Mark asked me the night before if I had a plan for the race. Yup, I did. My plan was to survive the swim, bike as fast as I could, and then run as fast as I could. No joke, that was my plan. Here’s how it went down.
I hadn’t touched the Illicito for quite a while before this race. That turned out to be a bit of a mistake as the Illicito was clearly feeling neglected and decided to pay me back by developing some issues. I waited until Friday afternoon to put my race wheels on and right away, I knew something wasn’t right. A bolt was missing from the rear wheel drop-out, and while it seemed to be ok once I got the wheel on, it didn’t seem ideal. After texting Ryan from KE a pic, he told me to bring it by the Expo in the morning, and he would have the bolt and give it a quick once-over. Relief.
The next day, I took the kids and bike to the Expo for check-in and to have Ryan check the bike. He worked his magic and all seemed fine. As an expression of gratitude, I also let him talk me into buying these sweet new limited-edition Newton distance racers. He didn’t have to convince me too much as they were super-cute and I sort of had to have them right there on the spot.
It ended up being a busy afternoon and I didn’t get around to sitting on my bike and actually trying to ride it until about 5:30 pm. I was dismayed to see the brakes were rubbing. Now, on most bikes this wouldn’t be a big deal and you would just adjust them, but the Illicito has what Ryan calls a “technical” set of brakes that he pretty much advised me not to mess with. Now I was a little worried.
Around that time, Mark rolled up from working all day (he had arranged to pick up his packet race morning), and I told him my brakes were rubbing. He was not super pleased as he sort of hates working on my bike since it is, as I mentioned, a little “technical.” I stood there and tried to help and provide support (even though I don’t know the slightest thing about my brakes), but after a while, it became clear that the best course of action was to get the heck out of there with the kids and leave him alone to mess with it.
He later texted that he had finally solved the issue and I was fine. Great.
Mark and I forgot to communicate the night before about what time we were going to leave the house to drive to Boulder. Quick aside: people sometimes ask me what we do with the kids when we have an event that we are both participating in. For this race, we took the kids to my parents for a sleep-over because my parents are renting a place nearby for the month. For Boulder Peak, we had a teenage girl (daughter of someone we knew who was racing) watch them at the Rez. We have also had sitters sleep at our house or come over at a god-awful, early hour.
Anyway, it was unclear what time we were leaving. I had set my alarm for 4:30, thinking we would leave around 4:50, but Mark had planned to be out the door by 4:30 since he had made a deal with the organizers to pick up his packet at 5:30.
The good news was, we were off to an early start. It was particularly helpful for me since when we got to transition, I spun my wheel once, realized the brakes were still rubbing, and immediately headed for the Colorado Multisports bike mechanic, who needed a little time to get it figured out, but eventually got everything running smoothly.
After the usual hanging out and waiting and admiring the sunrise, I started to wrestle myself into my brand new TYR Cat 5 wetsuit. I say “wrestle” because that’s what it felt like, i.e., the suit was not exactly going on too easily. I hadn’t actually tried on the suit before (or any suit to determine the size), but rather had just assumed it would fit. Having now worn it, I’m still not sure if it fits properly or not. All I know is that on race morning, I was in the suit like it was painted on, and it was feeling very snug.
Swim: 40:54 (last year 39:38)
I decided to try a different start position than at Boulder Peak. Rather than starting wide, I thought it might be better for sighting, drafting and swimming straight to start on the buoy line but a few rows back. So that’s where I was when the gun went off. I tried to get a rhythm going, but I was feeling uncomfortable right off the bat. The water was really warm (there had been rumors it wouldn’t be wetsuit-legal), and I was feeling a little claustrophobic in my suit. I sort of wanted to unzip it. I have thought about dropping out of races during the swim many times, but this was the closest I had come to actually making that decision. I pulled to the side where there was a kayak. I asked her if I could just grab on for a minute and she said sure, so I bobbed there for maybe 30 seconds or so and then decided to put my head down and keep going. I didn’t really feel comfortable until we rounded the last buoy and turned back towards shore.
I’m not sure what my issue was in the water. It was probably a combination of less-than-optimal swim fitness, the new suit, the warm temp and the murky water. I’m not sure. All I know is that my discomfort in the water seems to be more of an issue in shorter races than IMs. I’m not sure why, but it may have to do with the fact that in an IM, I don’t feel like dropping out or freaking out is even an option. I have worked too hard to get there to ruin it all in the water. So, while I am hoping to address some of these things before Arizona, I am not overly worried that I am going to have the same issues there.
Although my time looks pretty terrible compared to the other girls in the top 10, it was only 1 minute slower than last year when I was swimming quite a bit. Really, my best case scenario for this swim was probably 37-38 minutes, so not too far off.
T1: 3:36 – just like the suit didn’t want to go on, it also didn’t want to come off. I got one leg out pretty quickly, but the other one wasn’t so easy. I think I was afraid of ripping it. Another area for improvement.
Bike: 2:43:04 (last year 2:43:02)
I don’t wear a watch in the water and on Sunday I was very glad for this because I didn’t want to dwell on the swim. I just wanted to get on my bike and see what I could do. This bike is a two-loop course and it is fast. There are some gradual uphills, like on 36 to St. Vrain, but there are also some fast descents. It’s a fun course.
I was riding pretty hard (for me) and passing people, but I could not seem to find many girls in my age group. Still, I just focused on riding hard, keeping my heart rate up and not doing anything stupid.
Mark passed me on the short out on back towards the end of the first loop, which was another clue that I didn’t swim very well since his wave started about 20 minutes after mine.
I tried some new nutrition for this ride: Skratch Labs drink mix, pineapple flavor. I had never tried this drink before (apparently this is the theme of this race report ), had not even tasted it, but I was curious and figured I didn’t have much to lose. The drink is very tasty and I had no trouble drinking 2 bottles, whereas I am usually sick of EFS after 1 bottle. It’s fairly low in calories though, so you need to supplement with solid nutrition, which is a bit of a pain in a shorter race. Still, I like the natural bent and the flavor, so I will definitely continue with Skratch for my training and shorter races. KE sells it – pick some up and try it out.
I rolled into T2 with Katy Blakemore, another KE athlete, who was totally dominating the race. We had exchanged a greeting – really an introduction – on the road leading into the Rez, and that was the last I saw of her. She was flying.
I was a tiny bit disappointed with this bike split since I felt like I gave it a good effort and expected to be a little faster than last year, but I haven’t done much quality work geared towards this distance, so I am not beating myself up too much about it. Just a little.
T2: 1:42 (lost a little time looking for my spot)
Run: 1:44:56 (last year 1:45:30)
I kind of hate the 70.3 run course. It is all dirt (i.e., slow) and the first 3 miles and miles 6-8 are hilly. And it is always h-o-t. I think that’s the most challenging part of this race, the heat on the run course. I had grabbed a little baggie of salt tabs in T2, which I was running with in my hand since it was too challenging to try to get them in and out of my top. My nutrition plan for the run was simple: coke, salt tabs, and water over my head and occassionally into my mouth. When it’s hot like it was for this race, I like to go a little more minimal with my nutrition.
I didn’t have huge expectations for the run other than to try to run under 8 minute pace and not walk any hills or meander through the aid stations.
I stayed cool by stuffing ice down my top at the aid stations, but I started stuffing it down the front and the back during the race, which I highly recommend if you are in a scorcher. If you stuff it down the front, you can pluck the pieces out and eat them (Kona-style), but if they are in the back, they just slowly melt, which felt pretty awesome.
I first saw Sonja on the short out-and-back at mile 3.5. She is generally a faster runner than me, so I assumed she would be passing me soon. By the time we went through the hilly section on lap 2, I was using Sonja behind me as motivation. Namely, I didn’t want her to see me walk. The second time up the hills, a lot of people were walking, but I shuffled up and over, never slowing to a walk. A little while after cresting the last big hill, Sonja came up behind me, but rather than pass me right away, she settled in next to me, matching my pace. She told me she was hurting badly. I offered her some salt tabs which she took, and we continued on side-by-side. We would get separated a little at the aid stations, but then we would hook back up and run right next to each other. The awesome part was, even though Sonja was hurting, we were running faster than I had been before she joined me and we were passing a lot of people. We had only talked once in two months, but there we were, two teammates, running together and finishing strong. It felt good.
At the aid station near mile 11, I told Sonja that I was really needing the aid, so I pulled off to the side to grab ice/water/coke and she pulled away. It was pretty amazing actually, to be hurting that badly but be able to run so fast. The girl is as tough as they come.
[I should probably note that although we practically finished together, Sonja outbiked me by almost 20 minutes and outran me by 10. She outswam me too, but that probably goes without saying. You can read about her race here.]
In the last few miles of the race, I was finally catching a few of the 40-44 women. One thing I have learned in this sport and something I tried to remind myself of on Sunday, is that it is never over until you cross the line and you should never count yourself out, despite how the rest of the day has gone, until the run is over. This is especially true in Ironman, where the race is 140 miles, but it is also true in the half. I came out of the water in 43rd place in my AG and finished in 7th. No wood for me yet, but I am getting closer – or at least not losing any ground.
Sonja was still in the chute when I got there. I was really thinking she could benefit from a few bags of IV fluid, but she was able to smile for this pic, so I knew she was going to be ok.
Finish: 5:14:12 – 7th in AG (last year 5:12:35, 8th)
I was happy with this result given the amount of training I have done this summer. It shows that I have a decent base on which to start building for Arizona.
Thanks to Kompetitive Edge for their support all weekend and all season long and to everyone on the KE team who gave a shout of encouragement. You all motivate me to be my best.