Wow, what a weekend at the 70.3 World Championship in Vegas! In my wildest dreams I was winning my age group or at least finishing in the top 3, but I never really thought about winning the overall amateur division. It feels a little surreal. It also feels like this was only the first battle in a war for the bragging rights in the F30-34 division. I am so honored to compete with such an amazing and talented group of women and while I was lucky enough to be able to pull out the win this time, I know that it really could have been anyone’s race.
Before I go into my full race report, I want to give a few shout outs. First, congrats to Beth Shutt and Beth Walsh on second and third in our age group, respectively. You both put in such amazingly strong efforts and literally had me running scared for 13.1 miles! I also want to give props to Miss Sarah Piampiano. You have the ability to embarrass us all and while it wasn’t the day you wanted, or should have had, you kept pushing anyway and gutted out a tough one. I think it says so much about your character that even when you weren’t at your best, you didn’t give up. You are such an incredible competitor and I know you will bounce back quickly and be so much stronger for the experience (which terrifies me a little since you are already SOO strong!) I also want to thank you for being such a supportive friend, it means the world to me.
Alright, on to the weekend. I really didn’t know what to expect coming in. I have been training my big butt off (unfortunately not literally) all summer with very little racing. The up side to that is being able to focus on training, the down side is not knowing how much I have improved, if at all, or what kind of results to expect.
I got into Vegas late on Thursday night. After picking up the rental car, and spending an hour at ‘Whole Paycheck’ (aka whole foods), Mimi Winsberg (one of my 4 roomies for the weekend) and I were on the way back to the hotel to get to bed as quickly as possible. Our plans were derailed a bit when we were pulled over for speeding. Mimi begged the officer to let us go since we were lost, tired, and supposed to race in a couple days. He asked us if one of us was going to win and Mimi said that I was (with a laugh and a ‘yeah right’ from me). Finally he said he wasn’t going to give us a ticket because he might know the World Champion. Of course being the idiot I am I immediately said, “Oh you do, who?”
The next two days were a little hectic and spent registering, building bikes, training, resting, meeting with my coach, and attending a breakfast and photo shoot for the Soas Ambassadors. For those of you who don’t know, Soas is a company that sells the BEST tri kits for women…seriously, the BEST! The owners Kebby, Reg, and Steph treated us to a delicious gluten free breakfast while I was able to get to know all the other amazing Soas women. (some seriously impressive women on this team, holy moly!)
Finally on Saturday afternoon I was able to take the nap I had been looking forward to all weekend. It was great to finally lie down and actually rest as I felt like I had been on the go since I arrived. I ate dinner around 7PM (chicken, pasta, veggies) and tried for an early bed time. I was hoping for a good nights sleep, but as usual I woke up several times during the night. Each time I would look at my watch and be relieved I had 4 hours until my alarm, then 2 hours, then 1 hour, then oh crap, only 15 minutes!
Waking up on race morning always feels so strange. You put in so much time preparing for a race, and when you register it always feels as if it’s never actually going to happen. Then all of a sudden there you are, looking at yourself in the mirror through sleepy eyes, putting on your tri suit and wondering if you are going to have a good day. After getting dressed, brushing my teeth, and wondering if I really should have registered for this race (a typical, but usually fleeting thought I always get along with the prerace jitters), I headed to the kitchen to start fueling. I recently began working with a nutritionist, Dr. Phil Goglia, so I have been changing up my diet a bit. We had planned out everything I was to eat for the entire day and I was trying to stick to plan as much as possible as this was to be the practice run for Kona. Breakfast was a small bowl of steel cut oats (my new favorite type of oats) with blueberries, ½ an egg – it was supposed to be a whole egg, but I just couldn’t get it down. Finally it was 8oz of a protein shake that I sipped all the way to the race site.
The venue for the swim was great. I got to the race site, double checked my bike, aired up my tires, and went to the bathroom about 10 times – the last time was sans shoes…yuck! The waves started at 6:30AM and after that time flew by. Before I knew it I was diving in the water. Having a swimming background, I knew it was important for me to get on the front line and be ready to race from the gun. I was wearing my new Xterra speedsuit for the first time and was excited to see how it felt (it took me back to my old swimming days because it’s made of the same “paper suit” material I wore when I was 13).
As soon as the gun went off I went for it. I tried to set a strong pace for the first couple hundred meters before settling in to a slightly uncomfortable pace. We were swimming right into the sun and I couldn’t see a single buoy. Luckily there was a paddle boarder leading our wave so I kept looking for her to guide me – having no idea if she was following a straight line or not. Unfortunately I lost the feet I was on and ended up swimming alone for about 20 minutes, definitely not ideal. I new I didn’t have the swim I was hoping for, but was surprised to see a :28:35, about 2 minutes slower than I would have liked. Hey, it’s more open water swimming experience, right? On to the bike!
I was very conservative on the first 15 miles of the bike, knowing there would be lots of rollers, some fairly steep hills, and possible wind in my future. I caught another girl in my age group fairly quickly and then rode by myself until about mile 15. I knew Beth Shutt would be coming after me on the bike so I was hoping I would see her later rather than sooner. When she passed me at mile 15 I was worried I might not be able to stay with her. She was with another girl in our age group so as soon as they passed, I decided it was time to pick up the pace a bit. Over the next 30 miles we worked together (legally of course) to keep our pace strong. This was the most fun I have ever had on the bike leg of a race. I have never been able to ride “with” anyone before and it really helped me keep my focus and stay in the race. About mile 45 I could tell I was starting to lose a little steam. I popped some cliff bloks and within 10 minutes I felt great (thank you caffeine!). I rode to the front and was able to pull away from the other girls (slightly) over the last few miles. I kept thinking any minute I was going to see one or both of them, but on the way into T2, I was riding alone. I had no idea how far back the other two girls were, but I think I might have had about a 35 second lead. I tried to get out of T2 as fast as humanly possible (fast transitions have never been my strong point) as I knew I had some strong runners hunting me down.
The run was definitely challenging. There weren’t any super steep hills or technical turns, but the 2 miles down and 2 miles up combination made it difficult to find a rhythm and stick to it. It was, however, very spectator friendly which meant there were always people along the road cheering you on. I saw my coach and he gave me some quick words of wisdom, which helped me keep pushing and focus on the race plan we had set. I knew I had to race from the front, which I was doing, I just wasn’t sure how long it was going to last. I actually thought at the start of the run that at least I had the fastest swim/bike combo for the day and that no matter what I could be happy with that.
Over the next 13 miles I tried not to think about the possibility of winning my age group. I thought it was within reach, but I knew it was important to focus more on the little things that would keep me running strong – making sure I was getting my nutrition right, ice down the jersey, first and last ice down the shorts (not a fan of that one I discovered), and keeping only positive thoughts in my head. A few times I started to think the run was getting hard and Kona was just around the corner – how could I possibly do all this again x 2 in such a short time? I had to push those thoughts out of my mind, I would have to deal with Kona later. Finally on my last turn, with 1 mile to go to the finish, I knew I had it. All of a sudden my body didn’t ache as much. My turnover increased and the internal smile began because I knew I was on the home stretch.
After I crossed the line I had to be helped by a couple of the many amazing volunteers. They sat me in a wheelchair as I tried to recover. My coach checked my final results on his phone and confirmed I had won my age group. It was a couple hours before I knew I had won the overall amateur division – by about 50 seconds…what? I was super excited about the result even though I’m still not sure it has really sunk in. Or maybe it’s just that I know in 3 weeks we get to do it all again. I will be racing all the same girls + lots more fasties for the Ironman title. I have the tiara ready for the winner, although of course I’m hoping I might be able to keep it!
Vegas was not only a great race, but it was also a great learning experience. My swim wasn’t my best, but I had a bike, run, and overall 70.3 PR on the hardest half ironman course I have raced. I felt like I was able to really race for the first time and it was a blast. I am so excited to see progress after all this hard training, and I can’t wait to keep going and see how far I can get in this sport. I also really enjoyed hanging out with my roomies, meeting other amazing triathletes (probably the best part of racing), and of course the DQ blizzard with Hailey (thank goodness for triathlete buddies from the midwest who know what DQ is all about! )after the race (even if I couldn’t finish it). Boy have I missed DQ! On to the Big Island!