The end was the best.
The beginning was second best.
Everything between was wet.
After the 1.2 mile swim, our toes sloshed mud in the bike transition area. I pushed forward on the 56-mile bike route in my first half Ironman. The road looked like glass. I wished for windshield wipers on my glasses as rain poured off and on during the race.
At least ten bikes were on the side needing repairs as we headed into South Carolina for most of the ride. I kept thinking my back tire was flat, but it was only hydroplaning here and there. I looked for high points in the road and dodged water bottles, glasses and tire tubes that bikers accidently dropped. A breakdown was my worst nightmare.
I popped ibuprofen every time my knees flared. I ate too many packs of energy Gu to count. Constantly, I was drinking water and thinking about the landmarks and milestones set from training on the course.
Gear up. Gear down.
I lucked out on the ride with no technical difficulties. I was glad I didn't face what the guy near me on mile 45 explained. He couldn't gear down all day. Later, I found out from finisher Randy Cantu that wet roads encourage flats. Glass sticks to the tire and can get ground in. Phew.
My hands were wrinkled like an old man's as I stared at them in the bike-to-run transition.
I started the 13.1 mile run feeling great. This was a real surprise because I hadn't run well in a while. Maybe it was the Endurolyte supplements Andy Jordan recommended during the Ironman EXPO or the Blue Pomegranate Gu I mixed with vanilla. Or maybe it was the intake of fluids. Race director Bill Burke said not to pass up a single water stop.
Certainly, it was a lift to see my wife in her blue poncho with her iPhone ready for a photo as I rounded the first corner.
"Where are the kids?" She said, "It's raining."
Keeping myself from running fast was important. I needed to save energy. I started singing songs to myself. Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and songs from Christmas shows.
I passed a few ladies while singing "Put one foot in front of the other" too loud. One said, "Sounds like a plan." The beat was kept by the sound of a giant sponge hitting the ground, my soaked socks and shoes. Blisters are my destiny.
All the pain subsided as I passed mile 12. I felt a rush. Coworkers, friends and fans downtown were awesome. Seeing TriAugusta's Brian Patterson at the Mellow Mushroom water stop was a highlight. He had to forgo participating due to a bum foot. That didn't stop his cheerleading and full support of anyone who wanted to give the race a go. His selfless kayak support on training swims will never be forgotten. His smile was all I needed to give the last half mile my all.
If that wasn't enough, George Sewell was rooting for me at the finish line. This stranger turned into a friend when his group stopped to help me with a flat.
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Relive the race: Event slideshow
Alan English's overall time for the 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run was 06:21:00. His bib number ws 2745. You can see details about his times and transitions at http://ironmanlive.com/tracking.php?race=augusta70.3&year=2010 . Use the online tracker to look at other athletes.
See the video.