Race Report: Pumpkinman Half Ironman Triathlon

 First of all, we went straight to Trader Joe’s in Portland on our way to the race, which is important because that means I got to stock up on Trader Joe favorites like chia seeds, dried mango, mediterranean flat breads and all the awesome snacks they have for my kids’ lunches.

But what is really important about this photo is that Susan took it, which means that not only did she support me all weekend throughout the race, she also was thinking like a blogger and she documented everything.  Now, that’s a good friend.

We arrived on Saturday evening at packet pick up and learned I was in the yellow-cap wave at 7:23 am.

I got my stuff (see?  She documented it all!) which included a cute women’s cut tech shirt and a backpack, as well as all the bib numbers and stickers to cover me, my swim cap, and my bike.

Then before checking into our hotel and having dinner, we went straight to the beach in York.  It was such a gorgeous spot and just what I needed to do to calm my nerves.  The weather was kind of wild and windy and the waves were awesome.  Yes I did have surfing pangs.

I ate a huge bowl of veggie pasta primavera and one beer for dinner and we settled into to watch a bunch of episodes of Chopped on the Food Network.  I think I fell asleep at 10.  I slept really well until 4:30 when my phone, the hotel alarm, and the wake up call all went off at the same time.  Take no chances, right?

And we were up and out the door by 5:15.  The only fail of the morning was that I never had any coffee, which came back to bite me at about mile 6 of the run.

All of the forecasts for stormy or rainy weather were wrong, because when we got to the race site, this is what we found.  So beautiful.  It was a perfect day in terms of weather.  Between 60-70 degrees, no humidity, and partly cloudy.  Thank you, thank you, universe.

We had over an hour to wait after I got my bike racked and all of my stuff set up in the transition area.  But we enjoyed watching all the volunteers heading out in kayaks to set the buoys.   Everyone was so nice and it was all so organized and smooth.

Pretty soon, all of the athletes were down by the water and ready to go.

There were 8 waves and I was in wave 7.  Once the Elites took off in wave 1, the whole thing moved really quickly.

Do I look nervous?  I actually was so calm and focused.  It was weird.  I was just ready to get started.

Susan went up the huge hill to take this photo of all the waves lining up.

Right before it was our turn to go, we walked out into the water.  I positioned myself over to the left about half way in.  I wasn’t sure how I would compare to the other swimmers, so I wasn’t positive where to go.   I am #408 in the back of this pic.

Each wave was started by a man on a loudspeaker yelling:  “GO GO GO GO GO GO!”  It was intense.

It only took me from the start until that first buoy to find a good place.  I hung to the left, never got kicked once, and only got nudged by a few bodies.  It was surprisingly easy to find a pocket of clear water.  I was totally calm and collected.

The course was 1.2 miles and included two loops of .6.  I liked how it was set up.  I just swam from one buoy to the next and didn’t over-think how far I had to go.  I paid attention to my breathing and tried to keep it even.   My favorite part of the swim was when I started passing swimmers from the earlier waves.  On the last straight away of the 2nd loop, I came up to three men in orange caps, which meant they left 10 minutes before I did.  I thought “Excuse me while I swim past all 3 of you.  Bye!”  The swim is the only part that I’m even slightly competitive, so I have to have my fun here.

All done and two minutes faster than I’d ever done it before. Now it was time for the hill climb up to the bikes.  Some people run up the hill.  I just walked and caught my breath and started to peel my wetsuit down.  Is this hill a little bit cruel?  Yes, I think so.

T1:  I got my wetsuit off, socks and bike shoes, helmet and sunglasses on and was off.  The only thing I should have done differently is to have a long sleeve shirt or arm-sleeves.  It was chilly and I was (obviously) soaking wet.

The bike was 56 miles, and included two loops.  It was such a pretty ride through the rural countryside of Berwick, Maine.  Corn fields, old New Englandy cemeteries, sunflowers, lots of trees and lots of shade.   Just awesome.

On the bike I ate one peanut butter and jelly sandwich, one peanut butter Gu, and one marathon bar plus 2 bottles of Nuun.  The ride was long, yes, but mostly uneventful.  My body started to hurt around mile 40 and I started to worry about the run.  My legs were tired, my back and neck ached, and I was just ready to get off the bike.  During the last 20 miles, I passed and was passed by the same 15-ish people over and over again.  One guy in a yellow jersey and I leap-frogged probably 20 times throughout the whole bike.  It was funny because at mile 40 I was sure I had passed him for the final time, as I caught him on a hill and felt like I flew past him.  About 10 miles later he came up to my left and I said:  “YOU AGAIN?”  He said:  “I know!  Sorry!”    It was very amusing and kept my mind off my aches and pains.

Okay!  The bike was over!  I was way ahead of schedule at this point, and as I headed into the bike transition, I was kind of mushy-brained and could not compute how I was doing so well.

Let me back up a second.  Going into this race, I had a three-tiered goal.

A Goal “In a perfect world if everything goes just right”:  7 hours.
B Goal “If I have the kind of day I think I will”: 7:30
C Goal “If I fall apart and things go badly”:  Just please let me finish before the 8 hour cut off and please don’t have to scrape me off the road.

So, wasn’t I surprised that as I headed out of T2 to start the run, that my time so far was 4:09 when I thought it would be 5:00?  I know now that is because I averaged 16.6 mph on the bike, which is slow in the triathlon scene, but for little me?  It’s the fastest I’ve ever ridden.  And for 56 miles.  Whoa.  I was in a really good position.

Coming out of T2 to start the run.  Just one little half marathon to go.  Yikes!

Look how happy I was.

My legs were pretty stiff, but the initial downhill got me going right away.  I was just so happy to be off my bike and so happy to have made it to the last part of the race.  My back felt better once I was upright and I started to find my legs after about 1/2 a mile.  I ran two 10-minute miles and then two 11-minute miles, and then I got to the part of the run route that I knew nothing about:  the HILLS.  Holy smokes.

The rest of the run course went like this.  Giant hill up.  Giant hill down.  Giant hill up.  Giant hill down.  Big loop through a great neighborhood and then do it all again.  Giant hill up.  Giant hill down.  Giant hill up.  Giant hill down.  Repeat the big loop through the great neighborhood.  And then… just 2 more giant hills.

I was hurting.  Like, mile-24-in-a-marathon hurting.  But Susan found me at the half way point and ran the last 6 miles with me, which was a Godsend.  I think I was moaning a little.  I walked through all the aid stations.  I ate a lot of pretzels, bananas, and drank a ton of water, gatorade, and flat coke (it’s a triathlon thing, and it tasted like manna from heaven).

My two other favorite things about the run course were the signs and the sponges.  One stretch had signs every few feet, and the best ones were:  “You are so smart and pretty”  and “Your ass looks so fantastic.”   There were several places on the run that handed out cold sponges.  It was amazing.  I would take 3 at each offering, squeeze one on my head, wipe all the salt off my face, and stick one into my bra.  So divine.

So, I kept moving, and mostly ran, but kept slowing down, taking walking breaks up the biggest hills and through the aid stations.  All the athletes were kind to each other.  Everyone I ran past on the constant out-and-back would say:  “good job, girl!” or “nice work, ladies!”  It was such a supportive vibe.  But still, I was hurting.  Ouch my hips, ouch my legs, ouch my lower back, ouch my pounding headache, and OUCH the raw skin under my arms.  Susan talked cheerfully to distract me.

Then, all of a sudden we were at looking at the mile 10 marker.  And then 11.  And then 12.  And then one last mean uphill brought me back to the starting area where I entered into a finish-line chute at the top of the hill, and ran all the way down.  My legs were killing me and the downhill was brutal on my quads at that point, but the whole idea of coming down this big grassy hill to the bottom where you see the finish line and the clock and the volunteers holding medals?  It gave me chills.

My time:  6:44.  16 minutes faster than my “in a perfect world” goal.
1.2 mile swim:  37 minutes
56 mile bike:  3:22 (16.6 mph)
13.1 mile run:  2:37

And so, yes.  I’m still smiling.  Thank you, thank you to my friend Susan, and to all of the amazing staff and volunteers at the Pumpkinman Triathlon Festival.  I can’t recommend this race highly enough.  It was perfect for a first-timer and seems also to be a favorite of the more experienced and elite athletes.  It was a day I will never, ever forget.

I have my finishers shirt on right now, and outside on my car, one of these:

AND I NEED TO GO TO BED!  Goodnight!

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