As the race approached I was experiencing something different. I felt strong. I felt…confident. In that I could race and race strong. Which also brings a different feel too…more worry. What if I fail? But that’s where gratitude comes in. I’ve never felt I was in the wrong place. Right now I feel like I am where I should be, and have a sense of calm. Not always, and I am still am mix of highs and lows, but…calm…surrounded by friends that are friends….regardless of racing. With that said, on to race weekend!
Carlos and I had dinner with friends at their hotel. It was perfect…no lines and relaxed. I think we need to continue this routine. I ate in my room before IMLOU last year and it’s just nice to have everything there. The day before is a busy day with so much going on, it is perfect to make this one big thing easier for me.
Morning was an early start as transition opened at 4:30 and it’s about a 20-minute drive there. We left about 4:15 and got a good parking spot. We pumped my tires, grabbed my nutrition, and headed off. We we’re early enough the line wasn’t bad to get I to transition. Body marking, and I headed to my spot. Second row…whee! Inside but…no worries. Meant a space for my bag as I was along the internal wall. Brent found me as he and Kyle were also near the front. we chatted, hugged, and I headed to my spot. Rebecca found me. Morning hug and we went to set up our transition spots. My transitions are always slow, and I had worked on a couple of ideas. I think they helped just to get me in the brain set. But I still need to refine them.
It always amazes me how, once you get your nutrition on your bike, there really is so little to everything else. It’s all about the bike!
Once set up I stopped by where Rebecca was and chatted a bit and then I headed out…no reason to stick around fretting about my setup!
I found Carlos waiting, and we spotted Nadya in her Dynamo kit and wig…getting ready for a day of cheering. Then Carlos and I headed towards a spot for me to do my warm up run. After, we saw Kris. Rebecca was in her run. We headed to the pool area to get away from the hubbub. I found the pool last year. They open it for athletes to swim and warm up before the event. I like it there as you are just far enough away to remain calm. We chilled, Rebecca joined us, and then Paul, an athlete of Rebecca’s also racing.
My stomach at one point decided to get a stitch. I was massaging it…it was deep. I took a couple of tums just in case, but the massaging seemed to be working. At that point I was thankful for the later start as it was fine well before I did start. While at the pool I saw and chatted with Marni. She and Rebecca had early waves.
Soon it was Carlos and me with just others we didn’t know waiting for my wave. We spotted Karel (Marni’s husband). He left when we did. Having not spoken to him much the past few years he surprised me that he remembered me. And so we chatted as we walked to swim start and parted ways there. This was one of my most relaxed pre-race times. It’s great to have a place that is quiet and get to. And just have people to chat with. People have their own rituals so I never take not being chatty, etc personal. I am not the best person to be around myself pre-race.
With that, I ate my Honey Stinger Chews, and got in line. Almost time! I warmed up…swinging my arms lightly and hopping a little. And we moved forward with each wave that started. I knew by now Rebecca and Brent and Kyle were out of the water and riding. It was just getting warmer now. And I was comfortable in my wet suit.
I lined up at the front, per Stacy, and kept my spot. We moved in to the water and I did a few dolphin dives and strokes to get my heart rate up a bit. And kept my spot at the front of the line. Then waited. We all stop there poised with our hands on our Garmin or other chosen racing device, it seemed. And the horn was sounded.
I started strong. And actually I never felt any tightness I my chest. Hooray! However, I did get water in my right goggle. I closed my eye, and did tighten the strap as I swam (!!), but at the first large buoy went in front of it to quickly empty the water. Much better. I repeated this once more early on to get it all out, and the rest of the swim was uneventful. Fantastic! I felt strong, and good. And was swimming in an almost straight line! Woo hoo! Yes! Each turn came fairly quick. I never backed off even as I saw more and more different colored swim caps. No false sense of security this time.
It was time to swim: focus on what you are doing now!
Soon I saw the exit arch coming in to sight. I kept swimming until my hands were on the ground and hit the ground running.
The sunscreen was near swim in, which surprised me, but I had most of my wetsuit off so was good for them to hit me. I also have my Castelli Stealth jersey so my shoulders are already covered. I love this jersey as it keeps me cool, and I really do love having my shoulders covered for a race. Having gotten wiped out by the FL sun once before, I make every effort to avoid it again in a race at every race.
No wetsuit strippers, but luckily being near the hedge, there was plenty of room to strip and toss my wetsuit to the side. Helmet, shoes, and out.
At the mount like I saw Kris. And he saw my push my pedal to the wrong spot and had to move it around. Sigh…so close. He said he didn’t get a picture of that! And I was off.
I started and…my legs weren’t prime but also where I knew they should be for a good day. And so I embraced it, remembering Last year, wanting to beat last year, and remembering my best races are the ones where my legs take a bit to adjust to the effort. It’s all good. I call it embracing the suck. If it feels good….I’m not doing it right. I know I can. It’s a matter of fueling it. I worked to stay on top of my fuel and hydration. I use a custom Infinit mix and so don’t eat much except the occasional honey stinger gel with caffeine. It works for me.
The first 25 miles are mostly flat with a tail wind. Despite efforts, my watts were a bit lower than goal, but my heart rate was good, so I went with it, pushing where I was able. After mile 25 is about 20 miles of rollers, and the last bit is mostly flat with a headwind. Make hay while the sun shines!
A couple of cars got in with us. And that always makes for an interesting adventure. When they can, they tend to (not all) cross the line a bit so cyclists can go by safely. Or turn as soon as they can. Being caught in a race and driving with triathletes would be very stressful. I did see one event that could have turned ugly fast, but there was enough time for all that it never did.
Being one of the last three waves to start mean at the word of the day was “Left!”. There are some rough spots and people want to come over a bit. Most of the time it’s ok and there is plenty of room to pass as there aren’t many cars on the road. But I still holler left loud and clear. For me it’s for everyone’s safety out on the course. Sometimes people also are weaving, perhaps getting some nutrition or due to a cross wind, and so I want them to stop waving. Rarely was I ever free and clear, it was pretty much a continuous line of passing people and dipping back in occasionally to let the raw people who passed me pass. I did have men ages 30-40 behind me, and relays, and the wave ahead of me was men’s 40-45 so I was going to be passed occasionally. Thankfully there was always room to pass, and once people knew I was approaching, they’d get over pretty quick if they out a bit.
I did play back and forth with one person a bit, and I commented him to once. We made a brief friendly exchange, and I would see him occasionally most of the ride.
I felt pretty well, and, as I do with a half, got a little ahead with my nutrition as I carry two 1.5 hour bottles. I prefer this.
Coming in I felt good still. My legs were responsive. So I hauled it in. Before I turned in to get to T2 I got my feet out of my shoes and got ready to run while watching the crowd for anyone that may think there was time to get across the road in front of me. No one did. But I always watch as it can happen.
I came in, off my bike and ran to my sweet transition spot…right by bike in. Put on my socks and shoes, grabbed my hat, belt, and fuel belt and headed off, putting them I as I ran. I didn’t realize it until I returned to pick up my bike after the race, but one of my bottles fell out before I left my row. It didn’t matter as I had opted for plan B nutrition, but more on that later.
I hit sunscreen up and ran on.
Again…time to embrace the suck. There is no magic answer. Just trusting and knowing what I am feeling is what I should be feeling. And that I can. Just fuel it. And so that was on my brain: positive talk. And fuel. I tasted the Infinit on my belt and…it was my bike mix. I was not up for more of that flavor, and had been looking forward to my Caramel mix on the run. So sad. So I opted for plan B: Coke and water at each station. With occasional necessary swigs from my fuel belt as necessary.
They didn’t have ice at all aid stations, and when they did, it was in their hands so I couldn’t get too much. So I didn’t get it down my shorts and jersey as much as I prefer, but luckily it wasn’t too hot.
I know the first 2 miles are mostly uphill. I kept it steady and strong…reminding myself I love hills, and to embrace the muscle action. Three loops of this. And by the third loop, adrenaline and knowing it’s my last time will carry me through.
The back half also has some nice declines. And all declines are not chances to pull back, but race them as best I can. And that was my plan.
I saw Kris, and actually had a chance to see Rebecca on an out and back and she gave me a high five. I was already motivated to keep pushing with so many people and thoughts on my mind…this was another push in my brain.
On lap two as I started the first big hill, I realized my legs were numb. Hmmm…not good
for lap two…but keep going. They (my legs) were better on the second hill. Good! I kept the good vibes going in my brain…remembering last year. And pushing. This doesn’t feel good. It’s not supposed to! Your working hard. But you love it. Embrace it and go because you can!
I saw Nadya all three laps, and I think it was lap two she got a chorus of volunteers to cheer me as I went by. More positive vibes and a smile.
I saw Carlos, but not sure where. He got a picture of me in the run and honestly, I don’t remember seeing him. That may have been my last lap.
April was also near at about the half me point for each lap. And she, as before, cheered me to keep steady and strong.
On lap two a woman in a different age group and on her last lap said “come on…you can keep up with me!” And I kept close to the end of the loop (it wasn’t far). Hooray for motivation!
Like I said, with so many good vibes, it’s hard to not stay positive.
And soon the third lap started. And I couldn’t feel my legs, but I kept plugging along…willing them to go. I didn’t know my cumulative time, but just kept pushing. It was the last lap.
I have a love/ hate with the three-lap concept. It’s great as it is in dividable chunks. It’s bad in that you take this hills three times, and must pass the finish 3 times.
And I was soon coming in to the finish. And pushing. And crossed. I knew I was below 5 hours, but not by how much.
Carlos was there, and I saw a Patti and Marni. Smiles were around. It was a good race. I gave Carlos a sweaty hug. And we went in search of some food for me. Although eating wasn’t too high on my list. I pretty much grazed with purpose until we had an early dinner.
The swim was a course PR for me. And the run was my fastest half iron run to date, which makes me very happy. My running is slowly returning. As I mentioned, those women who were as fast as me on the bike smoked me on the run. And I lost my lead on the run, and was beaten by 43 seconds. I say this as not to whine, but say….I am thrilled with where I am, and know I can keep working to do more. I have many good examples of this with every race.
And I broke 5 hours for the second time (first was Muncie 70.3 in 2015). And had a 5 minute distance PR and a little over 7 minute course PR. My final time was 4:53:13. And I was second in my age group, 8th female overall. I already had a 2017 70.3 Worlds (Muncie 70.3 2016 – Muncie is a good race for me!) slot so it rolled down to another athlete.
I know the race isn’t about the numbers. I won’t focus there. Although I am very happy I was able to do what I did. I felt strong and ready coming in to this race. Which, as I said, is a new feeling. I know another shoe can drop, but for now I take each training session and race opportunity with gratitude: I am grateful for the lifestyle I chose right now. I check in with my husband and make sure he’s still good with what we are doing. And he is. And so we continue this journey. And meet amazing people, not just for what they can do, but for what they do do….how they live and encourage others to reach for their own goals.