On Friday morning, Karel, Peggy and I set out for a spin on the run course, while Meredith did her run warm-up for her relay. Because of the layout of the run course, we had several opportunity to wake-up our legs with the undulating terrain on the Red Hills Parkway. Although the run course was mostly all marked, we were a little confused by some of the out and back sections but nevertheless, we still saw enough to know that the run course was going to be one tough half marathon off the bike. But with the theme of the race, the views on the run course were spectacular.
After my short pre-race warm-up, it was time for a big breakfast which included hardboiled eggs, fruit and french toast, along with a glass of OJ. Knowing that the St. George race would require a lot of energy, I made every effort to load-up on carbohydrates before the race, without feeling too stuffed and uncomfortable. Since I always have a great relationship with food and my body, I don't worry too much when I do feel a bit "heavy" before a race. In my mind, calories are energy and with a plan in place, I trust what I am feeding my body as it is fuel for race day. For me, I gain more of a competitive adventure by loading up my muscles with glycogen going into the race than to risking GI issues by trying to overfuel on race day on calories/carbs (especially with the heat and difficulty of the course).
Although I spent the morning relaxing, Karel helped out our athlete Natalie with her bike, as her base bars cracked in route to St. George (from Texas). Karel and Natalie went to every local bike shop to try to find a new set of bars as Karel was not going to let Natalie ride with cracked base bars. With no luck, they finally found a set at the Diamondback Bikes, which saved the day. For the next two hours, Karel rewired Natalie's bike with the new base bars attached so that she would have a safe ride for race day.
For lunch, I had pizza (leftover from our team pizza party on Thursday night - pizza from the Pizza Factory), salty tortilla chips, a handful arugula and fruit. That meal hit the spot.
With T1 located about 22 miles away from T2/finish, we had a mandatory bike check-in (with bike gear - helmet and shoes) on Friday from 1-6pm. To make sure that we could rest in the afternoon/evening and limit time out in the hot sun (the high was 96 degrees!), we headed out to T2 after lunch (around 1:30pm) and around 25 minutes later, we were at Sand Hallow State Park to drop off our bikes. We brought our bikes and bike bag with helmet, shoes and anything else for the bike (besides nutrition).
It was a little windy so our bikes were blowing around a bit, which always makes me nervous since my bike never touches the ground. Yay for being 5 feet "tall". We met up with a few other Trimarni's in transition, which was great to see familiar faces. I feel so much positive energy when I am around our athletes. Despite the logistics of having to plan for a point to point race, the drive to the swim start is just beautiful so we certainly did not mind driving there twice before the race (on Thursday we swam in the lake for an entry fee of $10 per car). The race staff did an excellent job of making this race super scenic and easy to get around.
On the way home, we (Karel, Meredith, my mom and her friend Sharon) drove the bike course to get familiar with the layout of the course. Karel had biked the entire course between Wed and Thurs ride so it was nice to have him giving us the "real feel" based on being on a bike versus in a car (where it always feels different in a car). After driving the first 35 miles of the course on Friday and then including our ride on Wed (which included miles 35-56), I felt very prepared mentally for the bike. With so much Greenville riding behind me, I was really looking forward to the bike portion of the race. My only concern was how I would execute the bike as the climbs were long and the descends appeared to be fast, and there was only one section of flat roads after the first major climb out of T1. However, I felt confident that I could put together a solid bike based on all of the riding that I have done over the past 3 years in Greenville. I suppose that is one of the exciting parts of racing- you can't plan the outcome when you need to focus on the present moment.
After driving the course, we arrived back to our rental home around 4:00pm and we were ready to eat. Rather than having a snack, thus pushing dinner back a few hours, I encouraged my athletes to eat an early dinner to allow for plenty of time for digestion before bed. Thus, it allowed us to all snack before bedtime without risking an upset tummy before bed. For dinner, I had hardboiled eggs (no tempeh at the Smiths grocery), tomato soup and basmati rice, topped with salty tortilla chips and a little cheese. Although a light dinner, I felt very well-fueled from all the eating on Thursday and Friday, in addition to only working out for 2 hours total on Thurs and Friday. Around 7pm, I felt a little nibbly so I had a snack of yogurt with granola, which hit the spot before laying down in bed around 8pm.
Before a race, I like to listen to motivational Ted Talks on You Tube on my Ipad, while Karel listens to Techno. We both like to visualize about the race as this helps us get into the zone. Listening to people talk also helps me feel sleepy. By 8:45pm or so, I was out and surprisingly, I slept really well! Perhaps it was the comfort of having a house full of athletes (and spectators) so I knew I wouldn't oversleep through my alarm (which I have never done but always a fear which keeps me from sleeping well the night before a race).
My alarm was set for 3:45am. By 3:40am, Karel and I were out of bed and ready to cross this race off our bucket list!
Race Day Morning
By 4am, I was drinking a small cup of coffee and a glass of water before heating up my pre-race pancakes that I made on Friday afternoon. My pancakes total around 500 calories (including syrup and a little butter) but I was having a hard time eating them all . I tried my best and left one pancake on the plate. Still a success on race day morning at 4:15am.
After getting ready for the race and grabbing our morning clothes bag (with swim gear) and run bag, around 4:45am, a few other Trimarni's (from the other Trimarni rental home) came to our house and we all walked over to T2/Finish in downtown St. George (about a 8-10 minute walk) to set up our run gear in transition and to board the free shuttle buses (school buses). There were lots of buses so obviously, the race director was prepared for all of the athletes choosing to ride the buses. The other option was to get dropped off at the race venue but this option prevented athletes from being dropped off right at transition and instead, you had to take a short walk. Spectators were not allowed to ride the buses but the race event staff did a great job helping spectators get to the swim start with parking options at the swim venue (about 1/2+ mile away).
We boarded the buses around 5am and by 5:30am, we were at the swim start. Although I arrived two full hours before my wave start, I didn't mind the extra time as I was in no rush to set up my transition area, do a warm-up and stop by the port-o-potty a few times. I actually liked the extra time and surprisingly, it went by fast. As we were heading to the swim start on the bus, while listening to my music on my phone, I realized that I had left my bike computer in my transition bag, which I decided not to bring last minute. Oh no! Karel offered to give me his computer as he doesn't look at any metrics when he rides but I told him I would be fine without it. Although I would have been fine without it, I did want to look at my bike file after the race and have something to glance at to keep me on a schedule for drinking throughout the ride. I had no power goals for the race and I did not wear a HR monitor so my computer was there for reference. But, I did ask my mom to bring it, in case she arrived before transition closed at 6:30am and thankfully, she did and saved my day!
Before heading to bed on Friday, we found out via Facebook that the race director moved up the swim wave times. With predicted wind gusts of 40mph, the race director wanted to get everyone out on the bike course as quick as possible.So instead of me starting at 7:54am, my wave started at 7:31am.
After arriving to the swim start/T1, I put my bottles on my bike and Karel pumped up my tires (Karel took out air in our tires on Friday due to the hot temps). It was rather warm out (66 degrees) on race day morning but with the water temp at 64 degrees, I wanted to stay warm before the start - I stayed dressed in long pants, a hat and a jacket before putting on my wetsuit around 7:10am
Because Karel started 15 minutes before me, I wished him good luck before heading off to start my jog warm-up.
Funny story - Karel was so excited to spot two empty port-o-potties at the very far end of the parking lot/transition area during his jog warm-up, that he could not wait to tell me about them. Oh, it's the little things on race day that are so important to athletes :)
I spent a good 10 minutes jogging around to get my blood flowing, with some dynamic warm-ups. Since we couldn't get in the water before the race, I relied on my dry land warm-up to get me heart pumping before the swim start.
I hung out with my mom, and a few of my athletes, before the swim start and around 7:15, I started to make my way to my wave (18-24W and 35-39W). I made note of the other women waves so I knew when all of the female waves started. This was my first experience starting way back in a race but I didn't let it get to me much as I was actually looking forward to seeing so many athletes on the course versus being alone for most of the bike ride, like I was at IM 70.3 FL 4 weeks ago.
With each wave started 2 minutes apart, the time went by really fast. I felt a little weird before the start, which concerned me a bit but I just told myself that I would feel better once I got into the water.
I gave my mom a wave before we were allowed to enter the water and in less than 2 minutes, I was swimming about 100 yards or so out to the start buoys as my only warm-up. I had a short amount of time to adjust my wetsuit and put water inside the neck/chest of the wetsuit so that the wetsuit wouldn't "suck" on my chest and neck. I also used that time to relax and take a few deep breaths before it was time to start the race.
I just love my purple Xterra Vengeance wetsuit - it's so easy to spot!
I just love my purple Xterra Vengeance wetsuit - it's so easy to spot!
With a 30 second warning, I adjusted my goggles once more and then it was time for the 10 second countdown. I took a few deep breaths and exhales, started treading water a bit faster and then we were off!!
Stay tuned for part II of my race report.......