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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Atlantic City International Triathlon 2014

27 09 2014

I wrote this blog post right after the AC Tri in Mid September. I’ve only recently gotten around to adding in the oh so important photos:-) Better late than never, right? Here you go!

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It just makes me so giddy that there is a triathlon in Atlantic City, so even though I don’t live there anymore, I do my best to make it back to support the tri community in the town which I never, ever would host a triathlon- let alone two in one season!

Photo: Yes, its Official... all NEW Challenge AC HALF Distance!!! www.ChallengeAtlanticCity.com

This is my third time racing the four-year-old AC Tri (I only missed in 2012!) and I must say that every year I walk away commending Delmo sports for putting on an exceptional event. This year was no different.

I headed up to Jersey on the Friday before the race. My trip started off by picking up my bike from the Tuckahoe bike shop- in Ocean City. When I arrived, the bike was still in the bike stand, with one aero bar on. Uh. Oh. The guy at the shop told me that the ones they had didn’t fit. He also seemed a little frustrated, because their store really doesn’t deal with tri bikes, they mainly do cruisers. This bike was the only high end road bike they had. He called the guy from the other shop (the one actually in Tuckahoe), then went upstairs, returning a few minutes later with a brand new set of aeros. Phew. Mom and I went to lunch at Manco and Manco pizza  (a must when in Ocean City!!) while he installed them. Unfortunately, this shop didn’t have a trainer for me to hop on and get fit properly on the bike, so I just figured I’d go with it, and adjust what I could on my own. Lesson: go to Tuckahoe if renting a racing bike.

Manco and Manco PizzaAt least there was pizza.

Friday evening, I went for a  run on the boardwalk. A nice little 8k shake out after a morning of travel was just what I needed. Then, Saturday morning I got to meet one of my SOAS Racing teammates, Maria. She’s a total rockstar, and qualified for Kona at Louisville this year. Ah. Mazing. Check out her story here and help her fund raise here. I was really hoping for an outdoor ride, but the threat of rain kept us inside in the “pain cave” on the trainers for a few hours. I only stayed for two, while she had four. That woman is dedicated!

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After the ride, I headed down to Bader Field to check in for the race. Check in was a breeze, and I met a blog reader while getting my shirt. Hi Mary! I racked my bike, covered it in trash bags to protect it from the impending rain, and went to the pre-race meeting. After a pretty standard meeting, I went home, relaxed for the night and completed the oh so important pre-race pedicure.

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Race morning:

I woke up a few minutes before my alarm and immediately checked the weather. 58°F, 13mph winds. Brr. Definitely a sweatshirt kind of morning. Warm oats were the perfect breakfast, and I made myself a cup of coffee. Well, I used my parent’s coffee maker and made a small pot that was entirely too strong (it was as dark as the muddy water I would swim in later in the morning), and I could only handle a few sips before throwing it out. Well that was a bust.

IMG_6760.JPG-34449(Photo courtesy of Delmo Sports)

We left the house with plenty of time to get to transition before it closed at 6:15. We had been warned to get there early, as there is only one way in to Bader field, so we left the house at 5:15 (my parents live 2 miles from Bader Field). We hit a little bit of traffic, and pulled in to a spot a little after 5:30. My biggest complaint about this race is probably this, though I am not sure how to fix it. There has to be a way to open a second entrance- hundreds of cars descending on one entrance does not ease the nerves of anxious triathletes!

IMG_6785.JPG-34316beautiful morning!

I got myself set up, hit up the porta-potty, and then put on my wetsuit. I headed down to the swim start to line up, still bundled in my long sleeve and sweatshirt. I was thankful for the wetsuit- it was keeping my legs warm! As I checked out the water, I noticed a whole bunch of college kids, and learned that it was the Northeast Collegiate Championships. Welp, I guess I’m going to get schooled by kids 10 years younger than me.

IMG_7876AMy Jamis rental

Swim: 1 mile, 28:23

 

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The swim is seed yourself, so I placed my self close to the front of the pack. I didn’t want to be one of the first people in, but I definitely wanted to be one of the first 10% in the water. It was low tide, and they had us jump off the dock one at a time. It went by fast, and soon, I was jumping in to the muck. Yes, it was muck. The floor of the bay is some of the mushiest, stickiest, grossest material I have ever felt between my toes. Ick! And of course, because of all the athletes churning up the floor and water ahead of me, the water was BLACK. I could not see a thing in the water, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not…I immediately started passing people and realized that I probably could have hopped in sooner. And as per usual, there were people who should NOT have seeded themselves where they did (backstroke, in the first 250 yards, really?). I was feeling pretty good on the swim, but halfway through the long, straight leg of the swim, it just started to feel really long. I’m not sure if it actually was long (anyone with a 910 want to confirm??), but I think the tide had turned and started running in, so we were heading in to the current. I was happy to make that final turn before heading in to the dock. I actually reached the dock at the same time as another girl (college kid!) but I beat her out on to the dock. Yes, the competitive side of me came out- I will not be beat out of the water!

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It’s a short run in to transition, and I had a great end spot on the third rack from the end. The toughest part of this transition was putting on arm warmers while wet. Oof. That is not easy. Once they were on, and my helmet, I skedaddled out of there!

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Bike: 20 miles, 1:00.26

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Two minutes in to the ride I was grumbling about the bike, wishing so badly that I was on my own two wheels. The saddle was uncomfortable, which I had noticed on the trainer, but knew I could suck it up for 20 miles. The thing that was really bothering me was the fit. I hadn’t realized how bad it was, but I was in a terrible position- I wasn’t getting any power. I was so far back on the saddle because it was so uncomfortable, and it was too low. Aero was definitely not aero- my chest was up too high. (See photo above!) This was NOT ideal considering there was a 13mph head wind that we faced every time we headed out of the city (which was twice).

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My morale was not helped when I kept getting passed (mostly by men, but there were a few women in there- at least two college girls) or when I dropped my water bottle right after I had gotten on to the expressway. It was my Osmo, and I decided to sacrifice some time and pick it up. Thankfully I was in the shoulder and there was no one around me. Speaking of the shoulder, that’s where we had been explicitly told to ride during the pre-race meting by the USAT official. I didn’t see anyone else in the shoulder except for me on the entire ride. This became a problem as I was on my second loop, leaving the city. The International athletes on their second lap merged with the sprint athletes on their first loop, right after Exit two. All of those sprint athletes were in the lane, not in the shoulder, so passing got a bit hairy at times. I had to slow down a few times so that I could safely pass. Had they all been in the shoulder, the passing could have happened in the lane, much further away from the traffic. I think they probably got confused because we were reminded to stay on the left while on the Black Horse Pike. There was one other hairy part of the ride. This year, we crossed back over the Pike at the ACHS ramp, rather than riding all the way in to Bader field with traffic, and then crossing 4 lanes right before turning in to Bader field. This was definitely a safer way to do this, but right at the end of the ramp the pavement was really uneven. I hit it a little fast, and was thankful I didn’t get a flat, but I saw at least 3 guys with flats right there. There was signage to slow down, but if there’s any other work that can be done to fix that up, I’m sure the athletes would appreciate it!

Edited to add: After the race, Steve the RD posted this video, recognizing the fact that so many athletes had issues with this ramp. As a result, he offered free entry into next year’s race. Um yes, talk about a stellar race director. Can there be more RDs like that?

I enjoyed the rides back in to town- the tail wind was a nice boost- but was thankful to be back in transition and ready to run!

T2: 3:46

Visor, shoes, racebelt, Go! I was pretty quick (or so I thought) getting in and out of transition, but T2 doesn’t end until you are WAY out of transition, and almost on to Albany Avenue. I saw Maria, gave her a wave, and set out to have a strong run.

IMG_4981AC(Check out my tongue LOL!)

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Run: 5 miles, 38:39

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This year, the run was shortened from a 10k to 5 miles (8K), which I was not unhappy about. A shorter run? I’ll take it! I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the boardwalk is one of my favorite places to run. You just can’t beat the springiness of the boards under your feet and the ocean to your side. I was feeling pretty good, and my Achilles was only a little sore. Right after I got on the boardwalk, one of the college girls I actually had passed on the bike, passed me right back. I tried so hard to keep up with her, but she really picked it up on the turn around and I lost sight of her. I got passed by two other 21 year-olds on the run, but I was able to pass a few guys 🙂 Despite taking the run out too fast (4:27/km whoops), I stepped it back and was fairly consistent throughout the rest of the run. On the way in to the finish chute, I hopped behind a college kid, and I was able to reap the benefits of his draft for about 100 yards before he took off for his finish. I finished strong, and was proud of my finish.

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Number three is in the books!

Overall time: 02:13:13.7

1/19 AG

12/184 Female

81/477 OA

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And of course, I have to highlight some of the benefits of doing this race!

– hot breakfast

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-sweet medals

IMG_7054-comprehensive results at the end

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-long sleeve tech tee

-free race photos

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-Paired with Seafood festival

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-And a fantastic race director who puts athletes first. Thanks for another great race Steve! Hopefully, I’ll see you for TWO races next year!

 

Finally, a big shout out to my mom for being my personal photographer and sherpa for the day. Couldn’t do it without you!

And a big huge shout out to SOAS racing, who makes just the best tri kits out there! I am so honored to be a part of the team!





Challenge Atlantic City

2 07 2014

As you may already know, I grew up in South Jersey. Ventnor, to be exact. Yes, if you’ve ever played Monopoly and landed your thimble on the yellow “Ventnor Avenue” property, it’s that “Ventnor.” Ventnor is one town south of Atlantic City.

Monopoly

 

Atlantic City holds a special place in my heart. My dad grew up there and my grandfather lived in their home on Chelsea Avenue until he passed away when I was in high school. Every Sunday after church (which was also in AC) we would go over to his house for lunch. If it was summer, we’d head down to the Chelsea Avenue beach, where I’d play in the ocean for hours. I went to Atlantic City High School, which was the public high school that the kids from Brigantine, Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate, and Longport could attend. And, after my sophomore year, I tried out for the Atlantic City Beach Patrol, where I guarded for 8 summers.

ACBP

Atlantic City has never struck me as the healthiest place on earth; despite the beautiful boardwalk that, to me, just begs to be run on, people come for the gambling, the clubs or to get their money’s worth at the all-you-can-eat buffets. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not criticizing, I’m just saying that fitness is not one of the top priorities in this town.

So, four years ago, when Stephen Del Monte of Delmo Sports announced that there would be a triathlon in Atlantic City, my jaw dropped. How the heck did he pull that off? I signed up immediately, thinking that this might be the one and only time this race happens. To my surprise, the race is in it’s fourth year, and I couldn’t be happier to know that it is alive and well! Though I haven’t registered yet, I’m 90% sure I will be.

StateAveMonopoly

Even more shocking was the announcement late last year that the European-based Challenge Family brand of triathlon races was coming to the US, and they had chosen Atlantic City as the location to make their debut. WHAT? Part of me was so incredibly proud that they had chosen South Jersey as the place for the inaugural race. The other part of me was wondering if they had made this decision over one too many drinks at Trump Taj Mahal.  Are they sure they know what they’re doing? Atlantic City? Really??

Atlantic City Skyline

I didn’t register for the event as I had other obligations on race day (bridesmaid!) and already had plans to complete my first Ironman with my teammates in Cozumel later in 2014. But I followed the event closely, and was so excited when they announced Miranda Carfrae was participating on a relay. As the event drew closer, I was wishing and hoping that the event would be a smashing success, but at the same time was worried that Atlantic City just wasn’t the place for a race of this caliber.

Challenge AC

On the Thursday evening before the race, the Press of Atlantic City released an article that said the Showboat casino would be announcing that they were closing; they were issuing the required notices to their employees on Friday. This news comes just a few weeks after the newest casino to open, Revel, announced that if they don’t find a buyer by the end of the summer, they too will need to shut their doors. Add to this the fact that the Atlantic Club, another casino, closed its doors in January. Oh, and remember that storm Sandy? Yeah, she did a number on AC, and there are many families STILL displaced from that awful storm.

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Wow, what a blow. Atlantic City is in a sad state. This race NEEDS to be successful here. It needs to prove that it is boosting the economy- and that it IS something to get excited about. Sure, the road closures are a pain, but how often do you get to watch world-class athletes push themselves to the limit in a race that lasts as long as a work day? Or, even more inspiring, cheer on the every-day Joe, the weekend warrior as he proves to himself that yes, he too can push his limits and cross that finish line! If you’ve never been to a finish line of an iron-distance race, put it on your “to do” list. Believe me, you’ll walk away with a tear in your eye, and so inspired to push yourself to try that one thing that you’ve always wondered if you could do.

10460116_10100304476044542_7060137147400723819_nI downloaded the above picture from a friend’s Facebook page- This is Mike Pelosi, a guy that grew up with me (though a few years older) who was also on the ACBP with me. He’s picking up his daughter, who has cerebal palsy, to run with her across the finish line. I’m getting teary-eyed just typing that. How incredible is that? Check out the Press’s article about some of the locals in the race, including Mike and a mention of Dave, the other guard in the picture with me above.

In Europe, thousands of people come to watch the Challenge Races. It’s no World Cup, but they line the streets to cheer on the athletes. I want that vibe to be present in the Atlantic City race too. Maybe all these economic blows are AC’s chance for a clean slate- perhaps to bring a new breed of tourists. After all, the average income of USAT members is $126,000 (source)! (Please note, I know it’s not that easy to bounce back from rough economic times).

So far, I’ve read mostly positive reviews of the event, with of course the typical bumps in the road that inaugural events have. And, registration for next year’s event just opened (yes, I’m going to participate, just not sure if it will be in the capacity of a relay or something longer…). This gives me hope (and the fact that they have a 5-year contract)- but the triathlon community and the South Jersey community need to come together to make this thing an overwhelming success like I know it can be. I may be babbling, but I truly and deeply want this race to succeed. Not only for the sport of triathlon  (Ironman could use a bit of competition) but for Atlantic City. They need this race- they need something to get excited about and more importantly, something to help boost the economy.