Races

So far I have done 6 x sprint races, 4 x olympic distance races, 2 x 70.3 races, and 1 x Aquabike race. The 140.6 still looms ahead of me, intimidatingly. In this category you will find race reports based on geographic location.

Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells

p/c IW 70.3 Facebook page

Race Report

A brand new Ironman 70.3!! In the desert? Season closer? Sign me up! I still think it is SO cool that I got to race an inaugural event! As many of you know Indian Wells proved to be a tough and disappointing race for me. Some things were out of my control and some were lessons learned. Still, I strive to help next year’s athletes know and prepare for this race as best as possible even though I didn’t finish it. This was really one of my favorite races I’ve participated in. I have always loved the mountains and there is something about the desert mountains that is extra cool.

Pre Race

This race was super fun because my coach, Audra Adair, and some of the other Race Relentless athletes were all in it together. We rented a sweet Airbnb near the race site to use as our home base. Before the race we all got out and rode the course together. Winds were mostly non-exsistent however I have heard mixed results on this. I suppose it all depends on what you consider a “windy” ride. I didn’t feel like there was any wind at all. The temperature was cooler at night, low 50s, and higher during the day upper 60s / low 70s.

Women’s Pro Panel

The Ironman Village was located in the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens. It was overall pretty easy to find, park, and walk over. They had a pretty cool selection of vendors there – beware with this race being so close to Christmas! I had to make sure I made a wide birth around some of the vendors so I didn’t spend all my money. Check in was super easy and the volunteers were so friendly and helpful. This race actually did a great job of streamlining things so you moved through the queue really quickly.

Race Specific Notes

The swim takes place in Lake Cahuilla (pronounced cah-lee-ah) in Indian Wells. Due to the protected nature of the lake they don’t give you a chance to do any warm up swims prior to race morning. So we did some rides on our bikes and some runs then tried to rest and hydrate. The day prior to I was having a lot of trouble with my appetite. I was continually feeling nauseous and felt a sore throat/cold coming on. Requiring TheraFlu to function is no way to prepare for any kind of race day.

My super friendly check in volunteer

Some of the pre-race differences at Indian Wells include the pre-race staging of all of your gear for both T1 and T2. You also had to take your wetsuit and anything else going in with you on the swim (in this case, neoprene cap and booties) to a dunk tank the day before to get disinfected in a diluted bleach solution. Then they go to the T1 tent to hang and dry. * hopefully *  Below you can see the wetsuit tent and T1 gear bags hanging up to dry. 

Race Morning: 5 AM

Sunrise over T1

I slept fine the night before but really couldn’t stomach any food that morning. I hadn’t eaten any real substantial dinner the night before so I knew I had to choke down something. This was the first race I had done where you had a race bag for each transition area that you dropped off the night before. This kinda threw me off – having some stuff at the race site and a handful of gear at the house. Unfortunately, it was not until my hubby and I were almost at the Tennis Gardens after sitting in stiff traffic that I realized I had left my goggles & cap at home.

Beware the traffic around this race. Because all of the athletes and spectators had to be shuttled out to the lake and many roads were already blocked off getting to the parking area was EXTREMELY congested. I was very worried I was going to miss the last shuttle since we had to turn around and brave it all again. When we parked and saw the very long lines of people waiting for a shuttle my nerves increased. However, rest assured because they had a line just for athletes which made sure we all got over there in enough time.

The most beautiful race I’ve done so far

The Swim: 7:20 am

p/c IW 70.3 Facebook page

Be prepared this is a cold race 3/4 of the way through. It was pretty chilly while we waited to get in the water with the air temperature around 54 F. I was really grateful to have a sherpa to toss my coat and hand warmers to before we lined up. This is a race you will definitely want to invest in a neoprene cap to wear under your swim cap. Honestly, it made a huge difference for me. My hands were definitely cold but never as numb as I was expecting. I also brought my dive booties and wore those as well. In hind sight I may invest in some longer ones but for this race they worked okay. The water temp that morning ended up being a cold 57 F.

Swim Course Notes 

You got in the water you from a run in beach start. The water was cold but not that shocking at first. After a few minutes however it definitely caught up with me and I started to feel those effects of very cold water. As per usual I felt it in my breathing. My wetsuit felt suffocating, I couldn’t move my legs and felt like I was needing to breathe every stroke. I was really really struggling and thought I’d never finish. Remembering wise words of a previous coach, I just made it one buoy at a time. I would then breast stroke for a minute at the buoy and catch my breath.

 

 

How happy was I to get out of that water?! That smile was also in part of Paul making me laugh as he heckled me. Another little pro tip: get a neoprene cap without the strap! The strap only added to the feeling of not being able to breathe. After getting out of the water, I hustled the 40-50 ft up the beach and into our changing tent. 

 

T1 was so incredibly slow. It took me over 8 minutes to get in and out. It took me a while to stumble through getting my wet suit off and even longer to get my gloves, socks, and warm gear on. 

The Bike: 8:10 am 

The truly tragic part of this section of the race is that I was feeling like this was definitely going to finally be my bike PR. This course felt fast overall. There were a couple sections where you’d turn and hit some headwind. When I got on the bike I was feeling a little funny and so I started into my blocks to get my blood sugar up. 

Yet, it wasn’t enough. I started to feel increasingly light headed, dizzy, and weak. There were a couple points where I’d pass a cop and think about stopping and telling them I didn’t feel well. As I reached the 25 mi mark I was really struggling to stay in aero and struggling to “keep it in my lane”. Right at mile 30 I approached an aide station and thought I’ll just slow down and drink some gatorade. Next thing I remember I’m staring up at the sky. 

Bike Course Map

 

As far as I made it on the bike course

As you can see in the map above there are a fair amount of turns. This means there isn’t that many opportunities to put your head down and just go. I’d strongly recommend gloves and a windbreaker at least on the bike. While it wasn’t too windy the air temperature had barely reached 60 F and you’re wet and already cold. The gloves made a pretty big difference in my comfort level on the bike. Even though they were a pain to get on. 

Detour to the Indian Wells ER

The volunteers who found me thought I was a heat stroke victim (WHAT?) so they doused me in ice cold water and put ice packs in my jersey. In the already 60 F air I started shaking and behaving shocky pretty quickly. By the time the EMTs arrived – they had a lot of trouble with all the road blockages – I was still in and out of consciousness and couldn’t stand.

While trying to load me into the ambulance they had trouble getting me across the road because the athletes wouldn’t stop or slow down to let us pass. Just as a reminder, no race, no PR, is worth someone’s life. Give way to ambulances and medics!  

Hidden under all those blankets is a woman being pumped full of warm IV fluids. The ER ran a bunch of blood work and tests on my heart. Fortunately everything came back positive and they referred me to my doctor at home for a gastrointestinal consult. It took Paul a very long time to make it to the hospital with all the road closures and the fact that none of the police or volunteers knew which roads were open. 

p/c Justin Luau

Run Course 

Clearly, I didn’t run this course. While, I was laying in warm blankets with tubes in my arms trying to warm back up people were out in the desert sun running a golf course. Yes, this run course takes place within the Indian Wells Golf Course. This course is all over the map with elevation. While I believe it was pitched as a flat, fast run course most athletes I talked to found it to be hilly. Overall it has 457 ft of elevation gain spread throughout a two loop rolling course. 

I feel the overall pulse of the run from folks was “like don’t love”. Especially since it warmed up quite a bit by the time people reached the run leg.   

p/c IM 70.3 IW Facebook

Final Thoughts

The biggest complaint this race from a lot of people, especially spectators, especially my husband, was how messy the road closures were. Apparently, getting all the friends & family from the lake back to T2 was a nightmare. It was taking an hour and a half to two hours to transport people. Most of that spent in stopped traffic. Paul had only just gotten back to T2 when the paramedics called him to tell him which hospital they were taking me to. He checked and it was only 10-15 minutes away. It took him well over an hour to get there and no one seemed to know what was going on. 

There was a lot of frustration directed at the race set up. Along that note getting my bike & gear out of the transitions was just a little too easy for my teammates. While it worked in our favor the lack of safety at this race has to be talked about. My coach even had her Di2 stolen off her bike sometime between when we racked to when we raced. Very disappointing. 

Would I recommend this race? Yes. Do I want to try again in 2019? Yes, if all goes well this year. The super cool 1950’s & 60’s Hollywood retreat vibes are fun. The scenery is stunning. There are things Ironman can work on and fix (I’ve heard that they are aware of some of the issues) but overall it was looked on as a great new closing race.  

Richmond Half Marathon 2016

At the expo the day before

Two years ago I ran my first stand alone (non-70.3) half marathon. It was a particularly emotional race for me since many of my team mates were racing and it was in the city I had called home for the last 3 years. To add to the fun the marathon and half run concurrently. It takes place each year around the 2nd weekend in chilly November starting in the heart of downtown. Richmond is called the River City and it was really special to finish along the James River that holds so much US history in its past.

The Course

Clearly, if you run the full you get a much more scenic view of the greater Richmond area. For me however, I got to run down Broad St. Past some of my favorite restaurants and bars that held such happy memories for me. The concrete jungle is broken up by a run through Joseph Bryant Park. There are some elevation changes here but its barely noticeable. One of the best features of this race are the people of Richmond. The crowds are everywhere with signs cheering you on. The last 1.1 miles are the best as you run back through downtown close to the finish. The last little bit down to the finish line is a steep down hill which is fun to let your legs fly.

The Race

The start was CHILLY in 2016. The air temperature was in the upper 40s and I was super cold waiting around by myself for the start. The year I ran we started right in front of the National theater. A really cool concert venue that I had seen a lot of incredible shows at over the years I lived in RVA. A few minutes before the start I ran into my teammate Graham and felt a wave of excitement.

It was great to get that boost of confidence from some who you’d raced and trained with over the last year. Graham in particular has been such an inspiraiton to me throughout my triathlon career because he really can do it all. Great Dad – never seems to miss an event that his kids have going on. Loving Husband. Loyal Friend. Involved community member. AMAZING athlete. I could go on – Graham, you’re the coolest. We ran together for the first few miles before he blew me away!

The first 10K I was cooking along at an 8:15 min/mi pace. Mostly to keep warm, but also because I was feeling gooood! It was so fun to get to run a race with music finally! I am not one of those runners who can just run along with their own thoughts. Music makes me run faster, smoother, and makes the time fly by. It actually makes me love running more because I feel more alive with a soundtrack. I was enjoying the sights and sounds of the course more with every step.

Crossing the finish line

Around mile 9 or so I started having pretty sever pain in my sacroiliac joint as well as my right hip. I’d badly injured my pelvis twice – the most recent time a severe snowboarding accident that earlier February. The entire year of 2016 I’d been working closely with my doctor, chiropractor and coaches to manage my pain and strengthen my pelvic girdle. Within two miles of each other my phone battery died and I was in a lot of pain. Luckily, the crowds were there to keep me going. Teammates posted up near the finish line really helped with that last mile or two push.

The Finish

Your downhill run to the finish line

I finished my first half with a 1:52:29 coming out to a 8:34 min/mi average. Couldn’t have been happier. I felt so accomplished and it felt like the perfect way to say good bye to my Virginia home. My hip was screaming at me as soon as I stopped running. I felt a little lost since I was there alone. Unsure of where to go and what to do next. Luckily, Graham was right there at the end waiting for me to introduce the wonders of the post-race party. Massage in a heated tent? Yes, please. Bananas, hot pizza, gatorade, coffee? Yes, please. Finishers blanket?? YES, PLEASE.

Gripping my painful hip, but grinning like an idiot for finishing

Graham and I at the Finish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a fun time chatting about our races and wandering around the Finish area which was located on Brown’s Island. The post-race party vibes were going strong and the craft beer that Richmond has an abundance of was flowing. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better first half marathon experience. If you are in the Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina area I highly recommend the Anthem Richmond Half or Full. It is a really well put on race, tons of race frills, scenic easy course, and the best spectators you could hope for. I would definitely run it again if we find ourselves on the East Coast.

Must Eat Restaurants                                        Must Drink Beer

Pearl Raw Bar (literally one of my favorites ever)                         Strangeways Brewing  (My personal fave)

Burger Bach (amazing New Zealand beef burgers)                       The Veil (my 2nd fave)

Mosaic                                                                                             Hardywood (A Richmond Classic)

Heritage                                                                                                Three Notch’d 

Can Can Brasserie (Upscale French Food – worth.it)                  Triple Crossing 

3 Monkeys ( Must Do for Brunch)                                                  Mekong (Tri Girl/Tri Quest Team Fave)

Citizen Burger Bar (right down in the Fan)

The Daily (Great cocktails, great atmosphere)

Ironman 70.3 New Orleans

Race Recap \\ Not So Big Easy

IM New Orleans 70.3 went array on so many levels – some in my control, some not. I visited NOLA 4 years ago and fell in love with the architecture, charm, characters, and food in the city. As the name of the blog suggests – location is a huge factor to me when choosing races. My dear friend Jayme (featured in many of the Guam & the Taiwan posts) moved back to the mainland around when we did. She mentioned she & her husband were going to do New Orleans and I was sold. She was worried about the water being gross; I was just happy it was warm!

We arrived on the Friday before the race and got situated in our hotel at the Hilton Riverside. Friday night was filled with some confusion as the information on the Facebook page conflicted with the information in the athlete guide. We tried to deduce what was the closest to the correct times and make a plan for the next day. This was just the beginning of the disorganization of this race.

Pre Race Prep

We started Saturday by heading over for the practice swim. Since the swim was taking place in Lake Pontchartrain where there is boat traffic there were very rigid approved swim times. To me the water wasn’t too gross. It didn’t have a taste it was just brown. We spent about 15 minutes swimming before getting out to go check in. After we had our packets we decided to ride the run course a bit. You could feel some wind but it honestly was not that bad. How fooled we were.  The course had 3 bridges that honestly had short mild climbs.  It felt great to be riding with my friend again. Jayme is such a strong cyclist I’m always in awe of her bike times.

When we were done with everything we had to do at the race site we drove over to the garden district. There’s an amazing donut place called District Donuts that is absolutely worth a detour if you’re visiting. We spent a little time walking off our lunch (donuts) and window shopping in all the cute boutiques. Afterwards we returned to the hotel to shower and enjoy a little down time. The hunt for a safe pre-race dinner restaurant was much easier this trip than it was in Taitung.

We didn’t want to go very far and so we chose a restaurant within walking distance called Marcello’s. HIGHLY recommend. Not only was our food fantastic but they had the coolest wine selection. You were allowed to walk through their vast collection from different countries and pick a bottle. They’d serve it at the table and you could cork it after to take home.  It was hard to be with so much nice wine and not be able to imbibe! I had the lasagna and Jayme ordered the bolognese. The two dishes were really delicious. We walked home, prepped some gear, and got in bed. All by 7:30pm 🙂

Back burning rubber together

My lovely dinner date at Marcello’s

 

 

 


Race Morning: 4 am

Coffee & breakfast in the room. I was a total mess. I hadn’t slept all night tossing and turning stressing about the race. A huge bundle of nerves was all I was. We were packed & ready to roll to the race site by 5am. We got to transition around 5:30 am and the weather had certainly turned overnight. A cold front had come in strong bringing some frightful winds with it. Mark my words – this is the last race I go to where I don’t bring a wind breaker or something warm for the bike. I had more than enough time to get set up and get some serious worrying done. We were racked with our age group and like usual I was intimidated as hell by the fancy bikes around me.

Transition closed at 6:45 am meaning I had to leave my sweatshirt behind and shuffle barefoot and frozen to the waters edge. Jayme, smartly, had a shirt to throw away but I think she’d say even that wasn’t enough.

Swim Start: 7:00 am 7:15 am 7:30 am

We swam straight out between these two boat docks to start and made a right

We waited at the dock’s edge for over 15 minutes before we got the first announcement that they were reviewing the swim. I was just praying at this point that it wasn’t cancelled all together. By the time they decided they were going to shorten the swim to 600 yd it was 7:30 am. It was another 15 minutes by the time they sent the first people into the water. I seeded myself aggressively this race and was one of the first women in the water. Having been shivering for 45 minutes the water felt super warm. The protected area was easy but when you turned right into the open water it was a washing machine. Waves were hitting you in the face each breath. People were flailing left and right needing aide. I felt great however. Strong and smooth. Like a badass.

Lake grime aside feeling like a champ

T1 : 7:40 am

the very short swim

A quick smooth transition. No wetsuit to take off. No need to pee. Just putting on some socks, shoes, a helmet and jumping on my bike.  Thankfully, this transition area was close together and an easy in and out.

Bike Course: 7:43 am

The bike, how do I even recount this leg? Wind. So – much – wind. This was the only bike ride I’ve ever done that literally sucked out my soul & my will to live. About 15 miles in I knocked off my visor while trying to wipe my nose. I’d been pretty sick with a wicked head cold & cough the week leading up to the race. When I stopped to get my visor I realized my back bottle cage had lost a screw. Luckily, I had some tools with me to tighten it back up and be on my way. But no!

That was also when I realized my back bottle had inexplicably been punctured? Sabotage? All of my nutrition had been leaking out the back of my bike which was now very, very sticky. I think I only burned maybe 3-4 minutes on this whole endeavor so I wasn’t too worked up. I spent the next hour battling straight into 18 mph winds. It was unrelenting and there was no relief. This was a two loop course and the portion where you got that nice 25 mph tailwind was quite short in proportion. This bike was so hard for me.

The pain I had in my sit bones from pushing down so hard on the pedals was excruciating. I would have done anything to get off that bike. It was misery. People were passing me left and right like they weren’t even working. Was I in a personal wind tunnel? Why is my bike so weak? Why am I so weak? It was dark, DARK, 3 hours. Getting only more bleak as I passed the 3 hour mark making this my worst 70.3 bike to date.

3 hours and 20 minutes I was finally able to get off the damn bike.

Fake it till you make it

T2 : 11:00 am or so

I felt my 2nd transition was pretty smooth all things considered. Mentally, I had thrown away the bike ride. It was done and I was moving on to the part I’m actually good at. Running.

Run Course: 11:04 am

Smile when you feel like dying, or puking, or crying, or all of the above

My pacing goal was sticking to 8 minute miles which I’d been able to hit in training. That is where I started out for the first 5 miles or so. I felt pretty good and my form was looking strong. Then I began to slip 8:30’s but I accepted it and was still happy. Mile 8 – the wheels fell OFF the bus. Total system failure. I’m still not sure if this is what “bonking” is but literally everything took a turn for the worse.

My stomach was cramping so bad and I was extremely nauseous feeling like I needed to puke. I felt weak and light headed. My legs? They no longer worked and my left leg decided to tell me exactly where each and every tendon is located. I was hurting in so many locations worse than usual. Really, it was when I was passed by a couple girls in my age group and didn’t feel that fire to catch them or hang on I knew I was done. My normal competitive streak just stopped caring. It was ugly. I knew this course should have been perfect for me but I just lost all of my internal battle ready shield maiden.

This was a two loop run course with a wicked hill climb just past miles 1 and 12

I was drinking water and Gatorade at every aide station. I wish there had been more ice but there was only ice at the first aide station by mile 1. It felt hot that morning but not too bad. My head was all over the place and I think this was hard to have both physical & mental break down. Literally, I felt like the last racer on the course which was breaking me.

Med Tent Finish: No podium, But Alive

I finished weakly and feeling terrible. As soon as I stopped I knew I was going to puke. The kind volunteers got me to the med tent where they gave me some oranges and offered me an IV. At first, I refused but I felt so weak & sick I finally changed my mind. I spent probably 30 minutes with some blankets getting 1000 ml of fluids back into me. Man, those seasoned nurses are incredible. Those ladies got a IV in me on the first stick with minimal pain. Hats off! I didn’t stick around for awards as there wasn’t much of an after party going on. Getting a shower and some quiet time in the hotel room was exactly what I needed before we celebrated in the French Quarter.

The face you make when you’re amazed you’re alive

The Traveling Triathlete’s New Orleans Recommendations

** My Faves are linked ** 

Eat Me                                                        Drink Me                                                                             See Me

Cafe Du Monde (Bignets)                  Pat O’ Briens (the OG hurricanes)                      Jackson Square \ Church of St. Louis

The Ruby Slipper (Brunch)              Lafittes Blacksmith Shop                                     Ghost or Vampire French Quarter Tour

Atchafalaya (Brunch)                       Tropical Isle (Hand Grenades\ Tourists)         NOLA Architecture Tour

Brennan’s (Brunch)                           Bourbon Pub (Always Gay, Always A Party)   Lalaurie Mansion

Broussard’s [Jazz Brunch!]               Hotel Monteleone Carousel Bar                        Garden District / Buckner Mansion

District Donuts                                   Cure (Craft Cocktails)                                           Mardis Gras – Parades, floats, etc (duh)

Mother’s [Po’ Boys Sandwhiches]     Cat’s Meow (Live Music & Karaoke)                 Cemetery Tour or Swamp Tours

Commander’s Palace [Celebration Dinner]

Galatoire’s [Celebration Dinner]

Superior Seafood

Acme Oyster House [Gumbo]

 

 

The Sandman

Race Recap Time \ Santa Cruz’s Sandman Tri

The night before the Sandman I was at work. We weren’t that busy with equine patients requiring care so I spent a good chunk of time researching my biggest worry. Great. White. Sharks. In June, two dozen juveniles had been spotted in the bay. July, a dead white shark washed up on shore. Last summer, a man was bit and killed in the bay. That’s it. I’m not swimming. Then there was the cold water temperature. I was informed after looking online that this time of year was warm between 65-70 F. Spoiler Alert: it was not. It was 58 F.

However, I had roped my college friend Ben into doing this race with me and he was going to be at the house by 5:30am to head up to Santa Cruz. Peer pressure wins again. Honestly, I would have thought I’d be more exhausted after having worked a 10 hour shift. I came home changed clothes quickly and Paul helped us load the bikes and gear into the truck.

Race Morning: 5:30 am

Ben, my friend from my Purdue days, and I before the start

The drive from Monterey up to the state park where the race was being held took us about 45 minutes. This race does have a $10 cash parking fee so be sure someone in your group has some money! On the drive up I ate my usual race breakfast of oatmeal and a banana. There was an intense fog when we arrived, which is very typical for this part of California, and part of me wished the swim would get cancelled. It did not. We squeezed into our wetsuits and then tentatively went for a warm up swim.

Swim Start: 8:05 am

The swim course as swum by a drunk haha

I thought I had warmed up sufficiently, I had not. Looking back this is obvious but the water was so numbingly cold that at the time I could barely stand the 5 minutes I was in it. The men went off first and we started 5 minutes later. We ran into the water from the beach and fortunately it got deep enough to swim comfortably very quickly. I felt like I started out okay but immediately the cold water takes your breath away. Still, I knew what was going on and remember to just take a slower stroke and breathe deep.

I made it to the first turn buoy which was at the end of the historic sunken cement ship. Then my world slid “off screen” like I’d been drinking all night. The horizon was moving all over my field of vision and I felt like I was going to vomit. It was scary and I tried to look around for help but couldn’t see anybody. I felt a little scared but floated on my back for a bit and hoped for it to pass.

Nothing changed and I told myself I had to make forward progress so I tried to continue on to the next buoy. I couldn’t sight for the life of me because everything was spinning. Yet, I made it to the 2nd turn and started heading back towards the beach. It was such a struggle that between the nausea and cold the last thing on my mind was Jaws. Which, is a win. You made a right and swam along the beach for a while. It wasn’t until this point I started to get my stride together. That being said, I still came out of the water pretty disorientated and with my classic calf cramps. I miraculously finished in 19:51 (1:46/100m) … who knows?

T1: 8:29 am 

T1 was a little bit of a struggle. The air temperature was sitting around 60 F and it never warmed up after that. I had a hard time up through the soft sand and an even harder time getting my wetsuit off. Ben had been racked next to me so I could immediately see he was out on the bike already when I got there. I was a little disappointed with my transition time of 4 minutes.

Bike Course: 8:33 am

The bike course felt like a climb the whole time. It started out with a steady climb and continued into one continuous climb-flat repeat. There were plenty of other ladies to give me people to chase which made the beginning go fast. Fortunately, there wasn’t bad wind to deal with but it didn’t warm up either. In the future I will definitely pack a wind breaker or sleeves. Something to help warm me up and keep the cold air off me.

You spend much of the second half of the bike heading back down your big climb which is great for making up some time. Just be aware that right before you come back into transition you will face an incredibly steep downhill that can be clogged with car traffic. They will make you slow way down since there are large speed bumps to go over. If you’re not careful I could see people going over their handle bars. I felt like I was going to!

Overall, the bike course is not closed but you don’t really have car traffic to contend with. It isn’t until the very end that you feel like you’re avoiding cars some.  I was lucky in that I fell in with a guy who I was leap frogging with most of the race. I’d pass him on the climbs and he’d pass me on the downhills. It always irritated me when he’d fly down by me and encouraged me to work harder on the hills.  I finished the bike in 48:47 averaging 16 mph. Not great.

 

 

 

T2: 9:21 am

I felt great flowing through T2. I made it in a great 1:35 but it also helps the transition area was super small.

Run Course: 9:23 am

Swim course is in purple, bike is red, and run course is blue

Newsflash – it was still cold at this stage of the game. I thought the run was going to be through soft sand and I was dreading it! While I was SLIGHTLY relieved to find out that there was a nice hard pack shoulder to run on I was still apprehensive on how it was going to go. Once, I hit the hard pack I was good to go. It’s a simple out and back run (my favorite!). You start going under the pier you swam around and it was especially exciting to see Paul up there cheering. I finished the 4 mile run in 30:33 (avg. 8:15/mile) for a total time of 1:44:55. The run actually went by pretty fast and you run over the ups and downs of the sand & surf. Just look out for any dead marine life like the seal I passed!

Post Race Party … or Nap

I didn’t feel like this was my best race and I finished frustrated that I could have done better. Ben and I posted the exact same finish time… okay fine Ben, you beat my by 30 seconds! I still made it on the podium for my age group which was exciting. I wanted to finish higher overall but I’ll take this for my first and maybe only race in this region. For a cold day filled with cold water and cold air it was fun looking back on it. After awards Paul, Ben, and I went to brunch at Avenue Cafe. There was a bit of a wait and I promptly fell asleep waiting for our table. I was in such a zombie state during brunch I can’t even remember what I ordered. Paul and Ben told me the food was very good however! We highly recommend it for a post race refuel.

 

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead

Race Recap Time!!

We’re going back in time with this post to my very first 70.3 race in August of 2016. It was my first season of racing injury free. At this point I only had 2 olympics and a 70.3 Aquabike under my belt. Originally my plan for my first 70.3 was the one in beautiful Miami! I could drive there from Virginia and it was a place I wanted to visit (always a consideration for a traveling triathlete!). However, as planning progressed I realized it was going to be pretty expensive to fly 3 people to Florida and get hotel rooms for everyone. Having my family there for this big milestone was very important to me. I got on the ol’ google to learn about some races within driving distance of Chicago… like 70.3 Steelhead.

Enter Steelhead

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead is put on in a little beach town in south west Michigan called Benton Harbor. It won an Athlete’s Choice Award in 2017 for Overall Satisfaction and Best Run Course. Upon further investigation I learned it was only 30 minutes north of my Grandfather’s beach house! It was settled. The course appeared flat, always a requirement for me, and fast. The multi loop lollipop shaped run course also would allow my family to see me a couple times. I liked that it was in a lake (albeit one that historically thinks it’s another ocean) with no scary marine life and comfortable temperatures. Plus it was an easy hour or so drive for my friends and family in Chicago. Everyone could stay at the lake house so no hotel rooms were involved. Big bonus. That just left getting me and my bike, Gwen, to Michigan.

With my cousin, her boyfriend, and sister enjoying the local brewery, Greenbush Brewing Co, for some carb loading the night before! Water only for me 🙁 For more local recommendations scroll to the bottom!

Race Morning: 4am

I told my family and friends there was no need to get up as god awful early as I was going to have to at 4am. We decided to split into two groups with my best friend Felecia and my mum doing the early run. While Dad, sister Shea, Aunt Linda, and my cousins came later closer to the start. I ate my usual pre-race breakfast of oatmeal with a banana and started furiously hydrating. The 30 minute drive over was easy and parking wasn’t too much of a hassle. I racked my bike and started setting up my transition area as the butterflies and nerves mounted. Could I do this? Was I crazy? Was I going to fail in front of those closest to me??

Superior Support Crew: Dad, Aunt Linda, moi, BFF Felecia, Sister Shea, and Mummy

As the clock ticked closer to 7am I was more and more concerned. We found out around 6am that the water temperature at Steelhead was sitting around 76 F and was therefore NOT wetsuit legal. This suited me just fine since I didn’t have much experience wearing my wetsuit and felt I was faster without it. My warm up swim was enjoyable and started to garner me some confidence that I could survive the swim.

Swim Start: 7am

Aunt Linda & Felecia made some killer signs

Steelhead has a rolling start meaning the gun goes off for the pros ( around 6:45-6:50 am) and then each age group enters the water to about waist deep and waits for their gun. My wave ended up actually starting closer to 7:40 am by the time we got in the water.

The start of the swim was crazy. There were hundreds of people and bodies and limbs. The term “washing machine start” was in full effect. I kept to the back and outside and just tried to make forward process.
As Coach Cyndi always said “just one buoy at a time” and that is what I did. The swim here, in Lake Michigan, is a triangle course. You swim out, make a right hand turn, swim to the next turn buoy, turn right again, and then head for the beach. I felt all in all the swim was pretty great. Despite a few kicks to the head and being swam over by the men behind me I didn’t find it too stressful. The water was a little choppy but there weren’t any real waves to speak of.

 

T1 : 8:24 am

Gratefully transition was short and fast. You come out of the water onto the sandy beach and run through a sand corral that leads you back to transition. Fortunately you aren’t going far and there were some little kiddie pools you could run through to help remove some of the sand. A great tip from my coach that I used here is to keep a water bottle by your spot in transition just for rinsing. So while I was seated putting on my socks and shoes I rinsed quickly with the extra water to get any extra sand out. I hoped it would help with later chafing & rubbing. As it turns out, it did not.

I was not especially fast in T1 and this didn’t bother me too much in retrospect. My goal for Steelhead was to finish, have fun, and push myself to accomplish something I never thought I’d do. So I took my time and made sure I was comfortable.  Double checking that everything was in working order. Even made a port-a-potty stop on the way out. I don’t remember seeing my cheerleaders but they told me that they could see me. I think I was in T1 for around 3 minutes and I was off on my bike.

Bike Course: 8:27 am

This 56 mile bike is mostly on Highway 63 and while it is not a closed course I don’t remember traffic being crazy. My memory of this course is nothing but a positive one. Steelhead has an out and back single loop course (woo hoo!) was scenic and enjoyable. The local police and volunteers made the turns clear and the aide stations efficent. The Athlete guide says that there is 1262 feet of elevation gain but I honestly don’t remember doing any climbing. All of that gain was gradual small rollers that were quick to hit and roll down the other side.

The worst part of this ride for me was getting stung by a wasp in the neck around mile 15. I wasted a lot of water trying to splash my face and decrease the swelling. Hoping & praying that my throat didn’t swell up. Unless your spectators are willing to drive around to see you they really won’t get a chance to see you on the bike course. My family said they had a great time watching the final swim finishers after I left on the bike. They hung out on the beach and enjoyed the lake until the cyclists started coming back in. Many families will set up a little beach spot and make a beach day of it while their athlete is out on the course.

Heading into T2 like a bat out of hell!

T2: 11:23 am

T2 was a quick and easy transition for me. I changed my shoes. Found my visor and glasses. Grabbed my race belt and rolled out of there. Not before a quick pit stop at the T2 exit to get slathered with some sun screen by the volunteers.

Run Course: 11:25 am

Steelhead Run Course

My run started off strong, I thought I felt okay, … until I didn’t. You start out flat and shaded for about the first 1.2 miles until you make a sharp left hand turn and stare down a massive hill. In my memory this hill was Everest. I remember thinking I am not going to even attempt to run this – walking is the only way to survive. Essentially the entire N. Shore Dr portion on the map below is this deadly hill. Almost everyone was walking. I’m pretty sure it accounts for 80% of the 203 ft elevation gain. Once you get to the top of the hill you are at the base of the “lollipop”. I picked up my run again and thought I’m having fun.

Survival of the Fittest

As I ran through the streets of the neighborhoods in the course many people were on their lawn cheering the athletes which was really fun. One house even had dixie cups of beer! Don’t mind if I do! Around 3-4 miles in (EARLY) I started feeling some discomfort and blisters form in my arches and heels of both feet. So at the first aide station I came to I stopped to put on band-aides. When I stopped both hamstrings and groin muscles started cramping. Eat a banana. Apply band-aides. Keep going? But how?? I shuffled along for a few miles after that hoping that things would get better.

Fake it till you make it

It wasn’t until I hit the wooded park portion of the run through the Whirlpool Campus that I started to feel a bit better. I was sticking to my nutrition and trying to keep my head in the game. There is another short but steep hill that you will hit twice on the top part of the lollipop. Right when you exit out of the Whirlpool park you will begin this climb. At this point my feet were in extreme pain and the blisters were all I could think about. As I approached my second lap I could see my family at the head of the lollipop waiting to see me go by. I knew I needed to pick it up and not let them see how much I was suffering. Seeing them and their fantastic signs was one of the best parts of the day.

Like I said, this group killed it on the sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After I was out of eye-shot I resumed my suffering and my internal monologue about how awful this was and how I am never ever doing another one. Why do people do this? So a full Ironman is DOUBLE this distance? Never. The entire second lap I just couldn’t stop thinking about how much pain my feet were in. My legs didn’t feel too gassed but my feet! Good grief! I took out my special coin that I carried with me in honor of my boyfriend (now husband 🙂 ) and imagined he was running with me. Every step of that last lap was a dig deep struggle. I made it down the killer hill and tried to pick it up for that last leg. One foot in front of the other.

Finally into the Steelhead finishers chute and the coolest experience happened. Strangers left and right were cheering for me BY NAME! (Your name is written on your bib, they weren’t all psychics!) I was brought to tears by all these people supporting me (and others!). It was the best most motivating feeling and I realized I had finished! I had done it!

Getting high fives from your BFF is the BEST!

A teammate taught me to always smile for the camera men even if you want to die 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Time Finisher

As I came across the finish line, exhausted, bloody, but proud. I received my medal and through the crowd pushed my sister to give me that first big hug. We were both crying and I couldn’t believe I’d done it. I finished with a time of 6 hours and 1 minute. Spot on my goal/projected time of 6 hours. I couldn’t be prouder. Finishing Steelhead 70.3 was easily one of the happiest days of my life. After the race I immediately took off & trashed my socks (which were soaked in blood – yuck), got a wonderful post-race massage by a blind man, and went to claim my victory pizza.

We drove back to the lake house and spent the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the memories of the day. All in all, I highly recommend this race to other first timers and may even consider racing it again sometime in the future for all the reasons mentioned above.

Immediate elation with Shea!

Riding home top down with my mum & Felecia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recommendations in the Steelhead area:

Greenbush Brewery – excellent craft beers, even more excellent pulled pork mac n’ cheese! Definitely worth stopping by on your way to or from Benton Harbor

The Peasant’s Pantry – really delicious post race breakfast or lunch!

Mesa Luna – my fave upscale restaurant in Sawyer! Perfect for post race celebrating. You should go for the cinnamon-honey butter alone!

Bread and Bar – fun restaurant & bar to send your family to for provisions during the race, great atmosphere and view of the river

The Mason Jar – smaller cafe with an affordable breakfast and other meals throughout the day. Super popular in the area so you may expect a wait.