It' s been a crazy year in my athletic life. I started by DNF'ing a marathon, coming back two weeks later to race a marathon where I achieved a personal record, and then being derailed from racing by an arrhythmia known as supraventricular tachycardia.
Eight days after my arrhythmia ablation, I raced Wildflower Long Course, one of the world's toughest half ironman distance races. I am pleased to say I had a great time and a great day as an athlete.
Wildflower is the only reason that I own a tent. It is known as the Woodstock of Triathlons. The only feasible way to race is to camp there the night before, and then of course celebrate the night after with my team at the campground.
My goal time for the race was 7 hours and 15 minutes. I thought that was a pretty ambitious goal and wasn't sure I could make it.
We started with the swim, which I estimated would take me 43 minutes. After accidentally following a swimmer into an embankment, I straightened myself out and had a good consistent swim. There were a lot of us out there in the water and I managed to avoid being elbowed or kicked too much. I followed a sea of different colored caps. But, toward the end, as I was getting out of the water to run to the transition area, I suddenly noticed a sea of men in pink caps that I had not seen before! I thought I was in the wrong place, until I realized that they were all the frontrunners in the shorter mountain bike triathlon race that was taking place that day.
Time for swim portion: 44 minutes. Close to my goal.
I pulled off my wetsuit, put on my bike shoes, helmet, and sunglasses, and hopped on my bike. I heard several friends and club members cheer me on as I rode out of the park. One person who knew about my arrhythmia issues yelled, "Surgery one week ago, racing today, no big deal!" Well actually it wasn't a surgery, it was a percutaneous procedure through the vein in my leg... ummm never mind. It's the thought that counts.
I had a tough time on the bike course when I tried it out a month ago. My goal was to finish in 4 hours and 15 minutes, or maybe 4 hours if I was doing really well. Since then, I put a new rear cassette on my bike that would make hills easier. What a difference!! I glided up the hill known as Nasty Grade with more ease than last time, passing several riders. As it turned out, I finished the bike ride in 3 hours and 50 minutes, taking forty minutes off my previous time!
On to the run. This is my favorite of the three sports. I had hoped I could finish in 2 hours 24 minutes, an 11 min/mile pace. This run course is TOUGH!! It is really hilly and mostly on trails. I passed a lot of the athletes who had passed me on the bike. Many people were walking. Other than a few very brief steep portions, I ran the entire course, though at many points my run was more of an uphill shuffle. I ran past Blaine from NBC's The Biggest Loser, who was competing with his cousin and fellow Biggest Loser contestand Dane, and this time around no one drove them to the finish line.
I had a sudden stomach cramp at mile 12. It hurt so badly that I started walking, until a member from my club yelled behind me to stop walking and to run. So I picked up the run again, and before I knew it, I saw the finish line, and the adrenaline kicked in and I had no more side pain. I heard "Dr. Heather Shenkman is coming across the finish line!"
Finish time: 7 hours, 11 minutes. Four minutes faster than my goal.
My run time was 2:29, a little slower than my goal, but actually faster than a lot of athletes in my age group.
I have to say, I just had a great race. For the most part, I felt great, even to the end. I had fun and achieved my goal time.
Ironically, I think some of my success was due to the rest that I had to take because of my heart procedure. I came into the race feeling well rested, which I think really helped. That's a lesson that I will take with me to my upcoming races.