Where to start with this one. Toughman SC took place on September 30, 2017 in Greenwood, SC. It is a half ironman event (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) put on by SCTS but under the Toughman brand.
I was pretty excited for this one – it was my first half ironman tri of the year after Mountains to Main Street was cancelled in May and I felt physically and mentally prepared for it. In fact, I wasn’t even really that nervous. I think because the event was close by (less travelling) and put on by SCTS (they always do a great job), it was something that was well in my comfort zone. The last half ironman I did was Augusta 70.3 in September 2016. That day was horribly hot, and my performance suffered greatly. Leading up to Toughman SC, the weather looked like it was going to work out well for the competitors.
I travelled to Greenwood the previous day to pick up my packet and leave my bike at T1 at Lake Greenwood. This event is a point-to-point with T1 being at the swim start at Lake Greenwood and T2 in Uptown Greenwood, next to the finish line.
After running into a few friends and getting my bike on my rack, I headed to Greenwood to settle into my hotel and relax. In an effort to stick to my vegan diet, I brought a lot of food with me so I wouldn’t have to hunt around for restaurants that serve vegan food. Left over spaghetti, a super green smoothie and some cookies went down a treat. It was an early night, hitting the bed at 9am. The next morning I got up at 5am, had my overnight oats and preload at the hotel, and then headed to T2 in Uptown Greenwood. I set up my second transition with my running gear, and then got on the shuttle bus with my bike gear to head to T1. T1 was quick and easy to set up, and I spent the rest of the morning catching up with friends, drinking water and eating a banana before the start. The water was 81F so not wetsuit legal. A little unusual for a race, they weighed everyone at the start and put our weight on our arms. We’d get weighed again at the end to see how much weight we lost, which I assume is a safety thing. I started the morning weigh in 131.6lbs. Before the 8am start for the open wave, I did a little warm up swim. The water was warmer than the outside air temperature, which was in the 60s.
Soon enough, they asked the open wave to get in the water to be ready to start. The 1.2 mile swim was 2 laps of a clockwise course. There were a dozen or so in our wave so we lined up and were off with a shot of a cannon! All in all, I had a horrible swim. The swim out to the first turn buoy was really choppy and I felt I had to change my line a fair bit. All of the fast swimmers were way off before me, and I never caught them. I just hung in there and tried not to get too upset that I was getting passed by age groupers in the first lap. In fact, I saw a video of our wave start and I could immediately point out 5 things I did wrong and set myself up poorly. 1) I should have lined up to the far left without anyone in front of me. That would have given me a clear line, instead of starting the swim on someone’s feet. 2) The poor line up caused me to start a few seconds after everyone since there were people in front of me. That meant I was playing catch up the whole time, which I’ll never win. 3) I’m having a horrible time of swimming straight right now. I need a swim coach to tell me what I’m doing wrong there, or work on my core strength to straighten me out. 4) I probably should sight less as every time I’m sighting I’m having to change course a bit. I’d probably cover more “ground” if I just kept my head down for a bit longer and dealt with any drift later. 5) Speedsuit – everyone who passed me had a speedsuit on. I really wonder how much of a disadvantage I’m at swimming in my tri kit with the extra fabric causing drag. As I settled into the swim and the fact that I would come out a few minutes behind my competitors, I focused on things like the hawks and herons flying overhead. One thing I love about our sport, and the long course, is you are spending hours in the splendor or nature. I’ll never get tired of that. Ultimately, I came out of the water in 43 minutes, my slowest half ironman swim time. I was hoping for closer to 37 minutes, but that may never happen unless I have a wetsuit or speedsuit on.
I was quick out of the water and ran to T1. It looked like ALL of the bikes were gone (not actually the case) but I pulled on my cycling gear, made sure all of my stuff was in the pick up bag that would be taken to T2 while we were racing, and headed out on my bike. I ended up with the 4th fastest T1 time for the women – 53 seconds – so at least I made some good time there. The exit out of T1 was a decent hill, and that caused some problems as a woman in front of me could not mount her bike as much as she tried. It took me a couple of goes and I tried not to run into her, but I was up soon enough, with 55 miles ahead of me to lay down some rubber.
The bike course was rolling hills with a net ascent into Uptown Greenwood. For the first 10 miles, my legs didn’t feel great. I had hot spots on my right quad and my left knee didn’t feel good. When I feel like that, I just concentrate on form, aerodynamics, and getting my nutrition in. I would take a few sips of Perpetuam every time my watch beeped for 5 mile splits, and every split was around the 15 minute mark, so I knew I was averaging close to 20mph. That’ll do. I was told the scenery on the bike was beautiful farmland, but I never see much on the bike as I keep my head down and concentrate on not hitting potholes. My back and neck were also all messed up so it was a constant battle to try and stay relaxed. Around the 39 mile mark, I crossed an intersection that was manned by the race director, Jeremey Davis. He yelled “good job” as I went by and I thought “yeah, right”, but what do you know, I looked up ahead and realized I was approaching the 3rd place open female, Ashley, who I’ve been going back and forth with in the results all year. She looked like she was hurting, and I suddenly felt great. I told myself to pass her looking strong and then put in some strong miles to get time on her. I had 15 miles to put minutes between us, and I knew I could do it. The last 5 miles were slow as we came into Uptown Greenwood – hills and battling heavy traffic in town. My bike split was the 7th fastest female at 2:50, 19.4mph average.
T2 was quick-ish. Heading out on the double out-and-back course, now was the time to see how far ahead the other 2 ladies in my category were. I told myself to settle in as there is no point in trying to sprint a half marathon. I always struggle with that coming off the bike – the joy of being out of the saddle just makes me want to run fast, but I settled in around a 9 minute pace, which was exactly where I wanted to be. We had perfect weather – low 80s and cloudy. I’ll take that all day long. The way out on the course is slightly downhill so I used that to my advantage as much as I could, and knew to prepare myself for the slight uphill on the way back. My other 2 competitors were a good ways in front of me (my estimation was at least a mile or mile and a half) so my job now was to stay steady and hold off Ashley. I knew she was fast in the short runs, but I didn’t know what she’d be like at a longer distance. I actually enjoyed the run and my fueling seemed to be working. I kept a flask of espresso energy gel on me for a little boost and got water at every stop for the first half. On the second out and back, and switched over to coke at the rest stops and kept on plugging away. My competitor never caught me and I crossed the line with a 2:04 half marathon (I’d love to get that to 2 hours then sub-2hr), and an overall time of 5:41:15, a big PR on the half ironman distance for me. I won 3rd open female and was the 7th female overall.
I really enjoyed this race, and it makes me want to do more half ironman distances. Maybe next year I’ll focus on that more than the sprints. We’ll see! The last race of the series is October 14th, the Dam Tri. This will determine the final standings for 2017. Right now, I’m holding 3rd open female, and I hope to defend that spot at the Dam Tri!