Pre-Race Day – Saturday, September 12
Thank goodness my significant other, Roger, is so patient with me. I feel I can get worked up over little things on both pre-race and race days, but Roger never fails to be patient with me during those moments. A total of 5 MIT Tri members were competing in Pumpkinman and we drove one of them, Phil, and his girlfriend. We arrived at the race site, Spring Hill in South Berwick, Maine, to pick up our race packet (race chip, tracking numbers, etc.) and the venue looked quite amazing in the dry, sunny weather. I was also pleased by all the cute pumpkin decorations. Though, I felt intimidated that all the racers at packet pick up seemed to have bikes that were a lot more than mine (and mine’s not that shabby!).
After packet pick up, we checked into our hotel and met two other MIT people, Zuzka and Justin (but only Zuzka competed), for dinner at a Thai restaurant. I really wanted to order rice, but Roger made a comment earlier that day that he thought rice was known to be a constipating agent (is this even true?) and so I opted for pho for dinner. We got to bed probably around 9:30pm that night. We had to get up around 4:30-4:40am in order to make sure we were at the race site by 6am for a 7am race start!
Race Day – Sunday, September 13
I’m pretty into food and I get concerned about food logistics when I’m not in the comfort of my own home. I knew our hotel room came with a mini fridge and a microwave. I brought pierogies and grapes with me for breakfast because I wanted something savory to offset the sweet things I’d be eating during the race (by the way, why are almost all endurance foods some kind of dessert-y/sweet flavour?).
We got to the race site a little after 6am and I thought this would be plenty of time to set up for transition, but things did not go very smoothly! The race day weather was rainy and on the cold side. Quite a contrast to what we saw yesterday at packet pickup. The transition area was super cramped and I felt it impossible to get into a comfortable set up at all. With the rain, everything was getting wet and complicated. I planned to electrical tape my gels to my bike’s top tube, but the rain made it impossible. I wanted to pre-rip my bars, but decided against it because didn’t want the rain to get all over my nutrition. I super duper had to pee, but the line for the portapotty did not die down enough before I had to be at the beach for the swim start. So I went to the swim start with a super full, uncomfortable bladder. Not using the portapotty before race start made me nervous because I didn’t even get a chance to see if I had any poo to get out. So I was hoping for no poo emergencies during the race. I also didn’t have enough time to eat a banana I planned on eating before race start.
Swim 1.2 Miles (40:40, 1:56/100 yards, 6/11 in AG)
As soon as they let us into the water, I totally peed. The swim was two 0.6 mile laps in a pond. Luckily, I’ve always felt pretty comfortable in open water swims so I didn’t feel stressed or panicked at all during the mass start swim. During the first lap, I did worry about how slow I was going, but by the time I was on the second lap it seemed to fly by. This past year, I’ve been able to get down to 1:40-1:45/100 yards split, but I always slow up a ton during races. I have too much of a conservative mindset when I race. For Pumpkinman, my goal was to be under 2 minutes or my 100 yard split. So being 1:56 is ok in my book even though I know it’s not fast or my best. Towards the end of the swim, I felt the need to super have to pee again, but wasn’t able to pee before I finished the swim. So again I have an uncomfortable, full bladder going into T1.
Powderhouse Hill Climb Challenge (1:46)
The Pumpkinman 70.3 has a 250 meters hill climb challenge from the swim exit to the bike transition. This is timed as a separate stage. My goal was to not walk this, but my shuffle run up this was not far from a walk. Roger met me when I got out of the water and managed to run alongside me as I did this hill climb, which was super motivating! In fact, he ran faster than me when he is recovering from an Achilles injury and hasn’t started running yet. I guess this is how we get him to rehab faster!
I definitely wasted a lot of time here. However, I am proud to say that I did not have that usual light headed or dizzy feeling when I get out of the swim during a triathlon. I felt pretty good physically in T1. Mentally, I was kind of a mess. All I could think about was my full bladder and when/how should I empty it? There were two portapotties in the transition area (had a little bit of a line), but my head wondered if there would be any on the bike course and if I should pull over on the bike course to pee. I also had to remember to pre-rip my bars so that I wouldn’t fumble with them on the bike. I shoved a chia bar in my mouth and finally decided to use the transition portapotty before starting the bike.
Bike 56 Miles (3:13:13, 17.4 mph, 8/11 in AG)
It certainly was not fun doing the bike in rainy, cold weather! I felt like I had to bike slower and more cautiously due to the wet roads. There were a few points on the bike where I had negative thoughts and didn’t want to be at the race anymore. I did get pretty cold on the bike, but I’d go through periods where I’d forget about it and then remember it again. The bike course was also two loops and, again, the second loop seemed to go by so much faster for me at least mentally.
When I started the bike, I felt pretty darn hungry and that worried me because I thought that meant I was in for some serious bonking during this half ironman. I made a plan to eat ~100 calories every 30 minutes. I ended up eating 3 chia bars and 2 gels. I carried 2 bottles of diluted pineapple juice on the bike to get some additional calories and potassium, but only went through 1.5 bottles.
Throughout the summer, I’ve been able to pull off 17.6-17.9 mph in triathlon races so I was hoping to get at least 17mph on the bike at Pumpkinman. However, when I was estimating how long it’d take me to do Pumpkinman, I gave myself the conservative goal of doing the bike at 15mph if I had a horrible day. Even though 17.4 average mph over 56 miles is not one of the top speeds out there, this is a big deal for me as not too long ago I was someone who used to ride 13-15 mph for only 20 mile distances.
And yet again at the end of the bike leg my bladder was super full!!
I wasted time in transition again! When I arrived at my rack, I saw that some inconsiderate racer racked her bike in my spot and totally ruined my transition set up and space. I wasted time being angry about this and trying to figure out where to rack my bike. I got into my run gear, made sure I had 2 gels on me, and then b-lined to the portapotty to relieve my bladder. Then I got the case of the stupids and couldn’t figure out how to get to the run start from transition and was not comprehending the directing volunteer. I figured it out in the end!
Run 13.1 Miles (2:02:34, 9:22/mile, 7/11 in AG)
The run is my favourite leg in a triathlon. I know I’m not considered a fast runner, but mentally it is the easiest for me during a triathlon. When I started the run leg, I actually felt pretty great physically, but forced my body to play a conservative race because I didn’t want to bonk and I didn’t want to walk any of the run. My fastest half marathon split is 8:49/mile. A few teammates have said they feel the half marathon time is ~10 minutes slower when doing a half ironman, but I didn’t believe them. I was afraid I’d be pushing 11 minute miles during the run of Pumpkinman. I still do not own a GPS watch or triathlon watch so I don’t know my exact splits during the Pumpkinman run, but based on the (normal) watch I wore and the mile markers, I think I ran very conservative 10 minute miles for the first half and then let myself push harder the second half of the run. I was kind of surprised at how great I felt physically throughout the run and, because I kept doubting if my body would allow me to finish the whole race, I would not allow myself to go 100%. But I did cross that finish line!!!
Total time 6:06:17 & post race thoughts
My super conservative time goal was 7 hours if I was not having my fastest day. So I think I did well coming under my time goal, but perhaps my time goal was way too generous and not challenging enough. I was not sore the following week, which means I did not push hard enough during the race! Overall, I had such a fun time doing the race and am interested in doing another half ironman. Except the next one, I’ll need to do some better mental and physical preparation to get me to push myself harder and not hold back. The next 70.3 I do, I better be super sore after it!
Pumpkinman 70.3 was my A race for 2015 and also my last triathlon for 2015. Leading up to it, I was really looking forward to relaxing after it and taking a break from a rigorous workout schedule. Now that my 2015 triathlon season is over and I no longer have a 70.3 to immediately train for, I actually feel a little weird and empty! I did lighten up my workout schedule after Pumpkinman (but also due to life events) because I think this is important for me physically and mentally, but at the same time part of me wants to maintain the previous rigorous workout schedule to fill some kind of void. Anyways, I’ll be reducing my workout load for a period, but hope to be right back at it whenever the time is right. I’m not sure when that will be yet.
And HUGE thank you to everyone in my life who has supported and mentored me! I couldn’t be a half ironman without the support and mentorship of others!