My Half Ironman Tale of Woe and Triumph!

author : writers2
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My First Half Ironman Experience-A Slow, Fat, Old Triathlete. Here is my story of my first, and probably only Half Ironman. I’m an almost 52 year old, VERY Athena triathlete.

I bought a shirt. "What do you call the person who comes in last at a triathlon? A Triathlete".

Here is my story of my first, and probably only Half Ironman.  I’m an almost 52 year old, VERY Athena triathlete:


I swam very, very slowly, but did so on purpose. I was one of the slowest ones, but for the first time, I didn't hyperventilate. I'm not nervous in open water, but somehow, the adrenaline usually makes me do that. I just took it slow and easy, but Got-Er-Done.


There was a long trail run to the bike, which even included some stairs. It was kind of weird for a race, but it did kind of get the legs going. I got on the bike and shortly realized that I didn't do the aero bottle right, as I had never used it before, and all the water mixed with powder just sloshed all over the place. “Okay,” I said, “there are always surprises in every race, I can deal.” Okay, so I was getting into the bike rhythm, but there was a nasty head wind for the first 10 miles. Argh.


Okay, people passed me, but I can deal. During my last race I actually passed a few people, but this was a 1/2 IM so what the heck. But it seemed that every time I turned, there was a head wind! Could it be? I really watched my miles as I knew there was a bike cut-off time, so tried my best to stay within 16-18. Generally, on the shorter races, I try to stay between 18-20, allowing for the 0 miles up the hills and headwinds, but I knew there was the dreaded bridge and iron grate ahead. At the mile 22ish water bottle exchange, I missed the bottle. A guy ran after me with a Gatorade bottle that kept falling out of the cage so I put it in the back pocket. Okay, surprise again, but I could deal.

The bridge was a mile hill. Hard, but I did it slowly and came flying down the other side. What I didn't realize was that we had to go UP that steep part on the return which was around mile 40. So I kept going, still saw the police there and saw the race director at 30, so I started to figure that I probably was going to make the cut-off time. There were a few people behind me who soon passed me, but that was okay. My butt was very sore and my crotch had totally fallen asleep by this point. Those last 16 were really brutally long. There was that headwind again. Go away already.

I finally saw the dismount sign and I was very excited because no one told me I couldn't finish like the girl at Kona with one leg who missed the cutoff by 15 minutes. Please! She had one leg!


My legs felt really crappy off the bike, of course. I started running. Of course, it didn’t help that people were finishing when I started running, but am pretty used to that by now.

It was very uncomfortable. My feet really hurt, I was having trouble with the shoes somehow, and boy was it hot. Not a cloud in the sky. I did a little shuffle and thankfully, everyone was coming back with their encouragement. They were on mile 10-11 and I was on mile 2-3. I took walk breaks, as my feet were killing me. I made it to mile 6 and they took down the turn-around. I thought about cheating, but just couldn't. There was an arrow on the ground so I just used that. I felt bad because the volunteers stayed just for me in the hot sun. At the turn around, my feet just couldn't run any longer. I still hadn't even peed by then and I had hydrated and eaten well. That was somewhat scary.


At mile seven, the Youth Marine Corps kids who were volunteering decided they wanted to walk back with me. They were adorable, a few a little annoying, but it distracted me as my feet were burning, and I figured there was no use even trying to run to save 20-30 minutes. I was very discouraged, saying to myself, "Rhonda, you had no business doing this race this year. Your abilities clearly weren't up to your own expectations, nor how this race should be run." The awards ceremony had long since been over and I missed the hoopla. I love that part. I had two police bike escorts while they were cleaning up the aid stations and cones.


The last mile or so, I decided to shuffle. I didn't want to come in walking. I made the kids be quiet. The police alerted everyone by walkie-talkie that I was coming in. They had left the finish line up since they knew I was coming in, and a bagpiper played the Marine Corps theme song for the kids. The few people left and the staff cheered me on and gave me my finisher’s medal. I had already given the race director a throw-away camera to take pictures at the finish line because even if they sent the race photographer home, I wasn’t going to miss this moment! I burst into tears. I was very depleted, but thanks to the race company (Piranha) who had no cut-off times for finishing, I was allowed to finish.

Okay, that said,  I'm feeling a lot better now because of what Nancy Liedel said to me: "The awful goes away. It’s the finishing that stays".

I could've dug deeper. I think that my problem with my feet kept me from doing so. It was too distracting to work through. I had hoped for 8 hours, but it was 9. I had hoped for about a 16-17 average on the bike, but it was more like 15. I estimated 50 minutes on the swim, but it was 55, not so terrible. The run sucked me down.

So, there it is in a nutshell! I finished a Half Ironman Triathlon. At almost 52 years old and still more than 200 pounds. They can say THAT at my eulogy, which hopefully has been pushed back many years.

Thanks BTers.

Rhonda Cohen


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date: October 2, 2005