Told through pictures
That smile is exactly why I do this sport. As brutal as that experience was, I'd do it again and again and again (and again) to have that same euphoric feeling of crossing the finish line.
I knew given the level of difficulty - upstream swim (860m), 3,408 feet in elevation gains on the bike and nearly 1,000 feet on the run (who thinks of this stuff) - I was in store for an epic day. And as easy as it is to jump right in and start talking about the race itself, let me backtrack because it took a lot to get to the starting line.
It takes a village...
With only two weeks before the World Championships I flew to Valyermo, CA, to stay with Dan Empfield and his wife Tanya (and their four amazing dogs). My days out there were intense. Eat, train, eat, train, sleep and most importantly be fitted to the new Scott Plasma that was built for me. You can read about my trip here and how my bike was built here.
This bike is everything
Reuniting with my bike did NOT go smoothly. Because I didn't fly home with it and because we didn't take into account the holiday (Labor day) there was no way my bike would get to me in time for the race. The only option was to ship it directly to Chattanooga and pray that someone could build it back and make it race ready.
|How I felt not knowing when I'd see my bike again.|
The folks at Quintana Roo are on another level of professional and kind. Not only did they work on a competitor's bike and have it ready to go, they also solved another issue... disaster number 2: I forgot to pack pedals! As I stood at the QR tent freaking out about being pedal-less, a gentleman turns around and says "oh you can borrow mine". Turns out that the "guy" was Peter Hurley, CEO of Litespeed and Quintana Roo.
|Peter - thank you for letting a random chick borrow your pedals!|
|Quintana Roo - thank you for getting my bike race ready!|
The day before a big race like the World Championships is all sorts of crazy. Between athlete check in, bike check, gear check, sponsorship obligations, the day just flies. There were so many things I wanted to participate in but I guess sometimes you can't do everything. Bummed that I didn't get to present medals to the kids in the Chattanooga Youth & Family Development program who received swim scholarships. IRONMAN Foundation you are amazing for doing that! And super bummed that I didn't get to sit on the Women For Tri panel. I want to say yes to every opportunity, but I know balance is important as well.
Something I did get to do...attend the Red Bull team brunch!
|Being a member of IRaceLikeAGirl has been an invaluable experience. Thank you Angela for giving me this opportunity.|
And now for the race.....adventure
Adventure: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.
1.2 Mile Swim in the Tennessee River
This was the first time I was genuinely nervous for a swim. Like literally afraid that I might not even make the cutoff time. The idea of having to swim 860 meters upstream scared the crap out of me. In fact, the whole situation was unique. Rolling swim start (10 at a time) and diving off of a pontoon. Side note: I saw some ridiculously hilarious dives, jumps, and cannonballs. It provided a bit of comedic relief before it was my turn. I hope I paid it forward and made the next wave of women laugh.
Thank you Brian (Stover) for the free swim advice on where to start. I got to the first turn buoy with no issues!
Unfortunately it went downhill from there. I got passed the ENTIRE time. I couldn't even draft because I honestly couldn't stick with anyone. No clue what's going on with me! When I got out of the water and saw my time, 41:50, I was mortified. Considering I actually DO have a background in swimming there is no excuse. I have to figure this out before my next race. Moving on...
|Sh*ttiest swim of my life.|
|Just get me to my bike|
Now I don't know which one was more recognizable, me or my bike, but I got quite a bit of cheers. I was called everything from "the chick from Slowtwitch" and "Slowtwitch girl" to "The Dan Empfield girl". It was pretty freakin cool getting recognized, but I do have a name: Sika ;-) Pronounced See-ka.
The MOST challenging ride of my life
The first 5 miles were easy. Flat, shade, perfect. My bike and I were in tune. And then it began. The climb to Lookout Mountain.
|When you spot something scary in the distance. A hill? Nope. A Mountain!|
Miles 5 to 22 were brutal. It hurt so damn bad. I honestly think the only reason why I didn't have a breakdown and cry is because I did a similar ride when I was out in California. Having already survived that climb gave me confidence that I'd get to the top of this one. The only difference ..I swam 1.2 miles first and still had a half marathon run to get through. I do envy people that get to live and train in areas like this. I live in a pancake flat town. I literally have to drive to find hills. My body just wasn't prepared for a course like this. Even after I got through the hardest stretch (5 - 22) the next 34 miles were by no means easy. After a nice descent from Lookout there were constant rollers and a lot of false flats. I was working hard the ENTIRE time.
"But the bike woman, how was the bike?" ~Brian
My Dad told me to watch how much profanity I use on my blog. Sorry Dad.. but my bike was the SH*T. My overall time (3:08) doesn't do it justice. I wish I had more to show for it. But seriously, if you dig up my results and look at my previous bike splits, a 3:08 on this course is REALLY good for me. Without the change in bike/fit I estimate that my time would have been closer to 3:20. No lie. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to ride my bike a lot before the race - only those few days when I was in Cali and never more than 20 miles. I think had I put in more miles on my new bike, I could have shaved maybe another 3 or 4 minutes off. Side note: I plan to go into much more detail about my bike and what it was like to ride it in a separate article I'm writing. You'll be able to find it here: Slowtwitch.com.
Side profile. I don't think I look very aero lol. But it's all about comfort right now.
|Probably thinking.."WTF another hill"|
|Hardest half marathon I've ever done, bar none.|
Boy oh boy was that run course a piece of work. The hills were relentless. The struggle was real. I'm so used to getting out on the run course and passing people. Yeah ... not the case this time. Everyone at this level is legitimately good. In fact, this was the first time I've ever been passed by a woman on the run course during a triathlon. And it wasn't just one. There were several! I got schooled.
|About to get passed|
|Just keep putting one foot in front of the other|
And now for my only regret in the entire race...
The run was a two loop course. When you do the first loop there's a split in the course. You veer to the left to finish or veer to the right to do the second loop. Well the women I was running with were on their last loop and since we were running together I got pointed to the left. And let me just say that this is my own mistake. I should have been paying better attention. Before I knew it I found myself on the carpet staring at the finish line. Panic set in. I began frantically looking for a volunteer to explain what I had done. I was told to run back up the hill to the split in the road. I contemplated ending my day right there. But I didn't survive all of that to quit with one lap to go. So back up the hill I went. It was ...embarrassing. I ended up running an extra .67 miles. Half Marathon time: 1:42. So bummed. Between going off course, having to run up an unnecessary hill and talking to the volunteers I probably added on an extra 5 minutes to my half marathon time. But it is what it is and I learned a lot from that experience.
I crossed the finish line in 5 hours and 38 minutes. Am I happy with that time? Heck no! Did I give it my all? YES! When I did my first Half Ironman last year in June I didn't have a clue what was in store. I'm so glad it led me here.
Next up... Ironman 70.3 North Carolina on October 21st. My "A" race. I can't believe I'm doing another one of these friggin things! Apparently I can't get enough of it. My bike and I should be well acquainted by then ;-)
|With Bryanna of Quintana Roo. She's just as genuinely kind as her Dad, Peter.|
|2016 Ironman 70.3 Champ Holly Lawrence. Ran into her at dinner.|
|Heather Wurtele. I'm such a huge fan. And I love that she's tall like me!|
|Fellow BTA member Tiencia James. We had a good laugh about the fact that we were pretty much the only black chicks at the race.|
|With teammate Pam Estill.|
This group! Post race dinner and drinks with Kristin, Sam, Veronica, Jin, and Frieda...
Now I get to fly to Punta Cana and relax on the beach with my best friend for a few days :-)