The first triathlon of the 2019 season is in the books! Three days after the race, the soreness is gone and my schedule is getting back to normal after my 5 day trip to Haines City, FL. Here’s my rundown of how things went.
Leading up to the race, my training has been solid, and I haven’t experienced any injuries. I’m grateful to my coaches at TriMarni Coaching and Nutrition for creating a challenging, but safe, training program to get me ready for the season. I wasn’t particularly nervous about this race, even though it was the first of the season. I attribute that to going into the race with no expectations. This was a chance to remind myself what triathlon racing felt like again. As much as I wanted to beat last year’s time of 5:25, I knew that I had to concentrate on doing things well and seeing how that turned out. My “A” races are later in the year (ITU Worlds on September 1, 2019 is the big focus), and I wasn’t interested in qualifying for 70.3 Worlds in Nice, France so there was no need for me to absolutely kill myself on the day.
I made the 8+hour drive down to Davenport, FL on Thursday and stayed in the Comfort Inn there. On Friday morning, I found a development nearby that had the roads built but no buildings. It looked like nice, fresh road with a bike lane and not a lot of traffic so I packed up my bike and running gear for a quick brick workout.
I did an hour ride with some intervals building to and above race pace. After the bike, I did a 20 minute run, all easy effort with a build to strong for the last 6 minutes. The bike felt great. The Florida sun was pretty hot for run, and with the forecast predicting 90F on race day, I was a little concerned about that heat sucking my energy on the run.
As I was messing with my stuff in the parking lot, a lady stopped her car near me and asked all about my bike and what I was doing. She was an ex-mountain biker and was excited to talk about my training. It was a really nice feeling to have a stranger be interested in what I was doing. I hope it encouraged her to get back on her bike!
After showering at the hotel, I checked out and got lunch in town. Then, I got to the race venue at Lake Eva Park in Haines City for athlete check in. I ran into teammates and a few of us TriMarni’s headed over to the pool for a 45 minute swim workout. After a refreshing swim in the outdoor pool, I went by the grocery store to buy essentials and check into our rental house. I met housemate and first time 70.3 racer Jorge, and unpacked. More of my house and team mates showed up in the next hour, then we all went over to Marni and Karel’s rental for a team pizza party and pre-race chat.
Our coaches told us to focus on doing things well, and keeping cool. The weather was showing 15mph winds + high humidity + high temperatures so maybe a fast race wasn’t in the books. We’ll see.
On Saturday morning, I did an hour ride with some teammates and then a dip in the lake to test the swim skin. The rest of the day was focused on relaxing and keeping cool, probably the hardest thing for me! Late in the afternoon, I dropped my bike off in transition so I wouldn’t have to worry about it in the morning. I also prepped all of my bottles and had them in the fridge that afternoon – 3 bottle of Infinit for the bike, 1 flask of Osmo Hydration and 1 flask of Skratch Hydration for the run, both stored in the freezer overnight. That night, everyone in the house made their pre-race dinner of preference (rice + black beans + avocado + homemade chipotle cheddar for me), and hit the bed by 9pm.
Everyone in the house was up around 4:15am and had their breakfast. I had my overnight oats, see recipe here, and grabbed my packed bags and bottles, ready to go. At 5am, I rode over with teammate Reid Thomas, and was at my transition spot by 5:30am. I got my transition ready, dropped off my after-race bag at our team tent, and then did a nice 10 minute warm up jog with teammate Erica Nagy. After that, we grabbed our swimskins, goggles, and swim caps and headed to the pool for a swim warm up. After the swim, the waves were ready to start so we all headed to the beach to find our spots.
During the warm ups, I ate a banana and drank a bottle of Osmo Preload and water. I had 12oz of preload the night before, too.
I was in the F35-44 wave at 7:28am. There were only 4 or 5 waves ahead of us so we had pretty decent start time. When our wave was called, we swam out to the start buoys. The water was deep but there was a small sand bar near the buoys. I didn’t get a great spot on the sand bar, but I found a little bit to put my toes down, and I lined up on the far left. This allowed me to be out of the way of the super fast swimmers, but I didn’t have to tread water for 2 minutes before the start.
The air horn blasted and we were off. I don’t have much to report on for the swim. I kept it steady. I felt strong the whole time. The only difficulty was swimming around slower swimmers from the waves before us. I’m pretty good at sighting so I avoided any major collisions and took my most direct route to the turn buoys. The swim course is shaped like an M, which is unusual, but I was familiar with it from last year so I just dug in and got it done. I came out of the water in 37 minutes. Initially, I was disappointed because this was the same time as last year and I thought I was faster, but then I remembered that last year was wetsuit-legal, which always gives you a faster swim. I guess that means I did have a better swim, just with the same time.
I made quick work of T1. My rack was in a great spot – near the bike exit and with portapotties as a big visual cue to find my bike. I came out of T1 at the same time as my teammate Álvaro Velez, not because we had the same swim but because he’s so fast in the water, he caught me from a couple waves back. Getting on your bike at the mount line can be a little crazy since so many people are wobbly on their bike, so I followed Al out and mounted behind him. I knew I could trust him to get on his bike and stay on it, minimizing the chance of running into someone who was struggling.
Initially, I passed Al on the bike, which I knew was a short term situation. I used the first 20 minutes to warm up my legs and settle into the bike. Coach Karel passed me around the 10 minute mark. I’m pretty sure Al passed me soon after. My plan was to take the bike in 20 minute chunks. That let me split the 56 miles up into 8 intervals in my head, and I would drink 3-4 gulps of Infinit every 10 minutes. At the 20 minute mark, I hit the lap button on my watch, forgetting that it was in Triathlon mode and not bike mode. This put me into “T2” on the watch, doh! So I ended that activity and changed my watch over to bike mode to continue with my 20 minute segments.
The wind was pretty strong for the whole ride. We had a headwind going out, but Coach Karel told us to lean into it and don’t hold back, because at some point, that headwind would be a tailwind. I’ve ridden in worse wind so it didn’t bother me too much. It also kept me in my aero bars for longer since it was so much easier to cut through the wind in that position. I passed quite a few people, and was passed by the fast guys behind me. I passed teammate Erica probably 30 minutes into the ride. I was passed by another TriMarni halfway through the ride. I couldn’t tell who it was except for the pink socks. I figured out after the race that it was speedy Gin Fleming.
I had some leapfrogging going on a bit with some male riders. At this race especially, I tend to be better on the hills and pass people going up, then the guys blast it down the other side. This always seems to happen, but it wasn’t too bad at this race. I got about 20 minutes of tailwind around the 40 mile mark and made the most of it. Then, there’s a horrible bumpy section at mile 50. I knew it’d only last about 4 miles, but I had to sit up a bit more at this section because it was just beating me up. As I approached the turn off of this road, I was so happy, and then I guy coasted by me standing up on his bike. There was liquid was coming out between his legs… this guy was passing us and peeing at the same time! Really??!! I think I avoided most of the pee, but not cool, man.
I finished the bike feeling really strong and happy with my performance. I chose not to do a flying dismount because my coach doesn’t do them. That might have been the wrong decision. I’ve never had a mishap with a flying dismount, but I always whack my leg on my rear bottles when I don’t do it. Lesson learned. Flying dismount from this point forward (and turns out coach did her first flying dismount at this race!).
I took it a little slower in T2 because I still had my bike shoes on, and I knew I was entering 2 hours of heat. Coach told me not to go hard on lap 1 of the 3 lap course, so once I had my hat, glasses, race belt, and hydration belt on, I went out for my “warm up” lap. Uh, so hot. I could feel the previous 56 miles in my legs, but I felt pretty decent. The issue was definitely the heat, and every time I ran for an extended period of time, I could feel my HR getting really high. So this was a run-walk for the entire 13.1. My hydration in the flasks wasn’t appealing. I drank sips every half mile or so on the first lap. I walked every aid station and got water on my head, and ice down my kit and in my hat. At the last aid station on lap 1, I got my first cup of coke. Coke always makes me feel better on the run.
I felt better on lap 2 of the run. I don’t think my times necessarily reflect that. It was great seeing my teammates out on the course and cheering each other on. Coach Joe Nagy passed me at the half mile mark of the run. I saw my teammate and fellow F35-39 age grouper Stephanie Gibson at one of the turnaround points just after the first mile. It looked like she was a good few minutes ahead of me so I didn’t think I could catch her. Plus, I was still in my “warm up” lap. Coach Karel passed me at the second to last aid station on lap 1 and gave me a pat on the back on the way by. Coach Marni passed me at the same aid station on lap 2 and gave me an encouraging cheer.
Lap 3 is probably the most fun and most painful. With each hill and obstacle, I told myself “this is the last time I’ll run up this hill”. At mile 12.2, teammate and spectator Kevin Drury told me I was in 10th place (!!) but if I picked it up, I could catch 9th place. Cue the fastest mile of the run! I didn’t run the entire final mile but the majority of it, and at a much faster pace than the previous miles. At this point, my HR got up to 200bpm, but I knew I was close to finishing so I just pushed through.
I crossed the finish line with my slowest half marathon in a triathlon since Augusta 70.3 in 2016 (2:16 in Augusta, 2:07 this week at Florida), with a total time of 5:35, 10 minutes slower than last year. Do I wish I was faster? Of course! But I finished in 10th place in my age group, 35th female, which is my highest placing in an Ironman event. My bike split was the 4th fastest in my age group, which I’m super proud of. I actually biked my way up to 7th place, but then dropped down in the run.
What did I learn? I gotta do better on the run, but that’s going to take time. There’s room for improvement in the swim, too, another thing I’ll just have to be patient with. It’s hard not to be attached to the times. It’s much easier to be excited and share a new PR, but those don’t come every day especially when I’m competing at a national and international level. I do feel stronger. I think I have a good base for my 2019 season, and I’m glad to not be peaking in my first race. I’ll save that until later in the year.
I loved cheering on all of my teammates, and the TriMarni team won 2nd place in the Ironman TriClub competition!
Overall 05:35:02 10th in AG, 35th female