out the bike shoes, socks, gloves, sunglasses, food, and drink, and also leave room for the run stuff (shoes, more food, more to drink, hat). I felt pretty cramped, and clearly didn’t lay my stuff out well enough, because I made a huge mistake on the run and forgot to put my race bib on! Thankfully no harm was done, and I actually noticed quite a few other people who had forgotten their numbers as well.

The swim: In the past, the swim has made me incredibly nervous. I’m not nervous in the water, I don’t often get the anxiety that some people do in open water, but I just know that I’m really slow and will probably be last out of the water. This time I didn’t have that feeling. I have been training for this all summer (thank you Coach Brady Hoover and TriDot!), and am so much more confident in my swimming ability. I was able to just relax and enjoy it. This part of the day actually went really well. I still didn’t swim fast, but for me, the biggest change was that I was able to swim fast enough to stay with the group for most of the first loop (the 1.2 mile swim was a double loop in a lake). I fell behind some in the second loop – party because I still need to work on sighting, partly because I need to work a whole lot more on keeping my stroke efficiency, but this was okay. Every race I’ve done before, I’ve ended up behind the whole group before we get to the very first turn. This was a vast improvement and much much much more fun!

Coming out of the water was kind of different for me as well. I’ve never done a race this long before, so I’ve never experienced “wet suit strippers”, lol! When I got out of the water, there were volunteers waiting to help me strip off my wetsuit. That was very cool and way more efficient than my trying to peel it off myself. After throwing my wetsuit over my arm, I had a lovely run up a huge hill in order to get to T1 (the transition area). Definitely a good way to get rid of the sea legs after the swim!

The bike: To be honest, I am still a bit scared of my clipless pedals. I have had them for over a year, have only fallen once without unclipping, so I know I’m due for another fall, lol! Despite my fear, I rolled down the hill and got started on this 54 mile leg of the event. I was really excited to notice that, like during the swim, I was not all alone on the bike. In the past, as I’ve been close to last out of the water, it has meant that I have had some pretty solitary bike rides. Not this time! I was able to keep up and even pass people on the bike. I ate on the bike, I drank on the bike, and I got through some pretty big hills. This course was a loop too, so I got to do the hills twice. Ugh. I’ve been working hard at keeping my RPMs (Revolutions Per Minute) up while biking because my old tendency was to put it in a low gear and pedal hard. That tires out the legs though, so it’s better to spin faster with less resistance and save the legs for the run! I definitely still have more work to do on that front. This was the longest bike ride I’ve ever done, and it did tire me out a bit.

The run: well, that bike ride was long and hilly. My legs were kind of toast when I started the run. I got through the first mile at a decent pace but could tell that this would not be a quick half marathon. It was hot and sunny and man the course was hilly. So, I took a few walk breaks on the hills and enjoyed knowing that I was on the last leg and would be privileged to finish my first half Ironman. I definitely spent a bit of my time relishing the day and the experience overall. It took me longer than I had hoped, but that’s fine. That just means I got my money’s worth from a great day, right?

To be totally honest, my ultimate goal for the day was to finish within 7 hours. My second choice goal was to finish before they closed the course (or technically, opened the course and all of the volunteers went home). So, I didn’t make my first, but happily, I made the second goal. My swim time came in as 48:57, bike was 3:31:07, and my run was 2:56:19. Slow, but DONE and accomplished! As someone who was a non-athlete for my entire life until 3 and a half years ago, I’ll take this and run with it! Actually, I’d better get started running with it, since now Marine Corps Marathon is less than 7 weeks away…