Pumpkinman is a point to point triathlon with three different distances to choose from in the beautiful Lake Mead National Recreation Area just outside of Las Vegas. Both the olympic and long courses finish with a long 2,000 foot climb to reach the bike to run transition area . Several people advised me to do this race as a good indicator of preparedness for Ironman Saint George next May. My first half ironman would include a challenging 7,000 feet of climbing over just 56 miles on the bike course.
I completed the 1.2 mile swim in 37:40 despite stopping several times at the beginning to adjust leaking goggles. The water was warm at 66 degrees, an ideal temperature cool enough to avoid overheating in a wetsuit, yet warm enough to warrant its use for increased buoyancy. I stashed an emergency gel under my swim cap in case my blood sugar dropped (it didn't). The course was a straight, out and back line of about 10 buoys.
A Triabetes teammate and expert swimmer, Brian, analyzed my swim stroke a few weeks ago and explained why I was having difficulty swimming in a straight line in open water. He noticed that I was putting my hands in the water thumb-first with my palm facing outwards and starting each pull with inefficient lateral propulsion. His simple correction instantly improved my ability to swim a straighter line in open water. Thanks, Brian!
I found a good rhythm by the time I reached the turnaround and ramped up the intensity during the second half. Coming out of the water, my first few steps were in almost knee-high mud. I walked carefully to avoid cutting my feet on the sharp mussels below the surface. It was a relatively long run to my t1 spot. I took an extra minute in transition to test my blood sugar and put on padded cycling shorts.
I started the bike conservatively. I stuck to my plan of spending the first few miles eating, hydrating, and spinning easily. Once I did increase my power output, I was discouraged and even surprised to that more riders continued to pass me. I even pulled over to a complete stop to check both tires for flats. There was no flat tire, but my front brake was rubbing on one side of the wheel, so I loosened it a bit. I alternated between riding on the hoods on the uphills, and either the drops or attached aerobars on the flats and downhills. I haven't yet been fitted on this new bike, so I definitely haven't optimized my setup.
I stretched my legs while coasting a few times when I felt like I might start cramping. My target bike split was based on researching the previous year's averages. I came within one minute of my projected 4 hour time. I consumed about eight gels, four sports drink bottles, and three salt tablets.
I came into t2 and checked my blood sugar again. The peace of mind was worth the extra minute. I set out on the run with another six gels in a flask and planned to grab more food at the aid stations. I soon crossed paths with a Triabetes friend, Brennan, who was finishing the olympic race as I was just starting my 13.1 mile run. (Congratulations to Brennan for finishing his first olympic triathlon!) I was aiming for a two hour half marathon and was right on target.
The run was fairly flat. The two biggest obstacles were gusty headwinds and a section of freshly repaved road that smelled suffocatingly of tar. I almost ran past the turnaround spot after the first lap had it not been for Brennan who was fortunately standing at the marker and pointed it out. I finished the first lap in about 57 minutes. I slowed down on the second lap, but finished in exactly two hours.
I was happy to finish my first half ironman distance triathlon in under 6:45 on a very difficult course. I am confident that I will beat that time at Ironman 70.3 California next April. My goal is to finish Ironman St. George in about 13.5 hours.