I don't even know where to begin. The journey to this finish line was a very emotional one filled with plenty of ups and downs. Going into the weekend I was more nervous than I can remember being before any of my other races. As a former competitive swimmer I was not worried at all about the swim. I spent much of this summer working on becoming a stronger cyclist and I knew I would get through the bike leg. It was the run I was worried about. The long run has always proven to be a struggle for me both mentally and physically and this led to me doing everything I could to avoid long running at all. I did a few 8 mile runs and one 11 miler before the race.
Also of note, a week before race day I woke up with a nasty cold making it nearly impossible to breathe out of my nose at all. I scrapped my original taper plan in favor of extra rest and doing only what my body felt up to. I was worried it would hurt my race but in the end I knew it was better to do too little than too much. Luckily by Thursday the cold was almost gone and I was starting to feel better about the race. My workouts were still major suckfests but at least I was feeling somewhat healthy again.
Friday afternoon my mom and I made the 2.5 hour drive up to the Poconos. Even though the race wasn't until Sunday I wanted a chance to settle in and check things out instead of spending Saturday rushed trying to get everything done. We stayed at the host hotel, which was also the site of the expo, T2 and the finish. We took advantage of the beautiful weather on Friday to drive the last 7 or so miles of the bike course. Rev3 advertised this course as having a technical last 12 miles so I wanted to see just how technical we were talking. Luckily it wasn't anything too bad.
The plan on Saturday was to pick up my packet, head over to T1 to rack my bike and do a practice swim, and then come back to the hotel and relax. Unfortunately Saturday was a complete washout. It started raining around 10am and didn't stop until 8pm. It made for a pretty gross day. After racking my bike and swimming I was pretty freezing. The water was around 70 degree which wouldn't be so bad with no wetsuit except it was really cold out of the water too.
The highlight of Saturday was the "worst wetsuit" contest. Rev3 and Blueseventy host a contest and award the winner of the worst wetsuit a brand new blueseventy wetsuit. As someone who doesn't even have a wetsuit I was all about this contest. I threw on an old two-piece kayaking wetsuit that's a few sizes too small and stood outside in the pouring rain to win myself my very first wetsuit. Thank you Rev3 and blueseventy!
Race morning started with a 4:57am wakeup call, followed by scarfing down a bowl of oatmeal, getting tatted up, and bundling up for the 45 degree morning. I quickly set up T2 and hopped on the bus to head to the swim start. I don't remember being that cold leaving T2 but when I got off the bus at the swim start I was pretty chilly. While just about everything with this race was great, there was not enough time for athletes to set up T1 by the time the busses got there. The race was not planned to start until 7:00 with the women's wave going off at 7:10 but they made us line up at the water at 6:40. Needless to say we all stood there freezing for 20-30 minutes.
Swim (1.2 miles)
The women's wave went off right on time at 7:10. In order to avoid some of the chaos that seems to be inevitable during the first few minutes of the swim I lined up in the second row. I realized during the practice swim that while I can handle the contact of the swim start, I really do better doing my own thing. I let the first row of women claw at each other before swimming around and passing a bunch of them. I focused on swimming a steady and even pace, and just getting from one buoy to the next.
Maybe 1/3 of the way through I found another woman to draft off of and just clung to her. Whenever she would gain any distance on me I surged to catch back up to not lose her. I knew it was going to be a long day so I didn't want to really push the swim but I also didn't want to lose my feet. During the last quarter of the swim I struggled with catching up to the two waves in front of me. It was like a losing battle trying to navigate the shallow waters coming into the finish without running over some of the slower swimmers. On the other hand, it did feel pretty good to chick so many men.
Swim- 32:21 / 1:41/100m / 1st AG / 7th female
Nutrition: gluten free oatmeal at 5:15, mango naked smoothie at 6:30
Bike (56 miles)
Getting out of the water was pretty brutal. The air had not warmed up in the thirty minutes I was in the water, and now I was soaking wet. T1 took quite some time between the quarter mile run from the lake and my fingers being too cold to put on my arm warmers.
The first five miles of the bike were almost completely downhill, filled with a few scary curves. I drove this part of the course on Saturday so I knew exactly what to expect but I still was scared. I was scared about my bike handling skills but I think what I was really scared of was that I didn't do enough. Enough long rides, enough hilly rides, enough bricks. Enough, enough, enough. I spent the first mile or so settling into the bike and getting adjusted to the cold temps.
It was about a mile in that the switch in my mind was flipped and I entered race mode. During most of my races last year my mind stayed quiet and let my body do what it had spent so many hours training to do. This year my mind has refused to stay quiet. I was constantly questioning myself and my ability to race competitively. I was not nice to myself and my performances suffered because of it. On Sunday, my mind was quiet. It was like those ever-annoying voices in my head were making up for terrorizing me so much throughout the rest of the season.
In typical triathlete race report fashion, the bike leg has all become a blur. I remember almost all of the course but only bits and pieces of what went through my mind during those 56 miles. I remember being in awe of how gorgeous the course was, with a river on one side and a mountain on the other. I remember being giddy about how much fun I was having during the entire ride. I remember not being even slightly frustrated with how many people passed me. I was racing my own race and nobody else mattered. I remember having to pee for the last twenty miles, not being able to go while riding or find a porta-potty, and inevitably going on the side of the road in plain view of all the cars and athletes that went by.
Mostly, I remember telling myself over and over to be smart. This was not the race to experiment with going balls to the wall on the bike and seeing if I blow up on the run. Be smart about pacing. Be smart about nutrition. Stay in the present and be smart. This mantra came in handy during the last ~8 miles, which featured one decent climb before heading to T2 on some seriously windy roads. Be smart about pacing up the hill. Be smart about going around blind curves. Be smart about hitting the never-ending potholes.
Bike- 3:15:15 / 17.21 mph / 1st AG / 36th female
Nutrition: blueberry Pro bar, smooth caffeinated Picky Bar, 4 clif shot bloks, 1 bottle Osmo nutrition active, 1.5 bottles raspberry Skratch labs. (~750 kcals)
Run (13.1 miles)
Coming off the bike into T2 I realized that my fingers were swollen. As in I had no knuckles. I had a minor panic that something was wrong but was more concerned with finishing the race. Any medical issues will have to wait until after this 13.1 mile run. I said a quick hello to my mom, hit the porta-potty, and was off running.
This was the part of the race I was most nervous for. When friends would ask me in the days leading up to the race how I was feeling I would tell them I was confident about the swim and the bike but pretty nervous about the run. I had no idea what kind of pace I could expect to hold so I set my sights on running 10:00 min/miles. I knew I had biked faster than expected and had a cushion for breaking the 6-hour mark.
I tried to pay attention to how my legs were feeling to determine how this run was going to go. I was careful to hold back during the first mile since I have a tendency to take off a little too quickly. When I was passed by someone I let them go because this was not the time to try anything. Be smart. I was cautious the first few miles, not knowing how my body would be feeling at mile 10. I was so scared of bonking that I think I held back a little too much.
The majority of the run was uneventful in the way that means that you're doing everything correctly. I had no GI issues or cramping. Every 5K I checked in with myself and if I was still feeling good I gave myself permission to pick up the pace a little. Looking back at my splits I don't think I was actually running any faster but I never slowed down so we'll call that success.
The course was an out and back, with the first and last ~3 miles on that same hilly windy road we biked on, with the middle miles on a really beautiful flat gravel trail. My plan for the run was essentially easy during the first 5k, pick it up on the trail, survive the hills on the way back. I pretty much stuck to this plan except when I exited the trail I still felt good enough to push harder. The one big hill on the way back to the hotel was defeating but the rest of that 5K was surprisingly not as hard as I was expecting.
It was during these final 3 miles that I was passed for the first time by someone I knew I wouldn't be repassing. These miles were also where I started to take a risk. I knew I was close enough to the finish line to chance really pushing it. With each mile that ticked my I could feel myself getting stronger, knowing the finish line was getting closer and closer.
Run- 2:01:54 / 9:18 pace / 2nd AG / 31st female
Nutrition: 1 bottle Osmo nutrition active, GU roctane, PowerBar gel, water from last few aid stations (~275 kcals)
Overall 5:54:58 / 1st AG / 24th female
Crossing that finish line I experienced what everyone told me would happen after crossing the finish line of my first marathon. I felt changed, as cliche and cheesy as it sounds. Despite so many strong races and hard-earned finish lines, I haven't felt like I pushed myself and earned that finishers chute quite like I did on Sunday. I am proud of this entire race, which is something I rarely ever say. And while I will be taking a much needed break to catch up with friends and finish out my senior year of college, I am excited for 2015 and Ironman Lake Placid in a whole new way.