Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ironman 70.3 World Championships Sunshine Coast Race Recap

Alright guys, here is my super long post recapping September 4th, 2016 - the Ironman 70.3 World Championships on the Sunshine Coast of Australia!  There is a lot in here and most of it is for me because I wanted to document and remember it. I hope that you get a good feel for how the race went as well (if you make it through reading the whole thing.)

I have to say up front how incredibly grateful I am to so many people for helping me with this race. For Kristin especially, who encouraged me to sign up and come, then helped me train, told me I should join the Atlanta Triathlon Club, encouraged me to get a coach and a nutritionist (I have been joking that being friends with her is not good for my bank account, although good for my triathlon life!) To Debbie and Sondra who were the most amazing support/chefs/photographers/cheerers/bike retrievers around. To Charlie and his wife Amanda who were such a fun part of this race experience. To my coach who helped me figure out how to make training work with the crazy schedule I had this summer and who didn't stop giving me interval workouts to do even though I complained about them all the time. To the nutritionist I have been working with who helped me figure out what to eat to help me burn fat and put up with my e-mails of "Can I eat this?" To my mom who loaned me her bike when I was in New Hampshire and helped me figure out where to swim. To ALL my friends and family who encouraged me, supported me, tracked me online, and were just as excited about this as I was. Seriously, thank you so much. I am going to have to write something entirely about the help and support I think. But let's get to the race recap.

In prep for this race, I read my race recap from Chattanooga a bunch, so I decided to stick with that format. Here it goes. Spoiler alert, I finished and was happy :)


My swim wave on Sunday was set for 7:55 a.m. but I woke up at 4:00 a.m. as transition opened at 4:45 a.m. and I wanted to be there right at the start. I took a shower, ate my breakfast of cereal, strawberries and milk, put on my race number tattoos, and sunscreen. This race didn’t mark ages on your legs and had really official tattoo-on race numbers, which was pretty cool.

Kristin and I head down from our hotel across the street (!!) to transition area to drop off my nutrition for the bike and have air pumped into my tires. We didn’t have access to any of our bags in the morning but just to our bikes. The bike techs would be in transition to help with anything needed and since I assumed that there would be a lot of people who also didn’t have air pumps with them, I wanted to be there right on time. It actually went really fast to do that so it wasn’t long after going down that I had air in my tires, a water bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of water on my bike, Gu Chomps, Stinger Waffles, and salt tabs all on my bike.

My bike position was pretty ideal, right at the very end of the transition area and in a little area by itself. The two people to my left didn’t show up so there was plenty of room and the woman next me was very friendly and nice. She was from Brisbane and had ridden the course a number of times. She said that in her opinion, the race wouldn’t start until 40 km in.

Kristin and I checked out the pro area where they were setting up their racking areas and seemed relaxed and joking around with one another. It was a really interesting sight to see and to be able to be competing in the same race as these athletes. Their bikes were beautiful as were many of the bikes even in the age grouper transition area. There was a LOT of money’s worth of bikes and tires and gear in that transition area!

It felt a little odd, but we went back from transition to our hotel room and were able to watch the sunrise and the hustle and bustle of transition getting set up from the balcony of our hotel room, relaxed under warm blankets. As you can see, when the sun rose, we were SO HAPPY to see the calmness of the water on race morning. It looked like a lake!

The pro men started at 6:15 a.m. and the pro women at 6:20. Their swims were done with still well under an hour until I even started so we were able to watch all of their swims from the hotel room balcony as well as the beginning of the age groupers race – which was nice because we saw how the transition was setup from above! The pros had a separate transition area so it wasn’t until the age groupers started that we could really see the route we needed to run. However, better than any of that was seeing the physically challenged athletes come out of the water and be carried up to transition where they were put into their hand crank bikes. It brought tears to my eyes and was pretty inspirational.

I ate a Quest bar, foam rolled, drank water and Gatorade, and at around 7:00 a.m. put on my web suit, lubed up with Glide all over my chafing areas (back of my neck was slathered this time!) and then around 7:15 a.m. Kristin and I went down to the beach.

I brought with me a banana, extra goggles, and a long sleeved shirt, but the air was already starting to warm up. We found a little area to sit down watch the start, I stretched and had a mini solo dance party before going over to my wave start when they called us to be on deck. A number of the other girls in our age group were laughing and joking about wanting the race to be over, and their less-than-serious seeming attitudes put me at ease a bit. They had us gather into a little start area and when the gun went off for the wave before us, we had 5 minutes to enter the water and swim the 100 meters to position ourselves between two buoys that signified the start of the race. This is known as an “in-water” start and was another new-to-me process for this race. My swim caps wave was light purple and all the different age groups had different colors.

As I entered the water, I noticed that it felt like nothing. It wasn’t cold whatsoever when my legs entered the water. The wetsuit really is incredible.

I slowly paddled my way out, taking my time and positioned myself towards the right buoy, where the crowd was thinner. Usually during races, I can position myself to the front of the wave start, since I know I am a strong swimmer. However, with this crowd, I didn’t think that my swimming would be anything too impressive so I stayed towards the outside. Part of my race plan was to not get caught in the craziness. Even though the water was calm, I wanted to be sure that I didn’t panic in the ocean swim and wanted to take the beginning easy.

Recently I read triathlete Chrissie Wellington’s book “A Life Without Limits” and she wrote about how at the beginning of the full Ironman World Championships, in Kona, there is always a sense of peace and calm and beauty she feels before the start of the race. It is also an open water ocean swim and she mentions that it just feels like an amazing thing to just have these heads bobbing in the water at dawn, peaceful and calm before the chaos of the start of the race and the next hours. This was my Kona and I thought of that. It was an incredible feeling and I looked back at the shore as well. I also peed. And then was ready to race.

As I mentioned, the night before, I wrote out a race strategy and things to think about. I broke it down by things to remember throughout the whole race and then a plan for each portion of the race. I've shared my notes here, which is what I did after Chattanooga and I found that really helpful. I actually looked back on that race report a lot and so I have A LOT of information here, which is really for me and my records but happy to share it as well.


- Remember at any point in time why I am here. I am here to do the best that I CAN DO by my standards and nobody else's.
- At any given point in the race, do the best that I can do in that moment.
- There will be highs and lows throughout the race but how I manage the lows will define how I do.
- If you have to go a little slower to ensure that I will finish, that's okay.
- You are only capable of what you are capable of in that moment.
- The training is there. Trust my training.
- You are ready for this race. Execute and have fun.
- Take everything in. Soak in the views and the moment and that I am a part of this event.
- Stick to my plan.
- People are going to be faster, so who cares. This day is for me. It is all here just for me.
- You know what you need to do.
- Have fun. Smile. This is the fun past. This is the celebration of all the training.
- Take in the finish. EVERY MOMENT.

My coach said to be via e-mail the day before the race, "I have confidence in you and the training you did, now you have to execute." This made me feel so good and EXECUTE was a word that was definitely on my mind that day.


Distance: 1.2 miles / 1.9 kilemeters
Time: 33:46
Pace: 1:46/100 m
Division rank: 92/144
Gender rank: 395/933
Overall rank: 1634/2724
Comparison to Chattanooga: +3:46

My plan:
- Get towards the front but not too much. Avoid the craziness.
- The main goal is to get through it. Take it easy in the beginning.
- Relax and win my mind over. Get into a rhythm.
- Dive under the waves.
- Stay controlled in my breathing as much as possible.
- Keep my mind. Swim comfortably.
- FOLLOW PEOPLE. Watch those who are doing it right. If they can do it, I can do it.
- Don't drink the water.
- Sight as best I can.
- There is about an 800 meter section, then about a 100 meter section, another 850ish meter section, then 200 meter finish. Stay comfortable the first section, warm up. Then build on the first turn, go hard after the second turn, then sprint into the finish.
- Hold back on kicking until the last turn.
- Trust that I can swim. Remember that this is just for fun and the bike is where I am going to push it.
- You aren't going to beat your Chattanooga time. Just get through it.
- Feel the rhythm of the waves.
- Keep my core strong, reach long in each stroke, keep my head down, draft where possible.

How it went: 

The horn buzzed and all of a sudden we were off. I stayed on the outside, having started to the right of the starting buoys. When I swam out, it seemed like an empty spot and I didn't even realize that it was because it was all the way on the outside of the swim, but whatever. I swam there to start, only getting knocked around a little bit. I tried to cut into the main pack a bit but then would get pulled at and swatted at my feet, so I just remained on the outside and I felt really good in the water so I just focused on my race plan and tried to keep my head down and swim as much as possible.

My left goggle kept filling with water, which was a problem I had randomly had throughout the past month of swim practice. Usually it would be fine on dry skin and would only happen if I was taking the goggles on and off a lot during practice, so I didn't think it would be a problem during the race. I tried to fix it a couple times and then when I would start swimming again it would just fill back up so I finally said screw it, I guess I am swimming a mile like this!  I swam with my left eye closed, which made it a little difficult to spot since the buoys were to my left. I just kept trying to match the stroke of some of the swimmers I would see when I turned my head to the left to breathe.

During the first straight away until the turn, I swam easy, following my race plan. The water seemed okay and the waves were barely there. I could taste that it was salt water, but otherwise I felt comfortable in the swim with no panic of the ocean. I told myself not to kick a number of times and focus on my pull, relaxing my legs.

The first turn went by really smoothly, with no major effects of the clustering of swimmers. I panicked a little bit seeing dark shadows in the water, but I just kept going and reminded myself to keep my head. On the short stretch after the first turn I saw some blue and silver swim caps which meant I started to pass the men in the swim wave before me, which made me feel good. However, I also thought I spotted a white cap, which meant the group that started behind me was catching me.

When I turned the second corner, I started to get kicked around a bit more and my legs were grabbed at. One person was pulling on me so hard and so much that I actually yelled underwater with some curse words at the person. No lie.

I stayed on the outside but also tried to get into the pack in order to draft, but I was having a hard time with it for some reason.I thought I was doing a decent job with sighting but I couldn't figure out why I was continually by myself and worried I was way too far on the outside. I was picking buoy after buoy to lock my eyes on and just swim towards it. I didn't want to break the rhythm to check how I actually was doing with sighting, so just kept moving forward. I focused on long strokes, not kicking hard, and keeping my core tight - although the wet suit was really keeping me on top of the water as well.

I swallowed a good bit of water and it didn't taste too good due to the saltiness.

While on the longer straight away back, I am not sure how I made this mistake but at one point I thought I saw the crowd of swimmers turn after a buoy and head towards the shore. I could hear the announcer on the beach so I thought it was time to swim to shore. Following my race plan, I started to sprint and go hard. However, after swimming a minute or so, I realized that I was by myself and wasn't sure why. I paused to tread water and looked back and saw all the swimmers continuing to swim straight to one more buoy before turning and there was a guy on a kayak catching up to me shouting I still had one more buoy to go.

Ugh. I was SO pissed.

I immediately turned back and put my head down and drilled towards the final buoy. I was so annoyed with myself and yelling at myself mentally that it was just the first part of the race and I had already messed up. I knew I was going to be slow on the bike, but now I was already going to be starting way behind everyone due to messing up the swim too! I was beating myself up thinking I wasted energy and time and was going to suffer from it. I was annoyed.

I got back into the pack and told myself to stay there, even if I was getting beaten up, and I passed some more men and just pushed myself forward after rounding that last buoy.

Swimming into the beach I went hard, probably with extra adrenaline from being mad at myself, but I also just started to focus on what I needed to do next. I reminded myself not to put my legs down until I could touch the sand with my hands and to let the waves take me in where I could. The swell honestly wasn't even that bad and I barely noticed the wave pushing me in towards the transition.

When I could put my feet down in the sand, I did, and ran out of the water and onto the beach and took in all of the people cheering around me. I stopped my watch coming out of the water and looked down, shocked and happy to see "33" and was really happy with my time. It was better than what I expected, even with the ocean swim and with swimming extra so I felt good and proud of myself and that gave me a little bit of a boost.

T1 Swim-to-bike: 6:18
Comparison to Chattanooga: + :43

- Jog, don't sprint. Don't dawdle.
- Put on HR monitor
- Rinse of salt water.
- Carry shoes to my bike.
- Sunscreen!

I ran up the sand and started to pull off my wet suit.

When we got off the beach there was a small tent set up with a little shower/mist in order to clean off the salt water. I had been worried about being salty during the rest of the race so I was excited and stood there for a second but then thought, "How much is this really going to do?" and decided to just keep moving.

Running through the bag area, I found mine pretty easily, grabbed it, and ran all the way down to the end of the row of plastic chairs, finding an empty space to dump out my bag.

I immediately pulled off the rest of my wet suit (there were no strippers at this race) and put my helmet on. I used my towel to wipe off my face and feet, threw my socks on and then shoved my wet suit into my bag. I fumbled a bit trying to do this, as well as trying to put on my heart rate monitor. I was moving too fast I think and had a hard time getting the clunky wet wetsuit into the little plastic bag and gettting the HR monitor to lay flat and even and snap in.  Eventually, I got it together and ran past the giant bin areas where I tossed my belongings from the swim, running to my bike with my bike shoes in my hand and putting my gloves on as I went.

My bike was literally the closest to the bike exit as you could possibly be, so I had decided to not put my shoes on until I got there. At one point I dropped a shoe and had to stop and grab it, but otherwise, was really happy with this plan. I got to my bike and put my shoes on, grabbed it off the rack, then ran up the hill and down the shoot even further (why do my shoes make so much more noise than everyone else's?!) until I was at the bike mount area. I got on and started to pedal off.


Distance: 56 miles / 90 kilometers
Time: 3:28:06
Speed: 16.15 mph or 25.95 mph
Division rank: 139/144
Gender rank: 774/933
Overall rank: 2447/2721
Comparison to Chattanooga: - 5:19

My plan:
- Let my HR settle coming out of transition and the first hill. Use my gears coming out until I am warmed up. Build later. Don't spike my HR.
- Aim for 125-135 HR range, ideally on the lower end in the beginning and higher at the end.
- Use aero position when it is safe. STAY SAFE AND IN CONTROL.
- Stay close but out of draft zone.
- Go faster than 26 km/hour ... Chattanooga time was 3:33 or 15.74 mph
- If my watch doesn't work, screw it and go by effort or use bike computer.
- Alternate water and Gatorade every 5 minutes, Gu Chomps or Stingers every 45 minutes (after 20 minutes of riding), salt tabs every 30 minutes.
- Take it 10 miles at a time.
- Stay focused.
- Stand up and stretch if needed or switch positions but TRY AND STAY IN AERO.
- Do not be afraid to use my gears, I am not saving them for anything.
- Control what I can control.
- First 20 miles/32 km are conservative and feel like I am deliberately holding back. Get calories in and start fluids.
- During miles 20-40, or 32-64 km pick up slightly, continue with fluids and calories.
- Race the final 16 miles/26 km, pick it up and push hard.
- Keep nutrition simple. If it is hard to grab bottles with my left hand, go slow and then put it in my mouth, then switch to the right hand, then put in the cage.
- If it is cold, just keep going. It will get back.
- First out and back on the motorway will be smooth and flat, we turn around at 23 km and then just before 40 km will make a sharp left into the hinterland.
- Lots of sharp turns and hills in these miles. At KM 51.7 TURN RIGHT INTO THE BIG HILL. It will last until 56 km then you will have an aid station.
- At 73 km it is a race to get home!
- Last 5K will be hilly, take gloves off if you can. Who cares if you drop them.

How it went: 

I mounted my bike and took off, the first section heading out of town was uphill. I knew I would need time to warm up so I let myself use all my gears to get up the hill rather than try to push my legs hard right away. Following my plan, I decided to try and start with fluids right away but when I took a gulp of water, I felt nauseous, I think I may have swallowed more water than I realized. I was concerned I was going to throw up for a minute but just figured I would deal with that it if it happened (or the people biking around me would deal with it), to keep riding, and take smaller sips of water.

During the beginning of the ride, I kept my mind busy focusing on my nutrition and calculating the timing in my mind of when to drink water, Gatorade, eat Gu Chomps, and taking in salt, to get everything going and into a rhythm. I think I ended up doing Gu Chomps every 40 or so minutes vs. 45 because I didn't want to get hungry. I alternated with some Stinger Caramel waffles depending on what I felt like I needed, as the waffles tend to give me a feeling that I am eating real food more than the Gu Chomps do, so it is nice to switch back and forth for myself.

We rode through town and then went onto the Sunshine Motorway. I knew I had 20 km of straight fairly flat roads before a U-turn so I tried to settle into aero position and just ride comfortably and powerfully. I paid attention to nutrition and ignored all the people around me who were passing me at every moment. Since they drive on opposite side of the road in Australia, all the passing was happening on my right, which was funny to me.

I wondered a little bit how I was ahead of SO many people because it just felt like a never ending flow of strong cyclists just whipped past me, but alas, that is pretty much how my entire career in triathlon has been. "Seriously? How are there this many people who are still passing me?!" is a question I have asked myself many, many times. However, I didn’t let it bother me one bit. I just focused on what I needed to execute. I’m much more used to riding with groups than I was in Chattanooga, so the passing wasn't as unnerving as it was in Chattanooga. However, there were times that people passed me SO close that it made me extremely nervous or would ride so close behind me before whipping past me and I didn't like it at all. Especially since this race I was riding in aero. I feel more unstable on the bike when I am riding in the aero position so if someone came up close beside me and I tried to move over a bit, sometimes it would make me feel really wobbly and unsteady. More important than speed and aerodynamics is safety for me so I would come out of aero whenever I felt unstable, which happened at times when people passed me very closely.

Since it was an out and back I also saw all of the riders on the other side of the rode. There were LARGE packs of cyclists riding in groups and all packed together. I know that this is against the rules and even though I saw it in Chattanooga, it still shocked me to see at this level. My coach had told me that straight flat routes tend to have a lot of unintentional drafting but to see huge packs of 20ish riders in a race doesn’t seem too “unintentional” to me. One woman who was riding past me in a Swiss triathlon kit even yelled to a pack of bikers that were riding in the opposite direction, “Oh come on! You’re not supposed to be drafting! You’re all a bunch of cheaters!” which I thought was pretty funny.

We had to slow down quite a bit at the turnaround to make the sharp u-turn but then I knew that the first portion of the bike ride was half way over. I had skipped the first aid station that we went past since I still had ½ my water bottles of water and Gatorade left. I really didn’t want to toss my Gatorade bottle until it was down to the bottom since I was unsure what the Gatorade-substitute was like on this race. I usually like to train with what is going to be given out on the course, but it was a local brand that I was unfamiliar with and didn’t have access to be able to train with in the U.S.

On the way back from the bike as we passed an aid station, I tossed out both my water and my Gatorade, which were almost done, picking up a water bottle of water and one of Endura, their electrolyte drink. I did better than expected at grabbing the nutrition with my left hand (something I was nervous about as I envisioned the race.) The volunteers were awesome and when you made eye contact/yelled to them and they realized you were looking to grab a water bottle from them, they would run beside you so that you were more an even pace and easier to grab. I think that helped me out a lot.

I saw a woman get called for a violation from the motorbike officials which was interesting. And also passed a penalty tent with a few riders that were in there and bitching. I tried to look for my friend Kristin on the other side of the road, but never actually did see her. I tried not to focus on that too much and just repeated advice that had been given to me by a woman while in line for the swim during Chattanooga of “Just keep your head down on the bike.”

It was something that came in handy because the main element of challenge on the way back in of this out-and-back section was the wind.  The wind really picked up heading back in from the highway and since we were on a highway… there was absolutely nothing to block us. No trees, no shield, just riding straight into the wind. It reminded me of the end of the bike ride in Chattanooga however this was still just in the first third. My whole body felt tired biking into the wind and it was taking  a lot of me which made me feel nervous since it was still early in the bike ride and I had the run left too. It was way too early to be feeling out of energy and I started to panic a little!

I remembered what my coach told me that there would be highs and lows in the race and it was how I faced the lows that would define the race. He said that if I needed to go slower to ensure that I would finish the race, that was okay. I originally had the goal of wanting to beat my time in Chattanooga on the bike, and I honestly have been really happy with my progress I've been making so going into the bike I didn’t want to just beat it but I wanted to crush it. I felt I had it in me and wanted to give the bike all I had on this course. However, feeling so depleted coming back from the highway and riding into the wind, I told myself to forget that goal of beating Chattanooga’s bike and just do the best I could in that moment. The wind was a challenge so I accepted that and didn’t burn out my legs trying to maintain a pace. Just put in the effort that felt best in the moment.

During transition I had put on my heart rate monitor, but it didn’t pick up with my watch. I was happy that the watch was even working, so I didn’t feel too worried about my HR not being tracked. Especially because I don’t even really use that on the bike usually. I was bummed thinking ahead of how my run would go without HR but I also just tried to stay in the moment.

We made it to the turns that started to take us into the “hinterland” as the Aussies call it and through a series of loops. Looking at the map took Kristin and I a lot of effort to try and understand exactly what the route of this bike course looked like but after much studying and watching the video a few times through I had a good understanding of what the course looked like on paper but had never driven the course so wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

In the days before the race we had started to hear rumors about the hills during the bike. What we originally thought to be a fairly flat course, we learned had about 2400 feet of climbing – which was extremely concentrated since we spent the first 40 km of the race just on a straight flat out and back on the highway. The woman next to me in the morning racking bikes was from Brisbane (about 1.5 hours from the course) and she had ridden it a few times. She told me “The race isn’t going to start until 40 km in.”  When we hit 40km the hills started indeed and it didn’t stop for what felt like the next 30 km.  We just went up a hill then hit a flat then up another hill then hit a flat. I swear there were no downhills it seemed. I did pretty good at some of the initial climbs, passing a few people for the first time in the race. The roads also got more crowded for a bit as a portion of this part of the route required two loops so there were people riding next to me who were technically on their second loops. I think those were the people I was passing.

I passed a woman with a pom-pom on the back of her bike who I knew had passed me on the straight away at the beginning of the bike. She was riding in the center of the road so I had to yell to her “On your right” so she would move over and I could pass. This was right before there was a split that had riders on the first loop go to the right and riders on the second loop go to the left. She saw that I was splitting to the right and she shouted, “You’re about to hit the big hill. Start to get into your lowest gear!” and I said okay and then turned the corner into WHAM the biggest hill ever. I started to ride up and the grade immediately turned incredibly steep. Since you had to make a sharp turn to start the hill, you had to slow down and go into it with very little momentum. There were already a number of people off of their bike walking up the hill and I am not ashamed to admit that after a little bit of effort, I stopped and got off my bike to walk it up this hill as well.

The online guide says that the grade of the hill is 53% which I don’t think is accurate (is that even possible?!) However, it was steep. Others were claiming it to be 18 or 20 percent. The rumors had been flying the days before. And although I don’t know accurately what grade the hill was, I will say that 8/10 riders around me at this point were walking their bikes up the hill. Some made it further up than I did, but I saw very few people ride up the entire hill.  My mind set was that yes, maybe I COULD power it up this hill? But at what expense? Sky rocket my HR? Burn out my legs?  Leave me exhausted for the rest of the ride and possibly run? I knew from studying the course that there were still more hills after this one and I wanted to be able to handle those.

I was a little shocked at how long the hill went. It felt like we kept turning corners and this hill just seemed to keep going. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back on mid-hill so I just kept walking up with everyone else. It was tough to climb up the hill, especially in my bike shoes and as I neared the top there were a lot of people cheering for us all. When I made it to the top and climbed back on my bike and kept going.

When we eventually did hit some of the downhill on the course, it was demoralizing a number of the downhills include sharp turns so we had to brake. Nothing is more disappointing than having to ride your brakes down a hill after a tough incline.

I still was able to power through the rolling hills on my second loop and was so happy to bear left at the break where the steep hill started for first loopers. On my second loop the bike course thinned out quite a bit so I used that time to just refocus on myself and executing my plan. I began to get passed a bit again, which the photographers so graciously captured on camera.

During the barrage of hills it was tough to be taking in nutrition. I needed to focus my energy on getting up a hill and then wanted to take advantage of what little downhill there was when I could. I fell off my nutrition plan a little bit not wanting to be reaching down for my water or fumbling to pull out food or salt during these times. So when it settled more, I refocused on taking in fluids every 5 minutes and eating regularly. At this point, I also could sense I had to go to the bathroom a little bit. It wasn’t urgent like it was in the past, so I tried to see how long I could hold out. At one point I was riding almost by myself, there wasn’t really any riders in my sight ahead of me and I tried to just look around and take in the scenery and remind myself – I am riding my bike in AUSTRALIA, which was just a cool thought to have.

After riding by myself a couple minutes I saw an aid station up ahead and I sort of mentally had decided to try and use a bathroom but at the same time ahead of the aid station I saw a pack of riders. I know from doing group rides the past few months that I tend to push myself more when I have someone to chase so I decided to skip the bathroom and instead focus on trying to catch the group of riders ahead of me.

It was a good distraction and I was able to get ahead of quite a few of them. My race plan on the bike had been to hold back a bit the first 20 miles, go harder the mid-miles, then race the last 16. I hadn’t been able to go too hard in the mid-miles due to the hills so now that we were into that final 16 and out of the hills and away from the wind a bit, I realized I did still have something in the tank and worked to take down one rider after another. It felt good to be racing and chasing people instead of just getting passed every few seconds. I do well mentally when I am trying to chase/pass people.

As we started to head back into town, we did get hit with the wind a bit more but I also had the adrenaline knowing the bike was almost over. I also was doing some math in my head and knew that I still actually did have the opportunity to beat my time from Chattanooga’s bike, even if just by a few minutes. I told myself to stay in aero as much as possible even with the last 10 km of hills and wind and just get to the transition. It was a great feeling to see the familiar roads and the crowds and I didn’t let up on the bike until I made it to transition, even passing a couple people in the final stretch before transition.

With 3 miles left I started to think about and plan for transition, I took off my gloves and shoved them into my bike bag and stretched out and mentally prepped a little.

T2 Bike-to-run: 5:31
Comparison to Chattanooga: + :28

- Drop bike and helmet. Shoes off to run if you can.

I hopped off my bike and moved over to the outermost aisle that I knew would take me to my bike. I had planned that I wanted to take off my shoes to run to my bike since I knew that it was a long run to where my bike rack was. I moved to the side to be sure I was out of anyone’s way and balanced my bike against the fence and took off my bike shoes then proceeded to run with my bike and carrying my shoes, helmet on, to my bike. I head a woman spectator say to her husband or whoever the guy was next to her, “That’s the right idea taking off your bike shoes to run! That’s what I would do.” I don’t know why this random lady’s statement felt validating to me but since she had been watching all people come through this point in transition I was assuming she’d seen a lot of strategies so her comment that I was doing it smartly made me feel good.

After I dropped off my bike, I kept my shoes and helmet with me to run through the area with our T2 bags. There weren’t a lot left so it was easy to find and grab mine, then run down a set of stairs to where they had plastic chairs set up. Stairs did not feel good in this moment. I dumped my bag and threw my shoes and helmet into the old bag. I decided not to change my socks as they felt dry enough. I threw on my sneakers, put on my visor, and blew my nose in my towel I had there. Funny thing, the day before when we had put together our bags for transition I forgot to put any towels in them. Transition closed at 3:00 pm on Saturday and I actually ran down right at 2:45 to go back to my bags and throw a small towel in each one.

As I was tying my shoes I saw Kristin coming down the stairs and getting her transition stuff ready. I knew she was a much stronger biker than me so I actually had been wondering if I had just missed her passing me on the bike. I did have my head down for a bit so it wouldn’t have been totally out of this world as a possibility. Looks like she had caught up at least the 10 minutes from where she had started behind me in the waves.

I asked how she was doing as she sat down and she was smiling and said good. I told her the bike had sucked and I was worried my legs were dead. I’m not sure exactly what she said back, I don’t remember now but I shouted bye and wished her luck on the run and said I would see her out there. I stopped in the porta-potty before leaving transition, when I got off the bike the urge to go to the bathroom was stronger so I used it quickly before setting out on the run.


Distance: 13.1 or 21.1 kilometers
Time: 2:05:48
Pace: 5:58 km/hr
Division rank: 136/144
Gender rank: 729/933
Overall rank: 2341/2721
Comparison to Chattanooga: - 7:19

My plan:
- First hill is right out of transition. Do not let my HR spike too much. Be very conservative on the first hill and then once I am past it, get going.
- Feel like I am starting a normal long run. It will get harder, so just remember it's a normal long run.
- Keep HR in the low 150s. It may climb on the hill and out of transition but then settle.
- Gatorade and water at every aid station.
- Stay cool. Keep my body cool. Do not overheat.
- If my watch doesn't work, screw it.
- Salt tabs every mile.
- First three miles, ease into it. Middle 3-10, moderate. Stay steady. Last 3 miles, PUSH.
- Fight and push through pain. Remember how far I have come.
- Your body can do it. Keep your mind in it. Think of my first triathlon and my first runs. Thank the volunteers. Feed of the crowds. Talk to people if they are around.
- Gu every 3 miles or so.
- The hill will happen FOUR TIMES.
- You ran Chattanooga in 2:13. Beat that time.

How it went: 

I head out on the run and immediately saw our friends Debbie and Sondra when I left transition. They were taking pictures and cheering so I waved and smiled.

As I was running through transition my legs had felt like jelly so I was a little nervous heading out onto the run. However, I got a boost of confidence/adrenaline when I looked at my watch and realized that when switching my watch from bike to run, my HR had somehow picked up and was being tracked! I mainly only use it on the run, so this made me happy. It was about 140 coming out of transition and the very first part of the course is uphill. The route was a two looped course that was an out-and-back for the most part so I knew I had to do this hill twice, and otherwise it would be flat. I stuck to my plan, taking it easy and telling myself it was just a normal long run. I tried to hold off from out out to hard and once I got over the hill I was feeling good and my legs seemed to be working. I just tried to get into a rhythm but also told myself to hold back for at least the first loop. I saw my first mile was about 9:18 and I felt good about that but told myself to hold back more.

Once we got off the main road we ran through some pretty scenic areas with pretty views of the water and I tried to just take in the sights and experience around me. People were running with all different types of kits on and different countries represented. As I was checking out the different kits, I ran up behind someone who had on a kit that looked familiar (by the way a kit is what you call the triathlon outfit that people wear for races, they are made to be worn from the swim to the bike to the run and come in tons of different styles.)

I realized that the familiar looking kit was an Atlanta Triathlon Club kit and I thought to myself, "Is there someone else here from Atlanta besides Kristin, Charlie and myself?" I knew Kristin was behind me and wasn't expecting to ever see Charlie on the course due to his early wave start combined with all around speediness. I planned to say hello and ran up next to the person and realized that it was Charlie, and that he was not looking so hot. At first glance, he seemed really dehydrated and was shuffling along. I was shocked and asked how he was doing and needless to say, he was not good. His stomach had turned on him and he was struggling. I instinctively told him I would stay with him and asked him what he needed, grabbing a handful of my salt tabs and giving them to him. I slowed down and ran with him for a half a mile or so, I chatted with him, saying random things, just trying to distract him and keep him going. He was on his second lap and and I wanted him to finish but was also scared to push too hard. After a while of staying with him, he started to walk and I knew I needed to keep my race going and keep moving. My years of running experience knows that if I walk, my legs don't like to start again. It was hard to move on and leave someone I knew when I saw them in pain but I also knew that Kristin would be reaching him soon and that made me feel better.

Once I started running again I worked to get back into my regular pace. I think that holding back actually helped me a bit because my heart rate had dropped lower and it was a forced slow down, which I know is important in the first half of a long run, but can also be challenging when you have adrenaline and your legs are used to spinning fast on the bike.

I got back to my nutrition plan, taking in some salt and Gu Chomps, but also being careful since I knew I had given away a portion of my salt supply. The weather was good for running - sunny and breezy but not too hot. Although at this point in the day, the sun was starting to feel really hot. At the aid stations I was taking in water and Endura, which, I don't think I mentioned, was disgusting. I had been forcing myself to drink it throughout the bike and the run, reminding myself that it was what I needed so to just get it down. I alternated between Endura and water and also took whatever ice they had and dumped it down my shirt or turned the cup over on top of my head and ran with it like that and let it melt on my head a bit. I probably looked like an idiot running with a cup held on top of my head but it helped me to stay cool. Any extra water I had, I dumped on top of my shoulders and arms and head as well. When reaching out for a cup of water at one point I realized that my right elbow stung to open my arm. Without having applied any additional sunscreen since about 6am, I was starting to get crispy and I could feel it. I was baking and I knew I still had at least another hour to go in the sun. There was no shade on the run course, and mentally, I went back to training runs in Cartersville running after biking on the shade-less highway.

When running the first loop I saw all of the markers on the ground for the kilometers and mile points for the second loop. I so wished those numbers were for me and as I reached the hill by transition to ascend it for the second time before the turn around, I so wanted to be done!  There as an aid station midway on the hill and I stopped for a moment to walk and take some salt and drink water as I was feeling crampy. I got to the turnaround and saw Debbie and Sondra and again then went back up the hill for the 3rd time.

There was great energy from the crowds on the hill although when I made the turn, it was noticeably a thinner crowd of runners my second loop on the run. I wanted to look for Kristin and Charlie but I also was trying to just focus on my race. One of the things I told myself all throughout the day was that I was only racing myself and I kept telling myself, “This is all here for you.” I mentally pretended that all the crowds, all the aid stations, all the closed off roads were all here just for me to do this race and everyone wanted to see me do the best race possible.

[Side note: what was in my bra??]

Whenever I crossed a tracking mat I thought about my friends and family and everyone getting alerts and that helped to motivate me to keep going. The second lap of the run I also decided it was time to start talking and get social. Sometimes when I am running, the encouragement I give to others is really just saying the things that I needed to hear myself. And at this point in the run I was still going pretty strong and passing a number of people. Most of them were older, but it kept me going to find someone and catch up to them, telling them great job as I went by. There were a few people who had their bibs on backwards so I could read their name and tell them "nice work" by name, others I called out their country with a “Nice job Guam” and “Keep it up Hungary” I passed two American kits who I asked where they were from and it was someone from Houston and someone else from Pittsburgh. At the 3/9 mile turnaround point they had an announcer set up who was part of the official race and reading people’s bib numbers/cheering for them. It was super encouraging and when I got to that point he also announced that as a recap of how the race went, the Australian pro had won the race by 2 seconds beating out Germany in the shoot. I thought that must have been such a dramatic finish and was thought it was really cool to get the update.

It also struck me that their finish must have been so long ago and motivated me to keep moving and get this over with. I was ready to be done! I saw Kristin this time on my way back in and shouted to her that she was doing great and she told me to finish strong. I was counting down the kilometers left to go, which I actually really like because they go by faster than miles!

When I got to the hill, I knew I just needed to get over it once more and then it would be a downhill into the finish. I really felt like I had paced myself well on the run, and on the second loop around I did try and pick my pace a bit. When I got to the 5K left mark I tried to push hard again as well, and also was doing some math in my head that I should come in with a faster run that Chattanooga if I could just keep my pace the same. I was sure to follow nutrition, even through to the end of the race, taking water and Endura, salt and Gu whenever I could. My stomach felt really good and I didn’t get sick of the Gu Chomps like I did in Chattanooga so it was easy to keep following the plan.

On the way back in, they were starting to break down some of the aid stations that were on the way out of the loop, which made me feel bad because there still were a number of people behind me and thought that it sort of sucked if they wouldn’t get the same support. I took whatever I could and just kept thinking this was the final stretch.

Honestly, I felt really good throughout the run. I felt strong, my head felt clear, and my stomach and muscles felt good. I could really tell that the training was paying off and I was running really strong, regardless of the fact that I had done the swim and bike beforehand! When I came to the finish in Chattanooga, I was crying, hyperventalating and a bit delirious. When I finished here, I felt so happy, encouraging and talking to the other runners.

I smiled all the way up and over the final hill. I smiled the entire way into the shoot and the entire way down the “magic red carpet.” I even had enough sense to me to be worrying about pictures and put my sunglasses on top my head because I didn’t want them in pictures.

I also peeked behind my shoulder to make sure that there was nobody right on my heels to race me in the shoot so that I could enjoy the moments. I high fived a number of kids who were leaning over the shoot as I ran down. I saw Debbie and Sondra and I just smiled so big and happy as I finished.

When I crossed I turned back and saw my time of 6:19 flash with my name and I was SO happy.

I had beaten my time in Chattanooga and I felt great! The volunteers gave me a towel and a medal and also a bag with some finishers gear and walked me through to where there was water.

After taking some water I realized that the athlete finish was really long and I wanted to be able to see Kristin finish so I decided to turn back and return to the finish. I knew she was about a mile behind me so I just sort of hung out around the finish and watched others run in and get their towels and medals, pacing about to keep my legs loose.

Not long after Kristin finished, dancing her way down and the announcer calling her out as a “party animal” as she finished which was awesome. I gave her a big hug and we were able to walk together down the rest of the athlete shoot where they then directed us to “athlete recovery” which involved walking down a set of stairs and onto the beach – not really where we wanted to be going. Walking down stairs and on sand is the last thing tired legs want and I wanted to get out of the sun. Luckily I kept my towel over my shoulders and we were able to grab ½ Subway sandwiches and little ice cream cups that we enjoyed on the beach while chatting with other runners.The oldest woman in the race was a woman named Cybil who was American and who we had met at the Parade of Nations. She has a huge Ironman tattoo on her leg and has done Kona 4 times but just started doing half Ironmans so this was her first 70.3 worlds. I asked her how her race day was and she said it was really tough, particularly the bike and she didn’t do as well as she’d liked (which was a common theme among everyone I talked to!)

Eventually Kristin and I decided it was time to get moving again and we moved out of the athlete recovery area, where we ran into Sondra who was waiting for us. We took some pics on the beach, grabbed our morning bags from that area, and then all walked back.

Sondra told us Charlie had finished and that everyone was up in our hotel room. Before going up, I really wanted to do what I didn’t do in Chattanooga which was go and watch others finish, so Kristin and I headed back that way in order to cheer on some of the others. I knew if I went back and showered and came back down, there may not be anyone finishing at that point. There wasn’t a huge stream of people finishing but it was great to be able to be there and support the other athletes and watch them have their moment crossing the finish line with crowd support.  Many of the athletes had their friends/family handing them their country flags and they would run across the finish with their nations flag, which was cool to see.

One older man was shuffling towards the finish with the whole crowd cheering, when he tripped and stumbled and fell to the ground just a few feet before the finish. The whole crowd went silent but then erupt back into cheers as be popped up and ran across the finish. It was a great sight to see and I am glad that we did that before heading back up to the hotel.


The race was an incredible experience.  Overall, I am so happy with how I did. I know that I didn’t impress anyone in that crowd with the times I put up, but I felt great about them. Yes, I would have loved to have crushed my time from Chattanooga and on a different course, I feel confident that I could have. I could tell in every leg of the race how much my training has paid off. I felt strong, I felt confident in my plan of execution, and aside from swimming not in a straight line, I think I executed on THIS COURSE on THIS DAY as best as I possibly could.

Had I done the Chattanooga course, I think I would have crushed it. I knew going in that my swim wouldn’t be faster, nor would my transitions, so my goal was to improve on the bike and the run, which I did. Which included walking up a hill on the bike!! I know this cut into my time but looking back, I don’t regret that I walked the hill. Yes, I would love to have been able to get up it. And I maybe I could have! But I chose to take the hit to my pride, and time on this part of the course, to walk up. I did not want to blast my legs in an effort to get up that hill and have nothing left for the rest of the bike or the run. I think I made the best choice at the time.The next day everyone was talking about how hard the bike course was and telling stories of their experience on the climb and the course in general. At breakfast the next morning, at the awards lunch, at the airport and throughout the rest of the days every person man or woman, all age groups, and from different parts of the world all talked about how hard the bike was and how they weren’t expecting it to be so hard.

Again, I know I didn’t turn any heads with my split on the bike or throughout the course at all, but I seemed to be the only person who was actually happy with their time on this course. I really don’t remember talking to anyone else who had a PR or was excited with their finish. One guy said that his bike alone was 30 minutes slower than what he had expected. Another person said that when they were riding up the hill, someone just completely fell over on their bike because they weren’t able to push hard enough to keep moving forward and they just toppled over.

As late breaking news, I actually just before hitting publish, got a text message from Sondra who was spectating in Australia. She said that she talked to a friend of hers who had heard from Heather Wurtele, one of the pros who raced in Australia, that the hill was 18% grade and the hardest thing she has ever ridden in a race, and she has done KONA! So there. If there is any validation left to be had, I will take that.

Looking at my paces and splits and times, I felt good. On the run my pace and HR looked like:

Mile splits: 9:10/9:19/9:51/10:33/9:20/10:11/10:11/9:19/9:00/9:26/9:41/9:35/9:24
HR splits: 151/150/150/148/153/151/151/150/155/156/156/157/161/166

I smiled across that finish and felt so wonderful with the race, my training, the improvements I know where there because I could FEEL them, and my decision to come at this race and give it everything I got. I only had about 3 months in between Chattanooga and Worlds, which isn’t THAT much time but through hard work, a commitment to try, and a decision to invest in myself through a coach and a nutritionist, I really made some great strides in a short amount of time.

Honestly, what makes me so happy about this race is that I see where I can improve. When I did Chicago Marathon last year, I had the feeling, "This is the best I will ever do in a marathon." And  maybe I'm wrong about that. But finishing this race, I felt really proud of myself but also really excited for the future. I can’t wait to see what I can do with more years of base training under my belt. With longer, tougher training rides, and as I get more into this sport.

I definitely could have swum a faster time in this race. I definitely can make improvements on the bike. And I really think I could have pushed myself even more on the run, considering I walked a little and slowed my pace in those early miles.

This is just my first season of racing Half Ironmans and I can’t believe what a year it has been!

If you had told me at the beginning of January that in September I would be racing Ironman 70.3 World Championships, I would have told you that you were a crazy person. Maybe I did get a lucky opportunity with this race slot but I made it my own. The race itself had 34% female participation which I thought was interesting because in reality it should be 50/50. Why did so many fewer women decide to take up this opportunity to go to the race after they qualified? My thought was that a lot of women probably had the same initial reaction and thought process that I did, “Oh well, I didn't really qualified, I got a roll down spot – I am not supposed to be there. I will be out of my league and I shouldn’t compete with that crowd.” And they let family, work, life, kids, etc. not allow them to go.

These are things we do as women all the time – professionally, personally, athletically – we automatically count ourselves out. I had to tell myself over and over at this race and in the months leading up to it that I earned my spot to be there. I didn’t buy the ticket on the black market. I got it at an official Ironman 70.3 race that I competed in and finished and through official Ironman 70.3 processes. If they didn’t want athletes like me at this race, they would have different processes. I earned my spot there.

On the flight over to Australia I watched a number of sports movies to help motivate me. I watched the Jesse Owen’s story Race, I watched some older favorites of mine like Cool Runnings and A League of Their Own. And I watched a new to me movie but an oldie Rudy. Then on the flight home I watched Eddie the Eagle, the story of a British ski jumper (which was oddly similar in story line to Cool Runnings!!) All these stories had a similar story line of someone participating in sports that others think they have no right to be a part of. Maybe it was dramatized for the movie but they all included at least one scene of someone saying to them, "You don't belong here."

And for ME, I didn't ever face that outwardly, to be honest, the only person ever telling me that was myself. I was the only person saying to me, "You don't belong at Ironman 70.3 World Championships." You might think that would make it easier to overcome, but anyone who has ever had a negative voice in their mind knows that sometimes it is the exact opposite and your voice in your head is the hardest one to drown out. What sense does that make?

I’m proud of myself for telling that voice to be quiet. It isn’t always easy to do and it can creep around for so many different things. Although I don’t know if I will ever get rid of it completely, I am getting much better at shutting it out. For which, I can only hope to say the same for all of you. Thank you for reading along.

I can’t wait to see what’s next!


  1. What a pleasure for read! I love all the detail that you put in it. And I learned so much new stuff despite being there! I was super impressed with your attitude approaching, during and after the race. These races are unpredictable and have their moments, but you handled it so well, and more importantly, appreciated how special it was. Kudos, Chica!

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