Friday, January 25, 2019

Ironman Chattanooga 2018 Race Report

Flat out...I was in it to win it.  I was going into this race fit, confident, and hungry to claim a slot to the 2019 Ironman World Championship.  I was coming off of the excitement of winning Michigan Titanium as I went into my final build block for this race - patience paid off and my body came around in time to get a couple weeks of quality work in.  Andrew was on the road for work for the majority of September - which means less deliciously cooked for me meals, but no less support.  I can't even begin to explain how supportive this man has been from day one.  Early on while we were dating he asked me what my goals for the year were.  Without hesitation I told him "win Michigan Titanium and punch my ticket to Kona at IM Choo".  He never doubted me or even brought up 'what if I didn't achieve those  things' - he 100% devoted himself to supporting me to achieve them, whilst training for his first Ironman.   Anyways, back to IM Choo 2018.

We left Wednesday after work and drove about 4 hours before staying at a hotel for the night.  We woke up and hit the road on Thursday morning - arriving in time to get in some easy workouts, check-in and relax in the afternoon.  Unfortunately, after hearing murmers of a swim cancellation on Wednesday, I heard "officially" on Thursday that there would be no swim.  Yes, I was bummed since I was ready for a current assisted swim PR - but let's be honest, no one does Chatt to set themselves apart on the swim.  I shrugged it off and was thankful I did MiTi the month before in order to get in a full 140.6 swim, bike, run. 

On Friday we moved into the house we had rented with the DC Tri crew.  This was the first time I'd stay in a house with friends while racing an Ironman.  It was great, I'd do it again in a second.  It was laid back, supportive and exciting with friends racing their 1st, 2nd and returning to Ironman after a few year hiatus.  Not to mention our super sherpas in Ron and Andrew.  Some shake out work on Friday on the bike and run and then settled in and had a relaxing night starting to pack gear bags and prepare the bike for drop off on Saturday.

BIG BREAKFAST.  That's really all you need to know.  Aretha Frankenstein's is where it is at, and yes it is true, the blueberry pancake is at Aretha Frankenstein's is one reason I chose to go back to Chattanooga.   After big breakfast I did some final gear bag prep and then headed to drop off while Andrew headed out on his last long ride before IM Louisville.  We also got word that we would be starting the bike in TT format based on bib # - thank gosh for AWA and bib #250. 

I was lucky enough to be able to visit with my cousin's on Saturday afternoon for a bit and just chill out.  No worries, Sunday was going to be like every other training day.  Nail the heart rate, nail the power and be confident in my training and race plan.  Once Andrew was done with his ride we packed it up and headed back to the house for a nice evening with friends...and sorting out Garmin issues with Angela :)

Early morning wake-up - but not as early as most Ironman races! Due to the cancelled swim we got about an extra hour of sleep in the morning.  It was great.  The race day vibe was a little different as people were all about and in and out of transition getting ready for the day - which would still be great than 140.6 thanks to the lovely 116 mile bike course at Chattanooga.  After getting everything set up I found mom, Andrew, and Gary and we camped out near the port o potts.  As the time was nearing I realized I forgot my Turbine (nasal dilator) but thankfully had previously thought ahead and packed the non sport version in my transition bag for just this type of scenario. 

I headed into transition and soon the line started rolling.  2x2 athletes went off.  Since Ironman is 70-75% male dominated I was surrounded by mostly males, who were also AWA.  Now AWA can mean a couple things - either you did really/pretty well in 1-2 races or you race A LOT and just got points that way.  Either way the egos were out and big!

THE BIKE - 116 miles - 5:18:48
I was thankful that I had practice in this situation at Ironman Maryland in 2016.  I knew my HR might be crazy high at first from the adrenaline hit of starting on the bike.  And high it was!  I headed out holding goal power and let me HR start to settle down and settle into it.  It felt easy and there were packs forming - so I stepped on it a bit.  I knew there were some girls that I'd be competing with not far ahead based on their bib numbers.  Just over 10 miles in a passed a pack of 4 ladies, at least 2 of whom were in my age group.  I nicely looked over and said respect the rules as I passed by.  I was yo-yoing with a couple men who were absolutely horrible at riding their momentum on the rolling hills.  Before the 20 mile mark I came up on another very strong athlete from my age group.  There was a man in front of me that as he passed her slowed to exchange a couple words with her - as I passed she was looking over at him saying she didn't want to be doing this today.  It was a great confidence booster for me and I used that motivation to keep me going on the first loop.  As my first 28 mile split came in I knew my power was too high to sustain for the full 116 and I needed to keep my HR in check for the hilly run.   I rolled through special needs and unfortunately had to wait a bit longer and yell a bit more than ideal to get my bag brought to me.  As I got rolling again I rolled through Chikamauga and got a nice pick me up and some info from Ron and Andrew.  A small climb, descent and left hand turn to start loop 2.

I knew by this time I was very near the front of the female race.  I backed off a bit because I knew I wanted to finish the bike course strong.  The headwinds picked up and the majority of people I began passing were those still on loop 1.  I rode most of loop 2 alone with the occasional pass or passerbys of a group of drafting men.  I kept the nutrition in, the HR in check and let the power do what it needed to do to not blow up my HR.  It was getting warm, warmed than the weather predictions had stated.  I made one more pass of a woman as we rolled in during the final couple of miles and another final pass at the dismount line...boom!  haha.

T2 - 2:19
A quick run in to the change tent to put on my run shoes, visor, and race belt before hitting the run course. 

THE RUN - 26.2 Miles - 4:08:23
I felt good and I knew the run course would be lonely for the first lap.  Due to the flooding of the river more of the run course was diverted onto the wide open industrial highway - not may favorite part but it was ok.  As I was running in the concrete desert I heard my name and some yelling - I looked across the 5-6 lanes of road and there on the other side was Andrew, on a bike share bike - yelling "you've got a 20 minute lead on your AG.  Keep your pace and you got this!" Alright, I'm pretty darn good, I know this course and I've been running well.  A mile or so later I got passed my Matt Russel - who then stopped in a porto potty and I passed him - and then he passed me again.  I got to see the front of the male pro race play out as it passed by me.  Including Snapple and Virginia local Adam Otsot near the end of my first loop and near the end of his marathon.  During the small section where we overlapped on the concrete desert I was able to see both Paige and Courtney looking strong and solid.

Finishing my first loop and coming in to special needs I still felt pretty good.  I took my 5 hour energy and saved it for a few miles later as I headed back out onto the concrete desert.  Near mile 17 Andrew appeared on his bike share bike again - this time the news wasn't so good.  I was getting run down and my lead had widdled down close to 2 minutes and my pace was slowing.  The first round of hills had taken it out of me.  I held on, I found a running partner who was doing his first IM and I told him I had to get my ass to the finish line fast and punch this ticket to Kona.  Near mile 23, uphill, it happened.  She had bright green on and I couldn't miss her.  I knew she had started in front of me (bib #) so I tried to just keep her in sight, but she had a motor and got up that hill and out of sight so fast.  It was a great pass and I knew at this point I needed to finish strong and as fast as I could.    Up, down, Up, and down and across the bridge and into the finish line.  Oh that finish line felt good, the temps had gotten into the 90s and people were suffering out there.  It wasn't my best IM marathon, or even my 2nd best, but it was my best on the day.  I probably overbiked - and maybe backing off 5 minutes on the bike would have gotten me another 10-15 minutes back on the run.  You never know.  What we did know was that I was 2nd in my AG and that it was going to be a close call as to if F 30-34 would get 1 or 2 Kona slots. 

Best Finish Line Catcher in the Sport - My Momma!

Midnight Finish Line
After some chicken broth and massage I got cleaned up and headed back out to cheer in Angela and find Courtney and Paige.  We shared our crazy stories from the day and Angela and I headed to get her cleaned up and get a pizza before the midnight finish line.  I was happy with my overall race and I knew I just needed to cross my fingers and know that if my AG only had one slot we would be the first to get a re allocation.

Sunday morning - awards and Kona Slot allocation.  We did the usual pro awards and age group awards.  Took pictures with Courtney, Angela and Paige, took more pictures yada yada. Sat through the race video and the volunteer video - all the while just wanting to know if I was headed back to the Big Island.  After a 30 minute or so break before the official start time of slot allocation it was finally time.  And guess what...the very first announcement was that there was a re allocation from the oldest female and that slot would be going to F 30-34.  Yes I shrieked and I shed a tear or two.  I was so damn happy and excited.  I was going back to Kona!

We celebrated that night with tacos, margaritas, and ice cream as our time in Choo came to a close.  Tuesday morning everyone headed out and Andrew and I were in for one long drive from Chatt to Arlington.  Our road trip was great and every hour spent in the car getting to and from races with him in 2018 was great - at times we were both sad when the road trips came to an end, but not that sad as we were usually getting hangry.  Once home it was time for sherpa duties, cyclocross and planning for 2019 :) 

Special thanks to those who have supported me from the start and those who put their hearts into helping make my dreams a reality.  Thank you to Andrew, Mom, Gary, Rory and Kara - hopefully we can have a strong sherpa squad in Kona 2019!  Thank you to DC Tri Club and the DC Tri Elite Team and all of our sponsors - Louis Garneau, Osmo Nutrition, Honey Stinger, Rudy Project, xx2i Optics, District Taco, Rose Physical Therapy Group and also to UltraGrain, SBR Sports Inc, AltRed, and HaloSport.  Looking forward to building on the momentum of 2018 for 2019!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

You Shoot Me Down, I Won't Fall...I AM TITANIUM. MiTi 140.6 Race Report

When I found out about Michigan Titanium (MiTi) I knew I wanted to race.  Race day would fall on August 19, 2018 - the day that would have been my dad's 65th birthday.  It was only a couple hours from my hometown, registration was very affordable, and there was prize money, now I just needed to figure out what race to do! One of the great things about MiTi is that almost any variation of triathlon is available to race - Triathlon, Duathlon, Aquabike - and all of those races are available at 3 different distances - Full Iron, Half Iron, and Olympic distance.  I knew my late season goal race of 2018 was going to be Ironman Chattanooga, I knew my heart wanted to race the full but I was weary that I might trash my legs before Chat.  I sat on it for a couple of weeks and decided to go for it, knowing that my history plays in my favor.  My 2nd full of the year, on the 2 occasions that I've done 2 in one year, have been my best executed fulls.  Also, MiTi was almost 2 years to the day of IM Mont Tremblant while IM Choo would be almost 2 years to the day of IM Maryland (the double I did in 2016 that got me a KQ).  And that was that - let's get on with this race report!

Andrew and I rolled into Grand Rapids Friday afternoon.  We got checked into the hotel, took some things inside and got ready to do a little shake out bike/run.  We actually had a nice loop near the hotel with minimal traffic that was perfect for a shake out ride.  I felt good, the cooler temps and lower humidity were very much appreciated.  Once we were done shaking out and feeling good we got cleaned up and headed into downtown GR with Mom and Gary for some dinner.   This is my first time since my first Ironman that I stayed in a hotel.  I usually prefer AirBnB during IM week so that I can cook my foods and keep my routine as close to normal as possible.  The hotel worked out great and wasn't too far from the race site or race check in at the YMCA.

We woke up and met up with the crew at Anna's House for BIG BREAKFAST.  If you're in Michigan and looking for a good breakfast I highly recommend this place.  They were perfect for big breakfast and for some lighter fare for those in our group who wouldn't be racing 140.6.  After breakfast we headed to the race site for the practice swim.  Water temp was announced at 78.0 and wetsuit legal.  I happily donned my wetsuit and went off to follow Andrew's feet.  I felt awesome, swam well, swam fast and was feeling confident for the following day.

Mid-Day we headed over to the YMCA for packet pickup.  The entire gymnasium was set up for the race - including the expo, packet pickup and a curtained off section for the athlete meetings.  Packet pickup seemed to start earlier than originally planned due to athletes arriving early and seemed a bit disorganized for the first bit (small thing but definitely noticeable in that the volunteers doing check in didn't have time to go over all that needed to be gone over - including giving full athlete's their transition bags).  Athlete meeting was good and actually "mandatory" in that you had to attend in order to get your blue athlete wrist band that allowed you access to transition in the AM.  After the meeting we checked out the expo portion, grabbed some sandwiches and headed back to the hotel.

Kara helped me pack my transition and special needs bags.  She's pretty much become a pro at it after helping and watching my do it over the years.  Once the bags were packed and bottles were full, Andrew and I went over to the race site to rack our bikes.   We were able to grab a close and easy parking spot, get the bikes rack, walk through transition and get outta there in time to drive the bike course before dinner.  Now, on paper, the bike course doesn't look bad.  3,500ish feet of climbing
over 112 miles.  Less climbing than on my usual Saturday long ride route and much less than Kona, Tremblant, Placid, etc.  There was talk of newly paved roads on the Facebook group.  The 3500 feet of climbing was spread out in such a way that I never really felt like I was on a flat.  I was either going up or down.  Sadly, the new pavement appeared to be new chip seal.  I guess this is better than torn up, pot hole covered concrete but I was hoping for fresh smooth black top.  Such is life, everyone would have to deal with it.

After driving the bike course we headed back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner.  Met up with the entire crew for a pasta filled dinner before retiring for the night.

Usual morning routine - wake up, eat the traditional Apple Sauce, Banana, Osmo Protein Powder breakfast and down a bottle of Osmo Active.  Pulled the hydration bottles out of the fridge and distributed them to there proper bags, got the race day braid in the hair and hit the road.  We used the athlete parking lot and caught the shuttle to transition.  It was simple and easy and I'd definitely do that again. 

Once at transition I took my bike over to the mechanics to top off the tires with air, loaded her up with nutrition and hydration, and ran through the brakes/gears to make sure all was well.  Calibrated my power meter and made a couple obligatory port a potty stops before heading out of transition to chill on the bleachers near the finish line.  This was the most calm I've felt before a full - and I think with the contrast of my last full being Kona the difference was stark.  I was calm, I was at ease.  There was a buzz in the air and energy, but not a crazy-nervous-media-covered event type of energy. Nothing left to do but execute and see where the cards fall. 

Water temperature was announced at 78.0 again, and wetsuit legal.  I was thrilled and donned my wetsuit excitedly.  As the sky lightened and go time neared I made my way to the water after morning hugs and good luck wishes from my crew.

THE SWIM - 2.4 Miles - 1:23 (1st AG 30-34, 10th OA)
So much to say about this.  I position myself near the front, on the buoy line.  Confident I would be able to have a strong swim.  The water was calm, the buoys were easy to sight and I was feeling good.  I swam in a pack for most of the 1st loop and I was through the 1.2 mile mark on pace for my goal time (1:13).  Once we neared the orange turn buoy that marked the start of our 2nd lap it seemed
like people started swimming multiple directions.  Some straight towards the line of site buoys for the 2nd lap, some towards the finish and a couple of us towards the actual turn buoy.  As I started my 2nd lap I was still with 2 men that I'd been trying to swim with/near then a couple buoys in they were gone.  I made my way down and around and eventually to the back 1/2 of the 2nd loop.  I got too comfortable and super warm and slowed waaaaayyy down until a pack of people caught me a few hundred yards from the finish.  I pulled my head outta my bum and swam it in with them. 

Looking at this after the fact I would never wear my wetsuit in 78 degree water again for a full.  It was way too warm.  It dawned on me during my 2nd loop that I wouldn't be in a wetsuit if this were Ironman (and I shouldn't be in one now).  If I had to do this over I'd wear my speedsuit or even a pair of buoyancy shorts (that I don't own) but probably the perfect situation to wear those. 

T1 - 3:39 - (1st OA)
I utilized the wetsuit strippers before making my way into T1 to grab my gear bag and hit the change tent.  There was 1 female finishing up in the change tent as I came in, much more empty than I'd expected it to be given my not great swim time.  As I was departing a small group of women were headed in and I overheard them discussing the swim distance they got...2.7 miles!  Well at least I'll forget about my crappy swim time...

THE BIKE - 112 Miles - 5:24:38 (1st OA)
I was off on the bike and ready to get to work.  The skies were overcast, the temps ideal.  I dialed in my heart rate and power and started hydrating like a maniac to replenish fluids from the hot swim.  The first 10-12 miles were on a rolling, gradual uphill.  I was catching many people here including duathletes (started at 8am), aquabikers, and full triahletes and maybe even some Olympic Distance athletes.  Thankfully we were easily identifiable with tattooed markings on our calf for our race and different colored bike # stickers based on race.  About 20 miles in I had to pee - earlier than usual but ok, I guess I've replenished the fluid.  But then it never stopped - I was peeing every 20-30 minutes.  I backed off on hydration because it got uncomfortable and annoying to be going that much.   Out to the loop around so Western Michigan farmland before heading back in to complete the first loop of 56 miles.  The newly paved road turned out to be chip seal, which was fine, just annoying.  There weren't any real big climbs just more of a constant undulating up and down that never really allowed me to get into my rhythm completely.  As I was making my was back towards the turn around after coming off the loop I started picking off some more full triathletes.  At one point a spectator told me I was 2nd female.  I took his info with a grain of salt because I didn't know how closely he was paying attention to what races people were in, but either way I least this let me know I was near the front.  A few mile later I made the pass for first.  There apparently was an aquabiker or 2 still ahead of me, but not to worry about them.  They aren't in this for the long haul.  As I came in to the turn around and special needs I heard Rory and Kara cheering!  I made my usual quick stop at special needs to replenish my Osmo hydration bottles and restock my Honey Stinger waffle supply.  While I was refilling I heard Rory and Kara cheering and asking how I was feeling, I responded "Great!" and was off on my bike as I heard Kara tell me to go get the Thousand Bucks.   I then pondered what they would have done if my response would have been "shit" when they asked how I was feeling.  Haha, at least it kept me entertained for the next 20 miles or so.

Shortly after the turn as I was headed back out I saw Andrew headed in for the 1/2.  He was looking strong and smiling. Out on lap 2 I started to feel like my saddle had slipped down.  I was not feeling as powerful on the climbs and my hips just felt real low.  Nothing I could do about it so I focused on my posture and for and just kept at it. Then my heart rate started dropping.  I was eating, I was drinking (again) and my power was staying the same but down goes my HR.  Similar to what happened in 2016 at Mont Tremblant (also a race where I couldn't stop peeing and I was on my period for both of these races).  Granted Mont Tremblant had illness, bike mechanical, etc but nothing I did kept my HR up where it should be.  I decided not to worry about it since I was able to hold my power.  Around the loop, through the manure and through the aide stations, back past the old people cheering mid course and finally to the main road. As I made it to mile 84 I was mentally ready to be off the bike - I was no longer very comfortable due to the saddle and rough roads and we now had full sun.  Gone were the overcast skies and cool temps.  Things were heating up and quickly!  The temperature had gone from 70 at the beginning to 73 by 3.5 hours in to 80 by the 4 hour mark and 88 by the time I was dismounting my bike.  As I approached mile 110 there weren't anymore cyclists in sight - behind me, in front, etc.  I was alone and just working to bring this thing in and run.  I saw to motorcyclists sitting off in a driveway on the left side of the road.  They pulled out in front of me which I thought was weird since I was literally the only one in sight - vehicle or bike!  One moto was wear a rider instructor shirt and the others shirt said something about a motorcycle school on the back.  I figured they were just out for a lesson and enjoying the otherwise low trafficed roads.  They seemed to slow up and I was figuring out how I was going to pass them if need be - they were riding
side by side - is there room on the shoulder for me to pass right? But passing right seems wrong, but to pass left puts me almost on the double yellow.  I saw one guy looking his mirror and gradually speeding up to match my speed.  As we approached the road closed section he gave me a hand motion to move left and this is when I realized - "Oh they're part of the race and escorting me back to T2 because I'm in the lead! Sweet".  We made the left hand turn onto the main drag and I saw my mom and one of my sweet best friends jumping up and down and screaming as I came in with my moto escort. 

T2 - 1:50 (1st OA)
I quick run in after my flying dismount and handed the bike off as a volunteer grabbed my T2 bag off the rack for me.  I changed my shoes, switched out my helmet for a visor,  snapped on my race belt downed some water and got some ice before heading outta there.

THE RUN - 26.2 Miles - 4:11:12 (1st OA)
As I made the turn out of the park and onto the main road my lead bike escort joined me - not a moto this time, just a normal bike.  I had convinced my brother to volunteer for this role a couple weeks before the race, so yes my bike escort just so happened to be my brother.  The energy was contagious and I felt awesome starting out on the run.  Andrew was there and let me know what he thought my lead was on 2nd place.  I tried to settle down and take water and ice at every aid station and keep with my fueling plan.  The run course was  out and backs or "laps" as I'll call them.  The first lap was fun, I was picking off a ton of half athletes, and enjoying having a bike escort.  The back half of the lap was shaded which was much appreciated.  There were some wild and crazy fans about midway down on the lap.  The aid station volunteers were attentive and helpful in giving me what I needed as I called it out while approaching the station.  The long part of each lap was more rolling than I'd expected.  The course map made it look like we'd be along the water which I thought would be flat, haha, we weren't quite and never had a view of the water.  We made our way back toward the park and around the turn around cone where my crew was cheering and ready to give me more info.  My lead was growing and I was looking solid, or so they said.  I had the opportunity to get into my special needs bag at this
time but chose to make myself only access it 1x (near the 13.1 mile mark) to better simulate Ironman.  I still felt good during lap 2 - continued with ice and water and started taking soda at every aid station.  The course now had more full athletes on it and some 1/2 athletes still out there.  I was able to get a glimpse of the women in 2nd and 3rd and cheer them on during the out and back.  As we made our way back to the turn around cone near the park I let my bike lead know I was stopping at Special Needs.  I had the info that my lead had continued to grow and knew I had time to grab my refill of chews and a small bottle of Osmo mix.  I attempted to grab some cold water from the special needs table on my way out...unfortunately it wasn't water.  It was luke warm pickle juice.  I promptly spit it all back out and said "what the f*ck was that?" as I ran off.  Lap 3, not feeling as awesome, legs felt more like I was at mile 20 than 13.  Just kept my head in it and kept on moving forward but knew that I didn't need to dig deep as those behind me were slowing even more.  I also knew I had to do this again in Chattanooga 5 weeks later.  88 degrees was hot for a marathon especially after 112 on the bike.  As I made my way back toward the park to make my final turn around for lap 4 I was excited but also ready to be done!  Now that the 1/2 athletes were off the course the crowds were thinning out a bit.  I made my way down the long stretch of road and got another glimpse of 2nd place...I was putting in huge time still and decided at mile 22 to just use a port a potty and be comfortable for the last bit.  I was also feeling horrible for how slowly my brother was having to ride a bike, hahaha.  AS we got to mile 25 the two motos joined us for the final 1.2.  OMG I though they were going to tip over trying to ride slow enough to escort me.  As was made the final right turn back onto the main road that led to the park I started to let myself believe it.  I was going to break the tape, I'd thought about it, I wanted it, I'd even dreamt about it, but 140.6 is a long way to go and it seldom goes perfectly.  The moto's peeled off, my bike escort peeled off and I made the final right hand turn into the park and had the finish chute all to myself.

FINISH TIME - 11:05:10 (1st OA)

It wasn't a PR and it wasn't what I know I'm capable of but given the conditions of the day it was a great day.  Overall I loved the experience at MiTi and if it fits into my schedule in the future I will likely go back.  Like I said earlier, given the conditions I would never choose to wear a wetsuit in 78 degree water again.  I also think being prepared for what the bike course consists of (and not having a slipping seat post) would be a huge advantage for this course.  Just knowing times will be slower than a smooth 112 across the board.   Having the opportunity, as an amateur, to have lead motos, a bike escort, break the tape and take home money is rare these days.  All of the event staff were great and communicative and working with much less man power than the big brand.  Given that, I'd say they manage to pull of a great day.  One of my biggest suggestions would be to have a proper awards ceremony in the evening.  As the top overall females we had to find each other and help ourselves to the podium for pictures.  When my crew asked if they were going to do awards they said no, just go to the awards table and collect your award.  Thankfully, the other 2 ladies were hanging around and once we all approached the podium the man in charge of awards did a small announcement/ceremony for us. 

Thank you to everyone who made this race and journey possible.  Thank you most of all to my amazing family and friends that were there to cheer me in person and from afar.  Thank you to DC Triathlon Club, The DC Tri Club Elite Team and all of our sponsors including TaveKaan, Louis Garneau, District Taco, Osmo Hydration, Honey Stinger, Rudy Project, xx2i optics, Xterra Wetsuits and to SBR Sports Inc, AltRed, and Rose Physical Therapy Group.  Huge thank you's to Fuel Your Passion Coaching and to Andrew who raced a phenomanal 70.3 and then was the best sherpa, info relayer, stuff gatherer, and support man ever.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Rev3 Williamsburg 2018 Race Report

I've always had Williamsburg in the back of my mind as a race I might like to do at some point.  With a July race date and being even further south than DC I knew the weather was highly likely to be very hot and humid.  At DC Triathlon Club's annual meeting in 2017 I won a free race entry for the 2018 race.  I already knew my 2018 race schedule was going to focus more on local/driveable races with friends, free on top of checking the other 2 boxes was ideal.  It also fit nicely into the calendar with the races I had already planned on registering for.

Williamsburg was also announced as the goal race for many of the DC Triathlon Club's programs.  Racing predominately long course it is not often I end up at a race with a strong contingent of club members.  I was excited to be at race with my teammates, fellow club members and friends and less stress about winning, slots, etc.  This race fell nicely at the end of a recovery week after a big build block, so with not much of a taper this race was purely on the schedule as a training race.

Pre-Race: Saturday

Bike racking with Prochnow
I drove down to Williamsburg from DC early on Saturday morning.  Traffic was surprisingly somewhat heavy but moving well by 7am.  I stopped for my traditional BIG BREAKFAST on the road shortly before getting to the race site.  Once at the race site I met up with Heather and did a little
shakeout workout - bike/run/swim.  The weather broke just in time for us and it was actually cool (low 80s but with what we had the weekend before 107, it felt perfect) and not humid!  I felt awesome during our shakeout and had a really good feeling about the race.  Race check-in was simple and quick.  Once we had our bib # stickers we got our bikes all stickered up and dropped them off to transition before heading to the condo's our team had rented for some R&R.

Transition set up with Ellen
Pre-Race: Sunday AM
I woke up at the usual race day time of 4am.  Did all the important things like braid my hair and eat some applesauce before making sure I packed everything up and heading on out to the race site.  Parking was ample and close to transition.  I immediately went to transition and took my bike to the mechanics to get my tires topped off with air - I used to haul my pump around and do this myself but
it is far easier to not lug around a pump and have help with the disc wheel/crack pipe that I can have a hard time inflating on my own.   I then loaded on my nutrition and hydration, calibrated the power meter and made sure my bike/run stuff was all set out and ready to go.  I had some time to head over to the DCTC tent and relax for a few before getting into my Xterra Speedsuit and walking over to swim start.

THE SWIM - 1.2 Miles - 36:41
My shakeout swim on Saturday had gone well.  I was going into this race calm and confident with realistic swim expectations.  I knew that I might have a "fast" swim based on prior years results and the current that you *may* get to swim with.  We had a time trial swim start this year.  I put myself near the front but back enough to be away from all the super fasties.  The first 1/2 of the swim was great, I felt awesome, everything was clicking.  I was sighting well and swimming straight and swimming more or less with those who also started near me (instead of getting swam over).  Once I made it to the turn buoy shit got crazy, no joke.  I made the turn and attempted to sight the next buoy - between the glare of the sun and that fact that there wasn't a buoy I was clueless as to where to go.  I looked for heads and there were people swimming in literally every direction.  I could hear water support people telling swimmers "you're ok, you're ok, just keep swimming" to other swimmers.  I knew from the course map it was pretty much a 160* turn so I went with my gut and started swimming.  I stopped multiple times to attempt to sight a buoy and ended up just relying on heads.  It worked out fine, but I was nervous and not thrilled.  The sun beating into our eyes didn't help either.  Eventually I saw the swim exit, I'm not sure I've ever been happier to see a swim exit.

Turns out a sighting buoy floated away.  The current of the river + the current of the creek (after the turn) + the tide cause a whirlpool effect and was pulling people back out to the river and limiting forward progress.  Apparently a good number of athletes were unfortunately pulled from this swim due to the currents.

T1 - 3:02
This was a long run up the boat ramp and then up the park road back to transition.  The pavement was smooth and nice enough to run on.  As I attempted to peel my speedsuit down the quick release zipper flipped down and got stuck.  The shoulders of the suit were stuck over my upper arms and I felt like I was hostage in my speedsuit.  I asked another woman also running up to transition to flip my zipper up.  Once she figured out what I meant I was able to peel it down and pick up my pace to transition.  A quick shoes, helmet, sunglasses on and I was off on the bike.

THE BIKE - 56 Miles - 2:30:39
I had heard great things about this bike course - a rolling country course that rides fast.  Sounds like my dream bike course.  I hit it hard out of transition and passed a good amount of people within the first 5-10 miles.  I also got stuck behind a very hesitant old man driving a large pickup truck and stuck behind some slower cyclists.  I was very frustrated - then when he did pass I was basically riding the same speed he was driving so when he got to another hill I got stuck again.  Like stuck to the point where I almost had to unclip.  I was trying to beg him to pull to the right and let me (us) pass.  He didn't.  Eventually we got around and all was better in the world.  About 20 miles in I got the info from a volunteer that I was 7th female.  I figured I was in a good spot, not even 28 miles in, I knew I'd be catching at least a few more ladies on the bike before we got to 56 miles.  After the first 15 or so miles this course felt empty.  I was riding completely by myself for the most part, I'd pass a lone cyclist every few miles, maybe.  Just before the 28 mile point I passed a middle aged man.  He apparently didn't like this move, sat on my wheel for a few minutes and passed me back.  I dopped back and tried to let him go.  Before I knew it I was passing him again (easily I should add) - again, he didn't like it.  He sat on my wheel for another couple of minutes and then passed me again on a false flat.  As soon as he got in front of me he was moving WAY slower, I wanted to yell at him to stop F*cking with my race, but kept it in.  I sat up, stopped pedaling and the officials came by on the moto.  I stayed back and again tried to let him go.  As we got to a right hand turn up the road I made the turn and stepped on it.  As I passed him he said "damn girl you do work on that bike".  No shit sherlock, I caught you and passed you from who knows how far back.  Let me go.

Once around him it was some more lonely miles as I counted each female that I passed.  A lot of the roads weren't all that smooth so there was a lot of vibration out there.  The back half of the course had a bit of a headwind and merged with the Olympic Distance race for the last few miles.  By the time we had merged with Olympic Distance I knew I had moved up to 3rd female and I knew who one of
Coming into T2, Gu wrapper in mouth
the females ahead was, as well as knowing 4th wasn't far behind me.  I had passed her around mile 45 and she hung on for a good bit. 

I had nailed nutrition, hydration, and HR plan for the bike so I was pretty pumped about coming into T2 in 3rd OA.

T2 - 0:56
Flying dismount and a super quick run in to swap shows, grab my race belt and hydration bottle.  I had a little trouble getting the belt on as I ran out and I dropped the plastic bottle so had to stop and back track a couple steps.  It all worked out, I was just a bit of a mess initially.

THE RUN - 13.1 Miles - 1:40:46
I hit the run course and was with another female (Jenn) instantly.  She had been in 2nd OA.  I stuck behind her for about a mile.  I then decided it'd be fine to just make the pass and that I didn't think she would hang.  Oh boy, was I wrong.  She stuck to my shoulder like glue.  Every time I thought I was opening a gap she's reappear on my shoulder.  The double out and back run course that was also the Oly run course was fantastic.  We got to see all the other athletes and cheer for each other and watch the race unfold.  What was happening in front of us, what was happening behind us.  4th place had put in a hard effort early to catch us around miles 3 or 4 but she was breathing very heavy when she caught and passed us.  We ran on her shoulder briefly before making the pass for good, she had spent too many matches catching us.  Around mile 7 or so I decided to run on Jenn's shoulder for a bit.  As we made it to the turn around on lap 2 I noticed that we were actually making up a good amount of ground on 1st place.  I never would have thought we would catch her on the run.  That helped mentally give me a boost and keep pushing for the last 3 miles or so.  As we made back towards the park and headed up and over the bridge 1 last time Jenn tried to get me to pick it up with her and kick it in (we were still at least almost 1/2 a mile from the finish).  Jenn put in some work and started opening up a gap as we rounded transition.  I had to let her go, but when I looked up there was the woman who had been in 1st, I made the pass and finished as hard as I could but wasn't able to close the gap Jenn had opened up.

FINISH (unofficial): 4:52:03 - 2nd Female, 1st AG
We shared some finish line hugs and respect for the shoulder to shoulder race we had just had.  It was the most fun I've had on a race course in quite some time.  When I came out of T2 I chose to compete.  I could have settled in to a slightly easier pace and let her go.  I was fearless and took a chance to see what my body had on the day.  I'm so glad I did, it was awesome.  I a ton about myself and racing.  I got to see some of my best friends multiple times on the run and cheer for them and encourage them.  This was a huge race for me with a 70.3 run PR and an all around solid day (as well as 70.3 unofficial PR).

OFFICIAL RESULTS/AWARDS - 4:56:03 - 4th OA, 1st AG
Just before awards we checked results again and my finish time had 4 minutes added to it.  At first I was like "WTF" and then I remembered the moto from the bike course.  Crap, crap, crap.  I spoke with the head referee in which he said "it looked like you were really trying to drop back, it just took 5 seconds too long to get to 3 bike lengths".  Wow.  Ok, my bike is pretty dang small and I was certain I had made back far enough it in time.  But thanks for realizing I was really trying and still nailing me with a penalty (I guess when you stop pedaling and sit up it's a good indication that you are trying, I wasn't going to hit the brakes, nope nope nope).  Had the moto come up just a couple minutes earlier it would have been the egotistical male age grouper getting the penalty.  Oh well, not a big deal - no cash, no slots or anything up for grabs at this race.  It bumped me down in the overall results a couple places to 4th but also meant that I got to stand on the age group podium with 2 of my best girls. Podium sweep for us, and it was amazing! My first and only penalty in 9 years of racing - and a silver lining with an age group podium sweep.  Lesson learned pass the dude with authority and tell him the first time not to f*ck with my race :P 

Thank you to all of my sponsors for the continued support - Xterra Wetuits, Rudy Project Helmets, Louis Garneau, SBR/Triswim, District Taco, DC Triathlon Club, Tavekaan, Rose Physical Therapy Group, UltraGrain, XX2i Optics, and Louis Garneau.  And thanks to all of my DC Tri Elite teammates that made this weekend so much fun.