Half-Ironman, Running, Travel

Puerto Rico 70.3, My First Half-Ironman

Completing Puerto Rico 70.3 was one of the hardest things I have done and I found it significantly more challenging than running a marathon. Though I was straight up terrified of the swim (and never swam more than 1200 yards training), I knew the bike would be the toughest part mentally. I assumed that I would be able to get through the run reasonably well since that is my strongest event of the three, but I underestimated the heat in Puerto Rico and the hills in the course.

To my surprise, the swim was my favorite part, and the easiest by far. I felt a bit panicked initially after starting but when I realized I was able to remain with other yellow caps and started passing people in the wave before me, I relaxed and was able to segment the course buoy by buoy and finish 2 minutes quicker than my anticipated time of 50+.

Coming out of the swim, I felt great and jogged the half a mile to the transition. I continued to feel great through about half of the bike course, maintaining the speed of 16+ mph that was my goal, but about halfway through I felt myself losing steam. The wind picked up and was working against us and my neck was throbbing. I took a quick stretch break halfway through, refilled my water bottles, and told myself I could do it. I got to mile 40 and tried to convince myself that I was almost done but those last 16 miles were pure hell. I knew there was no way I would hit my goal of a 3.5 hour bike and simply wanted to finish, hopefully before noon so I would make the swim/T1/bike cutoff time of 5 hours. Again, at mile 50, I told myself I was on the home stretch and it would be downhill from there but of course it was literally all uphill, still in the wind. It took everything I had to remain on my bike and not start walking it. I’m honestly still at a loss as to why people love biking and can go for hours, because I really don’t love it the way I love running. And I’m not sure if that will ever change. I will say for anyone considering a half, bike as much as you can before the race because you spend most of your time in the saddle. After seeing Eric and my parents at the end of my bike ride and realizing I made the 5 hour cutoff, albeit barely, I headed out for the run.

Starting the run was almost as difficult as finishing the bike. I simply did not want to do it and it became a mind game of pushing through the first two miles at which point I finally found a rhythm. The run course in Puerto Rico was definitely the hardest run I’ve ever completed. I started at noon in the hot sun, and the hills were so steep there was no point in wasting energy running up them. Luckily, the race was very well organized and there were a lot of aid stations with ice, as well as hoses set up along the route. I took it mile by mile, mentally checking off each one as I finished.  Eric was a great support, cheering, and telling me I could do it. He ran close by me for a couple of miles in the middle and at the end, which kept me going.

Overall, I am proud that I finished the race (total time of 7:36); completing a half ironman has been on my bucket list for several years now. I don’t think I trained enough but I’m not sure if many of us ever think we do. Puerto Rico is probably not the best first half to do but it’s a beautiful place to vacation and you might as well go big, so I’m glad I chose it. (Would I do that race again? Probably not; once was more than enough.) Thank you, Sally, for recommending it; I’m giving you credit for the push to finally go for it! I am also very thankful that I had support from my boyfriend and parents because they definitely kept me going when I questioned my ability to do so. Love you all!

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