In the past 10 years I have raced in some great places. I have seen some beautiful things. I have swum the waters in San Francisco from Alcatraz. I saw the Golden Gate Bridge from the water as I was swimming and it was amazing and breathtaking. I ran the Maui marathon and saw whales off shore during the run. I raced in Hawaii on the big Island and saw some amazing things. I ran 50 miles through Headlands National Park in San Francisco and the beauty was spectacular. In many cases the beauty made the pain of the race well worth it. Costa Rica has been no different and exceeded all of my expectations. Although I did not have my best race, if fact I had my worst time in completing a Half Ironman, it was still spectacular! I went into this race getting over a sickness that I had the week before. A week before the race I came down with a flu and severe cough that triggered asthma. I went to the doctor the Sunday before the race and he loaded me up with inhalers, steroids, cough syrup, allergy medicine and he said I should not do the race. Of course that was not going to happen and I was going to race! I felt a little better going into the race but still had the cough and breathing problems. Most problems breathing were when I ran. I seemed to be OK breathing on the bike and swim but running was tough. It was going to be even more difficult in the hot, humid weather which can make asthma worse. Costa Rica was HOT on race day in the mid 90’s with more humidity that I have ever experienced. Keep in mind I lived in Atlanta and Hawaii but this was no comparison…..it was going to be a very long day! After being sick I did not put any pressure on myself for this race. I just wanted to enjoy my time in Costa Rica and finish the race. I knew the run would be tough since I still had problems breathing and coughing.
As we were looking at the swim course in the morning it looked somewhat long but then again it always does. Of course in addition to the heat and humidity we had wind. The water was rough like a washing machine. We had to do 2-loops coming out of the water once only to go back in a do it again. Most half ironman swims take me about 35-40 minutes. It can take 45-minutes on a really bad day or really long course. After several jelly fish stings and 25 minutes in the water I made it out……for the first loop! OMG this is crazy! It took me 55 minutes to do the swim. After discussing the swim with several people after the race they were also about 20 minutes over their normal 1.2 mile swim time. Ok so I don’t feel so bad about the swim. I have several stings from jelly fish to remind me of the lovely waters of Costa Rica!
The swim was done now onto the bike. Right out of transition there is about 2 miles of hills. I thought no biggy because I am used to hills. I ride hills in Vegas and its only 2 miles right? Well this climb was like nothing I have experience AND it was right after the swim so there was no time to get my legs adjusted to the bike. I seriously thought I was going to die by the time I got to the top of the hill. I could barely breathe and was gasping for air as I hit the top of the hill! My lungs were on fire. Most of the course was flat to rolling hills which was great except for the wind. Parts of the course the wind seemed to slow me down to 14-16mph which really sucked. The bike was 3-loops for a total of 56 miles. The unique thing about racing here was the locals. They were amazing with their support. The aid stations handed out baggies of water instead of bottles. You are supposed to bite a hole in the bag and drink through the hole in the baggy. After swallowing several pieces of plastic I finally got the trick. The bike course had about nine 180 degree turns on a pretty narrow road. I went wide on one of the turns going into the gravel for a nice little crash. It was nothing major just a few cuts, scrapes, and bruises. I got back on my bike with the help from several local Costa Ricans and was on my way. I finished the bike and was off to the 4-loop run course.
By this time it was exceptionally hot and this was no easy run. The run included hills, sand, heat, and humid conditions. It was clear from the beginning I was going to have to walk a lot. My breathing was labored from the start of the run. I think the combination of being sick, dehydrated, and the heat made my breathing and asthma worse. After each loop we run through transition to begin the next loop. After the first loop I stopped at my bike and got my inhaler out of my bag. Two puffs and I was off for another loop. I did another loop and two more puffs, another loop two more puffs…….can you overdose on asthma inhaler. If so I was close and it was not helping at all. I really couldn’t breathe. Each time I came around by transition I seriously thought about stopping. It is amazing the mind games that happen in my head during a race. I wanted to quit so many times this day, I was so close to quitting several times, but I didn’t and I kept walking and trying to run and trying to breathe. When I finished the run I went directly to the medical tent hoping they had oxygen. I was trying to tell them I have asthma and can’t breathe they tell me to sit down. They give me an inhaler which didn’t work any better than the one I had. They didn’t have oxygen which would have probably helped.
Monday my body felt really weak, my lungs ache, I was sunburned, my middle finger was swollen from the fall on the bike, I have jelly fish stings, but I also have memories of a great race in a beautiful place. I met some great people and saw a lot of really amazing locals supporting the race. There were local people all over the run course pouring ice cold water all over me, putting sponges on my back, neck and head. The locals were offering me watermelon, cantaloupe, coke, and water. These were not at aid stations these were all local people on the streets. People were stopping in cars offering water. There were horses on the run course, dogs eating fish bones, an iguana, and people cheering everywhere!
Monday the day after the race I went to the spa for 2 ½ hours of a massage, mud treatment, scalp massage, and a facial and it was amazing. After the spa I sat at the bar near the pool enjoying a pina colada. I was leaving the following day on Tuesday so I just wanted to relax. At sunset I went to the other bar at the hotel to get a great view of the sunset. I sat there with several other people that did the race. We enjoyed great conversation and a great view. I thought my flight was leaving at 2pm the next day. I was traveling with a great company called Endurance Travel. They were awesome and I would recommend traveling with them (www.endurancesportstravel.com). I told them what I thought was my flight time so they planned on taking me and a few others to the airport leaving at 10:30am Tuesday. I planned to sleep in, go for a morning swim and then get ready to go. I woke at 6:30am and thought I would double check my flight time. To my horror it was 9:50am. I frantically threw stuff in my suitcase, brushed my teeth, and had the hotel call a cab. In Costa Rica they suggest arriving to the airport 3-hours ahead of time and it takes an hour to get to the airport! As I ran into the lobby I saw the guys from Endurance Travel and they said they would take me to the airport…..thank god. I made it to the airport but barely. I was disheveled and hungry but made my flight. It was a hectic ending to a great trip. Now I am in Atlanta until Sunday. I am speaking at SEE-ME (Southeastern Multisport Expo) www.seeme2011.com on Saturday the 26th of February. I am excited to be in Atlanta for a few days. I lived in Atlanta about 5 years ago and loved living there. I have a few more days of R&R before going back to work on Monday. I am sure my clients are enjoying my vacation as much as I am........hopefully they are getting to the gym:)