Beach2Battleship Half Ironman Training Reflections

This post comes to you live, en route to Wilmington, NC - finally! I feel like I've been waiting for this day forever, and this week felt especially long and torturous. But now that it's finally here, I'm so afraid it is going to slip by too quickly for me to take it all in. I just finished a short 10-minute shakeout run before getting on the road, and before I get to the race site, I wanted to take some time to jot down some thoughts during this brief time when I'm in between training and racing.


68587 yds = 38.97 miles = 23 hours 28 minutes
78% of workouts completed as scheduled
When I started training for this half Ironman, I figured the swim would be the least of my worries. I've never been a great swimmer but I've always been a naturally decent swimmer, if that makes sense. Plus, I'd swam the half Iron distance (1.2 miles) a few times before, albeit a couple years ago, just to see if I could do it, so I knew I could manage the swim just fine.
I spent the few months before I started officially training swimming a mile once or twice a week. So, besides those couple of times I had swam the full 1.2 miles, the longest I had really ever been in the pool was ~35 minutes. The first swim of my training plan had me doing 45 minutes (although not continuously; I had a handful of sets of different lengths with ~15 seconds of rest in between). So that first swim I recorded a distance PR of 2300yds and it just went up from there. The majority of my swims were an hour long (~3000yds), and most were comprised of sets, but I did once swim a full hour without stopping simply because I didn't want to count laps that day. My longest swim distance PR is now 3100 yds and I swam a total of 1276 laps in the pool over the last four months...now you understand why I got tired of counting laps. I did 5 open water swims: 3 in races (500m, 750m, and 1500m) and 2 with friends.

And I feel...fine about the swim. My training plan originally had me scheduled for 3 swims a week but I knew that wasn't going to happen; it was a struggle to even make it twice a week. I feel like I swam a lot, for me, but my speed didn't really improve that much. I will say I noticed a big change in my endurance and that swimming for an hour now is a lot easier than it was the first time I did it in July. My open water swims weren't that great, but I swam in some tough conditions, which I am confident won't be the case on Saturday. Beach2Battleship is a wetsuit-mandatory (extra buoyancy!) point-to-point swim WITH the current. It boasts that a Doritos bag can traverse the swim course before the cutoff time. I'm glad I trained well over the distance I need to swim for the race, but I don't think I necessarily needed to for this particular race and swim course.



895.2 miles = 67 hours 49 minutes
90% of workouts completed as scheduled
This bike is the discipline that scared me the most when I was thinking about signing up for this race. It seems ridiculous - any fool can ride a bike, right? But for some reason cycling has never come easy to me. I've improved over the last two seasons, this season especially, but now I'm just on the high end of mediocre rather than the low end. I didn't really care for cycling because I had a hard time getting into a grove and, honestly, I found it to be pretty boring. And the other thing scaring me about it was that, unlike the swim and run, I had never done the HIM bike distance (56 miles) before - not even close (34 miles was my longest ride before I started training).

My bike training for this race was...interesting. I don't know how else to put it. My speed did start to improve, as did my endurance, and I did get to a point where I didn't want to die just thinking about being on the bike for 2 hours. I had hoped to get into 50-mile territory sooner than I actually did, and to get in more rides at that distance than I did, mainly for my own confidence. I ended up doing my first 50-miler 6 weeks before race day. I also did a 53-miler (the mountain ride from hell) 3 weeks out and a 56-miler the week after that. Surprisingly the 56-miler felt the best; it was on the trainer and I had lots of entertainment, so that helped, but so did having to rely on my stamina more than power after riding up the mountain the week before. And not that it counts as training, per se, but I bike commuted an additional ~175 miles over the last 8 weeks.

I moved back to the mountains about halfway through training, and the bike is where that had the most impact. Before I moved, I was riding with groups on flat, open roads, easily averaging 18mph+. After I moved, I had limited places to cycle, and the places I did have where hilly and fairly pedestrian-heavy, meaning constantly switching gears, slowing down, etc. I rarely got an opportunity to just...go, like I'm used to. My average speed dropped to 15mph on a good day, which is discouraging but I know the conditions are so different than it's not fair to compare that to what I'm used to. I also know that the race course will be flat and open like I'm used to, so I feel fairly confident that I will be able to maintain a decent speed. It's just the fact that I haven't done so in a while (other than on the trainer, if that counts), that's making me unsure.

My biggest bike nemesis is wind, and the forecast shows a probably 10mph headwind for a good portion of the bike course. That should mean there will be a tailwind during the last 15 miles or so, but I don't usberstabd how wind works because it always seems to be in my face no matter which direction I turn. If it is windy, I need to accept that early on and adjust my bike expectations accordingly. There is no point in fighting in and destroying my legs before the run, this ruining my run time as well. I hate the feeling of biking into the wind but I will really need to hunker down and grin and bear it the best I can.


379.20 miles = 58 hours
102% of workouts completed as scheduled

Although I feel like a decently experienced runner at 4.5 years in, the run is the most variable discipline for me in triathlon. I've given up on the run in a tri more times than I'd like, but by the same token, some of my best runs have been off the bike. It really just depends on what my mind gives me that day. My body isn't the problem; I've practiced so many bricks that my legs usually felt great at best and okay at worst. It's my brain that doesn't always want to cooperate. I'm extremely nervous about how I'm going to feel when I'm 4+ hours into this event and realize I still have to run a half marathon, a substantial event on its own.

As for my training, I went a little overboard on the run training but what can I say? I just like running. I hadn't run distance much in the few months following the Shamrock Marathon and it felt good to eventually get back to some semblance of long distance running. I logged 8 runs of 10 miles or more (including one half marathon) and 2 9-milers. I feel a lot more ready to run distance than I did at the beginning of training.

And even though I have the most experience with the run, that's actually where I feel like I learned and grew the most this training cycle. My training started in June and it was HOT in Virginia Beach this summer. No matter how early I got out I couldn't beat the heat and humidity and there were more runs than not that made me question why I was even out there. A lot of them tested me and some almost broke me, but I always got back on my feet. Even if it meant sitting on the beach for 30 minutes while I regrouped...I always finished my miles (except the one time I ran after work and just wanted to get to happy hour earlier ;)). Those runs sucked at the time, but looking back, they showed me what I'm made of. I now know that there is no reason I won't finish the race on Saturday. I can't guarantee that it will be pretty, but as long as nothing is medically wrong with me, I know I at least have the strength to put one foot in front of the other to get to the finish.

I've also adjusted my time expectations. This time last year I ran a 1:49 half marathon and I'm still not sure how, but I am sure that that's not where I am this year. My training focus has shifted a lot and so has my speed and I can live with that. I've never ran more than ~6.5 miles off the bike so I have no idea how my body is going to respond to that. I just want to listen to my body and hope it tells me I can speed up ;)

Total:
147 hours 42 minutes
165 Workouts Planned - 10 Missed - 8 Cut short = 89% Completed

Training for this race is the hardest thing I've ever done, and I didn't even realize it until this week. I've always heard people say that a half Ironman is easier than a marathon (fingers crossed that they're right!), but I think they must mean the race itself, not the training. Most weeks I put in 8-9 hours of training and maxed out at 13 hours. And the hardest part was that every workout counted. Unlike my previous training cycles, there were no primary (running) and secondary (strength and cross training) focuses. I had 3 primary focuses this time, swim-bike-run-repeat, and no time for anything extra. It makes sense; training for basically the equivalent of 3 half marathons should take up a lot of time. I just didn't fully comprehend the time commitment until I started doing it. I almost lost it; I thought about quitting so many times, something I've never truly done. I wondered why I signed up and honestly couldn't remember. I squeezed in workouts whenever I could; I wore my bathing suit under my normal clothes to get in a swim at lunchtime or I set up the trainer when I finally finished work for the day and should have been going to bed. I have to believe that for as hard as it was to get through this training, the race itself will be easier. It has to be easier.

I also didn't realize until this week just how long of a journey this has been. I remember taking my bike to get checked the day before my 2nd triathlon in June 2013 and parking behind a car with 26.2 and 70.3 stickers on the back. I didn't have either of those at the time, but I knew that's what I wanted on the back of my car too. At that time I was just about to start preliminary marathon training before my first full in January 2014, but the half Ironman has taken a bit longer. I thought my first one was going to be in June 2014, but on the heels of two marathons in two months, spending another 3 months in tough training to get to that start line quickly lost its appeal. Then around this time last year I started mentally planning for my first 70.3 to be in Princeton, NJ in September 2015. I even traveled to New Jersey early this year to see the course and made plans to sign up as soon as registration opened...but it never did. Beach2Battleship has never been my first choice for this milestone but, as I have found so many times in endurance sports, the Universe does not always care about my choices and often has different plans for me. 

And finally...the biggest feeling I have heading into race day is gratitude. Gratitude for my body for playing nice and allowing me to even attempt such a physical challenge. Gratitude to my husband who has put up with my crankiness and crying fits, who feeds me and takes care of our family when I need to work out, who is spending his birthday today helping me with final race preparations. Gratitude to my triathlon family, both blood-related and not, without whom I never would have entertained the thought of a race of this magnitude. Gratitude to my non-triathlete family and friends, whose support I have both at the race site and from afar. Gratitude to those of you who have virtually joined me and supported me throughout this journey. Gratitude wasn't always the first thought that came to mind while I was training, but now that I'm on the other side, it's all I can think of. How lucky I am to have the means and ability to take this on.

If you would like to track my progress on Saturday, you can do so here. I'm bib #1746 and my wave goes off at 8:50am!

7 comments :

  1. jhsbdfmhnbdfzvjbdfcv. <-- my thoughts right now. I really hope the tracking thing works this time, so i can stalk you. shall i blow your phone up again? haha. i imagine you won't have it on you, so you'll come back to like 70 texts (pity i can't send 70.3).
    I have no words! Seriously. I have loved following along in your training and I cannot cannot cannot wait to hear all about how awesome you do, because I know you will.
    Happy birthday to Ben :)
    GOOD LUCK!!!!!

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  2. I am so excited for you! Reading about your training sometimes caused my eyes to bleed because I could never imagine doing something like what you're about to do. Your dedication is inspiring! I loved what you said about your body vs. your mind. I feel like that's true for so many things in life, your body can take it but it's the mental stregnth that you really have to put into practice to make it thorough. It's seems clear to me that you won't have any problem with that either though, just keep focused on your heart full of gratitude and add crossing the finish line to the list of things you're greatful for :) Sending you so much love and other good energy and I hope you have a lovely time in my beautiful hometown! xx

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  3. Oh my gosh.... what an exciting day this is going to be!!! I totally need to bookmark this so I can follow you.
    I think anyone that tackles ANTYHING Ironman, you are amazing to me.
    Sending good thoughts that everything goes perfectly for you - winds hold off &all!
    Cant wait to hear about it... sounds like you are ready to take this DOWN!!!!

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  4. You have trained hard and palnned this out. I know you got this!!!! Thanks for always being an inspiration. Good luck this weekend, I know you are going to rock it!

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  5. Good luck! Good luck! I'll think of you this weekend. If this is as far as you get, you've already succeeded!

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  6. Yay! I feel kind of weird commenting on this post as you are literally in progress right now! I love that you did over 100% for your runs, and I think it's pretty impressive that out of so many planned days you only missed 10! Definitely a huge encouragement for me to stop making excuses when I just want to be lazy after work :) I am cheering for you virtually and can't wait to hear your recap!!

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  7. I already said to you pretty much everything I can say regarding all this, but just dropping in to thank you for letting me be there for your amazingness this weekend. I can't wait to see the follow-up to this post :)

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