I’m not sure what woke me up first- the body aches or the hunger. It was 3:10 am on Sunday- I couldn’t get comfortable no matter which way I turned and despite my massive post race dinner, I was starving. I began to think about how they should really emphasize that *light* exercise can aid in sleep as nothing about what I did the day prior was allowing me any. Naturally, I made my way to the hotel lobby for a 4AM waffle. It was here I began collecting my thoughts about my experience racing the 70.3 World Championship and my 2017 season as a whole.
I had a lot of fun racing this year. Maybe more than I ever have. I think that is important to note as sometimes we find ourselves doing something because we feel we are expected to- wether it be an expectation we place on ourselves or a perceived expectation of others. ‘I did a full Ironman last year so I must do an Ironman this year.. etc.’ I think those of us who race this sport (or not!) understand where I am coming from or can relate it to something outside of triathlon.
I found myself needing a shift of focus last fall. After boulder 140.6, (119 for me) I racked my bike and trained for the Kansas City marathon. Even before Ironman boulder I had decided to focus on shorter distance triathlon, but I found after Ironman Boulder I had lost my drive to race triathlon all together and I struggled with that. I felt a sense of pressure that I needed to race triathlon because it is what my identity had begun to be tied to. Training for the marathon was the way I worked through some of those confusing emotions. Sport has always been the outlet.
Somewhere along the line, I regained my drive. Probably around the time Steve moved to KC as his work ethic and drive is contagious. I think it was important for me to realize I could walk away from triathlon training and come back (or at least stop riding my bike for a while and not lose massive amounts of fitness).
This year was an incredible journey. I began with feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty going into my first 70.3 and ended feeling progressively more confident in myself and my ability to battle it out at this distance.
Mini season recap
St George – Uneasy feelings going into it. Tough course, hadn’t raced the distance in some time. The race came and went quickly compared to a full Ironman. I ended the race feeling equal parts happy and as though I could’ve given more. The result fed the competitive drive for improvement and I was immediately on the hunt to string together my plans for the rest of the season
Topeka Tinman 70.3 – I signed up 3-4 days before the race. learned what it felt like to truly train through and race a half distance. It hurt. Slower bike to see what I could do in the run.. success! Hot humid Midwest day- Good lesson in heat management.
Boulder 70.3 – I didn’t hold back. Raced the people around me. Pushed the bike. Saw what I had left for the run. Extremely happy and massive 70.3 PR for me.
Post Boulder 70.3 lead up to Worlds
I was thrilled after Boulder 70.3. I strung together a smart and fast (for me) performance and I was proud of that. Although to be honest, I was a bit more physically and mentally exhausted than I wanted to be following the race. I’m not totally sure why as I was still having fun and looking forward to racing again. Life took a shift around this time as I began my senior year of college and again found myself on “overload” with responsibilities between school, work, and a world championship on the horizon. I have high expectations of myself across many areas of my life and a tendency to overfill my plate. Stress may have started coming into play.
The weeks continued to tick by leading into 70.3 worlds and I tried to be patient with my body and mind. I was having trouble finding my power on the bike again. This made for a few workouts that ended early out of frustration. When the frustrations didn’t let up, I started questioning if I had burned too many matches at Boulder or if I was just burned out for the season.
Steve, as always, remained my rock. He reminded me that it was still there and that the purpose of this block was not to gain fitness but to maintain it. On any given day he is putting out my fires of anxiety and standing by me as I navigate life and sport. It sure takes a brave soul… and I am so incredibly grateful for him!
I had a few workout “wins” that gave me the bit of confidence I needed to race again and I found I felt fairly good in my workouts as I began moving into my taper. Amazing what rest can do.
I think I trained something like 4 hours total the week of the race. My rule of thumb was that if it felt good to move, to do it and if it felt better to sleep, then I would do that. I made sure to “move” in some form each day and to keep intensity within those sessions, but ultimately shifted the emphasis to rest. Rest is weird. On one hand it’s a gift. I scheduled myself a nap that week the same way I would schedule myself a workout and it was glorious. On the other hand, I feel like I’m always just taking it and hoping I actually remember how to exercise for an extended period of time (and well) when the big day comes.
I was wrapping up school for the week on Thursday afternoon. I was happy to spend the entire the week before the race at home as it allowed me to remain in my normal routine and attend masters with Coach Dave Thursday morning. I did start feeling a tug to be in Chattanooga though. After school/work, Steve and I packed, headed to my parents, and were asleep by 9:30 to catch our early AM flight.
I was ready to turn off the week, switch into race mode and focus for the next 48 hours on what I had worked for. We were already cutting things a bit close getting in the afternoon the day before the race, but we were in no way expecting to deal with the series of events that follow.
4:10 wake up call.
9:50 arrival in Atlanta.
10:40 enroute to Chattanooga in rental car
11:00 bumper to bumper traffic between Atlanta and Chattanooga as everyone was attempting to leave FL 💔 I hurt for the families who were leaving their homes.
12:45 stressed. Tight hip flexors. Undercaffeinated. Feeling sorry for hurricane victims as well as myself.
2:30 an hour and a half past athlete check in. Still sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. Banging head softly and repeatedly against window to pass time and frustration in car.
3:00 after almost 4 1/2 hours of what should’ve been <2 hour drive… we make it to Chattanooga
3:30 Steve begins building my bike in the parking lot of expo. I make my way to athlete solutions/pray they’ll still let me check in. They do.
4:00 I begin putting transition bags together to check in. real thoughts of eating my own arm I was so hungry but aborted mission when thinking about side stroking a 1.2 mi swim
4:45 bike is built and I ride it around the parking lot in my street clothes and adidas. Realized my brake was rubbing and proceeded to mess with it/drop F bombs until 5 or so
5:30?? I’m hazy on the details… we’ve been up for 13 1/2 hours at this point. I drank a Red Bull. we get the bike checked in. Found my name on the athelte banner.
6:45pm met James OSullivan for dinner. Stress of the travel day began to subside for everyone and I allowed myself to feel excited again. Ate a massive bowl of spaghetti and meatballs
8:00 stop at grocery store to get oatmeal for AM
9:30? In bed. Not stressed. Just exhausted.
I woke up without my alarm. I didn’t feel any stress of the day prior, only gratitude that I was there, healthy, and in the company of 3 people I love more than anything- my parents n Steve!
We collected our bags, I ate breakfast and we hit the road. It felt like any other race morning until I entered transition and had a camera and bright light in my face. I was suddenly very aware that I was indeed at a championship race. I smiled, popped my headphones in and made my way to my bike.
After placing my nutrition I talked to a few of my friends in transition: Rachael aka TriRach, Tori Beckwith, Mellissa Stratton, Jackie Cox, Elise Lagerstrom and so many of the people I love in one place!! With an hour and a half to spare Tori and I sat and watched groups before us start their swim in which time she gave me my sweet french braid. Thx gf!! I realized somewhere in here that I had forgotten to put sunglasses in T1 so I decided to swim with them under my wetsuit as the 40 mph descents would suck without eye protection (and transition was now closed).
We eventually made our way to the swim start. It seemed like everything moved so slow all morning but once we were in the corral for the swim, time moved so fast. We were released from the grass onto the ramp and eventually from the ramp to the starting platform. Forgot my pre swim gel. Oh well. My heart began to race as I thought about how I was about to compete alongside 1,700 of the best female athletes in the world. I had to talk myself down a bit so nerves didn’t dictate my next moves.
The starting platform was broken into 9 or 10 columns that were divided by shoulder height walls. You chose a line and one row was released every 15 seconds.
There were six short beeps followed by a 7th long beep each time a wave was released. I was now 2 waves back. Heart in my throat. I made my way to the front of the line and stared at the 10 foot stretch of red carpeted dock between me and the water. I roughly calculated the steps I would take before diving- noting where it looked slick. All of a sudden I heard the long beep. The volunteer in front of our line dropped his arm and I suddenly had a clear path to the water. I moved forward propelling myself with a push from the gates that were now behind me. All anxiety left me as I ran to the end of the dock and hit the water. My mind was instantly clear and focused on the task at hand.
Immediately I felt the current begin to push me slightly to the left. I made effort to hang right and tried to separate from the girls around me. We rounded the first turn and swam against the current towards the bridges. I couldn’t see anything sighting as we were swimming into the sun so I followed feet and hoped for the best.
Half way through the swim, I knew I had moved away from a lot of green caps but I could still see a few ahead so I put my head down and focused on my form to make up some distance. We rounded the next corner to cut across the river before swimming down stream towards the finish. I could only see one green cap ahead of me. (Hard to tell where you’re at with the type of swim start and figured there were more ahead but I assumed I was in an OK position) I intentionally stayed to her left as she was breathing right and hung back for a few moments before making a pass. The current wasn’t strong, but certainly was noticeable on the swim home to the finish.
With the pull of a volunteer, I made it up the stairs, out of the water, and out of my wetsuit. Unfortunately, so did my sunglasses. I grabbed my T1 bag and ran up the ramp to transition.
UP is an accurate description as we had about a 25 meter 8% grade ramp to run out of the swim. I ran into the corral and scanned for an open chair. Dave smiled from his side of transition and pointed me to an open chair. The short exchange was very synonymous of our coach athlete relationship: me freaking out/unsure of what to do with myself and Dave giving me calm focused direction.
I threw my helmet on, held my shoes and ran towards my bike. Although we (18-24) had the worst start time, we had the best bike position in transition as we were closest to the bike in/out. I saw a lot of my friends lining transition and heard my name yelled a few times. I was happy and ready to ride. (Also realized somewhere in T1 that I forgot to pack socks)
Within the first mile I realized two things: 1. My front water bottle was somehow miraculously empty. 2. My back bottle of electrolyte concentrate was too concentrated. (Thank you to my rushed packing lot job the day prior!) I knew I needed fluids so I drank some of my concentrate and prayed aid station 1 would come quickly. I laughed at myself. No pre swim gel, no socks, messed up my concentrate, no sunglasses…sheeesh!!
5 miles out of transition we started the climb. I didn’t have time to- nor did I want to see the course prior to racing. I knew the general lay out and that it had 3,442 ft of elevation gain and that was enough for me. We began the climb and I quickly realized it would be 30+ min before I would get water as I was moving about 7mph up this climb. (I learned later that 1,000 of our 3,442 was gained in this 3.2 mi section.) I pushed the thoughts about nutrition aside and worked on what was in front of me.
The climb was difficult and I was relieved to see the top, although the rollers and switchbacks that followed were not to be underestimated as we accumulated a significant amount of gain after the initial climb as well. Luckily, climbing is a strength of mine and something I enjoy. I felt myself pulling away from a lot of people on it, but without fluids following the swim I felt a little light headed once we got to the top.
We didn’t have our age on our calves. That paired with the rolling start made it really difficult to know where you were at in relation to others in your AG. I saw one girl I knew was in my AG ahead and another I believed to be.
Other notable bike happenings:
Some people lined the climb and it rocked. A lot of people were at the turn around in Chickamauga and that really rocked.
I pushed hard. The course was really difficult and I could feel my legs accumulating more fatigue than I’ve ever accumulated before running hard for 13 miles. It scared me and drove me forward at the same time.
I didn’t stay in my aero bars for the all of the descents as they were fast (Think fastest I hit was 41 mph) and sometimes scary with quick turns. I stayed close to my brakes (kept thinking how shitty it would be for this amazing day to end in a crash) but hunched down over my bars to stay as small as I could.
I eventually got water and felt OK about my nutrition. I honestly don’t know how many calories I had on bike. Nutrition was a challenge because you were either climbing or descending and it is hard to get fluids or calories in during either. I also didn’t get a bottle at the last aid station as I missed hands with a volunteer. I basically shoved blocks in my mouth whenever I could but never really wanted them. I don’t think I had enough fluids or calories but I did what I could.
I have never raced a course like that in my life. My back and neck hurt from the tense hard climbing. I was wincing and gritting my teeth in the back half as it just hurt. The downhills were welcomed.
I talked out loud under my breath to myself. Mostly towards the end. It was weird but it worked to keep my head in the game. I also focused on the efficiency of my pedal stroke and watched the difference it made in my speed when I needed a distraction from the hurt. That helped too.
Total time: 2:49:26
Elevation Gain: 3,442 ft
Nutrition: 3 bottles of h2o, 1/2 of my bottle of clif hydration/base salt concentrate, something like 2 packs of clif blocks and 3/4 of an All in Almond Picky Bar
I dismounted and ran into transition. It was so nice to hand my bike off to a volunteer. I forgot how nice it felt to have this taken care and to have one less thing to worry about in transition.
I grabbed my T2 bag, sat in a chair and dumped the contents on ground. SOCKS. There you are. My hands shook as I rushed to put them on. I slipped my feet into my shoes, threw my nutrition into my back pocket and took off running with my hat and bib in hand. Did I mention I also forgot my lock laces?? What the heck!!!
I tied my shoes the tightest I could the day before while ensuring I could still slip them on but could tell from minute 1 of the race that they would be too loose. There was no way I was stopping now to fix it. Out of transition and onto the course.
The very first section of the course is about a 3/4 mile climb. I got to the base, stared up at this massive hill and knew I would take this run on the same way I took on the bike- one piece at at time. There were spectators lining the hill on both sides which helped. I began nearing the top and saw my parents and Steve for the first time since leaving them at the swim start. I don’t always get to have my parents at races with me and it was really special to have them at this one. When I saw them, I smiled so big my eyes welled. but I had to shut it down quick since I didn’t have my glasses. Couldn’t let everyone see me getting sappy! :)-
I hit mile 1 in at 7:10. way. too. fast. It is always hard to pace when you have noodle legs from the bike and your watch hasn’t caught GPS yet. I rounded the corner to the next hill. There were 3 significant hills in the run loop (that you run twice). The second hill was my favorite because it was steep, short and had red bull at the top. I usually take a red bull or two towards the end of the race but that day it sounded good so I drank it at every aid station through the run. The Red Bull hill (yep. Gonna call it that) was also where I saw my teammate Kevin Denny and his mom. I didn’t know they would be out there and it made me really happy to see them.
The course was packed with spectators. I saw coach Dave again on the blue bridge. He and his wife drove out to watch Kevin and I race. Dave is one of the best swim coaches I have had and that is saying a lot as I have been coached by many. His belief in me makes me want to work that much harder: It was awesome to see him out there.
I also saw a lot of “internet friends” on the course as well. We would high five or exchange a few words in passing. It reminded me what a unique community of people I have found and how cool it was to offer support to one another and be a part of each others day out there.
Surprisingly the first loop went by quicker than I expected it to. When I got to the second loop I was just like alright dig down and do this! My legs of course were tired and it was mentally and physically tough to hit all of those hills a second time. I focused on form and keeping my legs turning over (my run cadence is low no matter how hard I try.. 171 on Saturday)
The promise of Red Bull and the love from my family and friends out there eventually got me to the through the second loop. As I crossed the blue bridge the second time, I found myself getting really emotional. I knew that this was it. This final mile was the end of what has been a really amazing season. And even more than that..here I was again doing something I never dreamed possible for myself… running towards the finish of a world championship… representing the US… I was filled with gratitude and an overwhelming sense of pride in what I had accomplished this year.
I rounded the corner to the finish chute and could hear the booming crowd ahead. I high fived all of the hands on the way down the chute. Spectators lined both sides. About half way down, I finally saw my parents. I couldn’t do anything this time to stop the tears. I am still not sure how I got so lucky with those two. Everything that I have learned about consistency and hard work I learned from them. They have everything to do with the person I am today. It meant so much to me to have them there.
After a high five from Steve and Dave I made my way to the finish. Half grimacing through pain… half holding back the happy tears..
What. an. experience!!
Run time: 1:42:09
Elevation gain: 975 feet
Splits: 7:11, 7:38, 7:39, 7:38, 7:45, 7:45, 7:30, 7:43, 7:46, 8:13, 8:21, 8:13, 7:42
Nutrition: 2 strawberry clif gels, 2 cups of water per aid station, 1 cup of red bull per aid station, a few sips of my Clif hydration/base salt concentrate
Total time: 5:09:55
Total Elevation gain: 4,417
I followed the finish chute.. received my medal.. chugged a bottle of water and walked towards the end of the chute, trying to find my legs again. I looked around for my parents, Steve and Dave but didn’t see them. I walked to where they were standing at the finish and didn’t see them there either. I was beginning to get sad when suddenly I saw them across the way. I wish I could say I ran but I wobbled, slowly over to them, totally collapsed into my mom’s hug and just cried. The really ugly kind of crying where you’re just really tired, really happy and really glad you’re hugging your mom.
I was happy to learn I finished 10th and was the first American finisher in my AG out of 82 girls. I was 141 of 1433 women overall which put me in the top 10% of female finishers in the world which is also pretty cool. I am more proud of this race than any other. Saturday I fought hard for this finish. It hurt, but I let my heart, family and work I put in carry me.
Training and racing are so much more than a hobby to me. The sport continues to teach me about myself and the lessons I learn continue to shape the way I handle problems and obstacles outside of the sport. It has made me look at struggles differently and it has made striving for improvement and continual persistency a way of life. I am so thankful I am able to enjoy this sport and I am thankful for all of the support that I have in doing so.
A big thank you to Steve. He sacrificed pto, his own training, sanity and patience for me 10 times over last weekend. He wouldn’t let me carry anything and was constantly doing whatever he could to lessen my stress (building my bike, packing my bike after the race, creating an itinerary for my parents..) Of course none of this is isolated to race weekend. He is so good to me and I couldn’t picture my life without him.
Thank you to my parents for loving me so unconditionally, for the sacrifices you have made in giving us such a happy and fulfilling childhood and for continuing to be my biggest support and best friends into my adult years. You two being here was everything to me.
Thank you to Coach Dave Shiffer and wife Lori for making the trip to watch Kevin and I race. You two are incredible people and I was so grateful to spend time with you both and see you during the race. Another thank you to Dave for coaching Steve, Kevin, and I. …Keeping us in check and for occasionally dealing with our attitudes at 5:45 in the morning.
Thank you to my siblings, family, and friends at home that sent me good luck notes and well wishes!! I am crazy lucky to have the people in my life that I do.
Thank you to Coach Mace at MP Multisport for guiding me, rooting for me and claiming me as one of his own.
Thank you to Kevin for getting out on Saturday to cheer me on even though you should’ve been inside & off your feet for your race!!
Thank you to MBK for allowing me to rock your kit this season and for being a huge part of WHY I am back out here racing once again.. xx
Thank you to Ironman and the HUNDREDS of volunteers who make events like this happen. I was so impressed with the flow of the race both Saturday and Sunday.
Thank you to Eston for loaning us your bike bags
Thank you to Kogel bearings for my last minute race upgrade with the new pulleys!
Thank you to my sponsors- Panache, Rudy Project (sorry I lost my glasses), Roka, Base Performance, Hoka, Trainer Road, for the amazing love and support this season!
Thank you to Picky Bars (my employer😜) for keeping our pantry stocked and our workouts fueled with the good stuff!!
Thank you to Bob’s Red Mill for providing Steve and I with quality food to fuel our training including all smoothie ingredients that we love.
Thank you also to Clif Bar for inadvertently sponsoring me as I use everything you send Steve 😂