Kinetic Half Iron Distance Triathlon Recap


This was my third half ironman, and it could not have been more different from my previous two (Beach2Battleship 2015 and Ironman Atlantic City 70.3 2016). The others were in later summer/early fall while Kinetic was late spring; the weather was mild-to-hot and sunny for the others, while Kinetic was cold, cloudy, and sometimes rainy; the others were on very flat, fast courses, while this Kinetic was on rolling hills; oh and I was well-trained for the other two, while I was trained enough as I needed to be to get through Kinetic (but not enough to feel super confident).


To illustrate that last point, these are my mileage totals from my training for all 3 races. I used 18 weeks as the timeframe because that's how long my training plan was for my first one, B2B. My second one, AC 70.3, was during week 15 (out of 20) of full Ironman training, and Kinetic was 8 weeks after an 18-week marathon training cycle (where I did some swimming and biking but primarily focused on running). Here's what the 18 weeks leading up to race day looked like for each of those:

B2B
IMAC 70.3
Kinetic
Swim
38.97
44.48
18.9
Bike
895.2
1398
711
Run
379.2
344
458

So yeah, when I say I wasn't super trained, I don't mean I didn't train (let's be honest, I'm always training for something). I just mean that, unlike my previous 70.3s, this one wasn't my goal race with its own dedicated training cycle, nor was it a tune-up race during a training cycle for an even bigger race. It was kind of an afterthought, and I did the best I could to pick up my swim and bike while retaining some of my running fitness from marathon training (even though I only did 3 double-digit runs in between the marathon and Kinetic).

So with all of that in mind, the plan was to use this as somewhat of a trial run for Ironman Louisville: kick off tri season, figure out where my strengths are, where my weaknesses are, that sort of thing. All I have to say is I'm glad it wasn't the real thing!

The first mistake was probably the one where I didn't eat dinner until 9pm the night before the race, and didn't go to bed until almost 11pm. I got less sleep than the race would take me - I'm pretty sure that's not recommended in any training plan anywhere! It was a late night of grocery shopping for the race and prepping all of our stuff (although I didn't have to do a whole lot since my pre-race packing was A+ - at least there was something I did right!).

Race Morning
The race started at 7:00am and we arrived just after 6:00am. I was ridiculously nervous on the drive there, I thought I might seriously pee my pants! I think that was the first time it really started to hit me, and the thing I was most worried about was the weather. The forecast was cool and raining at the start, with the rain tapering off sometime during the swim, but still cloudy and cool for the duration of the race. I've never done a tri in weather like that and I was so worried about being cold. I can handle a little chill but riding a bike when it's too cold out is physically painful, and all I could think about was how badly my toes and fingers were going to hurt. 

It was a cold morning in the low 50s, and it rained off and on while we were setting up in transition. I have no idea what goes on in there, but somehow the time passes so fast! We had to run back to the car to get a tire pump so that ate up some time, and after I set up transition I needed to go back to the car again, and I still hadn't even picked up my timing chip or gotten body marked. After I did those things as quickly as I could, I ran back into transition to drop off my car keys before hitting the porta-potty. All this time I was still carrying my wetsuit around (even though I should have put in on long before that) and carrying my timing chip in my hand, which I dropped and almost lost at least 3 times. I finally, frantically put my wetsuit on right after the first wave started, and I made it to the beach with no more than 3 minutes to spare before my wave went off. It was by far the most frantic race morning I've ever had and my heart was already beating out of my chest before I even started to swim. I never want to be that rushed ever again!


Swim
I knew I had to calm down so as I was standing in the water waiting to start I just tried to calm down. Once I got started I felt at ease pretty quickly. The start didn't seem nearly as chaotic as usual, and I just kind of swam slowly at first to let the crowd clear out until I could settle into a spot. The swim was pretty uneventful, honestly! I just focused on getting from one buoy to another, and I really surprised myself by how straight I was swimming. Every time I looked up to sight my path seemed to be dead on track!


The course is a long rectangle - over half a mile out, over about 100 yards, then over a half mile back to shore - and when we had been out the day before and looked at it the buoys seemed like they went on forever. It turns out that what I took a photo of above was actually the International distance swim (about 500 yards shorter than the half iron swim), so there were even more buoys than I thought. I got to what I thought was the turn buoy and then realized it was actually the International turn buoy and that there were a few more after that so I had to keep going. The water was calm until about halfway out, and then it got a lot choppier than I was expecting. I swallowed a huge gulp of water and had to stop for a second because I couldn't get air in to breathe, but thankfully I was able to cough it out after a few seconds and keep going. I had been trying breathing on both sides but at that point I gave up on that and just stuck to breathing every stroke like I usually do.

I had been keeping an eye on my watch and for the first half my pace was a little better than I was expecting, although I could tell it was getting slower. I definitely could have pushed myself harder on the swim, but I was so worried about going too fast and losing my breath, not to mention running out of energy since I'm not used to swimming that long continuously, that I wanted to maintain a pace that felt comfortable. I had hoped to be a couple minutes faster, but I ended up finishing just under 42 minutes - right around my B goal for the swim.

Swim Time: 41:36 
(A goal: 39:00, B goal: 42:00, C goal: 45:00)

T1: 6:38
I had been joking before the race about how long my transitions were going to be due to the cold weather, but it turns out the joke was on me, as my transitions really were my longest ever! My transitions are usually super quick since all I have to do in T1 is put on my helmet and bike shoes, grab my bike, and go, but this one was a little more involved. First, I had to take my wetsuit off myself since this race was too small for wetsuit strippers (people who pull your wetsuit off for you in approximately 1.2 seconds). Rude. The fact that wetsuits are such a pain to take off is one of the reasons I don't even like wearing them in the first place! Second, I had to completely dry off with a bath towel, something I wouldn't normally do but I wasn't about to get on a bike for 3 hours in 50-degree weather with wet skin (I couldn't do much about the fact that my hair and clothes were wet). Third, I had to put on a bunch of layers because, again, trying not to completely freeze on the bike. I put on pants, a jacket, and two pair of socks (which got completely soaked because the ground was so muddy and I was too dumb to stand on my towel when I was putting my shoes on). 

Bike

The first few miles of the bike were just getting out of Lake Anna State Park, and they were more uphill than downhill; a nice hill right out of transition that leads to gradual inclines and some declines, so nothing too crazy, but still uphill. I noticed immediately that I was going slow, but I chalked it up to the slight climb and the fact that it's always slow coming out of transition.

I rode the course a few weeks back, so I knew what to expect and when. The half course is a lollipop, with about 10.5 miles before you reach the loop part of the lollipop. The loop is about 20.5 miles long and you ride it twice, except the second time you ride it you turn a couple miles short before the end and head back the last 7 miles to the finish a different way. I'm not sure if riding the course helped or not, because even those first 10.5 miles before even getting to the loop felt like forever. My feet were so cold and my toes had been painfully numb since I first got on the bike.

I finally got to the loop, which has a nice descent for a few miles at the beginning, and being on the bike felt fun. I knew it would be short-lived though, and soon enough I was climbing the biggest hill of the course. After that we hit a flat-ish portion, then turned and headed on a slight uphill and into a slight headwind, which was a really rough combination.

I kept looking at my watch trying to calculate my finish time, and I kept coming up with this probably being my slowest bike split ever. I was really disappointed, especially since I had ridden a little faster on that training ride, but I just couldn't go any faster. I was too afraid to push harder and risk burning out my legs, and mentally I was checked out. I spent most of the bike trying to be Stoic and pushing out the thoughts of how slow I was going, how cold I was, how much I still had left, and how much I just wanted to talk to Ben. He didn't come with me so I couldn't look forward to seeing him in transition, and I wished I had my phone so I could call him. I don't even know what I wanted to say. I just wanted to tell him I was having a hard time and I wanted him to tell me I could do it and he was proud of me.

I questioned what I was doing a lot while I was out on the course. I think the nasty weather - it had stopped raining at some point during the swim but it was still overcast and cold on the bike - really affected me. I just don't think I had enough emotional energy left after Shamrock to power through another crappy weather race day. I knew I could get through it, I just didn't want to and I couldn't make myself want to. I started to wonder why I signed up for another Ironman, and if I even really had it in me to make it through a full 140.6 mile race. I wondered if deep down I just don't like long distance, and if I'd be happier racing sprints and Olympics or maybe even not doing triathlon at at all. I tried to figure out how I had been so wrong in my goals and expectations - did I underestimate the course or the weather? Did I overestimate my ability? Halfway through the bike I was wishing for any reason to quit, even kind of hoping I would crash so I'd have an excuse. But then I'd think about my three friends who were also out on the course, and about how they were going to finish and, therefore, I needed to finish too.

As I was nearing the end of the first loop I saw someone I recognized. We chatted for a few minutes, and just having that little bit of human contact after 3 hours of solo activity helped perk me up a little bit! Shortly after that I started on the second loop, and by that point I had just accepted that I was going to put up my worst bike split, and that I was going to be on the bike for the rest of time. I don't know if it actually was any faster than the first one, but somehow it did seem to pass by slightly more quickly. It was nice to have those few downhill miles again - the only time all day the bike felt easy - and on the hard parts, it at least helped to be able to tell myself that it was the last time I'd have to do that part.

During the second loop all I could focus on was getting to the turn to head back for the last 7 miles to the finish. Those last 7 were slightly more downhill than uphill, thankfully! They still weren't fast, but they were a little faster than how I had been doing. I made the turn back into the park, and I was almost finished, but those last few miles seemed to drag on forever. As I was riding through the park the reality of having to get off the bike and run was starting to set in, and I wished to anything that I could just be done! My fueling on the bike hadn't been great - I'd been hungry but my stomach felt funny, I think because I was so cold, and I had to force myself to eat a few bites of my peanut butter and jelly. I knew I hadn't eaten enough and I was feeling a little nauseous, so I was a bit concerned about how the run was going to go. When I finally got off the bike and crossed the timing mat, I saw that I had just barely beaten my C goal - definitely worse than I was hoping/expecting, but at least it wasn't my absolute worst (just barely). 

Bike Time: 3:15:48 (17.2mph)
(A goal: 3:07, B goal: 3:12, C goal: 3:17)


T2: 8:33

I got into transition and couldn't wait to change clothes. I was so concerned about being wet and cold after the bike that I had packed a complete change of clothes for the run. I ended up only putting on a pair of dry socks, and my feet were SO numb I seriously had a hard time putting on my socks and shoes because I couldn't even feel them. I thought about putting on a long sleeve top, but everyone else was going out in just their sleeveless tri tops so I decided against it. Although I can't stand to be cold on the bike, on the run I definitely prefer being a little chilly than being a little hot!

I had expected my friend Tracy to pass me at some point on the bike (he always does), but I never saw him, so as I was in transition I thought/hoped that if I went slow enough maybe he was right behind me and we could run together? My time was already shot thanks to my ridiculously long T1 time and my bike time, so that really wasn't a concern of mine anymore. I took my time getting ready to go out on the run because of that, but it worked because I was right! I saw Tracy and right after that I saw my friend Carl, and we decided we'd all run together. Carl and I waited for Tracy to get ready and finally, after my slowest transition in history (seriously they're usually 1-3 minutes and I 've maybe had one or two go to 5ish minutes), we set out on the run.

Run

When we first started running my feet were so numb it felt like I was running on boards, to the point where I had to look down and check that I had put on running shoes and wasn't still wearing bike shoes. There was a very short out and back through the mud before we got onto the main part of the course, which was a 4.3 mile loop that we did 3 times total.

The first quarter mile is a short but steep hill that turns and then continues uphill, just less steep. Actually, the entire first mile is uphill (129 feet up and 14 feet down according to Garmin).  It was hard but I felt like it ticked by pretty fast, and at 9:55, it was basically where I was expecting to be pace-wise. I had braced myself for a 2:15...or 2:20...or even 2:30 half marathon, but realistically figured I'd land somewhere around 2:10-2:15.

The next part of the course was a 2-mile out-and-back with some gradual inclines and declines. I really had to pee so I stopped at a porta-potty during mile 2, and by the time I was done Tracy had caught up to Carl and me so we waited while he made a pit stop also. Mile 2 was 11:07, but given that that included two bathroom breaks, not bad!

The next mile took us around a campground, with a little more uphill than downhill. I don't think we stopped at a water stop, and if we did it must have been brief, because mile 3 was 9:20. The next mile took us back toward the transition/finish area, including a half-mile section through a paved, wooded trail that was mostly downhill. I had to go to the bathroom again, so mile 4 was 10:12.

I've never run a 3-loop course before and wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it, but ultimately I  think I liked it. There were enough turns and different sections that I never really had time to get bored with it, and I knew exactly when the hard parts would be over (which was never more than a mile). Having a run buddy also really helped, and I go to see other friends several times out on the course. The second loop went 9:54 (mile 5 - up the big hill), 9:22, 9:18, 9:00, and the third loop was 9:21 (up the big hill), 9:16, 9:26, 9:48, 8:32.


I ran with Carl the entire time (we lost Tracy after the first loop) and I think we stopped for water at nearly all of the aid stations except the last one. Given those stops, our actual running pace was around 9:00-9:15 for the whole race, which felt very comfortable and even easy at times. Although the weather was miserable during the bike, the sun started to come out around mile 2 of the run, and by the end it looked like a completely different day than when I had started that morning! It was partly sunny on the run but the temperature was still in the high 50s/low 60s, and I could tell that was the biggest factor into why running felt so effortless. For the first time all day I truly felt like I was in my happy place!

As I was nearing mile 13 I was right on the edge of making my stretch goal of finishing the run in 2:05. I was cutting it really close, so I sprinted out the last 0.1 as fast as I possibly could to try to make it under 2:05. I ended up one second over 2:05, but considering I had started the run thinking I was going to run a personal worst, I was more than happy with how it went and I think I can count it as accomplishing my A goal!

Run Time: 2:05:01 (9:33 min/mi)
(A goal: 2:05, B goal: 2:10, C goal: 2:15)


Finish Time: 6:17:35
(Conservative goal time: 6 hours 25 minutes/
Realistic goal timel: 6 hours 10 minutes/
Private goal: 6 hours)




Final Thoughts
  • I was pleasantly surprised by the swim! Even though I didn't meet my A goal, given my lack of endurance training and the fact that I hadn't been in open water since October until this weekend, I think it went about as well as I could have hoped for. I definitely want to keep incorporating speed and endurance swim workouts, but the fact that I could hold a decent pace for 1.2 miles without really training to do so at least helped my gain back some of my swim confidence. 
  • I think it's obvious that I wish I had done better on the bike, but I'm honestly not sure what I could have done differently. Sure, I only did 4 long rides leading up to the race, but they were on hilly courses specifically in preparation for this race. I don't know if I needed to log more miles, or if it really just wasn't my day. I can at least say that I'm proud of myself for not giving up and, despite how hopeless I felt sometimes, not ever truly considering it.
  • My run went a lot better than expected!  I was obviously more than trained on the run until mid-March, but after the marathon I didn't keep up with distance running as well as I could have, and I was worried I didn't have enough endurance left for a strong half marathon. I  think the weather and having a run buddy were the biggest contributing factors, but still, 2:05 with 3 bathroom breaks on a hilly course ain't bad. 
  • My transitions were embarrassingly slow, but I just did not care. I'm still not sure what exactly I did in there for almost 15 minutes total...
  • I did my best to follow my race plan, and I think I followed my pacing strategies pretty well, but I just didn't have the energy to give my all to my intention. I didn't have a lot of fight to give, so I couldn't be strong. I had to just...be. That was the only way I got through it, to just keep swimming, just keep pedaling, just keep running. I couldn't think too much about what I was doing or I would get emotional. More doing, less thinking, which is probably something I need to practice anyway.
  • I think the weather really put a damper on this one more than I realized. The day before the race was just as crappy as race day, and getting that preview immediately bummed me out and made me stop looking forward to racing. I went out to watch a friend racing the sprint on Sunday, and it was such a different day - bright and sunny, 20 degrees warmer than Saturday - and the energy felt so different. It bummed me out that I was so bummed out by the weather, but I just never even considered that we would get such a cold day in mid-May!
  • My final time was right in the middle of my conservative goal and my reasonable goal - still a little bummed I didn't even make my reasonable goal but, then again, it wasn't an entirely reasonable day. I wish I'd had more heart to give it, but at the end of the day, I finished my third half ironman, and I can't be upset about that!

7 comments :

  1. Congrats to you!! Early season races are tough...throw in crappy weather and they are even more tough. I like the idea of having A, B, and C goals. Waita go!

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  2. I've never really thought about it before, but now that you talk about how terrible the weather was, a spring triathlon seems risky! Maybe not from a safety perspective, but definitely from a comfort perspective. At least you're guaranteed to not be cold during the summer/early fall. Not so in the spring, clearly! I haven't been on a bike at all since...high school? A really long time, minimally, so I don't really know what I'm talking about when it comes to biking, BUT a former coworker who did do triathlons once told me that he doesn't really like being out on a bike until it's at least 70 degrees. Based on that, I can only imagine how miserable 50s must feel, especially when you're already wet from swimming 1.2 miles! Congrats on your finish nevertheless! To get in eight minutes under your conservative goal when you haven't been training for this race specifically is pretty impressive, I think, especially since it's not like marathon training translates seamlessly over to all aspects of triathlon (at least not like it would to, say, a 10K).

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  3. PROUD OF YOU FOR FINISHING and pushing through the crappy weather. Seriously, that is the worst on a race day. You are an inspiration, even if you don't think you are, seeing you persevere is so motivating to me.

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  4. Super proud of you for getting through this whole thing and smiling at the end of it. I know that racing weather, and running in it is dreadful enough--I can't really imagine doing it on a bike.
    Also, I have to thank you because reading this reminded me of how much I loved being at B2B and IMAC, and watching you and all the other athletes cross the finish, and how much I miss having finish lines in my life. I'm not ready to train for a biggie, but I'm finally feeling ready to train again for SOMETHING, and I want this break to be over because reading this reminded me of everything I've felt and thought about during my version of races like this. So thanks :)

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  5. This so sounds intense, especially with the less than ideal weather-- it's so hard trying to take off wet clothes/put clothes on when you're wet so I can't even imagine how hard it is when you're trying to hurry and hop on a bike. I love that you were able to hook up with Carl and Tracy during the second transition, and who knows, maybe taking that extra time in there made a difference on your overall run time. As always sooo proud and inspired by your ability to push through-- and seriously how amazing to finish a THIRD half-ironman?!

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  6. You inspire the heck out of me, lady! The weather was so rough and you did an amazing job - that run in particular is super impressive!!! Can't wait to continue to follow your training!

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  7. Congrats to you, Tracy. Always impressive and inspiring, even more so with the conditions that day.

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