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Donna's picture
Joined: Nov 7 2006
Posts: 87
Mooseman Half Ironman

First, I want to start off by saying that Keith Jordan and endurfunsports put on a great race. Mooseman in Bristol NH at Newfound Lake was extremely well organized. The lake is beautiful and clean and the bike course is difficult but pretty.

This was my first half iron event. I have been very nervous about this because I (somewhat unwisely) signed up to do IMLP without ever having done a half ironman. What if I couldn't hack it? It's only 7 weeks away from IMLP-it was scarey. Fortunately, I was smart enough to hire a fabulous coach who saw a lot of potential in me. He laid out my goals for the half and for the IM. To me, if I didn't nail the half iron goal, I was in deep trouble. Anyway, based on my previous performance and LT testings- he suggested a goal of 5:15-5:20. In my head, I knew it would be closer to 5:20..

The week before the race, I went up to NH and rode the course 3-4 times-those hills were killers(!) but I felt better knowing what they were like. I also swam in Newfound Lake and at Walden pond out here in MA. I told my coach "Don't expect a good swim time" and he reassured me "The race is already determined-you've done your training and now it's just time to execute."
A bunch of friends were doing the Oly the day before the half so we went up on Friday night. It was great to cheer them on as well as get familiar with the surroundings. (Plus that meant they had to stay around to cheer me on the next day!)

The swim
I didn't know what to expect but a friend had once told me that 37 minutes was slow. I didn't know what that meant but I knew I wanted to do less than that. I also knew that I cannot swim in a straight line and I waste a lot of energy. Right before the race, someone told me to position myself up in front, behind the faster people and just draft as much as I could. I took that to heart.
The gun went off and it was the usual thrashing of arms and legs. It's funny how all my meticulous swim technique training went out the window as I just fought to get behind someone.
I was nervous about getting stuck behind someone slower than me but even more nervous that my zig zag swimming and poor sighting might get me into trouble. Soon, I figured out a system: I drafted behind someone for a while and as soon as I began to feel comfortable with my breathing and my stroke, I hauled butt and got behind someone else. I bounced from swimmer to swimmer and just prayed that they were faster than the previous one. It's funny how the swim seems so much longer than it is.
I emerged from the water and the first thing I saw was another local coach right in front of me. Could I have done as well as her? I did!
Swim: 32:38

T1: They had wetsuit strippers! It would be my first time using them. Although some friends from the day before cautioned me about using them (they were mostly middle school kids) I knew they could still probably do a better job than I. It went perfectly and T1 went off without a hitch. I didn’t see my friends around-humpf! They must have slept in!

After doing a sweat test, I knew exactly how much fluid I needed (not much thankfully) and my coach had me eating every half hour. The bike was pretty uneventful. I stayed close to some other people and we kept passing one another for the first hour or so. Finally at about the half way point, they fell away behind me and I stayed alone for much of the second loop. As I came around to begin the second loop, I heard my name being shouted by 6 or 7 people from Boston Triathlon Team. Oh they’re awake! One of my friends made a sign that said “Go Sexy, Go.” It definitely made me grin ear to ear.
Back to the second loop: My cadence meter wasn't working which it tough for me because I always feel more comfortable with a lower cadence than I should. Oh well. My goal for the bike was 2:45-2:50. I have been disappointed in my biking lately so was thinking it would be closer to 2:50. I kept thinking "biking is not your thing but wait until the run, wait until the run". I pushed through the giant hills and was off the bike.
Bike: 2:51:13 (although my watch said exactly 2:50!) 19.6 mph

I knew this was where I could do some damage. I've been doing so many bricks, that running off the bike wasn't hard for me anymore. My previous stand alone half marathon PR was 1:40:25, something I set in Feb. I knew that I was stronger so hoped I could do this in 1:40 too. The first mile I clocked in 7 minutes. Whoops-probably too fast. I slowed it down a little and for the second, did it in 7:32-ok better. I started passing people right away (A definite bonus for being in the last start wave and for being a stronger runner who has a lot of IM training under her belt!) The run was also a loop so when I came around the 10K mark, I saw the fabulous cheering section (God, I’m so lucky to have so many cool friends!) It definitely invigorated me to push on. I kept the rest of my miles somewhere between 8:00 (big hill) and 7:11 with most of them being about 7:30. I couldn’t believe how strong I felt! I sprinted in the final 200 meters after seeing my friends again and finished with a 5:07:49 and a huge grin on my face.

I was hoping I would’ve place with that time but alas there are some strong women in New England. 20/142 female, 169/517 overall, 11/39 AG. Man, being in the 30-34 AG kills! I’m still 29 and if I raced in that AG I would have come in 2nd! Oh well!

Hold on LP, here I come!

cayman's picture
Joined: Aug 17 2006
Posts: 970

Keep on smilin' Donna, that was a great half and congrats on the well below goal finish. Super day!

Good luck at LP, sounds like you're ready.

RV's picture
Joined: Jan 19 2005
Posts: 3419

Great job!
Best of luck at LP!!

john_grieco's picture
Joined: Oct 11 2007
Posts: 71


Just read your post on Mooseman - Awesome race!

I'm thinking of doing it next season and your post definitely gave me the encouragement to know that it's well-run and a good first half-IM to do. Thanks.

tri-ac's picture
Joined: Dec 7 2005
Posts: 3717

congrats! you've got your boost of confidence for IMLP! It will go great!

Gary3's picture
Joined: Sep 5 2007
Posts: 151

Read This.....it was forwarded to me.
Truly, a marathon never to be forgotten.

Never Surrender, by Corey Hart, is on my iPod shuffle five times. That way, when the machine mixes up the songs, there is a good chance that with fair regularly I will be listening to my 80s anthem of perseverance. After all, it fits brilliantly. It is what the entire insane endeavour is about when you lace up your shoes, pin that number on your tech-gear, and tell yourself that you are about to run 26.2 miles. One foot in front of the next, find the strength somewhere within, and never surrender.

There is, however, a big difference between never surrender and never stop. To me, surrender is admitting defeat whereas stopping is sometimes about being smart.

As an experiential learner, I now know the difference.

When I awoke at 5AM the morning of the Chicago marathon, it was already 71 degrees (22C). The air was hazy with humidity and it took a little extra effort to breathe deep. By late morning the thermometer would read 93 (33C), the sun would be baking the streets of Chicago, and the humidity would not have relented at all. Where this was headed should have been painfully clear.

There are those who, in the convenience of retrospect and in the safety of their newspaper editorials, insist that none of us runners should have been out there in the first place given the conditions of Sunday the 7th of October. Yeah, they are probably right. They dont know marathoners very well.

I was standing at the start line (well, I was standing at what would amount to about 22 minutes from the start line after the gun went off) already sweating having not yet run a single step. I was with some fellow JeansMarines and we were all feeling excited, nervous, and confident that we were going to be stepping across that final timing mat before the day was done. There were a couple of first timers and I think I was as excited for them as they were for themselves. Who doesnt recall the first marathon? It was, for me, one of the sweetest experiences of life so far. So I think I was talking their ears off with all kinds of last minute advice - it may or may not have been worth anything in the end. I finished my litre of gatorade and dropped the empty bottle in the nearest recycling bin.

Before the race even began, I had made a critical error. I had decided to leave my water-belt at home and just run with the water stations. There are many different ways of training for and running a race and stopping to drink at and walk through the water stations is a pretty common one. Thankfully this did not turn out to be a fatal error, just a dangerous one.

The gun went off at 8AM and at about 8:22AM I was across the start line and on my way. By mile 1 I was soaking wet. My shirt and shorts were clinging to me like polyester cellophane. Streams of water were trickling down my neck and back, all exposed skin was slick and shiny with the humidity of the air around me. I recall feeling so self-conscious that I was this sweaty so soon in the race.

I hit the first water station at about 1.5 miles and grabbed a cup of gatorade and a cup of water. I took the two half full cups and mixed them together - the water station gatorade is always too strong and sweet for me. Instead of the usual two or three sips I would take before running on, I walked for a while and finished most of the liquid in the paper cup. I promise you that I had already lost more than three times that much. I also polished off a package of sports beans - pumped up jelly beans with added salt and potassium.

Slow but sure was the strategy for this race. I had a talk with myself before I had even crossed the start line and my brain and feet were both briefed on the fact that there was no attention to be paid to the clock today. I always say that my goal for every race is simply to finish. I always have a secret time in mind. This time my goal was no secret. It was a goal I think I shared with a lot of people out on that course and it was honestly just to cross that final line and manage to flash a smile for the cameras.

I hit the next water station at about 3 miles and there was, all at once, the most eerie silence all around me. All of us runners had just realized that where the water station was supposed to be was nothing more than a street carpeted with crushed paper cups and sidewalks lined with water station tables that had been collapsed and hauled to the side. There was no water for us.

My head swam and my heart beat a bit faster when I thought of what this meant for the remainder of the race. I had to assume there was no water at the rest of the water stations. There was no way to make it through the race without water. I told myself to calm down, that the race organizers would scramble to fix the problem as soon as they saw what was happening. I stopped to walk for a minute or two because I started to feel a bit woozy and my vision was blurring a bit around the edges. I was fine a moment or two later - I had got myself so worked up over the lack of water that I think my blood pressure spiked just a little.

Honestly, the space between mile 3 and mile 13 is a bit of a watercolour painting. Im sure it all comes together to make some sort of image, but the stream of sweat blurred all of the colours into a big mess. Monet would be proud. I do remember some things with overwhelming clarity.

I remember that gatorade bottle I put in the recycling bin at the start line. Every water fountain I ran past would have been a saviour had I only kept that bottle with me.

I remember every single Chicagoan that came out to the side of the road with their garden hoses and sprinklers. They came out with plastic pitchers of water and styrofoam cups. They stood on the sidewalks and soaked us as we ran past. As the miles added up and the news of the empty water stations spread throughout the course, the city rallied for us. The citizens, businesses, and organizations of Chicago came out in droves with cases upon cases of water and cooler after cooler of ice. They did everything they could to keep us cool as the people of Tokyo had done to try and keep us warm.

Why does everything I do have to involve such extremes?

I remember also the images of people falling down on the course. From about mile 7 onwards there were people down on the side of the road left and right and the aide stations were overflowing with people needing assistance. There were people lying on stretchers who where covered in as many bags of ice as could be mustered. There were people who stumbled and fell between aide stations and spectators who were running ahead to gather medical staff to help those who had fallen. At mile 10 I was suffering so badly from the heat that I decided to stop and walk the next mile. It was then that I really had a moment to stop and look around and see what was happening to my fellow runners out on the course. To put it plainly, it was really scary to watch. It was also the first moment I thought that there was a chance I would not be finishing this race.

That is where the crucial difference between surrendering and stopping comes into play.

I think it was just before mile 17 that police began to line the streets and it was announced that the marathon had been cancelled.

I didnt understand. Race marshals were telling us that the marathon had been cancelled and that we were to stop running and start walking. I still didnt understand. I looked around and it was clear by the faces of my fellow runners that they understood no more than I did.

Little by little the chatter started. Cell phones were pulled out all around me and calls were being made and received by people with weary and strained voices. It took no more than a few minutes before we all got the message. The marathon was, really truly, over. We were to stop running, start walking, and were to be diverted back to Grant park and the finish area.

I was so disappointed. I had come so far and it had been such a struggle. It had been the longest, most difficult 17 miles I had ever run and now I was being told to quit. Disappointment turned, in a matter of seconds, into defiance. No freaking way they were going to tell me to quit after all the effort I had just put in. Defiance turned to the sweetest sense of relief.

Sure I had come 17 miles, but that meant that there was still 9.2 miles left (almost 15K) left to run. Sure I was doing alright considering the circumstances, but the time for being smart was upon us and I am thankful that someone made the call. If ever there was a race that I should not have finished, it was this one. Thing is, I probably would have tried and who knows what tribulations were waiting between mile 17 and 26.2?

So, we were diverted up to and along Jackson St. and I was greeted there by one of the most fantastic pictures I have ever seen. The long skyscraper lined street stretched out in front of me as far as my eye would go and as far as my eye could see all the fire hydrants were open in full force sending giant arcs of water up into the sky and across the street.

Runners were jumping through the plumes of water like five year old children and great sighs of comfort soared through the air as cold water hit the hot skin of people all around me.

I was so exhausted, so thirsty, so drained that I walked along Jackson letting the fire hydrants spray the sweat and tears from my sunburned face.

The finish area was chaos. Runners down, on stretchers, in wheelchairs, again packed in ice. Family and friends looking for their athletes. Athletes looking for water. Maybe a banana or a bagel. Mostly just water.

I was in a group that was herded down toward the finish line. We were coming at it from the wrong way since we had been brought in from behind. I wasnt sure what the point was. I realized then that someone had decided to let us cross the final timing mat so that it would be recorded that, even though we had not been allowed to run the entire 26.2 miles, we finished what we could. It also means that my timing chip shows that I had a finishing time of 4:20.

I wont forget it. Not any time soon. Probably not ever.

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