As If We Never Said Goodbye: IM Victoria 70.3

The atmosphere as thrilling here as always
Feel the early morning madness
Feel the magic in the making
Why, everything’s as if we never said goodbye
-Sunset Boulevard

After a tense build-up to IM Victoria 70.3, I was just happy to be at the starting line. Three weeks earlier, I was feeling really good about the progress I had made. My swimming and running were seeing improvement, and I hoped that my biking would be there for me when I needed it. Then, on a routine Tuesday tempo run, I had a little sensation in my right calf. “No biggie,” I thought. However, the moment I finished my run, the sensation became a searing pain that even made it hard to walk. Immediately, I was terrified that I had yet another DNS on the horizon.

It was a strained calf. Not terrible, so I threw everything I knew to throw at it. I went to chiro/Active Release Therapy, I had a massage, I slept in a Plantar Fasciitis sock, I iced it, Compex’ed it, Kinesio-taped it. Oh, and I rested it. I pretty much had to take a week off of training—the most important week leading into a race.

So one week out, I still hadn’t done 56 miles on my bike, and I needed to do that in order to know I could. Beggars can’t be choosers, so I headed out in the heat of the day … 92 degrees. I had forgotten how awful that is … hot wind, hot water bottles, sunburn and a complete nutritional crash. I made it the 56 miles, but it was ugly. However, being the theatre nerd I am, I know that sometimes a bad dress rehearsal precedes a great opening night.

My calf was feeling pretty good the week of the race, so I decided to attempt my first endurance triathlon since IM Lake Tahoe, September 2013. Kevin helped me get all my gear in order and we headed out early Friday morning before a Sunday race. The Anacortes to Victoria ferry only runs once a day so there were plenty of other early bird triathletes onboard.

I had forgotten how much prep work there is for a half Ironman event. I probably spent just as much time prepping as I did racing. Between packing, packet pickup, shake out workouts, bike check up, repacking, and all the other things on my checklist, its a wonder that any of us even have energy for racing! Especially now that they start at an inhumane 6 am. Since when?!? That means that breakfast had to be eaten by 4 am and we had to be out the door by 4:15.

I did a great job of staying focused in transition and getting everything set up, and getting out of there. I got in my full planned run and swim warmup which rarely happens. They announced that the swim would be marginally shortened due to weeds in the lake. 1500 yards was the new proposed swim distance—a few 100 yards shy of a mile.

SWIM—Goal: Stay calm.

The start of the swim was pretty smooth for a triathlon swim. I quickly got into a rhythm. I was happy to be racing again! But it wasn’t very long until I ran into a backstroker, and lost my mojo. I remained calm, and picked up where I left off. I was passing swimmers and feeling pretty good until we made the turn back to the finish. I really wanted to swim in calmer waters and I found them—off course. I ended up swimming a little over distance as a result. The final approach to the dock was pretty chaotic, but I waited my turn and had a big smile on my face as I jogged my way over to transition. I had finished the swim. I was was racing again!! Goal achieved.

BIKE—Goal: Stay within conservative power numbers. Eat and drink on schedule.

I took longer in transition, as I expected. I was kicking off some serious rust. But in less than 5 minutes, I was out on the bike course. It was a bit cold to start, and my problem back wheel continued to give me grief—rubbing on the break after numerous checks and double-checks by mechanics. But that was no longer in my control, outside of using the couple of tricks that sometimes help. I tried to focus on the road. It was a very technical course, with lots and lots of turns. I took them like any good bike racer would, and I think that saved me some time. I had forgot that the majority of the bike field I’d see were male, which can be frustrating. They have a tendency to pass you and then take a snack break, meaning that they are not maintaining their passing speed and force you to fall back. It’s annoying. But I am principled and refuse to get a drafting penalty, so I fall back. I did a great job with eating, a great job with drinking in the first half of the ride, and not-so-great in the second half. As far as memorable parts on course, there is a meaty out-and-back with a nice steady climb, and a screaming fast descent the other direction. Some may know that I have had a mental block on fast descents for a few years now. But the long climb next to it gave me the time to look at it, make peace with it, and get ready to rock it! I didn’t hit my breaks once. I stayed aero and hit 44.8 mph. That is huge for me! I was pumped! After all the rolling hills (and questionable bike fitness) I was ready to get off my bike and run! It was the most conservative I’ve ever raced a HIM on the bike, but I was still feeling good about it.

RUN—Goal: Keep cadence high. Eat/drink. Reevaluate every 2-3 miles. Have fun!

The run is a trail run that starts with a steep kicker right out of transition. I was happy to have my trail shoes and I started off really easy. The technical sections were fun as most of my long run training has been out on various trails near Seattle. Things were really smooth until I could feel a blister come on at mile 5. That blister would become so big, it looked like I was trying to grow a second big toe. My pace slowed a bit, but I kept thinking I needed to keep my cadence high and not fall into the Ironman shuffle pace that was setting into those around me. I hadn’t focused on the race aspect of the day every much at all until the end. Less than 1/2 mile to go, a woman in my age group was running in front of me and was well within my reach. I tried to pick it up, pass her, and finish strong. Done, done, and done!  I crossed the finish line in 5:18 with my arms in the air! I was back to endurance triathlon racing!!

It was so nice to be part of the community and see friendly faces that I haven’t seen in awhile. The cheers from fellow racers or spectators felt really good. The camaraderie may be my favorite part of the whole thing. Nothing like big sweaty hugs, sharing of war stories, and celebrating the big wins (Go Sarah!) and the little ones.

As always, it takes a lot of preparation, a little luck, and a ton of support to get to the start line of a race and be successful at the finish line. Here is a short list of people I’d like to thank for their help!

Kevin: Obviously. He is my better half and was an amazing sherpa. He got up at 3 am to make me breakfast. He remembered the bike pump when I forgot. He took awesome race photography.

Coach Tom: Thanks for being patient with my schedule and planning smart workouts. And always believing in what I can do.

Mike and Saul at Blue Seventy: I had ordered the wrong goggles and they helped me get what I needed to race. They worked great and I was so thankful!

Bruk at Real Rehab: Thanks for your advice regarding my calf.

Dr. Kevin Rindahl and staff at InHealth: Thanks for helping keep my body in one piece!

Alexa: Thanks for being the best massage therapist an injury prove athlete could hope for!

The ladies at Studio Evolve Pilates—Nicole, Annie, but mostly Caitlin: Thanks for teaching me to use my core that has opened up new ways of moving for me.

Carson: Thanks for helping me with my cleats, and pedals, and power tap wheels. You have always been so generous with your time and knowledge!

Alicia: Even though you don’t tri anymore, your cheers and well wishes always make me happy.

Kevin’s parents: Thanks for always taking care of our little Wrigley when needed. He loves you both so much and we know we never have to worry about him.

All in all, I’m feeling energized and ready to put in the work headed into Ironman in October! I accomplished my two larger goals of finishing and finishing under 5:30. But cooler still? I was able to walk normal the next day. There is more in the tank, I can feel it!

Thanks for taking the time to read and share in my journey. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

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back on track

[Tap, tap, tap …] Is this thing on?

Hi! I’ve taken a ver lengthy blog sabbatical. Two immediate reasons come to mind.

  1. I’ve been injured.
    Annoyingly so. In APRIL of 2014, I stress fractured my left foot’s navicular bone. If

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    I lived as a pirate for 16 weeks.

    you’d like more info on the significance of this particular injury, I encourage you to read athlete super couple Jess Thomas’ and Lauren Fleshman’s experience HERE and HERE.Almost two years later, I’m able to resume run training with some normalcy. I’m incredibly grateful. When it comes to training, I life to write about the good stuff—the breakthroughs, the comical mishaps, the race reports. Truthfully, I’ve suffered a lot of setbacks, disappointment, and heartache—which frankly didn’t inspire me to write all that much.

  2. My job involves a lot of writing.
    I love writing! I always have, but when its your job, sometimes you want a little rest from it. I got that whole worn shoes for shoemakers thing going on.But for better or for worse, training is going enough for me to feel inspired to pick up where I trailed off. That, or I just finished reading Mindy Kaling’s book, “Why Not Me” on a cross-country flight and it was the kick in the ass I needed. And, I needed to kill another hour and I’ve already watched two inflight movies.

    Just recently I signed up for what will, with lots of hard work, be my fourth Ironman. This time, I’m going to go FAST—tackling the flat course of Ironman Beach to Battleship in North Carolina on October 22. Wish me luck! I’m going to need all I can get.

 

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Ironman Lake Tahoe: IM Winter Edition

Also known as “You’re Gonna Hear Me Roar … Until I Nearly Pass Out.”

My race reports get long. Really long. That’s why they are few and far between. So, for the wide range of attention spans, I have provided race reports of varying lengths:

One word: Breathtaking.

One sentence: I endured a surreal swim, a cold and challenging ride, and an asthmatic marathon to complete Ironman #3.

One paragraph: Although I didn’t have the race I prepared for, I kept fighting all day. I swam off-course through fog beneath snow-capped peaks. I cycled with courage that resulted in a small lead off the bike. I then dug deep to finish a marathon with severe altitude sickness. I completed my 3rd Ironman on what’s being called the second most challenging of all time. It all came full circle. I wasn’t winning and I knew it. I was winning and didn’t know it. I was winning and knew it. I wasn’t winning and didn’t know it. And finally, I wasn’t winning and I knew it.

Also, here is the link to the highlight video of the day. Kevin and I are featured briefly at :57-:58. Click Here.

Long, overly-detailed story:

PRE-RACE 

I signed up for Ironman Lake Tahoe over a year ago. When I started working with my coach, Mackenzie Madison, last October, she asked if I could pick a different race, due to the exceptional challenge she knew was ahead of me. Of course not. I was mentally and financially committed to Lake Tahoe. So we set out for the challenge ahead.

I picked this race for a couple of reasons. I want to qualify for Kona and knew that the race’s timing would make it hard for a perennial Kona participant to do both. I also knew that because no one had raced it before, I would have just as good of a chance of figuring out a winning equation as anyone else. I also need a hard bike course, which this race had, and I tend not to do well in really hot races.

My preparation started out rough. In November, I stress fractured my tibia, a cuneiform in my foot, and suffered a stress reaction in my other foot. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, I was wheeling around on a knee scooter and was the temporary owner of a handicapped parking placard. I gained 15 pounds from the holiday/depressive eating combined with limited exercise.

My feet and leg eventually healed, and after a long stint of physical therapy, I resumed training and got into the best shape of my life.

The known challenges of Ironman Lake Tahoe were daunting—a race at altitude between 6,000-7,000 feet with a known elevation gain of 6,700’ —more than any other Ironman. (In the end, we climbed 7,363’ on race day.)

In preparation, I spent the 4th of July weekend training on course, and was fortunate to spend 2½ weeks prior to race day at similiar altitude in New Mexico in hopes to acclimate a bit.

Feeling really ready right before leaving Seattle for New Mexico, I started to get a pain in my foot, reminiscent of my cuneiform stress fracture from earlier in the year. My heart sank. It even hurt to walk. I stopped running immediately. I spent the last three weeks before race day aqua jogging, hoping I could still make it to the start line. I also experienced the return of the pinched nerve in my right hip that makes my quad go tingly in the most maddening of ways. I tried massage and Active Release Therapy to get it to stop. Needless to say, all my confidence flew right out the window. I kept both matters pretty private because I didn’t need the world to know that I might not race.

After neurotically checking the weather reports, I had bought wintery layers in New Mexico before leaving. The weather reports were brutal, but everyone assured me that race day would be fine! We flew into Tahoe Thursday night.

Come Saturday, I got on my bike early and finished my shake-out ride and run before the rain storm blew in. Check-in was miserable. The T2 tent was flooded, the expo closed early because the vendor tents were blowing away. It poured all day. I was so thankful that wasn’t the forecast for race day! And then it happened. Around 4 pm, the rain morphed into wet snow.

Checking in with 3 coats on!

Checking in with 3 coats on!

Snow! It was so cold, and still technically the last day of summer. With the potential for ice, I was sure they would delay the race and cut the swim to one lap to allow for warmer temps. But then a got a message from a very reliable source that the race would be done in it’s entirety, no matter what!

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Snow at Squaw Valley, just above the finish line chute.

RACE MORNING

My alarm was set for 2:45 am for a 4:00 am departure. Without an alarm, I woke just after 2 am, alert and ready to prep. Things went relatively smoothly and Kevin and I were on the first shuttle from Squaw Valley and T2 to King’s Beach and T1. It was below freezing—approximately 27 degrees and pitch black.

We arrived as transition opened and I prepped my gear. I was thankful that I double-bagged my T1 gear the day before and that I opened it to add chemical warmer to my bike shoes. Many people found their bags frozen shut.

Preparations in the T1—frigid and dark.

Preparations in the T1—frigid and dark.

Thankfully, they opened the Visitor Center to athletes to keep warm pre-race. Normally, I would have done an in-water warmup, but I didn’t want to freeze by having to exit the water after. So, I used my exercise bands to get my arms warm.

Kevin and I on our wedding anniversary, right before the race start!

Kevin and me on our wedding anniversary, right before the race start!

I wore my neoprene booties to the beach to keep my feet warm waiting for my turn to begin the swim in the new ‘swim smart’ rolling wave start process. I gave them to another age-grouper who wanted to wear them while swimming. The moment I took them off my feet were blocks of ice.

SWIM

Once I got into the water, my feet thawed immediately in the relatively warm 60-64-degree water, although it was much colder closer to shore.

Incredible setting for the Ironman swim.

Incredible setting for the Ironman swim.

Wading through the water was surreal. Sunrise had just started over the snow-capped peaks, lighting the clearest, bluest lake I’ve ever seen. Simply breathtaking. However, I couldn’t see any buoys. Zero. The fog on the lake was so dense, I couldn’t get oriented. The first buoy I saw was #4 and I was nowhere near it! I swam so off course. I tried to stay calm—even as my calves and feet threatened to cramp.

Start of the swim, or a game of hide-and-go-seek with the buoys.

Start of the swim, or a game of hide-and-go-seek with the buoys.

On lap 2, I started to lap the distressed swimmers and although the visibility was a little better, the paddleboards kept getting in my way! I hit two of them. One, really hard in the cheekbone. Needless to say, I was relieved to get out of the water. It was a terrible swim for me—so catawampus that my Garmin said I swam 2.64 miles. That’s nearly a quarter mile long. I had a lot of work to do on my bike.

The cold temps completely sucked the air out of my body after the swim.

The cold temps completely sucked the air out of my body after the swim.

Goal? 1:05:00
Race: 1:13:54

T1

Pure chaos. I expected it to be busy, but with all the racers choosing to do complete clothing changes, it was insanity. I was lucky enough to find a chair and get a towel to place my numb feet.

My frozen hands fumbled to put on my arm warmers, gloves, and the two vests I had prepared to wear. Once my socks, shoes and helmet were on, I clumsily finished the .33 mile run to my bike and was on to the bike course.

Time to ride!

Time to ride!

Goal? 05:00
Race: 08:01

BIKE

The first moments on the bike were excruciating. At 33 degrees, my whole body ached with frozen numbness. I had planned on eating first thing on my bike, but my hands couldn’t unzip my bento box. I tried to drink out of my aero bottle straw, but I couldn’t. It was frozen.

The first incredibly-cold moments on the bike.

The first incredibly-cold moments on the bike.

My next focus was to get warm—get over the initial shock and spin it out. I started to sing in my head the lyrics to the Christmastime song, “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.” (Maybe I should also mention that race day was also my 6th wedding anniversary to my phenomenal husband. So love was definitely also on my mind.) I finally got the bento box open only to find frozen chews.

Still had to wait to eat. It was about 25 minutes before I could attempt to eat and drink. It became priority #1. Wattage goals could wait!

The course is 2 and one-third counterclockwise loops in a somewhat triangular shape. It starts in King’s Beach, and is a gradual downhill all the way to Squaw Valley, with the exception of Dollar Hill, a moderate, one-mile climb. After Squaw, the course heads north on a screaming-fast section to the historic town of Truckee. Once in Truckee, there are a few shorter climbing sections before heading back south with a climbing section in the private, very-exclusive Martis Camp community to the Ritz Carlton. It then winds back down to start a long, steady climb to Brockway Summit at 7,179’ of elevation. Then you scream down the backside of the summit back to King’s Beach to start all over. The ride finishes by turning up to the Olympic Village at Squaw after the second full loop.

Once I got close to Truckee, I was feeling a little better and started focusing on race goals. There is a little steeper section on the other side of town and I tried to do a little bit of climbing while standing up to stretch my legs. Bad idea. I still couldn’t feel my feet so it was really clumsy.

Usually, I get a lot of kicks out of chirping, “on your left” during the bike leg. I am proud that I can ride just as hard, if not harder than a lot of really fit men. There was little joy in it this time as my frozen face made actual words near impossible. I would silently go by one after another. There was very little communication out there.

Once I turned into Martis Camp, the real work began. It starts out rolling, but rudely transforms into a Tour-style climb, complete with steep pitches and switchbacks. That wasn’t the hard part for me. Once I got to the Ritz, I took a deep breath and started the winding descent. My fear of descending, coupled with my lighter weight, led me to witness insanely-fast descents by the guys around me. I just didn’t want to crash so I was very conservative, pumping my breaks all the way down.

Climb, climb, climb. Or, maybe eating a snack.

Climb, climb, climb. Or, maybe eating a snack.

At the bottom of the descent, you make a right-hand turn, and start to climb again. This time its approximately 20 minutes of slow and steady. I was feeling good. Still semi-frozen, but I was happy to be riding steady. The spectators at the top were awesome. Crazy guys in Speedos, running next to you cheering frantically for example. At the top, I was all smiles, but took another deep breath before the next long descent. As I started the descent, I yelled out, “Courage!!” It’s really what I needed in that moment.

It was so fast and scary. I had already seen a couple of ambulance and couldn’t help but wonder what happened. I was so thankful that I had kept all my layers too because that descent was breathtaking.

Back through town at the start of lap 2, I felt like I was getting into a rhythm. But then, random people began yelling cryptic messages at me. “You’re the 10th woman.” “You’re the 28th woman.” I’m guessing one was an age-grouper count and one was including the pros. It was encouraging because I was making up for my slow swim.

Once I got back to Squaw, I heard Kevin’s voice, clear as a bell.

“You’re in 2nd place!”

Hot dog! It was getting warmer, so I ditched my insulated vest at the special clothing drop-off they implemented for this race. (Which was actually my idea!)

2nd place? Let's hunt #1 down!

2nd place? Let’s hunt #1 down!

I had no info on how far back I was, but it was the spark I needed to stay focused. I don’t know where I passed the girl in first, but by mile 72, I was leading my age group in an Ironman race and didn’t know it.

The course difficulty was catching up to me. By the time I reached Martis Camp the second time, my legs burned, but I still couldn’t feel my feet.

At the aid station half way through that section, I saw Phillipians 4:13 on a sign posted in the ground. It’s the same verse featured in my tattoo commemorating my first Ironman. “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.”

I had prayed for God to be very present in my day, and He did not disappoint. I kicked it up a notch. Noticeably tired, I summited Martis Camp for the second time and prepared for the descent.

My arms were fatigued as well and as I descended, my whole body, including my face, went into a painful, constant vibration. I was so happy to be at the bottom, even if it meant it was time to climb Brockway a second time.

By then, the field had really thinned out, which was good because other riders started to weave with fatigue all over the place! One guy nearly took me out. And then I saw them. The poor athletes I was lapping. They were walking their bikes up to the summit. My heart ached for them. They were still on lap 1. I’m nearly positive they didn’t make the bike cutoff.

When I reached the summit for the second time, I wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic. I was tired. I still received a very enthusiastic welcome from the crowd as I was one of the first handful of amateur women to reach the top for the second time. I again mustered a “courage” rally cry and descended the mountain again.

Then, it was a relative cake walk getting back to T2 … relatively. One man yelled, “you have a two-minute lead” as I climbed Dollar Hill. But since I never saw the other girl I passed, it didn’t make sense to me. I should also mention that this is at mile 100 on the bike ride and exactly where I finally had feeling return to my feet.

But, it wasn’t until Kevin yelled, “You’re in first!” as I turned up the last hill to T2 did I know what was happening.

“Nuh-uh!” I said with a smile.

Winning!!

Winning!!

I was elated. I was now knowingly winning an Ironman. And of course, so did everyone around me.

Goal? 5:40:00
Race: 6:14:18

T2

The T2 tent was completely empty. I had it all to myself. I almost skipped in, I was so excited. All the volunteers were just as excited and overly helpful. They wanted to do everything for me. It was so cute. So instead of my usual grab-and-go, I let them get me ready. A stop at the porta-potty and I was on to the run!!

Goal? 02:00
Race: 02:52

RUN

Unfortunately, I would need to visit the next two porta-potties as well. And then comes the more embarrassing part. I was passed while I was in the porta-potty and didn’t know it. So then I spent the next few miles not aware I wasn’t winning anymore. Ignorance really is bliss.

Still winning! (But not for long.)

Still winning! (But not for long.)

It was around mile 5 when the second-place girl in my age group passed me. Then it was like a domino fall … one after another passing me.

I was really struggling because every time I tried to pick up my pace, I got really lightheaded. I thought it might be a lack of calories, so I’d stuff my face with food. Little did I know that wasn’t the issue at all.

Running my race, doing all I can.

Running my race, doing all I can.

At Special Needs, the bite had returned to the air, but was bearable. I slipped on my neon pink arm warmers and passed on my long-sleeved running shirt. Big mistake.

Still fighting, but in a lot of pain.

Still fighting, but in a lot of pain.

I made it to the end of lap one, approximately sixteen miles, and was really hurting. I basically begged the crowd to help me out and keep me moving with their cheering. By the time I got to mile 19/20, I was in really rough shape. I made another potty stop and ate some more food. I was so close to passing out. Another racer handed me some potato chips and I tried to eat them, but they dribbled out of my mouth. A couple of spectators asked if I was okay, and I slurred, “No.” I was barely moving as I hung my head so incredibly low.

Moving so slow, I was starting to get so cold. Achingly cold. The feeling was so miserable and isolating. Then I saw Julie V. and I’m sure she could see the agony on my face. She asked me what I needed and just like Rose in the film “Titanic,” I shivered, “I’m so cold.”

I asked if she could get me a space blanket. I’m not sure if that was breaking the “outside help” rule, but she grabbed one from the next aid station and gave it to me. I was so unbelievably thankful. It felt like a lifesaver at the time, and was certainly, at the very least, a race saver.

Shortly after, I saw my friend Colin, who was rocking his first IM, passing me by. And then the wave of nausea washed over me. In front of the aid station at mile 21, the most spectator-friendly corner of the entire race, I wretched violently. Once, twice, … six ab-crushing times.

It hurt, but I started to feel better. I started to jog again. One spectator cheered, “You’re a warrior!” But my shortness of breath continued to limit my pace.

With my space blanket wrapped around me, I swished my way back to the Village. All the runners running the other direction had the required headlamps on. Although it was twilight, I was spared the headlamp requirement because I was so close to the finish.

At the last aid station, I ditched the space blanket. I “ran” one freezing cold mile to the finish chute. Hands raised toward Heaven, I crossed the finish line. I was so thankful to God for bringing me home as a newly-minted 3-time Ironman.

Finished!!

Finished!!

Goal? 4:00:00
Race: 5:15:02

Total time: 12:54:07, 19th AG

POST RACE

I was immediately whisked away to the med tent. My oxygen levels and body temperature were so low, they wrapped me up in blankets and heat packs. They didn’t have an oxygen tank/mask, so they gave me an inhaler treatment to help me breathe better. The med tent volunteers are truly angels. Once I felt well enough to get up, Kevin and I picked up my things and headed toward our cabin.

I called my coach while watching the race a block away from our accommodations. My heart went out to those still out there in 42 degrees, making their way through the foggy, dark woods with their headlamps. Those are the real warriors.

All in all, it wasn’t the result I trained for, but I am so proud of how I rode and the fight I had to finish. My journey to Kona continues. The light may be further away on the horizon, but it’s brighter than ever!

Now, it’s time to get my foot checked out, rest, recover, enjoy some college football, run the NYC Marathon, and get checked out for possible exercise-induced asthma.

Big shout-out to the companies and organizations who provide amazing products helped get me to the finish line: 2XU, Felt, Clif, Brooks, and Moving Comfort.

I could literally thank every person in my life, but I have to thank my amazing husband, my savvy coach, my supportive parents and in-laws, understanding co-workers, the incredible staff at Speedy Reedy, those who cheered and supported me on race day, and the crazy-awesome triathlon community—namely my fabulous TriBabes!!

Onward!

Sincere thanks ... and yes, I draw like a six-year old.

Sincere thanks … and yes, I draw like a six-year old.

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The Gift of Iron

A lot is written about the sacrifices and trials athletes endure to get to the starting line of an Ironman, but it truly takes a village to make an Ironman. There are the usual support suspects—coaches, teammates, physical therapists, podiatrists, massage therapists, great co-workers, friends, and of course, family.

Family usually sacrifices the most when their loved ones decide to take on the challenge of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run. Their athlete usually spends a lot of time away from home training. But from an athlete’s perspective, you are truly blessed when your family becomes your team.

On September 22, I will wake up before sunrise to start the journey towards my third Ironman finish. September 22 is also my 6th wedding anniversary, which dictates that this year’s traditional gift be one made of Iron.

My husband has already given me the gift of iron many times over. Ask any of our friends—he is truly a one-of-a-kind Ironmate. When I have to wake up at 5 am for a long ride, he’s up before me, making breakfast. For a 2.4-mile swim workout, he’s ready in the kayak to guide me. When I am almost out of water on a 120-mile bike ride, he drives up next to me with fresh bottles. When I’ve passed out from training exhaustion, he quietly takes my bike out to wash it and when I wake, he has a home-cooked meal ready for me.  When I need a swift kick in the behind to get a run in, he’s there to make sure I have zero excuses to get out the door.

I could write endlessly about the wonderful things he does that make it possible for me to chase my Ironman dreams to exhaustion. But what is most amazing is how my passion for triathlon has led him to pursue his own. You will find him taking professional-quality photos on race day of pros and age-groupers alike. (If you see him out on the course, be sure to give him a wave!) You may even see him volunteering. He’s done everything from body marking to medal distribution in the past—it’s almost always a surprise to me. (Rumor has it you’ll see him handing out finisher’s shirts!) But that is the beauty of marriage, growing as people and as a couple. We are truly an Iron Team! 

So whether you are an athlete or a spect-athlete, remember to thank the volunteers, but also remember to thank the village that helped us all get to this day.

Best of luck to all my fellow racers who will also get the gift of Iron. I trust it will be a truly unforgettable present.

And to my Ironmate, thank you for this gift and the blessing of being your wife. Let’s do this together and I promise to do my best to be on time for our anniversary dinner reservation! 

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It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn :: Ironman Calgary 70.3

After Lake Stevens, I felt pretty broken. Both mentally and physically. My crash gave me whiplash, sprained my back, and knocked my hips so hard, one leg was inches longer than the other. I had a hard time getting out of bed and carried an ice pack with me everywhere I went. I had two weeks to recover. And to be honest, I was more worried about my mental and emotional recovery than the physical one.

I have been told so many times about how tough I am, how strong I am, how much of a fighter I am. After Lake Stevens, I felt like I had reached my limit. Another disappointment. Another wasted opportunity. After all the crashes and injuries I’d endured over the last two seasons, my will to rally was seriously compromised. But, the plane tickets were booked, the hotel room reserved, and the race fee paid. I was going to do Calgary, for better or for worse, and give it everything I had left.

I was really happy to find local phenom Graeme Roche was also racing. There is just something nice about knowing that there is someone you know out there on the course with you.

Kevin and I arrived late Friday night. Because I am still new at my job, I don’t have any vacation time yet, so I left after work and planned on flying home Monday before work. Saturday was full of regular pre-race activities, registration, gear check, shake-out run. But the funny thing is, Canada actually feels like a foreign country! Kevin and I had to go scrambling around downtown Calgary in search of an ATM that would take our debit cards in order for me to pay for my one-day Canadian triathlon license. We would encounter a few more hiccups like this, but I figured that just meant race day would be super smooth.

10-minute shakeout run. Those are arm coolers.

During my gear check ride, the wind wildly shifted directions, making for an anxiety-ridden ride along the highway. I turned around early. No need to get all tense or get into an accident the day before the race. I busted out my 10-minute run, racked my bike, dropped off my T2 bag, and Graeme, Kevin, and I went and drove the bike course.

The course looked fast and Graeme and I both knew that if the wind was in our favor, we could be looking at big bike PR times despite the bike course being two miles long at 58 miles. It was a beautiful course through the countryside with bright yellow canola fields and grazing cows. It definitely spoke to my Montana girl roots.

Glorious morning! Let’s go swimming! (And biking, and running!)

Race morning came and the day was gorgeous. I subjected Graeme and Kevin to my usual blabbering and my ‘BIYF Remix Playlist.’ I’m not sure where the wellspring resides, but I was excited to race despite my throbbing hip. Maybe it was the chance to finally race in the sunshine! I heard other racers complaining of the cold morning, but the 56-57 degrees seemed absolutely perfect. Due to the later start time, I got through my pre-race routine smoothly. Kevin took a few pictures of Graeme and me, zipped up our wetsuits, and we headed for the swim start.

SWIM

The wave start of this race was unique. They had the pros go, then all the middle-aged men (30-44), then the young/seasoned men (29 and under, 45 and older), then all the women, and lastly, all the newbies, meaning anyone new to the half ironman distance. There were 10 minutes between each wave. When the 2nd wave of men started, I jumped in the water, hoping to get a little warmup in.

The water was so cold, it took my breath away! I surfaced, gasping for air. The only other time this has happened to me was during a rafting trip in Glacier National Park. The water was 60 degrees, but it felt colder. I shimmied back onto the dock in fear of getting too cold before the race start. I didn’t want my hands to cramp like they had at Boise. The rule at this race is that everyone must be touching the dock for the deep water start. There was quite a bit of jockeying for position, but I held my ground. The next thing I knew, they blew the horn and we were swimming.

The water temperature continued to affect my breathing. I gasped for air for the first 200 yards and could tell I wasn’t alone.  I made it around the first turn buoy relatively cleanly and realized I was in ‘no man’s land.’ I could see the fast women swimmers ahead of me and could sense the pack of average women swimmers behind me. Apparently, I’m not good, but better than average.

Exiting the swim.

I did a pretty good job of swimming in a straight line this time and was very smooth until I began to run into the slow male swimmers who started 10 minutes ahead of me. I had to dodge a few breaststrokers on my way to the exit. I felt like I swam strong, but I was disappointed with my swim time. I wonder if that had to do with the cold water panic at the beginning. No matter, I had a bike and run to do! 34:42.

T1

This transition was like no other I’ve ever done. I got out of the water and to the left of the ramp were wetsuit strippers. I actually think the wetsuit strippers are slower. They fumbled the thing off me and then I had to run to the right for my T1 bag. Thankfully, my race number was 402, so everything was really easy to find—just two from the beginning of the row. I dumped out my bag, put on my shoes, helmet, glasses, number belt, and a nice volunteer shoved everything back into the bag. Thank you, volunteers!!

A look at transition the day before the race. Note the drop down to the water.

The transition goes straight up a steep hill so I trucked it up through the middle of the two loooooong racks. (Yep, only two rows.) I grabbed my bike and yelled at the slower men to kindly move aside! This was a little longer than I like. Maybe I skip the strippers next time? 2:28.

BIKE

The wind was perfect. The weather was perfect. I was a happy girl ready to get out on the open road. It actually wasn’t so open though, as I had a ton of men to pass. ‘On your left! On your left!’  My power was still low due to my hip, but the wind gently pushed me along at astonishing high speeds. I caught most of the faster women swimmers, including the girl who was in 2nd in my age group. I pedaled past her, but it was hard. She was a strong cyclist. Still being a head case from my crash, I took the corners and descents really slow. My whole body would involuntarily shake down each hill. I was in no place to take turns fast with my body shaking so bad. So, naturally, Reagan, the 2nd place girl in my AG, would pass me back on each one. I’d catch her back, but as the descents and turns became more frequent, she disappeared. She would eventually put down the fastest bike split in our AG, besting me my 2 seconds.

Let’s ride bikes!

The bike was still a blast. I was smiling, joking with some of the guys around me, and soaking in the beautiful day. At one point, I had the pleasure of playing leap frog with the über-talented Sheila Croft. I never had delusions of staying away, but it was just part of the fun. And that is exactly what I needed—fun!! I smiled and waved at the cameras and spectators. Why I do this came flooding back to me. When a race is going well, I am filled with unbridled joy.

I came in to T2 with a grin on my face. I was currently the 5th fastest amateur woman, and I had pedaled to a bike PR by a couple of minutes, despite the course being 2 miles long. 2:33:41.

T2

I again lucked out with an easy-to-find rack position, especially since no one was able to preview the set-up. Another kind volunteer (thank you!!!) helped dump my T2 bag, even though I was completely ignoring her. Kevin was trying to tell me how far back I was on 2nd in my age group. I did thank her though as I grabbed my visor and headed out of the transition maze and on to the run. 1:08.

RUN

Running strong. For a short while.

I always go out too fast on the run, and this race was no different. I ran a 7:45 first mile. In my defense, I was jazzed by my bike ride and the run was slightly downhill. I appreciated the guys who were kind enough to compliment me on my bike effort as they blew past me on the run. I had to remind myself that I was still 10 or 20 minutes ahead due to the swim waves. Just as I had settled down, my hip flared up and the course started its relentless ups and downs. But before the pain could really set in, I was able to see Graeme headed for the finish line and I gave him a big smile and two thumbs up. That was one of my goals for this race: smile at Graeme.

Now, I had been assured that this run would just be a little bit harder than Lake Stevens. Hahahahahahaha. This run was definitely more reminiscent of the course at Wildflower without the trail. The course is also a very well-used bike/walking path and it was very strange to be racing as families walked their dogs and rode their bikes leisurely as we were all gutting it out.

Speaking of which, the whopping cough I had a few months ago was definitely still with me. Just a little way after turnaround, I had a coughing spell that turned into dry heaves. I was wretching so bad, the guy behind me definitely backed off and gave me my space until it stopped. I’m sure he thought I was going to throw up, and honestly, I wasn’t positive that I wouldn’t. It was getting really hot and while I felt like I had been spot on with my nutrition, I’ve had issues before.

As the day got warmer, I started to miss my fuel belt. I had decided to not race with my usual fuel belt because T2 bags had to be packed the day before, and there is nothing worse than day-old run bottles. I missed being able to take in fluid whenever I wanted and eagerly awaited each aid station. To make sure the water/Ironman Perform actually went into my mouth, I walked almost every single one. I managed the heat with salt, sponges, and ice and I can say for the first time, I raced in over 80-degree heat without feeling like I was going to melt. That was a huge win for me.

Let’s get this thing done! More ice, please!

The heat definitely was a factor though. As I headed to the finish line, I felt like I was running through molasses. My hip was driving me crazy and the overcompensation for my hip had caused a blister the size of a poker chip on the ball of my right foot. I was hurting and counting down every half mile to the finish.

Then, an angel came up behind me. It was a woman from the 40-44 age group. She asked me if I was 30 and I said, ‘yeah.’ She then told me, if I held my current pace, I was going to get on the podium.

What a relief! She probably passed the fourth place girl and was able to tell that while she was steadily gaining on me, she was going to run out of road. It was exactly what I needed to hear. I am always scared of getting gunned down on the run, and it helped me settle down and just get the work done.

The last 5k was the hardest. It was an uphill, false flat with no shade. I felt like I was barely moving. I kept looking at my watch and the mile tenths were ticking by so slowly. Finally, I could see the finish line. I didn’t dare look behind me. I had held 3rd place in my AG for the entire run. I was just moments away from my first podium finish at an Ironman-branded race!

I gave that last 100 meters everything I had. I was so happy. By the way I came across the finish line, you would have thought I had been the overall winner. While it wasn’t a run PR by any means, 1:58:58, it was a Half Ironman PR: 5:10:57!! 3rd 30-34 female and 12th amateur woman overall.

(Near) Victory!!

POST RACE

The best part of the race was that Kevin decided to be a finish line volunteer. He was there to give me the biggest hug and to place my medal around my neck. We had done it together. I never would have gotten to this point without him and it was amazing to be able to have him right there with me. Oh, and my medal doubles as a giant belt buckle, which is pretty awesome, too.

I also gave Graeme a big hug as he had an amazing day! He was the fastest amateur male, he set a course record for the 25-29 men age group, and he qualified for his pro card. It was a good day indeed.

Two happy racers.

Now, again, the real goal was to secure a spot to the World Championships. That would be the sweetest icing on the day’s cake. I found a race director who directed me to the slot allocation sheet. There would only be two spots for my age group. There was still a chance that I would go back to Seattle without my Vegas slot. Time to do some sleuthing.

I found the Reagan, the girl who was second in my age group. Great girl. Super nice. I asked her if she had a Vegas spot already and she said, no, and she would be taking hers. One down, one to go. Kevin pointed out the winner in my age group and I hobbled over to extend my congratulations. She had an incredible swim and was able to hold her lead. That doesn’t happen very often and I was definitely impressed. I asked her if she needed a spot to Vegas and then held my breath. She said she had thought a lot about it, but had decided to not take it.

YEEEESSSSS! I gave her the biggest hug. Unless she changed her mind, I was getting a spot to Vegas! I was going to get to race with the best in the world. I had done enough to validate that my 2010 participation wasn’t a fluke. It’s amazing the surge of energy that gave me. I was practically dancing all afternoon.

We had to wait a long time for the award ceremony and the heat climbed to 86 degrees. We crowded into the one shady spot with a host of other really fast triathletes. I was tired, but so excited to get my award.

Graeme got his award first, and I waited to hear my name called. The announcer called out, ‘and in third place for women 30 to 34, Jillian Beveridge!’

WTH?!?! I had an out-of-body moment. Had I been disqualified? I thought Jillian had been fourth. I was on autopilot. I marched up there and told them they had messed up. I had gotten third. They asked me for my name and looked down the list of finishers in my age group. I wasn’t even on the list. Like I didn’t exist. Like my day didn’t happen. My heart sunk into the pit of my stomach. I walked with one of the officials to the timing table and found solace in the fact that I wasn’t alone! The third place male in the 18-24 age group had also disappeared from the results list. It felt like an eternity as they figured it out. While I was waiting, I heard the announcer over on the stage announce the roll down for Las Vegas. It was like a bad dream. I ran/hobbled back over to the stage and begged them to wait until this could be squared away. Thankfully, they did.

In the end, they corrected the results and I was given my award, but it didn’t feel nearly as sweet as it would have without the mix-up. Good thing I’m a fighter! I had to battle for my award and Vegas slot even after the race was over!

Accepting my award in my signature pink 2XU compression socks!

The World Championship spot did roll down to me and I gladly took it. I was obnoxiously happy. Actually, one spot from another age group rolled into my age group too and I was glad to see the 5th place girl from the UK get it. That’s a long way to come and go home empty handed.

It was an amazing day. Graeme, Kevin, and I went out for dinner and celebrated our successes. The valet even gave us free parking as a congratulatory gesture. The 3 am wake-up to catch our flight home was a bit rough, but I was still soaring from the day before.

Vegas slot! Dumb happy.

THANK YOU!

Thank you so much Kevin for believing in me. You have been nothing short of amazing. I alway feel like I am racing a relay with you around. I definitely have an advantage over the competition. Also, your pictures again were stellar! I can see why more and more pros are using them for their own race reports! Thanks Graeme for being patient with me and hanging out. I’m so excited for you and happy you will be in Vegas too. You are an incredible athlete. Thank you so much to my friends, family, and teammates for your support and belief in me when my own waned. I am such a blessed girl.

And thanks to my title sponsor 2XU! I can’t say enough good things about all my amazing gear. It feels great to be able to focus on racing and not on my clothing or wetsuit—they just perform impeccably! Again, there is only one long-distance chamois I trust for 56+ miles! I am proud to represent and appreciate all your support. That, and I just love my pink compression socks. I mean, really, they are awesome.

I also want to thank my other sponsors. Felt for my amazing DA. She is so fast and pretty and I know that we will be a great team for many races to come. Thanks to Nuun for keeping me well hydrated and to Clif for keeping me well fed. Thanks to Peterson Bicycle and my bike team for supporting my triathlon goals as well as my bike racing goals. Thanks to Cycle University and Coach Tom for first-rate coaching! Tom, you are so patient—thanks for putting up with me and for continuing to help me improve with every race. I’ve come a long way since that first track practice in January of 2010 where I couldn’t run  one lap around the track faster than an 8:00/mile pace.  I also want to thank those racers who are faster than me that push me to become better and those racers who are just starting out that remind me of how far I’ve come and what joy this sport has brought to my life.

Haha, and if anyone actually read this entire post, you deserve a big thank you and applause for your perseverance!

Next stop? Vegas, baby!!

Best sign on the course. Hands down.

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Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3 :: so close, yet so far

After Boise, I was eager to get another race on the calendar. So eager, I signed up for two—Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3 and Ironman Calgary 70.3. My season’s goal was to qualify for the World Championships and after finishing 18th at Boise, I need to hedge my bets.

I prepared well for Lake Stevens. Because this race is just an hour away from home, I rode the new bike course several times. I rode it in both the rain and sun. I ran the course over and over again. I swam out in the lake a couple of times. I rode and ran with friends. I rode and ran solo. I knew what I had to do to have a solid day.

The forecast did not look promising and I prepared myself for another race in wet, cold conditions. Come race morning, it was drizzling and felt more like April than July. But, after Boise, it was relatively warm! This year, my wave was scheduled to start swimming at 6:44 am. I truly believe no race should be allowed to start before 7 am. That wakeup call was cruel and I barely had enough time to set up my transition area and get to the swim start.

SWIM

Because this is the local Ironman-branded race, there were a lot of friendly and familiar faces out on the dock with me. Sydnie, Alicia, Lisa, Mandy … we all jumped in the water and lined up according to our preferences. I wished them all luck and the next thing I knew, we were swimming! And I was swimming off course! Geez. I got back on track and the next thing I knew, I was swimming face-to-face with the girl next to me. It was Sydnie! After Boise, it was nice to know it wasn’t someone who would intentionally try to rip my face off. Throughout the swim, we would come together and then pull apart, but in the end, we came out of the water with the exact same swim split, 33:12. This was a PR swim for me, but since I swam so crooked, I felt like I still left a lot of time on the table. But again, a PR, so, there will be no complaining.

T1

My transition set-up was in the busiest intersection of the entire enclosure, so it was a bit difficult to get to my stuff and just focus on what I needed to get done. I still think I did a pretty good job as I was out of there in less than 2 minutes.

BIKE

It’s no secret that this is my favorite part and it takes me about a mile to settle down in to a nice race pace. I was a little worked up and got frustrated with a guy camping out to the left side as we headed downhill into a left hand turn. He wouldn’t let me pass and I yelled at him for blocking. I was surprised to hear my name yelled back at me. ‘Carly, calm down. I’m not going to let you pass me on the turn.’ I got mad, but he was right. I needed to settle down. I had the opportunity later in the race to apologize, so I did. I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong.

The course got lonely fast. Being the second women’s wave, and the fourth or fifth wave overall, meant that riders for me to pass came fewer and farther in between. I stayed on top of my power and rode strong despite the rain. I would leap frog with some of the bigger, strong guys. I’d dance past them uphill as they’d bomb downhill by me.

The rain ranged from spurkling to spitting, but when you are racing, you notice it less. I did ride further away from the right to avoid the puddles pooling on the road though. I also used the rain as an excuse to ride the descents really conservatively.

But sometimes, the weather can still get the best of you. At mile 44 of the course, there is curvy descent that goes immediately into a hard right hand turn. I slowed from 38 mph to 22 mph, but it just wasn’t enough to stay in control on the wet pavement. My back wheel of my brand new time trial bike came out from under me and I slid out. Hard.

Shit.

I sat there for a moment and then realized I had to get out of the way of the oncoming cyclists. I jumped to my feet and moved my bike off the road. My water bottle had launched itself, so I collected it and took a quick inventory of my body. My hip was throbbing, but nothing seemed to hurt so bad that I couldn’t get back on my bike. Somehow, my chain had wrapped itself twice around the crank arm and it took me awhile to figure out how to get it fixed. Meanwhile, all the volunteers at the corner stood in silence staring at me. When I was ready to go again, I threw my leg over the top tube and the volunteers erupted into cheers, yelling ‘go number 876!’ I didn’t really know if I was okay to ride or if my bike was okay to ride, but I was sure I still had really good position so I had to give it a shot. Again, goal: World Championships. I was off my bike for a total of 2 minutes. 2 minutes that felt like an eternity.

After the turn, there is a steady incline for a little over a mile. It was the perfect terrain for me to try to get my bearings again. My mind was flooded with thoughts. I thought about my friend Sam who had crashed at Ironman Cozumel and then ran the fastest marathon in our age group. I tried to spin the extra hit of adrenaline as an advantage. I asked one of the guys I was passing if I had a giant hole in my shorts, but apparently they were completely in tact. No road rash. Thankfully, the roads were so wet I just skidded across the surface. Actually, if you have to go down in a bike accident, this is the way to do it. When you start involving other cyclists or other inanimate objects, it can get really messy. I learned later that I lot of the male pros had crashed and some age groupers were taken to the ER after going over guard rails. This course is technical enough without the rain, and there was a little bit of comfort knowing that I wasn’t alone and that I fared better than most.

After riding the remaining 12 miles very slow and timid, I rolled into transition in 2nd place in my age group with the 3rd place girl hot on my heels. I had the second fastest bike split in my age group too and if you subtract those 2 ‘crash’ minutes, I would have been the fastest. 2:51:31.

T2

I was again the victim of the busy intersection, but I was not shy about moving people out of my way. I threw on my shoes, grabbed my fuel belt and visor and left. I ended up dropping a bottle out of my fuel belt that I had to go back for though. Again, less than 2 minutes.

RUN

While cycling after the crash was hard, I soon realized that was child’s play in comparison to the agony I would endure on the run. I tried to use the extra adrenaline to push through and I flew through town. My first couple of miles were sub-8s. But the 3rd place girl in my age group, and eventual winner, caught me a mile and a half in and made my fast look like crawling. She was probably running sub-7s. Other runners would tell me to relax as they passed me, but they didn’t know that I had just crashed my bike! My shoulders were so tense, they were crowding my ears.

When I got back to town, half way through the run, that’s when the pain got really bad. The adrenaline wore off and the stiffness set in. I cried. I know my friends and family could tell that I was unhappy, but with little physical evidence of the crash, they had a hard time understanding why.

As I came around the loop portion of lap 2, my friend Sean tried to encourage me, but it was useless. I was a hurting, blubbering mess. I felt like a small, injured animal just waiting to get devoured by a pack of wolves. One by one, strong runners in my age group passed me, including my friend Alicia. To add insult to injury, she slapped me on the butt as she strode past. Although my left bum cheek fared better than my right, it still hurt and I let out an audible yelp as the pain raced up my back.

The stiffness got to a point where I could no longer drive my right glute and leg uphill. So, I power walked. I did whatever I could to keep fighting. The last 4 miles of this race are really foggy, but I know I had a lot of very perplexed support out on the course. When I finally got to the finish chute, I gritted my teeth, and did my best to ‘run’ up the slight incline. I crossed the line and melted into a puddle of sobs. I had finished the run in 1:55:57—one second off my half-iron run PR. My final time was 5:24:17 for 8th in my AG.

POST RACE

Two volunteers scooped me up off the ground and carried me to the med tent. My friend Clayton was there almost immediately to check in on me. I was in hysterics. The pain, plus the exhaustion of the day had completely overwhelmed me. Once I was able to calm down a bit, the med tent folks were able to check me out. They didn’t suspect anything to be broken so they put a bandaid on my bloody hand (the only real road rash from the crash) and sent me on my way.

The weather had improved significantly during the run, and post-race was genuinely nice. I limped around and connected with my racer friends to hear about their days. I congratulated a lot of first-time Half Ironman finishers who were beaming from ear to ear. They all looked so happy. I remember how it felt to finish my first half. It was awesome. I may have been slow, but I felt accomplished and I had a ton of fun along the way. Looking back at the pictures, I am smiling/or waving in every single one. How had I gotten so far from that place that I finished this race in a crying fit? It was definitely something that I would continue to ponder many days after.

Kevin encouraged me to stick around for the award ceremony and the roll down. I was happy to be there to watch Alicia accept her awesome and well-deserved 4th place AG award, but I couldn’t help feeling hopelessly pathetic thinking a World Championship slot would roll down to 8th place. Crazier things have happened I guess.

At the roll down, we found out that neither of the two slots allocated to my age group had been taken. Alicia was awarded the first roll down and I started to think, maybe a roll down spot wasn’t out of the question. Then, it happened. The 6th place finisher took the next spot. So close. Yet so far away.

It pained me to watch spots roll as far as 20th in other age groups, but I guess that’s why I stayed. You just never know when you are going to get lucky. I should have known the minute my butt hit the pavement, there was no luck out there for me this day.

I later found out that I had sprained my back and knocked my hip so hard that my right leg was 2 inches longer than the left. I had also suffered some whiplash. My training plan quickly became recover enough for Ironman Calgary … two weeks later. It would be my last chance to qualify for the World Championships this year. Go big, or go home.

I have to give a shout out to the amazing support for this race. To all my fellow local racers who were racing or spectating, thank you for creating such an electric energy. Also, thanks to my mom and her husband Ron for coming down from Bellingham to watch the race. It was also great to finally have Coach Tom at a race!  As always, the biggest thank you goes out to my amazing husband Kevin for being the best partner a girl could ever hope for. All of his race photography can be found at tu.smugmug.com.

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Ironman Boise 70.3 or 28.3?

After a lackluster early spring of training, I was back on track at ready to really race Ironman Boise 70.3. This race had extra qualifying spots and approximately 5 girls in my age group would grab slots for the Half Ironman World Championships. I knew I was an underdog, but I knew I’d have a shot.

Kevin and I arrived in Boise and settled in for the weekend. We had been just two weeks earlier so I felt comfortable with both the town and the course. My body was feeling good and I knew this course was tailor-made for me: a semi-hard, but really windy bike ride with a nice flat and shaded run. I have a history of melting down on hot runs, so the tree-lined path along the water seemed so perfect.

The weather was great when we arrived but the forecast for race day kept getting progressively worse. Being from Seattle, I came prepared. I packed arm warmers, knee warmers, two pairs of toe warmers, chemical toe heaters, ear warmers, a wind vest, a thermal vest, 2-3 pairs of gloves, and every thickness of sock I own. This may seem excessive, but the forecast called for rain and a high of 53 degrees.

This race is a little strange because the pros go off at noon. It was so nice to not set an alarm clock for 3-4 am. On race morning, Kevin and I got up at a decent hour, packed the car with my back and all my gear, and went to breakfast. What a luxury! Unfortunately though, the weather was worse than forecasted. It was 42 degrees, raining and the wind was howling. I dressed in so many layers, I was the biggest pain-of-an-athlete when I got to the body marking station.

The transition area look liked a refugee camp—athletes huddled under trees in garbage sacks, spectators bundled in their winter coats … in June. The wind was whipping up the lake as the rain drove down out of the sky. Later, we found out that it was 44 degrees at the start of the race with wind gusts over 50 mph leaving us with a windchill or ‘real feel’ temperature of 33 degrees. At noon. In June. IN JUNE!

I had been mentally preparing myself for the conditions all morning. I’ve never done a triathlon in those conditions, but I’ve done plenty of bike racing in horrendous weather. I remembered that the only time trials I’d won this year were done in cold, rainy weather. I started to get excited about the bad conditions. What did a super-fast SoCal girl have on me that day? Nothing! They’d be too busy crying about being cold as I put my head down and got to work. I was practically beaming as I set up my transition area. The weather was so ridiculous, I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation.

Everyone put their wetsuits on really early to stay warm. Just as I finished putting together my transition area and grabbed my wetsuit, the announcer came over the P.A. system.

He announced that due to the weather conditions, that were reportedly worse on other parts of the course (read: sleet/snow with violent wind gusts), they had made the decision to cut the bike course to … wait for it … 12 miles. 12 measly miles. That is the same distance as an early season time trial or the bike leg of a sprint triathlon. I bursted into tears immediately. I was a wreck. I wanted a spot to the World Championships so bad, but a 1.2-mile swim, a 12-mile bike, and a 13.1-mile run was not going to get it done.

As the rain washed my tears away, I mentally rallied and decided to do the race anyway. Maybe the strong racers would pull out because of the weather, I reasoned. And if there is one thing my pride will not allow, is to be out-suffered if the opportunity arises.

I penguined marched down to the swim start with the other girls in my wave and was so thankful for my neoprene booties as I looked around and saw numb, purple and pink exposed feet around me.

SWIM

This swim is a deep-water start in a 57-degree reservoir. Just as our wave was about to go, a jet ski zoomed past us going the opposite direction. Apparently one of the women pros had to get pulled out of the water. Not exactly the best sight before you start a race. But the race did start and I started swimming. Well, kind of. I boldly lined up on the right, closer to the buoy line and was immediately pummeled. Fail. I will go back to the outside edge and clean water for future races thankyouverymuch. I thought I was swimming strong, but when the waves go every 3 minutes, there is a ton of traffic. I found it difficult to swim straight and to stay out of the scruff. The way back was intensely physical. A girl in a pink Zoot wetsuit would not leave me alone even when I tried to swim away from her. Toward the end of the swim, she grabbed my chest. I was sure that she was going for my face! As I told Kevin, this was Ironman swim, MMA-edition. I have never been more happy to get out of the water in 36:14.

T1

My hand had cramped so bad in the swim, it was more like a lobster claw than anything useful. They have wetsuit strippers at this race, but they couldn’t get my sleeve up and over my watch, so I tried to use my new claw to get the sleeve off. It took forever. Once I was on my way, I fumbled through transition. It was hard to get my gloves on and to zip up my wind vest. Once I was dressed, I grabbed my bike from the rack and was on my way … oh, wait. No I wasn’t. My wheels wouldn’t budge. Somehow, my front wheel was completely lodged on the brake. With my very compromised motor skills, it took me several tries with the quick release to get it fixed. I did stay calm though, so that was a bit of a silver lining. 8:48 I think is the longest transition I’ve ever had.

BIKE

The race director announced the modified course to be 12 miles, but my trusty Garmin measured out a near perfect 14. The new course was almost completely downhill and almost completely in town. That means we had about a half a lane to work with and in some places were forced into a single-lane, do-not-pass situation. I thought I was going to fall of my bike in places because I was moving so slow. It reminded me of semi-trucks passing semi-trucks on the freeway. When a slow rider was passing an even slower rider, there was no space for the fast rider to pass too. The ride almost felt like a road bike race. Surge, rest, surge, rest. I even saw people who left their wetsuits on for the bike. (I later found out that Matty Reed, one of the pro men that tied for the win, also wore his wet suit on the bike!) I was actually in the water longer than I was on my bike—36:02. Second silver lining of the day? Even with all that traffic, I had the third fastest amateur woman bike split of the day, was the 6th fastest bike split if you include the pros, and I had the same bike split as super-talented pro Linsey Corbin. Boom! See? I was ready to rock that bike course!

T2

By the time I got T2, the weather was clearing. For the run, the wind was a whisper and the sun was shining. The temperature jumped to a very pleasant 63 degrees. I’m not sure how, but some sort of accident occurred in the actual transition area and I wasn’t allowed to go down my bike row. I was a bit disoriented by the change-up, but I found my rack, ducked under into my row and went about my routine. 2:32

RUN

With the shortened bike course, I wasn’t sure how much faster I should run. So, I just ran on perceived rate of exertion. I felt strong, the strongest I’ve felt for a half-iron run, which  makes sense because I skipped 42 miles of cycling! And I experienced something that has never happened to me in a triathlon race before—I passed girls in my age group on the run. It was so fun! Normally, my half-way decent swim and my strong bike puts me out in front of a race, and getting gunned down isn’t a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ My T1 was so long and the bike was so short, that I started further bike than I normally do. One by one, I passed girls and gained a bit of confidence with each one. I knew I didn’t have a shot at a World Championship slot. But this new experience was definitely the third silver lining. 1:49:14.

My final race time was 3:12:47 … a PR at the 28.3 distance. I was an unimpressive 18th in the 30-34 age group.

POST RACE & OTHER MUSINGS

I still decided to go to the award ceremony and roll-down. With 5 spots allocated to my division, I reasoned that crazier things have happened. My friend Sarah placed well enough to get a spot, so it was fun to see her get an award, and true to my style, I cheered obnoxiously loud. (If being an Ironfan was an Olympic sport, I would be well decorated with Gold medals.)

My age group’s spots didn’t roll very far, and I know I wasn’t the only one disappointed in my age group. I could hear a couple of girls a few rows back already making alternative race plans to try and grab their spots.

Triathlon is a master class in patience for us Type-A folks. I was frustrated that the extra spots for the World Championships went to runners and not triathletes, but that is part of the sport. You can’t control the weather. We all had the same circumstances and sometimes they favor some more than others. I will not say that I would have gotten a spot had the race been the full distance. I won’t make any excuses either, I just vowed to keep working hard. But I will be honest as well, there is a piece of me that wonders, ‘what if?’

Even though this course was not spectator friendly, Kevin took some amazing photos that really captured the day. They can be found at tu.smugmug.com. Here are some highlights.

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