Sunday, October 5, 2014

Ironman Chattanooga Race Recap

I am an IRONMAN! Last Sunday I completed the race that I had been focusing on for over a year, and it was everything I could have hoped it would be and more. Instead of writing it out in sections, I'm just going to post one post with all of my thoughts and reflections. It won't be short, but then again, neither was the race. I'd like to add here, after having finished this whole post, that it defines the word 'lengthy'. If you read it all, thank you. If you're looking to skim, just be sure to read the last half of the run section. It's my favorite.

Heading to Chattanooga
The weekend before the race Tim and I drove up to Johnson City for one of my high school best friend's weddings. I took my bike up then so that I knew it was safe and could stay at my parents' house in Chattanooga for the week. It proved to be a smart idea, as I was able to drive a lot of stuff up then that I wouldn't have been able to carry when I flew back up to Chattanooga on Thursday.
The week before the race was spend being nervous about anything and everything. From twinges in my foot to sneezes to nutrition to liquids, I stressed about it all. When Thursday came I couldn't have been more thrilled. My school did such an awesome send off and called me up to the stage in front of all my students and gave me a bunch of school stuff to wish me luck. I did tear up, and I felt really special.

My flight was on time, and my mom and dad picked me up in Birmingham for the drive up to Chattanooga. We just missed athlete check in on Thursday, so we just went home and hung out and ate dinner and sat around. I went to bed early to prepare for an exciting day on Friday.

Pre-Race Preparations
On Friday morning, Tim and I went down to athlete check in at 8:30 to get in line early. If you ever plan on doing an Ironman, one thing I'd like to note here is that you should always expect a line everywhere. When they opened at 9 I suddenly realized I had forgotten my ID! I had my insurance and USAT card, but I had to panic and solve the ID card situation before I could get checked in. When I did get checked in I read a waver far too long for comfort. And when I say I read it, I really mean that I looked at it and assumed that it meant if I died they wouldn't take the blame. I knew I was going to have to sign it, so I just took photos of the paper in case I needed to refer back to it later.
I waited in line for my bib and swim cap, and I saw a family friend Carolyn, who was volunteering for the race. It was so nice to see so many familiar faces all weekend, and I think it really helped this race feel even more special than it already was to me. 

After that I waited in another line for the backpack and then grabbed some non-finisher's stuff to purchase. If I hadn't finished I still would have worn the gear, because I trained my butt off for it and would have been a competitor in it. That was all the rationalizing I was doing in buying some early.
I then met up with Beth and Nick and met a few new faces here. We walked around the tents, got some free stuff, and then I made the biggest and best decision of that day: I bought an aero bottle for my bike. That will be mentioned time and time again later, but I thought it was worth noting here that, though they say not to do anything new on race day, I knew this was going to be a good decision.
Beth and I walked over to a tent where a pro was signing autographs, and we asked him every question under the sun. As he was finishing writing out his mile by mile nutrition strategy (kidding...but not my much) we decided it was time to give other people a chance to accost talk to him. 

It was time for the athlete meeting! We heard from one of the announcers all about cut offs and rules and times and information, and we each had our own freak outs about the things we were nervous about. Beth noted bike cut off times, I noted run cut off times, and we assured each other that we really did definitely want to get to the race at 4:15 before transition opened so that we could be in line early for the swim start. 
After that we were off to drive the bike course. The course was nicely marked so we didn't miss any turns, and I was glad we took the opportunity see (for me the second time) what we were facing on race day. It was just like I remembered it; the hills were rolling, and there wasn't anything that was any worse than hills we trained on in San Antonio. I knew we were well prepared, and Beth didn't get more nervous, which she says is a good thing and shows that her mind was in the right place.

I dropped Beth at her hotel and Tim and I headed back to my parents house to get dinner. I also spent a lot of time eating over the course of those two days. I ate lots of carbs and salt, and I drank a lot of water. I  ate my biggest meal on Friday night, because I knew I wouldn't want much sitting in my stomach Saturday night. I went to bed early again because I've also heard two nights before race day is even more important sleep-wise than the night before.

On Saturday I went down to ride my bike before bike check in and make sure all my gears were working. I went for a little 1 mile run in my neighborhood, and then Beth and I checked our bikes in. I had strapped my aero bottle on, and it was ready to go. I put it in transition, said goodbye, and knew the next time I would see it would be when I was running out of the swim and onto it for a long 116 mile ride. Beth and I went and had our last big lunch and then headed over to the practice swim to hop in and see how the river felt. We had to walk .25 mile up river to jump in and swim, and once we jumped in the water felt great! It wasn't wetsuit legal at the time, and I was starting to feel like it wasn't going to be for raceday either. The swim was quick, and I was hearing everyone chatter about a strong current. Good news for everyone!
After that we parted ways and I headed home to relax, panic, and make sure everything was in order. My gear bags were check in with my bike, but I still had access to them on Sunday morning, so I double and triple checked that there wasn't something I was missing. I also packed my special needs bags with more than anyone could have possibly wanted! I ate dinner of pasta around 4:45 and went to bed at 8. I knew 3:00 am would come early.

I woke up in the middle of the night with stomach cramps, and that made me nervous for what the morning would be like

Race Day!
When I woke up on Sunday at 3, I spent a lot of time in the bathroom. I never get a nervous stomach, but I was having all the nervous stomachs from past races catch up to me all at once here. I was so panicked about it. I took Immodium and Advil and hoped and prayed that it would go away. I only ate a piece of sourdough bread that I brought with me in the car and finished waiting outside of transition. Luckily, my stomach started to settle with the second Immodium, and I hoped that would be it for the day.

Setting up Transition
Beth and I did meet at 4:15 as agreed, and we were early enough to be some of the first 100 or so people into transition. We got our arms and legs marked, and it felt real. I teared up a few times, as that was the theme of the weeks preceding the race, and then I high tailed it to my bike to setup my water bottles and nutrition for the race. I taped two PowerGels to my bike tube, crammed more stuff than necessary into my bento box, and dropped the rest of my stuff into my bike gear bag. I setup my aero bottle with skratch/carbopro and had three other water bottles, one each of skratch/carbopro, gatorade, and plain water.
I asked a man to borrow his pump, and he came and helped me make sure my tires were okay. I asked him if this was his first, because I had told him it was mine. He said it wasn't and that he had done 27 other ones. I asked if he was excited for Inaugural Chattanooga, and he paused. Because there was so much controversy surrounding the race's long bike course, late swim start, and sub-17 hour cutoff, I was waiting to hear him mention something about that. But instead, he told me that his wife had passed away six weeks prior and that this was his first one without her there by his side. I bit my cheeks to keep from crying, but as soon as he walked away the floodgates opened. I walked over to Tim and Beth to prepare to board the shuttle to the swim start and hugged Tim and cried. They didn't know what was going on, but I told them and they understood. Tim and I said our final goodbyes before I started my journey, and Beth and I boarded the shuttle.

It was a 10 or 15 minute ride up 2.4 miles to get to the swim start, and I got teary part of the way just thinking about the man, the fact that we were about to do what we had spent an entire year preparing for, and because of nervousness from the day. When we got off we found that we weren't too terribly far from the beginning of the line, but we weren't as close to the front as you'd think we would have been considering that it was 5 am and the race didn't start until 7:30. We spent the time chatting (not about the race...we had done enough of that), using the bathroom, and meeting people around us. Everyone was excited, and as the line inched forward as they consolidated us it became more and more and more real. Before we knew it we were taking off our outer clothing to put into morning clothes bags, putting on our cap and goggles and heading down the ramp to jump off a dock and get our day started.

I kept looking at Beth and squealing and squeezing her arm and saying "This is it! Good luck!" The line moved very quickly, and right as I was about to jump in I looked back one last time and said, "Bye Beth!" Then, I started my 144.6 mile journey (I'm tearing up just writing this).

Swim
The swim was the part of the race that I was the least nervous about leading into race day. It's my strongest discipline, and this swim had very little to be nervous about. It was straight down river for 2.4 miles, and there were no sharks, which for some reason still make me nervous when swimming in the ocean. I knew I'd just be going straight for a very long time and wouldn't have to worry about too much besides keeping the buoys on my left.

So, I swam. And swam. And swam. And then I looked up and was a little far to the right. So I swam left. And swam left. And swam left...and then, magic happened. I was right back in the pack and a girl swam up next to me going not too much faster than I was. For the most part the swim was well spread out and I was able to find paths around people really easily. When this girl came up and we swam next to each other for 15 or 20 strokes, I thought to myself, "Alright! This is your chance to take it a little easier." So I eased up for a few strokes, let her get in front of me, and then drafted for the next ten or so minutes. I never touched her feet and did my best not to annoy her, but she never kicked too hard or turned around and clocked me, so she either didn't know I was there or didn't care because I wasn't bothering her. Eventually she got a little too far ahead and I let off and kept swimming at my pace. We were going under bridges pretty quickly, but I always resisted the urge to look at my watch and see my pace or overall time. I didn't want it to affect how I was swimming. We passed by the dock we had used for the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon I did in June, so I knew I was .9 from the finish. It seemed to come pretty quickly at that point. 

There is one turn to the left to head to the swim exit, and when I got there I saw a clock that said 58 minutes on it. I didn't know if it was started when the pros started ten minutes before age groupers or when age groupers started. I also didn't know how far back I was from when the first age grouper got in the water, so I picked it up a little bit hoping to make it to the swim exit in under 1 hour. That had been my goal for the swim. Much to my shock I was very far under one hour. I swam the swim in 46 minutes. Thank you current, you made me feel like a rock star!
Swim Time: 46:34 Division Rank: 3/35

Transition 1
I ran a bit to transition along the Riverfront Path and saw SO many spectators. That part was awesome. The whole run there was lined with people, and they were three of four rows deep. I saw Beth's boyfriend Nick, my family, and everyone I was looking for. It was exciting to get to see them all through so many people. I then ran past the gear bags and grabbed my bike bag and ran to the transition tent. Because I had lined up in the front part of the line and swam past a number of people, there weren't a lot of people in the transition tent, and I had two volunteers all to myself! They were incredibly helpful. They helped get my swimsuit off, get sunscreen off, get socks on, get all my junk shoved in pockets, and before I knew it I was on my way. 

I called out my number, but 803 was coming through at the same time, so the volunteer thought that the initial number had been a mistake calling out 813. I ran past my bike a little and backtracked. Someone helped me grab it off the rack and I was on my way. I ran down a chute and saw Tim and my mom at the end, turned the corner, jumped on the bike past the mount line, and I was off!
Transition 1 Time: 7:06

Bike:
After starting on the bike I immediately felt fantastic. My legs felt so fresh, and the weather was perfection. There was a small hill coming out of transition to wake the legs up, and then I hunkered down and got in aero. There weren't a lot of people near me, but I knew the normal game was about to begin. Because I'm a stronger swimmer I always get passed on the bike for the first 20 or so miles of a half distance triathlon. Well, this was a world of difference. I pretty much spent the entire bike ride getting passed. I may have passed 5-10 people total over the course of the whole day that would be a permanent pass. I passed people going up hills, but they'd soon repass me on the way down, as the descents aren't my strong suit. The people that passed me at first were riding monster bikes with insane wheels and helmets; I was waiting for someone with a motor to come by. People were flying!

I was really glad that those passes didn't start happening in big numbers until I got out of the city, though. The roads in Chattanooga on our way down to the loop was a little technical, so I was happy to have clearance to slow a little for turns. When I finally got out to the loop (about 12 miles in), bigger and bigger packs of people were passing. I felt like I must have been going so slowly, but I wasn't going to let it change my goals or how I was riding. I was averaging around 18 or 18.5 at that time, so I didn't get discouraged. I did, though, get a little annoyed with some of the packs that were forming. That was helping a lot of people! I just sang "I'm a speed bump! Speed bump!" for 10 or so miles to myself. Occasionally someone would say "On your left!" and occasionally I'd feel witty and would respond "You and everyone else!" I meant it to be funny, and the two or three times I said it the person got a laugh out of it. People complimented me on my swim, because they knew that must have been why I was out in the front early.
I ate a Gu in the first 5 miles of the bike to make up for swim hunger, and then I drank my aero bottle full of Skratch and Carbopro. I didn't dilute it enough, so it was a little strong for my liking. As I passed the first bike aid station on the loop, I added a bunch of water to my aero bottle, and I was immediately thankful for having purchased that bottle. I won't mention it again, but I pretty much refilled it at every aid station. I drank A LOT on the bike. I also ate quite a bit. 

The first loop was moderately uneventful until I got down to the bottom of the loop. I started seeing a lot of people flatting in one area, and I didn't think it was normal for that many people to get flats in one place. I wanted to ask someone, but I wasn't really close to anyone so just watched carefully where I was going in case there was something wrong with the road. I got down to the Hog Jowl turn that was really sharp on a down hill; I had been worried about that turn for a full year since driving that course, but luckily I yelled "Slowing!!" and the lady behind me yelled "We're clear! Take it easy! I'm not trying to run over anyone today!" It worked out perfectly, and I was so glad to be around that. 
The hills were never anything bigger than what I rode in San Antonio, and I felt like it was much more rolling. The back half of the loop felt like we were going downhill a lot of the time. I loved the feeling of going fast and the wind blowing onto my face. I knew special needs was going to come up around mile 52, and I didn't know what that was going to be like. As I got closer it made me a little nervous, because it was just on the side of the road. Someone told me "813 you're in the front!" But I didn't know what she meant by the "front", so I went to what I thought would be the front like a car's front, furthest down the road. I guess I was wrong. I had to wait 20 or 30 seconds on my bag, and my watch autopaused (this will come back later). I grabbed a few things and made it on my merry way. The climb out of Chicamauga wasn't too terrible, and the descent was FAST! I made the turn onto the second loop, and I was still feeling pretty good!

I knew now what to expect, so when hills or turns came they didn't surprise me. They did seem to take a little extra push this time, though. I was getting close to what I thought would be the Hog Jowl turn again, when all of the sudden a different turn popped up in front of me, and I realized I was about 10 miles behind where I thought I was. Crap! I didn't want to be there. And that was when I started getting a little tired of being on the bike and also a little nauseous. At the next aid station a girl that I went to high school with shouted out to me, and I took a banana and a water, and it started to settle my stomach again. I rode the rest of the second loop and made the final turn to head back to transition.

It was about mile 80 when I was really really tired of being on the bike. I kept telling myself things that were longer that I had done than what I had left. "This is shorter than Anderson Snow and back!" "This 20 miles is the same as a weekday ride." Etc. But when I got on the flat stretch back to the final hills in Chattanooga, I realized that my eyes were really burning. I hadn't worn sunglasses the whole time, and I was worried that I had windburned my eyes. I don't usually wear them during training because they made my vision a little messed up, so I didn't think it would effect me any. I put them on for the last stretch in hopes that covering my eyes would stop the burn and I wouldn't be effected on my run. I guess they were just dried out, because by the time I got back to transition they felt better.

The last bit through St. Elmo was really fantastic. Though hilly and dragged out, the people were energetic and fun. It made me nervous when I passed a girl who had crashed at mile 112 of the bike and was face down on the road not moving. Medics were there and people were helping, so I didn't stop or do anything. I found out later that she had run into a telephone pole after losing control of her bike going over railroad tracks. She is okay now. I had four miles left, and I knew that if anything happened in those last 4 miles I'd just run back or ride my bike on flats back. 116 miles is a long way!

As I made my way down the hill back to the dismount line, I saw my family. They were waving and taking pictures. I hate the dismount line, so I dismounted a little early. A volunteer came running and asking if I was okay and said I needed to go a little further. I wasn't riding my bike any further (I stopped maybe 15 feet before the dismount line because it was crowded), so I just got off and ran it to the volunteer who took it. I was not sad to see it go.

Bike Time: 6:28:41 Division Rank: 13/35
Transition 2:
Transition 2 was more crowded and a bit different than transition 1. I had run in with my bag and found a spot, and I had heard a volunteer yell, "Holler if you need some help." All the volunteers were busy helping other people, so I just dumped out my bag and starting doing my thing by myself. For some reason I also got a little sad that no one was helping me. It was an odd moment. Eventually someone came and helped me. I also am now thinking I was a bit looney because I actually put my socks and shoes on before changing from bike to run shorts. I can't explain that, and it was awkward making that change. Soon enough I was done changing and was heading out onto the run course, but first I had to stop at the port o potty. I was hoping this was going to be the only time. 

Uh. Yea. It wasn't.

Transition 2 Time: 5:23

Run:
Shortly after exiting transition we went down a ramp to the riverwalk that was the same ramp (I think) we had come up from when exiting the swim. I was worried about slipping, and my parents said they saw a few people slip. I saw them cheering there, and they told me not to fall and to be careful. Then they cheered me on. Soon I saw one of my best friends from high school cheering on the Riverwalk. I was so bummed that I had shoved a water bottle in my sports bra and was doing my hair, but it did make for some funny pictures. I then saw her husband a few people down. 
The first mile out of transition went by so quickly! I couldn't believe it, because we also had to run up a hill (the first of many). I turned left at the first aid station to stay on the Riverwalk, and then I ran the first half the two loop course. The first 8 miles of the course were fairly flat, though even they had some slight inclines and declines compared to what we Floridians define as flat. I talked to a guy for a few minutes about his favorite triathlons, and he told me that though Chattanooga was fast, the Hudson River was a lot faster. That got me through mile 3, I think. Then we drifter our separate ways after an aid station. I was keeping my friend Hugo's advice; he told me not to make friends on the run course--it could slow me down.

I kept running along the Riverwalk and took salt tabs every mile or two, and I drank water at every aid station. I was running right around 10:00/mile for the first 5 or 6 miles, and I felt really great. Running the back half of that first loop on a highway wasn't fun, as there wasn't much scenery to look at. I ate some grapes and kept running and focusing on just keeping everything steady. I don't remember what I was thinking through this period of time, but I think I was getting to the point where I was having to go to the bathroom again, because somewhere around mile 6 I stopped again to pee. 

At this port o potty I ripped the hole of my bib from my race belt, so it was flapping; and true to form, I was so concerned that I was going to lose my bib, not for legal or race purposes, but for sentimental purposes later. I kept tucking it into the race belt and hoping it would stay. Soon enough I was turning onto the Veteran's Bridge and saw my parents, sister, and Tim for the first time. That was uplifting! They cheered and took photos, and I kept running. I met a Rev3 teammate, Susan, as I was running over the bridge, and that was nice! I also saw my cousin Matt while I was crossing the bridge too. Seeing people was so helpful!
The next five miles were really hard. It was the massive climb up and down Barton Avenue and then through the Riverview neighborhood. I had run a 17 miler in training through some of it, so I knew what to expect. That was beneficial. I also started talking to another guy during this period that was running at a pace close to mine. I yelled over to someone cheering asking if they had a safety pin (to fix my bib) and they said they didn't. The guy said he'd stop at the next aid station to give me the one he had on his timing chip, which was really nice of him, so I picked up my pace a little to stay with him, because I really wanted that chip. He was trying to hold a 9:30, but he said he was fine with the 9:45-10:00 we were at. The next aid station came, he stopped and got the pin, then I said thanks and sent him on his way; I knew I couldn't keep his pace. 

Running through Riverview was cool, because we ran past the pool where I learned to swim and the swim team I had been on from the ages of 6-18. I also ran past one of my mom's best friends who was cheering and also my middle school swim coach. That was uplifting. A guy said to me, "Are you from here? You know a lot of people." So that sparked another short conversation that lasted a mile or two. He was from NC, but he had lived in Tampa before, so we talked about that. He said he was going to go ahead when we got to the hills, but I kept up with him and he complimented me on being good on the hills for running all the flats in Florida. I then explained to him the bridge loop that Beth and I did every weekend. We were prepared!
I split with that guy when he stopped at special needs and I kept going. I soon came upon my safety pin friend and chatted with him again for a mile or two. I learned that he is a preacher from MS and all about his training with working on Sunday mornings. That helped keep my mind off of running. By this point I was at mile 14 or 15. I was starting to feel a little less comfort in my legs, so I told my new friend that I needed to slow a little to keep from walking. I had still been around 10:00-10:30 for most of the first 15 miles. From that point on, though, the pace felt just as hard, but it was slower.

I walked through my first aid stations on the Riverwalk, and I also stopped to pee again. It was here that it hit me that I had been drinking too much on the bike and on the run. Still, though, I took water at every aid station. I made the turn onto the highway, kept running, and I saw a girl with a 29 on her leg! I love chasing people down that are in my age group, so I just focused on that number and picked it up EVER so slightly. Eventually I caught her, but as soon as I passed her she picked it up, dropped the person that she had been talking with, and caught me again. I decided not to be competitive and instead decided to just chit chat with her. We talked about our training for a bit and that it was both of our firsts. Then, because I wanted to just enjoy the day, and also because I had to pee again, I stopped at a port o potty and wished her luck. 

It was then that I made a decision not to worry about being under 12 hours. I thought I'd have to push too hard to make it, because I didn't know how long my watch had been autopaused at bike special needs, and also my math wasn't happening correctly at this time. I thought I'd have to hold 10:30s, which was a push at the time.

I saw my family again in the same place, and I mentally readied myself for the last 5 miles of serious hills. I hadn't walked anything besides aid stations to this point, and I said I wasn't going to walk any of the hills on the back side either. I took shorter steps and put my head down and ran slowly up the hills. I got to an aid station at mile 22 and saw a girl hold a foil pack of kettle chips, and I said, "THOSE!", grabbed a handful, and went on my merry way. They tasted amazing. By the time I got back around to go over Barton for the last time, I just really wanted to be done. I started thinking maybe I'd just walk a little bit of it, but as I started up it, after seeing two friends from high school Rachel and Blaes, I heard Eye of the Tiger, which was my high school's pump up song. It inspired me to keep running. It was the last hill!!
So, I made it to the "summit" (it felt like that because it was that big of a hill), headed down, made the turn onto Frazier, made my way over the walking bridge, and I turned left. This was where the split for second loop or finish line was, and this was when I started beaming! I turned left at the split to head down the hill to become an Ironman! Everyone was cheering and shouting my name, and I felt famous. I had half a mile or so to go, and there were so many people cheering along the way. It was my favorite moment of the whole day; it made the hundreds of hours of training worth it. Adults were high fiving and telling me they loved the smile on my face. Kids were high fiving, and parents were sticking their kids' hands out shaking them so that we would give them high fives. I hope some of those kids know they can do this one day. I hope we inspired them. 

I got to the chute to head to the finish, and I was overjoyed. Everything around me was silenced, and I just high fived and ran to the bright lights and the red Ironman finish carpet. I didn't hear anything; I looked around to make sure I was going to be able to finish by myself, but I couldn't hear much besides my thoughts. It was surreal. This was my moment. I have watched so many people have theirs on the live stream. This was my time! I raised my hands up and was so thrilled. I shouted "YESS!!" as I crossed the finish line. I had done it! I was an Ironman. I am an Ironman. And then Erik, my friend Emily's husband, was there as my catcher. 
That was weird. After rushing forward as fast as physically possible for 12 hours, having someone come up to you and stop you is strange. It took me a minute to realize what was going on. I looked and stopped my watch and saw 11:59. I was excited but also nervous for a minute, because I knew that it had autopaused during bike special needs, and I also didn't know I was going to be this close to 12 hours. I got my finisher's shirt and hat, got some chocolate milk, and got a piece of pizza.

I made my way to the end of the finisher's area and saw Tim and my family, and I went and immediately started crying and hugged Tim. I said, "I did it! I did it!!" I saw my family, and they were so thrilled for me. In a little bit I asked, "What was my time?!" and they were so excited for me; they knew I beat my goal by a lot. They said, 12:00:36! I was insanely happy; I had wanted to go under 13 hours and I had just gone 12 hours. For a second, I still thought, "All those port o potty stops! Those darn 36 seconds!" Ha!
Run Time: 4:32:52 Division Rank: 13/35
And I guess this is where it ends. It seems strange that after months of training, over a year after signing up, days of counting down, hours of anxiety, tears, nerves, panic, and excitement that this is it. It all just stops. The sun rose on September 29th, and I didn't have this monumental life event in front of me. I drove home; I returned to work; I continued living. I am an Ironman.
Total Time: 12:00:36 Division Rank: 13/35
I'm going to post separately with the things I learned, what surprised me, and what my biggest tips and takeaways are. If you have questions, let me know and I'll include them.

Thank yous
Tim, I love you for "letting" me sign up for this and go through this whole experience. I'm sorry that I loved it as much as I did and that I want to do it again. I know it was tough. I know that the long hours on weekends that I was gone made it difficult to spend time together, and I know that I wasn't always carefree and upbeat when I was home. Thank you for putting up with me (most of the time) and also for not ever taking me too seriously when I would panic and ridiculous things. I'm very lucky to have you as my partner, and I appreciate your patience with me and also your support. You're a tireless cheerleader and my number one supporter; I love you.
There are so many people that helped me get to where I did. I can't say thank you enough for the support I got from the blogging community and from friends and family. Though I didn't blog through most of the training, I tweeted and posted photos, and I got such great support. Thank you!

To all the people that I trained with through this mess, thank you. 
Chris and Heather, thank you for coming to San Antonio for so many training rides and providing fun stories and camaraderie along the way. 
Hugo, Kari, Pete, and Teresa, thank you for planning rides and bringing some fun to some fairly miserable weekends. And thanks for the advice along the way. Teresa, thanks also for the several bridge runs. Sorry about that light incident.
Stephanie, thanks for texting non-stop anti-panic messages after you completed IMMD with pictures included. And thanks for meeting us to run or bike or both. Congratulations to you on an amazing race at Maryland! I'm looking forward to training together more, but first to sharing our experiences.

Tori, thanks for being a constant source of calm through this training. Though I know you went through a lot this summer, you were always the first one with positive words of encouragement and a voice of calm when I was freaking out or worrying about one of any number of things. I wouldn't be a triathlete without you. I remember when you took me to the mock triathlon in Dunedin last year and had to essentially teach me everything about how to do anything with triathlon. Thanks for helping me get to that start line and finish line in Chattanooga. I am so excited for you for IMAZ so soon. You're going to blow your expectations out of the water. I'm glad to have you as a friend.
Beth, I could write a book of jokes and events from our training. I have never gone through an experience like this with anyone before. Thank you for not killing me any number of times. I'm so glad to have experienced everything we did together. I am glad we mutually hate bridges in Clearwater and hills in San Antonio; I still do want to go drive them though. You have been a constant motivator to me, and I couldn't have done this without you. I'm thankful that we signed up for this race, trained together, and became such good friends. You are such a strong person, and I'm so glad that you demolished your goals. I look forward to seeing this next marathon training cycle and the end result. It will be great.
And that. Is it. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ironman Training Reflections

I have been incredibly absent from the blogging and social media world in the last three months. After racing Rev3 Williamsburg, I did go up to Chattanooga and race the Chattanooga Riverfront Triathlon (to get a sense of what I'd be facing when the Ironman came around) with Tori. I didn't get a chance to write that up, because, in truth, I was ready for a break after Williamsburg. I came home from that event and I was tired and was having a hard time stomaching the thoughts of the months to come.
July, August, and September were quite a whirlwind for me. Before I do any kind of goals or thoughts post for the pre-race, I thought it would be only fair to give some idea of the past three months that I've been so absent from here. Instead of the workout recaps that I became so good at posting in the past, I'm going to share more generalizations, thoughts, and experiences. It won't necessarily be organized, but it'll be better than nothing for my own memories.

I'll break it into four categories: swimming, biking, running, and life.

Swimming(31 miles from May 1 to today)
True to form, I didn't swim as much as my training plan suggested I should. I did, however, swim at least once every single week from July to now. For me, that is a win. I did a lot of longer swims, and I did an occasional 10 x 100 to check my paces. I swam a 4400 for time at my coach's insistence. I didn't do any open water swims.
And how do I feel? I feel fine about the swim. It's not something I'm overly concerned about come race day. I normally felt pretty good in the water, and I think that the swimming I did is enough to keep my swim fitness in line with where it needs to be. The long sets I did have prepared me mentally to swim 2.4 miles, and I'm looking forward to that part of the race.

Biking (2,093 miles from May 1 to today)
I biked like a crazy woman in my training. Chattanooga is sounding like it will have around 4000 feet of elevation gain on the bike, so I knew I needed to prepare for it. And prepare I did! I rode 100 miles four times, and I rode 80 miles quite a few times as well.
The 100 milers weren't ever fun all the way through, and I was always glad to be done; I did, though, generally enjoy much of each of those rides. 100 miles is a long way. 116 is going to be even longer (in case you haven't heard, they extended the Chattanooga course).

I did a July 4th century ride that scared the life out of me. It was my first 100 miler, and I was riding in a group I didn't know that well. We only stopped twice, and after drafting in a pack of 40 cyclists going around 20 miles per hour, I didn't know if I could do it for the whole day. I shed a tear in the bathroom, but luckily Stacey was there to make me feel better. And I did do it. I rode 100 miles for the first time that day throughout Tampa, and it was a confidence booster.
The second 100 miler was half on the roads and half on a trainer. It had started pouring, as it did on every 100 mile ride I did this summer, and none of us wanted to continue. So, at mile 60 I head home and jumped on the trainer for the last bit. That's when I started having some knee issues that lasted me a couple of weeks and a new bike fit.

The third 100 miler was in San Antonio with Beth. San Antonio is 45 minutes Northeast of Tampa, and it's really the only hilly place near us. We spent far too many weekends biking those roads. We had a loop that had around 2500 feet of elevation gain in 56 miles, and we did that more times than I can count. Sometimes we added sections on a flat trail for part of the ride if we needed to extend it, and sometimes we just rode more hills. Ultimately, though, we're sure we know the roads of San Antonio, FL well enough to offer weekend tours, not that anyone would take them. I will say, though, that it's because of these weekends that I feel confidence in my race.
The fourth 100 miler was in Sebring, and it was a supported ride. I enjoyed it the most of all of them, because it was also a little getaway. It was also the ride I felt the strongest on. There's not much to say about it, because there wasn't a lot of drama, but we got it done.

And how do I feel? Pretty darn good! I feel that I am at least as strong on the bike as I am on the run, if not a little stronger. I am confident in what I can do on the bike as long as I ride smart. I'm looking forward to seeing what this training has done for me. I just need to remember not to cook my legs.

Running (592.5 from May 1 to today)
This will be my favorite part to talk about, because even though I spent a lot more time biking than running, it's the running that sticks out in my head. Beth and I ran bridges every weekend to prepare for a marathon course that has 900-1200 feet of elevation gain. We got to know gas station attendants, Beth had a drink thrown on her, and we even saw the police investigate a man parked on a bike trail. There was never a dull moment. I told Beth that we laughed, we cried, and we're better off for it.
There were good days and bad days; there were restaurant owners yelling at us that his restaurant wasn't open, even though the door was unlocked; there were port o potties and locked toilets; there were sprints up bridges and bridges we were close to walking. But, we did it. It is done.

I ran 20 miles three times, I ran 18 miles at least five times, and from July 5th to September 13th, I never ran less than 15 miles in any weekend. I'm ready to run.

And how do I feel? Ready. No way around it.

Life
This is the part of the story where things get less upbeat. Maintaining a life while training for an Ironman is impossible. My husband is amazing and supportive, and he's incredibly sick of this training. I was gone for hours and hours of Saturdays and Sundays to long rides and runs, and after long running 20 miles or long riding 80-100 miles, the last thing I wanted to do was anything productive or exciting. I would sometimes attempt to go be social or do things to be productive, but between this training and working full time, I had a really hard time managing anything else.
This was a strain on my friendships and my family. I started going to bed between 8-9 most nights a couple of months ago, and by 7 I was beat. I didn't go out with friends or make an effort to hang out with people. There was ALWAYS a workout to think of. I took Mondays as a rest day, and I needed every single one of them for my mental state. The two-a-days and long training sessions wore on me. Ironman training is hard. And it isn't just hard on the athlete; it's hard on all those around you as well.

 I always thought about how our water bill must have doubled. Between the laundry, the showers, and the hydration, I was using double what I normally do. 

Thoughts
If I could go back, I wouldn't change anything. I missed some weekday runs or rides here or there, but I think my training is right on point. I didn't miss a single long ride or long run. When I get to that starting line on Sunday, I will know that I did everything necessary to get to the finish. If something goes wrong or things fall apart on race day, I will smile and stay positive and know that it isn't for lack of preparation.

I will post one more post before race day with my thoughts and plans going into the race. Thank you all for your tweets and comments on Instagram. I have really appreciated and enjoyed this community.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Rev3 Williamsburg 70.3 Race Recap

Sometimes I feel like I make a decision about a race and count down to it for so long that it feels like it is never going to get here. This happened with Rev3 Williamsburg without a doubt. I ended up at the expo on Saturday thinking to myself and saying out loud, "I can't believe I'm actually here!" But I want to back it up a little bit first.

I was in Atlanta the week prior to the race at a great conference for work. I loved every second of the conference, but as an entire week of intensive can be, I was extremely tired by the end of the day on Thursday. It was hard to fathom at that point doing another day of learning and then a long drive to race a 70.3. Though I had planned for it to be an A race, there were small thoughts of "just have fun" floating in my head. And on top of that, my bike spent the week at a bike shop in Atlanta that had come by recommendation but that I wasn't as familiar with as the one that I go to in Tampa. All of that together made for an interesting week before an A race.

As I was thinking ahead to a 9.5 hour drive from Atlanta to Williamsburg split up over Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, I started thinking of other options. I talked to Brittany, another Rev3 teammate, to find out her driving situation, and it worked out that we could drive together! I drove the 2.5 hours to her house in Augusta on Friday night, and we left from Augusta on Saturday morning for the 7.5 hours to Williamsburg.
We went straight to the expo when we got to Williamsburg, which I was so excited about. I didn't get to go to summit, so this was the first time I got to meet some of the other members of the Rev3 Age Group Team! They were all so nice and welcoming, and it eased some of my nerves about meeting new people. I wish I had gotten more pictures with them and at the expo
 
After we picked up our packets and timing chips, we headed over to bike check in at the swim start. Williamsburg was a two transition race, which was a first for me. We got a chance to see T2, where we'd rack our bikes after the bike portion of the race, but we wouldn't be setting anything up there the night before. T1 was about 9 miles away at the James River, and that was where we had to check our bikes for the night. Brittany and I did a little bike warm up to make sure our bikes were riding smoothly, and then we did a little one mile shakeout run. Everything felt great! I got wind of the fact that the water was 80 degrees, so we wouldn't be swimming in our wetsuits. Since I first learned of the advantage of swimming in a wetsuit I've gotten very excited about any race that potentially means I get to wear it. Oh well, it wasn't that big of a deal!

We headed to dinner with a group from the team and then I rode to my hotel with Maggs and Laura, who I'd be staying with for the night. We set our stuff out and got ready for bed. With an early call in the morning we were in bed and quiet by 8 PM. We turned the lights off by 9 and I slept amazingly!

I was nervous race morning because I wanted to do well. I had mentioned to a few people that my goal was around 5:30 for the race. The Olympic started before the Half, so Ed came and go me and Laura from the hotel, because Maggs was doing the Olympic. Ed and Laura had coined the term "funning" for this race, so they helped me keep my mind off of how nervous I was. 

We drove to T2 to set up our bike to run stuff then caught the shuttle to T1 to set up our swim to bike stuff. I got to meet Pam getting onto the shuttle, who was also hoping for a PR and is training for her first 140.6 this year as well.

The time to head down to the start came quicker than I expected. I wasn't really ready, but that wasn't my choice to make. I made it to the bathroom quickly then walked over the the swim start to wait with the other under 40 girls for the last wave to get in the water. I heard the swim was partly with the current, so I was thinking it wouldn't be as hard as I had heard it was in 2013. We were called to head out into the water, and I was happy that it was an in water start, even if we could stand up in the water.

The Swim!
When the horn blew I started swimming at a fast pace to try to gain a lead, but just like happened at Rev3 Florida, people took off! I've never found faster swimmers than in Rev3 races. There were quite a few ladies from my age group who took off ahead of me, and in fact about halfway through the swim I decided I must have been going unusually slow for me. I had my first obnoxious swimmer interaction on this course when a girl swam up next to me vying for position and swam as close to the buoy as she could, thus forcing me to stop and get behind her lest I swim into the buoy. I was so frustrated with her that I just swam on her feet for the next quarter of a mile; I knew she had done the buoy maneuver on purpose.
As we rounded the last buoy heading back to the shore I got really confused. Some people were taking it really wide and others were keeping it narrow. It was amazing how spread out the swimmers were in that last stretch. I was so concerned that I was making the turn too tightly that I popped up and asked a kayaker if I was going the wrong way. She assured me that no I was on the right course. The water got really shallow pretty far out from the shore, so a lot of people had stood up to walk. Once my hands brushed the bottom twice I stood up too with the intention of walking, but I was still probably 1/4 mile from the swim exit, so I threw my goggles back on and swam more just keeping my hands from touching the bottom. I was passing people that were walking so I knew I was making the right choice. 
Once I got closer to the shore I got up and ran to the timing line, hit the split mode for the autosport function on my Garmin and saw that I had broken 30 minutes. That was by far the biggest surprise of the day. I did not think I was having a good swim!

Swim: 29:49 (1:33/100 meters) 4/18 Age Group

T1 included a .3 mile run to my bike, and though I was running, my heart rate always gets so high in that run and in transition that I didn't push as hard as I could have. It was a long way and I wanted to start feeling good on the bike. I took my time in transition getting my hair put up in the helmet and getting my bike shoes on. In addition, I also had to put all of my stuff into the swim to bike bag so that it could be transported to T2 for me to pick up at the end of the race. There was no getting back to T1 when we were done. That added a little time as well. Once I got settled I ran my bike up to the mount line and waited until I had a little bit of space to start. That first push off always makes me a little nervous when there are lots of other people around.

 T1: 4:54

Bike!
The bike course started off flat, and there was just one slight turn in the first few miles, so it gave me a chance to shake out my legs and my nerves and get into an aero position. The roads in the first few miles were nice, and people weren't too close together. I spend a lot of the first miles of the bike getting passed by the multi thousand dollar bikes with disc wheels that belong to the swimmers that I passed in the waves ahead of me. The early bike miles always remind me that having a swimming background is about as useful as having a background in bowling. I sometimes think about waving to the people in my age group as they pass me, knowing that I won't be catching them on the run either.
The first half of the bike was really enjoyable. The weather was still cool, the roads were well maintained, the trees were beautiful, and the roads were pretty flat. There were some small rollers here or there and one bridge, but overall my legs were feeling good. At the 25 mile point there was a train crossing, and I must have jinxed myself when I joked that I hoped it would stop me so I could get a break. Sure enough, when I pulled up to it the bars were down and the little two car train flew by. I was unclipped and had put my foot down right as the arms were coming up. I'd say it cost me 30 seconds or so, but it wasn't a big deal. I did notice, though, that I wasn't listed as receiving credit for that time that I was stopped as some other people had received. Maybe it was fewer than 30 seconds and the timer didn't catch me.
 
The second half of the bike course was far more hilly than the first half. It was during this time that I had to really check in with my legs to see how they were feeling. I was using the multisport function of my watch for the first time and actually couldn't figure out how to see my speed, so I just judged by feel. I took water bottles from three aid stations and otherwise drank skratch from my downtube bottle. 
When we were on the long stretch at State Road 693 there were a lot of rollers with a few more steep hills, but the two biggest hills of the course came after mile 40. The one out and back stretch had a big downhill on the way out which then turned into a big uphill on the way back, and at mile 48 or so there was a huge downhill where we couldn't see the bottom because of the curve. As soon as I got to the bottom I looked ahead and saw a very steep but short hill, so I dropped into the small ring and pushed. All the people around me were struggling and a guy ahead of me had unclipped and stepped down. I'm not sure if it was just such a surprise to me or if it was really that steep, but it was the hill that I had the most trouble with on the whole course. It took me a minute at the top to recover and bring my heart rate back down.

From there to T2 it was pretty smooth sailing. There were still slight incline and declines, but I've learned that people outside of Florida wouldn't call them hills, even though we here in Florida would have.

Bike: 2:56:36 (6/18 Age Group)

T2:
I got to T2 and saw that there were a handful of bikes in the racks around me, so I knew I wasn't in the top 3 for my age group. I still wanted to have a good run and didn't feel like I had burned my legs out too badly on the bike. I was tired, but I thought I still had a really solid run left in me. In my head I had hopes for a sub 2:00 run. 

Run!
I started out on the run and turned onto the trail they had told us about beforehand. We were told it was hardpacked trail, but in my head I viewed it as being flat. It was four loops of the same course, so I knew what I was facing with each twist and turn would come back around three more times. As I got onto the gravel and dirt and climbed up hills and twisted and turned onto more hills, I started thinking that this was going to be harder than I had expected. It was really nice that the first 1.6 miles of each loops was shaded, but the elevation gain wasn't small. When we got out to the pavement there were more slight inclines and declines. Again, I don't know if people outside of Florida would call them hills, but they were hills by my definition. 

I liked that it was a loop because I knew what I was going to be facing each time, but by the third and fourth time that I did it I was tired of it and feared what I knew was coming around each turn. I'd say the pros and cons balanced themselves out. I definitely wasn't able to keep the paces that I had planned, though. I blamed it on the hills and the trail, but I'm thinking that it was also partly because of my higher average on the bike. On each loop the first mile would be the slowest, and then they would descend over the next two miles. 

By the end I did let myself walk through the aid stations on the fourth loop. Otherwise I didn't walk at all, which was a mental victory. I kept wanting to walk on the uphills when I saw many others doing it. But I also kept repeating the saying from Beth, Tori, and Steve, "Don't be the carnage!" So I just pushed up the hills and kept going, knowing that a downhill would be coming soon.
It was nice to see people out cheering, and my Rev3 Teammate Sarah was with her dad on the run course, and he got this picture, which I really like!

As far as nutrition was concerned I took a PowerGel starting the third loop and a PowerGel starting the fourth loop. I also carried a pack of chews with me from transition and ate those on the first loop. I took water and/or gatorade from every aid station. 

When I was coming in to the finish I was running near a Team RWB member who took a flag from someone cheering for her. He told her she makes a right turn then runs around a track and we were done, and I almost just stopped racing. I could not have run around a track. I didn't see how it would be possible with the distance we were at, but I hadn't seen the finish line before so wasn't sure if maybe he was right. When I got to the turn up ahead I saw the finish line just down the chute and was so so happy! No track to run around!

It was fun to run down the chute and have my name called as being part of the Rev3 team!

Run: 2:07:36 (5/18 Age Group)
Finish: 5:40:51 

I didn't get that 5:30 that I was hoping for, but the course was a bit different than I was expecting. It was still a 14 minute PR from Rev3 Florida, which was a flat course, so I'll take it as a big win!
I hung out with Rev3 teammates for a little bit before hopping right back into the car for the 7.5 hour ride back to Augusta. I then drove the last 7.5 hours from Augusta to Tampa on Monday morning. It was a heck of a weekend following a busy week.
My thoughts overall of the Williamsburg course were very positive. I would absolutely do this race again. The swim was fantastic, and I think part of the course went with a current, which gave me a nice time. I'm not sure on that, though, because part of it would have also been against the current. The bike course was outstanding. Though hillier than I expected, I liked it a lot. I was very happy with everything about it, and besides being a good course it was also good training for Chattanooga. And the run course was fine. It wasn't my favorite, but the part in the woods kept us shaded, and the hills were an equalizer for sure.

I had a wonderful time meeting my Rev3 Teammates, and I'm so glad I did this race! It was my first out of state triathlon, and it was the perfect one to start with!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

currently.

I'm not promising I won't talk about workouts at all, but this isn't one of the standard workouts posts that I've been so good at generating for the last few months while simultaneously posting almost nothing else.

Though I've been in a bit of a blog funk and haven't been posting much, I haven't been in a life funk. Things are going really well! I thought I'd use Erin's currently posts as inspiration for my own currently-style post.

currently entertaining: My parents! 
They came down to visit from Tennessee for the Memorial Day weekend, and they brought our (I say our even though I don't live at home and hadn't met him until this weekend) new puppy Fitzgerald. We had a lot of fun eating out, grilling, walking Fitz, and just hanging out.
 
currently loving: working out with other people during the week!
I had a really hard time getting up early when school was in full swing, but lately I've been meeting up with people to run and swim (and ride on occasion) in the mornings more regularly. I don't have to get to work as early, and I am more motivated to get out of bed when I'm meeting others. I found a group that runs in my neighborhood two mornings per week, and I've already run three times with them since meeting them a few weeks ago. They hold close to a tempo pace for me, so I'm trying to figure out how to fit those runs into my weekly workouts. For now, I'm not thinking and am just enjoying them. I've also met up with Beth and Tori to swim; that will become more regular.
currently working on: my new job!
Now that this year as wrapped up, I'm moving into my new position at school. I'll be at the same place but will be taking on a different role as the technology coordinator. I've already started working on some stuff for it, and I'm loving it. It's going to be such a perfect position; I can already tell! I won't have the whole summer off, but I get to spend a lot of time researching and learning, which is pretty much my favorite thing to do.

currently thinking: I love Ironman training!
Though I'm only a few weeks into it with the big weeks looming in the future like sleeping bats in a dark cave, I can say so far I'm loving the intensity, and my body is responding well to the loads of workouts. I'm trying to get in 5 runs and 3 bikes per week, but I'm also trying to fit in some swims. That's the part I really need to get better at. I'm loving the group rides, time to catch up on shows on the trainer, running with friends, and starting at a blue tile line at the bottom of the pool. Right now I'm holding steady at around the same intensity I was at during peak 70.3 training...and I'm finishing week 4.
currently looking forward to: Rev3 Williamsburg on June 15th!
I'm headed up to Atlanta for a conference in a couple of weeks, and then I'm driving over to Williamsburg to race the 70.3 distance! I'm planning to race it like a goal race, even though I won't fully taper for it. I'll write more about my goals at some point before the race, but looking at the courses is getting me really excited! Williamsburg is so centrally located; I'd love to see you there! You can still register for it, and if you're thinking of it, let me know!
 
currently wearing: Target!
Though it's no designer chic, I'm finding myself responding, "Target!" lately when people ask where I got something I'm wearing. Between following @targetdoesitagain on Instagram and perusing the aisles on occasion, I'm able to find a few cute pieces every now and again that are well priced and cute! It definitely helps me diversify my wardrobe as I pour money into this less-than-cheap sport I've taken up.
currently reading: Not much!
I need to start a book, but I have so much trouble picking what to start. I really dive into books once I start them, and then I get nervous that the next one won't be as good. I've got a few on my list of books to start next (in Goodreads), but I can't commit. Anyone have a favorite between The Goldfinch, Eleanor & Park, Sharp Objects, and Where'd You Go, Bernadette? Reading seems to pass the time on the trainer almost as quickly as tv.

currently watching: Game of Thrones & Scandal!
I've got three episodes to go to be caught up on Game of Thrones, but I've just started Scandal. Somehow I think I already watched a whole season. And holy cow! That show is good! Everytime I start one of these shows, I think to myself, "what took me so long!?"

What would you add to a list of things you're currently doing?
What aspects of Ironman training do you want to hear about? People have mentioned they're excited to follow along, but I'm not sure I know what you really want to know...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ironman Training Weeks 1 & 2

Ironman training as officially begun, and as the training has started, the school year has been wrapping up. Excuse my absence and lack of posting, but I will make every effort to keep up better with what I'm doing. I know I'll want to look back at this in the future for my own purposes.

Week 1 was fantastic, and I did a great job getting almost everything in. I think I missed a run and a swim.
 
I'm not going to list out those workouts since it was a week ago, but in total I had:

2500 yards swimming
92.18 miles biking
27.08 miles running
 
Last week I missed two swims, but I got in all my bikes and runs. I did cut the tempo short by a mile because it was hot and I couldn't push another mile out, and I cut my brick run in half because I had somewhere to be and needed to get home. Here are my workouts:

Monday: OFF
Tuesday: 6 miles tempo run with tempo miles around 7:55 pace
Wednesday: 20 miles on the trainer with hard intervals
Thursday: 17 miles moderate on the trainer in the AM, 5 miles easy run at 9:25 pace
Friday: 5 miles easy run 9:29 pace
Saturday: Clearwater Bridges 12.19 at 9:24 pace. I did pickups over the bridges
Sunday: 52.79 ride on the Suncoast with Beth at Tori averaging 17.8 pace followed by a 2 mile run at 9:00 pace

My body is definitely a bit sore. These numbers are about equivalent to where I was during peak 70.3 training, and I'm only in week two. I've lost all grip on reality and have no real perspective for what is normal anymore. I don't want to list out how my view has changed in fear of coming off wrong, but suffice it to say that I have mentally started preparing myself for what I know is coming in future weeks.

In total last week my numbers looked like this:
Swimming: 0
Biking: 90 miles
Running: 30.19 miles

Hope you're all doing well!

Friday, May 2, 2014

St. Anthony's Triathlon Recap

St. Anthony's is a big Olympic Distance triathlon that is held in St. Petersburg each April. I didn't realize quite how big it was until I experienced it myself, but I had been told in advance that if I was in town then I pretty much had to do it. I signed up a few weeks before the race, and I decided as it was approaching to give it a solid effort. I hadn't planned it as a goal race weeks and weeks prior, but as it got closer it seemed like a good race to have a mini-taper for.

When I knew it was a big race was when I realized we had to check our bikes in the day before. I've never had to do that besides at Rev3 Florida, and I thought that was just because of the 70.3 distance. I headed down around noon on Saturday with Beth to check in our bikes, pick up our packets, and do a little swim at the finish line.
Mirinda Carfrae was at the expo right at the time we were there, so we waited in line for a second and snapped a photo. I got a little starstruck for some reason and couldn't think of much to say. PS She's very small.
I racked my bike and enjoyed the fact that I had a sticker where I was supposed to put it. I didn't have to fight for space. I had a mini issue trying to figure out how to let air out of my front tire, because there wasn't an extender on the tube. Eventually someone at TriBike Transport was able to help me when no one at the race knew how.
We saw Genna after we had donw our warm up swim. The swim exit is right behind us in the photo. There are metal stairs leading us out of the water.
After some swimming and a little shopping (where I just bought a couple more Polar Bottles I probably didn't need but really wanted and found a good deal on) we headed back to the car and went to drive the course. I had been having some nervousness about all the turns and two of the U-turns on the course, so I knew that driving the course would help. It definitely gave me a better sense of what I was heading into on Sunday. And yes, there were a LOT of turns. I was so, so appreciative of Beth for taking a big chunk of time to drive the course with me. She's done it several times so really didn't need to do this. It was really nice of her.
 
I headed home that afternoon to wait for Jaclyn to get there. She's also on the Rev3 team, and she did the sprint on Sunday and stayed with us the night before. It was fun to chat Rev3 and summit and find out more about what I had missed. We ate Carraba's and went to bed early. We had an overly early alarm set for the next morning. I wanted to be out the door by 4:15 to get down to St. Pete to find parking and get setup in transition.
 
Though my wave didn't start until 8:13, transition closed at 6:45, so I had to get everything setup and ready only to wait around for a while. In the mean time I found Susan and Jaclyn and we chatted some more. I was glad to finally meet Susan, another Rev3 teammate.
Transition was MASSIVE! I've never seen so many bikes in one place. This photo doesn't even touch on it.
The sunrise was beautiful to watch as I watched all the waves go off. You can see one large group going off in the distance.
Tim and I sat around waiting and waiting until 8:13. I got in and warmed up a little bit, but I didn't do too much. The swim was wetsuit legal, which I was super thrilled about. I had heard that it get cancelled quite a bit because it gets choppy in the Bay. It didn't look bad out there, and I was glad to have the full swim. I had also been told by my coach this the Olympic Distance is good for strong swimmers.

As my wave was walking out I positioned myself front and center at the starting line and waited for the gun. Finally, at 8:13, I was off. On the map above you can see the swim course, and it was odd. The first part wasn't bad, but when we made the first left turn we were suddenly swimming against swells, and by the second turn to the right, I thought I was going to be sick I was getting so nauseous. There was a girl ahead of me that I was trying to stay on her feet when possible. I thought she was in my age group, but I later looked and found out she's 17, so she wasn't in my age group after all. By the end of the swim we had caught several waves, and I was ready to stop dodging people and big waves. Finally I reached the medal stairs and hopped out of the water!
 
Swim: 24:32 for 1500 meters. 1st out of 44 in my age group.

Transitions are always what I have the hardest time with. I sat down, ripped off the wetsuit, put on my bike shoes and helmet and started regrouping to head out on the bike. I beat the 17 year old out of transition, so I was the first one from my wave to be out on the bike course. That was fun!

T1: 1:59

The bike was what I had been the most nervous about because of all of the turns. As I started I just kept repeating to myself to slow on the turns and all would be fine. My goal was to hit an average of over 19 mph. I'd be riding in the high 19s and low 20s, but then I would slow down an insane amount for the turns, so the people I had just passed would pass me right back. Luckily there were plenty of straightaways to gain speed and pass people on.
I took a gel in the first five miles and kept reminding myself to drink water from down below. I still haven't gotten an aero bottle for this bike, which I need to do.

As the turns kept coming I know people were getting annoyed with my slowing, but I did the signalling and yelling like I was supposed to. Turns are definitely something that I need to work on on the bike. As the two Uturns came and went, I was glad to see them behind me. And as the course drew to an end, I was happy to see the transition. I had been worried also about getting a flat with the tubular wheels. 

Bike: 1:15:56, 19.6 MPH, 10th out of 44 in my Age Group.

As I moved into T2, I knew I had plenty left in me to do well. I had worked hard on the bike, but I still had energy left. I grabbed all the stuff I needed and started to run out of transition. I made it a bit away from my rack and realized I had grabbed a big water bottle that I definitely didn't need. I had to run back to throw that down, so I know that lost me some time.

T2: 1:58

Onto the run! My goal was to be in the 8:15-8:30 range, but I really wanted to be closer to the 8:15 side. It had gotten HOT by that point, and the sun was beating down. As I made my way out onto the run I ran past Stephanie and the XP group volunteering and yelling for me. That was fun! I started to set into my pace, and the first mile ticked off around 8:15. Perfect! I could do this for 5 more miles!

As I was nearing mile 3, there were people having a yard party and trying to get people to take a beer from them. Though I didn't take that, I did have a massive berry from a lady that had a big, beautiful bowl of strawberries. Thinking back on it, it probably wasn't smart to take, but they were so pretty, and I so love berries. It was so big that I held it and ate it like an apple in bites. I loved that strawberry.
At the turnaround, it was a mental boost to know that I was headed home. I had taken a gel around mile 2 and I took a couple of salt tabs a couple of times as well. There were one or two miles that had splits a little higher than 8:15, but I never felt like I couldn't do it. I kept finding motivation in seeing people ahead to catch and pass, and ultimately I pushed a bit at the end. Because you had to turn off of a road to get to the finish line I didn't surge as much at the end as I probably could have. In the finish chute I saw Tim, and that put a smile on my face.
 
And then, it was finish line time! I was definitely ready to be done running!
 
At the finish, I had no idea what my time was, because my auto multisport had messed up on the bike and I had to reset it. I kind of did some mental math and thought I might be somewhere in the 2:30's.

Run: 51:21, 8:17/mile, 9th out of 44 in my Age Group

Total: 2:35:44, 5th in my Age Group

I walked through the finishers chute to find Tim and eventually got over to my coach and to Beth. Everyone had great days! It was then that Tim pulled up my time on his phone. I had finished in 2:35:44 and gotten fifth in my age group! 

It was fun hanging out with everyone after the race and hearing about the stories of swimming survival in the rough chop and all the funny stories people had along the way. 
 
Tim was a wonderful spectator, and he was so nice in waiting around until the end of forever to get my award. Since I was so excited to get 5th in my age group we did wait a couple of hours on the awards. 
 There were so many people at this race that I knew! It was so much fun to walk around and say hi to everyone and hear how well everyone had done. Though it was warm, it was a great day for a race! And what a fun race St. Anthony's is. I loved the people out cheering in their yards on the run, and though the bike course was extremely technical, it was a good experience.
 
And after a long but wonderful day, Tim and I grabbed my bike and stuff from the ghost town that was transition and made our way home. I was so pleased with my entire experience and the day that I had. I love the Olympic distance, and it makes me excited for my races coming up!