On July 21st, 2013 I competed in the Lake Stevens Half Ironman, which was my second triathlon to date. This was an interesting event for me both mentally and physically and I’ll try to explain why in the coming review.
The expo was about what I thought it would be. I got through packet pickup pretty quickly and watched the athlete safety video. The video warned of a sharp turn into a hill around mile 38 which I made sure to note. I figured if the hill is bad enough that they brought it up in the video then it must really be special. After the video I went and looked at all of the gear and purchased some bars. I didn’t buy any gear just in case I injured myself and wasn’t able to complete the event. I figured I could always buy something afterwards anyways.
Bike Check In
We were required to check in our bike the day before the race. I originally wasn’t thrilled at the idea of this but afterwards I’m glad that they required. The morning of the event was a lot less stressful since I didn’t have to deal with the bike.
I had been mulling the idea around in my head of driving the course the day before. This had been suggested to me by a previous participant because the course is “especially hilly.” It was about 3pm and I decided to go for it as I wanted to see that mile 38 hill they had talked about. I must say that driving the course made me a lot more nervous for the bike leg than I had been beforehand. I had practiced on the Burke-Gilman and Centennial trails which was probably a mistake. There were a ton of huge climbs and descends which I didn’t think I was adequately prepared for.
The swim was by far my favorite portion of the race. I love swimming and something about being out in a lake in the early morning is very refreshing and relaxing to me. The only issue I had with the swim was that there was a ton of fog. When sighting you generally could only see the one buoy in front of you (if you could even see a buoy at all.) I did my best to just follow the other swimmers and the underwater rope line which seemed to work great. I noticed a ton of swimmers veering off course and being re-directed by a canoe so I guess I wasn’t the only one with the issues. A coworker of mine told me that if you leave the swim with anything but a smile on your face then you probably went too hard. I took that advice and left the water grinning from cheek to cheek.
The first transition was a breeze. I had set up my transition area in a very logical manner and knew exactly where my bike was. I used trislide to assist with my wet suit and I’m convinced it’s the reason the wet suit came off so easily. I was out of T1 and off to the bike in under five minutes which seemed good to me.
I had driven the course the day before and knew exactly what to expect with the bike. However knowing what to expect and being prepared for it are two completely different things. My weakest area in triathlon is the bike and it showed. I was passed by nearly everyone but I didn’t let it get me down. I was out there to complete the event, not win it. I had to tell myself that numerous times throughout the day to keep from becoming disheartened by my cycling. The mile 38 hill was as bad as they said it would be and I passed numerous people walking their bikes up the hill. If there’s one thing that I have going for me it’s that I didn’t walk my bike once on the course. My bike held up fine throughout and my front derailleur only kicked the chain off (on the inside) once. Thankfully it was on a hill and I un-clipped quickly preventing a fall. I should probably note that the longest bike ride I did leading up to this event was 36 miles. I didn’t really tell anyone this because the one time I did I was given a crazy look and told I was screwed. To avoid more negative comments I simply lied and told people the longest ride I did was just over 50 miles.
The rest stations with bathrooms, medical, and food were stationed about every 15 miles or so apart. I made it a point to stop at each one and grab and eat a bar to play mental tricks with myself. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from GORUCK it’s that you can easily trick your brain into doing way more than it intended to. After each station I left I simply told myself that I was going on a 15 mile ride (about the distance to the next station) and that I’ve done that countless times.
The second transition was pretty smooth. The person racked next to me thought it would be a great idea to put their wet suit out to dry where my bike was supposed to be (seriously?). Figuring out what to do with their wet suit probably cost me 45 seconds but at this point time wasn’t an issue. My legs were burning from the ride so I was slow to get out but once I was moving everything seemed to flow together.
The run was a lot easier than I was expecting. I came off the bike in bad shape and didn’t know how I would hold out on the run. The first two miles were rough as I tried and get my legs under me but everything eventually started working right. For the first lap I was on track for a sub two hour half-marathon and I passed a number of people who had caught my on the bike. On the second lap my stomach started giving me issues. I guess six hours of eating GU products and energy bars isn’t the best for a stomach that doesn’t handle suger well. I was preparing to stop at the next bathroom and ended up eating some pretzels (for the hell of it) right before I got there. I swear those pretzels were magic because they somehow settled my stomach so well that I didn’t need to stop. The time that my stomach was giving me issues slowed me down enough that I did not make the 2 hour half and instead finished with a time of 2:02:xx.
Overall the event was very challenging and as difficult as I expected it to be. I was looking for a challenge this summer and I sure found one with the Lake Stevens Half Ironman. I don’t know if I will be doing this course again as the hills were a nightmare but we’ll see. I’d love to come back in a few years and dominate my previous time if they keep the course the same. Next year I might try one of the other local long courses that’s a little flatter so that I can enjoy it more.