St. Croix 70.3 RR - pre race + 1.2 mile swim

You never know what the body will do on race day. The body can play games on you – tummy upset, feeling aches/twinges  you have never felt before, nerves out the wazoo and legs that feel like jello one minute and lead the next, as if they wouldn’t respond to any type of movement (even walking to the transition area). But no matter how you feel on race day morning, you have to trust that your body will know exactly what to do when the race starts. Sometimes this is easier said than done.
Perhaps at some races you will feel amazing before the race and you will be itching to get your party with your body started but this doesn’t mean that you still do not have that unknown of what the body will do as you swim, bike and run for x-miles. Even if you are 100% prepared and ready to go, you may even find yourself completely stressed and overwhelmed by things that you cannot control which also adds to the emotions of racing.
Considering that age group triathletes balance a lot while training for races (work, family, et.c) and can still dedicate 8-20+ hours of training per week, there’s something special about tapering the body for a race and experiencing all the emotions that come with race day. I truly believe that if racing was easy and effortless and we didn’t have to battle the ever-changing emotions that we feel before a race begins, we wouldn’t be who we are as triathletes.
Racing is not supposed to be easy. We, as athletes, can learn so much about ourselves and what we are capable of (as well as capable of overcoming) through racing so I always encourage athletes to not be afraid of things out of (or at the top) of your comfort zone. Regardless if you are veteran athletes, have raced a course in the past or are racing a new distance/course for the very first time,  I promise, you just have to get started to realize how amazing your body can be when you ask it to perform. You just have to trust yourself, respect your racing distance and appreciate what your body is capable of by focusing only on one mile at a time.

With multiple alarms set for race morning (on my phone), we were up at 3:30am and started the coffee maker. 
There wasn’t a lot of talking between Karel and myself on race day morning for we were both nervous for the day and just focused on ourselves, each getting ourselves ready for our race.

The afternoon before the race I had laid out all my race gear and then put my gear into 4 separate grocery bags (Pre race, swim,  bike and run) and filled my 3 bottles w/ my custom INFINIT nutrition drink  (280 calories) for the bike and two flasks for the run with NAPALM (each flask with 2 ounces – 100 calories  in each flask).  I put all my nutrition bottles/flasks in another grocery bag.
On race day morning, I first put on my race outfit and timing chip, 110% calf sleeves (not allowed on swim) and socks and extra run shoes for walking in transition area  and then as I sipped my coffee, I tried to keep my body moving instead of sitting back down to eat. After double checking my race gear bags and filling my bottles with cold water from water jugs, I was ready for my pre race meal. 

My tummy was fine while I was eating my normal pre training/racing snack of 2 WASA crackers + smear of nut butter + banana slices, granola and raisins (no maple syrup or honey this race because I didn’t bring/purchase any but that’s ok – I just had a bit more granola) and I had 1 bottle of water to sip on throughout the morning and 1 bottle w/ 1 OSMO packet (hydration for women) in a bottle of water to sip on in transition area. I didn’t finish both bottles before the race start but they were there for me to sip on.

Karel had 1 scoop MUD from INFINIT + 1 thick slice raisin walnut bread (local bread) + jam and 1 scoop OSMO pre-hydration formula in a glass of water.

As I packed up my Oakley Women bag (I didn’t bring my tri transition bag here) , Karel packed up our Ford Focus with our bikes (wheels removed so the bike frames could fit in the back seat). At St. Croix 70.3, there is no day before bike check and no body markings. Our plan was to leave our place at 4:30am to arrive close to the transition area to park before transition opened at 5am. The transition area was first come, first serve for racking bikes on the respected racks (I had 1 rack for the 30-34 women and Karel had two racks) and we weren’t sure about parking or traffic on the two lane road to the transition area so we wanted to arrive early to avoid any pre-race stress.

Our cottage is about 4 miles from the race start but we are also two miles (in route to transition area) from the Buccaneer (host hotel and where we run through on the run course) so we wanted to arrive early to bypass any of that traffic from that resort.

We parked in a side parking lot just a few minutes of walking from the transition area and after waiting in a short line before 5am, we both were able to rack our bikes in the front of our racks.
Karel and I both do our own things pre-race (although I like to be around Karel as much as possible but he likes to zone-out and just do his own thing which I respect) but then meet up before the race for a last minute hug and kiss and good luck wishes.

After quickly setting up my transition area and  several trips to the bathroom to relieve my nervous tummy (same for Karel) , we just waited around for a pump to pump our tires but saw only 2 pumps in the entire transition area. Luckily Karel had a hand pump which he used to top off my tubular tires (which need pumping daily) and his clincher tires. Because there was no bike check in the day before, this is likely why there were no pumps in our small transition area. As far as body marking, they say body marking is only for the mainland races J However, I did look up all the athletes in my age group for their bib numbers so that I could be aware of my competition without having race numbers on the body (although those usually get washed off anyways or smeared).

For my transition area: 
Swim: TYR pro speed suit, Speedo mirrored tint vanquisher goggles, spray body glide, race cap (pink – yay!), extra goggles in bag just in case, timing chip on strap, COOLA spray sunscreen, 910XT Garmin set on multi-sport function.

Bike: Oakley towel, 3 bottles of sport drink on bike (two rear cages which also hold two CO2s, CO2 adapter and quick flat sealant for tubular tires), Garmin 500 on bike, cycling shoes, 110% Flat out socks, GIRO helmet, Oakley Women commit sunglasses and two bottles – 1 with water and 1 with OSMO – from morning that I didn’t completely finish. I put a gu gel in my tri top pocket of my Trimarni kit before I put on my speed suit just in case I lost a bottle on the course (which is typical on this bumpy course) to ensure I wouldn’t be without fuel for any section of the course.

Run: 1 container of endurance aminos from Hammer (to take 4 before the run), race belt w/ number and safety pins securing the bib number, 110% visor, 2 flasks (standing up in my shoes so they wouldn’t fall over or drip), Brooks Pure Flow run shoes w/ locks for shoe laces.

Around 5:50am, Karel and I met up by the edge of the water and at 6am we jumped off the ledge into the water and we both swam together to the Hotel on the Cay, no more than 300 yard swim (I’m guessing). It felt SO good to jump into the water and get the body going. Once we arrived to the island we could swim a bit more if we wanted since there was plenty of room around the little island to the side of the beach start for the race. The race director had the pros stay on the shore and all the age groupers were on the sand on the island. There was water and sport drinks on the island which was nice. Karel and I found some fishies (finally!) to look at so that made us smile.

I kissed Karel good luck and then he made his way to his wave start (35-39) at 6:39am. My wave start was 6:50am. 

After watching Karel go off, I felt a bit more relaxed and was ready to get this party started.

There were 20 girls in my age group (131 women total in the half IM distance) so it was a small wave. We all lined up on the beach and I centered myself in the middle to outside of the buoys that we would make a left turn around. The buoys were more like lane lines so it was not an easy way to start the race but then it was nice to see two sets of large orange buoys to swim through as we made our way to the large yellow buoy to make our first of two right hand turns (buoys on our right).

Despite only 20 girls, I knew this competition was tough so therefore I had an idea of respectable and realistic times for this race course but absolutely no time goals for myself for any leg of the race or total time. I was simply racing my competition and racing smart.

It was a little chaotic at the swim start but my goal was to swim comfortable just like I did in our two prep swims on Thurs and Fri (on the same course although this was the true 1.2 miles). I managed to stay with a 2 other pink caps for the entire swim and I guessed that we were top 5 from our age group because I saw a few pink caps swim away at the beginning of the race. Because of the difficulty of this bike course, I didn’t want to waste any extra energy in the swim. Also knowing the swim course from the practice swims, I knew that there would be a section at the end where we would get a little push to make the effort much easier whereas it was a bit choppy heading out to the first turn buoy. I managed to sight well and stay with the other girls which made me happy. I tried to draft as much as possible but found myself having to swim through some of the other waves which caused me to lose the girls and then have to regroup again.

I absolutely loved this swim. For some reason, I find this ocean water so much smoother than Kona and if this makes sense, less salty too. There are no dolphins, sea turtles or colorful fishies like in Kona but the water is incredibly clear which is wonderful to swim in. I was able to look at my 910XT
After rounding the last buoy, I took another look at my watch (which I was looking at a few times just to see my pace/time) and noticed that this swim was a bit slower than my usual swims but I didn’t let it stress me out or make me frustrated. I just kept swimming smooth in the water as if this was my race warm-up for the bike/run race ahead.

Getting out of the water was a bit tricky – there was a floating (yet secured to the shore) ramp to get out of and there were two males pulling us on to the ramp. This was a bit weird for my legs to be pulled to this platform and then stand up but it all worked out ok.

I exited the water as 5th female out of the water (after looking at results) but I saw 3 or 4 other girls in transition area when I arrived. I took off my caps and goggles and I put on my 110% compression socks for this race instead of my normal calf sleeves since the calf sleeves sometimes give me blisters where the bottom of the sleeve rubs my shoe when I run. This didn’t take much time to put on in transition area but my main worry was forgetting my chip after I took it off to put on my socks. I kept reminding myself “chip, chip” – for the next race, I will just put the chip in my mouth so I don’t forget it. I then put on my cycling shoes (I never keep them on my bike – I find it unsafe and I don’t feel it saves significant time in endurance races – Karel believes the same), helmet and sunglasses, took a sip of my drink and then grabbed my bike, turned on my bike computer and then when I exited transition area I was ready to start my bike.
Oh my!! My speedsuit was still on!!

OK – this has NEVER happened before and I must say that I couldn’t help but laugh that my new TYR Torque Pro is SO comfortable that I didn’t even realize I still had it on! Not only is the suit super fast (really – it is incredibly fast) but it just feels so good (I had no chaffing too and even with body glide in past races I would still chaff with the speed suit). I leaned my bike against the fence and then ran back to the rack (just 4 racks from the start so not too far and took off my speedsuit over my cycling shoes and ran back to my bike. Transitions always seem sooooo long but this transition was just over 2 minutes so I didn’t lose that much time with my speedsuit issue and putting on socks.

I hit lap on my Garmin 910 and then hit start on my Garmin 500 bike computer when I got on my bike and I was feeling fresh and ready to go. All those nerves went away and my body was feeling good. Now it was time for my body to start riding the most challenging 56 mile bike course that my bike has ever taken me on.