It's done. It's over. I finished! I don't really even know where to start so I'll just begin with describing the race and then our arrival in White Lake.
For those of you who don't know about or who have never been to White Lake, either to race or for a vacation, it's a small town about 2 hours Southeast of Raleigh. The lake is absolutely beautiful! It's clean, clear, and has a sandy bottom. It's not like one of those lakes where you can't see your hand in front of your face when you're swimming. The race site is an FFA (Future Farmers of America) campground with dorms, cabins, a dining hall (where we pick up our packets, buy anything we forgot, and check results), large pavilion, etc. The course is flat as a pancake but White Lake has a reputation for being a pretty windy site and the temperature this time of year can go either way.
I woke up Friday morning and quickly realized that the forecast was taking a turn for the worse as far as heat and humidity was concerned. All week they were calling for a high of 80-85 and now it has turned to a high of 95 with 80% humidity. I tried to not thing about that and went through my race bag to make sure I had everything packed. The list is long: Race suit, goggles, bike shoes, running shoes, socks, baby powder, body glide, sports bra, sunglasses, sunscreen, inhaler, nasal spray, watch, chamois butter, extra tire tubes, extra CO2 cartridges, advil, water bottles, fuel, gatorade, flip flops, hat, fuel belt, race belt. I packed my transition bag, my hotel bag, my food bag, and my cooler for the race. I met my parents for breakfast, ran a few last minute errands and then I checked my bike and loaded everything up and off I go. Got to Deb's and had her husband change my front tire while we finished packing her things into the car. I had realized that it had been wayyyy too long since I had a new tire on the front of my bike and I didn't want anything to go wrong for Saturday. I had a quick bite to eat and we hit the road. As we're driving I'm realizing that I hadn't packed my bike shorts so thank goodness my parents were still at my apartment. Quick phone call and that mistake was fixed and they would make their way to White Lake with my dad. Fast forward through a fun car trip down (pictures at Piggly Wiggly, laughs, jokes, etc) and we're at the race site picking up our packets. It was so so hot but we enjoyed sitting by the lake and taking it all in. We ran into a few friends from the Y and talked and laughed about our race plans, some of our anxieties, and the fact that the day is here. After checking our bikes into transition and listening to the pre-race meeting, off we go about 30 minutes up the road to our hotel. Friday night was dinner with mom and dad, a quick trip to Walmart for more Gatorade, and then an overview of the race bag to make sure everything was packed. Hit the hay and hoped for a descent night's sleep...
4am wake up call! Check the weather, 75 degrees with 80% humidity...already. Get up, mix up water and fuel bottles, fill the cooler with ice, and finalize race/hydration plan. I had a whole wheat bagel thin with peanut butter and a banana, some water and gatorade, and 2 ibuprofen (already had a headache..). Put on the race suit, tried to use the bathroom, and then headed down to the lobby to check out and hit the road. We arrived at the race site around 6:15am, got body marked, picked up our timing chips, and headed straight to transition to set everything up. I laid everything out how it needed to be, checked, double-checked, and re-checked. In the meantime, Jenn, Lawrie, Lanie, and Phil should have been arriving anytime so I was excited to hear from them. They headed over to transition to meet me and got yelled at when they tried to enter :). I was excited to see them on the other side of the fence. I applied sunscreen (not well, later to find out), hit the bathroom one more time, then off to the lake. The gun had already gone off for the first wave at 7am. My wave was starting at 7:20 so it was getting close. Jumped in the water and waded out to the start and the countdown was on!!
The water was 79 degrees so we couldn't wear wetsuits but the water felt great! The horn went off for our start and I made sure that I started toward the back of our wave pack. It's just so much easier to start back and pass people than it is to get caught up in the churn of everyone starting at once. I felt awesome on the swim. I struggled a little bit with people bumping into me and trying to pass people but all in all it was a good swim. I rounded the first turn bouy and we were swimming STRAIGHT into the sun. You couldn't see the next bouy and with all of the swimmers and the wind, it was so choppy. I had a couple of moments where I was slapped in the face with a wave, inhaled water, etc. but I didn't let it get to me. Around the second bouy and I was on the final 1/3. I could see the big inflatable on the dock and only had another 10 minutes or so. Finally at the dock, up the ladder, and running to my bike. Dad, Lawrie, Lanie, Jenn, and Phil were waiting and I slapped a high five and kept on moving.
In transition I threw my bike shorts on over my tri suit (extra padding for an extra long ride), bike shoes, sunglasses, helmet and I was off. It was evident almost immediately that my bike computer was broken. It showed that my speed was wayyyy off than what it was and the time and distance wasn't working right either. So it looked like I was just biking by feel and until the finish instead of focusing on pace or time. The first 20 miles I was FLYING. I was using the aero bars on the bike even though I hadn't trained with them, and felt like I had a lot more power. At the 20 mile mark I was just under an hour on the bike and thought that if I kept that up I was going to finish the bike leg way ahead of schedule. I kept rolling and before I knew it, I was at mile 30. All of a sudden I was riding right into the wind. And it wasn't a breeze, either. It was a hold on for dear life, don't get blown off your bike type of wind. And just when you thought it couldn't blow any harder, it did. my seat was KILLING me because I just wasn't used to the position I was in with the aerobars. Note to self: next time train in the aero bars to be ready for the race. With 11 miles left I was really feeling pretty beat up. Mile 50 rolled around and I just kept telling myself that 6 miles is nothing. My calf and hamstring were cramping so I popped a couple of Enduralytes and tried not to think about it. I started seeing people at the turnaround point on the run course and that got me going. One final push and I made it back to transition. At this point, I had been racing for about 4 hours.
Transition 2 was a tough one for me. I was trying to cool off, get my socks and shoes on, put my hat on, and get going. I downed about 10 ounces of Gatorade and realized quickly that that was a mistake. Before the race I hadn't paid attention to where the run start was from the transition area. I got a little turned around but figured it out and got going in the right direction. Before I even got out of transition I felt something in my shoe and had to stop, empty it out, and then get started again. I ran out of transition and got going up the road. About 1/2 mile up the street I slowed to a walk. It was disgustingly hot, humid, and difficult to breathe. The Gatorade in my stomach was sloshing around and making me sick. I met up with a girl named Julie who did a run/walk thing with me for about 1/2 mile until I decided to pick up the pace a bit. It was about 90-95 degrees, middle of the day, and we were running on a highway with absolutely no shade at all. There was an aid station at every mile and they had water, Heed, bananas, oranges, other snacks, enduralytes, ice, and ice cold towels. All my stomach could handle was water and the ice and cold towels were like a drug. The formula for about the entire run was "run 2, walk 2" or "run 3, walk 3" and the 2 and 3 were just about anything that was visible. That started with cones, then I used driveways, signs, light poles, etc. If I was feeling good, I kept going. If I was feeling bad, I just made myself get to that 2nd or 3rd something. Every aid station I picked up a new cold towel for the back of my neck, dumped a cup of ice into my sports bra, a cup of water on my head, a cup to drink, and occasionally some enduralytes. It was painfully slow and just plain painful. By the 3rd aid station, there was no ice left and the water was warm. I thought I was going to cry. At about mile 4 I had my low point. I was hot, thirsty, exhausted, and beat down. For a period of time I thought that finishing was questionable. I figured I was either going to pass out, get sick, or just have to sit down. So it was one foot in front of the other and forward motion became the goal. My awesome support team piled into Jenn's car and they drove back and forth by me a few times to cheer me on. They offered ice but I couldn't take it because I wasn't sure about the rules regarding outside aid. Either way, it was great seeing them :). I kept plugging. And plugging and plugging and plugging. At the last aid station, someone who had hit the turnaround (it was an out-and-back course with a turnaround at mile 6.5) and was on their way back yelled that there was ice. It was a Godsend. I think that saved me. I spent some time at that aid station on the way to the turnaround and again on the way back. As I was on the home stretch the running croud began to thin a little bit. I met a couple of nice people who were struggling also but we were all determined to finish. None of us could believe the heat and even the seasoned Half-ironmen who I met were having a tough time. With a mile left, I loaded up on ice, walked for a few more cones, and then took off to the finish line. I told myself that I had to run as much of the last mile as I could, and I did. I started hearing the finish line and people cheering and got a little wind in me to keep moving forward. I saw Dad and gave Phil a high five, rounded the bend, saw the finish line, and heard my name announced over the loud speaker. That was it, I finished, I made it happen, and it was finally over.
I walked right down to the lake, got in, cooled off, and hung out with my friends and family as I took in the fact that I actually finished the race. I learned shortly there after that Deb, my friend who I had decided to do this race with a year ago, finished but was in the medical tent. She was okay but the heat was too much. She still had an incredible time and did an amazing job!
I want to thank my parents for flying down for my race and for all of my friends who left Raleigh at 4:30 in the morning to drive down and spend the day outside in the blistering heat just to cheer me on during the few minutes that they actually got to see me. That meant the world to me. I also want to thank Deb and those who encouraged me early on in my training to keep going when I was going to quit. I am blessed to have you all in my life.
So now it's over, I'm in recovery mode, and I'm enjoying every minute of it!!