*I’m just going to jump right into the recap of my race.*
The swim started off pretty decent. After the skyrocketing heart rate in the first couple hundred yards, I got comfortable and settled in for the long haul. I was sighting well and felt like I was just ticking off the buoys, one after another. That effortless feeling ended after the two red turn buoys at the south end of the course. Once I made the turn to start swimming north, I basically was swimming blind. For the life of me, I could NOT make out the buoys. I would have to completely stop, tread water to see anything and then start swimming again. I decided to follow a small group of swimmers, which was a bad idea, because I was led way off course, and we had to be set straight by a kayaker. I was incredibly frustrated and had to tell myself to calm down so I wouldn’t stay in a negative headspace. Sighting got a little better once I got to the canal, but it’s close quarters in there, so I traded one battle for another! I made the left turn around the final red turn buoy at the swim exit and made my way onto dry land. I finally allowed myself to look at my watch and was happy to see my swim was under 1:30. I honestly thought it was going to say 2 hours because I felt like I was just swimming in circles out there! While walking towards the wetsuit strippers, I heard a familiar voice. It was Gemma, the swim coach whose analysis helped me achieve a PR in spite of a pretty terrible swim! I ran back and gave her a celebratory hug. The cherry on top was getting to see Marcie and Maddie as I ran up towards the change tent!
Swim split - 1:28:46 (7 minute 33 second PR)
I made it a goal to move faster through transition than I did in 2017. That meant no changing of clothes! I just pulled on the top of my trisuit and put on socks, bike shoes, helmet and sunglasses. After applying some chamois cream and Zealios sunscreen and throwing some nutrition, my rescue inhaler and an epipen in my pockets, I headed out to grab my bike.
T1 Split - 6:29 (shaved off 4 minutes 36 seconds)
I felt good heading out on the bike. That feeling ended two and a half minutes later when my front hydration bottle launched off my bike. I leaned my bike up against a truck, played Frogger with the other racers, grabbed my bottle, put it back on my bike and got back riding. 3 minutes later, it happened again. This time, a nice spectator grabbed my bottle and bike computer (which is mounted on the bottle) and handed it to me. My front hydration mount was back pitched and I think the weight of the full bottle was making it slide out, so I flipped the mount 180* and wedged the bottle between my arms so I could keep it in place. This made it so my bike computer was angled away from me and was a little hard to see, but it was better than losing my bottle again and losing time! Just like during the swim, I had to tell myself to calm down. I still had 108 miles to go and I didn’t want to spend them angry. Not too long after I got back going, my friend Khon rolled up from behind me and we chit chatted for a second, which helped put the negativity behind me. I felt strong as I climbed the roads and ramps that weave their way to the Hardy Toll Road. I was pretty happy that I was able to stay in aero for most of them. Soon, I made the right turn onto the entrance ramp to the tollway and I said to myself “here we go!” That part of the bike course is two loops of a roughly 20 mile segment of the Hardy Toll Road. Pretty much immediately, I noticed a consistent wind from the south. I knew if I wanted to survive it, I had to stick to my power range. The wind wasn’t too terrible, so I stayed on the high end of that range. When I was at about mile 32, I saw Mike heading north. I shouted a quick hello and kept trucking. I saw my friend Joanna also heading northbound and she had this very big smile on her face, so I knew that meant the 20 miles of tailwind was going to be worth making it through the 20 miles of headwind. I made the turn around and all I can say is that I was smiling, too! That tailwind was glorious. I actually struggled to keep up with the lower end of my power range because it was pushing me so much and I was already riding 24 mph. I decided to ride about 10 watts below my goal to keep my heart rate lower. I was still going fast enough to make up for the lost speed on the southbound segment. The turnaround at the north end came and I noticed the headwind was stronger this time. But, I told myself “It’s only 20 miles. Just an hour of your race. Not a big deal.” I sang songs to myself during those 20 miles to keep myself positive. OUT LOUD! I was pretty lucky and never got caught in any groups of riders. I almost always had wide open roadway, so I wasn’t risking hurting anybody’s ears by singing out loud! 😂 Again, I just focused on my power numbers to keep me true. I did sneak some peeks at my speed and noticed it was around 14 mph. That was slower than the first time, but the same power numbers, so the wind was definitely stronger. Again, the turnaround at the south end made the headwind segment worth it. What made it extra helpful was that I could ride the base bar and stretch my back often, but still be cruising at 24-26 mph! I noticed the heat was picking up during that second northbound trip and my neck felt like it was getting burned. Other than that, though, I felt comfortable. Soon, the Hardy Toll Road was behind me and I was meandering my way back to transition. I tried to be smart and not hammer it in. Instead, I focused on getting my heart rate down so I would be ready to run.
Bike split - 6:02:49 (43 minute 49 second PR)
After handing off my bike to the volunteer at bike dismount, I made the long walk to grab my run bag and headed to the change tent. After changing shoes, pulling on my Bicycle World trucker hat and throwing some nutrition in my pockets, I was headed out on the run course.
T2 Split - 5:56 (shaved off 1 minutes 24 seconds)
My run was the biggest unknown for me during my training. I still hadn’t seemed to regain my speed after my injury last year. Some training days, I felt light and speedy. Other days, I felt like I was sucking air and crawling along. I was hoping to hold a 10 minute/mile pace, but just didn’t know what I had in me. I set off on the run and felt pretty decent, aside from some curious pain in both of my Achilles. I was happy to see my pace was under 10 minute/miles and my heart rate was aerobic. I had to stop at special needs during my first loop because I had to mix a bottle of Tailwind. I made a premixed bottle and put it in my run change bag, but the volunteer dumped it out thinking it was plain water when I asked her to put some ice in it. My nutrition/hydration got off from that and I wasn’t doing a good job tracking my calorie consumption. That carelessness came back to bite me in the butt on the second loop. Around mile 10, I started getting a stomach cramp. It would feel better when I stopped running. I would walk a little and try to start running again and the cramp would come back. I still had a long way to go and trying to force running now didn’t seem to be the smart choice. I knew it would be better to be patient and troubleshoot my situation. That meant walking, backing off the calories, consuming salt and Tums and drinking plain water. The walking was also necessary because my Achilles were REALLY hurting. I honestly thought they might snap and detach from my heel. By mile 13, my stomach was feeling a lot better and I set off to running again. That’s when I happened upon Mike. He was walking and said he was struggling with nausea. After a quick chat, I kept going. I felt guilty leaving him, but knew that he would want me to keep going, if for no other reason that because me walking and talking to him for the next 13 miles would probably annoy him! 😂 My legs were just plain tired during that third loop and the final 6 miles of the run became a war of my mind fighting my body. My mind was telling my legs to “Go Go Go!" but my body was saying “Nah, girl, let’s walk this out!” I tried to stick to a strategy of only walking through aid stations. Honestly, I was so deep into the hurt locker that a lot of it is a blur, so I can’t tell you if I took walk breaks otherwise. I just remember my legs feeling like they were burning up from the inside. As I made it to mile 26 and rang the bell for those about to finish, I didn’t know if I had anything left in my legs for the final kick. Somehow, I found one last gear in me and found myself sprinting to the finish line. My HissyFit Racing gals were screaming for me as I made the u-turn at the bottom of Waterway Ave. I ran over to them and gave them high-fives. I remember my friend Joanna yelling at me “YOU KILLED IT!” as I ran by and gave whatever was left in me to sprint up the hill and cross the finish line.
Run split - 4:39:18 (2 minutes 31 second slower)
The day before the race, my friend Erin gave me a goal. She said that I know what it feels like to cover that distance, so now I need to find out what I can do when I push myself. My goal was to have wobbly legs from muscular exhaustion when I crossed the finish line. When I wanted to stop running and walk, I would chant to myself “wobbly legs, wobbly legs, wobbly legs!” I pushed myself to the point that I was really uncomfortable and not having fun. The only reason I was running was sheer will. I met my goal because my legs just sort of buckled after I crossed the finish line and had to stop running. The kind volunteers scooped me up and made sure I was ok. Marcie and Maddie were waiting for me off the side of the finish line area and I went over to them and got some hugs and congratulations from them. I also got my phone from them so I could track where Mike was. We still had a little while to wait, so I sent them back to the VIP viewing area and I found a place to hide in the finish line area. I say “hide” because volunteers kept asking me if I was ok since I was sitting on the curb. The tracker showed Mike had crossed the 25.5 mile mark, so I asked the captain of the finish line volunteers if I could give Mike his medal. She said absolutely, and set me up with a volunteer to escort me. After Mike crossed the finish line, I called his name and put his medal around his neck. He isn’t one to show his emotions, but he got teary-eyed when I did it. My dream of racing with Mike was complete and it was everything I could have hoped for with that one moment.
Race Result - 12:23:18 (54 minute 51 second PR)
*Aftermath and Take Aways post to follow!*