Ironman 70.3 Muskoka Race Report

17 07 2018

Well friends, it’s been awhile. I hope you’ll still let me call you friends! I’m popping in to write up my race report from Ironman 70.3 Muskoka because it was a day I don’t want to forget!

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Pre Race:

We flew into Toronto on the Thursday before the race. I had purchased our flights with miles and the cheapest flight got us to YYZ at 11:15 pm. The race takes place in Huntsville, ON, which is a good 2.5 hour drive north-and I was told by locals it could take twice that long on busy summer weekends- so we opted to spend the night close to Toronto and then drive to Huntsville in the morning. For those of you unfamiliar (I was!) the race is Ironman Muskoka because the district is Muskoka. The town which functions as race HQ is Huntsville.

 

 

We went straight to the Summit Center, which is where Ironman Village was, and I unpacked my bike and took it to get looked over by the bike support folks from D’Ornellas since it looked like part of my headset was crooked. While I waited for my bike, I perused the M-dot gear and got checked in. I got a kick out of the fact that Ironman Village was on a hockey rink. Once I got the all clear on my bike, I took it out for a 50 minute spin on the first part of the bike course.

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It was so fun! Yes, it was challenging, but there was so much GREEN everywhere and lakes, and the change of terrain and scenery was exactly what I was needing in my training right now. It made me really excited about race day. After my ride, it was time to check in to our AirBnB!

PSA- if you ever do this race, you must, MUST stay at the Fairy Avenue Getaway – our hosts were amazing, and the location CANNOT be beat! It is literally ON the swim course, a block from the run course, and a short 15 minute walk to the Summit Center.

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The AirBnB’s backyard

Once we checked in, the river was just calling my name. I mean, how could I NOT go for a swim when the water is RIGHT THERE? I threw on my wetsuit and jumped in to the cool 74 degree water. Confession- two weeks ago I posted in the TriMuskoka group to get some information about the water temp. Someone responded that the water was 65 (well, he actually told me the temp in Celsius), so I ordered some booties just in case. Well, the week before race day, they had a heat wave- temps got into the 100s! But, that also warmed up the water, which made this girl happy!

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I swam a little, but also putzed around/floated to try and get a feel for the current. I kept hearing about how this swim is against the current once you get to the river, but to be honest, I couldn’t really feel much pull. I practiced some sighting and found a few landmarks for the race before I got out.

IMG_7586Friday night before a Sunday race meant PIZZA! We walked to downtown and went to the Mill restaurant for some coal fired pizza. It was quite tasty, as was our cheesy Naan. Carb it up baby! I was planning on not having any alcohol until after the race, but I couldn’t stand not trying a local brew. So Bill and I shared a Muskoka Brewing Lager. We enjoyed it so much that we actually ordered a second. Oops. 🙂 After dinner, we got some groceries and then headed back to the Getaway to relax. It was the night before the night before so I made sure to get to bed early!

 

 

Saturday morning I woke to no alarm. It was so nice to have slept in a comfy bed with the windows open and cool, fresh air coming through the windows. Hooray for cooler temps! I had a leisurely breakfast before heading out for a 45 minute ride, followed by a short run. I ended up getting distracted on my run by all the hub bub downtown. Huntsville is a small town and there’s a main street that’s several blocks long- but in the summer all the “cottagers” are out and about (please say “about” with a Canadian accent here- “A-boot”) and today was no exception. There was a small market with local artisans all from within 100km of Huntsville where I meandered and chatted with some of the vendors. Then I heard some bag pipes, which I discovered were prepping for the parade of bath tub boats. Yes, there was to be bathtub races later in the afternoon as part of Dockfest.

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Back at the house, Bill and I ate a hearty lunch before I prepped my race gear. A little before 2pm we walked over to the Summit Center to drop my bike in transition and attend the athlete meeting. I was a little surprised to see that when I got to transition, there were no assigned spots. We needed to bike with our age group, but it was first come, first serve in those rack. Had I known that, I would have gotten there closer to the time transition opened to secure a better spot. Oh well, at least the 35-39 AG racks were directly in front of the Bike Out!

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This is the hill immediately out of transition.

At the athlete meeting, the RD basically walked us through the athlete guide, but I always like going just in case anything had changed. Also, former professional triathlete Lisa Bentley gave us a little pep talk. She talked about a time where she was racing and her shifters weren’t working. She was on a hilly course and she was stuck in the big ring. Rather than throwing in the towel, she decided that she wasn’t going to give up, that she was going to throw her heart over that hill- do whatever it took to get over this hump. She told us to race with heart. What she said spoke to me, so on race morning, I wrote on my wrist “Race with <3” as a reminder.

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After the race meeting, we went home, and I relaxed on the hammock and read. I’m currently reading Deena Kastor’s book and I’m loving it- I took nuggets of inspiration from that book into race day too. In the early evening we made dinner in the kitchen at the Getaway (rice, sweet potatoes, tempeh, and tomato soup) and went to bed early!

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Race Day:

I woke up at 4:45am after a pretty good night’s sleep. Despite being in a house with other triathletes, I was the first one up. I made myself a Belgian waffle with PB, banana, and syrup and cracked open my iced coffee. I stepped outside to a brisk 49 degrees. I looked out on the glassy river to the rising sun and thought to myself that today was going to be a good day.

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I got on my kit, braided my hair and walked over to transition. I arrived a little after 5:30 and began to set out my stuff. As I put my water bottles in my rear cages, I realized that they were way too tall; I’d have to maneuver my bike out by angling it to the side so that everything could roll under the rack. It will be awkward, but I’ll make it work. I pumped up my front tire, and then moved to my back. As I was unscrewing the nozzle, my valve extender came off in my hand and I heard that awful rush of air coming out of the tire. “No No No!” I thought. This is not how I wanted my day to start! I quickly walked my bike over to the D’Ornellas folks, and asked for help. Thankfully, they were able to fix it up quickly and I could get back to setting up my transition area.

When back, I starting having yet another bike issue- my handlebars/front end of my bike kept turning sideways. I could not get my aeros to stay straight ahead while on the rack. I finally got it to stay by putting my bike shoe on the side of my wheel. Hopefully that would work. The other thing I realized is that this was the first time I was racing with a between the handlebars bottle (I used to use the built-in hydration bladder in the down tube) and between the aeros was where I usually laid my helmet, sunglasses and nutrition. Hmm, I guess I’ll put it on the outside of my aeros, but still on top. I gingerly put my helmet, nutrition and sunglasses, on the handlebar, did one more once-over of my stuff, and headed out of transition to get in a warm up.

By this time the sun was fully out and it had warmed up quite nicely. I did about 10-15 minutes of dynamic warm up and stretching before going for a short jog. At about 6:45, I headed towards the swim start, a short walk away.

After a potty break I put on my wetsuit and did a little swimming around after the playing of “Oh, Canada.” Soon, it was time to line up and then move into the water. I was a little nervous, but ready. I was excited for this course and to see what my day would bring. At 7:15 we were allowed in the water and we made our way to the start line for a floating start. At 7:20, the gun went off – time to get this party started!

Swim: 29:31

I took off at the start to get out of the crowds, but it quickly thinned. I was able to settle in to a nice rhythm and I had plenty of open water. There were no other pink caps near me that I could see. This is a position I’m used to in smaller races, but it was cool to be up front in an IM branded race.

The course takes you out into a lake, kinda like three sides of a trapezoid, and then down into the river, straight to swim exit. The lake part was nice- the sun was high enough that it wasn’t in my eyes. And the water was refreshing and wetsuit legal. I started passing people from previous waves by the 2nd or 3rd buoy, but it didn’t get crowded until I was in the straight away in the river. But, it never got too hectic; I was always able to find myself some open water.

I sighted off a big house on the river and I thought it might have been where we were staying, but when I got closer, I realized I still had a little ways to go until I was passing the Fairy Ave Getaway. Soon though, I swam by and I saw Bill and our hosts sitting on the dock. I waved several times, before I realized I should stop so that the guards don’t think I’m in distress. I later found out that they didn’t see me because the sun was directly in their eyes. I had to laugh when I saw my Garmin’s map:

 

 

 

I swear I didn’t get out of the water to give Bill a kiss!

Shortly after passing them, I was nearing the exit. I was assisted out by a nice volunteer and I skipped the wetsuit strippers to save some time. I ran up the really short but steep hill to get onto the road, and then ran along the carpet (thank goodness!) to get into T1. When I looked at my watch, I smiled- I went sub 30, and I felt like my effort was controlled- much more so than I usually am. My day is off to a great start!

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T1: 2:46

When I got to my rack, I had a minor heart attack- my helmet was missing. OMG, did it fall off, and the officials come by and DQ me for a messy transition area? Did it fall off and break and I wouldn’t be able to race? After what felt like a long time (it wasn’t) I realized that my helmet was on the ground, under my bike. My nutrition and glasses had spilled out, but I quickly grabbed them and got myself ready to ride. When I went to pull my bike off the rack, my strategy of angling my bike wasn’t working. It would not fit under the rack. So, I awkwardly pulled out my rear bottles, put one on the ground, and pulled the bike out, before putting them back. Oh it was awful. I’m sure it didn’t take all that long, but it felt like forever and I felt like such a rookie! Finally, I was outta there!

Bike: 2:45:09

Despite being a flatlander, I was seriously looking forward to this bike ride. I was pumped about the change of scenery, cooler temps, and hills. I just needed to make sure I didn’t burn out my legs on all that climbing. The ride was an out and back this year due to some construction, and it was the first year it was 56 miles. Normally, it is a bit longer- 94km and a big loop. The elevation change was the same as it had been, but apparently the part that was taken out had some steeper climbs and more technical sections. I was totally happy with the course we got. The first part of the course had some punchy hills, but then after the left turn at Baysville, there were more gentle rollers. Then we turned around and did it in reverse.

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The roads were lovely for the most part- there was a section between 14-17km that we had been warned about and it was clearly marked. There were a few other pot holes along the way, but I was super impressed by how smooth the roads were for a place that probably has a lot of freezing and thawing.

The course was a beautiful as I was hoping- so much green, lots of lakes, some large rocks along the side of the road. The roads were open to traffic, but the traffic was sparse. I was really impressed because I also noted that some race staff was actually out biking the course- and I saw one of the guys help someone with a flat. I’ve never seen bike support on bikes before!

I was feeling really good on the bike- and reminded myself to be patient, and pace myself. I ate on schedule and was really happy to not have any nutrition issues. I was shocked by how many people seemed to just spin up the hills.

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I played leap frog with a few men- the men outnumbered the women nearly 3:1 by the way!- and one of the guys, when I passed him a second time, remarked in a very French accent, “Oh, it’s the pink lady again.” Yes it is!

On the bike, I saw one woman fly past me, but I think she was in the 40-44 age group. There was one or two other girls from the earlier women’s wave that passed me, but that was it. I was really happy to have ridden as strong as I did. Usually, I’m just waiting to be passed on the bike.

After the turnaround, we had a headwind coming back to Baysville, but once we made the right turn to head back to Huntsville, we got a little bit of a push from that same wind.

Soon, I couldn’t believe I was almost done. I had ridden smart, and was ready to tackle this run!

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T2: 1:48

When I arrived in transition, I noticed one other bike on the 35-39 rack. Dang, she was speedy. But, I was in shock that I was in 2nd place. OMG can I hold on to this? As I was leaving my bike and heading out, I noticed another girl on my rack just getting in from the bike. Shoot! She’s close! I reminded myself to focus on my race, not hers, and got myself out of transition.

Run:1:57:29

As I was leaving transition, I struggled to put my bottles into my new Naked Sports belt. I had practiced putting the belt on and putting bottles in, but I think I was usually standing still to get them in. I think I’ll need to do that next time! Anyhow, I finally got the bottles in right before I starting up a short hill, followed immediately by another short hill. Oh boy, this was going to be a tough run!

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Downtown Huntsville

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The crowds in downtown Huntsville were AH-Mazing! So many people! They were so needed because you’re hit with a short hill that their cheers helped you up. The town’s fire department had a truck spraying water to cool down the athletes. It had warmed up for sure, but it was nowhere near as hot as any of the races I’ve done. I honestly didn’t really notice the heat. The truck’s spray was actually a bit much- it was stationed near the top of the hill and it was flowing so fast that a little river was forming. Ok, not really, but the water was probably an inch deep on the road and just FLOWING down the hill. It was super early in the race (I don’t even think we were a mile in) so I didn’t want to soak my shoes and socks, so I ran around (almost onto the other side of the road) to dodge the flow of water. We made our first of many turnarounds (this route had 6!) and down the hill and over the bridge. Once we got out of town, I didn’t really enjoy the course. There was a short section where we ran through this narrow stretch and it wasn’t clear whether we should be running on the right or left side of this tiny trail. I think on one lap I was on the right side and the next I was on the other. It seemed to be dictated by who was coming at you on the trail. Then, there was this longish out and back along a highway. It wasn’t really pretty, and it seemed to be a false flat going out to the turnaround. We also had the wind in our face going one direction, and a tailwind in the other. After the straightaway, we were back into a little neighborhood, had another turn around, and then we went back downtown to do it all again. Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 7.31.18 PM

I was actually feeling surprisingly good on my first lap. I was drinking my skratch and eating my chews. I had zero tummy issues, which I was super pleased about. I decided I wasn’t going to look at my watch because I’d get in my head about pace. I’d go only by feel for as long as I could. When my first mile ticked off, I knew it was fast. I didn’t need to look at the time to tell me. I reminded myself to be patient and think of the first 5k as warm up. I tried to slow it down some, but when I looked at my times after, I really didn’t succeed at that. I definitely was out too fast.

Shortly after I left the downtown area, the woman who racked her bike shortly after me passed me. SHOOT. The run is my weakness and I wanted to hold on to a top 5 position so badly! I reminded myself not to worry myself with her, but focus on my run, on having good form, and doing the best that I could on this day. I kept her in my line of sight- she was never too far in front. She didn’t seem to be making her lead any bigger. Soon, I caught up to her again. And then, at an aide station, I passed her, and I never saw her again (I think she ended up in 6th).

I was feeling decent as I started the second lap, but I was starting to get tired- but I feel like my level of tired was appropriate for where I was in the race. As I ran over the bridge for lap 2, I spotted Bill. He talked to me a little, gave me some encouragement, and told me that the app hadn’t been working for him (which is why he missed me on the first lap). I told him I thought I was in 2nd place in my age group. I kept running though I knew I was slowing. I found myself walking more than I wanted to, but I was still reminding myself to have good form.

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Eventually, just before the 16km marker, two girls passed me- they were running strong, and the one girl was right on the other’s shoulder. I looked at their calves and bibs and realized one of them was in my AG and I couldn’t quite tell if the other was as well, thought I was pretty certain she was. There was no way I’d be able to stick with them, so I just kept my head on my own run. I just did NOT want anyone else to pass me on that run. I wanted a top five slot so badly.

Eventually, I was back at the bridge and ready to make the turn to take me back to the Summit Center. Bill ran with me, feeding me positive thoughts. I was hurting by then and didn’t really respond, but I was happy he was there. Soon, I was entering the finishers chute, I saw the time on the race clock- 5:30, 31, 32…As I was approaching I did some quick math since I knew I started 20 minutes after the clock started. Holy crap I was going to go in the teens! I crossed the line with a big grin on my face and stopped my watch- 5:16. O.M.G. What a day!

Overall time: 5:16:41

4th AG/46

23rd female/326

240th OA

Awards and Roll down:

I knew I had had a heckuva day, but I wasn’t exactly sure what place I had gotten. Bill’s IM app wasn’t working, and my phone was still in transition. And, I couldn’t find a place they were posting the results.

Eventually, Bill went on Facebook since I knew I had linked up my account to the IM app. He asked me, “Who’s Theresa Miller?” and I told him she was one of my SOAS teammates. He went on to read her comment: “Awesome race Stephanie!! Congrats on a podium finish!!” I started crying a little. I was in shock. I had finally made it to the podium at an IM race!

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My face when he read that I had placed:-) 

After what seemed like forever, they got to age group awards. I stood on the stage with the other ladies in my AG- one of whom was 2nd OA with a 4:30! I was super pleased with my 4th place award!

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Since this is one of the first races that’s a qualifier for the 2019 70.3 Worlds, they made an announcement that if you won your AG and knew you were going to take your slot, to go ahead and line up and get registered. Unfortunately I spotted the girl who won my AG in line. There was only one slot for 35-39, so I knew my chances were slim to none for a roll down. But, I waited around anyhow, and one slot did roll down, but it went to the 40-44 AG (I think)- that AG was the largest women’s AG. 35-39 was the 2nd largest. Oh well!

I am still super pleased with my race, and I’ve been given a nice confidence boost by this result. Hard work really does pay off, and I’m motivated even more to keep training hard because the results will come.

 

 

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See Ya, 2017. Hello, 2018!

5 01 2018

I always like re-reading my year in review posts, so despite being a few days late, I’m going to share some highlights from my year. I’ve structured this year’s a bit differently than I have in the past- I took a page outta Beth‘s book and modeled mine after hers.

First, some stats on 2017:

Training:

I swam: 168 miles

I biked: 3,031 miles

I ran: 809 miles

(these numbers don’t include indoor trainer miles)

Wow, that’s quite a lot! My bike miles are essentially like riding from Florida to Washington State!

 

Racing:

In 2017, I completed the following races:

  • HITS Olympic triathlon (January)
  • Best Damn Race Half Marathon (February)
  • Clermont Olympic triathlon (March)
  • IM 70.3 Florida (April)
  • IM 70.3 Wisconsin (June)
  • IM 70.3 World Championships (September)
  • IM 70.3 North Carolina (Beach to Battleship) (October)
  • Tampa Bay Times 10K Turkey Trot (November)

Phew. That’s a lot of racing! But, it resulted in a new PR in the 70.3 distance and in doing so, I FINALLY broke 2:00 on the run. I finally learned how to race the 70.3 distance, thanks to trying again and again and again and trusting my coaches. I learned so much from them this season and I can’t wait to see where 2018 takes me and my racing.

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I also was lucky enough to race in the 70.3 World Championships. Hands down, my favorite race I’ve ever done. (IM Cozumel is a very close second though!) Not only did I experience a world-class race, but I also learned to race without putting pressure and expectations on myself that typically end in disappointment. With no pressure, I enjoyed every second of my race and it was amazing. At the same time, it lit a fire under my butt to try and qualify for 2019 in Nice, France. We’ll see if I can make that happen late in 2018 or early in 2019.

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Travel:

I went up to Madison, Wisconsin 8 times in 2017. I also got the pleasure of being in Minnesota for a few days in April, and I was just home in New Jersey for Christmas. I took one international trip to ITALY! Ah, I’m drooling just thinking about all the good food! Bill and I went to Rome, Florence, Pisa and the Cinque Terre.

 

 

 

Life Events

2017 was a big year for Bill and I. We moved from Tampa to St. Petersburg and it has been awesome to live on this side of the bridge. Sorry Tampa, but St. Pete is better:-)

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And, surprise!

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Bill and I eloped in December!

 

No fuss. No pomp and circumstance. Just me, Bill, our friend Domenique and the county clerk. Super simple. (and way cheaper than a “real” wedding).

 

So, switching gears a bit…

5 Things I’m looking forward to in 2018:

  1. Ironman Wisconsin. This race is my big race of the year, and I am pumped. Seriously, this finish line. I am super excited to hear Mike Reilly call my name as I cross the line of my second Ironman.
  2. Bad Ass Women’s Retreat – Next month (!!) I’m headed to Austin for the first time, which is exciting all by itself. However, I’m going there for a women’s retreat with some of my favorite female triathlete friends! Several of my TriMarni teammates organized this weekend of awesomeness which is going to include some run, bike, swim, but also some yoga and a cooking class! Heck yes! I am so so excited about this!
  3. Ironman 70.3 Haines City– Funny how a race I told myself I would Never do has ended up on a list of things I’m looking forward to in 2018! This is a TriMarni Team Race and we are going to SHOW UP! There are 20-some of us who are going to be there and it is going to be awesome!
  4. Triathlon CAMP! I plan to attend TWO camps this season, both in Greenville, South Carolina. Bring on riding in the mountains! They are going to be several days of HARD work, but gosh they are SO worth it!
  5. Last but certainly not least, spending time with Bill. As of right now, Bill doesn’t have as much travel scheduled for 2018, which means we’ll get to spend more time together! Hooray! I’m excited to explore all the fantastic things St. Pete has to offer with my new husband:0)




Ironman 70.3 North Carolina 2017 (Beach to Battleship)

27 10 2017

My last race of the 2017 season is officially in the books! Ironman 70.3 North Carolina has been on my calendar for MONTHS, and it’s finally come and gone. It was my first time doing this race, formerly known as Beach to Battleship, and I’d say it was a good one!

Two days out from race day (Thursday): 

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I drove up to Wilmington from Tampa with two carloads of friends on Thursday for the Saturday race. It was a long drive, but I guess it beats packing/unpacking and flying with a bike? Jury is still out on which is preferable…We arrived at our rental home around 6pm, dropped our things, and then walked over to Ironman Village to pick up our packets. We were staying less than half a mile from the finish line/Ironman Village, so we had plenty of time to get checked in and buy some swag before they wrapped up for the night at 7pm. Once checked in, we walked home, finished unloading and then ordered some pizza for dinner. A few of us in the group (including me) have a tradition of pizza two nights before a race, so this was perfect! We ate our pizza and watched some tv before heading to bed. It’s the night before the night before- the most important night for a good night’s sleep!

One day out from race day (Friday):

I woke up around 7/7:30 (no alarm) and went to the Brooklyn cafe next door for breakfast. The day before, I had seen their advertisement for homemade beignets, so I was immediately sold on going there for breakfast. Beignets weren’t the healthiest breakfast option, but I figured, carbs! I ordered beignets, a homemade banana bread muffin, and a latte. The cafe has only been opened a month and a half and it is owned by this super sweet couple. The wife bakes all the muffins and cookies in house (she even brought me a fresh peanut butter cookie while I was eating my doughnuts!) and her husband fries up the beignets as you order them. While I was waiting for the beignets, another customer walked in, and I noticed that he had left his puppy outside.

IMG_2890It was a husky puppy and probably one of the cutest dogs I had ever seen. Immediately I asked the owner if I could go pet her, and he said of course. Luna was super sweet and when I sat next to her, she climbed right onto my lap. I texted one of my friends to tell her she needed to come out immediately to see this dog. Seriously, this dog was adorable. After some puppy snuggles, I enjoyed my doughnuts – super delish by the way- and chatted with my friend Brad before heading back to our place to get ready for pre-race workouts.

We drove over to Wrightsville Beach, where the swim start would be, and parked at the unofficial TriMarni HQ for this event. This race had a handful of TriMarnis racing, and though I wasn’t staying in their house, they let us use their place as a landing pad for our pre-race workout and then on race morning, it was our staging area. THANK YOU JIM!!

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Since the bay was getting a bit busy with boat traffic, we opted to do our swim in the ocean. You guys, the water was PERFECT- water temp was in the 70s, there were small, clean swells coming in, and the water was super clear. If I hadn’t had a race the next day, I would have spent the entire day in the water catching waves. But alas, I didn’t want to wear myself out, so I did my usual pre-race swim before catching a wave in and then heading to get in a bike workout. My girl Justine joined us and it was so nice to see her! She’s my TriMarni teammate and we both push each other to be better athletes.  After our ride, we went back to our house. I was going to do a bit more riding, but it was starting to get late and I wasn’t entirely sure how safe it was to ride in the downtown area, so I scrapped it and got my gear bags ready.

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This race takes a bit more planing, because it’s a two transition race. T1 (swim to bike) was over by Wrightsville beach, and we needed to drop our bikes and bike gear bag there before 5pm on Friday. T2 (bike to run) was in a different location, close to the finish line (but not at it!), and we needed to drop our run gear bag by 4pm. We had to use gear bags at the World Championships, but logistics were a tiny bit different for this race. At T1, though they said we needed to drop our bags with our bike, it ended up not being mandatory. Since there was talk of ants on the ground there, and we could access our bikes in the morning, I opted to take all my bike stuff with me (except for my bike, obviously) rather than leaving it. However, we DID need to bring the bike gear bag back in the morning to leave with the bike- that would be the bag all your swim stuff would go into when you were done the swim (so that you could get it after the race in the finishing area). The Run Gear bag was a mandatory drop off, and you left it by/on your numbered spot on the bike rack. On race day, you’d finish the ride, rack your bike at the place where your run gear bag was, and put on the run gear from the bag. My friends actually dropped my run gear bag off for me because I was hoping to make an athlete meeting. Unfortunately, I misread the information about the time of the meeting, so I totally missed it. Whoops. Thankfully the RD was still there and told me a few highlights. Once all that logistical stuff was settled, we ran to Whole Foods for breakfast and post-race supplies, and then had a yummy dinner at a sushi place downtown. I had a bento box with teriyaki tofu and a tempura shrimp roll. After dinner it was early to bed for all of us- tomorrow would be an EARLY day!

Race day! (Saturday):

My alarm went off at 4:15am, and I was up and gearing up to leave the house by 5:00am. I checked the weather and it looked like it was going to be a darn near perfect day. It was currently 55, but highs would get up into the high 70s/low 80s. Not gonna lie, I was pretty pumped about FINALLY having a run course that wasn’t going to be miserably hot!

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Me and Shannon

We weren’t entirely sure how bad traffic would be on race morning, so we left plenty of time to account for that. Our fearless sherpa, Chris woke up with us and drove us to T1. (They did have shuttles from the Hilton downtown if you didn’t have a ride to T1.) Traffic ended up not being bad at all, so we were all in transition and mostly set up by 5:30. I put my Garmin on my bike, put my bike shoes on the pedals, filled up my bladder, placed two bottles on my back cages, and laid out my helmet between my handle bars with my Skratch chews and sunglasses. I hung my empty gear bag on the front of my aero bars so it would be ready to fill with my swim gear. Chris pumped our tires (he was allowed in to transition because he was registered but decided not to race), we took a pic, said goodbye to Chris and then headed towards the shuttle busses to the swim start.

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The gang

We had to wait in a decently long line, but thankfully, there were plenty of busses/trolleys so it moved fast. Once over at the starting line, we walked several houses down to the TriMarni house. It was so, so, so nice to have a warm house with real bathrooms to wait the hour+ until go time. If you have race sherpas, I would highly recommend a house at the start, especially because weather at that time of year can be a bit iffy, and the waiting area for athletes is an unprotected parking lot, with no where to sit but on the cold ground.

Justine and I went for a short warm up jog, and we stopped by the course where she gave me some pointers that another one of our teammates with experience doing this race, told her. We ran back, got on our wetsuits, and headed to the start line.

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Tri Marnis!!

Swim:

Women 30-34 were in the third wave, 7:26am. It was a wetsuit legal swim (water just above 70 degrees) so I was wearing my long sleeved Xterra wetsuit. After walking down a super slippery ramp (the rubber mat they had on it was too small, and had already started slipping away from where it would have been most useful),  we waded into the water for our floating start. Right before we started, one of the safety boats came up to the start line, and someone in there was wearing and ACBP sweatshirt. I recognized the sweatshirt immediately, being an ACBP alum myself, and then I realized I knew who was wearing it! I yelled hello, and then put on my goggles just in time for the 10 second count down. I was totally expecting the cannon to go off or to hear a horn, but I didn’t hear anything indicating a start, I just saw the girls in my wave starting to go! GAH! I joined in with the thrashing and took off. There was a bit of a craze right at the beginning, as with any group start, but I finally broke away and found someone’s feet. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t feel completely prepared for this swim; not fitness-wise, but in my understanding of the course. I probably should have done a bit more recon, studied the map more, and gone to check out the swim finish before I ever jumped in that water, but it ended up working out okay.

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I swam with some girl in my wave for a little bit and then I think I dropped her. I kept the buoys to my left and tried to sight pretty frequently. The sun was rising to my right, so I breathed mostly to my left. At some point on this first straight part of the swim, I started catching the people in the waves in front of me. I also spotted another girl from my wave, and tried to stay with her. At the first turn buoy, it got a little hectic, but I just kept swimming. Sorry to those I swam over! Shortly after that first turn buoy, I felt my wristband fall off. For half a second I was like, oh, I should try to grab that, but then I realized how dumb that was and I kept swimming. As long as my timing chip stayed on, I was good. Soon, the next turn buoy was upon me. I made the right turn, and in my head I was like, I’m swimming straight to the finish now. But then I came upon another turn buoy, and we needed to turn left to head into the finish. See, should have paid a little closer attention to the map! I wasn’t sure how much longer I had to swim, but I had felt my watch buzz every 500 meters, so I knew I had to be getting closer. All of the sudden I looked up to sight, and saw people ahead of me at about 2 o’clock, climbing out of the water onto a dock. I totally thought I was going to be swimming to straight to a ramp that I’d walk out of the water. Nope, it was a dock with a ladder off to my right. Again, should have studied the swim course/checked out the swim exit! I quickly cut to the right and aimed for the third or fourth ladder in. I climbed up, and after starting my run towards my bike, I remembered to lap my watch. I looked down and saw 25:XX and was like WHOA, that was fast. I knew it was a with current swim, but wasn’t expecting that much help!

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what I actually swam

Official time: 00:24:38

T1:

The run to the bike was long. The nice thing was that a) there were wetsuit strippers b) they had fresh water sprinklers we could run through which were WARM! and c) the volunteers were awesome. The cold, hard concrete hurt my feet while I ran to my bike, but eventually, I made it to my bike. I threw on wetsuit, cap, and goggles into my bike gear bag, left it on the ground, threw on my bike gear and headed out. Just as I was leaving my rack, I heard “GO STEPH”- I looked up and saw Justine heading in to transition. I knew she had a solid swim and she’d be hunting me down on the bike. Though I knew I needed to race my own race, I wanted to hold her off for as long as possible.

00:04:37

Bike:

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I got my bike out of transition, carefully stepped off the curb with my bike, mounted at the line, and started to ride. I have a tendency to start racing right from the beginning of the ride (see Wisconsin 70.3) which is really not what I need to be doing. So, the nice thing about the start of this ride (for me) is that it starts with a short section with some speed bumps and turns, which force you to slow down. Then, about a mile in, you’re forced to slow down again, to go over the drawbridge with metal grates. When I got there, volunteers were emphatically telling everyone to slow down and be careful over the grates, which were a little wet from the morning dew. As I neared the top of the bridge, there was a car stopped, in the lane where we were supposed to be biking. I thought to myself, “What the heck, get out of my lane!”, as I carefully went to the outside of the coned off lane, into stopped traffic, to get around the stopped car. Riding on those grates was definitely sketchy- I have ridden metal grates before, but this was the first time I legit was nervous and thought I might lose control and fall over. As I made it over the top, out of the corner of my eye I spotted what I thought to be a cyclist down. OH, THAT’S why the car was blocking my lane. I later learned that the downed cyclist had been my SOAS teammate Shannon. She’s okay now, but the fall ended her race. SUCH a bummer.

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The course is what I’ll call a lollipop- a long straightaway (stick), with a small loop (the pop) and then back down the stick. After this first part with turns and the bridge, we eventually made it to the stick , a long stretch of flat, flat, flat road. During this part of the ride, I remember feeling cold- I was wet from the swim, it was still early in the morning, and the ride had some shaded parts. I was wishing for the sun to be higher in the sky so that I would warm up!

Around mile 20, my friend Maria passed me, along with another girl in our age group. Maria is super strong on the bike, so I was happy that I had held her off for that long. She was playing leap frog with that other girl, and at mile 25, I ended up catching them, thanks to some legal drafting. It didn’t last long, and the two of them picked it up and took off. I kept them in my sight for a little while, but eventually they left me in their dust.

Throughout the ride I kept telling myself to ride my own race. Marni had reminded me that I should always feel like I have one extra gear in my toolbox; after all, I have a 13 mile run after this ride! I lap my watch every 20 minutes, so, I focused on being present for 20 minute chunks of time, staying up on my nutrition, and always having that one extra gear. To be honest, this ride was BORING. Sure, all my training rides are on a boring trail, but for some reason, I wasn’t really enjoying the course. Maybe it was because my last race was so epic?

At several points along the course there were large packs of men who flew right past me, in a draft pack. It was pretty frustrating because not once did I see any of them get caught. At one point, near the end of the course, a girl had passed me, and then I just watched as this group of men essentially swallowed her up. She hung with them for a little, pulled even further away from me, but it was clear that she had gotten stuck in this pack of cheaters. That was my biggest complaint about this race: the blatant drafting that went seemingly unnoticed.

When we made the turn back on to the stick, I told myself I could turn it on a little more. This is also the part where historically the wind has been a tail. The wind wasn’t blowing super strong today, but I do think we had a little bit of a tail on this stretch, based on the fact that my speed went up even though my power went down! On this stretch, maybe 5 miles from the end of the bike, I noticed a male cyclist in front of me, coasting. We were on a flat so I was like what is he doing? As I got closer, water droplets started to fly. OOOOH. I know what he’s doing! I quickly got out of his draft, made my pass, and jokingly yelled, “A little warning would have been nice!” GROSS! Eventually, he passed me after he was all finished and he apologized, and we both had a laugh.

We rode over one last drawbridge (total on this course is 2 bridges; one bridge you ride over once and the other you ride over twice, for a total of three crossings), and finally we were in to transition. I hadn’t noticed at the time, but the bike was a little long (almost a mile). Even so, I was pleased with the way I rode. It wasn’t a PR, but I finished with legs that were ready to run!

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Riding isn’t always glamorous

Official time: 02:42:54

T2:

It was a long-ish run with my bike to get into the transition area, but I was the third rack in, which was super quick to get to. I accidentally ran right past my spot on the rack, and had to backtrack and pay a little closer attention to the numbers. Once I got to my spot, I untied my bag (it was tied around the rack) and it dropped to the ground. I put my bike on the rack and started to take out my running stuff. Shoes and socks on, and then I took my race belt, hydration belt and visor as I made my way to transition exit and put each on one.

00:03:10

Run:

When I left transition I felt surprisingly good. I reminded myself not to go out too fast, but to run strong and run with good form. I did many runs this season at HIM effort, so I needed to find that effort and stay there.

Not too long after leaving transition, you get a fun little incline- it’s super short (1 block) but kinda steep. On this little incline I started to feel a little tightness in my left hamstring, but by the time I was back on flat ground, it went away. The run is an out and back, the first two miles or so are through the city and then you get into this nice neighborhood, along a lake, with plenty of trees for shade. The temperature was also quite nice. I’m not entirely sure what the temp was, but for this Florida girl who’s used to running in hot and humid conditions, it was glorious to have little humidity and cooler temps.

I had figured out how to make my watch only show my HR, which is exactly what I wanted. My plan had been to start the run controlled, below HR 160, and keep it there for a few miles before finding my stride and seeing what I could do. My watch was also on auto lap every mile, so I could see what I was holding pace-wise, but only if I looked at it when it beeped, which I tried not to do a ton, since I didn’t want to get in my head about pace. However, on that first mile, I couldn’t resist- it ticked off at 8:11- WHOA Steph, slow down! I backed off my pace and monitored my effort.

The first few miles went by pretty quickly, and I started to see people on their 2nd half of the run. I saw the lead men, and they also had a cyclist with the lead woman (or at least the woman who was physically in the lead, not sure if she was technically the leader at that point by time).  By mile 3, I was already above my 160 HR target, but I felt good and decided to maintain this effort. I was wondering where my friends Maria and Shannon were, who I knew would be ahead of me (at the time, I didn’t realize Shannon had gone down). Surprisingly I didn’t see either of them; I must have been zoned out or something when Maria passed me! At the turn around, I saw my friend Chris and Maria’s husband cheering me on! It was a nice mental boost to see friendly faces!

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Maybe a quarter mile after the turnaround, I saw Justine, running towards the turnaround. She wasn’t that far behind me! I turned it on just a little bit more, but reminded myself to race my own race. The second half of the run seemed to almost be a little bit of a downhill, but I think that was in my head. It really was a lovely course- probably one of my favorite runs I’ve done in a half!

By miles 9 and 10 I was starting to feel myself getting tired. I took a coke at mile 9, mostly for the sugar. I had been keeping up on my Skratch (in my fuel belt), I had taken a few shot blocks over the course of the run, and I was drinking water at the aid stations as well. I felt like my nutrition was pretty darn good for this run. Finally, at mile 11, Justine caught me! I was pretty proud that I had held her off for as long as I did; she is one tough cookie! We ran together for a very short time before I told her to go get em! I watched her slowly put distance between us, which I was totally okay with. Justine is an amazing competitor and one of my dear friends, so I was super happy to see her having a great race (she ended up with a PR!).

Shortly after Justine passed me, there was a slight, short uphill. I ran up it, but my heart was pounding, so I walked for 30 seconds to bring it back down. There was an aid station up ahead so I ran to it and yelled “Coke!” Some kids were working this one, and I got a response, “I have Pepsi?” and in the heat of the moment I frustratingly said, “Ugh, yes, that’s what I want. Just give me the cola.” I feel a little bad about that now. Whoops.

The last two miles were down the main street in downtown. You could almost see the finish line from pretty far out, except that there was a cruel slight uphill and the finish line was on the other side. Soon, I was in the chute and on the red carpet. Throughout the run, I had seen a few of my splits come in, and they were in the high 8’s. I was fairly confident I had broken 2:00 on the run, and as I came in, I started to get joyful tears in my eyes. I think I did it!

One of the first things I did after crossing was obviously to check my Garmin for my run split. I nearly burst into an ugly cry (but didn’t; I held it together) when my watch showed 1:55.9 (actual time 1:56:37). In 9 Half Ironmans over the course of 5 years, I had finally, finally put together a sub 2 hour run. I was so preoccupied with that goal that I didn’t even realize that I had gone 5:11. Five hours and eleven minutes!!! My previous best time was a 5:24, which I did at Florida earlier this year! Wow, just wow!

After I got my chip off, I saw Justine, who told me we were 9th and 10th in our age group. OMG I finally made it to the top ten at an IM race! I was super pleased with the race I put together, I finally have figured out how to put together a solid performance at this distance.

Official Run time: 01:56:18

Official Overall Time: 05:11:37

And just like that, my 2017 triathlon season is over. It was a long one, but it sure did end sweetly!

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