Shortly after racing IM70.3 North Carolina in 2021 as part of Team IMF (IRONMAN Foundation), I got a phone call from one of the Foundation staff members asking if I wanted to represent the Foundation in St. George at the IM70.3 World Championships in 2022. Having raced IM World Championship in Kona in a Charily Spot (for Women for Tri in 2016), I was excited about the prospect, but a little nervous that I could still fundraise at that level. The fundraising commitment for the 70.3 World Championships is $15,000 and I would have 10 months to get it done.
Before I can tell you about the race and race week, I need to say THANK YOU!!!! As a community, we raised over $17,500 for the Ironman Foundation! Whether you donated directly, sponsored or participated in my indoor triathlon, participated in my Top in Topsail Raffle, or Sponsored a Mile for one of my many races - THANK YOU!!! I would not have been able to get to this start line without your generosity! Your donations are being used to support the initiatives of the Foundation, which includes supporting MANY smaller non-profits in each of the race communities. While fundraising was not technically part of the race, it is an important part of my journey. I am proud to race to make an IMPACT. When I train and race, I lean on the idea that what I am doing is about philanthropy and that helps me through the hard parts!
Monday: I started the day with a "tune-up" swim that had me feeling fast and confident in my swim! After the swim, I headed to Two Wheeler Dealer to have Charlie look over the bike 1 more time before I packed it up. Then home to pack the bike in my new EVOC Pro bike bag. This was my first time ever flying with my bike... I was NERVOUS!!!
Tuesday: Super early wake up for a day of travel into Vegas and then drive to St. George. We did a quick change after we checked in to head to the VIP Reception. I was thrilled to connect with Kaitlin from the IRONMAN Foundation and Joanne Murphy, the female voice of Ironman and Tri Talking Sport.
Wednesday: Check-In Day and collect all the positive MOJO! I made sure I was one of the first in line to check in and stop at the Zoot tent to finally meet Mark in person. Then I went back to the hotel to squeeze in a bike/run before lunch. Lunch was with Ironman Foundation where the positivity started. It was so great to meet the other IMF athletes and Pro Matt Russell. I left that lunch and made it to the That Triathlon Life Pop-Up where I finally got to meet Gwynne Shaffer (and hug her mom and dad), Nick Goldston, and my favorite pros, Paula Findlay and Eric Lagerstrom. Then... (seriously the best day ever), I was able to head up to the Team Zoot group photo and meet pros Sam Long, Matt Hanson, and Ellie Salthouse. This day was then capped off with the Welcome Banquet, where we got to sit in the VIP section with the other IMF athletes. Rubbing elbows with 6 Pros, two amazing humans that have and will continue to overcome physical challenges, and SO MANY amazing age groupers - I seriously soaked up so much positive energy on that day!
Thursday: One last bike ride before I headed to bike and bag drop off. The trails available in St. George are amazing!! After everything was dropped off, I had my typical pancakes, eggs, bacon, and fruit dinner and got to bed early!
********************** RACE DAY *********************
When wave starts were released a couple of weeks before the race, I had a bit of a pity party that I would be in the last wave based on age. Since most of the other athletes on the course had qualified and I was in a charity spot, I knew I would be one of the slower athletes on the course. I was bummed that the crowds would be less and I would be lonely on the run - the hardest part for me. BUT, as we got closer to race day and the weather reports showed sub-40-degree temps in the mornings, I was grateful to be in the last wave. With my 9:06 start time, the sun would have some time to warm things up a bit.
This also gave me the chance to watch the pro women start and finish their swim - #teampaula - and get selfies with Nick Goldston (TTL) and Joanne Murphy! Joanne even gave me a shout-out for my fundraising on the mic while the age group men were waiting to start - that was super cool!
Swim: 1.2 miles/36:26
Air temperature was about 40F when I started, but the water was over 60F, so the run and dive into the water felt quite nice. The sun was high enough that I chose mirrored goggles and was able to see and sight well through the whole swim. The strange thing about swimming is you can't just check your watch to see how it is going and everything felt different to me. My open water swims are in the salty ocean with (and against) a current, this was fresh water with no current. The water was significantly colder than anything I have swum in recently. So, I had no clue how I was doing. I did manage to find feet for the majority of the first 2/3 of the swim, but lost her when she began to sprint - it was a bit early for me to sprint. Did find another set of feet shortly after that - and COULD NOT believe my watch when I exited the water!
This was a PR for non-current assisted swims by almost 2 minutes. What a huge confidence boost to start the day!
Transition 1: 8:28
It was SO cold getting out of the water. The uphill climb out of the water helped a bit, but wet and cold are not a good combo. I took time to dry off with a towel and put on arm warmers, socks (I normally don't wear socks on the bike), gloves, and a gator around my neck. When I got to my bike, I unzipped my kit and added the mylar blanket I had grabbed from medical in the morning, and put it against my skin to block wind against my chest and torso. This was a tip from Matt Hanson (pro) that I am so happy I followed. I think that made a HUGE difference in my ride. I did have a bit of an issue zipping my kit back up over the mylar, which made my transition time way longer than I'd hoped, but I wasn't really racing for time :-)
Bike: 56 miles/3:22:03 If you've been following me long, you know that I am not well-practiced on climbs. I am also 6 feet tall and close to 200lbs. It takes a lot to get myself up steep climbs. My bike time at Virginia Blue Ridge was 3:40 and I honestly would have been thrilled to hit that same time in St. George. I found myself really enjoying the early climbs and descents. The shorter climbs were short enough that I was able to tackle them with some speed and the descents are where we "Athenas" can shine, and these descents were short enough that I did not get too scared causing me to brake. Leading up to Snow Canyon (mile 42ish), I was cold, but I was really feeling good about my effort. I do not have speed or time on my bike computer, because I train and race based on power and cadence. While I felt good, I had no idea how fast I was really going. I was also really glad that I had the quotes from my bike mile sponsors on my legs where I could see them. I smiled a lot reading those quotes leading up to snow canyon!
Then... snow canyon. My toes were numb and my legs were cold, but the mylar blanket and black arm warmers, and neck gator made me overheat about halfway up that 5-mile climb. I had to get those items off, so I unclipped and pulled off all the extras (shoving them into my kit pockets - I am sure I looked like a camel) Just like in Virginia when I clipped back in (going uphill, I might add), my legs felt fresh enough to put out some good power again. So, in the remaining 2.5 miles, I stopped 2 more times. Each stop was less than 1 minute, but it was long enough to flush out the lactic acid and give me new power to keep going. It also gave me time to read the quotes from my sponsors of those miles. I did take time to look around as suggested - even when I was moving - LOL!
Once I reached the toll booth and the aid station at the top of snow canyon, I was SO relieved! I threw all of the extra clothes and the blanket I had taken off towards the trash at the aid station and said a loud "oh Thank God!" which the volunteer said he'd heard lots that day! The last 9 miles are mostly downhill. There were a few short uphills, but I was able to get enough momentum going into them that they barely slowed me down. I maxed out at 38.7mph which is nothing compared to most of my tri-friends, but is a big deal for this scaredy cat! I did get a bit cold again on the descent, but I welcomed it after overheating in snow canyon. Side note: my toes were numb the whole bike, even when I was overheating - weird sensation!
Quick note on nutrition: I think I have finally nailed my bike nutrition. I had timers set on my bike computer telling me when to drink, eat, and use my base salts. Even though I was not super sweaty, I was super salty, so I must have been sweating enough to lose salt. I know this helped me on the run!
Run: 13.1 miles/2:30:56
Not much to note about T2, except how grateful I was for the bike catchers! That transition would be long and annoying if we had to rack our own bikes! I also had a good laugh at my transition quote from Cheryl R - Boobs up, Shoulders Back! Ok - got it!
The run course is basically 5k up, 5k down, repeat. When I first started out on the run I really wanted to run the first 2 miles. My sponsor-a-mile quotes for those 2 miles were about running sucking but do it anyway (thanks, Jeff) to get off this road. With numb feet, running up that hill just felt so weird. I have recently started running with power using the Stryd power meter, so I worked to average the prescribed half-marathon power for those first two miles. Walk/run style. When I hit the first timing mat, my toes started to get feeling back - I saw later that was mile 1.2. While it felt good to feel my toes, it did not make the incline in front of me any easier...
When I hit the 5k sign on the golf course, I peaked at my time and pace for the first time all day. I wanted to see how close I was to hitting my rockstar goal of 7 hours... I am not sure how good my math skills were at that moment, but I figured that I needed to hold a 13 min/mile to finish in 7 hours. Flipping screens on my watch, I saw I had averaged under 12 min/miles for that first uphill 5k. OK... let's do this.
Running downhill is amazing! I have long legs. I have a long stride. I like to run downhill! The first running picture is me coming down a glorious long downhill (at 9 min/mile) waving like I am in a damn parade - Ha! Mark was across the way and I was waving at him, I love that they caught how happy I was to see him! I think I averaged around 10min/mile for the 2nd 5k - way faster than I had any business running any portion of this half marathon.
My second loop was slower (both up and down), but once I hit the top of that golf course at the 15k point, I knew I needed a new goal. My goals are for me. They keep me motivated. I calculated at that point (again fuzzy math), that I could walk the last 5k and still come in at 7 hours. That is NOT how I was going to finish this race, plus it was mostly downhill from that point. So more fuzzy math and not knowing if my timer auto-paused when I stopped, I changed my Rockstar Goal to 6:45 (from 7 hours.) That was just the push I needed.
When I got to the sign that says 2nd loop right, finish line left, the tears started flowing. There were way more people on the finish line chute than I had anticipated and they all got to see me sob... and then revel in my finish line moment. I did not realize until after I crossed that I had beaten my new goal, too!! Mark got a really great video
of the exact moment I realized I had beat my goal.
This was my fastest half-ironman run of the year - beating VBR by 5+ minutes and Puerto Rico by 10+ minutes.
I know I did not do it alone! I can never say THANK YOU enough to everyone that supported me in this journey with donations and encouragement. Special shout out to my Coach, Sami Winter of Fusion Endurance Coaching
and Ironman Foundation for making this such a memorable weekend! Last but definitely not least, all the LOVE and THANKS to my partner in crime, my hubby Mark! I know I was not an athlete when you married me, so you didn't necessarily sign up for this level of crazy - yet you support, encourage, and tolerate so much as I continue to grow in this sport! I could not do it without your support!
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