While I have completed two half-iron distance races this year last weekend was my first foray into the official 70.3 arena. I heard from others that these races are super intense, hard core, lots of talent grottos. I was so ready for the competition and also a bit excited to see what I had against a stacked field.
Originally I was afraid to ask Steve if I could race two 1/2 iron distance races on back to back weekends. It's just seemed like an obviously stupid endeavor. But as the winter training progressed and wacky-nuts seemed to be the name of the game I approached the subject. Steve said yes and we toyed around with which race would really be the focus. We never really decided and the truth is it's nearly impossible for me to give anything but everything when I step on a starting line.
Still, I wanted this race to be fun. When the race director sent a message stating that we could reserve a camp spot near transition for two nights for just $40, I got a little giddy. I asked Troy "Should we camp"? He said "Heck Yea!". I'm 99.9% sure that every one of my teammates thought I was nuts. But ohhh-nooo they had it wrong. Camping was the best thing we could have done. I feel at home camping, I sleep better in my tent than in my bed, and I love cooking outdoors. I am more relaxed, and more settled when I'm camping, so this was a good choice for me.
We arrived in Lawrence KS at about 2pm on Friday and the camp spots were awesome. Lots of room. Unfortunately our site didn't have any shade so we erected the Practical Coaching 10X10 tent over our tent and made a trip to the store for three 16lb bags of ice. I knew I needed to stay cool. I picked up my packet, witnessed the hugest M-dat tattoo (had to take a picture), and we had a very chill evening with some yummy fajitas. I also met Taryn who was camping across the way. She told me she reads my blog which made me a little bashful and then she told me that Sunday would be her first triathlon! You go girl! And if you are reading, make sure you make a comment, I'm so proud of you for finishing!!
Saturday morning Troy, Annie and I drove out of the park and attended the Lawrence farmers market. It's the oldest farmers market in Kansas and it's a producers only market so the person you buy from is the person who made/grew/raised what you are buying. Troy and I both agreed that is was one of the best markets we have ever been to, and being a farmers market junkie, I feel qualified to say that.
Some veggies, honey, and breakfast later we headed back to the race site to meet up with the Practical Coaching crew for a race recon mission. Everyone was so super giddy. We rode one loop of the run course and talked about the transitions and the swim and bike along the way. Very informative, and nice to spend some time together as a team.
I then headed back to the tent for some lunch while everyone else waited in line to grab their packets. Heh Heh heh. I eventually headed over to drop my bike in T1. There were two transitions for this course and our camp site was smack dab in-between the two. I covered my seat and drive train with bags in case the rain that was called for overnight came to fruition. Then it was chilaxin time. Troy and I had a great dinner of pasta with veggies from the market and italian sausage. I even got the backpacking oven going and produced a beautiful batch of brownies for an evening snack. We read, and talked. It was so nice to have some quite time in the outdoors with Troy to reconnect and to laugh together.
That evening when we stepped into the woods there were thousands of fireflies. I've only seen them once in my life, but this was so much better. It was like the stars were twinkling in the forrest, such a highlight of the entire trip. I also received a very inspirational email just before I went to sleep that made my sleep very peaceful that evening.
The next morning I slept in until 5:15! Transition opened at 4:45 and my wave went off at 6:58. Sleeping at the race site compares to NOTHING!! I got dressed, waved to my triathlete tent neighbors and headed over to T2 to set up. That took several minutes and I found Steve and Sara. We headed to T1 to set that up and I just loved the atmosphere. Steve and Sara were giddy and we had a nice time walking over to T1. Once at T1 I set up there, hemmed and hawed about whether I should leave my arm warmers on my bike, looked into the sky, told the sky gods to keep the temps manageable and put the arm warmers away. I quickly found Troy amongst the 2000 triathletes, he's so tall and was wearing his red coat. Most of the Practical Coaching athletes found him and were handing off last minute items to him. We are so lucky to have Troy! He's such a pillar for our team (and for me). I threw on my DeSoto and my yellow cap, kissed Troy and Annie goodbye, and lined up in the stall.
THE SWIM My wave was big. I lined myself up and I had on of the best starts ever. No jostling, I swam straight, I stayed calm...it was good. I tried to find feet to swim on but for some reason I had a lot of trouble staying on the feet. The water was very murky and it was a big challenge to see the feet even when I was tapping them on every stroke. So I didn't have a lot of luck with that. I did however really try to push this swim. No regrets, give it a good go. My time may not reflect as much, but I was proud of my effort throughout this swim.
Swimming back to shore it looked like there were 50,000 spectators. All I could see was people, and as I ran into T1, all I could hear was Troy. He's such a phenomenal cheerer, loud booming voice and he really puts some heart into it! I had a very quick, olympic style transition: put your helmet on, grab your bike, and go. The lanes were really tight and I did a lot of yelling "On your left" to get through other people in transition.
THE BIKE I was really excited about this bike. I had no idea what to expect but I just knew in my heart that there was no way Kansas could deal out what Las Vegas and Middlebury dished on me. Kansas = flat, and honestly, after my last two 1/2's, Kansas delivered. People afterwards complained about the hills on course but I wasn't one of them. I loved this bike course. You could fly, and fly I tried. As always the first 5 miles is the warm up zone. I got passed twice by ladies in my age group. Rah Roh. When the second lady passed I said "enough" and went with her. This got me back past the first lady that passed me but this second lady was screaming fast. She ended up being the top amateur for the day, and her bike split was the same as Chrissie Wellington (But Chrissie got a "puncture" as she calls them and lost about 4 minutes). Still this chick was flying (Marisa Asplund)!
I had such a fun time on the course. There were a lot more cyclists on the course than I am used to. I got to battle with a lot of dudes and one in particular couldn't take being chicked and tried to drive me over the double yellow into oncoming cyclists. I'm happy to say the bike racing paid off, I held my line (in aero) and used a nice amount of attitude in response. There were other guys out there that were just treating me great. One (who had wings tattooed on his legs) told me I was flying and asked me if I ran 7 min pace so that I could pace him on the run. Was he hitting on me? If he was, I'm flattered. I couldn't believe how the miles were ticking by, the course was marked in 5 mile increments and they were flying by.
Now, I don't wear a heart rate monitor, I don't have a power tap, or a fancy GPS thingee. I don't know how fast I'm going, but I do wear a watch. You know just a pain old "keeps time" watch and I like to have a little fun with it. Since in my last two 1/2s I have gone 1:41-1:43 range for my run time I was hoping to break 1:40 on a flat course. I also was secretly hoping to break 5 hours, since I did a 5:07 and a 5:11 previously. Now, I can talk times all day, but when the rubber meets the road I just want to throw my effort on the wall, and whatever sticks, I'm happy with. So I was playing a little game with my watch, trying to guess what time I would get into transition, all the while creaming myslef on the bike. Harder, faster, smile. I just kept surprising myself as the miles went by. I was estimating that I would get into T1 at 3hrs 20 min.
I roll into T2 and I look for a teal towel with shoes covered in a plastic bag. I find it, rack my bike, throw my helmet on the ground, pull off the plastic bag...uh...not my shoes. I look at the number on the rack. Not my number. So I grab my bike find my number, rack my bike, put on my shoes, go back to the old spot, retrieve my helmet, put it back in the proper spot, grab my hat and number and run off. I drop the hat and number, pick it up and say to myself "CALM DOWN". I run out of T2, look at my watch and it says that to break 5 hours I need to run a 1:47. Holy cow, that I can do!
THE RUN Not two seconds after thinking that a lady in my age group goes flying by me. She is the same lady that flew by me on the bike and that I passed back. She is flying and I don't want to let her go. The lady in first I know is long gone (I timed the first lady in my age group on one of the turn around sections on the bike and she had 4.5 minutes on me). I was gunning for a second place age group but didn't exactly know where I was in the race. this lady was running super strong and her first mile was under 6:35. I just didn't go with it. I sat back. The dude with the wings on his legs was with me and I told him she was in my age group. He said we were running super fast. I never know how fast I am running until mile two because I always forget to hit the lap button at the start of the run, so I usually never get the first mile split. Mile two was a 6:33 and I wasn't making any ground on the lady in front of me. I thought to myself, well if she can run the entire half marathon at 6:30 pace, then she probably has me. But I didn't think that was likely either. There were lots of cheering fans around and I figured it was more likely that she was excited.
At mile three we had one of the two hills on the course. It's a short and kinda steep little bugger and for some reason I just said enough is enough. I ran hard up that hill, passed the lady in my age group and then I ran for my life the next mile and a half. I ran by Troy and I gave him the "I'm scared and I'm running fast look". He cheered so loud! Mile three up the hill was 7:12 and mile 4 was 6:55. I felt like she was breathing down my neck, but I convinced myself that I had opened up a gap. I settled into the race, there were so many people on the course it kept things very lively. Mile 5 and 6 were a combined 14:07 and 7/8 were 14:11. I had hit my stride and it was just over 7 min pace. I was a little shocked, but it felt smooth, so I just kept running.
At mile 9 I ran by Troy and he said that "one was 2.5 up". I knew the super fast lady was 7+ minutes up on me, but I had apparently missed another lady in my age group. I put a little fire in my engine and miles 9/10 were a combined 13:07. I was stoked that it felt oh so good to be running that fast. I caught the lady in my age group and at that point I felt confident that I was second age group and that first was outta sight. I took a gel that the course had provided and it had 2X caffeine. I suffered several miles of stomach cramping and learned a hard lesson that 2X caffeine is too much for my tummy. Don't just grab and eat without looking. Mile 11 was 7:13 and mile 12 was 7:30. The last mile plus extra was 9:06. For the last few miles I hung onto a guy that everyone called "muffin". That cracked me up and somebody had drawn chalk muffins all over the asphalt. I felt like I was running with a celebrity, that was fun!
Coming into the line and looking at my watch and seeing 4:45:32 left me in utter shock. I walked through the shoot and I started crying. It was really emotional for me. I had hoped to break 5 and to do so in this way was exciting and unexpected. I was instantly happy with the manner that I executed my race. I just stopped crying when I turned around to see my PIC Michelle finish, and low and behold she was crying just like me. She had scored second in her age group as well. Very emotional.
The best part of the day for me was watching the other Practical Coaching athletes complete their races. Seeing Andrea break 6 hours and have a huge smile on her face. I can't describe the joy I had in watching my friends succeed at this distance. Beth took a 4th age group slot, and I was so hoping a Clearwater slot would come her direction, but it got snatched up. Sandy took two and a half hours off her time at Rage, she went 5:27 versus a tough 8 hour day at Rage. Taryn, my camping neighbor finished her first triathlon, and it was a half!
So, before the race I talked a little with Anthony, my 17hourtrainingday.com teammate about whether he would take a Clearwater slot if one came his direction. After some chatting I was convinced that I wouldn't take the slot, and he said he wasn't going to either. But when all was said and done and I saw that I got a slot (there were two in my age group) I was asking Troy "did we bring a checkbook"? It was so exciting. Michelle was taking her slot and I figured GIRL TRIP. Then while attending awards I watch a slot make it down to Anthony, they call his name...and he says "I'll take it". I had such a huge grin on my face.
BUT then, We had Steve, our fantastic coach. Would he get a slot? There was one of four slots left. They start calling names, and sure enough, they call his, and I hear "I'll take it". I was so happy for him!
Okay, here is the last bit, and it's a little funny. They take your $$ on the spot and they give you a piece of paper that has directions on how to sign up for the race. It has a password and it has dates that you can sign up within. The lady tells you "Don't loose this paper or your money is gone and you can't sign up". So I turn and give the paper straight to Troy.
Last night when we got home Troy takes the paper and sets in on my desk in front of the computer. We go to bed. Annie wakes up at 6am and Troy pops her in a DVD and goes back to bed. When I get up we clean up from the trip, take out the trash, vacuum, etc. Then we realize the paper isn't there. We searched the house for TWO hours. Troy even went and got out the trash from the dumpster. Then the trash truck came. The paper is GONE. We have a call and an email into the race director. But my precious Clearwater slot is hanging in limbo. I figure if they won't let me in I will inundate them with this photo. I have also sent this photo (taken on my iPhone) to every tech-savy person I know to try to deduce the password off of the sheet.
All in all this race...and this month, and this season has been just an awesome experience. I can't thank my coach enough...Steve Pye is his name and I can't believe how much he has changed my life. My husband Troy is a total saint, always there for me with a hug and relentless support of my passion. Annie, my darling little girl that keeps me laughing at life and helps me to maintain balance in my life. Also, my mom and dad who have really gone above and beyond to help out their GROWN CHILD with getting to all these races, and for tweeting and texting their love and support. I love you guys!
Lastly I can't forget Core Concepts, who treats me so kind with yummy clothes, and Trakkers, who you all will love when they get their awesome little triathlon trakking devise on the market!