During my 2 hr recovery ride this morning, I had time to reflect on my race. There are a few things I think I would have done differently leading up to this race and during the race. I need to work on my attitude (nerves) before the race and I probably need to tweak my nutrition (still using Hammer of course). This was my first long distance race as an Open/Elite racer and the other female racers really intimated me...on paper that is. Of course, when you are standing at the start line, everyone is super nice and just chatting away. But when I saw names like Nina Kraft, April lea Gellatly and Amy Kloner on the participant list on the days before the race, in addition to local Jacksonvilel, FL superstar JC pinto (who makes running fast look super easy), I was overwhelmed, filled with anxiety and nervousness and found myself doubting my potential. My leg had been bothering me all week but perhaps a lot of it was mental, in addition to taper. I kept reminding myself of all of my great workouts and progress up until this big day but I couldn't dismiss that thought in my head "am I going to hurt myself during the race and am I going to be injured after the race?" I have really been good with my stretching and icing so with less pain in the piriformis I found myself with a bit of inflammation around my quad and knee cap (primarily from a tight psoas). I've been doing so much driving lately due to getting things together for my internship, attending meetings and running errands and I know that driving is just horrible on my Rt. leg.
Thank goodness, my wonderful friend Marjorie gave me the best massage on Wed. but due to pre-race jitters, I still found myself obsessing over the "what-ifs" with my leg.
Well, on race day morning it seemed as though my worries were behind me. Karel was right by my side and I was super happy to have him there with me - what a super husband...he had to drive 4 hrs south very early this morning for his race and was still my #1 fan on Fri and Sat. One of my athletes, Andrea, who I am coaching for IMKY was also there. It's really easy to forget about yourself when you care about others on the course...perhaps that is one of the many reasons why I enjoy helping others with coaching and nutrition. I always enjoy putting myself 2nd to help out others.
I woke up at 4:45, started the coffee from the hotel coffee pot and prepared my pre-race breakfast - 1 packet walnut/raisin oatmeal mixed with a few nuts and raisins and half ripe banana (sliced). While that was cooking in the microwave (I always book hotels with microwave and fridge..cheap hotels that is) I started sipping on a bottle of water and snacked on 1/2 Wasa cracker w/ some PB. At 5:30, Andrea, Karel and myself headed 10 min. down to the road to the race site. This was my 2nd year in a row doing this event but because the race is growing there was a bit more traffic. However, despite having a sprint tri, half ironman, relay division, aquabike, 10K and duathlon all on the same morning, everything ran very smooth.
I grabbed my chip and got bodymarked around 6am. The lady who bodymarked me said that I must be fast because I had #16 (I guess because that was a low number) and she gave me a big hug and said I would do great. What a great way to start the morning.
After checking my bike (brake pads, wheels and gears) and pumping up my tubulars, I set up my transition. My last race was IMKY so I was a little foggy about setting up a transition area (in Ironman races you have bags for T1 and T2 and gather your belongings in the transition tent) but luckily, everything came back quickly. Of course, I looked at my transition space a million times, thinking if I forgot everything. In addition to the normal transition stuff (shoes, helmet, socks, glasses, race belt, visor) I had 2 pill containers (1 with hammer amino's, 1 with endurolytes) and a few hammer gels (vanilla and huckleberry).
Karel and I headed to the water around 6:40 (after a quick bathroom stop) and after putting on my Zoot Speed Suit, I warmed up in the refreshing 83-degree water.
The race was a little late getting started but I was looking forward to this experience...racing with the big girls and boys.
The announcer called the Open/Elite athletes to the water and like normal, I went right to the front. We started about ankle high (well, for me it was about knee high) in the water and with a 90 sec. countdown all 20ish of us (male and female) were ready to go.
The swim went great! I've been dying for a swim like that for a few years now. I swam really consistent and steady in an effort to draft off any of the other swimmers. I felt as if the biggest benefit of me racing Open/Elite was being able to be pushed in the water and starting at the front of the race (before age-groupers). I stayed with Amy Kloner (who is an amazing duathlete and cyclist!) and another guy for most of the swim and barely out-swam them as we neared the shore. A few times during the swim I found myself thinking about the rest of the race but I had to be conscious to be in the moment and worry about this race mile by mile. I looked at my watch around the last bouy and I had a feeling this was going to be a PR swim for me.
Swim time: 28.15, 3rd elite female out of the water (6th fastest swim from females), 1.2 miles
The run to transition is up a steep hill. I didn't forget this from last year. I was careful not to pound too hard on my leg as I tipy-toed up the steep hill while removing my cap and goggles. As I entered the transition area I started to take off my speed suit and when I approached by bike I got myself ready for the 56 mile bike.
Just like last year, this bike course suits me really well. Not sure why I love rollers so much but I love the climbs as much as I love the descends. Despite being a Florida girl with no hill training, I believe that rolling courses are perfect for me.
My goal for this race was to be as steady as I could on the up hills and not blow up my leg while climbing. Although I was pushing hard, I was careful to not overdo it. I knew I could push harder on the climbs so I tried to keep my effort around 85-90% and then power down the down hills. I had 2 bottles of 1 1/2 scoops Hammer heed and I took in 1 gel, 2 hammer aminos and 1 endurolyte. I had another bottle on my bike (I have one cage on my frame and 2 rear cages) with only water so I used that to pour on my body and through the holes in my Girl Aero helmet (first time wearing this in a race...LOVED IT!). I found myself with energy during the whole bike ride but around mile 40 I had a sudden burst of energy. There was Karel on his bike on the other side of the road. Karel did a workout while I was biking and of course he had the camera ready to take some pics. I was so happy to see him and he told me that I was 4th female on the bike.
This bike course is perfect for riding your own race. Aside from being passed by several age group and open guys (although I do love being passed by guys because I like to try to chase them down...it never works but it is fun) I wasn't passed by any other girls. You don't have to worry about drafting on this course (at least for my division) because miles would go by without seeing another person.
The course was super safe with lots of corner marshals and police telling you where to go (in addition to red arrows on the ground). I just LOVE this course because it is challenging, fun and beautiful. I made sure to say hi to all of the wildlife out there as well :)
Bike time: 2:45.03 (10th overall female), 56 miles
My transition felt super slow. I guess I had a lot to put on before the run. It was super hot out (nearing 90-degrees) and my garmin was not picking up a satellite as I was exciting transition.
I grabbed a cup of water as I excited the transition and my legs were adjusting to the concrete.
Words can't describe this run....You are either running up, up, up..or down. There are three out and back sections on this course so it is nice to have the course broken up as opposed to one big loop. However, this run is HOT HOT HOT with nearly no shade.
The best part about this run is the aid stations. Hammer heed is the fuel for this race so my stomach is super happy during this run. I grabbed ice and water at the first 2 aid stations (aid station every mile or so) but when I got to aid station 3, I was feeling weird things with my leg. The first 3-4 miles of this course are gradually inclining so I hoped that when I got to a down hill my leg would loosen up. Mile 3 was a good mile for me but when I got to mile 4 I was ready to stop. Like every race I do, I want to quit somewhere during the run. I've never quit a triathlon but I was sure looking for every excuse to stop this one. I felt fine in the inside but I just didn't have that extra boost of energy that I needed. I think this is where I could have taken in a gel and been more consistent on my nutrition on the run. I guess because Hammer was on the course, I was relying solely on liquids to keep me hydrated and cool. Luckily I didn't have any cramping or pain but I was just holding back on my effort for fear of injuring myself.
Because I excited transition in 6th place off the bike (with JC sprinting past me, cheering me on, only to run a 1:30 half marathon!!) I was just hopping to get a top 10 finish or perhaps beat 1 girl in my division.
The run seemed to go by really fast and I only saw Karel once on his bike (he didn't want to get in the way of the runners so he took a dip in the Lake as I was running). When I saw Karel, around mile 5, I told him I would be walking the aid stations. He said that is fine and to just keep it up. He told me that April lea Gellatly was just a little bit up the road from me in 5th place and that no one was close behind me. I guess that was the boost I needed to keep on running and forget about my down moments on the first half of the run.
I seemed to feel better and better as the run went on (typical for me) and I started to pick up the pace. I walked every aid station (pouring ice down my shorts and top and drenching my rag around my neck) from mile 4 - 12 and tried to keep a steady pace.
As I was running I couldn't help but think to myself how great it feels to race again. Despite being super nervous for this race, I devote all of my training season for this big day and I couldn't help but smile during the entire run. Even as I walked through the aid stations, thanking the volunteers which were super great, I was so happy to call myself a triathlete for this day. I was being cheered on by others on the course as I was holding my position as 6th overall female. Although I didn't have that power that I was hoping for on the run, I managed to have a great run which including about 8 walk breaks through the aid stations.
As I made my way to the finish line, I felt great. Sore and tired, but great. I had so many great things to be thankful for and when I crossed the finish line, seeing a personal best time on the clock, I was grinning form ear to ear.
Karel was super proud of me and said I was a few minutes behind April for 5th place. Oh well, no prize money for me or an age group award. Even though I was 1st in my age group by 7 minutes, entering in the Elite/Open division removes me from Age Group awards. That's ok-I think I'll start racing with the big girls whenever I can :)
So, I'm taking my 6th place finish in the Open/Elite division (and 6th overall female) and calling this a successful race day. I PR'd in the swim and on the bike compared to last year and set a personal best time from all 5 half Ironman's that I have done (3 of those being IMFL 70.3 at Disney). I also managed to drop 7 minutes from last year's time.
Run time: 1:48.44 (9th overall female), 13.1 miles
Total time: 5:04.56
6th place overall/104 female finishers
A BIG congrats to Andrea for toughing it out there and congrats to all other finishers. Thanks Hammer for keeping me well-fueled, with ZERO nutrition-related problems during and after the race and for keeping me super stylish out on the course!
Thank you to all of my blog readers and FB buddies for the support and to my friends and family, thank you for keeping me motivated and inspired to be the best I can be.
Lastly, Karel you are amazing! Not only did I have a bunch of great comments on my super cool-looking bike, which matched perfectly to my other gear, but I was able to race at my best because of you. Although triathlons certainly teach you a lot about yourself and allow you to overcome obstacles, if it wasn't for Karel I would be racing in my comfort zone. This year is all about getting out of my comfort zone and I can't help but smile and be thankful for all that I have....
(more pics to come....)