Superfrog Race Report – Michelle Balsz
September 30, 2012 I had the pleasure of competing in my second half Ironman distance this year. I came across this race via random email a couple of months ago and thought to myself that sounds like a cool race. Believe it or not it had nothing to do with the prospect of Lance Armstrong being there. My thoughts were of my father. I was born and raised in San Diego, my dad lives close to Coronado, has not yet been to any of my races and is going through the battle of his life right now fighting cancer. He is a great supporter of me and is the reason I got in to triathlon in the first place. He was a swimmer and a lifeguard in his youth and as child (in my mind) I was his greatest competition in the water. From the age of 3 I would race him any chance I could get. My mom could not keep me out of the water. He is excited to get back in the water next spring and I can’t wait to be the first one in with him.
I thought initially that Pac Coast would be my final race of the season but this race instantly became a priority as you never know what next year can bring, let alone tomorrow and I wanted my dad to be there. I told him about it and he signed me up almost more excited about it than me. Of course Joby was able to seamlessly incorporate Sprint along with Long Course training into my plan. I was well prepared.
Here we go! I drove to San Diego that afternoon, picked up my dad and headed to the expo. I wanted him to experience everything. I had a great time walking around the expo with him and explaining the course of events that would take place the next morning. My dad and I have way of bantering with one another that most may not understand but makes sense to us. We seem to catch people off guard quite often. I believe life is about having a good time, laugh a lot! It was a great spectator venue and I wanted to give my family an idea of where I would be and when. So, the “napkin” guesstimate was put down. Not having raced there before I was going by my sense of how I was feeling and where I was with my training. My overall goal time was 6:06:30.
By Saturday night my mom, 3 children and 2 of my daughter’s friends had arrived at my Grandmothers house. So, including myself I had 8 people to get up and get going at 4:30 am. My dad was going to meet us at the race. Morning came and I quickly realized I could only be concerned with getting myself ready and out the door. Lauren, my daughter and loudest cheerleader (ask any poor unsuspecting by-stander on the course) was ready to go so off we went at 5:15 playing some pump-you-up Eminem songs nice and loud on the way. Everyone else was soon to follow…on their own! I was looking for a good spot to set up transition when I noticed they were already assigned by number. So much for getting there early, but at least we were able to get in the parking lot. I headed into transition and left Lauren to round up the family as they arrived. Of course there was a lot of hype over Lance Armstrong but I went about getting my transition set up. I did see Michael Arabia who was a last minute registrant; it was nice having a familiar face there, to know someone else who was soon to go through the same challenges.
Walking out of transition I see my daughter then hear someone say “Michelle”. I turned around and saw Marco, he had come with a friend to see Lance and cheer me on. I headed out to the beach and found my family. The usual was going on, I am trying to get my head in race mode at the same time refereeing insignificant arguments amongst my children, Christian (my youngest) lost his retainer in the sand, and so on… I decided (smiling to myself) to leave it all and go get in the water to acclimate and warm up. The waves were BIG and coming in doubles, which meant dive deeper and stay under longer. This course was an interesting one, 2 loops. The swim was 350 yards out, 200 yards swim North, 350 yards in to shore, run 200 yards down the beach then do it all over again. Great I get to fight these waves twice! My original guess for my swim time was 35 minutes, but after seeing the conditions I told my daughter it might be more like 40 minutes. Actual swim time 36:25. I was happy with that!
Not knowing at first how far away transition was going to be or how tired I would be from the swim I guessed at a 3:30 T1. Surprisingly I was able to get out of there a lot quicker than planned in 1:48.
This is the part I was most unsure of. Biking isn’t my strongest event and knowing I would have 56 miles of constant pedaling ahead of me I wasn’t sure how it would play out. I had talked to a couple of women in transition and they said last year there was quite a headwind. Of course, why didn’t I think of that? The ride was on “The Strand” a strip of land in the middle of the ocean; of course there would be wind! All I could think of was the last 5 miles on SART heading into HB with a headwind…here I could have 7 miles of that each loop and there were 4 loops. Ugh! There was a headwind but it seemed to shift from loop to loop. The best part of the bike was seeing my dad out there, I didn’t see him before the swim so seeing him out on the course was awesome, and he was there every loop. Oh yes, and do not let me forget seeing Lance fly by in his Speedo. At least I had the highlight of seeing him on the course several times and pretending I was kicking his butt when he was coming up behind me to lap me. Good times!
Original bike time guesstimate 3:15, overall 3:11:50. This was shaping up nicely!
If I didn’t have to pee it would have been around 1 minute, but I didn’t want to stop and add to my bike time so I really had to go. Guesstimate 3min, actual 2:35. OK!
I was so happy heading out of T2, I was ahead of schedule and could cruise my run at my guesstimated pace and come in earlier than expected. This run starts you right out on to the beach, and I was taking Joby’s advice and using quicker shorter steps through the soft sand making my way down to the water line for the 2+mile run down the strand. I was feeling good, getting my running legs trying to dodge the waves as they came up and over my feet. My Zoots were amazing, no socks, no slosh, not even any blisters with 13 miles of wet feet. I continued down the beach which having to contend with the water didn’t make for as hard packed sand as they claimed but I enjoyed the view and the cool air and just being able to be out there doing something I love. I was really thankful. Mile 3 took you up the beach through more soft sand and onto the base, the hot, no shade, barren base. Of course they had aid stations with cold water and supplements, but you instantly noticed the change in temperature. And where did the cool breeze go? It had turned to a warm wind coming off the dirt trails and asphalt. I kept my easy pace going, light on my feet. My legs felt tired but I expected that, my right hamstring was letting me know it was annoyed so I massaged it from time to time as I was running. I really didn’t expect it to seize up on my like it did just around mile 5. I couldn’t believe it. Never had I felt pain like this. Ok, childbirth doesn’t count. I was angry, hurting and annoyed but worst of all I had to walk. Of course my first thought was, “just walk the last 8 miles.” Then I thought about my dad, he’s fighting pain everyday that I am sure he doesn’t speak of and he doesn’t give up. A good friend of mine is running her first marathon next weekend in Chicago and I thought, “What am I going to tell Nan?” That actually made me laugh and I thought “How can I be any sort of inspiration to anyone if I give up?” and “What would I tell Joby?” Besides, it’s not like me to give up. If I could walk, I could shuffle and move a little quicker so I continued on seeing many people hurting along the way but continuing forth. I made it out of hell and back down to the beach only to be greeted with another longer run on the soft sand which paralleled the ocean taking us South. “Um, I want to head straight to the waterline where there is nice packed sand now that the tide is out. Yeah, NO!” That about did me in, I could not lift my leg enough out of the sand to shuffle, trying to walk through it was difficult enough. I made it out onto the waterline. All I had now was about 2.5 miles. Around the last ¾ of a mile before the finish I see my family on the beach, my mom, grandma and my dad and Christian standing in the water. It was so cool. My dad came running along side me and gave me a hug – seriously THE highlight of the day. Christian was thoughtful enough to get his iPhone out fast and take a picture. Awesome! Then Christian ran the rest of the way in with me ducking out just before the finish. I knew Lauren would be there, yelling to see me finish. I focused on smiling through the pain and trying to run normally for a respectable photo finish. Guesstimate run time 2:10, actual time 2:29:30.
Overall time: 6:22:08 Overall a great day!
Joby, I cannot thank you enough for your support and the fantastic training plan! You are an awesome coach and friend and I look forward to continuing to progress as an athlete through your coaching. Thank you to all of my friends who encouraged and supported and trained with me for this. Some of you knew what doing this race meant to me, others may not have but I appreciate each and every one of you more than you know. What an awesome extended family I have as well as immediate family. Having their support, seeing them out there makes all of it so much more rewarding.