Pumpkinman Half Ironman Triathlon Race Report

Let’s start with a recap of how my past few months have been:

My training consisted of me spending more time complaining about how I much I dreaded swimming than actual swimming.

My biking consisted of some pathetic rides on the trainer while watching canceled scifi shoes like Terra Nova and Firefly.

My running was awesome but that’s because running is awesome.

My pre-day race routine was probably not ideal but in the grand scheme of things would not have made much of a difference.

Despite all the steps I took to fail, I did it! Yup, I’m a half iron (wo)man!

Finisah

How did it all begin? Well, almost a year ago, I decided to fork up $275 and many hours of my time to do this. I don’t know what I was expecting, I guess I had such a fun time doing a mini sprint tri that I thought I would love a longer distance.

More miles more smiles! Right? Right? right…

Plus all my cool friends were doing triathlons and I wanna be cool like my friends. All my cool friends are also running 100 milers, but that’s still a bit out of my league.

I had months, and months to prepare and yet raceday, September 7th, came in the blink of an eye. Well if that blink of an eye consisted of many months of swimming, a major bike crash that resulted in separated shoulder and a long winter of snow that refused to end.

Actually, lets get back to the race. The Pumpkinman Triathlon is a festival that consists of three events, A sprint tri on Saturday and Aqua-bike and Half Ironman Tri on Sunday.

So raceday, yea it completely sneaked up on me. My alarm was set for 5:30AM, early but tolerable. Waking up at 7AM to go to work is a nightmare, but waking up at 5:30 for a race is tolerable. I even woke up about 5 minutes before my alarm. My morning routine was short, I was already packed, so I just got dressed, fill up my water devices with water and told Tony we gotta go by 6AM.

It was about a 20 minute drive with parking. It probably took me about 10 minutes to figure out my timing chip and drag all my stuff to the transition area. Only athletes were allowed in the transition net so I my assistant 😉 waited for me outside.

I had about 15 minutes to set up my transition area and get into my wetsuit.

Start

But wait Liana, don’t you start at 7:21?

Yea, except the race has time cut-offs for everything. I had to pick up my timing chip by 6:30AM of race day, it was not included with our race number packets and transition area was closed by 6:45 for a mandatory national anthem and some messages that I couldn’t hear. So yea, I could have woken up even earlier but I picked sleep. So at 6:45, I was being gently told that I must depart from the transition area.

The end result?

My transition area looked like someone vomited up gear. I was so nervous that I kept rearranging all my stuff and trying to calm my breathing that I couldn’t focus and I haven’t even eaten anything yet.

photo 2 (2)

While the first 7 waves were starting, I decided to eat my white chocolate cliff bar because not having anything in my stomach would have been a huge mistake. I nibbled on my breakfast as I tried to spot the boeys and gauge just how far a .6 mile loop is.

Swimming Leg

The course is a 1.2 mile swim but it’s a double loop. So even though it’s a waved time start, your first look will always be packed.

Now I’m not going to lie, I was terrified of the swim, swimming in the Y is one thing. you can take a break every 25 yards, but with this, I wasn’t certain what I would be doing. In theory there’s kayaks and paddleboard people to the side. In theory you’re allowed to rest on those as I read in the rules. In reality, those kayak’s were close, but definitely not worth the extra 25 yard swim to rest.

I did have one new advantage. A wetsuit. My friend Lori let me borrow hers for the race (along with her trishorts). Now, I have to confess again, I actually have never, not even for a second took a practice swim in this wetsuit or any wetsuit. I was told it would be easier and I was desperately clinging onto the fact that this was true.

Start Wetsuit

My goal was to stay on the edge to avoid the more aggressive swimmers and getting kicked in the face. Because being a terrible swim and getting kicked in the face in the first mile of a 70.3 journey would probably have been terrible at best. However, I had trouble getting to the right side of the starting line and somehow ended up at the left, the inner loop.

Swimming start

I start swimming and the first thing I noticed was that my lower body just stayed up without me exerting a large amount of energy to stay buoyant. Yes, wet-suits are indeed awesome and if I ever do any distance swims, I will need to invest in one from now on. They’re awesome. Normally when I get into the warm, my lower body just sinks down so this gave me some reassurance that I just might be okay.

I did make one mistake. For the first 1/3rd of the loop, I was swimming with my head poking out because I was so nervous on the other swimmers and getting kicked. However, this completely ruined whatever form I normal have and I probably wasted a great deal of energy and time swimming like a drowning dog.

Swimming

Once, I realized that the world isn’t going to end if someone’s limb touches me, I went into a normal freestyle stroke and the rest of the 2/3rd of the first loop went great. I even continued onto the second loop without a stop. Because the second loop starts around shallow water you could in theory stretch your legs and stand up. I didn’t want to waste any time and just kept moving.

Swimming 2

There was about one instance when I wanted to take a little rest. My shoulder was starting to bother me and I was about halfway into my final loop. I was getting tired fast and at one point lost my stroke and swallowed some really nasty pond water. However, I looked at the distance between me and the kayaks and decided I’m better of swimming forward to the finish then resting. Before I knew it, I was in a shallow part where I could stand up.

Drowning Liana

I was ready to sprint through the water, until I felt like pokey on my feet. Yea, the shore of the pond is covered in mussels, so I delicately walked out of the pond and saved the sprinting for later.

Official time: 49:49 about 10 minutes faster than my training swims! (Overall 396/426) 

The hill climb sprint

So as I was getting out of the pond, I started immediately working on taking off the wetsuit

Sprint Hill

Before I could get into the transition area, I had a mini hill sprint. A volunteer was standing warning us to slow down because the area got so slippery and I guess a few people took some wicked falls. I just went on my climby way. I needed to slow down my heart rate anyways. Total time 1:46 (252/426 overall)

Sprint Hill 2

Transition 1

I don’t know exactly what took me so long, maybe it was pinning my number, changing shoes and removing the wetsuit but I spent almost 5 minutes in transition. 4:49 to be exact.

Transition 1

The one stupid thing that I would go back on from transition 1 would be taking my camelpak. In retrospect, it was a stupid idea and I didn’t get much use of it as I thought I would. I don’t get a ranking for transition time, but I’m sure I was on the longer end.

Bike Leg –

I don’t know how to describe the bike part. You know when You have a dramatic experience and you mind kind of blocks out most of the memory and it almost feels like a hazy deja vu. That would be my bike leg. I made it. I did it. But there was no savoring the moment. It was just surviving.

From the beginning, I struggled with slowing down my heart rate. My legs and my whole body was so shakey that I had trouble clipping into my pedals.

Bike Struggle

Bike Walk

Still Struggling

Nothing like a personal photographer to capture every embarrassing moment out there.

The bike leg of the race is 56 miles and just like everything else on this day, it too consists of a double loop.

I remember right from the start, it was a bumpy ride.

Literally.

Very bumpy.

Since I started towards the end of the swimming legs and I was pretty much almost the last person out of the water, I was probably a good 30 minutes behind most riders. Combine that with me being a very novice cyclists, I was in for a scary ride.

The roads were not closed, not even remotes. About 75% of the course was a bumpy granite road with potholes, large cracks and absolutely no shoulder to get you space between you and the cars.

Now my first loop was okay. Eventually, I saw other riders who were probably on their second loop as I was doing my first. It was still relatively early in the morning so there was less cars on the road. However, I don’t have a fancy bike. I have a fairly minimum not even a brand name road bike. So every crack in the concrete, yea I felt that.

After mile 18 or so, the road even got nice. It looked like a recently repaved road. There was two aids stations, one around mile 4 and one around mile 20 that I passed by. I probably had a nice 16.5 mile pace. I’m no doped up Lance Armstrong, but considering I just swam the longest and fastest distance of my, I was feeling content with my pace.

My second loop was a nightmare. I just remember being mostly alone with the except or one of two fellow cyclists. I remember constantly being absolutely terrified that I was going to get hit by a car on this narrow road. Car literally kept zooming around me because both them and I had nowhere else to go. I felted stressed and drained for about 75% of the second loop.

I also remember most of all that I’ve been wanted to pee pretty much since I started this race. I finally gave in and took a stop at mile 40. Since the one bathroom they had was occupied by someone who seemed to behaving an even worse race than I was, I took that time to calm myself down, eat two hammer gels and stretch. My quads were absolutely killing me. I’m not sure from what. The course was hilly but not that hilly and besides that my quads hurt from the moment I jumped onto the bike. Maybe I used them in swimming? Still have no clue.

Anyways, my second loop was getting slower and slower and I heard rumors that I was one of the last 20 people on the road. Yea, that was fun.

I knew I was getting close to getting timed out. Yea, that’s right, the bike leg, a leg that I thought I would have some catch up, was the leg that was slowly almost disqualifying me from the race.

Relentless forward progress, I repeated. That was all I could focus on because the least I could do was try and finish. I was going slow, but I was still moving.

Total Time: 3:49:41 Overall place 421/426 (I have never been so last place in my whole life before)

Transition 2

I went into T2 with a very bruised ego. I was falling apart. If I wasn’t so focused on finished. If I took the time and evaluated my race at that time, I would have cried. However, I tried to remained focused. My transition 2 was just as slow as transition 1. By the time I finished the bike leg of the race; I was baked. I really felt like I had no will to continue besides my own stubbornness. I changed my shoes. I opted for my Mizuno Waveriders vs. Skechers GoMebs because if the running course was anything like the biking course, major potholes and a terrible road shoulder, I wanted a little extra cushion. I even took a minute to stretch and move my Garmin from my bike mont to my arm. I took a few more Shotbloks and then when I finally felt ready, I went off for my run, knowing I was probably in almost last place.

Transition 2

Total Time – 5:03

Running Leg

So as I got to my final leg, all that was standing between me and the finish line was a small little 13.1 mile run. A half marathon as some might call it.

I started my run, just like I started my bike. With a mistake. I took my phone with me for music. Yes, technically we were not allowed to have any audio on us, but I was already in last place so I didn’t feel like I had much to lose at this point. I also was partly concerned that I was already disqualified for being too slow. However, within a minute of my run, I changed my mind and passed my cellphone to Tony as I saw him at the start of my run. And off I went.

running

My first mile somehow ended up being 7:30. Considering I was barely pulling 14MPH on the bike leg, this came as a complete shock. It also made me realize that since I was no longer in fear of my life and getting run off the road by a car, I actually have a lot more left in my tank than I thought. I decided to go with all I got. It wasn’t a lot, but I went with it all.

The running course was a 3 mile loop. It was a really boring shoulder of a road that we looped around twice. The terrible part was that it was repetitive and didn’t have much shade. The positive was that, I got to see some of my friends who were hours ahead of me.  The terrible part was that I was never sure if I was passing people or if those people were on their final loop and I was still many miles behind them.

The great part was that the volunteer were amazing on the running leg. They were organized and had everything I needed available. There was Hammer Gels, Salt Tabs, cold sponges, water and coke (coca cola silly, not cocaine). Although, I think I would have totally accepted cocaine at this point.

The aid stations were about every 1.5-2 miles and I made sure to make use of everyone one of them whether it was a drink, or ice or just water to dump over my head, they were there and I used them and add that to the fact that I was in full out, OMG I don’t want to finish last mode adrenaline, I kept doing the only thing I could do, run. Run fast, run smart, and just keep moving. Uphill I slowed the paced but still ran and on the downhill, I pushed up my pace.

I don’t know the exact breakdown but I probably took a water or a coke every 3 miles or so. I took a cold sponge every chance I could and stuffed one in the back of my sports bra to cool my back and one in the front to cool off my chest. I was in serious heat. It was probably around 78 degrees with not a cloud in the sky. Add to the fact that I already spent 4 exhausting hours trying not to die on my bike, I was more than mildly overheated. I didn’t grab any more gels, but I did drink more than a few cups of soda and a salt tab somewhere along mile 7.

I expected my run leg to be about 2 hours with each mile dragging on since I would probably be running 2 minutes slower than my normal pace. But I surprised myself. With each mile, I wasn’t slowing down. I kept expecting to hit a wall and having to walk like the other runners around me. Shockingly, the miles, even without any music or much entertainment were flying by. To be honest, I don’t remember what I was thinking about to pass the time, most likely not much. I was in full survival mode to run, run and be done with this race as soon as possible.

Before I knew it, I was in the final grass sprint area. I’m proud to say that as far as I’m aware not one person passed me on the run! Even if I did start almost last haha.

Finish sprint

Finish Sprint 2

Yes, I sprinted to that finish line.

Total Time – 1:47:47 Overall 89/426

Finish Line

The first thing I did after getting my medal was walk over to the massage area which I was told was already full. Made me a little cranky because when races advertise massages, they should be available to all participants not just to the top 20%. Us slowpokes pay the same race fee as the fast kids and I think we deserve the same service.

I pouted and walked to find Tony. And as you can see in my photo, I also decided that it’s too hot to continue wearing my shirt, belly fat and paleness be damned, I was overheating and needed to find shade. when we got to the eating area there wasn’t any place to sit, but there was still plenty of food left.

The race entry fee to the race gives you a turkey dinner, a la Thanksgiving style with stuffing, yams, mashed potatoes, cold slaw and all the other things I don’t normally eat because I’m just not a fan thanksgiving food. They also had a dessert area where I picked either a pumpkin whoopie pie or a brownie. I asked if I could take both and was denied.

So no massage, turkey dinner that I don’t really eat, and a dessert denial…

But then I found the beer tent with shipyard pumpkin and all became better. Although, I stilled wanted to go and take a brownie because the Pumpkin whoopie pie was pretty tasty and I kind of survive of sugar and beer.

photo 3 (1)

I let Tony have my food since it was paid for in the race fee and throwing it out would have been a waste.

Total Results and Ranking

Total Time :

Overall Place: 342/426

Gender Place: 122/180

Division Place: 10/12

My final thoughts on Pumpkinman…

I haven’t done a lot of triathlons so I’m only comparing it to running events. But overall, I found it very poor value for what it costs. I’ve gotten pretty good where the majority of my marathons cost me under $75 with the exception of Boston which is $150 and it’s Boston so I suck it up. But personally, because I don’t enjoy triathlons and because of the experience I had due to my training and experience, I thought the  70.3 race was poor value for my money. I think my race fee with the something or other 1 day membership was $275 and the only thing it provided was lifeguards, kayakers and a few paddle boarders on the water. I’m not even sure if they were paid or volunteers. I know triathlons require more logistics and more insurance but I don’t know what else there is. Maybe, I’m missing something. The bike and running course was open to traffic. I saw one police detail the whole time. Everything else, from the turns to the aid table are volunteers, free labor. Yes, I know the Gatorade, the timing chip, the hammer gels cost money but I just don’t see how it adds up to the cost of the event. I’m sure if I loved swimming and biking as much as I love running, it would be totally worth it but I don’t so I’ll just have to stick to what I enjoy.

The one big thing that I would like to mention is that I thought all the volunteers were great and helpful and all the fellow race participators were great sports and very encouraging to one another.

I don’t regret participating in this race. While I can’t say I’m thrilled with my time, it was a worthy experience that I will treasure for a while. You should always tri 😉 everything once.

Will I ever do another one again? While I see plenty of sprint tris in my future, I don’t think I’ll do another half ironman or longer distance event again. While the actual event was sort of fun and I loved the challenge of it all, the training made me absolutely miserable. At the root of it all, I love running and having cut back on that for biking and swimming made me cranky. Also, I’m pretty sure that I’m allergic either to the Malden Y or chlorine because my skin would always burn in the pool. Regardless, I already canceled my Y membership and probably the only way I would ever sign up and train again would be if I had a training buddy for those long rides on the road that I never did or had a super flexible schedule so I could hit the pool when it was empty and get in bike rides when there was less cars out there.

30 thoughts on “Pumpkinman Half Ironman Triathlon Race Report”

  1. Great job finishing the race!

    I agree with you that you should have been able to get a massage & both a brownie & pie!

    Hope to see you at the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk on Sunday! I’m worried about the 80 degree heat predicted but I’m dragging myself across that finish line if I have to!

  2. Congrats on being a half ironman… err, iron woman, but I can agree with you on not doing the race again if it was that expensive and you didn’t get all the promised perks. And geez, denying a person a dessert? Especially if they don’t really eat the other foods and the volunteers can see they don’t have much else on the plate after a tri… ? I don’t really know any runners who like the swim part of a tri, either. It’s awesome you got out there, but I don’t blame you to stick to the sprint events because half ironman events would definitely take up a lot of training time.

  3. Nice work Liana, I can’t even imagine doing all that right now. The idea of swimming and biking as well as running is a exhausting. I can definitely see how it would not be worth that amount of money though. That is very expensive, but worth trying to say you did it right? Nice job for pushing through when your shoulder hurt….and after drinking nasty water. I am sure your future tris will be much better 🙂

  4. First–congrats on your race! That distance is no joke. Second–you sound just like me. I actually started in triathlon and was really into it for several years, but then gravitated to running. As much as I love triathlon races, I don’t have fun training (especially on the bike) any more. So I’ll do a sprint here or there, but that’s it.

    Recover well!

  5. Congrats on finishing a half-iron! The finisher’s smile tells all..

    A good wet-suit makes the swim so much easier. It honestly feels like cheating, except for the fact that almost everyone else is wearing one…

  6. Congrats!! I hope to someday do a half ironman and eventually an ironman, but it’s not in the cards just yet! It’s seems the best thing post race was the Shipyard beer, but got $275 you should have been able to get the brownie too!

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