Ironman Santa Rosa

I am not sure where to start. Usually I lay right in to the race.

The swim….I seeded myself right at the front of 1:00-1:10. wasn’t clear if that’s where it started or ended so I just went for it.

I wanted to be in the race from stroke one. Believe it or not I was. That was my goal. No getting in to 500 meters in to the swim like Louisville last year.

It was a bit rough at the start but I found a good spot and never panicked. From the get go it was: be brave,You’re strong, unbreakable, you have a choice.

I am pretty proud that I started off in the race. Even if I made a few tactical mistakes along the way.

I was surprised. The water was smooth out. But some chop coming back. I could tell. Not IMFL chop but still…you felt the small waves hitting you in the face as you turned to breath.

There are 4 turns per loop. It didn’t get too bad around the buoys at any time. I think I actually swam straighter the first loop. I was kinda proud the first loop. I felt spot on.

First lap went by quick.

Swim to my finger tips touching and run up the boat ramp.

The out and back in was SHORT. Less than 10 feet. Back In for lap 2. I did start meeting up with slower swimmers, and had to fish my way through more. However, I felt strong the entire swim. Confident. And remembered Maria: Elbows up. Don’t overthink.

Lap two went pretty quick too. I kept thinking of this was a half I’d be done now. This was only my second IM with two loops. I liked it. But you really realize the distance with two loops. But they go by quickly (maybe even quicker than a single loop!).

I head in. Sighting in the last straightaway in was easier than the first time in, but it still feels chaotic as the out and in are so close. And with so many people it just feels hard to see all you need to see.

Again…swim until hands hit the ground and then run.


It’s really steep about 300-400 yards and then levels off, but you are always running uphill until you reach the top parking lot. Wet suit strippers were under the bridge. I found a pair that was clear. Had my wetsuit down past my butt already and think I surprised the pair with how quickly I was down, and how easily the wetsuit came off. He gave me his hand to pull me up, the other tossed me my suit and I was off…yelling left.

e had to climb this! And there is more around the bend.

It’s a long way around transition. And I don’t think there were enough volunteers as I had to grab my own bag. No problem….I knew where it was (29, near the front) and I ran in to the tent.

They had no tent volunteers. It was planned that way. All athletes were responsible to empty bags, change, put their swim gear in the bag, and hand the bag to a volunteer. I guess that’s why I forgot to grab my nutrition (Kona Mocha gel flask) for after hour 4.5 hours on the bike. Of course I didn’t realize this until mile 15 of the bike. I wouldn’t have turned back if I had remembered once out of the tent anyway.

Out I ran and to my bike. I had a great rack spot near the bike exit. Still, the run in bike shoes but not too bad.

Somehow my pedals were in the right spot. I guess tri bike transport set it up right (I had used the valet service to take my bow to T1 the day before and save us a 2 or so hour round trip. I was more interested in resting the day before).


From the start I realized my garmin, which I had calibrated before the race, wasn’t finding my power meter or heart rate monitor. I tried and tried a few times and eventually decided to forget about it. I used it as a timer for nutrition And to keep my bearings about time and distance, but used my Fenix on my wrist to gauge output. Less convenient, and I had to be more conscious about checking than if it was right in front of me as it is with my 510 but it worked good enough.

The first 2.5 miles are no aero due to the descent within that zone. On the bike, up a hill and over the bridge I just swam under, and no aero reasons started. It really wasn’t bad. Fast but not sharp. I enjoyed it, spinning my legs out some after the little climb.

Somewhere in here I realized I had forgotten my Kona Mocha for hours 4.5 on. I had a choice. I decided to try and collect a few gels, and at later aid station would grab a Gatorade (course nutrition). I didn’t need my Kona Mocha. And if I changed my mind I could stop at bike special needs.

I have a habit where if I can’t ride a course, I don’t drive it before a race either. I listen to the race director for insight and Watch for comments on the Facebook page and other things. I will admit, the IMsR race director did a great job of communicating a lot of information. I ate it up before the race.

That being said, I was ready. I didn’t anticipate a thing. Instead I took the course as it came. I kept steady. Never chasing watts, but was aware of the terrain and what I should be doing. I actually loved the course, even when I had some low moments.

This may sound cocky, but I signed up without the bike course being finalized. I figured I can be flexible, handle surprises. I mean heck….I’d say “I did IMTX last year.” That was an exercise in taking what happened and working with it. And not arguing. It doesn’t help.

So I took the mentality of “bring it.
I’ll be prepared.” That was faith in my coach and faith in my ability as an athlete (whoa to that last one!). And skills as a cyclist. Which aren’t fabulous, but fairly good. And have been improving due to riding with Rebecca and her husband Kris who are much better riders than me. And, again, this all stemmed from knowing/trusting my coach will have me prepared.

So…I had the attitude to bring it. And bring it they did. I was worried about all the turns (seriously…look at the PDF for the bike course….the turns list is long) after I slopped up at IMWI in 2014, but I kept thinking I did IMTX which had a lot of turns, and I am a better, stronger rider now.

Although the elevation change is not much, the course is challenging. Md you can burn your legs out. Most of that elevation change is in the first 60 miles.

After the rapid descent there is some flat and then a long climb. Time to be steady. Matthew repeated and I knew… Don’t chase watts. And I had to be steady on this climb. I had my watts range. It’s easy to over ride when you feel good.

After that climb is why/how you can wear your legs out: there was a series of hills. Most are long enough you can’t use moment to crest them, and take more than 5-6 pedal strokes to get over. So again…it was power management and not burning your legs out.

I didn’t have to worry about drafting…I had long stretches where I’d only see a couple of riders. And on the out and backs it wasn’t busy yet.

At one point a woman passed me. I saw she was in my age group. I had a choice. I decided she would likely over do it if she was riding that hard. And if not, she deserved to win! I opted to stay steady. And ride strong. I actually trusted my run to do this. I believed in what I could run. If I rode steady and strong. This is also new!

At times my legs felt tired. At times I wanted to feel crushed that that woman in my AG passed me. But I refused to let the lizard brain win. I refused to give up: Be brave. Unbreakable. Find a way. I have a choice.

After about an hour something odd happened. I had to go pee. Sadly I haven’t mastered peeing while riding. It’s not something I love to practice. But I held it. Eventually I had to hold it as my bowels started talking. I kept riding.

Overall I loved riding to course. I heard it’s gorgeous. I’ll take people’s words. I enjoyed everything. It was a fully engaging ride. Before the race I thought, looking at the map,the race organizers had pulled it out of a hat to make up distance. And they may have. But it was engaging with the terrain: hills, turns, etc. it was never dull and I loved it.

As much as I loved it, it was work. My legs on the section to town actually felt tired. I refused to give in. I kept my mantras. I thought of my friends cheering for me to keep going. I thought of all my training rides and t-runs with Rebecca. I’m strong. I’ve got this. Don’t let that lizard brain win! I have a choice!

Soon (I mean really soon…time flew) I was come in to the Santa Rosa loop part of the course. I decided I’d stop at special needs and grab my gel. Another whammy…I hadn’t taken the wrapper off. The volunteer took the wrapper off for me, but lost the time. Then, no five miles later it flew out of my back pocket. This had never happens before! Argh! I had backup. And knew I as fine. I was more angry about the wasted time. But I couldn’t focus on that. I was still riding. And I really had to go to the bathroom….still.

Finally, shortly after starting lap 2, I did something I haven’t done since my first IM. I stopped to use a Porta potty. I saw there was no line. And wow. I got back on my bike and flew for the last segment. Life was good!

ap 2 in Santa Rosa and Carlos is yelling “6 minutes” at me!

People talked about a hill we do twice on the loop. I have no idea what they meant. The course seemed flat except the exit ramp we take.

There were 2 sections of about a mile each that were VERY rough. Watts just dropped and you had to ride out of aero. It was bad. But oh well. It is what it is. We all had to ride those sections.

Also, I don’t think people know how fast we are going. Three times I yelled at people (a deep, Gutteral yalp) in the in town loops to not cross in front of me. I may have not made friends, but I know I saved them some agony and pain if I had crashed avoiding them or not been able to move fast enough. Since hitting someone in a wheelchair in a race, I am very alert to watching for pedestrians at crossing points.

The first loop was pretty free and clear. The second loop was busier, and I started being generous with the word “left” for the first time all day on the bike. And even in the rough spots fellow racers made way for me. Seriously. I did apologize, and they appreciated that I made my intentions clear. I was thanked several times for my vocal cues!

When I hit the loop and picked up my special needs, my legs had new life. And I didn’t mind anything. and the second loop (after the bathroom)….game on!! I had been worried with all the cones and lane changes but, for the racers, it was fluid. I would not have wanted to drive anywhere though!

Every race it seems I do something to sabotage a race. So far I’ve forgotten some nutrition, and had to stop for the bathroom. As I came in to the dismount line I wasn’t thinking, and so kept my feet in my shoes. And let me tell you….it’s a long run to the changing tent. I was wishing I had done a flying dismount so I didn’t have to run in my bike shoes. I almost took them off! Anyway, I grabbed my bag (again, I don’t think they had enough volunteers) and headed in to the change tent.


Once there a woman offered me water. Pour it over my head even!i told her no thank you. I was good. I asked if she Was able to fill my water bottles. My nutrition was already in the bottles. I just needed water. she did.

I dumped my bag, changed my shoes, grabbed my belts, put my bike gear in the bag, and dropped the bag as I ran out. I did have to stop for the bathroom….again! Same reason. Luckily this was the last time. As I ran, putting my number belt and hydration belt on as I ran, my bottles fell out of my belt (was using my old one, and why I bought a new one) so I had to back track and grab both bottles, and run out. Argh.

So we are up to 5 sabotage moments. And that’s the last. I think.


Out on the run. My goal was a heart rate of 150-153. Believe it or not I held it most of the run. Until the last 4 miles when I brought it up to 155-157. I am thrilled about that.

The first lap was hot. Yes, it is shaded but not much at that time. I felt a little lightheaded but kept going. I knew I had it in me…its fueling. I grabbed a few pretzels, and ice (which was placed strategically down my shorts and jersey) and kept going. The lightheaded was eventually passed. And I kept steady.

I also noted the mile markers thinking “nice to know”…keeping forward progress.

This race the aid stations seemed very short. There wasn’t much distance to the last chance trash. I struggled to drink on the move, get ice down me (had to go to just the jersey and hands to be fast enough), and get rid of garbage. Also, it just seemed like the aid stations were understaffed. They tried, but couldn’t always keep up, especially on my second and third laps as things filled out.

In my brain I kept refusing to let the lizard brain win. I kept saying you will not win.

I saw Thomas near the start of the second lap. He told me I was chasing those ahead of me down. And to keep it steady. That prompted me to give him the one comment (besides nods and thumbs up of acknowledgment) that I’ve never chased them down on the run before. Usually I lose a place….or three! So it encouraged me to go on. And keep it Steady. Every time he told me steady, I felt like Matthew was telling Thomas to tell me this, knowing it was exactly what I needed to hear. I knew that’s what Matthew would say. And so did Thomas. I kept my HR 150-153.

On the run I don’t know how many times I saw Thomas. I remember the third lap he said steady. Victory lap. I was bringing it home. My legs were tired. I felt the dirt path and gravel (I was very dirty after the race from the trail. Not a big deal but it surprised me afterwards). The course was getting crowd and the aid stations at turns were getting congested so I had to push my way through people walking to take in items from the aid stations . I was vocal, as usual, and so people moved, but they were also tired and so not always quite as fast as they would normally, so I had some dodging to do as well.

Not all miles were marked. Thank goodness. Also, in another stroke of brilliance I had forgotten to turn on my mile marker lap. Finally, after 12 miles I realized I should be tracking smaller intervals vs one big one, and started hitting lap at each mile marker. After mile marker 23 I was really hoping 25 was next. But it was 24. I was so disappointed. I just didn’t want to know. But I hit lap and kept going to mile 25. Where I hit lap again. And saw Thomas again around there. Taking it home.

You’d think the last 1.2 miles would fly by. Nope. They took forever. And coming in I kept thinking where the heck is that finish line? I hear it! Down next to the run out for T2. Behind the changing tent. A volunteer tells me 600 more meters! Oh dear lord! Did I up my pace too soon? No. Keep moving. The lizard brain will not win! And finally another turn (or two!)…the finish line! Keep moving!! And heading in. And…omg it’s over! Breathe! Calm down. You did what you could do.

Close to the finish!

But not there yet!

Almost there. But seriously…where is it?

Post Race

I wandered. The volunteers took my timing chip, and gave me the post race swag. And eventually I saw Karen. Then Carlos, my mom, dad, and Joe. I worked to keep my breathing normal. They came to me. Told me my time and place. I said wait. They said no…the next girl is 15 minutes behind. I was second. Then they told me I was 40 seconds behind the woman in first for our AG. I had been 6 minutes behind on the second loop of the bike and took in most of that time on my run. Again….I’ve never done that before . Ever. I typically lose time. Whee!!

ired but happy. It was a solid race for me.

I sat first and then laid down on the ground. Thomas also showed up to congratulate me and give me the cheers of Atlanta and Dynamo.

I was stunned. Second? I had a solid race. Holy cow. I could have kicked myself for the special needs stop since I lost that nutrition anyway but…I could have not foreseen that. And I rode well after (feeling more confident maybe?) and felt solid after that. I did pass the woman who passed me on the bike. My gamble was good. I had a solid run. I had a solid run! On a day when a lot of people blew up on the run, I was steady and strong. Unbreakable. I made my choice every step.

This race was different for me. I finally felt comfortable with pre-race cheers from friends and family. Although in usual fashion, not many knew I was racing as I didn’t tell people. They usually have to ask. I felt supported and loved by the cheers instead of the usual anxiety that comes from me projecting my fears on to those cheers. Getting the race I had on the 29th wasn’t just physically challenging and physical development, it was emotional growth as well. That also had been slow and steady. I’ve always trusted my coach. Learned to trust my nutrition. And finally…learned to trust myself and not let that lizard/primal brain win!

One quote I love and have strived to feel comfortable with is as follows:

Helen Maroulis 2016 wrestling gold medalist

“I didn’t come here to win a gold medal for the media attention,” she said. “I didn’t come here to win a gold medal in order to find something within myself or some peace within myself. I found that self-worth before I stepped on the mat. I think that’s why I won the gold medal.”

I found my self worth before this race. I had nothing to prove. I am loved (or at least liked if they don’t know me well enough!) by so many amazing people. My husband, parents, family, friends. People don’t judge me for success or failure and if they do…they aren’t friends. People cheer for me because it’s fun to cheer for people working for a goal whether it’s finish a race or aim for a certain time or place. I’m good with my choices and lifestyle. I embrace it. Those I spend the most time with embrace it too. And I have a few friends that are crazy enough to come with me on so many adventures.

Kona Slot Allocation

And so we had to wait and see if my great race was good enough to qualify. Usually F40-44 gets 2 slots. And so we waited. I was texting a friend, Monika, the night before and she actually looked at the numbers and started doing her own allocation to see! She said I sounded frustrated and wanted to see.

At the awards ceremony when Mike Reilly called us up, he asked the woman I first (Kristen) and me if we knew about those 40 seconds. Neither one of us did. He asked what I thought about it and, believe it or not I delivered a one liner that brought laughs (I hope….that was the intent) ” that extra stop!”. At least everyone laughed so….yeah.

It looks like people were laughing after my “extra stop” comment. That’s it though. I get about 2 great lines a year. That’s one.

40 seconds between first place and my second place. Great group of women that kept me challenged all day.

Karen took a video of the awards. It’s 1:40 I promise!

Between the awards ceremony and slot allocation I went to the table (thank you, Carmen for the recommendation) and saw the slot allocation. F40-44 had 2 slots!! I was going!! I started telling a few friends and the cheers started rolling in.

After slot allocation

All,in all, I had a solid race all around for me. I was ready…mentally and physically. Kona slot or not did not decide this race for me. But it sure felt good. I had so much love coming from friends and family I felt supported. And wanted to put it all in for them. Each and everyone. It was a hard race. I was tired and sore after. My parents, in their 70s, out walked me the day after! And I wouldn’t change a step on my journey to this race.

If I were to thank everyone, the list would be so long. It has taken a lot of work and commitment not just to a race, but a lifestyle. Which I freely embrace. Not everyone does. And so I had to be good with that: my choices. I didn’t apologize. Those who know me and love me understand. My husband is with me all the way. Occasionally I ask him if he’s still in on this, and he is. For me, this is a bit of a party. And there is a hangover, so to speak, from dehydration!


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