I, of course, could not sleep the night before the race but one very nice thing about this race is that the start time is not until 9am. So I was able to “sleep-in” until 6:00 am. Jolynne and I had breakfast, packed up the bike and all my stuff and arrived at Rendezvous Beach at 7:15. The temperature outside was 48 degrees! I was very grateful that the race did not start at 7am because that would have made for a very cold T1 transition. At that point the water, which was in the upper 60’s, was way warmer than the air outside. Jolynne helped me carry all my crap to T1. I found a nice sport in the rack assigned to me and proceeded to set my stuff up as strategically as possible. I felt very well-prepared for transitions and for my needs on the bike. I had two Powerade bottles and a bento box (with gels and three Honey Stinger wafers) attached to the bike. I also had baby wipes to wipe my nose after the swim and during the bike. I set up my bike shoes up front and center with my helmet and my sunglasses behind them. I put my running shoes to the side with my socks ready to go on top and my Garmin next to them. I also had a water bottle to clean my feet after the swim, which was a very good decision on my part.
Incredibly the Race Director’s orientation started on-time at 8:30 am. I say incredibly because he decided to train his volunteers 15 minutes prior to that. Jolynne was one of the volunteers. Poor Jolynne was horrified because 90% of the volunteers were teenage girls who did not understand a word that the RD told them. One good thing was that Jolynne was able to agree with the RD that she could watch me start the swim and then drive her own car to her assigned aid station (mile 21 of the bike). The orientation took about 10 minutes and the first wave headed out to the beach. I put on my wetsuit up to my hips and headed out to the beach with Jolynne.
One cool thing about being in the 2nd wave is that we got to see most of the 1st wave swim. The first wave was men younger than 40 and the 2nd were men 40 and older. The guy that won the HIM dominated the swim with a four minute lead. He was in front all by himself. Very cool. At the other end of the spectrum, however, was the guy who after only 75 yards of swimming decided he was done and held on to a buoy for dear life. The guy looked totally panicked. The race had two powered rescue boats that approached him carefully because it was so shallow. As a matter of fact they were telling him to let go of the buoy because he could probably stand up but he did not let go. Somehow they got him on the boat. They then moved the boat about 25 yards and had him get out because it was too shallow. He got out and the water was at his waist. After I got in the water I confirmed that if he would have let go of the buoy his head would have been completely out of the water. When the guy got to shore the RD asked him what happened and he said he had a chest cold that was making it difficult to swim! I don’t think so. I feel bad for the guy but it was funny that he was holding on for dear life when all he had to do was stand up.
I checked in for the swim about 10 minutes before the 9:30 wave start for men 40 and older and headed into the water to warm up. The water felt very cold on my feet but once I jumped in it really became very comfortable. I swam easy and checked my goggles, ear plugs and cap. All seemed to be in order. I then heard the one minute to start announcement and went to the green buoy to line up. I lined up in the middle of the group (there were only about 32 men that were 40 and older in the field) and waited for the horn to go off. I didn’t have to listen for the horn since all the spectators were providing a very loud countdown. 10..9..8…3..2..1..GO!
I eased into the swim and really didn’t feel the typical pangs of panic that I typically feel at the beginning of open water swims. The water was so clear and the day was so beautiful and open that the swim felt very relaxing. This really allowed me to focus on my stroke and on my sighting. Sighting became critical because since the first wave was large (68 men) and the course was out and back the second wave had a high risk of head butting participants from the first wave finishing their swim and heading into shore. I almost crashed into two Wave 1 swimmers but we all took it in stride and didn’t make a big deal of it. Once the first wave was finished I kept a good enough pace that I did not have many people swimming towards me in the out and back. One thing that became really challenging was the fact that the buoy we were aiming for was a big orange ball. This was a problem because the swim caps for our wave were orange and it became hard to distinguish the buoy from the heads bobbing up and down in the water. This was an issue on the “out” lengths but not in the “back” lengths since the RD put the finish line arch right on the beach so we would have something easy to sight that was on the beach. This was brilliant and really helped navigation coming back to shore.
After I got back to the green start-line buoy I swam more until I was scraping the ground with every stroke. I then got up and started running to shore while taking off my wetsuit. I only ran in the water for a bit and then stopped because I realized that I was dog tired. Every step in the water was labored. So I walked to dry ground and then ran the rest of the way to the timing mat at T1, which took about 45 seconds or so from the water. My total Swim time, including my run to T1, took 39:52 minutes. The average swim time was 38:20 minutes so my time was a bit below average but not by much. This is a huge improvement for me in my swimming since I swam a bit over 2 mins per 100 meters, which is a PR in open water for me.
Coming into T1 I really felt great. The scariest part of the race was over but the sufferfest was about to begin. I once again had some trouble getting my wetsuit off my ankles. I have to figure something else out here. I think I’m not applying Body Glide behind my ankles and on my heels and this is where the wetsuit is getting stuck. This probably cost me 15-20 seconds. I then rinsed my feet of the sand I accumulated at the beach, put on my sunglasses, my helmet, my race number, and finally my bike shoes. Finally I blew my nose with baby wipes and took more baby wipes in my tri suit pocket. I then grabbed my bike, ran out of transition and mounted my bike. As I was running out of transition I heard someone cuss loudly and I saw a guy taking his bike out of transition who had a flat. How does that happen?! He must have punctured during warm-up or something prior to the race and didn’t realize it. In any case I felt bad for him. My whole T1 took 2:52 minutes. Not bad since the average T1 transition was 3:27.
I actually felt very good on the bike and had none of the typical dizziness that comes to me after an open water swim. I took a right out of Rendezvous Park and proceeded right up Highway 30 north towards Garden City and Idaho. There was a light headwind but it felt great and did not slow me down at all. I was able to maintain 20 MPH without any real effort. The normal effort I would exert to maintain 18 MPH resulted in 20 MPH so the ride was nice and flat. The day really couldn’t have been better. The temps were now in the 60’s and the day was bright and sunny. Bear Lake was on my right as I moved north and its blue waters framed by mountains looked absolutely beautiful. After eight miles I got to Garden City and rode right in front of the cabin where we were staying. At about mile 11 I got passed by a pretty fast dude. I could see some guys out in the distance but they were pretty far. At about mile 13 the guy with the flat flew by me. He had an aero helmet and all the gadgets and was obviously fast. I noticed that he was in my age group and as I saw him disappear in the distance I audibly told myself “I will see that guy again”.
At this point I had moved into Idaho, which was kind of cool since this is only one of two races that I have done that cross state borders. The other was the Mesquite Marathon that crosses Utah, Arizona and Nevada. As I approached mile 21 I had passed three people and had been passed by three. I saw the turn going East and was a bit confused because I thought that I would go north and then turnaround to this spot but I decided to follow the course sign. I also started looking for Jolynne who was volunteering at the Mile 21 aid station. I saw her but she was busy handing out water and didn’t see me. I yelled out to her and she started yelling my name and cheering me on. It was really nice to see Jolynne and the race was lucky to have them since most of the volunteers on the bike course were untrained, inexperienced teenagers!
Here is where things got crazy for most participants. Since the course description about the turnaround was wrong and the description from the RD at the beginning of the race was not helpful the turnaround became a guessing game. In the middle of what I thought was a 3-mile leg I saw writing in the middle of the road that said “Half” followed by an arrow directing you to turn around. However, there was no one there and the road marking was white. All the other road markings I had seen for our race were orange and I still saw bikers from our race riding back beyond where the sign was painted so I decided to ignore it and keep going. It was a good thing because I eventually found the real turnaround manned by some girls that were very weakly directing people to turn around. The only problem is that I now didn’t know if I had to keep going north when I got back to the aid station or if I turned around again. I decided to ask Jolynne when I got back to the aid station. On my way back I saw the first two women. They were probably three miles behind me after I had a 30 minute head start! When I got back Jolynne was very busy handing water to bikers but it was no problem because I saw a large orange arrow instructing me to turn around. I yelled out to Jolynne turned around and kept going. I now wasn’t sure how many loops we had to do. I was pretty sure I only had to do one but as I approached the turnaround again I couldn’t see any riders beyond that. There was an older man now manning the turnaround and he wasn’t much help so I went past him but just to make sure I stopped and went back and asked him if I was going the right way. He said that if I had already done the loop that I was good to go. So I kept going. I was a bit concerned because for about one mile I didn’t see any other riders but then I saw poor Bill (one of the people staying at our cabin) who had just realized that he hadn’t done the turnaround and was heading back to do it. I then saw my transition rack neighbor who had just had a flat. This was not surprising as the road conditions at the top of the lake suck. But at least I knew I was going in the right direction.
The race really got difficult at this point because I was alone for the most part. I did pass another person who had a flat and other bikers who were not in the race. One of these bikers fell to the ground after climbing a steep hill, it was kind of funny. I passed by the aid station at mile 44 since I had my own nutrition. Eating on the bike was really a chore. I’m not that used to eating that much in the middle of a race and I was starting to feel a bit bloated. I ate all three of my Honey Stinger Wafers as scheduled and I was downing the Powerade. I decided to take it a bit easier on the Powerade for the rest of the bike ride. At around mile 50 I reached the Boy Scout Bear Lake Aquatics camp. This was awesome because from that point on I knew exactly what the course looked like and that it was downhill or flat. I pumped up the pace a bit and I passed my last person before making it back to T2.
As I approached T2, the winner of the race (who had started in Wave 1 about 30 mins before me) was running in. He and I essentially got to T2 (for me) and Finish (for him) together. For some reason this made me feel really slow and gave me an extra incentive to move quickly at T2. My bike time was 2:55 (19.2 MPH) which was way faster than the 3:05 I had predicted but below the average of 2:53 for the field. I was out of T2 in 2:06 which was significantly faster than the rest of the field.
My legs actually felt OK and as is the case in all my triathlons my legs go faster than what I want them to when I first get off the bike. I was running a 7:40 pace and so I slowed that way down. I was really horribly tired. My body was not hurting but aerobically I felt like I was at mile 20 or so at a marathon. To complicate matters it felt pretty hot and there was no breeze. It was actually in the high 70’s but it felt like the mid 80’s. As I was leaving Rendezvous Beach I heard a car honk their horn and it was Jolynne who was coming to see me finish the bike. She was shocked so see me on the run already. She rolled down the window, cheered me on and told me I was going way faster than my prediction. It felt good to hear this even if I already knew it. Now if I could only hold on. I almost immediately started passing a ton of people. I expected this because most people in tri’s are not runners to begin with and most go out too fast on the bike. This race was no exception and I was passing people left and right. Here is where I started moving up in my age group. Interestingly I had not seen the dudes that flew by me on the bike but I was confident I would see them again before all was said and done. As I passed people many gave compliments on my running which felt like a death march at 8:30 minutes per mile. As I approached mile 6 I saw Jolynne who had parked in the out and back after the aid station. My strategy included walking the aid stations so that I could conserve my energy for running most of the course. Jolynne was yelling at me to keep running but I just simply smiled. About this time I started to feel really very bloated and I decided to drink less and throw more water on my head to control the heat.
At this point the course went uphill but not too severely. After making it up the hill the course turned to gravel. The dirt/gravel was almost white and it reflected the sun and made everything very bright. At this point is where things got really hard. I was losing a lot of energy and my pace suffered somewhat. However, I held it together and kept passing people including two of the three guys that passed me early on the bike. The dirt road now went up and down and the hills were killing me and were killing my pace. I was now afraid that I may not even be able to break two hours. Around mile 11 I was passed by the top woman. The last time I had seen her was at the turnaround of the bike. This was a bit deflating but I kept focusing on a runner ahead of me that was keeping a pretty good pace. Mile 11 seemed to be taking forever. Around mile 12 I caught up to the runner and realized that it was the last guy that had passed me early on the bike. I knew I would see them all again. At this point I focused on keeping my lead and making it to the finish.
I just held on made a left into the park and made two more turns and picked up the pace for a strong finish. I ran the roundabout and crossed the finish line strongly. Jolynne was right there and took a picture. My run time was 1:54 and my total Half Ironman time was 5:34:20. I wanted sub 6 and I rocked that goal. It felt great to be done but quickly elation turned to a feeling of complete exhaustion.
I think the only time I had felt that tired was after the Pikes Peak Ascent and most of that was because there was no oxygen to be had at 14,000 feet. Here at Bear Lake I had to lay down in one of the medic’s cots because I felt like I was going to throw up. I ended up laying down for at least 15 minutes. Jolynne was awesome and very supportive all the way to the end. After I recovered somewhat I went to see the posted results, which were up very fast, and was shocked to see my swim time. I was expecting a swim time in the high 40’s and was very happy with my 39 minute time. After we cleaned up and packed up Jolynne and I celebrated with a famous Raspberry Shake at Le Beau’s in Garden City. Perfect race way to close a race weekend.