Monday, September 9, 2013

Pumpkinman Half - My Race Report

For years I have heard what a fantastic race the Pumpkinman Triathlon is in South Berwick, Maine. However, until yesterday, I hadn't been able to race it. I have been missing out!!! This race is on my all time favorites list now.  If you can, add it to your schedule for 2014. I'll talk about a few reasons why as I go along.

After a restless night, I turned the clock around to see what time it was and since it was 2:54, I just got up. Yikes. That might be a record for earliest race morning! I was out the door by 3:20 and surprisingly, I felt fine. ( going to bed at 7:59 helped..)  I can't say I feel that good today! But yesterday, I was up and ready to roll.

I was off to this  race alone again. That's rare for me. My family is almost always there. But when I registered for these two Half Ironmans I've done in the past two weeks,  I didn't really process the fact that our boy's soccer seasons would be in full swing. I just forgot. But since I didn't really race this summer, it was important for me to get out there before I attempted to reach some big goals in Cozumel. Mark and the boys were 100% cool about it, so I kept it all on the agenda.  I was ok heading there by myself. Mary would be there. And, I knew I'd see others I knew. But still.... it wasn't normal for me.I like having my gang around!!!

You know, true friends do not grow on trees. I mean, think about it. True friends are different. You know what I mean.  One of my true friends was there for me yesterday, and for that I feel so incredibly lucky. This buddy of mine got up before 5 a.m. ( way before ) and drove nearly an hour to meet me during the wee hours to help me out. He didn't just show up at the start. He showed up 2 hrs before. Before big triathlons, there's a handful of things to take care of and a lot of gear to shuffle around. Mike helped me with all that. He carried my pump and pumped the tires, fixed a valve that wasn't working and held things I didn't need at the start. He was on the course cheering and taking photos. At the end, he had my husband on the phone so I could yell to him as I ran by. Then, he dropped that phone so he could help me run up this last nasty hill which I was dying. He met me at the finish for that finish line hug after a PR race. Pretty cool huh? That's a friend.  Thanks Mike. :)

Here's my race story--

As I said in my last post, I decided to take a risk & put myself in the elite category for this one. This race allows some Pros and age groupers to mix together. Our wave was the first to go off. I love being the first swimmers in the water! Nothing like space to swim!!

I made a plan to try to swim with my friend and Pro Triathlete, Mike Ciazzo. I have swum with him several times at a Master's group, and I can keep up with him. The men lined up in front and the women were all behind them. I stood Right behind Mike and was ready to go. THREE-TWO-ONE Go go go go go !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well... I dove in, got KICKED in the face, Goggles ripped off and boom, before I even took one stroke I was standing up again fixing my goggles. GREAT start, Ange!!  ugh. So much for that plan. Ok... I was fast to get back at it and let me tell you, for such a small group, it was ROUGH! Ironman starts are worse, but packed age group starts full of women only ( as are the normal conditions for me) are Much easier!!!!  Those men have strong nasty kicks. Thankfully, the group was small and I was keeping up. It was rough and there were kicks and swim-overs but finally I got off to the side and fell into a groove right next to a few guys. We all had white caps so it was tricky at first to determine if they were men or women, but I figured it out by the first buoy. I felt Amazing!!! And, I was having a blast. This was the most fun I've had in a swim in a Long long time. I was a swimmer first. That's where I got this racing bug...starting way way back when I was 8. But surprisingly, I don't usually enjoy the swim leg of races. There are a few reasons...but yesterday was different.

I was excited because I felt myself pull away from some women and also, I was really excited to be ahead of all but 3 or so men. Plus, this was the best part, I was truly stroke for stroke with one of the guys.  It felt like it did back in my swim team years. I swam day after day, two times day, with all my best friends back then. I'd go back and forth down the pool arm for arm with a few of them, and that was fun! It pushed me harder and kept me going. I had that yesterday. And I loved it.  I was in my happy racing place and feeling really grateful that I was given the chance to race with these guys.

I made it around the two loop swim in 26:03. I climbed out of the water just seconds ahead of the pack I'd been with.... giving me the 3rd fastest swim of the day.  A great start....

I'm the one on the left 

Next up with that Hill Climb--- ouch!!! It has it's own special Transition split and there are prizes for the athletes that scale it the fastest. Not me! haha.. I worked at keeping my HR slightly in check, even took a few walking steps, and just tried not to curse out loud. It was hard! I guess this little hill is even used as a ski hill in the winter at this place! No wonder it hurt to run up it after our 1.2 swim!

I was in and out of T1 in decent time. Off to ride.... you know... there's not a lot to say here. I saw those fast men fly away, a few others cruised up behind me and disappeared into the hills a few minutes later, and then... that was it. I was by myself. On the one hand, I was clearly happy the other women weren't catching me. On the other hand, I had to fight Hard to keep that race mode. I was  by myself on the roads. The volunteers directing us on the course were such welcome sights because it reminded me we were racing! Despite this, I pushed hard ! I really did. I felt stronger than I did at Rev3 and my watts were there to show it. I have to say,however, do I ever get bored out there... after about mile 30 or so... I just want OFF. Hmm... gotta work on that. I think I really fade a bit when that happens. The course was nice though. There are a few rough roads but mostly it was fun and fast. The winds were howling yesterday and I was pushed around the road a few times. There was one section that was flat and the wind Must have been at our backs because I was sailing.......... it was a blast. 30-31-33mph... fun fun stuff.

And then, the not so graceful & not so pro-like dismount.  Ah yes.... it was pathetic. I meant to take my feet out of my shoes... I meant to be ready. But, something distracted me and I didn't do it. So I got to the dismount line and fumbled around. I tried to whip my leg over the bike and I got stuck....on the bottles on the back. I nearly fell over. All while my buddy Mike and Kurt watched on. Both of whom were instrumental in teaching me how to do it properly and reinforcing why I should. Ooops... I was not impressed with myself. I growled and laughed at my typical gracefulness and moved on....

Bike split for the day 2:33. I was thrilled. These sub 2:40 rides are really really good for me.

Time to run... enough of this bike gear... I slipped on the shoes, changed glasses, grabbed my gels and watch and headed off. It all comes down to the run....
running out of T2

My shins were super tight.... but my quads were not and my Achilles was fine. (I have something wrong with it.... I don't talk about it but I'm definately having issues. I am always relieved when it feels good. ) I did see another woman ride into Transition as I was running out. Hmm.... ok.... we'll see what happens. She clearly out-rode me because I had a solid lead out of the water.

After about 1/2 mile or so, I noticed a bike riding Right in front of me. Yeah, if I wasn't racing a half ironman I would have noticed it earlier. I was in my own zone, I guess. I wondered why he was so close. Why did he keep looking back at me? Hey...he has a Pumpkinman shirt on.
"Are you my lead biker??"  I yelled out to him, incredulous.
Sure am!! You're the lead woman!
Ha! I knew I was in the lead at that point but I had a bike escort???
"Kat is so awesome!"
Seriously... this doesn't' happen to us 43 year old age-group Moms!! I was tickled. In Kona, there's a lead motorcycle for the man and woman leading the race. At some other big races, they have them as well and sometimes bikes too. But not for me! It was a fun few minutes...

Before that moment was over, I also came to aid station 1. Actually, I knew that was coming a good 1/4-1/2 mile ahead of time. The Berwick Field hockey team was in charge there and they were the BEST!!! They were screaming for me way way before I got there. So much fun.

Well, the next thing I knew, she was there. I heard the steps. Hmm... didn't I say this same thing in my last race report? Oh no, that time I heard the breathing because we were on a trail. Anyway, yeah, she caught me. Ms. Amanda Kourtz is one heckuva speedy runner I must tell you. I knew that heading into the race actually. She out ran me two years ago at the Rev3Oly. Actually, she has since gone Pro. She is a crazy fast athlete!!  I watched her run for a while. I tried to match her cadence as she pulled away a bit. I felt pretty good and while I was making an effort not to run too fast too early in the race, I was also letting the run just happen.

I ran and ran and ran. The turnaround seemed so so far away. The course was filling up with other athletes as this is a two loop run. I was no longer alone and that felt good.
Finally, we approached a small cul-de-sac that was the turn around. I think it was near mile 6. I saw Amanda running out as I ran in. I was pleased she hadn't put too too much time on me. I knew she was running faster, but at least I was hanging on. I was also anxious/ nervous to make the turn to see how close the other women were behind me.

I rounded the circle and realized, Amanda was Gone! She just took Off after that! Amazing.

Before too long, I saw Nicole ( a friend of mine ) and then a few of the other ladies making there way. I had to keep moving because they were right there!!

The problem was, I was entering that dark place. My legs were getting so so tired, I was tired, I felt sick to my stomach, I had horrible side stitch, I was realllllllly realllllllly tired. I didn't want to run anymore. I fought the urge to just Stop, with every ounce of my inner strength. I was having the it's ok, you dont' need to beat them talk in my head. The racing devil was sitting on both shoulders telling me why I didn't need to push so hard. He was telling me it was ok to let it go. It was ok to just walk and say hey, 'you're getting older. You can't always have a good day.' Oh that devil had had lots of sleep the night before and he was Pushing me!!!  I was fading.

I have no idea where I was or what my pace had slipped to but I got to an aid station, walked through it and grabbed a cup of Coke. I made the decision at that point to get my act together and finish what I started. I didn't race 64 miles as hard as I  could to back down with only 6 to go! Seriously?? Nope. Bye bye racing devil... I don't give up that easily.

There was a lot of pain involved. I felt horrible for moments and then I'd have times of feeling like a runner again. I had to dig so deep. I'm experienced and I know what to do out there, but the actual work does not get easier. It hurt. It still hurts today. My muscles were seizing, my stomach was revolting...

I just held on. I made the turn where it said:

YES! FINISH Time!!!!  The support of the crowd was amazing all day. I had fellow athletes and family/ friends of athletes and volunteers all yelling to me "You can get her!" or " Great running ! Second woman!" All that good stuff.... it made me so happy inside. thank you guys. It really does help.

The final 1/2 mile or so was hard! I tried to stay strong up this really steep mountain ( ok, hill) that led us into the Spring Hill area finish. My quads were just on fire. Kurt was pulling out of a road and yelled, "let's go Ange. .. come on come on" and then Mike was just up a bit with the phone and said, "Mark's on the line! Yell to him!" So I said, "Hey Babe!!!! Save me a freeze pop!!" I know, strange, but I was dreaming of freeze pops and we have some here! :) Mike then clicked goodbye to him and ran with me up that sucker. I made a right hand the finish... except it was the wrong way! I weaved around the parked car and smiled as I finally saw the end.

Oh so worth it. All that pain, all that tough fighting, when you run down the Finisher's chute, you remember why you are out there and why you sign up for more.

The clock had just clicked to 4:39... GET IN there! I wasn't about to miss this chance now...

Yes... I hit the finish breaking 4:40 . A PR at this distance. The run was 1:36 which was better than Rev a few weeks ago. And I walked away with a nice 2nd place overall.

It was a good day.  I had to fight as hard as ever but it's always worth it.

Coming in to the finish 

Beautiful Fall Pumpkinman Finish line
Amazing Race Kat Donatello!!!! Thank you!!! 


Jennifer Harrison said...

1:36 and a 4:39 and 43 years young.
I love it and you're the best!!! Huge congrats! AND MARY winning the 40-44 AG. awesomeness.

Beth said...

Awesome racing Ange! Congrats!!

Mary IronMatron said...

You rocked that race!!! And I knew you'd love Pumpkinman. It is such a great race, great race director, great venue, great...

crittoria said...

Great story! Excellent job on your race!! Congrats!

Karen said...

Congratulations Ange! I have heard such great things about that race. Excited for your PR!

Pam Moore said...

Wow. Congratulations!! That is huge.