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 Рour 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. ūüôā 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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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!) Рjust 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 Рjust 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!