Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City

21 09 2016

So, this ended up being a longer post than I expected…Grab your coffee!

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When the announcement was made last year that Atlantic City would now have an Ironman branded 70.3, I knew I was registering. Sure, I’m not the biggest fan of how the brand treats the female pros (#50womentokona), but I knew that bringing the Ironman brand to AC would be a nice boost for the town. If you don’t already know, I’m originally from Ventnor, the town just south of Atlantic City. I grew up on the Jersey shore, went to Atlantic City High School, and am a proud alum of the Atlantic City Beach Patrol. This race would take place in the waters where I used to water ski and learned to row a lifeguard boat, on the very overpass I drove over every day to get to high school, and on what I consider the best place to run: the boardwalk. The race was scheduled for September, the best time of year from the local’s perspective, and it just so happened to be on my dad’s birthday weekend. Score!

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September at the shore is the. BEST.

I flew up Wednesday, a few days early so I could spend some time with my family before race brain started to take over. I didn’t fly with my bike; after my bike shipping experience after Milkman, I was hesitant to pack up my bike to get it to New Jersey. Thankfully, one of my TriMarni teammates who lives in south Florida was driving up for the race and offered to take my bike up with her. Wahoo! I dropped it the weekend before and was super thankful for this alternative transportation. (For the future, I would love to see TriBike Transport support this race!)

Friday: On Friday morning, I met up with Lottie, who was tackling her first 70.3! It was chilly (for me), a cool 53 degrees- I would certainly not be upset if this was race day weather! We went for a 45 minute spin on a section of the loop part of the course and then we drove the rest of the loop to get a sense of the roads and where we would need to go on Sunday. Some of the roads were a little rough, but nothing too terrible. As we were headed back to Lottie’s car, we actually saw a truck with workers patching up some spots of the road and marking where the road was a little rougher.

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After we parted ways, I drove the rest of the course on my way back home. There were a few rough patches through the Pleasantville neighborhood, but they were already marked, and if you were watching where you were going and not being a speeding idiot, you should be just fine. All in all, I was looking forward to the course, but I did make a note to bring 2 tubes, rather than the 1 I usually carry, just in case.

Later that afternoon, I went to the Ironman Village to pick up my packet and go to the pre-race meeting. This was my first Ironman branded 70.3 (and my first Ironman branded race in the US) so of course I spent too much money in the merchandise tent.

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Later in the afternoon, Cynthia arrived in town with her dad, and we went to the Ventnor beach to get in a little open water swim.

img_6059Even though the swim would be happening in the bay and not the ocean, it was nice to get in the water. There was a tropical storm way out at sea, but it’s effects could be seen/felt already in Jersey. We had to deal with some decent surf, and I loved every minute of it. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it here, but one of my first ever ocean swims was in hurricane swell, and since that day I have fallen in love with the thrill of swimming in big surf.

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Saturday: Saturday morning, I woke up without an alarm, which was so lovely. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) my body doesn’t know what “sleeping in” is, so I was up and at ’em by 7am. I went for a short spin down to Longport and back, followed by a short jog on the boardwalk. Gosh, it felt good to be home to race.

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I went to the village in the afternoon to rack my bike and get body marked, and the rest of Saturday was pretty low key- I really wanted to go to the beach with dad, but opted to stay out of the sun and inside relaxing on the couch instead. We made pizza for dinner, and then it was early to bed for me. 4:30 would come quickly!

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Sunday, race day!

I didn’t sleep super great on Saturday night, but I wasn’t too worried- I am a firm believer in “the night before the night before” is the most important:) I knew race nerves were kicking in because I needed to force down my overnight oats and coffee. I put on my kit, braided my hair, checked the weather (High of 83 and humid. Wind from the South at 9mph) and off we went to Bader Field. I knew that traffic was going to be bad- they had warned us at the pre-race meeting to get there early, and I remembered the issue at one of the AC Tris where they had to delay the start because of the long lines of cars getting in. Thankfully, we were coming from the west, and were able to get right in and not sit in all the traffic. I’ve seen lots of complaints about the traffic to get in, and I know that some people had to rush to make it into transition before it closed, but from my personal experience, I didn’t have a problem. I do think there needs to be a solution to ease some of the congestion, I just don’t know what it is and what is doable with city ordinances and such.

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Anyhow, we arrived and I headed over to my rack. I filled my bottles, laid out my run stuff on my transition towel, placed my extra tube, sunglasses, and Skratch chews in my helmet so I would remember to put them in my back pockets before getting on the bike, put my shoes on the bike, and then checked and rechecked that everything was all set. I trusted my experience in setting up my transition area and then went to chat with friends before leaving transition. I gave my bag to my mom and did a little bit of dynamic stretching. I actually felt hungry so I ate part of a Cliff bar too. It was at some point during this time that a sense of calm came over me: I was prepared, I trusted my training, and I knew this course pretty darn well. It was go time. Well, in about an hour and a half…

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I walked to the swim start, about half mile or so from transition (throw away flip flops are a must if you do this race!) and they made an announcement that the swim had been cut to a mile. Bummer, that’s where I can get my advantage! Dad and I had talked strategy last night and since the tide was coming in, I knew we’d be swimming against it on the first stretch of the swim. My tactic would be to swim closer to the sea wall, where it wasn’t pulling as strong, and then swim more in the middle of the channel after the turn around. I was still feeling surprisingly calm, ate a few Skratch chews, and drank some water as we waited in the corral.

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Swim:

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Finally, it was time for my wave, wave 13 to line up and then get in the water. I said hi to a few lifeguard friends and then jumped in and swam to the start line. It was a floating start, so I stayed to the far right. Just before we started, a woman from the wave before us was pulled from the water, maybe 5-10 meters from the start. Great way to start the race, eh? Once she was in the boat and out of the way, it was our turn to go! Immediately, I took off. I swam with a girl for a handful of strokes, but then she dropped back. I didn’t see any other light pink caps nearby, so I figured I was in the lead, but I didn’t know for sure.

Shortly after starting, I started running down people in the waves before me. Thankfully, I was far enough out to the right that I didn’t trample over a lot of them. I passed through the two red buoys that I presume was for the live tracking, and continued to swim with the yellow buoys to my left. I was feeling quite good, and was approaching one of the green channel markers, when I sighted and noticed a wall of lifeguard boats and paddle boards directly ahead of me. There were definitely swim buoys behind them. This was curious. On my next sighting stroke, I heard them yelling to turn. That’s weird. Maybe this was the “shortened” course? Despite being confused, I made a sharp left and swam towards the next buoy I saw. Around the orange buoy, and then keeping the orange buoys on my left,  I swam towards the swim exit.

If you look at the map above, I would say that I turned shortly after the little piece of land that was jutting out from the left side of Bader field. I really, really wish I had a watch that recorded my swim distance, because I really have no idea how far I actually swam. My time was only 19:45, so I’m wondering if I did miss a buoy or something. The race site says the swim was cut to 11oo meters, but there’s been some chatter on the Facebook page that this isn’t accurate. I guess we’ll never really know!

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T1: I ran out of the water, wiped my face (that bay has some nasty grime), let the wetsuit strippers peelers  de-wetsuit me, and quickly rinsed off in the showers they had at swim exit (thank you!!). I saw Lottie, and gave her a little pat on the booty and yelled “Yeah Girl!” before heading into transition.

Tube, sunglasses, Skratch, helmet, Go! And off I was out of transition!

Time:2:08

Bike:  The bike course is what I’ll call a lollipop: a pretty straight shot out to some more rural roads, a big loop, and then back to transition via the “stick”.

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I’m really glad I was familiar with the roads and the course; it makes such a difference! I knew what to expect and when, and could adjust as necessary. I was prepared for the rough roads in the Pleasantville neighborhood, the somewhat bumpy parts at the start of the loop, and the curb at the entrance to the Wawa parking lot, that thankfully had a volunteer, signs and a carpet to lessen the jump.

When I started the ride, I was pretty sure we had a nice tailwind. I looked down and saw a “23,” which confirmed my suspicion. Watch your watts, Steph. Conserve for the headwind that you know is going to hit on the way home. I backed off a bit but still found myself constantly saying “On your left,” which made me feel like I was on my way to a solid ride. Maybe I could get an AG podium after all…

There were a lot of people on the course already and being that it was not a closed course, there were several portions where we had just a wide bike lane to ride in, which was making it quite tricky NOT to draft/block. I did my best to stay legal, but I definitely spotted some men who had a much looser interpretation of 6 bike lengths than I think the refs did…

Anyhow, it was on the bike where it really hit me that there were a LOT of women in this race. According to the Ironman Atlantic City Facebook page, this race held one of the highest women to men ratios in all the IM events in the world. I absolutely loved being out there with so many strong women who were tackling this distance.

Around mile 20, I was passed by a female. Obviously I looked at her calf, and sure enough, she was in my age group. Dang it! I tried to keep up but then told myself to race MY race, not hers.

The first 25 miles of the race flew by. Perhaps it was because I was most familiar with that part of the course, or because I was literally on my way to the fastest 56 miles I’ve ever ridden, but I was just having so much fun! We were riding on some nicer roads at that point and it was shady, so at this point, it was quite enjoyable. At one point on this back loop, there was a curve in the road, and BAM the headwind hit. Thankfully, this was short lived, and we curved again and it wasn’t as noticeable. I think 3-4 women passed me back here, and one or two of them were in my age group. At that point, I lost a little motivation; my BHAG was to place top 5 in my AG for this race, and now I was one place away from dropping out of the top 5.

We made another turn at mile 30, and again, the wind hit. It didn’t seem as bad, but this part was definitely a bit harder for me. The roads were smooth and wide open, so I just put my head down and tried to ride by watts, not by speed. I also started doing the math in my head to figure out what my final time might be. As I calculated, I was shocked – I might be able to go 2:40. That’s just crazy! I tried not to get overly excited, and just kept pedaling. There’s no such thing as a good bike and a bad run. You have to pace yourself in the bike so that you can have a solid run. I was hopeful I was pacing myself appropriately.

As I approached the final aide station at mile 38ish, I debated whether or not I should grab a water. It hadn’t been super hot, and I thought was doing pretty good on my nutrition: I had drank two bottles of Infinit (Bottle 1 was Speed formula, with a pinch of base salt added; the other was 1 scoop of regular Speed and 1 scoop of my custom extra salty blend). I had also had half a bag of Skratch chews because I felt hungry and needed something solid to satisfy my hunger.  I had just started my third bottle of Infinit, which was two scoops of my custom salty blend, so I was considering the water to balance out the salt, since it was definitely not as hot and humid as I’m used to training in. I made the decision to skip, and I’m pretty sure that was the decision that ruined the rest of my day.

As I rode the last 16 miles back to transition, I saw my teammate Heather who asked how I was feeling. I yelled back that I was feeling really good and kept pushing forward. With less than 10 miles to go, another girl in my age group passed me. I remembered sizing her up in the porta potty line before the race, and I wasn’t going to let her take me over. I passed her back, held the lead for a little, and then she passed me back. Dang it! I let her go, knowing we were close to the end of the ride. Maybe I could get her on the run.

We entered Bader Field from the west, and you could see the start of the run: Lines  and lines of athletes running back and forth. It looked like an ant farm…or a death march. I switched gears in my head to get ready for the run as I slowed for dismount. I was determined to have a solid run off the bike for the first time in a 70.3, and I felt prepared to do it. And, I absolutely love running on the boardwalk. I couldn’t wait to get started!

Bike time: 2:42.21

T2:  T2 is a little bit of a blur to me. I grabbed my things, and started to run out, but realized the sun was out in full, so I sprayed on some of my own sunscreen I had in transition before heading out. Right at the exit there were volunteers with sunscreen, so I stopped again and let them lather me up. I could tell I was already burned from the bike, so I didn’t want to get any worse. Better safe than sorry!

Time: 2:30.

Run: The best way to describe the start of the run is soul crushing. Ok, so I’m being a little dramatic, but we ran nearly 3 miles on Bader Field. I didn’t think that was possible, but sure enough it is. We ran on the blacktop that used to be the runway. Out, back, out, back, and around the perimeter. It was awful.

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It didn’t help that half a mile in, I got a side stitch. I didn’t walk right away; mom was right up ahead with her camera and I didn’t want to worry her by walking (even though my race plan included walk breaks at the aid stations!), so I kept pushing.

img_5565 I made it to the first mile and then allowed myself to walk. My stomach was not happy. I was hot and I had a combination of a side stitch and nausea. I walked a little and then ran a little. I saw Cynthia, gave her a smile and wave, but then immediately went back to walking. What was going on with my stomach? I walked through aide station 1 and grabbed water and a cold sponge, and then started running again. You can do it Steph, I kept telling myself. Eventually, women started passing me. I watched my podium spot slip out of my hands, and disappointment washed over me. My body was not cooperating with me. By aide station 2, I had already started on Coke. Usually, I don’t need coke until I’m at least half way done the run. This was not good.

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I tried to put on a smile and just keep moving forward, to release the pressure that I had put on myself to place;  I reminded myself of something my friend Beth had posted about her recent race: that she had raced with joy and it was magic. After reading that, “Race with joy” became one of my mantras for this race. The other was something a friend posted on my wall: “Be Amazing.” I tried really hard to remind myself of those mantras as I ran down Albany avenue and onto the boardwalk.

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I had been so excited about running on the boards, so maybe I could muster some strength to get my legs moving. I saw Heather and Matt at the Base tent, which gave me a little boost, and the wind in my face actually felt quite nice, but still I found myself walking way more than I wanted because of my stomach. My legs actually felt OK, but I just couldn’t continue running without feeling my unsettled stomach. By mile 5 I remembered I had tums in my fuel belt, so I popped two of them. Shortly after, my run finally felt good. I passed a few people but then, boom, I needed to walk.

The rest of my run was pretty much a series of walking, running that didn’t feel good, drinking some Coke and sometimes some of my Osmo, running that felt really good and then an unsettled stomach feeling, followed by more walking. Rinse and repeat.

I had a really hard time staying positive on this run and not just throwing in the towel. I’m pretty sure this was the first time my mind had gone down the path of a possible DNF. I wasn’t going to do that- I could walk the whole thing if I needed to. It was just really hard to watch my goal time get further and further away. I was going to turn in my slowest 13.1 to date. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Eventually, I was on the Pier for the second time, headed for the finish. I was SO looking forward to being done and sitting in the shade. It was super hot by now, and there was zero protection from the sun (with the exception of the portion on the Pier, which I walked a lot of). I saw the red carpet, and ran it in with my arms high in the air. I was done!

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Run Time: 2:19.26

OA time: 5:26.10

13th AG

59th Female

Post race & other reflections: 

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After I finished, I immediately went over to sit in the shade and drink a water. I had zero appetite for any of the post race food. Once I felt sufficiently cooled down, I went over and found my mom. We went inside Boardwalk hall to sit in the shade some more, and I put my legs up the wall. We happened to go in the entrance which led to medical, and people kept asking me if I was okay. I felt okay, just tired. Eventually, I stood up, hoping to head over to get some food, but as we were leaving the building, I was like nope, my stomach is not having it. Mom told me that I should go to medical, and after a bit of “I’m fine mom!” I  caved. The nice EMT gave me a pill for my nausea, and we sat down for a little longer and I drank more water. Finally, after 15-20 minutes felt like I was ready to enjoy the post-race food.

Though I’m disappointed that I didn’t have the day I wanted, I certainly learned a lot from this race. I know I can put together a better race than I did, and so I’m already looking forward to planning my 2017 season.

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I cannot say enough great things about Delmo Sports, the volunteers, the emergency staff working the race, and the fans. This was an absolutely fantastic race, and I know that the Delmo staff will continue to make improvements in the coming years. If you ever have an opportunity to do a Delmo Sports event- DO IT. You will not be disappointed.

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race swag.

And now, bring on the off season!!

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2016 Wisconsin Milkman Triathlon

27 06 2016

I’ve been making multiple trips to Wisconsin over the past 6 months, more so than I usually do. One of the reasons for all the trips is that I’ve been taking classes at the UW School of Business Center for Processional and Executive Development in addition to my monthly business trip. Man, it’s been exhausting! I didn’t realize how much stress/exhaustion/work it would take to make it through, but I can happily say I came out on the other side with a few extra letters behind my name to boot!

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This last trip was the longest amount of time I’ve ever spent in Madison. I arrived on a Wednesday for a Thursday-Friday class, spent the weekend, and then took my capstone class on Monday-Wednesday before flying home.

A few months ago, when I was looking into flights for this trip, I knew I’d have to decide to stay the weekend or make two trips because of when the classes were scheduled (depending on costs). For fun, I did a quick Google search to see if there was a running race or a triathlon in Madison that weekend, because why not? As it turned out, there was a new event in town- the Wisconsin Milkman Triathlon  which was scheduled to occur on June 19th! I reached out to my SOAS teammate Kathy to see if she knew anything about the race, and as it turned out, she was already registered! So, when it became clear that it was a bit cheaper to spend the weekend in Wisconsin rather than fly home, I decided to go ahead and register for my first triathlon in Wisconsin!

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PreRace: Logistics/Getting there:

I decided to ship my bike via Bikeflights.com because I actually had a work meeting in Tallahassee the first day of the trip, and didn’t want to have to pay to check my bike twice. This was the first time I’ve ever shipped my bike (I had only ever used TriBikeTransport previously) so I used the bike shops they recommended (Cycle Sports Concepts in Tampa and Endurance House in Madison).

In all honesty, I’m not sure I’ll use BikeFlights again, or if I do, I’ll do something differently. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. When my bike arrived in Madison, the rear pulley was broken! Thankfully the guys at Endurance House were able to fix it, but they said they’d never seen anything like it before and the box the bike arrived in wasn’t damaged!IMG_4759
  2. In theory, BikeFlights should be cheaper than checking a bike on a plane or just straight up shipping it. Since I’m clueless about disassembling and assembling my bike, I had the shops do it for me, which means I paid for that service in addition to the shipping costs. Disassembly and packing x2 and Reassembly x2 adds up. UGH!
  3. When my bike arrived back in Tampa, the bike shop noticed something else was amiss- the sheath for the bolt in my seat post was loose. The guys at CSC are still trying to figure out what to do about it, so my bike isn’t home yet😦.

I have no idea how/when any of these issues happened, so I really don’t know who’s  at fault. I really don’t want to shell out any money for this, so I’m hoping it will all be fixed and I’ll get my bike back really soon.

The other interesting thing that happened before the race even started was that I forgot my bike shoes. Yes, I know. It’s an OBVIOUS piece of gear, how did I forget it? Honestly, I don’t know. I remembered my recovery protein powder but forgot my shoes. Sheesh!

What makes this mistake even worse is that my Gramin pedals/powermeter require a special type of cleat. So no bike shoes = no Garmin cleat.

The guys at Endurance House were great and they helped me find a new pair of bike shoes. Unfortunately they were out of the Garmin cleat, and so were a few other shops they called. Thankfully, one of them learned that a Look Keo cleat would work just as well, but EH was all out of that too! By some miracle, another bike shop down the road had these cleats so Kathy and I drove there to pick them up and have them installed.

Phew- finally, I had my ducks in a row!

PreRace: Saturday

Saturday morning was race check in! Kathy and I met up at Olin Park for a swim in Lake Monona with a whole bunch of other athletes. It was an absolutely beautiful morning and the Lake was much warmer than usual- a perfect 72 degrees.

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After our swim, we grabbed our bikes for a 40 minute ride. Kathy took me on the first part of the course which was super helpful for me. I was clueless as to what to expect so this little preview was much appreciated. Kathy warned me about Wisconsin roads after a long winter, and sure enough I got a taste of some bumpy/rough roads. I also got to experience a few hills. It was definitely going to be an interesting bike.

We got back from our ride, dropped our bikes in the car and then ran the short kilometer to the check in/expo. Check in was a breeze- they were super organized and it wasn’t crowded at all. Then, we walked outside to the expo, where Kathy and I both questioned “Is this it?” The only thing that was worth our while was the Normatec tent, where we sat in the boots and relaxed for a bit. Gosh I love those things!

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Kathy and I parted ways for a few hours, but came back a little before three to check our bikes and attend the pre-race meeting. I recognized the man leading the meeting from when I spectated at IMWI last season. He had been bringing in the finishers when Mike Reilly needed a break. The team putting on this race was experienced! The meeting was a nice refresher of the information in the Athlete Guide, and we were assured that the streets were being swept and marked before the sun would rise. Oh, and he also confirmed that the last quarter mile of the run into the finish chute included the lovely hill right behind us. CRUEL!

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After an early dinner (pizza), I crawled into bed and watched some TV before lights out around 9:30. Kathy was picking me up at 5:15 and I wanted to get as much sleep as possible!

Race Day!

It was an absolutely beautiful morning for a race!

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I got up and was surprisingly not nervous for the day that lie ahead. My mindset was that this was a long training day. I had zero expectations. No time goal, no place goal (It helped that awards would be for women 30-39. Hello competitive age group!) – just get out and have fun and get in some miles.

Since our bikes were already racked, we had plenty of time to get through the usual morning routines of a triathlete. It was pretty warm (for Wisconsin) and I was actually kinda bummed- I was looking forward to a 70.3 in cooler temperatures, since all of my previous races have been in Florida and it’s crazy heat and humidity. Well, at least it wasn’t as humid as I’m used to.

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We made our way to the start where we waited for what seemed like forever before our heats. I didn’t start until 7:42- it was definitely going to be hot by the time I was running!

Since I’d never raced in WI before and I hadn’t done any tri-stalking of the local athletes, I really had no idea how this race would pan out. I’m generally a strong swimmer so I took my chances and lined up at the front of the pack. The gun went off, I did a few dolphin dives and started swimming. There was one girl who got out a little in front of me and was swimming at a nice strong pace.  I opted to stick to her heels for a little and save some energy. By the time we hit the 2nd buoy, we were starting to catch the wave in front of us. I was also gaining on her. I eventually overtook her, and I had no idea if she stayed on my feet the rest of the swim or not!

The first leg of the swim was directly towards the sun, and sighting was a bit difficult. But I hugged the buoys the best I could and just kept swimming. It got a little congested, and I swam over a few people. There was one point where someone in front of me suddenly stopped and I came to a grinding halt so that I didn’t totally crash into him/her. I was a little annoyed but quickly got back on track and kept swimming. I really had no clue how I was doing. I felt good, I was passing a lot of people, and I didn’t seem to be getting passed. I was hopeful today was going to be a good day!

Swim: 30:08

(I think I was 7th fastest female swim, including the elites)

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I got out of the water, pulled my wetsuit halfway, laid down and then the wetsuit strippers took it the rest of the way off. Gosh, wetsuit strippers rock. Thank you!!

I got up and then ran towards transition, which I believe was about a quarter mile away. I kept telling myself, This is not a sprint, you don’t need to kill this part of the race!

I grabbed my helmet, sunglasses, put on my bike shoes and sprayed myself with some sun screen (yes, I did take the time to do this!) before heading out.

T1: 3:41

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Oh the bike. This was the leg I was most apprehensive about. How “bad” were the roads actually going to be? Will I need to walk up any of the hills? Again I reminded myself I was there to have fun and get in a good workout, and that’s exactly what I did.

The bike course was really pretty- lots of farmland and some cute towns. And yes, it was hilly. I hadn’t swapped my cassette out to be my climbing one and there were a few times I regretted that. But, all in all, with the exception of Observatory Hill and then one more on the way home, I really didn’t find the course all that outrageous. The hills were rollers- and what goes up, must come down!

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I played leap frog with a few people on the course, but I also felt like I was constantly passing people and being passed. I guess that’s what happens when you’re in a later wave but you’re a speedy swimmer:-)

Garmin tells me I gained 2451 feet in elevation, averaged 18.3 mph and my max speed was 44mph.

Overall, I was quite pleased with my bike split!

Bike: 3:03.37

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Despite the fun on the bike, I was happy to get off. One of my new bike shoes was starting to rub on the top of my foot and I could tell I was getting a blister. I was really hoping it wouldn’t interfere with my run!

I got into transition, put on my shoes (no elastic laces, so I need to actually tie them), grabbed some nutrition and my hat, sprayed on sunscreen (again), and ran out while clipping on my race belt. I can’t believe I’m 2/3 of the way done!

T2: 2:40

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The run started off pretty good for me. It wasn’t super humid, and my legs felt surprisingly good. But, I knew there were a few hills in the early parts of the run so I didn’t want to go out too hard. I tried to focus on good form and not letting my heart rate get too outta control.

The night before I had read a handout from Marni about 70.3 race strategy and it said to think of the run in 3 intervals: warm up, pre-set, and main set – just like how regular workouts are structured. So I tried to keep that in mind as we ran through the neighborhoods of Monona.

There were already a lot of people walking, and it took a lot for me to stay mentally strong and not join them right away. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and told myself to run happy. This race was for fun after all!

Aid stations were every mile and a half. It was my plan to walk through every one and grab water and ice- I wanted to make sure I didn’t get overheated out there!

The first three miles seemed to drag on- maybe I just wanted to get through the warm up? I kept reminding myself that the half (and full for that matter) is about who can slow down the least. I was definitely slowing down some, but I was still having a solid run.

I allowed myself to walk when I needed it (and to be perfectly honest, I think there were a few times where I mentally gave in and walked just like every one else around me) and I was trying to stay up on my calorie intake, but my stomach was starting to feel sloshy. I had Osmo in my race belt, which I was good at drinking regularly, but the Shot blocks were not appealing to me at all. At one of the aid stations near the midpoint of the race, I started drinking coke and had a few small pretzels. Unfortunately Coke was only at every other aid station, so I didn’t get my fill of Coke as often as I wanted it, but I was still able to get enough to get me through.

Eventually, we were at the part of the course I recognized. The run course was a loop around Lake Monona, and on multiple occasions, I’ve run part of the way around the lake, but never done the whole thing. The end of the run was part of the loop where I had done a bunch of training runs in my time in Madison. I got a mental boost from the familiarity of my surroundings, and I knew I was almost home! I looked down at my watch and realized that I might be able to slip in right around 2:00 as well- bonus!

Eventually, I was at the dreaded uphill before the finish chute. I put my head down and chugged my way up and into the chute. I had done it!

Run: 2:04:48

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Overall time: 5:44.53

overall place: 200 out of 835
division place: 13 out of 99
gender place: 33 out of 290

Final thoughts:

Though this was my slowest HIM, I still think it was a solid day.

When I first saw my rankings I was a little annoyed. I grumbled to myself:

I would have done much better in ranking if I had only been in my real AG (30-34). 

Gosh, the elites were calculated into my AG too, how unfair!

But then I took a step back and realized that 13th place in an AG that included the 34-39 year olds AND the elites is nothin to shake a stick at! And, I was in the top 25% of the ENTIRE RACE- men and women! That’s nothing to be ashamed of!

This race was a great reminder that triathlon is fun- it’s not always about placing and podiums and fast times. It’s an amazing thing that I have a strong, healthy body that allows me to push it for 70.3 miles! I should appreciate that more often!

It’s all about where your mind is- if you’ve got a positive attitude, you’re already halfway to a great race.

Oh, and the race team put on a great event! The course was clearly marked, post race food was pretty good, and hello free photos! If I was local, I’d definitely do this one again!

 

 





Crystal River Sprint #2

24 06 2016

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen that I just completed my fourth 70.3, and you’re probably expecting that race report. Well, I actually raced on back to back weekends, doing a Sprint on June 11th and then the Wisconsin Milkman on the 19th. I had my sprint race report nearly complete later that evening, but didn’t get around to posting it because, well, the whole Orlando thing happened and I just couldn’t bring myself to post a mundane race report rather than something a bit more sensitive. And then I ended up posting nothing because I just didn’t have the words. Nothing I could say would bring back the lives of those innocent men and women who were just out having a good time. I didn’t know anyone personally, but I know people who did. Maybe because of Orlando’s proximity or maybe because of the friends-of-friends thing- but this attack just felt more real to me than some of the other recent events of similar nature. I don’t want this to be a downer post, so before I shift to the original topic of this post, I’ll leave you with a little video clip.

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.

 

 

❤❤❤

 

My first triathlon in Florida was a Crystal River Sprint tri. Every year since then, with the exception of 2014, I’ve raced up in Crystal River. It’s always a great race- DRC sports does a fantastic job- and it’s really nice to return to a race year after year where you know the course and know exactly what to expect on race day (barring some unforeseen circumstances).

IMG_4711This race is actually part of a series of three races. This year, I actually took advantage of early bird registration and signed up for the whole series. Unfortunately, I missed the first race because I was on vacation. Whoops. Oh well, if I get in two, I will have definitely gotten my money’s worth!

Racing in Florida in June-July-August, it’s going to be hot and humid. Saturday was no exception. It was well into the 80s when the sun came up, and it was sticky.

I arrived at the race site, picked up my packet and got set up in transition with plenty of time to spare.

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I had been on a work trip just about all week and I hadn’t been able to swim since Sunday, so I  made sure to get in a decent warm up in the Gulf to try to regain a feel for the water. On my warm up, I noticed that the current was pulling to the south- stronger than I had remembered from other years of racing. I noted this and planned to adjust my starting position.

There were 6 waves, and I was in the third, which was the first women’s wave. Our wave was small- some girls were actually joking that our ages might have been spread around enough so that everyone got an award (this was a legit possibility, since DRC does age group awards 5 deep!).  I lined up as far to the right as I could, and then the race director told everyone that it was pulling to the south pretty good, so some girls moved even more to my right. I held the position I wanted and took off when the gun went off.

After 2-3 dolphin dives I started swimming. I immediately noticed that my right goggle was not snug on my face and water was leaking in- quickly. Do I roll over on my back and fix it? I’m out in front…how close is the next female behind me? How much time will it take to fix? This is a sprint Steph, you can’t stop! It’s like swimming a 400- you can do that with one eye open and the other tightly shut. 

So, I kept swimming.

At the first buoy, I started catching the men from the previous wave. When I turned the second buoy to head in, the sun was directly in my eye(s) when I would spot, but I was somehow able to make out the “Swim In” sign on the beach.  As I got close to the shore, I started to get a little nervous that my contact would fall out, and then what would I do? Would I need to throw in the towel? I closed my eye a little tighter and hoped it stayed put. Soon, my hand grazed the ground and I promptly stood up and took off my goggles. Phew! I can see out of both eyes!

I ran in to transition, grabbed my sunglasses and helmet and I was off!

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I mounted my bike and tried to start my Garmin. First, it wanted me to calibrate (to which I said no) and then I just could not get it to start. I had set it up for “Race,” which I had never done before and when I couldn’t get it to work, I just let it be. It was still showing power and speed, and I figured that would be good enough. My heart rate was high, as it usually is, and I figured it would take me a few miles to settle in. The course is a straight out and back, but unfortunately my Garmin wasn’t showing miles, so I couldn’t really tell where I was on course (I did recognize some landmarks though, so that was helpful. And, being that it was my 4th time on this course, I wasn’t too lost). My speed was kind of all over the place, ranging from 19-22ish mph and I was getting frustrated every time it went below 20, knowing that I had averaged over 21 at St. A’s.  My stomach also felt a little off for the first half of the bike, and I was starting to get in my head. You should just back off Steph. You’ve had a busy week at work. You’re exhausted.  

This is a sprint Steph, it’s supposed to hurt!

When I made the turnaround, I made the decision to stop making excuses and get my head back in this and keep working hard. After all, I was pretty sure I was in the lead.  But I knew that Celia (the woman who’s won this race every other time I’ve been here) would be on my tail soon- so I made it my goal to hold her off as long as I could. Sure enough, I spotted her on my way back, not far behind me. I was positive she’d catch me before we made it to transition.

I put my head down and kept pedaling. I was passed by a 73 year old guy riding my exact bike, and was thoroughly impressed/embarrassed/humbled. If he’s passing me, Celia can’t be far behind!

Soon, I was slowing for the dismount. Am I really still in the lead?

I ran to my bike and as I was putting on my socks/shoes, I saw Celia at the next rack over, quickly putting on her shoes. Dang it. I knew she had already made up a three minute deficit (she was in the wave behind me), so the only way I could actually win would be to kill it on the run.

We exited transition together, and in my head I thought, Well, maybe I can stick with her. After 50 yards I knew that wasn’t going to happen. She was going faster than I felt I could maintain. It was hot, and if I wanted to not end up in medical, I’d have to run my own race.

I have a love-hate relationship with this run. I love it because it’s “only” 3 miles. It’s definitely mental, but 3 miles sounds better than a 5K. I hate this run because it’s totally exposed- there is ZERO shade unless there’s some cloud cover. And today, there were no clouds.

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My legs felt heavy and I knew that I would not be holding a pace in the 7:XX. I reassured myself that was okay. No one would be judging me if my splits began with an 8! I told myself to focus on form and try to run strong. When I got to the aid station, I walked through to bring my heart rate down and to try and cool off. One foot in front of the other- it’s only 3 miles Steph!

At the turnaround, I was pleasantly surprised that there didn’t seem to be another female in striking distance. I wasn’t going to cruise for the remainder of the race, but it was nice to feel I didn’t need to kill myself in this heat to maintain my position. I kept my focus for the last 1.5miles and was relieved when I saw the finish chute. No other females had passed me, so as long as no females from the wave behind me made up the 3:00 lead I had on them, I’d be 2nd OA female. Not too shabby.

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After I crossed the line, I immediately grabbed a water and then stood in the outdoor shower to cool off. Ah. Best part of the day!

I stuck around for awards and got my 1st AG medal before heading home. I’m looking forward to the next one in September- maybe I’ll be able to take on Celia again!

[Side note: I realized after the race that user error was causing my bike computer issue…I was so in the zone that I forgot how to properly operate my Garmin. Whoops.]