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Team Sumbal - HITS Ocala half ironman race report (the unplanned win)

Last year I was unable to participate in the HITS ocala half ironman  with Karel because of a last minute speaking event with Oakley Women in San Diego. 

Even though this is a smaller event series (and about 2.5 hours from us in Jacksonville), I really wanted the opportunity to race in an early season half ironman event to test my fitness, to discover weaknesses and most of all, to shake out those nerves that always come with the first race of the season. I ended up transferring my 2013 entry to 2014 before we planned our 2014 racing schedule so once we had planned our key races:
-St Croix 5/4
-Raleigh 70.3 6/1 (Karel only)
-IM Austria 6/29
-IMWI 9/7

I wasn't sure how a half IM would work for my body just four weeks before my A-race of the season (another 70.3) but I knew that with the right "race smart" plan, I would be able to perform during the race without a taper and to also recover well from the long that I was going into this race healthy.

2014 has already gotten off to a great start thanks to a few changes to my triathlon training routine.
-No running races, only triathlon races
-New saddle and RETUL fit on my new bike
-Continued work on hip/core/glutes
-Continued focus on getting faster before going longer - "train smarter to train harder"
-Starting our season with our 5-week transition plan
-Lots and lots of stretching for my upper back
-New style of Brooks running shoes (pure flow 2)

Although Karel and I did not go into this race tapered and we weren't racing for a personal best performance, we believe that racing smart can help athletes (ourselves included) find success, no matter what race you are doing. 
We don't chase times but instead the competition so by understanding the things outside of your control (weather, terrain, who shows up on race day, start time, course distances, etc) you can better control the controllables (pacing, nutrition, attitude, clothing) to give you the best race possible.

In 35 days we plan to peak for the first time this season. For the HITS Ocala half ironman, Karel and I made no excuses as to the limiters we had going into the race for we were both there to do our best, with our current level of fitness, on that given day. But on May 4th, 2014 in St. Croix, we plan to arrive to the race is the best absolute condition at that moment in our season, and be mentally, physically and emotionally ready to race. It's very hard to peak at every single race and it is not easy to do, nor is it necessary. Peaking requires experience but also a good understanding of the human body as well as knowing how to race smart on race day. In other words, when you peak for a race, you are putting all of the days, weeks and months of previous training to the test with your strong, yet recovered, healthy body. Every workout in a training plan creates training stress to build a stronger, faster and more powerful body so long as you are able to be consistent and recover from workouts and understand that every workout is part of the master plan.

My amazing bike mechanic.

Expensive wheels, gadgets, equipment and clothing can help create a faster racing experience but in the sport of triathlons, it's not about being fast but being the one who slows down the least.... and in triathlons, triathletes tend to remember great performances by finishing the race with a strong run (where no fancy equipment is needed). So while the fancy gear may make you look, go and feel fast, you still have to know how to race smart in order to reach your highest potential...when it counts. 

Karel and I made our way to Ocala, FL around lunchtime on Frday (arriving to Ocala around 3pm) while Campy had a sleepover with my friend and athlete Tricia (and her two doggies Gracie and Oscar). 

Living the good life....endless belly rubs. 

I always try to attend the athlete briefing before races to learn of any last minute course changes, announcements or rules. For knowing the course is something within my control and I try to control as many controllable as I can before a race. 
Karel and I met one of my nutrition athletes, Roger, from Key West while at the athlete meeting from 3-4pm and although I was a bit nervous for this race being the first race I have done since Kona, seeing/meeting like-minded individuals is one of my favorite, stress-relieving parts of triathlons. I say it at every race but the energy at triathlon races is so positive and contagious, I really love the support from hundreds of people that you don't know but all share the same passion as you for swimming, biking and running. 

We picked up our race packet and checked out the transition area. How fun - Karel and I were both next to one another!! We had the option to rack our bikes on Friday evening (not mandatory) but because of the chance of rain that evening, we opted to take our bikes with us to the hotel.

The hotel options were not close so we had about 20 miles to drive to our Days Inn Ocala hotel. We opted for a cheaper hotel this time around ($68/night), however, we never overlook the amenities when traveling as that is a top priority. We had a refrigerator and microwave in our room (no coffee maker) which made it super easy for us to eat our pre-race meals in our hotel room. I forgot our instant coffee and instead, accidentally brought our Starbucks ground coffee and filters (thinking we had a coffee maker) so I made a quick 1.5 mile trip down the road on Friday evening to get two venti coffee's to reheat in the morning. 

My evening meal was made Friday morning and was delicious when reheated around 5:45pm on Friday evening.
1/2 cup dry Jasmine rice (then cooked)
Baby tomatoes and yellow bell peppers
Sauteed spinach/kale w/ 2 egg whites + 1 whole egg.
Seasoned with a pinch of salt

This meal was delicious and it made my tummy super happy. I think I may be swapping my normal sweet potato for rice at St. Croix to see how that works out for the next race.

Around 7:30pm my body was a bit biologically hungry so I had a slice of fresh bread w/ a little peanut butter and a small orange. 
We also like to drink sparkling water (in addition to regular water) on the day before a race as it seems to keep our tummy happy so we had two large bottles of Perrier in our room. We also both had 1 Hammer Fizz in a regular water bottle to sip on throughout the morning. 

After we ate our early pre-race meals on Friday night, I laid out all my gear to double check I had everything I needed in my transition bag. 

PRE RACE/SWIM: Zip-up hoodie jacket (Oakley)
Trimarni tri shorts (I opted to wear tri shorts for the half, although in IM races I prefer cycling shorts for bike and I will run in them as well)
Trimarni tri top (w/ zipper which is a must for me when I race triathlons)
Align sports bra (oakley womne)
Compression socks
HR monitor strap
Chip in band (provided in race bag - I added a safety pin to it to keep secure in the water)
Brooks Pure running shoes (new pair not worn in the race, not broken in yet)
Body Glide
Coola suncare sunscreen (my fav sunscreen - not greasy, slimy or smelly)
Xterra vector wetsuit (size medium-small)
Cap (provided in bag)
Goggles (cleaned with anti-fog on Friday)

Bike w/ race number attached (Karel cut the number so that it would fit on my small frame - we always travel with tape, zip ties and scissors)
Lazer helium helmet (with magnetic buckle) - Hawaii edition (Aero helmets don't work for me, I get out of the saddle too much) - number attached to helmet
Bike shoes - Bontrager Hilo
RPM sunglasses
3 bottles - each filled with 2 scoops (298 calories) of my custom formula from Infinit nutrition (which includes 20mg caffeine, 1000 mg BCAA's, 4g protein, 70g carbohydrates, 16g sugar and 461 mg sodium - I think I am going to change my formula a bit for this upcoming season so I may tweak this just a bit before St. Croix - Infinit has great customer service and quick shipping which is great! Karel also has a custom formula that I created for him)

Brooks Pure flow run shoes w/ lace locks attached to laces
110% visor - this visor actually fits my small head without an adjustable strap
Race belt w/ number attached (and safety pins to also secure number on belt)
2 gel flasks - each with 2 ounces (100 calories) NAPALM (grape, caffeinated) mixed with water to the top of the flask

We both had a good night of sleep after watching a little TV and calling it a night around 9:30pm (in separate beds - we do better this way before a race) before our alarm went off at 4:10am. 

We started with coffee and topped our water bottles off with water to sip on throughout the morning, as well as an additional 8 ounces of water filled with Infinit Speed formula (about 3/4 scoop for me and 1 scoop for Karel) to also sip on in transition area.  

My pre race meal is super simple and it includes the same foods that I eat before every single training session. I never do an early morning workout during my triathlon season without having a pre-training snack before the workout.

For the half IM, I did two dressed up WASA crackers (only one pictured) with smear of nut butter + banana slices (1 small banana) + raisins + granola + maple syrup for around 300-350 ish calories (primarily carbohydrates).

Karel typically does oatmeal, toast w/ PB and jam, Bolthouse yogurt drink....some combination of all of those. Karel has no trouble with pre workout/race nutrition and neither of us experience GI distress related to the food we eat around workouts because we know what works best for us and we continue to use the same foods over and over in training to train the gut.

We arrived to the race venue around 6am and got body marked and set up our transition area. 

Not only is the race director at HITS extremely thoughtful, caring and nice (he gave every athlete his phone number in case there was an emergency for family members to call him - athletes are allowed to bring their phones on the bike in the case of an emergency, particularly the full IM athletes which went out the same day as our race. The Sprint/Olympic distance was on Sunday) but the transition area is top-notch. A bench, bike to the right and plenty of room to set-up your own personal space. 
Karel told me to put the front wheel in the bike rack so that I wouldn't rub the cassette but also because the bike would face the direction that we were leaving the transition area for "bike out". 

Karel and I do our own thing before a race in the morning but we always meet up at the water for a kiss and hug before the race starts. After a few potty stops, it was time to head to the 64-degree water (which felt great) and put on the wetsuit over my calf sleeves and Trimarni outfit. 

Karel cut his arm and leg sleeves a bit in his wetsuit (about an inch or so) to make it easier to get off. We both wear our Garmin 910's for the entire race (set on multisport w/ transitions included and open water swim setting). 

After a brief pre-race meeting, it was time for an in-the-water start. Karel and I stood next to each other and among the 270ish athletes racing, it was time to count down until the race start (originally it was planned for 7am but we had to wait until the sun was rising to see the buoys). 

1.2 mile swim  - 29:57
The swim started off a bit chaotic - it doesn't matter how big or small of a race, all of us athletes are fighting in the same body of water. The water was extremely easy to swim in for it didn't feel thick or dirty like some lakes. As I was swimming, I thought about my stroke to make sure I was catching the water and keeping my head down to lift up my hips. I would spot every 10 strokes or so here or there because the water was a bit choppy and I found myself just behind the front of the lead group so I tried to stay focus on the group ahead.

I felt really good in the water which made me happy because I knew that with a long day ahead, this would be a great place to just clear my mind and to not jump ahead with thoughts. I tried to keep in mind what by BFF, athlete and sport psychologist Dr. G always tells me "don't jump ahead with your thoughts."

I glanced at my watch once when I was nearing the last turn buoy of our triangle swim course and then on the home stretch I glanced again while swimming to the shore and smiled under water, knowing that I was going to have a strong swim. With my tri-training and being a long-time swimmer, I know that I can gain a lot more as a triathlete by becoming a stronger runner and cyclist so although I do not neglect the swim, my main focus is improving my form and efficiency in the water so my workouts are designed to work on those areas instead of swimming long yards and trying to be faster. I don't want to be great at one sport but a good all-around triathlete, which is a work in progress. It's a tough balancing act to be a triathlete but there's always room for improvement so I'd rather focus on weaker areas to become a better balanced triathlete than try to better my strengths.

After exiting the swim, I ran toward the strippers and they helped me get off my wetsuit and I heard the race director yell to me "2nd female out of the water" which I couldn't believe because as I was swimming I thought that other females were passing me. 

I passed a girl out of transition so I was first female on the bike. I wasn't sure when I would see Karel but I couldn't believe my ears when I was not even at mile 5 and I hear someone say "Great job babe!"

I yelled to Karel as he zoomed by me "Great swim babe!" and that was the last I saw of Karel until the turn around of our out and back course.

I smiled once again on the bike because Karel is now narrowing the gap of how much of a lead I have on him during the swim. I'm so proud of Karel and all the progress he has made in the water since learning how to swim in 2012.

56 mile bike 
The bike course has no major climbs which was a little bit of a shocker for my legs that love to climb so I made sure that with any type of change in terrain, I got out of the saddle stretch out my legs for I did't want to risk getting too tight in my hips by staying aero for 2.5+ hours.

I felt really strong on the bike and my plan was to focus only on my normalized power and adjust effort (while keeping a steady cadence by changing gears - love my electronic Di2 shifting) based on the wind. The course had 3 turns and long stretches of country road in between. It was windy in certain directions (lots of cross wind) but I knew that based on the wind pushing us along to the turn around, it could be a rough ride heading home. We do a lot of our training higher than our endurance race pace at the beginning of the season and then with improved speed and endurance (which can come from high intensity training) it's much easier to settle into a "race pace" for our longer distance races. I wanted to hold around 150 W but I knew that 160W would be ok as well and would not tax my body too much. The most important thing for me on this bike ride was to race my own pace so that I could set myself up for a strong run. Based on training, I knew watts between 150-160 would set me up for a strong run.
I was passed by two girls who were riding incredibly strong and as much as I wanted to chase them, I just stayed at the upper limit of my comfort zone and stuck to my pacing strategy. Rather than feeling defeated that I was passed, I thought to myself "wow- I am riding stronger than ever and those girls passed me! They are super fast." I wanted to make sure that I didn't overlook the progress that I have made in the past two years on the bike for this race was showing me that I have come very far and my body has been performing really well this season (with no hip issues!! YIPPEE!).
I monitored my normalized power for each lap of the course and hit the lap button for each turn so that I focused only on one section at a time because the wind was an obvious factor during this race. I also kept an eye on my average speed for the entire ride on the same computer screen.

This is my 8th half IM and all of my previous courses have been on rolling terrain so I was excited for the chance to see what I could do on a fairly flat 56 mile course w/ a few small climbs (or bumps as Karel says) near the last segment before the turn around). I noticed that the mile markers were not matching up with my Garmin 910 or 310 and nearing 25 miles, the turn around was no where to be seen. Finally, around 29 miles, we made the turn around. So much for a 56 mile bike ride.
I saw Karel heading back after the turn around with 3 other guys. I could tell that Karel was riding strong for he was riding draft legal with others (which is something we work on - we actually set up bikes or do intervals with each other to show how far it is to be 4 bike lengths apart from someone) and him and the other guy or two were not too far from the lead three guys. 
On the way back we had some strong cross winds but I was happy with how I was riding. I did have a low point while I was riding where I felt really tired, questioned my ability to run strong off the bike, asked myself why I continue to "race" and push my body and didn't feel as if I was riding strong. This is normal and just part of racing.  Thankfully, I just kept plugging along and I found myself reaching another high in the race and thankfully, after a few miles of the low, I was blessed with a high and legs that felt amazing for the last 20 miles or so of the race.
Around 10 miles left in the race I passed one of the women who passed me on the bike much earlier in the race and then I tried to pass another guy in front of me but I guess this guy didn't like being chicked because he kept passing me right back after I caught him and I had to keep slowing down so I wouldn't be right on his wheel. It was a bit annoying because I didn't have the strength to stay in front of him as he would speed up each time I passed him so it was a lot of back and forth and finally I just held back because I didn't need to waste that extra energy on the bike. The other women who I had just passed, passed me with around 3 miles to go and I just let her go so I would save my legs a bit for the run. She looked super strong.

The 1.5 miles back into the park included a straight, windy road with a few small climbs and before I knew it, my almost 60 mile ride was complete and ready or not, it was time to run!

(I forgot to mention, one of my bottles popped out of my cage on the bike and I didn't realize it until I was a mile or two down the road. There was a very bumpy road before an intersection and I guess I hit a bump really hard and it popped out. Luckily, I had two bottles (1.5 already consumed) and it was cloudy and it was starting to sprinkle a little bit so I had plenty of calories but I knew that I would need to stay up on my hydration/calories on the run. I just passed the last aid station so I had to control my 1/2 bottle until the finish. I try to finish 1 bottle every 60-75 min on the bike and in hot races I use cold water at aid stations to rinse my mouth and pour on my head to cool my body to better regulate core body temperature.

59.37 miles (Garmin Edge data)
Average speed: 20.8 mph

Lap 1: 4.12 miles (12:14 min) - 151W (normalized power) - 20.21 mph
Lap 2: 4.47 miles (12:05 min) - 166 W - 22.15 mph
Lap 3: 21.27 miles (57:55 min) - 155W - 22.04 mph
Lap 4: 21.1 miles (1:03) - 159W - 19.89 mph
Lap 5: 5.07 miles (14:45 min) - 148 W - 20.59 mph
(at 56 miles - 2:40, average speed 20.92mph)
Lap 6: 3.34 miles (10:35 min) - 142 W - 18.94 mph

13.1 mile run

Although we do brick runs after almost every bike (or bike before a run focused workout), there's something about a triathlon race where it's really hard not to question how you will feel/run off the bike. That's a lot for the body to tolerate before a run. 
But I remember Gloria telling me a few years ago when I started working with her, that I have no magic crystal ball to predict the future so don't think about the future, just let things happen. That is really powerful because she is right, all those training sessions and you never overthink a workout, you just do it. On race day, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have this perfect race scenario but racing is far from perfect. Even if you think you have the perfect race, there's always something that you have to overcome during a triathlon. You have to do a lot of soul searching, you play a lot of mind games and you bargain a lot with your body and I think that's what we all love so much about racing. Racing is not like training and you can never predict what a race will be like. You just have to get out there and let your competition ahead of you (or chasing you down) bring out your greatness and be an inspiration for those behind you, who look up to you and your awesomeness. 

As I mentioned before, this has been an incredible year for my body. I have been experiencing long-term hip issues, which have limited by ability to let my mind be my only limiter on race day, for so many years. Poor Karel for dealing with me but I have constantly questioned my ability to continue triathlon racing, year after year. But I can't forget what I have accomplished in the past few years, despite the setbacks and I always do whatever I can do to make progress with my fitness because I really love working hard for goals. I love to do the work when no one is watching, like hip/core work at home and stretching. Plus with the other changes mentioned above, it's been a lot easier to maintain my healthy hips/glutes throughout this year. 

Because I have remained injury free since May last year (which is a big success for me!), which includes two IM races (Placid and Kona - 14 weeks apart) I have been able to partake in more group runs which I really enjoy, particularly track which has given me a lot of confidence with my run and has helped my form and speed, especially giving that final kick at the end of the main set which translates well to racing. I have also changed up my running routine a lot this year - from track to brick runs outside to treadmill runs. My body really likes the change for weekly runs.

I could not have been happier that 98% of the 13.1 mile run was on trails! The trail was mostly hard except for a few sections that included sand while running up/downhill. I really loved this run and my hips were so super happy throughout the run. 
The run included two out and back sections. 
The first 3.5 or so miles was a loop and then as you come back toward the race venue you wrap around to the left to head out towards the woods a bit more for about 1.5 miles of out and back. The turn around is on the pavement and then when you get back toward the venue through the trails, you do it again and then run to the finish.
Loops and out and backs work great for my brain. I really like short loops. It may be from years and years of swimming back and forth, back and forth but giving me a long stretch of road for miles and miles of running does not help me mentally, compared to breaking down a run into segments (for me, it goes by much faster for me).

As I left the transition, I passed the woman who had passed me on bike but I knew that one woman was still in the lead. I hurried out of transition as I grabbed my flasks and stuck one in my mouth as I put on my race belt as I was running. The sky was getting a bit darker and with weather forecasting storms, I knew this would not be a hot, but rather, rainy run. But that's ok - running in the rain makes me feel like a kid. 

Nearing 1/2 mile or so, I passed the girl in the lead. Wow - am I really in the lead? Gloria was right - we can't predict the future as athletes for I never expected this!

I was nearing the first aid station and I didn't take anything but a volunteer yelled "go Marni" and I smiled. 
Despite all the stress, nerves and anxiety when it comes to racing in a triathlon, there's something about the run portion, no matter how great or bad you feel, that just feels so good knowing that you are just one leg away from finishing and you have lots of volunteers, athletes and spectators to cheer you to the finish. Although sometimes it's nice to be with your own thoughts, I really love being around other athletes and this race (although small) was no exception. 

As I was nearing mile 3, I was having a bit of trouble breathing but everything else - hips, body, arms, legs felt fine. I decided to wear my HR monitor just to get a little data on this race since I never wear  my HR monitor in racing (Because endurance athletes are limited by dehydration and glycogen depletion, which has do to with improper pacing or poor fueling, we train ourselves and our athletes by pace/power and RPE and consistency with nutrition is key. We ask our athletes to wear HR monitors in training/testing to monitor their HR) but I wasn't feeling comfortable with it on during the race (I always train with it) so I took  it off and stuck it in my tri pocket around mile 8. 

I walked for 10-20 sec around mile 3 just to catch my breath and to get my breathing under control. My HR was not high but I just needed to reset myself and I knew that pushing through would not give me an advantage in this race. Once I reset myself, I was back to running again and feeling good. Ahhh, I can breath again.
I grabbed water at the next aid station and although it was started to sprinkle a bit, I took another water to cool my body on my head. Nearing a section of spectators made me happy when I heard "you look strong, you are first female, you look so smooth"
I know fans like to say "you look good" but I know there are times in racing when I don't look good but it is nice to hear. Thankfully, this time I did feel super strong and I felt good.

As I was nearing the next out and back section, the ground was a little less packed than the first loop so it required a bit more concentration with a lot more turns and cones to navigate. But since I wasn't there to chase a time, I just focused on the course and I was having a lot of fun. I felt really comfortable, holding a pace that was not difficult to manage. I saw Karel running in 3rd place as I was heading to the turn around and he told me "Great job - you are first woman! Oh, I got a flat on the bike". I yelled back "I'm sorry" - it's amazing how you can have a conversation in less than 30 seconds while running in opposite directions. I was so happy to see Karel and couldn't wait until the next loop to see him again.

By the first turn around, I gave my body a big thank you for I didn't know who was chasing me. Wouldn't you know, when I made the turn around, I saw 4 or 5 girls all within 1/2 of a mile from me looking strong as could be. 
As I made my way 1.5 miles or so to start the next loop, I found myself being cheered on by other males and females in the races (which really made me smile) but also I was starting to experience the mind games that occur in every race that I do. 

I was tossing around the idea of how I would race if I was passed, if I should slow down or speed up, if I didn't mind coming in 2nd or 3rd and how I would be upset if I was in 4th place. Although this was not a key race for us, it's still a race contributing to our big picture of the season and by mile 7, I had decided that I was going to keep giving it my best effort and to just see what happens when/if it happens. 
I ended up taking two more short walk breaks at aid stations to make sure I got in water to cool myself and I continued to sip from my flasks which worked out great to only have 100 calories in each (instead of concentrating them with 200 calories in one flask). 
I convinced myself that all I had to do was to finish the 2nd 3.5 mile loop and if I could do that and stay in the lead, then I could give it my best effort for the last 3 or so miles of the race. I always try to break down races and bargain with myself - the mind and body are always in constant battle during racing so there's a lot of negotiating going on to keep one from giving up on the other. 

When I heard great cheers from the crowd as I headed toward the last out and back section, I kept telling myself "Marni - this is your race to win, this is your race to win. Don't give this opportunity up to someone else."
The rain started to come down and my sunglasses were on my visor on top of my head. It was thundering and there was a list of obstacles that could have stopped me from racing but I turned every negative into two positives (as Gloria tells me to do) and I made sure I was the in charge of finding success for myself on this matter how the result turned out. 

I think this is really powerful to say these things to yourself because if you don't believe in yourself, it's hard to make things happen. I could have easily convinced myself that I was not running as fast as I thought I could run or that I won 2012 Branson 70.3 (amateur female) with a faster run pace off the bike but I didn't let myself think those thoughts. With the last turn around being made, I thought to myself how amazing I felt. Strong, healthy and smooth. 
I saw a woman coming close so I decided now is the time to make my move. 1.5 miles or so to go and it was time to raise my RPE to 10 or higher and give it the final push. Luckily, I never red-lined myself during the run portion or felt fatigued, tired, bonky, cramps, GI issues, etc. so I guess it was my time to see what my body could do. Luckily, I save my final kick for the end. I picked up the pace the best I could and gave it the final kick. I couldn't believe that my form didn't feel sloppy but instead, I felt so "fresh" yet slightly uncomfortable with that final effort after 5 hours of racing. 
I couldn't stop turning around to look behind me with a mile left to go just to be aware of the gap I had of the women who was chasing her prey and nearing the last few minutes of the race, I stopped looking behind me and I just went for it. 
I wasn't sure where the banner would be for the finish so I asked someone "where's the finish?" and with the hand pointing to the left, I smiled that I was about to win my first overall female triathlon title. 

13.12 miles - 1:41 (7:46 min/mile)
(4 short walk breaks at aid stations) 
Mile 1: 7:19
Mile 2: 7:14
Mile 3: 7:37
Mile 4: 7:37
Mile 5: 8:00
Mile 6: 8:09
Mile 7: 7:48
Mile 8: 7:38
Mile 9: 7:44
Mile 10: 7:58
Mile 11: 8:10
Mile 12: 8:10
Mile 13: 7:35
.12 - 7:03

Thank you Terry for the pictures!

When I ran down the finishing chute I was so excited to see Karel standing at the finish (I think I left him in a little suspense..he finished and waited for me, wondering if I was going to hold off the first place finish for the entire 13.1 mile run) that I didn't even notice the finish tape being held for my finish. I ran right through the tape toward Karel and collapsed in his arms. Thank goodness for that final sprint because I won by 29 seconds after 5+ hours of racing.

Like a good hubby, he picked me up from the ground for that final push was good enough reason to let my body rest for it has worked super hard for me for over 5 hours. 

First 35-39 age group, 5th overall
 1.2 mile swim: 31:52.279
T1: 1:29.862
56 mile bike (including changing flat tire - 4 minutes): 2:36:53.082
T2: 1:09.835
13.1 mile run: 1:32:44.434
Total: 4:44:09.492

1st overall female, 11th overall
1.2 mile swim: 29:57.485
T1: 1:47.275
"56" (59.37) mile bike: 2:51:57.871
T2: 59.631
13.1 mile run: 1:41:47.640
Total: 5:06:29.902 

What a great way to start our 2014 tri season!!
I can't believe I won my first overall female win in my 8th half ironman event!
I'm incredibly thankful to the volunteers and fans who supported us in the pouring rain, to the other awesome females out there for keeping me competitive today, to Gloria for always making sure I stay mentally tough and most of all, and to my body for staying healthy and strong, especially when I need it to perform. Also thanks to my parents/family who support Karel and I with our active lifestyle. 

I'm so happy I could share my first overall female triathlon win at the HITS triathlon half ironman with Karel who never stops believing in me and continues to challenge my fitness. And Karel did amazing! 

Karel ended up being passed on the run near the end and it bumped him into 4th place. But then we heard he finished in 5th place because there was an athlete who accidentally cut the course short by missing a turn and we were told he was DQd (because Karel never saw him) but they ended up giving him a higher place and bumping Karel to 5th place. Oh well - Karel ended up winning his age group (by a lot) and despite fixing a flat (4 minutes including time to get off/on the bike), was still a great race for him just 6 days after racing the Olympic distance tri in Clermont. Way to go my amazing hubby!

I am a bit amazed by my body - kinda surprised but also very thankful. Regardless of how this race would have turned out, I made sure to constantly thank my body for what it has allowed me to do this season and since I started tri's back in 2006. I never want the pressure to win a race to override my enjoyment for what I can do with my body and mind for the lessons I learn in triathlons are lessons that I can take with me for the rest of my life. 

And the two I learned from this race:
1) Never give up - with injuries, in life, with training, with racing
2) Stay in the moment and enjoy the moment

Thanks Roger for the picture

After the race, the race director came up to congratulate me which was so nice of him. Sadly, we weren't able to stay for the awards ceremony because we had a wedding to go to in St. Augustine that evening. It was pouring rain when we finished so we quickly gathered our things from transition, changed in the bathroom into dry clothes and then when the rain stopped a bit, we hit the road back to Jacksonville which gave us a 1-hour "wedding attire" transition. 

From sweaty clothes and compression to dress attire. 

I think we may have been the happiest people at the wedding to see this beautiful appetizer spread during the reception. 

Easy on the post-race hydration Karel!

Mallory and Tyler - we set them up a few years ago and now they are married!

What a beautiful wedding to conclude a day where we gave a lot of love to our bodies for allowing us to race smart and strong for 70.3 (or perhaps 74) miles. 

Congrats to everyone who finished the HITS Ocala series and to anyone else who raced this weekend. 
Thank you for your support on social media - it means so much!

Thank you:
Brooks Running
110% Play Harder
INFINIT Nutrition
Oakley Women
Trek bikes