Over Labor Day Weekend, you may have seen me post about the Lake George Triathlon Festival on Instagram. Throughout the festival, Adirondack Race Management hosts a variety of various-distanced races (from the Olympic-distance bike and swim, to the all out half ironman event) in Lake George, New York. Last year, I competed in the event’s signature “Big George,” or 70.3-mile course, as my first half ironman-distanced race. It was also my first “big” race as a triathlete. Luckily, it was a good one — good enough to come back this year for round two, and still have my sights set on the Maryland Ironman on October 1st.
Last year was a big learning experience for me. I literally bought a bike on craigslist in June specifically for the September race date, got clip-in pedals a week before heading to Lake George, and only participated in one sprint triathlon in Greenwich, CT., beforehand. I finished in a time of 6:10:55, which was good enough for fifth in my age group and 39th overall for females — but that doesn’t mean the race was not without challenges. My arms felt fatigued during the swim long before the halfway point, my butt (and to be QUITE honest, my vagina) hurt immensely during the 56-mile ride, and I felt like I was waddling for the first four miles of my run.
This year, the race went down a little bit differently. First of all, I wasn’t nervous at all as I waded with the other women in the water to begin to swim portion of the race. During my run, I felt strong and fast. However, my butt and lady bits still hurt during the ride…but, luckily, not as bad. The biggest difference, though, was my finish time: which was 5:22:14. And I’m not so good at math stuffs, but I think it’s an improvement over last year.
Here’s what I learned in my second half ironman, after a summer of training for a FULL ironman:
- If You Train For An Ironman, You’ll Be VERY Prepared For A Half. This is probably common knowledge, but I was incredibly happy to find out that my training paid off, and I felt strong and confident throughout the race.
- Racing Is Better With Friends. This was true last year, and still true again this year. I got to see many friendly faces throughout my swim, ride and run, including my roommate, my training buddies, my best friend from home, and my triathlon coach (who also recapped the race here). Nothing motivates me more than a high-five from a loved one during a race.
- Testing Your Goggles The Day Before A Race Is A *Very* Good Idea. Last year, I wore child size goggles that were too tight and made it difficult to see during the race. This year, I was worried my new (yes, adult sized) goggles would fog up and prevent me from being able to sight the buoys during the swim. I tested a variety of goggles in the lake the day before, and luckily my friend Patrick let me borrow a pair that worked beautifully.
- Despite “Knowing” the Course, It Can Still Surprise You. So. Many. Hills.
- I Run With My Eyes Closed. I’m not sure why, but I guess it works?
- There’s A Difference Between Discomfort And Pain. My knee has been acting up a bit lately, and I’ve been seeing Dr. Steven Levine for ART therapy routinely for it (as well as icing, and foam rolling the sh*t out of it). I was nervous about competing in this race and injuring myself further, but Levine told me as long as I wasn’t in pain, I could keep riding. The difference? Discomfort is a dull ache, while pain is sharp and makes you want/need to stop ASAP.
- Watching A Race The Day Before Your Own Race Can Seriously Motivate You. On Saturday, my friends Victor and Rachel did the Olympic triathlon (they also did the Big George half ironman the next day, because they are complete and total badasses). Watching and cheering for them the day before racing myself gave me some serious motivation and inspiration. (Side note: they both rocked it).
- Getting A Coach Is Worth It: Last year, I was pretty clueless as to what I was doing, relying on information available online and the advice of friends (some of whom saw me as competition in the race itself) and blindly running, cycling and swimming as much as possible. This year, I had a plan for a plan for a plan, felt prepared, and executed those plans appropriately thanks to coach Christopher Baker.
- I Need To Be More Diligent During Transitions. During the bike to run transition, I swiftly changed my sneakers, whipped off my helmet, sprayed myself with sunscreen, and made sure I had my nutrition. I was in and out of the transition area in two minutes and twelve seconds. As I ran out, I saw another friend, Peter, who had just finished the AquaBike portion. He yelled to me, “Do you have everything you need?” And barked off a few essential items: nutrition, race bib, something else I can’t remember. I nodded and yelled back, “Yes!” It was only one or two miles into the race that I realized I had forgotten to take my padded cycling shorts off, which I had pulled on over my tri suit before the bike portion of the race to protect my precious behind. I could definitely feel the extra padding, but I don’t think it interfered with my run too much. At mile 7, I saw my friend Katie, who had done the swim portion of the relay race with my sister. I stopped quickly to yank off my shorts and throw them to her.
- Sometimes, You Just Have To Go With It. My coach told me to “take it easy” during the race, especially because I had been feeling slightly injured. But after an efficient, yet not too grueling swim, I felt good on the bike and wanted to race. I was, after all, in a competition. So, I did. I promised myself I would slow down if my knee started hurting, but it never did. I shaved almost 30 minutes off my bike time from last year, and it felt awesome.
- Hard Work Pays Off. I finished the race nearly an hour faster than my time from last year, came in second in my age group, and was the sixth woman to finish overall. I felt happy, strong and confident crossing the finish line, and I know it is all because I’ve put in the work this summer and my training has paid off. The 5am wake up calls have been nothing short of THE WORST THING EVER, but this result at least justifies them (and my sore eyelids) a tiny bit.
Until next time, happy tapering (to me).