My prayers were answered, but in place of that, we got rain and wind. Nice tradeoff. Really!
Muncie is in its 30th year as a triathlon of one sort or another. Since about 1989, its been a half IM.
Everyone from GR who is a serious triathlete has done Muncie and I figured it was time I stepped up and joined the GR alumni.
As we headed south to Muncie, IN, just about an hour and a half or so from Indie, to give you an idea of the location, I watched the thermometer in my car rise from 80 to 84 to 87 to 90 to 94. Yikes! I was going to die out there!
Seven others from the GR area were there to compete, many of whom would take their age groups, no doubt. For me? My plan was to treat it as a training day and a learning experience. My prediction, based on what I figured the weather would be, without knowing much about the course, was 8 hours. I knew I was being generous with all my times, but I also knew I would be happy with that. My main goal was to go at a pace that I knew I would and could finish.
Without going into too many details about the prep, etc., I will move directly to the swim.
To wear a wetsuit or not?
I am comfortable enough on any swim distance to not need a wetsuit, but based on the high winds and the chop on the Prairie Creek Reservoir, I finally decided on the wetsuit. I needed any advantage I could get. My goals on the swim were: 50 min.; get to the first turn bouy before the 25-29 AG men reached me; not get beat up; and try to keep on course.
I managed 2 out of 4: Swim time: 50:02. Stayed on course, despite the horrible chop. Got beat up some. Didn't make it to the first turn bouy before the young bucks reached me.
The chop was so bad that every 3rd or 4th sighting you got a face full of water instead. It was very difficult to sight, but I managed as well as I could. Everyone got at least one mouth full of water to add to their hydration plan. I did get beat up some. One dumb jerk just couldn't seem to realize someone (maybe your mother??) was swimming right next to where he decided to swim through, so when I raised my head to breath and sight, I was rewarded with a good thumping to the back of my neck, causing me to get pushed down under water just as I was taking a breath! I paid him back with a good kick to hopefully you know where!
One funny note on the swim. My usuall MO is to swim until I hit bottom, but this time a younger dude came up alongside me, probably 25 yards from the beach, and he tapped me on the shoulder and said: You can stop now. Hillarious!
The transition is pretty long: uphill about 300 yards and then probably another 300 yards or so through the transition to my bike rack. All the fast 55-59 women on my rack were long gone. I struggled in transition, as usual, but decided I couldn't worry about that. Get organized and go.
Will it rain??
Heading out on the bike, I wondered about the weather. So far so good, but the forecast was for temperatures in the high 80s, low 90s, and 50% chance of thunderstorms, some severe. The first part of the bike course was flat and fast, other than the initial hill out of transition. Once we hit the bike trail, we moved so fast, and of course there was lots of drafting, since how would anyone monitor that in there? It occurred to me after a few miles on this that we were obviously going downhill and had the wind at our back. I couldn't help wonder what we would face once we got off.
We exited the bike course at around 8.5 miles, and for the next 14 or so, it was rolling to uphill, with crosswinds. Ugh. For me, this meant dropping speed to an average around 12.9 mph. Not good. At around 22.5, it got worse. Then it was mostly a long climb with crosswinds AND a headwind to top it off. So for the next 7.5 miles, we pretty much climbed, fought the wind and were rewarded around 25 miles with a torrential downpour. I realized I had a raw spot on the back of my neck from the wetsuit when the stinging rain hit. Yowch! Felt like getting pelted with needles.
I fought the urge those 7.5 miles to not get discouraged, knowing I was doing the best I could, but still getting passed regularly. And naturally I couldn't help worry I would be last out there. Again.
I finally just said, I'm doing the best I can. Let the chips fall where they may. Still, I couldn't have been happier when we finally got to the turnaround, still raining, but at least now I hoped the wind would be behind me for a while, and it was, and that long climb equaled a nice long, mostly downhill, where my pace picked up considerably, so that by the time we got off that stretch, I was doing just what I hoped to do.
The rain was intermittent to constant, and a hard downpour. The only thing that made this tolerable was there was NO traffic, one of the best things about this bike course. From 34 to 49 miles, we again had crosswinds, intermittent hard rain, and rolling hills. I totally lost any real desire to try to ride harder when my computer on every hard downpour went haywire. One second I was riding 34.5 mph and the next I was riding 4.9. Yeah right to both. The speed was all over the place, so I finally settled on just watching the elapsing time and my mileage and ignored the pace. I was doing what I could do, whatever that was. By the time I hit 50 miles, I was pleasantly surprised that my time was only 2 minutes off my best 50 mile training rides, which left me hopeful and elated considering the weather. Now if I can just hold on for the next 6 miles, I might actually PR this distance!
Didn't happen. Not for lack of trying. Just weather and bad roads and the course being 1.54 miles long! The last 6 miles you have such rough roads that you spend all your time dodging water bottles, tubes, inhalers, sunglasses, and bumps so that I found it impossible to hold a fast enough pace. And then to top it off, the rain got harder and the winds picked up again, to the point where it was driving water into my ears and under my sunglasses, making my eyes sting so bad and mess with my contacts that I could barely see! I got REALLY mad when we passed 56 miles, then 57, and still no end. It was impossible to see so I was hoping someone would be standing at the bike dismount, and luckily there were a few people. When I pushed my bike into transition, the ground was saturated with water, and squished in my biking shoes, which were already so saturated, along with the socks, that water seemed to be pooled in my socks, and my shoes seemed to weigh 10 pounds each!
Transition was a joke, since it was raining so hard I had to wonder if it really mattered. I kept hoping lightning would finally call the race, but no such luck! The smartest thing I did was put my running shoes and a dry pair of socks into a bag, which was heaven! My socks on the bike were so saturated I could wring them out, as well as my bike gloves, and my headband. I took the time to put my bike shoes into a bag and straighten out my bike area so as not to get a penalty for having a mess, like they said they would do. I had made the mistake of leaving my towel out in the rain but was surprised that I had another almost semi dry one in my tri bag, so I used that to dry my feet as much as possible. But, I just couldn't hurry.
The funniest thing on the bike was my foaming shorts! Lisa had mentioned that Nuun was a good electrolyte replacement, so I bought 2 packages at the expo, in paper wrappers, and put them in my waist pouch. Sometime after the 3rd downpour, I noticed my bike shorts were foaming! OMG, what is going on?? I finally realized it was the Nuun tablets that were soaked and now foaming all over my left thigh. I was hoping they would absorb into my flesh to take away the aching I had in my hip and thigh, but I'm not sure that happened. I tried pouring some of my water on it, only to see more foaming yet! Again, hillarious!
13.1 to go!
I was not sure how much energy I was going to have for this run, so decided on a 3/2 run/walk ratio initially. I kept this up until 3 miles and finally realized I would not make my goal if I didn't pick it up some. We had 2 more downpours, which actually kept things much cooler, which I was happy about. If I had the choice between heat and rain, the rain would win. And funny thing. Hardly any wind on the run. Go figure on that! Yeah, that was hysterical.
I have to say I was misled on what the run course would be. I thought for sure we would do an out and back on the same bike trail we used earlier in the day, but was sadly disappointed the farther I got on the course. Instead of a flat and fast out and back, we got a rolling to hilly out and back! I was deflated. The only saving grace was, like I said, rain mostly and not much sun until the end. And I will say by mile 9 my legs were fried. Up and down the hills we went, with the turnaround at 6.55 UPHILL! I was getting mildly annoyed and discouraged but knew I had to keep moving forward. I had already seen all the GR people I knew pass me by, calculating approximately what their finish times would be, but still trying to stay positive, going mile by mile.
One good thing about the run were the aid stations every mile or so. By mile 4 I discovered Coke! They had no "solid" food at any aid station, meaning bananas or oranges, which I desperately wanted, so settled on the Coke. Mmmm, that really tasted good! I wanted to drink two glasses! But I held back, not knowing how my stomach would feel, since I had had a stomach ache since sometime on the bike. If truth be known, I think I would have done better with a beer!
Still, I plugged along. Four, then 5, then finally 6, and OMG finally, after an eternity, the half way point. I had seriously considered cutting the run short, since the bike was long, but I was afraid to get caught "cheating"and was more glad I hadn't when I realized we had a mat to cross. I would have been disqualified for sure, even though I never would have done it anyway. And I was pleasantly amazed at how many people were behind me! Of course, at least half of them passed me soon after.
By 9 miles, I was having a hard time with the hills, and my run/walk ratio changed to basically survive. Instead of the 4/2 ratio I had been on, I started going by telephone poles, first 10/2, then 7/2, finally 4/2. I was cooked! I simply could not run up one more hill! And the hills seemed that much worse coming back. By now too the rain had stopped and the sun, while behind the clouds, was making its presence known. The air was still and it was hard to breathe. When I ran out of telephone poles to count, I resorted to road signs, which were many, always indicating a long curving road ahead, then the speed, and then road markers. I did whatever I could to keep myself moving.
At 11 miles, a big rumble of thunder could be heard, like God was saying, Okay,I gave you this whole time to get finished, now I am getting impatient since there is a storm brewing. Still, I could go no faster. And the telephone poles had disappeared, the hills were many, and I had to resort to counting: 200 steps running, 50 walking. Whatever it took. Then it was driveways: 4/2. Then it was back to telephone poles.
At 12 miles, another rumble of thunder, like "I told you to hurry up!" Okay, okay, I'm doing the best I can. My legs were dead, and we still had some of the worst hills to go. I pretty much willed myself to mile 13, and then, of course, another steep uphill. I tried, really, to get up that hill, but made it halfway, looking at my watch, knowing I was close, but that hill got to me, and I had to walk part of it, but then, with a minute to go, I just went for the finish line and actually finished 35 seconds over 8 hours. I was not disappointed, that much anyway. I was just thrilled to be done.
So now I know: cross this race off my list forever!