Waterman's Half: race report

I think by now, just about everyone has heard that my day didn't turn out even close to how I planned.  Rather than walk through the day (I woke up!  Tried to poop!  Ate a power bar OMG NO ONE DOES THAT!) I thought I'd just hit some highs (yes, there were highs) and lows of the day, as well as some big takeaways as I head into the "off season."
Swim (1.2 miles)
The swim was my best leg of the day.  I got into the water before the race started to warm up and was surprised to not freak out even one little bit.  I swam around for a little while then hopped back out when the first wave lined up.  I got back in to get ready for my wave and was laughing and joking with the rest of the women instead of thrashing around being terrified by everything I couldn't see.  The swim was a bit slower than I expected because there was massive amounts of vegetation on the "out" and the "back" part of the square - which we hit twice, 2-loop swim fail - and I had to stop and untangle seaweed from my goggles, my feet, etc, a few times, but I wasn't scared or panicky, I just dealt with it and moved on.  My parents and the poet took about a billion pictures of the swim, and my form looks hot as hell.  

Good: 3rd in my AG out of the water.  Zero OWS panic.  Managed to pee in my wetsuit THREE times, once while swimming.  No back problems during or after.
Bad: A bit slower than I had hoped because I spent a lot of time the first loop zig-zagging to try and get out of the weeds.
Ugly: The seaweed and wiping out on the walkway out of the water.

Bike (56 miles)
So, let's get this out of the way.  I crashed, 11 minutes into the bike.  I had set my Garmin screen to show my only HR and cadence, and I looked down while climbing one of the first little hills and noticed that my cadence and HR hadn't moved.  My 310XT has been freezing a lot lately, but a soft reset will usually get it going.  I reached down with my left hand to hold the buttons to soft reset, and while I was doing that, came up onto a patch of gravel just as my right hand bobbed a bit on the steering side.  As soon as I saw the gravel, I knew I was going down.  I was riding pretty close to the edge of the road and I managed to tuck into my right shoulder and throw myself into the grass instead of eating asphalt.  I got a round of applause from all the men climbing up the road behind me for my graceful splat into the ditch.  The best thing about it was that I didn't hit pavement, I instead hit grass and mud, and I've got some big bruises and a little scrape but it could have been much, much worse.  However, I dropped my chain and couldn't get it back on, and then my rear derailer wasn't clicking back and I got completely frazzled watching half the field pass me while I cursed the living daylights out of my stupid Garmin.

I did finally get everything going again and headed out.  It looks like I only lost 6-8 minutes on the side of the road but it felt like an eternity.  I immediately started trying to talk myself past it - it happened, it's in the past, let it go, but as the ride went on and on, I started to wilt.  I never did reset the Garmin, and it couldn't find a satellite (although HR and cadence started showing up again about 30 minutes in) so the only information I had was HR and cadence and overall time.  The only mileage check-ins I had were what was spray-painted on the road, and every time I hit one and did the math to calculate my pace I got lower and lower.  When I hit the two-hour mark, I calculated what I expected to be my bike split (bittersweet, I was right, to the minute) and just deflated. When I saw 2:40 click past and I hadn't even hit 50 miles yet, I felt done.  I had told the poet to start looking for me around 2:55 because I was still really hoping to get that sub-3, and I knew he was going to be worried about me, and when 3:00 rolled over and I wasn't even close to being done, I wanted to cry.  I rolled into the park feeling completely ready to quit.
So that's the crash.  Some positives on the bike - I nailed my nutrition and HR goals.  Except for popping out on some climbs, I stayed exactly within my race plan.  I had no stomach problems and took in my nutrition every 20 minutes as planned.  I took a sip of water every 10 minutes, although the last hour on the bike was unshaded and getting warm and as it turns out, I don't think I was taking in enough water (this is called foreshadowing).  I managed to bottle-grab and refill my water bottle twice without crashing or stopping.  I didn't get passed by many people except the 2-3 groups of illegal drafters that flew by (ahem).  

Good: Nutrition, HR.  My extremely thin race kit did not chafe me or render my lady parts unusable after 3+ hours on the bike.
Bad: Total fail on the Garmin (it ended up clocking 40 of the 56 miles).  Crashing less than 4 miles in.  
Ugly: Being a headcase for the next 3 hours.  Getting slightly sunburned.  

Run (13.1 miles)
When I got off the bike, my legs surprisingly felt all right but my head was a mess.  I strongly considered not going out on the run.  I'm not actually sure what got me through transition but I didn't stop and there I was, heading out.
The run was much harder than I had prepared for because of the weather.  The course ran up a big hill out of the park and then turned right onto the highway.  You did a long, hilly, out-and-back on the highway, then went back through the park.  Twice.  The out-and-back on the highway was brutal.  There was no shade and it had gotten pretty hot - I heard someone at a water stop say that it was 89┬║.  Not nearly as hot as what we dealt with all summer, but surprisingly hot for the day.  There were only two water stops on the loop, both on the out-and-back, and it wasn't nearly enough.  Everyone was suffering.  I had set my Garmin to only show me my HR zone for the run so I wouldn't check in with pace.  I only walked a few times on the first loop, mostly on the hills to get my HR down, and otherwise managed a fairly decent jog, but mentally, I was shot, and I knew that when I got back into the park and saw my family and friends, I was going to lose it.  I couldn't imagine how I would possibly be able to leave them and do another loop.
I couldn't even look at them when I ran past.  The poet ran up next to me and asked if I wanted him to come with me and I said yes and started to walk, and that's finally when I completely fell apart.  I started to cry and told him about the crash, and how hard the run was, and how upset I was about my day going completely to pieces.  And we just kept walking and walking.  He walked all the way up and out of the park with me, and up the first hill and after about 15 minutes I finally started to pull myself back together.  When we got to the turn off for the park, I told him to go back to the finish line and I'd do the out-and-back alone.  He left and I jogged to the first water stop.  I stopped then and drank 4-5 cups of water and a little cup of coke and kept going.  And by the time I hit the next water stop, about two miles away, I was starting to feel better, although my calves had been cramping for over an hour and I was still taking quite a few walk breaks.  I stopped again and drank plenty of water and dumped a lot of it over me and took another Gu, and just kept plugging away.  I ran until my HR was too high and then I would walk.  I made a few friends out there, and we would take turns running past each other and walking and cursing at the heat, and then finally I was climbing the last hill up to the turn for the park.  My feet were aching from the hot asphalt and my calves felt dangerous close to charley-horse kind of cramping, but once I was in the shade I felt a lot better and there I was, running over that stupid bridge again and into the finish.

Good: I discovered the next morning that I covered the first loop (6.55 miles) almost entirely in Z3 and in 1:09, which means I actually kind of nailed it.  No nutrition issues.
Bad: I'm pretty sure I was dehydrated coming off of the bike and I think that contributed to my overall mental state.  I was drinking every 10 minutes but I think I didn't compensate for the surprising heat of the day well enough.
Ugly: I mean, falling apart 7 miles into a half marathon is always going to make for a real bad day.

Nutrition Going In
Not much to say here, thankfully.  Liquids only, followed my schedule, zero problems.  

Nutrition Going Out
Late in the bike I had a primo downhill and tried to let loose because I knew I'd have to pee once I started running, but nothing came out.  I'll work on it.  I did stop about 1/2 a mile into the run and peed behind someone's mailbox.

3 minutes and 1:59.  I had only what I needed and other than wrestling with my arm warmers a bit in T1, this went just fine.  I got to the race early enough to stake out a good spot and had plenty of time to make sure I did everything right.  I remembered the fucking ride glide.

What I Wore
My wetsuit was perfect and my SOAS kit was the bomb.  I probably could have left the arm warmers behind on the bike and only been a bit chilly.
I've tried to really sit back and draw out what I can from the day.  Now that I'm far away from it, it actually doesn't look nearly as awful as I thought.  My bike split was 32 minutes slower than the fastest female split of the day, which is actually right where I kind of pegged myself.  I wonder if not looking at pace on the run backfired on me - if I had looked at the end of the first loop and seen how well I was doing, I might have been able to pull my shit together.  In my mind, I had written off the day and was convinced that it took me 90 minutes to do that first loop.  I don't think it's productive to talk about my splits, though, but you all know me and can go look up my times if you really care.  I don't.  The time on that clock has nothing to do with the kind of athlete I really am, and that makes me incredibly sad.

In the end, I covered the distance.  My coach says that to crash and get back up and finish shows the kind of mental toughness I need to complete an Ironman next June, and I know he's right.  But what he doesn't know is that I already have that mental toughness.  I've shown it over and over again as I've battled through some tough physical challenges, and I'm just tired of it.  I wanted to execute a really good day - and some will argue that I did, and I will tell you bitches that THAT is really not what I need to hear right now.  I wanted to prove, mostly to myself, that I can do this, I can actually do this a little bit fast, and I didn't want to have a single excuse to fall back on to "explain" the time on the clock.  And as soon as I crashed, as soon as that excuse showed up to explain away my day, I was done.  I couldn't handle it, and I'm not proud of it.  The kind of self-doubt that was going through my head on the bike made me question whether I can even do this, whether I should just give up on triathlon and go ride my bike and be happy instead.  I don't know the answer to that right now.  


  1. Sorry your race was not a good reflection of your fitness and overall kick-assed-ness. Glad you can find the positives that did come out of it, and all you can do is look ahead to the next one. The only good thing I can say about shitty races is that without them, the perfectly-executed, spot-on races wouldn't mean half as much.

  2. I am SO freaking proud of you. You learn from experiences like this--you become a better athlete. If every race were easy, you'd never learn how to push yourself or to deal with the shit that might come your way. You're a trooper, and that's what makes you YOU.

  3. This race shows over and over that you're a total badass. The numbers don't mean anything.

  4. Great way to do a race report. I enjoyed reading it.

    I have a question and an observation and feel free to ignore one or the other or both.

    Question: We discussed Champion Systems and you are not the only person to tell me to forget them. I am looking at Voler which I really like since I have some gear by them, but what about the kit you are wearing. You loved it but who makes it?

    Observation: You look to be over-rotating in the swim. You head is practically all the way over and up, especially in the 2nd pic. You are a fast swimmer but I keep learning with every event and training that a neutral head position in the OWS is best and that breathing should consist of a cigar smoking look so that your head doesn't come up and avoids the problem of your feet dropping with a risen head.

    Keep plugging away.....I'm sure that day is out there.

    BTW - How awesome of the Poet. That is truly awesome.

  5. Way to go! You finished and didn't give up! Sorry you had a bad race but it is def. mental toughness training that will go a long way! I've wrecked more than once on my bike during a race so I know what a toll it can take on your race but you pulled through, good job! Great pics hey you looked good doing it that's what counts :-)

  6. I don't know, it's amazing how one thing that's out of your control can change your whole mental game. I think it's really hard to come back from that. I also agree that you are tired of showing what a badass you are, overcoming all the stupid unforeseen obstacles, you want the stupid unforeseen obstacles to never come up and have a perfect race day. I want that for you, but the older I get the more it seems those perfect races are rare. I have no doubt that while you keep plugging away, when that perfect race day comes around, you'll freak yourself out with how awesome you are!

    Congratulations on your race, issues or not, you did great, and the pics are amazing!

  7. First, you look totally bad ass in ur tri kit.

    2nd, can you teach me how to make faces like that?

    3rd, nice job despite some tough conditions. It was hot and that really takes a toll. I think a flat as a pancake race in 100 degrees is way harder than a super hilly course in cold temps. I'm still figuring.g out heat racing.

    How's the body feeling?

  8. Yeah, your brain can be a real bitch sometimes. I can't help but blame myself for not getting you my mental training book before the race. On the plus side, you're a quad monster.

  9. I am so sorry to hear this! I had a similar experience with my 70.3 back in sept. So many things went wrong ( including 2 flats on the bike! ) that I really lost count. When I saw my finishing time I really was heart broken, but in the end I know that it was a race that builds character and shows like as your coach said...mental toughness. You did the best you could with what you had in front of you and in the end, sometimes that's all that counts! You'll get em next time, this I know!


  10. Something you said sticks with me - about not being able to look at your cheering section when you passed...I think what's tough about races we feel don't go well is being a little embarrassed. "I talked about this to everyone, it's a big deal, they know my goals, I feel like a loser." when in fact they are feeling as awful for you as you are feeling awful for you. On that count, you're WAY tougher than me and many others since you have the guts to confess your challenges as well as your victories. I doubt this gives you any solace when what you really wanted was to feel like you executed on your training, but when you do have those victories (like Philly), they are all yours. We just get to enjoy them with you.

  11. Totally agree with your coach--do you know how many people would have called it quits right at the crash? Um, like 98% of the field, I'm sure. You are one tough cookie and you should be damn proud of yourself! And look, you got the crash overwith--won't happen again. Next season you can go back and reclaim the race the way you want.

  12. Well, damn. It sucks not to have the race you wanted, for sure, and it sucks not to end the season with a great reflection of all your work. I respect the hell out of you for writing honestly about this. And I'm impressed with the badassery displayed in all of your pictures. Even if you felt like you were falling apart, you totally look like you're kicking ass.

  13. Not only would I probably have quit after a crash, I know that there is no way that I have the bike skills to control a crash enough to land in the grass. I'm very impressed at how you handled all the challenges thrown at you on Saturday and just kept on going. You contolled what you could and made the best out of what could have been a bad day.

  14. I know you don't want to hear it, but you are pretty darn amazing. We all have races where we allow our minds to defeat us. The awesome thing is that you still kept going.

  15. I know you don't want to hear happy shit, but your swim has improved a lot. And you can't deny that. You'll get that good race someday. I said so.

    p.s. no appendix rupture=success

  16. I understand. You don't want to prove that you can fight on despite obstacles. You've been there, done that. Water under the bridge. You want a chance to see what you can do when things do go right.

    All I can say is, your time will come. It always does.

  17. What a fucking day girl!!! So proud of you for all of this, you continue to prove that no matter what, you never let anything stop you!

  18. I love reading your race reports. Pretty much any of your blogs for that matter.
    Because they are real. They are not full of fluff and "wow, everything is perfect and I love running and racing and have never felt better!". Not that it's a good thing that you've had so many struggles by any means, but you ALWAYS seem to persevere and that is what counts.
    I don't mind telling you, your blogs have stuck with me in such a way that over the weekend I started having doubts about my upcoming 10K (my first, I'm no where near your level of altheticism). Part of me wants to quit before I even try. BUt then I began thinking- damnit- look at all the ReaL shit this Katie has been through and she just.never.quits.

    You are a true inspiration. Everyday.

  19. I just want to echo what everyone else said about you being awesome despite all of the obstacles. This race is not a reflection of your fitness and your training has been solid. You definitely can do a full IM. Just keep at it!

  20. Only 2 aide stations on the run course? That's not right at all! Especially when it's almost 90 degrees out there. I'd say you were really dehydrated, and that seriously affected your mental state.

    A sub-3 bike split on a roadie is really tough. Throw in a crash and there's no way. If you can push through it there's no gas left in your legs for the run. You actually played it smart by blowing off that goal and sticking to the nutrition plan. but yes, you could have taken in more water. it's hard to take in too much water on the bike.

    Overall you did the best you could for the conditions and I think you should be proud of the performance you turned in. Next time you'll be on the shiny new QR and hopefully there will be more hydration available.

  21. what are you talking about crazy person? you DID handle it. you kept going. you FINISHED. that shows you CAN do this. if you had quit, then you could say, well maybe not...but you didn't. you kept on keeping on even when you felt like stopping. you are amazing Katie and don't ever forget it!

    i've loved nothing more than watching you race and grow and kick ass! i'd love to follow in your footsteps lady. remember that! you've got at least one little blogger who wants to grow up and be just like you. and that little blogger doesn't look up to quitters. which is a good thing, because you are not a quitter my friend.

    you had a bad race. we've all had them. but you finished and that shows how truly tough you are. you can do this.

  22. I feel the same way...I thought I had the worst race ever yesterday until I took a step back and realized that yea it sucked but I learned a lot from it. More importantly, congratulations on a strong finish and pushing through to the very end. You truly are the most bad ass friend I have =)

  23. Congrats on a great race! Sure there was some bad and some ugly, but that is just stuff to learn from. In the end, you pulled out a great race in some tough conditions!

    How the hell did you pee 3 times? You know you aren't supposed to drink the water right???

    Glad that you are alright after the crash :)

    PS: That ?guy? totally looks like he is drafting you on the bike.

  24. First, I want to echo everything, everything, everything Kate Kirk said. When I crashed and burned (and by burned, I mean ... well, you know) at MCM in 2009, I avoided several sets of friends at cheering stations throughout the race, because I knew I'd lose it, and because I didn't want to think about someone else witnessing all that ugliness. But that's why our friends come to the race—in case we need them to walk with us, cry with us, hand us toilet paper, etc. Also, race day is important, but since none of us is a pro, we're in it for the whole experience—the strength and mental toughness gained from getting through a hard time (which you DID—please see your finish-line photo for proof of this) is more important than any time on the clock. So mourn a bit, then regroup knowing you're better and stronger for having gone through this.

  25. Seriously? You crashed hard and then got back up and finished a hard race. That is very impressive and totally hardcore. Plus you look totally buff!

  26. You are total badass! I wouldn't even be able to shimmy my way into a wet suit much less swim, bike and then run! Very inspiring!

  27. Awesome job! I agree with your coach on the crash. Tough stuff!!

  28. Great job on the swim! I agree the seaweed would be the ugly!
    That sucks that you crashed. And early on to mess with your head.
    You stuck with it and had some good parts for sure.
    Good luck getting past your disappointment and in the right mind frame to train for the IM.

  29. Experiences like this suck, but the ability to bounce back and learn from what happened will make you stronger.

  30. All these pictures display nothing but supreme(to steal Ultrarunnergirl's term) kick-assed-ness. Sucks to hear things didn't go smoothly, but at the end of the day/race/week, you know you're capable of it and you know you'll be out there for the Full soon enough!

    Now, when can we resume Founding Farmers' dates? ;)

  31. i am so sorry to hear that it was not exactly the way you planned but i agree with your coach...to crash like that and to come back to push through to the end. that shows incredible strength and is inspiring to me to NEVER GIVE UP!

  32. Hang in there girl, like you said there was A LOT of good in that race, but I know its still hard to overlook the bad. You are more determined than anyone I know, so I think at this point, you have all those bad races out of your system, you deserve to have the perfect ironman :)

    When Chris did his HIM and his bike broke it was the same thing... I expected him, he didn't come, he didn't want to finish, it was hot, but he did. Especially with triathlons there is so many factors going on, but you will nail it soon my friend, I have no doubt!

    Now go hug your puppies <3

  33. I think I understand how you are feeling. I've blown up in enough races to know how to handle gutting it out to finish. Gutting it out isn't the same feeling as achieving a goal. And yes, just once wouldn't it be nice to look back on an event and know you performed at your peak and left it all out there. Just once, one clean bite at the apple, that's all we're asking for.

  34. Congrats on the race! Bummer on the crash, glad you are OK. We all know that you are a badass who is going to own the IM distance. Take it as lessons learned and move on to the next!

  35. I feel like I'm in exactly the same boat as you. Part of me wants to run another marathon in 2 weeks so I can prove I can have a good race. Another part of me never wants to do one again.
    I'm glad you can step back and see the good things in the race. Most people would have quit the race after a bike fall. I wish I was as tough as you.

  36. No light without shadow, dawg. Stick with it. Ah, I know you will. You just need a little time. You'll come to the right conclusion for you.

  37. I was thinking about you during my 20 miler on Saturday morning. It was HOT by the end of it so I can only imagine how it was without shade on a highway!
    Sorry the race wasn't what you had planned and trained for but you did prove, once again, that you have a crazy amount of mental toughness! I'm really glad you didn't seriously hurt yourself on the crash. I was following along on twitter. You are such a badass. Keep your chin up!

  38. You already know this, but I'm super duper proud of you.

    Also, I'm going to make it my goal to pee in someone's yard next season.

  39. Sorry about the crash, but awesome that you finished. Don't give up!

  40. Congrats on finishing the half IM. Sorry about the crash. I know it's hard to pick yourself up and keep going, but you did and that takes a lot of mental toughness. Keep training for the IM!

  41. I'm pressing my "redo" button over here for you. It sucks to go in to a race knowing you're going to nail it, but then lose your shit over something and not be able to recover. I'm equally as nut-casey as you, so I get it. It sucks. It'll just be that much better when next time rolls around, and next time you will have this experience that will DEMAND you keep your head in the game if something else arises.

  42. Katie - I know the race wasn't what you were hoping for. And that your body and mind were trained for different finish time than what you ended up with. But the fact that you stayed mentally strong, stuck with it, and overcame the obstacles - now THAT is what really matters - not what the clock says. THAT experience is what will get you through rough spots in IMCDA. I remember at my first half ironman, the race was basically total crap for me - I grew up as a runner and that was always my strongest discipline and when things fell apart there, I didn't know how to handle it - I wasn't used to having things go so very, very wrong because I'd never had that happen to me in the past. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise - I relied on that experience so much in future races and what I learned from it. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? Awesome job and - HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  43. Great report! Congrats on your triumph over doubt and despair. You ARE an incredible athlete and you have fought thru every obstacle thrown in your way. Keep plugging away, train smart, and on one amazing day, you will own Ironman CDA!

  44. You know how many people can say they've done a 70.3?! Not many. You still kick ass in my book!

  45. Sorry I'm way behind reading but I want to say that you did awesome and I totally agree with what your coach said.

  46. I'm late, I'm sorry. I needed to fall of the face of the Internet for a while. But I read this and my heart broke for you. I'm sorry you didn't have the race you trained for. You've been dealt shit for cards too many times - this is no exception.
    But um, hello badass, you f'ing CRASHED and got back up and finished. That is JUST LIKE YOU. Your incredible drive is an inspiration to me. You don't let life tell you "no." You dust yourself off,every time, and come back stronger, more determined, more fierce. You can't choose your race conditions but you CAN choose your attitude. And woman, you choose to be invincible.


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