I arrived in San Juan on Wednesday afternoon, as did my father (who came to support me in my first Half Ironman of 2011). Upon arriving at the host hotel (Hilton Caribe), I put my bike together, although my pedal tool got taken by airport security, and went over to the Expo to check in Athlete Check-In. Because I couldn’t get my rear brakes from rubbing on my wheels, I had to take it to the bike mechanic the next morning…he fine tuned up my bike so I was feeling very confident. The weather was extremely warm, sunny & humid. For the next couple of days, I was basically on lock down in my hotel room, with the exception of my morning training runs, afternoon practice swims and evening dinners in Old San Juan.
Saturday race morning came quickly: it was warm but there was some much appreciated cloud cover. I walked over to the transition area to be body marked and set up my stuff around 5:30. My swim wave was not to start until 7:25 a.m. so I went back to hotel to relax for a bit before walking over to swim start. I ate my usual pre-race breakfast of a plain bagel and a Gu gel; along with some water and EFS sports drink. I was feeling pretty good, especially since I knew the water would be warm.
The swim course was a good course and the water was relatively calm. It wasn’t like any of the other open water swims I have raced in, where I was getting slapped in the face by the waves. I was hoping to swim 35 minutes (considering the amount of time I have been putting in the pool) but unfortunately swam 38 minutes.
Transition was a run along the street, about 500 meters. Got off on my bike and felt great for the first 40 miles or so. I was pushing over 23 mph. Around mile 40, I threw up while on the bike…that was a first!! I think it was the PowerBar Energy Smoothie bar I ate around Mile 20. And at this point, I was also feeling really dehydrated. There were aid stations at miles 12, 22 and 40 and on the second loop around, I missed an aid station because as the guy handed me a water bottle as I was whizzing by, he dropped it. Note to self: slow down to grab a water bottle no matter what! I felt really dehydrated on the bike, as one reason would be that I missed an aid station. I looked down at my tri bottoms around Mile 44 and saw how dehydrated I was from the salt that was rimmed around my tri shorts. The bike course in general suited my racing style very well (translation: no steep climbs), although it was hot and windy. I got off the bike in 2:39 although I believed the course to be 2 miles long.
Coming into T2, I was feeling pretty good. I had a Gu Octane about 15 minutes before I got off the bike so I was ready to go. I grabbed my EFS liquid shot and off I went. Upon exiting T2, we had to run up a pretty steep hill. Ugh, a hill….already?! Encountered many hills on this run…hills on cobblestone streets, hills near the Fort, it was like the hills were never-ending. When I got to a turnaround point at Mile 5, I asked the guy if we had to come back and do it all again and he said Yes! I ran with sponges in my sports bra, in the back of my shorts, tried to hit every aid station for water, coke, Gatorade, ice, oranges and fresh sponges. I finished my run in a lethargic 1:48…only averaging a 8:18/mile. A very slow run for me considering my run is the strongest part of my race. I guess the heat and humidity got to me, along with the dehydration from the bike. I just could not get my legs moving.
Crossing the finish line was a great experience for this race because my father was there and Team Winter was there. As I crossed, my father had tears in his eyes and was telling me that I finished 3rd in my AG in a time of 5:12:12. I was the 25th female overall, including the Pros and was the 8th amateur overall. I am very blessed to have gotten through my first race and qualified for World Championships this early in the season.