Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Half Ironman Round 2 - in Australia

Whenever you accomplish something big. You want to just bask in it. At least I do. Soak up every moment of sunshine and warmth that comes from achieving something you worked hard for. It's an incredible feeling and one that I have yet to grow old of. Which is why I keep coming back to running, and now triathlon, over and over again. It is the most amazing feeling.

I've been basking in post-race highs for the past week and a half. I find myself smiling or dancing in my car or just feeling proud of myself. I'm still wearing my athletes bracelet and I don't have any immediate plans to take it off.

Not right now. I need this thing as motivation.

Because you see, the story of race weekend isn't quite over yet.

So let me finish that up for you.

After the race, I got my gear out of the transition area and head back to the hotel with Brick.  It was sad for me to leave the race area, but I was also super thrilled to take a shower. I swear, it was the grossest I've ever been. Even after mud runs.

After showering and cleaning up, we head back over the few blocks to the transition and race area to meet up with my friend Kristin and one of her friends. She had been a huge support to me in getting ready for the race, raced herself, and I was looking forward to seeing her. We hadn't had the opportunity to meet up at all earlier in the weekend so going to see her was a priority, even though we were both hungry and food sounded pretty darn good as well.

While we were sitting and chatting, we weren't all there for too long before Kristin suggested we walk over to the awards ceremony and distribution of slots for the World Championships of Half Ironman. Every Ironman and Half Ironman race awards the top finisher of each age group competing a slot/opportunity to compete in the World Championships. The full Ironman World Championships take place every year in Kona, Hawaii, and it is a very iconic race. Being able to compete in Kona is a dream of most athletes, a realistic goal for few, and something to strive after for most. I know a number of people who compete in Ironman races and are working towards Kona whether its through age group qualifications, repeat racer qualifications, or the random lottery that they do every year.

The Half Ironman World Championships changes locations every year. Interestingly enough, earlier this year Chattanooga was named as the location of the 2017 Half Ironman World Championships! It is a pretty cool thing for the city and has given this race location a lot of extra attention this year. The 2015 Worlds for 70.3 took place in Austria and 2016 Worlds are taking place in Australia, so as you can see the locations vary quite a bit for this race.

My friend Kristin had qualified to compete in World Championships for 70.3 at a race late last year during the "roll down" process. I know this is a lot of logistics, but bear with me. I learned this all at the race myself, so I understand it is a little complicated.

The "roll down" process occurs after the age group awards are given out. The winner of each age group is called to come and take their slot to go to Worlds. However, here is the catch. You have to be physically present to accept the opportunity and you have to commit to going and sign up on the spot. If the first place winner in the age group is not present, has already qualified, or just does not wish to go, then it goes to the next person in the age group and so on. If NOBODY in the entire age group wants the slot, then the next age group gets TWO slots to give out to Worlds.

In Chattanooga, the distribution began with the Women's 70-75 year old category and moved its way down. It was exciting to see people jumping up at the opportunity, the way the crowd egged people on, you could see friends encouraging their friends to accept the spots, and then the adrenaline rush you knew they must have been feeling as they accepted and went and signed the paperwork to register for the race.

This year, at this race, and I guess at many other Half Ironman races around the world, there have been a lot of people who have not accepted their slots to compete in the World Championships. The race this year is taking place in Australia, as I mentioned, which is basically one of the hardest and most expensive place to get to no matter where in the world you happen to live! If you think about next year, when the race is IN Chattanooga... nobody is going to turn down the opportunity to compete at World's in such an accessible place! But to commit on the spot to go to Australia when it is just a couple months away at this point (the race is September 4th)? That's a harder sell. Plus, a lot of people did the Chattanooga 70.3 in preparation for the Chattanooga full 140.6 in September - which is just a couple weeks after the World's.

As we went through the age groups, a number of people were passing up slots. My friends started to tease and egg me on that maybe I would be able to get a slot for my age group, the Women's 30-34. I did not think that was going to be happening - I came in 51st place out of about 90, so nowhere even in the top half of the race!

I was enjoying sitting out in the sun, relaxing, taking in the whole experience, and also recapping where I had swam and run and gone through transitions earlier that day by the waterfront.

When they got to my age group, there were THREE slots to give away and when announced the winners and nobody went to claim them. It was quiet for a little and then the announcer said, "Okay, will any Women 30-34 who want to go to Australia come down to the front?" My friends had mentioned that this might happen and when the announced it 3-4 people started to walk down. They looked super fit and I knew that I wasn't going to have been any faster than them (they look up your times to see who is fastest if nobody in the Top 5 wants a spot.) People around me were telling me, "Who cares! You never know! Just go down!" and so I walked down to the front. The four girls who were there in front of me told their finish times and they were all in the low 5-hour range. With my 6:27 finish, when he got to me, I was a little embarrassed and just said, "Oh I was definitely not faster than them!" and as they accepted their slots, I returned to climbing up the annoying steps to return to my friends. I can't say I was surprised whatsoever, but maybe just a twinge bit disappointed because as my friends had been talking about it, I sort of started to think, "Maybe this could be kind of cool and a once in a lifetime opportunity...?" and "Wouldn't it be funny if I got a spot to Worlds at my first 70.3 Ironman?" So, a twinge bit disappointed, but yeah, TOTALLY not surprised.

They continued going through the rest of the age groups and I stopped paying attention a little to the distribution until they got to the very end and I heard the announcer say something that caught my friends and I's attention. Apparently there was nobody from the 20-24 age group or the 18-20 age group that accepted their slots (not surprising that a 19 year old can't fund a trip to Australia...) and the announcer was stating to the crowd, "If there is LITERALLY ANY women here who FINISHED the race today and WANT to to go to AUSTRALIA - Come down now!" I'm sorry, what was that?

My legs were bringing me back down again and after talking for a minute, having them look up my time and seeing that there were enough slots for the others who had come down to take these final spots, next thing I knew I had a paper in my hand to register for the 70.3 World Championships in Australia!!

I was freaking out a little bit as I waiting in line to register. Should I really do this? Am I insane? What am I thinking? Can I AFFORD to go to Australia? When is this race, by the way? Am I going to be a complete joke at this thing? The winners literally finished almost 3 hours before me in this race. What am I thinking?!?

Regardless of these thoughts going through my head, I signed up. Hours after finishing my first Half Ironman 70.3, I registered for my second, which happened to be about 3 months away and take place in a place I'd never heard of or considered going in my life, Mooloolaba, Australia. Oh yeah, and it is the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS of this distance race.

We walked away from the awards ceremony with me totally in shock. Kristin and her friend head back to Atlanta, and Brick and I head over to one of the local restaurants/breweries where we'd eaten dinner at on Friday. Burgers and beer are my post-race favorite thing to do and we liked the place enough that we decided to head back (and ironically, ran into the couple that we sat next at the bar on Friday night who were ALSO returning for another meal!!) It was delicious and I ate it all.

Everything felt such a blur to me at the moment. The high of finishing the race was all of a sudden taken over the adrenaline of just randomly signing up for a trip to Australia and another race. There was a lot of emotions and I couldn't entirely process them all.

After texting a few friends, talking about the Australia nonsense with Brick a little, I made the decision to put it to the back of my mind. I didn't want to tell people about it and I didn't want it to be the focus of the day for me. To me, it was something that just happened randomly. Saying that I was competing in the "World Championships" was cool and all but I also recognized that I didn't "earn" it the way other athletes did. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and had the means to be able to take advantage of an opportunity that was presented in front of me. It was thrilling and exciting of course - but so was my actual accomplishment of the day - what I had worked and trained and earned - which was finishing the race in 51st place in my age group and in 6 hours and 27 minutes. A time I was incredibly proud of.

I made Brick take a few hundred pictures of me with the post card and trucker hat they gave me, and then decided that the rest of the night was not about Australia but was about THAT DAY and finishing the race. I was celebrating my first 70.3.

The rest of the evening was spent doing just that. We stopped at World of Beer for another drink on our way home, I got a cupcake at a bakery, and then we returned to the hotel room where I remembered I had brought a bottle of champagne to celebrate with. I was seriously on top of the world and the happiest ever. I laughed and smiled a ton, called family and friends, and jumped up and down on my hotel room bed in my PJs singing and dancing. It was the perfect end to the day and I slept HARD.

Since returning back to Atlanta since the race, I've been getting back in the groove of working out and working. I rested a lot the week after and did a few light runs and a swim. Over Memorial Day weekend I traveled back to Tennessee through Chattanooga to Nashville for one of my besties, Teenie's, bachelorette party. And I have been putting plans together and researching to see if I cold make this trip to Australia even happen.

I signed up for the race, not totally convinced that I would go. You HAVE to register on the spot and I wanted to secure that, figuring the worst that would happen is that I would lose a little money, but registering would give me time to figure things out.

I first looked up the times of last year's Worlds to see where I would rank. I started researching flights and seeing if I could credit the miles that I have earned over the past 2 years of work travel towards the trip. I looked into renting bikes in Australia and the cost of that vs. the cost of shipping a bike or checking a bike as luggage (I really had no idea of the logistics there.) Last week I met up with my friend Kristin who is already going to talk her plans and see what her thoughts were. And I also looked into triathlon coaches and seeing if I could find someone to hire that would help me with my training as I prepared for the race. If I decided to go, I knew I would want to whatever I could to feel my best and most confident self, since I had gotten intimidated easily in Chattanooga.

Over the past week and a half I thought through the logistics and did my research and looked up flights and TODAY, I officially purchased tickets to fly to Australia. I officially confirmed my registration with Ironman 70.3 and I purchased my one-day membership to Australia Triathlon Association or something like that. Today, I made the decision and I did it.


I'm still a bit overwhelmed at this decision, but am also incredibly excited. I am looking at this as an adventure. As a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As a life experience.

I know I am not going to win. I know I am not even going to be anywhere near competitive. But I am going to be able to compete with the best athletes in the world at a sport that I am just starting to get into. I am going to travel to a place that I have never been and have never even really thought to go! I am going to be able to check a new continent off of my bucket list and I am going to ring in my 30th birthday with a crazy, spontaneous adventure at the end of August.

So, hopefully you weren't sick of all the triathlon talk because we're going after Round 2 - in Australia!!!


  1. Holy. Crap. That is AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!

  2. OMG!!! That is AWESOME!!!! Congrats!!!! I can't wait to read about it!! :)