Board Certified Sport Dietitian, Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, 23-year Vegetarian, Writer/Speaker, 11x Ironman finisher including 4x IM Kona finisher, Doggy-mommy, Wife to an amazing Czech cyclist turned Ironman Kona finisher, Triathlon Coach.
St. Croix 70.3 RR - 13.1 mile run + post-race
The last 2.5-3 miles into town on East End Road finish the
bike portion on the left side of the road, with the runners on the right. The
last few miles of the bike portion of an endurance triathlon are always filled
with a mix of emotions for most triathletes with questions of how the legs will
feel when the hit the pavement for the first time in x-hours as well as
thoughts of overall energy and fatigue. There’s a lot of thinking ahead (how
will I feel at x-miles in the run) and many times, not much reflecting. I found
myself in a state of reflection, thinking back to the last 57.2 miles that my
body has taken me on. Although my swim was not that “fast” for me, it was
comparable to the top girls in my age group. I had no regrets as to how I biked
the St. Croix 70.3 course for I respected the course and this distance enough
to not overbike in St. Croix. My legs were relatively tired but I was anxious
to run. As I found myself easing up on the bike while watching the runners, I
tried to keep my cadence high and I would often sit up and stand just to give
my hips one last stretch or two before a grueling run.
I wasn’t sure how I was placing in my age group for there
were no body markings in this race but by looking at bib numbers for the girls
in my age group, I figured I was in the top 10. As much as I wanted to podium
in this race (I wasn’t going for a Kona slot which would have been top 2 in my
30-34 age group), I knew my chances were slim as I didn’t have the bike skills
to “race” on this course. I also counted at least 6 girls ahead of me, already
running as I was nearing the last ½ mile or so of the bike course. However, I’ve
learned in many years of racing in endurance tri’s, a race is never over til I
cross the finish line – anything can happen and anything is possible. Never
ever count yourself out.
I trusted my body and in my reflection during the last few
miles of the bike, I didn’t let myself forget how great I have been running
over the past year. Although with recent run fitness gains most noticeable in
the past 4-5 weeks, the consistency of training without an injury for almost a
year was finally paying off. My body
felt strong, fit and healthy and I was ready to handle anything that came my
way on the run course.
Finally – my mind was my only limiter during the run portion
of this endurance triathlon. This is something that I crave and long for with
every race and many times in the past 6 years, I have had to manage nagging
aches in my hips/back instead of being able to push my healthy body in training
As I dismounted my bike, I stopped my Garmin 500 (and
powered it off) and hit lap on my Garmin 910 for the multisport function. The
crowds/volunteers were great and it was wonderful to see such great support
from the island locals and visitors.
As I ran on the grassy transition area with my cycling shoes
still on, I thought to myself “Please,
only be 6 bikes.” With being so far behind the competition, I just wanted
to run my way up in spots in my age group. I had a lot of confidence in my run
and I saved myself on the bike just so I could compete with the other ladies.
Ugh. As I racked my bike, I saw 6 bikes in transition. Although the girls ahead of me were a bit ahead, the competitive side of me was not gone and I was ready to do some
Unlike T1, T2 was smooth and without mistakes.
I removed my helmet and cycling shoes and put on my Brooks
Pure Flow running shoes (with lace locks on the shoe laces) over my 110%
Compression socks. I had a pill container open) with endurance aminos (Hammer
Nutrition) and I shook out 4 and took a sip of my leftover bottle from race
morning of Osmo and swallowed 4 pills before I grabbed my flasks (each with
Napalm powder from INFINIT mixed water – tastes like a sport drink but
concentrated and electrolyte rich like a gel), my visor and transition belt and
I was off.
As I was running to the exit of transition, I put on my
visor as I had one flask in my mouth and the other one in my sport bra top. I
put on my race belt as I was running (with safety pins on the bib number – I am
notorious for ripping off my bib number).
Out of transition you run up a steep, super short grassy
hill. There was an aid station with cold water right out of transition so I
took advantage of it and poured cold water on my head to start the cooling process
and a sip to rinse my mouth. A mega bonus on this difficult run course is
having aid stations every 0.6 miles….yes, you read correct – almost every ½
mile there is an aid station – talk about heaven on a 90+-degree run course.
My legs felt amazing in the first mile and I knew that all I
needed to do was pace myself. In order to postpone fatigue, I stuck to my walk
plan of walking the aid stations for 10 seconds or so (after the first aid
station for I wasn’t ready for my walk yet and wanted to wait until I got over
the first roller). Karel walked every single aid station (every .6 miles and he
said he would just stop, take in water/coke/ice and then run again) and I
walked almost every aid station (I think I didn’t walk 5-6 of them, primarily
because of the location of the aid station and how I was feeling + crowd
The spectators and volunteers were fantastic. The first 2
miles had a lot of screaming fans, baggies of ice for cooling that we could
grab (great idea if you are ever doing a hot course – bring a baggie with you
and fill with ice at your aid stations to cool your back/body parts, etc.) and
hoses to cool us off. Yes, it was hot but I do not mind hot races for my body
tolerates the heat thanks to being 5-foot tall (not a lot of body surface area
to cool). I was a bit concerned for Karel who has struggled in the heat and off
the bike in a few races for he is still trying to figure out his body after
transitioning to his new 3-sport sport instead of just bike racing.
My goal was to keep good form and to make sure the first
loop (around 6.5-7 miles) felt good. It had to feel good in my mind and body
the entire first loop or else I knew I would be in trouble for the second half.
Although we all risk slowing in an endurance event, my goal was to slow down
the least. Thankfully, I was feeling good for the first two miles which were
not flat but instead, entertained my legs with two long rollers to cover until
I reached the entrance of the Buccaneer.
I knew on this run course that the next 4 miles were going
to be challenging before beginning another loop to do it all again. Karel and I
had reviewed run times so we were aware of what is “normal” pacing for this run
and what is typical for loop 1 compared to loop 2. We had reviewed the pros and
top age groupers for the past few years for we were not trying to be like
others but to understand what the body could handle on this course. Also
talking with our top AG group friend David that we met (who is a 1:15 off the
bike runner), he mentioned that it is very typical to run a lot slower on this
course. We had heard similar statements from other athletes who have succeeded
(and not faired to well) on this course so this advice was mentally helpful.
Racing smart is not about being fit and fast but being able to race on your
respected course with the best plan possible to finish strong.
After holding back a bit on the first two miles, I made a
left into the resort and grabbed a sip of coke before entering the next part of
the run course. I was sipping my flasks every aid station and my goal was to
finish 1 flask on the first loop and the second flask on the second loop + coke
as craved (I think I grabbed Coke 3-4 times) + water/ice at every single aid
stations (no other gels or sport drinks).
Between miles 1-2 I saw a familiar face….KAREL!!!
Yay! I didn’t think I would see him during the entire race
and I was instantly lifted up (my RPE went down and I was feeling extra good)
when I saw him. He looked so strong running with his fuel belt on and I knew that
he was having a great run by looking at him (I’ve seen him in other races where
I could tell the run was not going as he wanted which is always emotionally
hard for me to see him not have his ideal run off the bike since he is such a
As I followed the orange markings in the resort, I didn’t
even have to look down for I felt a major relief….trails!!!! I think I was smiling during the entire run even though it wasn't easy.
I knew Karel wouldn’t like this section but he told me after
the race that he knew I would LOVE this section and my hips were jumping with
joy. Now, this doesn’t mean that my legs were feeling fresh as can be but
mentally, I really loved the changing up of terrain on this course.
My Garmin would lose satellite a few times in the trail
section around the golf course so I kept focus on how I felt for RPE on this
course was my main focus and just keeping an eye on my pace when my body/mind
played tricks on me (sometimes the mind and body will fight in a race – one
telling the other that it’s tired and sometimes you have to do some check-in’s
just to make sure that one is lying to the other).
The next 1.5 miles or so was a loop so I could kind of see
the athletes on the other side of the grassy field but I spotted no other
girls…ugh, where are they? I still needed to stick to my plan of holding back
for the results in years past showed that athletes who start out too fast on
the run (or overbike) slow down considerably on loop two. I did not want that
scenario for I wanted to feel just as strong (or stronger) on the second loop
as the first.
After finishing this next section, we ran up a steep short
hill. I had heard athletes talk about the big climb on the run course and after
tippy toeing up the pavement hill (short strides, more like a shuffle up) I was
relieved that big climb was over. It wasn’t as bad as every said.
After running through the resort for ½ mile or so, it was
time for another terrain change. Grass!
We ran on a grassy and gravel/dirt packed section which
overlooked the ocean. The view was amazing from the top of this climb. I was passing
guys and just a few girls but I knew I would be taking too many risks if I ran
any faster on this first loop.
We made our way back on to the pavement and then back on to
the grass again and then pavement. And then came a downhill that was straight
down….ouch! The previous 60 miles or so were catching up to me and I couldn’t
bear the pain in my quads to break down this hill so I jumped on to the grass
instead and just hoped for no holes in the ground for I didn’t want to risk a
After this downhill, my legs suddenly felt super weak, kinda
like an empty feeling. I looked at my pace and I knew I didn’t over do it this
far so I just tried to silence the pain in my legs and kept on moving forward.
This was a weird feeling almost as if my legs were really light and heavy at
the same time but I just kept looking forward to each aid station to cool
As I was getting to the end of the resort section of this
run course, I spotted a big hill ahead. Oh – This must be the hill everyone was talking about!!!
I didn’t want to walk the hills for even if I was “running”
12-minute miles up the hill it was faster than walking 15+ min/miles. I
shuffled my way up with a short stride and used my upper body swimmer-muscles
to power my way up – it wasn’t fast and likely not pretty but I conquered
“Beast Jr.” (As it said on the pavement).
You are kidding….another downhill?
Finally I made it out of the resort and back on to East End
Road. At this point, I was hoping badly to see Karel for I needed another pick
me up. No Karel but lots of awesome spectators and volunteers and inspiring
athletes. Knowing that the top athletes race St. Croix, I couldn’t help but
feel inspired by the amazing bodies that were racing on this course.
I saw some of the girls in my age group as I made my way
over the second roller and back into town and my dream of moving up in my age
group was likely over. Although I was running as smart and strong as I could
with my current level of fitness, I had lost too much time on the bike to move
up any more. Additionally, when I made my way to start loop 2, I felt confident
in seeing my competition behind me (on the other side of the road) that unless
something bad happened to me, I was not going to get caught. This was a happy
and sad place and for the next mile, I had a little conversation with myself as
to how I would approach lap 2.
This was a really tough position for me to be in for I was
stuck in a position of not being chased and not being able to chase anyone and
that’s what I long for in racing. Even though I have my plan and I love to
stick to my plan of racing smart, I thrive off competition to help me reach my
I saw Karel finishing his second loop on the way to his
finish and he looked so strong. I was amazed by how he was running and it was
time for me to figure out how I would approach the next 6 or so miles.
Karel run time: 1:34:17 (including walking at every .6 mile aid station)
22nd fastest amateur male run
6th fastest age group (35-39) run
My mind loves to do math when I run so I started to do a few
calculations. In reviewing past run times, the average “fast” run times on this
course are over 1:40 with the majority of top age groupers between 1:45-1:55.
There are often some fast runs and then some not-so-fast runs that still help
an athlete finish at the top of his/.her respective age group because of how
he/she biked and swam prior.
With no auto-lap time over 8 min/miles (this includes my
walk breaks) so far on this course, my new goal (instead of moving up in my age
group) was to continue running sub 8 min/miles.
My next goal was to try to break 1:40. As I made my way to
the trail section in the resort, I saw this as my “recovery” – I didn’t
necessarily slow myself down but it just felt “easier” than pounding on the
pavement so I told myself to just relax on this section and then finish strong
in the last 3-4 miles to the finish. Although I never dreamed it possible on
this course (I was hoping for around 1:43-1:45), I thought to myself 8
min/miles was around 1:44 for a half marathon and 7:30 min/miles was around
1:38 or so (per my math calculations in 90+ degree heat after racing for 65+
miles) and I knew from my paces that I was in between the two times.
Ok – I can do this!!! Break 1:40 and that would be
unbelievable on this course!!
I was on a mission, now racing against the clock. Me vs. the
Little hill and Beast
Jr. were over and boy oh boy, was my body getting tired. BUT – I was not
slowing down that much so I knew that if I could stay mentally strong, I could
win this battle with my body vs. my body. Who knew so many competitions could
go on without chasing a human competitor ahead of me.
As I made my way back into town, I again broke this course
Ok – one more roller to go as I ran down the first roller.
After the next roller, I was going to see the downtown and then it was a sprint
to the finish.
Around mile 10 I had switched my Garmin 910 screen from the
run interval screen (showing my lap time, lap pace, current pace and average
pace) to a screen that has total run time and that helped me stay super
motivated to try to reach this new goal.
When I made a left turn in the downtown area, I could see
the finish line to my right. Ok, probably just a block or two more and I would
finishing this run course in my own record goal rime!
Ok – where’s this turn? I kept running and running and
running….what seemed to be a never ending road and when I reached another aid
station, the nice volunteer smiled and told me “you are almost there – only ½
mile to go!”
What??? A half mile. Ugh.
Oh well. I had just had the most unbelievable experience
checking off this race from my bucket list, I raced with Karel on this
beautiful island (I thought, how lucky are we that we were able to make this
dream come true and make some memories together), I suffered as I raced smart
and I still felt as if I had a really awesome run, even though I didn’t meet my
new time goal that was created
half-way through the run (sometimes a goal needs to change to ensure a positive
As I finally made the right hand turn down the downtown
bumpy streets of Christiansted, I saw the finish line and gave it my best
sprint possible (my slow-twitch filled body doesn’t really know how sprint so I
just make sure it feels like a sprint) and with my hands in the air, I was SO
happy to reach the finish line.
Finally, I can rest.
13.1 mile run stats (From Garmin 910xt – showing 13.25
miles, splits with walking included):
Mile 1: 7:31
Mile 2: 7:23
Mile 3: 7:34
Mile 5: 7:53
.25: 7:04 min/mile
(yay for descending the last 4 miles!)
Total: 1:41:31 (7:39 average)
18th fastest female run (including pros)
2nd fastest age group (30-335 run
8th fastest female amateur run
I was hoping to see Karel when I entered downtown for the
last section but he wasn’t there. I then expected to see Karel with his arms
opened wide to catch me at the finish, but he wasn’t there.
My first thought was that he was with our friends from Jax celebrating with
post-race beers somewhere and completely forgot about me. Then I thought he had
selfishly got a massage and missed me finish. Of course, all appropriate things
for me to think for he has always been at the finish line waiting for me at
every tri we have done together.
With my finisher medal around my neck and my body drenched
with cold water (once again after I finished to officially start cooling off) I
hear “Marni, Marni – I’m over here!”
I was turning all around in circles without Karel in sight
and then I followed a voice toward the medical tent and there was Karel, with a
needle in his arm, enjoying his first post-race IV (while making friends with
my friend Jenny Fletcher – model, pro triathlete and Oakley Women athlete and
sitting next to our friend Brad from Jacksonville). Opps – it never occurred to
me that Karel’s health would be in danger. I didn’t say anything to Karel about
not being at the finish for I was feeling like a bad wifey for getting upset
that he wasn’t at the finish line J
My body was fatigued and officially drained but it performed
amazingly well. I had no GI issues once again in a race, no cramping and no
As for Karel, he really pushed it on the run, especially at the end and he said he was starting to black out at the finish. For the first time he said he felt hydrated during the entire race without his normal adductor cramps so we contribute it to the Osmo pre-load which likely helped Karel ensure that his cells/tissues/muscles were well hydrated. However, he said he still needed the IV despite feeling good during the race. I guess that good feeling allowed him to really finish strong.
After I stood and chatted with Karel about the race, he finished getting is
post-race pick-me-up and we hobbled over to a large tree in transition area to
get some shade. I finally went to the bathroom ( I tried to go on the bike but
had no luck and I really had to go the entire bike/run but never stopped to
go) and then had a drink of Hammer FIZZ
to help replenish electrolytes. I usually give myself a good hour or so before
eating anything after a race (or track
practice) for if I try too soon after a race, I will have major GI upset as the
blood starts to return to the GI system after my heart rate returns to a normal
Karel and I chatted about the race as we walked to our car, which
is always my favorite part to share with Karel – when the suffering is over, I
just love being able to talk about our personal journey from start line to
finish line, together.
Run: 1:41: 28
Total: 5:24:34 - 6th age group, 25th female
Total: 4:56:53 - 11th age group, 46th male
Because we drove to the race start, we were not able to
drive the 4 miles home so we put some of our gear in our rental car and then
biked back to our resort. We made a quick stop at a bar to say hi to some of
our friends. Although this was tough to get back on our bikes (with our bike
shoes) and pedal home, it did feel good to loosen the legs a little.
When we got back to our resort, I was finally able to have a
small snack (banana/handful cereal and glass of milk – which is typically
post-race OR pizza and milk) and then Karel and I jumped into our resort pool
to officially cool off.
The rest of the afternoon we crashed on our king size resort
bed as we read the nice notes on social media from our friends. I called my
parents to share our race recaps (Karel also had a great race and was super
happy with how he ran – he said he felt like it was his best effort in a run
off the bike – not his fastest but he feels it was his strongest) and we had
our first official meal about 2 hours or so after the race. I had tomato
pasta/veggie soup (from a can that I bought pre race) with Lays potato chips
crumbled on top (chips from the race in a bag), mineral/seltzer water to help
my tummy and some other leftovers like some cheese, tempeh and bread – it
wasn’t a filling meal but enough to start the recovery process.
Around 5:30 or so we found some energy to get ourselves out
of our post-race compression gear and into normal clothes which showed off some
awesome Caribbean tan lines.
We drove to the post-race party on the other side of the
island (about 15 minutes away – on the last loop of the bike course we see the
hotel where the post-race party is held, with around ~13 miles left to go) and
met up with some of our friends and it was nice to share the race with one
The post-race BBQ food was just ok, nothing that would make
my tummy super happy but they did have veggie burgers (Karel had chicken),
amazing cookies (I had oatmeal raisin), cheese and burger toppings. I had a
side of potato salad which was also just ok. I really wanted some good bread or
pasta (pizza would have been a dream) but the bun did not make me excited so I
had an open faced burger (good thing I had plenty of carbs in my cottage to
enjoy after this BBQ).
The party was fun to see the pros get their award money and
to be so close to them while overlooking the beautiful ocean. The age group awards
consisted of top 3 in each age group plus 70.3 and Kona World Championship slot
distribution (athletes could take both if they wanted).
Oddly enough, both Karel and I received a roll down slot (6th
age group for me and 11th age group for Karel) for 70.3 World
Championship but neither one of us accepted and it was great to see the
excitement of the other athletes as both athletes behind us both took our slots
(we are racing IMWI the same day at 70.3 WC so we are racing for our Kona slots
that day as that is our A++++ race).
After the BBQ/party, we made our way home around 8:30pm or
so and it felt like midnight. Since we had been up since before 4am, we were
both a bit tired but my post-race insomnia (happens every time after half or full IMs) left me completely
exhausted and awake so I just watched a little TV while working on my blog
recap. Karel was out the moment he hit the bed.
What an incredible race. For a challenging course on a
beautiful island, I highly recommend to race in St. Croix. It is not an easy
race but after you conquer the Beast and everything that comes with it, you
will not regret your decision to enjoy a race-cation in St. Croix.
As for the rest of our trip:
-Monday (day after the race) – ~6 mile hike to the tidal pools (2.8 miles each
way) . Quads were not happy but it rained on us and felt amazing. Plus, the
experience of swimming in these pools was really awesome. We had a very late
lunch (veggie burger in a wrap that was super yummy with sweet potato fries - this hit the spot!) in Fredriksted and then when we arrived
back to our cottage around 6:30pm, Karel was knocked out and I did a bit of
work for a few hours for my athletes on the computer.
-Tuesday – 20 min open water swim outside of our resort
around 7:30am (after waking up without an alarm. Karel had at least 10+ hours
of sleep, I got about 4 or 5 but not continuously) and then we packed up our
resort. Karel had packed our bikes before Tues and we had our friend Brad drive
our bikes to the airport since he was on our flight and had a van from his
family friend on the island (to return the favor, Karel boxed up Brad’s bike
for him). After checking out of our resort around 11pm, we did a little
computer work til 12 at our resort and then we made a stop at the local gas
station by us to get some local fresh bread (banana bread). We then went to
Christensted for lunch at the Avocado Pit (Excellent service!!) and walked
around after lunch (we also got lunch to go – I had a salad at the Avocado Pit
– my first “real” salad since I arrived to St. Croix – I was finally able to
enjoy some extra fiber and had a wrap w/ fries for later).
We then drove to the Buccanear to lounge on the beach with our Jax friends and then around 2pm we headed to the airport to return our car. Our flight left around 5pm to head to San Juan and then finally back to Orlando (arriving around 9:30pm). Karel drove back to Jax with Brad in his car (Brad’s luggage was lost so they didn’t leave the airport until almost midnight for a 2.5 hour drive) and I drove to my parents (2 hour drive), arriving around 1:30amwith lots of kisses from Campy and a super happy tail.
-Wednesday – woke up without an alarm around 8am at my
parents and got caught up on some emails from Tuesday and then drove back to
Jax (3.5 hour drive) with my furry BFF. Campy was super happy to have his mommy
and daddy both together with him. But little did Campy know that there was
going to be a lot of excitement happening over the next 5 days….time to pack up
our townhome for the Sumbal’s are moving to Greenville, South Carolina!