It is difficult to write a race report without speaking of the preparation to get to the race. It seems cliche to talk about the “journey to ironman 70.3” but the majority of my time was spent in preparation. I did some quick math and in the 12 weeks leading up to race day, I put in 92:15 hours of training and spent 6 hours on race day. This doesn’t take into account the time spent building a base that would allow me to complete the training requirement, doing loads and loads of stinking workout gear, planning food, recording how training was going, etc. The training was the majority of the journey and the time where I feel like I learned the most! Here is a summarized version of what I learned from my training:
1. Triathlon is NOT the most important thing in my life! As I juggled a busy schedule, (family, church, work, friends), and was forced to make decisions about when to make a workout happen, and when to let it go, I was grateful for the enhanced clarity regarding those things in my life that are most important to me. Be focused but not consumed by your quest for Iron Mama status!
2. Training for this triathlon taught me to allow others to help and support me in my dream! As a mother, whose primary job has been to stay home with the kids, it is easy to fall into the role of doing for others. I love this role and feel very grateful that I have been able to be a stay at home mom. I will “S”mother my kids for as long as they will let me. However, it has been overwhelming to watch each member of my family willingly sacrifice so I could have the time I needed to prepare for this race. I can’t count the number of times my husband would say “Julie, just go get your workout in. We’ll be fine…I’ll take care of ….” It took practice to submit to this and let my family pick up the slack with things I have taken care of for years. This would not have been possible without them. They were AWESOME!
3. Training Partners are the Bomb! This is simply not a journey to take alone. While my family was the most amazing support I could imagine, there is something about having someone who gets why you feel like you need to discuss a saddle sore, or how you can successfully blow a snot rocket, or the best body lube to use, and sometimes just to hear you complain that your behind is tired of sitting in the saddle, or Zone 4 is going to kill you…and maybe. …who is our crazy coach and why does she seem to hate us!?! Someone to laugh with you and sometimes at you . But mostly, someone you know totally gets what you have just accomplished because we did it together. Yep, training partners are awesome and mine is the best! Thanks Nicole!
4. I am stronger and more capable than I knew! This training has been empowering. Coach Sarah is smart, kind, generous and a little scary! I am so glad I chose to have her help me with this process. I saw huge improvements in what I thought were my limits and abilities. She obviously gave me a focused plan that I could use to train with confidence. But I feel like something, perhaps intangible, about her training approach with me made me feel confident enough to dream of the possibilities. In one of our first sit down meetings, she first listened to me rattle on about my own evaluation of how I was doing and nodded and smiled (maybe it was a smirk). Finally, she took charge and informed me that at the end of this 12 weeks I would know exactly how fast I could swim, bike, and run. She was right. I am convinced that my race day experience would have been vastly different if I had chosen to figure this out on my own as I have done for years. Money Well Spent!
So with that “summary”, I bet you’re afraid of what the actual race report will look like.
Training is done, gear is packed, travel plans are made…weather reports have been looked at 1000 times, every possible forum entry about Beach 2 Battleship has been read. Ready to Roll!
Thursday: Packet pickup uneventful. The expo…not all that great. That “Oh My Gosh I’m going to race 70.3 miles” feeling….Pretty awesome!
Friday morning, Jeff and I headed down to check out the swim start and watch a group of racers do a pre race swim. This was so exciting and had me almost giddy. Jeff just smiled a lot at me, but I wanted to jump up and down and do a happy dance. We met up with Jason and Nicole and headed out for a quick bike/run while our men just hung around waiting on us. Have I mentioned they are awesome! Lots of waiting, shuttling, listening to endless nervous energy. We spent the rest of the day with last minute preps. Bikes to transition, transition bags packed, unpacked, packed again. Long lists of gear reviewed…transition bags double checked one last time and then turned in. Hair braided…Nicole’s not mine. She looked pretty…..AWESOME!
The transition bags are both good and bad. It is unnerving to have to make clothing decisions the day before the race. However, it was very nice to not have to think about my gear race morning when I am at my most nervous.
Friday night – dinner with Nicole and family. Great food and company then off to bed. Started really feeling my cold settling in. Yikes! Took advil for a head and ear ache and headed to bed. Woke up a little while later stressed out about my difficulty in breathing. Not a plug your nostril kind of cold, but make you wheeze type of cold. UGH! Had a bad dream that I didn’t finish the race. Yikes again! Jeff woke up, helped reassure me and I was able to relax and sleep for another 45 minutes. So this would not be a perfect race, but I was able to mentally pulled out the “less than perfect day plan” Okay, I can do this!
Race morning was freezing! We went to T1 to check on our bikes. We were told that there would be tons of bike pumps at T1. This may have been true but it felt impossible to find Bike support. Friday they were clearly visible at a Bike Support tent, Saturday…who the heck knows. I walked to the tent with the assistant race director and was told that Bike Support was wandering around T1 in gold shirts. Now this would have been a little funny if it hadn’t been so stressful. Do you know how many triathletes wear bright yellow or gold shirts/jackets. I resorted to asking random people in yellow:
“Are you bike support?”
“Well would you happen to have a bike pump?”
“No, I’m looking for bike support too”
I finally found a guy that was carrying a bike pump AND he had some sort of crate…He MUST be bike support. So I started my dialogue:
“Are you bike support?”
“No but you can borrow my pump” (Insert angel music here.)
I took his bike pump to my bike followed by his buddy who was going to return the pump to this nice “not bike support man”. I tried attaching the pump to my tire and only succeeded in emptying the air from my tire. The “buddy” was unsure how to operate the pump. Oh No Panic! I had a bike pump in the jeep but couldn’t figure out where Jeff had gone. Breathe, Breathe…Red Moment! Finally, I found Jeff and my beloved bike pump. Aaaawww how I love my bike pump. Note to self…be your own bike support!
The race directors told everyone that it would be impossible for spectators to go to the swim start. Right here I am super grateful that Jeff, with his non conformist attitude, ignored this instruction and made a decision that he was going to drive me to the swim start. Having the jeep to sit in and keep warm was a fantastic bonus. I flip flopped in and out of nerves and calm. Rehearsed in my mind my race plan.
Then here is was…Time to wetsuit up! Oh my gosh, please don’t let there be jelly fish. I watched Nicole’s wave go and can’t describe clearly how I felt…”Go Nicole you’ve got this” “Oh crap I have 70.3 miles until I get to eat real food” . Somewhere during this time, Jeff looked right at me and said “I am so proud of you”. Okay, I can do this!
My plan was to enjoy this experience. The announcer called for my wave and then went on and on about how this is his favorite group. Women 45 and up, Athenas…He said “This is the group that has the most fun”. Great reminder…I’m going to have fun! And then we are off. Wow, it was splashy but I felt strong and ready. Very proud of myself for starting in the center and not shirking to the edge to miss all the splashing. However, I still somehow ended up out on the edge as I struggle to swim in a straight line. So here is my only DEEP red moment during the race. I swam over a group of jelly fish. AAARRRGGHHH! What do I do? What do I do? Bright idea…breast stroke so I won’t touch them. I can’t breathe, I’m breast stroking like a maniac and still see them. Okay, roll to my side and put my bottom arm straight out…then paddle with the other. This does not work if you only allow your hand to barely scrape the surface of the water. Finally, my brain started working and I remembered joking on FaceBook about being Dori….”Just keep swimming” And….I can’t see the jellies anymore, but realize I am much farther to the right than I want to be. Course correction physically and mentally. Just relax and swim and that’s what I did. I got back over into the channel had some bumps and tangles with a few swimmers but it’s all good. 1.2 miles (Garmin said 1.3 miles…but that’s my loss – swim straighter) in 37:42 – 2nd in my AG.
Out of the water… wetsuit strippers – FABULOUS! Hot fresh water showers – WONDERFUL! Running with cold bare feet on the bumpy asphalt – OUCH! Not sure why they don’t lay carpet out for that little bit. Oh well, no harm done just uncomfortable. Got to my bike, sat down to put my shoes on. I know, I know… cardinal rule of Triathlon Transition don’t sit down in transition…but I like it that way!
And I’m off on my bike. I’ve got a plan, I’ve got confidence and I’ve got my food. 3 hours of day dreaming and passing people. Stick with my plan…don’t RACE the bike…Keep my heart rate steady, keep my cadence steady, keep my eating steady. This was a brilliant plan with one exception. I hadn’t thought about how hard it is to feel the gels with gloves on and managed to lose a gel and a cliff bar. I had planned generously so I wasn’t in serious trouble, but was hungrier than I wanted to be by the end of the bike. About the bike course; the reviews of Beach 2 Battleship say the roads are great. I wouldn’t argue with this with the exception of I-140. That was a horrible piece of road to ride on. It was so bumpy! I was glad I was passing people because I decided to ride on the narrow strip of road on the left hand side of the lane that is between the big divets that wake you up if you’re driving a car and drift out onto the shoulder and the bumpy lane. It took focus but saved my behind. 56 Miles in 3:02:08 2nd in my AG.
T2: The volunteers were great. I handed off my bike and actually moved to the side and removed my bike shoes before running all the way around the convention center (good decision). The volunteers grabbed my T2 bag, and I went to change. Yep…sat down again…Did I mention that’s the way I like it?
Off on the run. Super great crowd support! Probably the best I’ve experienced. Tons of spectators by T2 and the finish line and there were many who took the time to read my bib and shouted encouragement by name. I knew immediately that the run was going to hurt. I have practiced my breathing during workouts and could not get my lungs to expand. My breathing was so loud and wheezy. I was prepared to make adjustments on the run. So when I realized, I was going to have that much trouble, I changed my plan a little and decided to keep it real “easy”. Nothing feels easy at this point, but easy relative to what I had planned. I was also very thirsty feeling. Not sure if that is a normal reaction to salt water or something I did wrong. Drank both of my fuel belt waters before I even made it to mile one. Okay…I will walk through aid stations. And that’s what I did. I bordered on yellow to green through the entire half marathon. My stomach wasn’t particularly happy…a mix of feeling hungry for food and something else. It just didn’t feel reliable. I had written the names of my kids on my arm and looked at them often. Strategy learned in training. Thanks Sarah! I also started working out the math for when I could expect to see Nicole on the out and back course. It was great to finally see her. She looked strong and Awesome! It was a good lift. High fives…maybe more like “side fives”.
The run course was okay. I felt like there were several places along the running path that had roots and other uneven surfaces. Not bad for me as I was running in daylight, but it didn’t seem like the best surface for those doing the FULL who would be running in the dark. As I got close to the finish, I was starting to feel very happy, relieved, accomplished, there is not just one word to describe it. I had anticipated that I might cry but I almost wanted to laugh. HAPPY! The crowd was so great! They make you feel like a super star. I probably would have felt that way anyway. 13.1 miles in 2:09 8th in my AG
The Finish! Oh how to explain this? I just finished 12+ weeks of training for a goal I’ve had for several years. Should I laugh, should I cry, should I get jiggy with it and do a happy dance? Seriously, there is not one reaction to accurately express how it feels. Nicole and Jason were standing on one side of the chute and Jeff was on the other. The volunteers were amazing! I got my medal and was so freaking happy! Then moved along the finisher chute and got the coolest pair of pajama pants. Oh yes…I will stay in these forever! I met up with Jeff, Nicole and Jason and went to find some food that would make my stomach happy. Here’s the one little sad thing. Nothing really sounded good, tasted good or felt good. Jeff got me a gatorade, I sat around chatting for awhile, visited with a few friends from our MAC bike group who also ran the race and finally decided to go get our gear. It never occurred to me that I would be in the top 3 of my AG and ought to stick around for the awards ceremony. I had estimated that a podium finish would require a sub 5:45 time. So here I sit — 70.3 miles in 6:00: 48 3rd in my AG…It’s a great day to be an Iron Mama!