Updated: May 7
A race! Finally a race! After a LONG 2020 of signing up for races, deferring races, training, making up my own challenges, and training some more, a big race finally happened! I kept training through the craziness of 2020 and even got to race the Bear Lake Brawl Triathlon (if 2020 was a race, it would have been this race) and the Bartlett Lake Oly tri, a local AZ race. But there is nothing like lining up at the start line of an Ironman 70.3. I knew I was fit. I knew my bike fitness improved dramatically in 2020 with all the crazy riding I used to distract myself from Covid and life. I also had one hell of an 8 day riding adventure with the Pura Vida Cycling Challenge that boosted my riding skills and climbing ability by about 10 levels. But my top end swim never really bounced back in the pool. I didnt know what to expect when I got there on race day. I am notorious for swimming tons of extra yards and losing feet. My run felt really strong and I know I can manage hills. But you never really know what you have until its race day. I was so excited to find out!
I was amped for this race weeks out! I had my second Covid shot the week before the race and it took me out! I missed my last prep bike and run session that weekend and was down for the count for 2 days. I wasn't sure how that was going to impact my race, but I figured 2 shots was better than 1 before racing with 2500+ of my new tri friends.
The race atmosphere starting at check-in was electric. It is usually super exciting to have all the athletes together, but this being one of the first races back, it was extra intense and people were just so happy! The nerves were there, but the attitude seemed to be more “I dont care what happens, I just want to be here.” For the most part people were friendly, excited, gracious, and eager to be a triathlete again. It was so fun to share in the energy.
I traveled by car to the race with my Dad. Dad excels at Sherpaing and can match my carb loading pound for pound. 3 days before a race its all carbs all the time. No veggies, little fruit, basic protein, and all the carbs. The day before I drink Skratch hydration + The Right Stuff (super high in sodium) to keep myself hydrated. This was especially important with the heat that was forecasted.
St. George is a split transition so the day before can be annoyingly long with logistics. I did my shake out ride, packed up the car and headed to T1 and the lake. I did a quick 15 min swim to test out my wetsuit and remember what 60 degree water feels like. I am generally pretty good in cold water, it doesn't bother me too much. Anything under 63 I usually just sick with 2 swim caps, ear plugs and call it a day. I have an extra warm neoprene swim cap from Roka that doesn't have the annoying straps I wore for Indian Wells 70.3 when the water was 57. I decided to give it a shot here since the water had been around 59 degrees that week. In hindsight, I dont think I needed it. But I was very comfy in the swim and I dont think it slowed me down.
Spent the night in my air relax boots, watching the NFL draft with Dad and eating carbs. I was asleep by 9pm.
Transition opened at 5 and I like to be there as early as possible. So that meant a 3am wake up call. Definitely the earliest I have ever gotten up for a race. But I got a solid 6hrs of sleep. After a cup of coffee, toast with almond butter and honey, and 2 bananas, I was ready to go.
Dad dropped me off at the entrance to Sand Hollow. You can also take the shuttle, but my shuttle left at 4:15. No thank you. Thankfully Dad was more than happy to drive.
Got everything set in T1, then remembered the 10 things I forgot to do and then did those. I was pretty race rusty. Warmed up with runs, drills, and strides. And before I knew it they were calling my swim group to line up. Seemed crazy fast to me. I kept swim cords with me and did a warm up set before dropping off my morning clothes bag and hopping in line. Swim cords are really helpful when they dont allow for swimming before the race and the water is super cold.
Then I waited in line for 30 mins to swim… Not cool. Next time, I will take more time warming up and get in line 10 mins before race start regardless of when they call the swim time. No need to stand around for 30 mins.
The race atmosphere was special. It was a combo of gratitude and “lets fucking go”. People were hyped, happy, excited and so thankful to do what they love. The amazing sunrise over Sand Hollow was magic, it was an explanation point on what the day meant to the athletes.
21st in AG
I started with the 27-30 min group. Going in, I was unsure where my swim would wind up. I was thinking with the cold water and potential chop I would be really happy with 35 mins. Right before we got in the guy next to me said “do they look slow to you?” and I thought, you know, everyone does look slow. I dont know if everyone was a little too optimistic with their swim times, it was a harder swim, or everyone is really that rusty, but I was able to hang on in the group that should be much faster than me and even bridge a few gaps. Every race, I usually end up panicking in the first 200 yards. I go out too fast for feet, jack up my HR and freak the fuck out. This time I went in steady, built into it and for the first time in a race I did not panic! Even better, I swam straight and didnt swim more yards than the course. What?!! This is amazing! I did a ton of ows during Covid and this summer and it really paid off! I was able to find feet and stay on them, sight, and move through groups to find faster groups one. I am extremely happy with my swim. I might not have my speed back in the pool, but I can bust out a really steady and strong swim for 1.2 miles.
Was a long run to the racks! I actually moved up positions in T1, this never happens! Finally getting better at transitions!
7th in AG
My happy place! I went so ridiculously hard the first 3 miles you would have thought I was doing a sprint tri. Athletes were really bunched up so I was trying to get out of it before drafting was an issue. Then a video camera guy on a moto stayed on my for a good 3 mins. I just could not help but go unnecessarily fast. As if you could see how fast I was on the video. Oy, that was so stupid. Made myself chill out, got my watts under control and got in a flow. Saw my friend Dan on the first climb out of town and played cat and mouse for the rest of the day. I would pass him on the climbs, he would get me on the descents. It was so nice to see a friendly face out there and the extra words of support really helped.
I've got some serious bike fitness these days and I am not afraid of some heavy climbing. And St. George has some heavy climbing! I knew if I had any shot at a podium, I had to have a strong bike. So I was very aggressive at basically all points :). I rode strong up and tucked in aero for fast downhills using my skills to keep the speed up. When we got to Snow Canyon, I backed off just a hair for what I planned. I could tell I might have over-biked the first section. In hindsight, holding off a little on the bike would have helped the run. There is a very fine line between riding aggressively and over-biking. Still trying to nail it. Good information for IM CDA.
Nutrition: I used a bottle of Skratch Superfeul, SiS gels and Skratch chews. Roughly 350cals and 85g carbs per hour. Gut felt great and I felt fueled. I had a back up bottle of Skratch Superfuel that I lost at mile 15 on some shitty road surface. In hindsight, more of that would have helped me stay hydrated and made the run a little better.
Usually I sit down and pee during T2. But nothing to pee (Triathlon is super glamorous!). That was not a good sign.
27th in AG
Good old Sherpa Dad yelled out I was in 3rd with 7th place 2mins behind. “Fuck” I yelled loudly surprising the runner next to me. I knew that my bike was strong, but with the rolling swim start I was likely more like 6th off the bike and there were so many fast women in my age group (35-39 women are crazy fast), I would have to have a superb run to be competitive. And superb run I did not have.
Everyone talks about the bike course as being challenge, but it is the run course that is ridiculous! It is never flat and the grades are steep! Zero shade and the red hills and asphalt trap in the heat. It is an unforgiving course and any mistake you might have made on the bike will show up fast!
I got into a rhythm and started the climb up to the Red Hills Canyon road. I saw Lionel and Sam battling it out with less than a mile to go. Wow! What a race. It was amazing to share the course with some of the best athletes in the world! It took my mind off the heaviness in my legs for a bit, wondering who was going to win. I stayed calm, didnt push too hard, but made sure I stayed on task. Oy, that felt really awful. No matter, legs can turn around and it's a long race. 2 miles in and I finally get to run downhill. Yippee! Ok I thought, “lets just turn up the speed and start making up some time.” But the speed never came, the turnover stayed slow. And I knew. No superb run today. No placing. Just 11.1 miles of survival. It was humbling to be passed by so many fast women, and motivating too. It wasn't my day, but it was pretty awesome to see other women having their day. I also had a massive headache. The lost bottle was catching up to me. I slowed at the aid stations, got water, ice, coke. I tried to stay cool, it was so HOT! I mean I live and train in Phoenix and it was hot! I got so many words of support from other athletes, I think maybe because I looked so awful and in so much pain ;) I swear I was smiling under my grimace.
Despite not having the run legs I wanted, I used every bit of legs I did have to the finish line. During the race, I kept checking in with myself, “Is this the best you can do right now, in this moment?” Every time the answer was yes, so I kept on moving forward. That's all I can ask of myself, to bring my best in each moment. Some days you have it, some days you dont. But it is always a choice in how you show up.
Nutrition: I used water and ice at every aid station, Clif blocks at mile 3, Coke after mile 3 at every aid station and SiS gel at mile 5. Minus the dehydration from the bike. I am really happy with the fuel for the run.
16th in AG
What an incredibly challenging race with such a stacked field! 3 years ago this was my 2nd 70.3 and I got 5:39 and 16th place! It was so fun to be surrounded by happy triathletes again. I missed racing, I missed the community, I missed the satisfaction of knowing I laid it all out there.
It can be hard to describe what racing means. Yes, it is a race, yes there are many races, yes you might race many times in a year. But it is so much more than a race. It is a focused time when you un-peel the physical, mental and emotional layers and see what is underneath. See if you can pull out the best in yourself for 5+ hours. When everything hurts and all you want to do is stop, can go just a little faster, suffer just a little more? You cannot replicate racing in training. You don't know what you have inside until you are pushed against that wall. What will you find? There is a point, somewhere in a race when I level up. This race it was when I let go of my expectations, my placing and time, and I sat in discomfort, in the dissatisfaction of a botched run, and pushed on. I didn't back off, I stayed at my limit for 13.1 miles. If you look closely during a race, you can see others leveling up around you. You can see the grit, the determination, the hurt, the fear and you see them push on. That changes you. There is a reason Triathlon is an all consuming sport, why people tattoo the M Dot on their bodies, you level the fuck up in life in these races. You are never the same when you finish as when you started.
IM Couer D’Alene in 8 weeks! I am both super pumped for this race, but I have a lot of work to do if I am going to throw down the way I want to. Now it's recovery time so I can physically and mentally get ready for a big training block.