by Marsha O'Mara Henry
I’ve been trying to knock items off my bucket list for the last 10 years or so. It all started when I wanted to complete a marathon the year I turned 30. And you know what’s been happening since then. Running has become my true love (behind God and now my husband) 😀. But I went to be a spectator at a friend’s triathlon, and I was like, I’m adding something new to the bucket list. I’m going to do a triathlon.
I had no idea what participating in a triathlon entailed. I was so new to the sport. So a year or two later, I started taking swim lessons and my swim coach mentioned he was participating in an Ironman race. I was like, OK. So what’s that? Then he starting "talmbout" he would swim 2.4 miles, ride 112 miles (what?), and THEN after all of that, run 26.2 miles. Now I wasn’t new to marathons so I know how beat up you can get doing them. How on earth do you run a marathon after swimming and riding that long distance? So I knew I wasn’t doing that. But I then heard they have what they call Half Ironmans. That means half of all of those distances. And I said, “I can do that.” I’m going to put a Half Ironman on my bucket list for when I turn 40. I tried to do one last year when I really turned 40 but the race I wanted got canceled and there was no other race to sign up for that I wanted to do. So I deferred to this year and that’s how I ended up doing the Augusta Half Ironman.
Everyone knows if you know me in the least, that I’m scared of open water swimming. I mean, I just can’t… But in order to finish the race, you have to get through the swim. So I did open water practice swims down at the National Harbor. I really never went around the big loop though. I just stayed near the dock and went around in small circles. But a teammate of mine (Laura) offered to go around with me one time and so I actually went around one time and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. But I never did it again! But going around that one time gave me the confidence I needed to complete the open water swim at the race. Plus, the race is usually wetsuit legal. I had never worn a wetsuit before, but I tried it out one time at the Harbor and would you know, it kept me afloat without me even trying. So I was like, “I got this.” We get to race day and the first thing I hear when I get to transition is, “The water temperature is too hot and the race is not wetsuit legal.” What in the world???? How on earth is this happening to me? I was all sorts of freaked out. I wasn’t sure how I was going to complete the swim now. But they were offering a wetsuit wave as the last wave. So I was thinking I would go in that wave and still wear my suit. Our triathlon coach (disclaimer – this is also my husband) told us not to wear the wetsuit and just swim in our wave. We could do the distance. But I was like, you’re not the one swimming and you have no fear. So I had made up my mind to wear the wetsuit. But when I got to the swim start with wetsuit in hand, he came over and once again told us not to wear it. I had to make a decision – (1) don’t wear the wetsuit and risk panicking in the water and not finishing, or (2) wear the wetsuit and have him looking at me funny all the way home. I decided to risk the panicking to keep a happy home. So I decided not to wear the wetsuit. It wasn’t too bad without it. There is a very strong current in the river where we swam so I made it to the finish of the swim way faster than my normal swim times. I started at the back of my wave to give myself space from people. Others coming up behind me ran into me sometimes, but for the most part, I wasn’t bothered by anyone. I spent a lot of time on my back which is something I really need to work on, but hey, I got out of the water in one piece and without swallowing too much water, so I’m very happy with the swim.
Swim time - 47:06
I got out of the swim not really being able to see out of my left eye. I assumed I lost a contact lens. I bring extra contact lenses and solution to races for this very reason. But another athlete was in transition and her bike had an issue so she was no longer racing. She looked in my eye and could see the lens stuck in the corner. I put some solution in there and the contact moved back into place. So I was good to go. Then I looked for my bike gloves to get going and could only find one glove. I know I had two that morning. So I’m still thinking someone has my other glove. I made like Michael Jackson and rode with only one glove. The ride had some long climbs so I’m glad I had trained on some hills for my long rides. Also, it was hot as blazes out there, so my drinks had turned into hot tea. I had to refuel with cold water and Gatorade at the aid stations. Also, my chain kept popping off when I changed from my small ring to my big ring. I’m not sure why it does that. I had to put it back on about 4 times. Other times, I was able to ride it back on. After it wouldn’t go to the big ring around mile 50, I just decided to ride in my small ring for the last 6 miles. Then my right foot started hurting so I had to get off my bike and stretch a few times. Also, not sure what is going on there, but it did that in training too so it didn’t come as a surprise.
Bike time – 4:06:09
Well, this is usually my favorite part. Thought it would be a breeze. But when I got off the bike, it was probably 90 degrees outside. I started running out of transition, but I could barely make it a tenth of a mile before I had to walk. There were plenty people walking so at least I wasn’t alone. The problem is Ironman has very strict time cutoffs. I knew what my times were swimming and biking, but I wasn’t sure how long I had spent in transitions so I didn’t really know how long I had for the run. Thank goodness I had a great math teacher in high school because to take my mind off the heat, I started doing calculations in my head of how long I had to finish the race. I was like, well, my swim was 47 minutes, bike was 4 hours…I estimated I had about 3 hours to complete my run, but I initially didn’t think I would take that long. I thought maybe 2:30. But when I got halfway, I knew it was going to be more like 3 hours. So I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t make my cutoff. I ended up finishing in 8:15 and had 8:30 for the cutoff so I did cut it very close, but looks like my long division wasn’t too far off the mark. I just wish it wasn’t so hot out there, because my legs felt great and I think I could have run the half marathon in 2:15 if the weather was good. I usually muster up enough speed to sprint to the finish line at my races so with about 0.4 miles to go, I took off. I saw my triathlon team near the finish line cheering and that gave me the boost I needed to get across the finish line.
Run time – 3:00:52
Overall Finish time – 8:14:09
I’m just so happy that I got a chance to complete this race. I have to thank my cycling coach, Robert Clarence, for giving me some great training plans that tested my abilities. I had never trained that much on the bike like I did for this race, and I really could tell the difference due to the training. Also, of course, I thank my triathlon coach for the training program and the encouragement. He didn’t make it easy on me but I’m very sure that’s why I was able to finish the race. Thanks also to my triathlon training team who trained with me and thanks to any other running/biking partners who came out as well when I didn’t want to wake up early on the weekends. My support team is awesome!!!! #OnPointFitness