Having only done the aquabike in 2012, I was familiar with the race, but it was my first experience with the Eagleman run course.
And oh, what an experience it was.
In short, I felt GREAT coming off the bike, ran the first 4 miles at a pace faster than my open half marathon PR, and thought “Wow, if I can hold my open half marathon pace after swimming 1.2 miles and biking 56 miles when it’s hot and sunny, I’m either awesome or stupid.”
Since I finished the run in 17 minutes SLOWER than my open half marathon time, you can probably guess which option was correct. If I’d paced better from the beginning of the run, I probably could have been about 5-10 minutes faster. And while it wasn’t a perfect race, it was alright, and I’m OK with how it went.
While I didn’t register a smoking fast time, I buried a lot of demons out on the course that day, and until I had crossed that finish line, I didn’t realize just how heavily they weighed on me in the back of my mind.
I was worried that I couldn’t handle this course because of what happened in 2012. That year, I was signed up only to do the aquabike, and STILL barely finished because of severe dehydration on the bike course – the BIKE course, which is a lot easier to handle than the run course. To come back and do the entire race without being in any danger of spending a few hours in the medical tent was a huge relief after two years of self doubt.
I was convinced that my sub-6 effort at Charleston last year was a fluke, and that I wasn't a “real” sub-6 70.3 triathlete. The Charleston course must be one of the easiest half iron distance races in the country. It’s usually cool and overcast that time of year, the bike course is flat and protected from most winds, the swim is always wetsuit legal, and each leg is a little bit short of the advertised length. Would I be able to pull off sub-6 on any other course? Now I know that I can – by a decent margin.
I wasn’t sure I could deal with a race in the heat – ever. Though I didn’t have a super speedy run, I held up OK and was able to run at a not-terrible pace for most of the run. And it didn’t take me to the hospital after the race. A combination of more heat training – think midday runs under the sun at Hains Point – a much better hydration strategy on the bike, and some awesome cooling gear had me ready to sustain myself on a notoriously hot course. Now I don’t have to fear it any more, merely respect it.
That’s my longest race for 2014, so from here on out, I have a bunch of sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, plus a few running races, and maybe eventually a marathon. It’ll all seem so short (and cool) in comparison.