Sonja, Anthony and I arrived in beautiful Florida on Thursday afternoon. Except it wasn't that warm....lingering effects from Hurricane Ida had cooled things off. We quickly built our bikes, got a bite to eat and then headed over to Pier 60 for a look at the ocean in the dark. As we walked over, it became quite obvious that the ocean was, well, angry. It was roiling, wavy, and clearly not meant for swimming in. Although, of course, I'm thinking about a nationals repeat and a swimmers course. The buoys were not in yet. Huh?. Oh no....they won't cancel the swim will they?
Yes, it's a poor picture but here's the official logo in the sand
Friday morning rolled around and it was time to check in. This is where I got my first case of nerves.....I saw the sign....Ironman 70.3 WORLD Championships. Oh shit....what am I doing here? There are 75 women in my age group.....75 of the toughest women in the world..... AHHHHHH!!! Time to take a deep breath, smile, relax, and remember what my goals are for the race. It's not about everyone else. It's about me!!! Anywho, did you know they weigh you at these races? Crap. I hop on the scale (after taking everything off I possibly could without actually being naked in public). Didn't like the weight number. Didn't like the % body fat number. But I did like the third number....hydration. I was ready to race because I was peeing every hour!!
This is where I initially freaked out....
Being only my second 70.3 race, I am still not used to all these bags they give you, morning check in bag, bike bag, run bag.....I was a bag lady. We finally got everything packed up and it time to check the bags and bike in. Here was where I really started to realized how great the volunteers are at this race. I was greeted at transition by this volunteer who took my bags and walked me to where I was to rack my bike. He gave me a map of the new swim (yep, WTC decided to switch from the ocean to intracoastal bay) and walked me through everything I needed to know about bag drop, picking up the bags, changing tent (girls on the left!!).....it was friggin' awesome (those that went to the awards banquet will understand that reference)!!
We then went to check out the swim start and swim exit and realized that it was a time trial start. Yippee!!! Looking back at my Worlds experience in Australia, a big mistake I made for the swim was getting caught up in the beach start and looking for feet to follow, assuming there would be faster swimmers than me. It lead to me getting the crap kicked out of me in the swim and a relatively slow swim time. So it was important for me to stay in my own head and my own race at this swim start. But with a time trial start, I knew that it would be my race from the get-go. There would be no splashing around, kicking, fighting for position. Just me getting to the left/right of the line of swimmers and doing my own thing. I told this to Sonja too because I knew she could also have the same experience and I knew it would play right into her goal of having a kick-ass swim. (not to mention the fact that she has been puttin' time in the pool the last six weeks and also would play into the kick-ass swim)
The four of us (Son, Anthony, me and Steve) settled in early and relaxed. And then it was race morning! Sonja did a spectacular job of finding us a hotel 2 blocks from transition.....so we dropped off our bottles in the morning and went and relaxed back in our room before heading to the swim start. It. Was. Awesome. Avoiding the transition area craziness and chatter!!
OK, I will confess now. I did not warm up. I did not run. I did not swim. I did nothing. But apparently that was OK. I did, however, have to pee. Again. And then I realized that the pavement wasn't wet from people getting in and out of the water....say it with me....EWWWWW! So I joined in the fun! With that taken care of, I lined up and got in the water. The day had finally begun. I started out extraordinarily controlled and relaxed. My breathing was fantastic as was my sighting. I kept thinking about the pacing I had done in the pool in order to have the swim I wanted.....I was so tired of having mediocre swims!! I knew to start out slow and build into it....focus on turnover and breathing. I ran into some traffic but it wasn't too bad. I felt like I was flying in the water with minimal effort. It. Was. Friggin. Awesome. The swim exit was a bit crazy as we were essentially funneled in to a skinny, slippery ramp and there was traffic. But I swam as long as possible and got the heck out of the water. I didn't have a watch and had no idea what my time was but I felt great about my swim. So I smiled. At every spectator and volunteer. And I thanked every volunteer I encountered.
I had a great number so I was able to pick out my bag right away and head into the tent. There were not one, but two volunteers there helping me out! OMG. I love this! They took off my wetsuit and asked me what I needed. And then they sent me on my way!
I picked up Newt, saw teamie Anthony, told him to have a great ride, got on my bike and off I went. Was this really going to be the draft fest I had been hearing so much about? My goal was to stay out of it and be legal. I kept my chain in the little ring to get my legs under me through the 12% short climb up the bridge and I started my garmin because I wanted my heart rate data to manage my effort. I was being passed from the get-go like I was standing still and naturally, I picked it up. And then I scolded myself.....what are you doing??? You have 56 miles, this is not an Oly race. Simmer down!!! Be true to yourself. And that was my motto for the rest of the ride. Be true to yourself. I knew where I needed to be via heart rate and I knew that I was going to be much more aggressive compared to my ride in Kansas. So I just settled in and smiled. At the spectators, at the people passing me, at the people I passed, at the volunteers. I was having fun! And, I was going fast. Everytime I checked my watch I was in the 22 - 24 mph range. Really? But, I was in fast and flat Florida and my heart rate was exactly where it needed to be. Weeeeeeee!!!!
For the first 24 miles of this ride, I was riding alone doing my own thing. I think I even asked myself at one point, where is the drafting? And then I found out. I started getting passed by PACKS of people. 10 - 20 deep. Really? Apparently, these peeps weren't too concerned about drafting and certainly not looking to avoid it. C'mon, just give it a try....race on your own!! And then it got scary. I was approaching a U-turn and a pack had overtaken me and I was being passed on the left and right. People yelling and accelerating into the U. OMG. Some f****r is going to take me down!!! I made it through that turn and just tried to get over to the right and let them go by. Saw a penalty tent and it was inexplicably empty. I finally got in a good place to drop back and be alone when I was overtaken. Again. By another deep pack. And once again, I was being passed on the RIGHT! AHHHHH!! DANGER DANGER!!!! I was trying to figure out where to go with this pack when I heard the officials motorcycle and was in a bad place. So I made a break for the front. I will pull these assholes if needed!! I went left, yelled at people that I was on the left and got to the front. Phew. This was crazy. But I avoided a possible penalty by moving to the front. And so it went from there, just trying to avoid pack after pack. I was kind of "on" my nutrition but I was also a bit concerned I hadn't taken enough in. My hydration seemed to be good because I had to pee again. But had I taken in enough calories???? Probably 500 calories on the bike....seems low. I looked around and I was on a flat bridge and it was absolutely beautiful. Water all around me. Sunny. 5 miles to go. I started shaking out my legs and headed back into town.
You know what the volunteers did when I came into transition??? They took my bike!!!! I felt like a friggin' rock star!! It. Was. Awesome!! Picked up my bag and headed back into the change tent. Once again, I had my own personal assistant giving me water and asking me what I needed out of my bag. Hat? Yes. Gel? Yes. The area smelled suspiciously like urine but I wasn't about to pee on the seat.....and for the first time EVAH, I had to use a porta-potty during a race!! (as a side note on transition area porta-pottys......EWWWWW......c'mon peeps can't you hit the bowl? When you are pooping????????? EWWWWWW)
I was out of transition and onto the run course and initial check of the body was good! My legs felt decent! And then I realized I had left my hat on the chair in T2. Crap that's my favorite hat. And then realized I hadn't taken off my top like I had intended so I could just run in my sports bra. Duh. Hello....race brain???
I soon realized that there were some pro women finishing up their first lap as I started my first. I saw Jodie Swallow ahead of me and heard she was fourth woman overall. And I seemed to be catching her. Huh? I looked at my watch and told myself to simmer down. But I felt good. I caught her. She passed me back and I was on her shoulder. I saw Sonja's dad and waved and smiled. And there was ELF (I read her blog) on the sidelines cheering for Jodie and telling me to stay with the fourth woman overall!! It. Was. Awesome. And then I passed her back on the hill. And never saw her again. Then I got passed by Laura Bennett, Sarah Groff, Amanda Stevens, and Michellie Jones!! I could reach out and touch a pro! But I didn't because that would be kinda weird. I continued to feel good but knew I had many miles to go. I took a sip of gatorade at each station and cooled off with the sponges.
Just so you know, this run course is a bitch. It is hard. It is not flat. It is 2 laps up and over the Memorial Causeway, which just happens to be a 12% grade. So, 4 hills over 13 miles. Very difficult. As I was coming in to finish my first lap I still felt OK. I started lap 2, and around mile 7 I started to hurt. Badly. My knee hurt. My feet hurt. My back hurt. My hip hurt. I had officially entered the hurt locker. Ugh. I still had 6 miles. Up and over my third hill. I just wanted to walk. I wanted to quit. I told myself there was no way I would do an Ironman next year or even ever do a 70.3 again. Never. I started the bargaining process....just run to the next block, the next tree, the next whatever. Constant forward motion. Just keep moving. Had I run out of nutrition? Possibly. One more hill and then the finish.
And then the best part of my day happened. Sonja had started 5 minutes behind me and I knew she would pass me at some point. And on that final hill, there she was. On my shoulder. She didn't say anything. Nor did I. We just climbed the hill. We crested the hill. I felt better with her there. I told her to go on and she said she was exactly where she needed to be plus she wanted to get her dad to take a picture of us racing together! She handed me water, told me to relax my shoulders. I told her to go. She said no. Then we saw Eric and got our picture and I sent her on her way. It. Was. Friggin'. Awesome. I am lucky enough to be able to train with this wonderful woman and she is an amazing training partner and friend but to be able to run with her in a race? That was the most amazing mile and a half. It brings tears to my eyes thinking about it.....Thank you Sonja!
Then there it was, the finish line. I smiled and crossed the finish line. I did not need the med tent, I did need advil. Anthony and Sonja were there and we did the thing we love to do.....cheer other competitors to the finish line. What a great day. Oh, and I will do another 70.3 and I will do an Ironman. Next year.
Here are the numbers:
Swim: 27:53 (Yippee!!! And, 2nd out of the water in age group!!)
T1: 3:28 (Listen, I really wasn't in any big hurry, I wanted to chat with the lovely volunteers!)
Bike: 2:23:33 (23.4mph!! Woot Woot!!)
T2: 3:27 (I had to pee peeps and clearly still not in that much of a rush!)
Run: 1:44:30 (didn't meet my goal of negative splitting but oh well!)
Total Time: 4:42:15
9th in Age Group!!!
Ahhh, the beach, toes in sand!