My mom joined me for this race as Karel was participating in the Purple Patch Greenville East Coast camp from Thurs - Sunday. We stayed at the Best Western Smokey Mountain Inn, about 20 minutes away from the race venue and the hotel was clean and the staff was friendly. We didn't take advantage of the complimentary breakfast due to our early morning check out but they did pack grab-and-go bags for all of the athletes, starting at 5am.
I woke-up to my alarm at 3:40am to give myself 20 minutes to get going in the morning. As I was sipping my warm cup of instant coffee (Nescafe instant espresso), made with milk, I got myself dressed in my race day outfit and reviewed the bike course map once more. As I was reviewing the map, I consumed my pre-race meal, which consisted of 2 Belgium waffles (each 210 calories) topped with nut butter (1 of them) and butter/jam (the other). Both drenched with maple syrup and topped with cinnamon. On the side, sliced bananas and a glass of OJ. I found this meal easy to consume and even though I eat a variety of different food combos before my training sessions, this meal seems to work the best for me. I finished my meal around 4:40am, packed up the car and headed to the race venue around 5:10am.
We arrived to the race venue around 5:40am and although there was a little traffic getting into the parking lot, I was able to get body marked and pick up my chip and enter the transition area by 6am, with plenty of time before my 7am wake start.
Since there was no bike check in on Sat, I pumped up my tires before leaving my car, put my 3 sport nutrition bottles on my bike and secured my Garmin between my aero bars.
My transition was super quick - wetsuit off, cycling shoes on (no socks), helmet on (with shield) and I powered on my Garmin as I was heading out of transition and then I ran my bike on the grass to the mount line and started my ride up the hill.
I made sure to not put any power in my legs going up the hill and to wait until the down hill to settle into my rhythm. My legs felt just fine flying down the hill and I felt super fast for the first section of the bike course. There were a few rollers but I made sure not to push hard as I wanted to save my energy for the last 26 miles of the course.
I found myself being passed by a few guys in the early miles and I tried to use them for motivation to maintain a strong but steady tempo. But my legs felt kind empty. Although I didn't expect to stay draft legal behind these guys, I was a little annoyed that I didn't have that pop in my legs. I am usually very strong on the uphills, sitting up or out of my saddle, but my legs just didn't have it. I didn't let it get to me too much and just focused on riding what felt good, hoping that my legs would continue to open up.
During this time, I made sure to stay up on my liquid calories. I took 3-4 sips of my 250 calorie custom INFINIT bottle every 10-15 minutes. I adjusted my intake based on the terrain to make sure that I didn't sip down my nutrition when my heart rate was elevated. To keep my taste buds happy, I had watermelon flavor for my first bottle (yummy), grape for my second and caffeinated (50mg) pink lemonade for my 3rd bottle. I must have been well hydrated because I peed 3 times throughout the ride (while riding).
I never felt cold on the bike and kept thinking that the temperature was just perfect for riding. I would often look around and make note of the beautiful river flowing next to us, farm land in the distance, mountain views and farm animals. I even said hi to one of the cows who looked like he was really interested in the race.
Around mile 20-29, I started to feel a tiny bit better but I was still being passed by a lot of guys and I couldn't hang with anyone. I was hoping to at least stay draft legal behind someone but the ride ended up being pretty lonely out there for me. The only time that I found myself with others was from mile 30 to around mile 35-36. And thankfully, this was one of the more technical and harder sections of the course for me so I was happy to be with other athletes. But then those athletes rode away and I was once again alone.
I had waves of feeling good and then ok and then blah but I tried to just focus on riding well. I didn't feel good getting out of the saddle which was a sign that I had a little fatigue in my legs, likely from my previous training. But, I didn't let it get to me and just focused on one mile at a time and taking care of my attitude and nutrition.
When I got to the first steep climb on the course around mile 41, I was passed by my athlete Joe (assistant coach at Trimarni) and I was actually happy to see him. I was able to stay with him on the climb but then he rode away on the descend. I found myself very confident on the downhills so I was riding really happy, despite not feeling the best.
It was around mile 44 or so, on the big steep/long climb on the course, that I was passed by an open female. While I should not have let that pass get to me, I could not stay with her as she was riding super strong, in a heavy gear. Even though I wasn't riding slow, I just had nothing to give to stay with her. My legs felt empty.
With only about 10 miles left in the bike course, I thought about Karel at Lake Placid just two weeks ago and reminded myself that he felt empty on the bike and still put together a strong run. So at that point, I convinced myself that I was going to have a good run off the bike. Sure, it was hard for me to know how my legs would feel but I had two options - doubt my run or believe in my run. So, I decided to believe in my run, especially since I have been feeling really good with my run training/fitness over the past few weeks so I believe in myself that I could put together a good run off the bike. I also reminded myself that I have raced many half Ironmans where I caught ladies ahead of me in the later half/miles of the run. While I may not be a fast runner, I believe I am good at not slowing down when running off the bike, especially after a hard bike.
I ended up finishing almost all of my 3 bottles so I had trust in my body that at least I was nutritionally fueled and hydrated for the run. The 2nd place open female was long gone and assuming that Katie was a zip code ahead of me, I just focused on taking care of myself, hoping that it would get me closer to 2nd place.
I dismounted my bike and ran on the grass toward the transition area. I quickly took off my cycling shoes, put on my Compress Sport socks and New Balance Zante Fresh Foam running shoes. I then put on my race belt along with my Nathan hydration belt (and 2 flasks). I had secured my Oakley sunglasses on my Trimarni trucker hat so that it would be easy to put on the hat (with the glasses) as I was leaving the transition area. I also put my Garmin watch inside my hydration belt pocket so that I could have one less thing to hold on to until I put on my hat. I then put on my watch as I was walking out of transition area and once I hit the timing mat, I started my watch and started running.
Before the turn around, I started to see more athletes, although there were not a lot of athletes on the course at that point. I saw Katie running back and she was way ahead so I had my eyes focused on 2nd place. Although she was a good 6 min ahead of me off the bike (I was told by my mom), I was on a mission.
I made sure to stay up with my nutrition, sipping my flasks every mile and then anytime I felt like I was getting a little low in energy. Each flask had 120 calories of EFS Pro cucumber (for a total of 240 calories for the run). I did not consume any other nutrition on the run and just had a few sips of water from the aid stations and used water for cooling my head as I got a little warmer as the run went on.
I was excited to be back near the transition area and the first loop went by super fast. I looked forward to changing up the terrain, onto the gravel and then the grass for a quick loop outside of transition area before heading back to the pavement for another loop. I received word from some spectators that my gap to 2nd place was now around 2 minutes so this gave me a little boost that I was gaining on her. I wasn't sure how close I would get but I decided that I would try my hardest and not give up until the finish line.
Not too long as I was starting my second loop, my athlete Thomas passed me - and didn't say anything to me! I laughed at myself that he passed his coach and didn't say anything so I decided to just use him as my rabbit and try my best to keep him in front of me. He must have hit a high moment because he started to pull away from me as if he was flying and he was looking good. I was super pumped for him, putting together a great run. I finally managed to get back behind Thomas and it was super motivating for me to stay right behind him as we both cheered for the other Trimarnis on the course, giving high fives to everyone that we saw.
After the turn around, I could see that my gap to 2nd place was about the same but I was not giving up until the finish line. I kept telling myself that it's not over until it's over! I had a few low moments between mile 7-9, where it just felt really long and never ending but I told myself just keep moving forward and you'll cover the miles. I had to play a lot of mental games to keep my effort going, like counting to 4 and just focusing on Thomas's feet ahead of me but it was working as the miles started to click by. For the last few miles, Thomas started to run away from me but I gave my best trying to keep him in my sights.
Surprisingly, after lacking energy on the bike, this was one of my best feeling runs in a very long time. Although I never caught 2nd place, I was thrilled with my 3rd place because I never gave up on myself and kept focusing on doing my best until I crossed the finish line.
Every race provides a lesson, an experience and an opportunity. If we focus too much on the end result, we are unable to take away important lessons, experiences and opportunities which can only help us in future races. I had no time or placement goals for this race. I stayed in the moment and tried not to expend too much energy on those around me. I stayed confident in my abilities and trusted myself. I focused on things within my control and gave my best until I crossed the finish line. And the best part for me was finding out that I had the fastest open female run of the day and 2nd fastest female run split (missed first by less than 30 seconds). Yay for my running legs that had no energy on the bike - I guess they were wanting to run!
Thank you Lake Logan for the great race experience. I'm not sure if I will be back next year as we will be racing in Europe in June/July with Ironman Austria and then Challenge Prague half ironman, but this will continue to be one of my favorite race venues as it has shown me that a successful race isn't defined by what you can do easily but instead, what you can do when it's not easy.
-Run In - for helping us with all of our running needs
-New Wave Swim Buoy - for keeping us safe and seen in the open water
-Mg12 - for helping our muscles stay relaxed
-Clif Bar - for quality ingredients in quality sport nutrition
-Cheribundi - for providing a safe, natural and delicious way to reduce inflammation
-Veronica's Health Crunch - for the most delicious hand made crunch - ever!
-Infinit - for customizable sport nutrition
-Levelen - for helping us optimize our hydration needs through sweat testing
-Hot Shot - for keeping Karel cramp-free!
-Solestar - for maximum stability, better power transmission
-Boco Gear - for helping us race in style
-Canari - for the most comfortable, functional and stylish gear