After the Rev 3 Quassy Olympic 4 weeks ago, I knew it was in my best interest to have another tune-up race before Lake Placid. There was so much that I learned in that first triathlon and I wanted to make some adjustments as well as test out my nutrition plan at the longer distance. My training plan had a half ironman on the schedule for this past weekend and I couldn’t believe my luck when I found the Mighty Moss Half – it was within driving distance, was the right weekend, and was a small race. Sign me up!
The website touted it as a great tune-up for Ironman Lake Placid and although I looked at the elevation for the run and bike, I didn’t realize how hilly it was. It had 3,700+ ft of gain for the 56 mile bike and 800 ft for the 13.1 mile run. The great news is that this course is actually hillier than Lake Placid! Lake Placid has 2,400 ft of gain per loop for the bike (4,800 total) and about 500 for the first half of the run (1,000 total) – so over the same distance, the course this weekend was 50% hillier. The idea of having to go double the distance I went Sunday is a bit overwhelming, but it helps knowing that I don’t have much more elevation gain to add.
Okay. So back to the recap. My husband, youngest son and I headed up to Norwalk, CT Saturday afternoon. We hit a ridiculous amount of traffic but it was fairly stress-free since I didn’t have to pick up my bib until race morning (there was no pre-bike check-in either). We checked in to the hotel and had a cozy dinner in the hotel’s restaurant before heading up to our room for the night. After putting my son to sleep, I spent the next 30 minutes packing and laying things out for the next morning. Having already packed a transition bag once, it was 100x easier – everything was organized and accounted for in less than 10 minutes. At the same time, my husband was doing last minute tweaks on my bike (attaching my bento box and my aero drink bar, pumping my tires…). Teamwork.
My alarm went off at 3:45 the next morning. I felt like a zombie. I slept in one of the beds with my son (he moves too much for a pack ‘n’ play) and he woke up a lot – it seemed like he couldn’t get into his deep sleep until about 2am. The next hour was spent filling and mixing water bottles, eating a light breakfast (whole grain bread with peanut butter), having a cup of coffee, pumping, getting dressed, and doing any last minute packing that needed to be done. I woke up my son at 5am – quickly nursed him and off we went to the race (they dropped me off and returned to the hotel for another few hours).
I was amazed at how much more relaxed I was this time around. I felt comfortable in transition and everything flowed. It was mostly stress-free. I chatted with several really nice females pre-race – one had done the race last year and was giving us some tips (her husband did Lake Placid 2 years ago and I picked his brain at the swim start for a while!). I was also so excited to meet Shannon before the race started – she was doing her first half-ironman as well!
I put on my wetsuit and made my way to the beach to warm up. I brought a Powergel with me to take right before the swim start. I hadn’t done that for the Olympic and saw a lot of people who did (I kept it tucked in my wetsuit by my neck during the warmup). The water was cool, comfortable, and fairly calm. Just before 6:20, we all started to make our way to the swim start area. Unfortunately, we ended up waiting until after 7am for the race to start (there was a delay in the police clearing the bike route). Thankfully, I was able to pass the time chatting with my new friend and her husband and Karen, a running mom who was participating in the relay (she was swimming!).
- Pre-race: Whole wheat bread + peanut Butter, 4x energy blasts, PowerGel
- Bike: 2-3 energy blasts every 5 miles, 1/3 Cliff Bar every 15 miles, Cytomax + Perpetuem throughout
- Run: 2-3 energy blasts every 10-15 minutes, PowerGels (if needed), water
Finally, we were given the green light and the men began the swim. The females started a few minutes later. The course was almost 1 1/2 loops in the Long Island Sound. I focused on sighting every 3-4 breaths. Looking at the Garmin map, I’m still not swimming a straight line, but it’s a major improvement from the fiasco from the last swim. I felt great from start to finish, swam a consistent, steady pace and even passed some people towards the end. When I came out of the water, I looked down and saw 36:xx – could NOT believe it – I felt like I had been swimming for closer to 45 minutes. We ran a short distance out of the water to transition, so overall swim time was a minute slower than I saw: 37:05
Got into transition with wetsuit off my upper body. Cap/goggles off. Wetsuit off. Socks and cycling shoes on. Sparkly Soul Headband, sunglasses, helmet on. Bike off rack. Out of transition. 2:29
My plan was to keep a moderate pace in the beginning (since it’s a gradual uphill climb) and then if I felt good, push it at the end on the way back. I quickly got into a comfortable rhythm – despite the hills we were faced with early on. But there were two big mishaps: First, I dropped my bottle of perpetuem at mile 10. I made a split second decision to keep going and immediately regretted it. I used it on my last long ride and was worried that I wouldn’t get enough protein from my other fuel sources. I picked up a bottle of Hammer Heed (on-course fuel) and was able to use that to supplement my Cytomax but I didn’t have anything with a substanial amount of protein.
I was maintaining a faster-then-expected pace until mile 35 (17.5 mph). I felt that getting close to 18 mph was within reach. And then I crashed. Hard. I wish I had an exciting story to share about how it happened. But nope. I’m a klutz. I was looking down to put the bottle back in the bracket (more out of habit b/c I can do it without looking) when my bike veered ever so slightly to the right. I looked up in time to see myself headed off the road and into a ditch. There was no time to unclip or recover so off my bike went…and down I went. My knee, elbow and thigh were on fire…but even worse was that my ego stung even more. I picked up my bike and realized I had to walk to the top of the slight incline I was on (after that fall, I was a bit gun shy to try to clip in and start riding on an incline). It took close to 3 minutes to walk. When I started biking again, my pace had dropped to a 17.1. UGH.
There were a couple of major inclines (miles 7, 15, 28, 34, and 40 (the Moss Monster). They were all pretty long climbs. Some were steep, others were more gradual. My pace dropped going up those inclines. But, I was able to keep it in the big chain ring for some of them. And although the hills were tough and I was not going terribly fast up them (12-14 mph), I was really happy with how I recovered and got back into a steady rhythm quickly.
There were 2x 5-mile increments (miles 40-45 and 50-55) where I averaged close to 20 mph (these were gradual declines or straightaways). And I felt really strong the last half – much stronger and in control than the first half. 3:18:37 (17.25 mph)
Finally got to see my husband and son as I was coming into T2. Made me SO happy. Ran bike into transition. Racked back. Helmet and sunglasses off. Shoes off. Running shoes on. Fuel Belt on. Visor On. 1:47
I started off pretty close to my goal pace and felt great. My legs felt tired but not dead and the 8:07 pace for the first mile seemed comfortable. Mile 2 had a decent incline and I was okay with seeing my pace drop to 8:28 for that mile. I still felt in control and strong.
But then the heat hit me. I didn’t realize how warm and humid it was while I was on the bike because of the constant breeze. But the fact that I was soaked from head to toe by mile 25 on the bike should have been a sign that it was sweltering. By mile 2.5, my body felt like it was overheating and my heart was beginning to beat completely out of control. I stopped to walk until I had my breath again and ran until the next aid station.
I was really close to quitting at this point. The thought of running another 10+ miles feeling the way I did was unfathomable. Then, of course, my mind started messing with me – questioning my training, wondering how I expect to do double the distance in a month – all things that only brought me further into the hole I had tripped into. I had no intention to walk for the entire race and I was having a hard time accepting the fact that it was not in the cards for the day. I wanted nothing more than to sit in the patches of grass I was walking by. I started planning out how I was going to get in touch with my husband to have him come get me. But then my husband’s voice popped in my head. He had told me before the race: Just focus on finishing. It’s a training run. So regardless of what happens, just keep moving forward.
From that point on, my goal was to run until each aid station (they were less than 1 mile apart) at which point I would stop, drink one cup of water, dump a cup on my head, pour a cup of ice chips down my shirt and shorts, and then grab another cup to drink. Then I would run. It was the only way I could keep my core body temperature down and prevent me from overheating. It was frustrating. My legs were not dead and I had energy – but my pace was hovering close to 9:30 for most of the miles because of the walking/standing at the water points.
The course was 2 loops. Totally understand why the race was organized this way, but man, it was a gut-check to go out on that 2nd loop when you saw some speedy people finishing already. And knowing you had to run up those tough hills again. I ran by my husband and son twice during the turn around area and wanted SO MUCH to just stop and hug them, but I knew I wouldn’t start moving again, so I gave a wave, tried to smile (I tried to look happy for them), and kept running.
Although I wasn’t anywhere near the run time I was hoping for, my pace was almost the same for the two loops (about 90 seconds slower which is due to the first mile) AND my last mile was the 3rd fastest of the day (8:35). 2:05:29 (9:34 pace)
Finish: 6:05:25 (77 out of 158, 15 out of 45 females, 1st in AG)
Lessons Learned (no real order to these – just the thoughts running through my head)
- Don’t fall off bike (half kidding here)
- Used the aero bar bottle holder and the bento box for the first time and loved them. Made it much easier to stay on top of my nutrition
- Perpeteum will be in my aero bars on race day. I cannot replace that during the course. Cytomax will be on the inner tube of my bike and I will change out the bottles at aid stations
- Shift nutrition a bit from purely PowerBar Energy Blasts to a mix of the blasts and cliff bars. One bar is 250 calories whereas 1.25 bags of blasts are needed for the same caloric value. And while I love the blasts, I feel that it’s a bit too much sugar on my stomach over the course of the bike.
- Overall, nutrition plan was good. I never felt like I bonked and I had energy for the whole race. I forced myself to eat the last 10 miles of the race even though I felt like I wasn’t hungry – I think that was critical.
- Change socks in T2. My socks were socked with sweat but I couldn’t change them because I left the extra pair of socks in my other bag. For IMLP, my plan is to have a 2nd pair for T2 and a 3rd pair in my special needs bag during the run (just in case).
- Transition times were 100x better (went from 5:49 and 2:19 to 2:29 and 1:47). Total time from 8:08 to 4:16!!
- Wore my gear that I plan to wear for IMLP – everything felt comfortable and worked great – especially the visor.
- Switch display on watch during run if things get tough like they did on Sunday so I can’t see my pace. I’m extremely hard on myself and sometimes a slower than expected pace when I am running gets into my head in a BAD way. I’ve decided that if I get into the same routine of running/walking for the Ironman, that I don’t want to know my pace. The focus at that point will be to get to the next water point, so pace is irrelevant and pointless.
- No blisters or other foot problems
- Was barely sore Monday morning. Felt much better than I was anticipating. My left shoulder seemed a bit stiff as well as my left knee – both of which I attribute to the fall on the bike. But the lack of soreness makes me feel confident in my training.
- Despite longer distance, I swam WAY faster (1:45 / 100 yards instead of 2:19 / 100 yards) and biked faster (17.25 mph instead of 16.19 mph) than my previous triathlon – I am REALLY happy with those numbers.
HUGE thanks to Team Mossman, the organizers of the Mighty Moss Half Ironman. There are not enough words to describe how efficiently, smoothly, and well run the whole race was from start to finish. Highlights:
- PLENTY of water stations stocked with essentials (every mile on the run and 3x on the bike)
- Superbly well marked course
- Tough, yet beautiful course
- Race volunteers were the most cheery and supportive I have EVER seen
- Tons of volunteers and police directing us along the course
- Family-friendly transition and finish areas
- Plenty of parking / no traffic or congestion morning of (my husband literally dropped me off a few hundred feet from transition
- Free finish-line photos (will post mine when I receive them!)
- Post-race massages and food (pizza!)
This was a terrific race – especially for a smaller, local race – and one that is only in it’s second year. And would recommend this race to anyone looking to jump into the half-ironman distance!
Any tips that you learned from doing a half-ironman?
Do you focus on protein?
Did you race this weekend?