Saturday - one day out
The pre-race routine was a bit different than normal at this race. After a restless night of sleep, I woke up feeling super tired. I was hoping that my morning ride would wake me up but all I wanted to do was go back to sleep. I pre-rode the run course twice (which was marked with arrows on the ground) and included a few pickups on the course where it felt safe to do so (it's on the Greenway so there were other bikers and runners/walkers to navigate through). As I was riding, I mentally put myself into certain scenarios and made mental notes of what sections would feel tough and where I would find myself feeling strong. The run course was not flat but instead, gentle inclines spread out throughout the two loop, out and back, out and back course.
After dropping everything off, I was so tired and just wanted to sleep. Karel encouraged me to take a short nap as he reminded me that I probably wouldn't sleep well anyways the night before the race. I was hesitant to nap as I am not much of a napper but it felt really good to lay in bed for about 2 hours and lightly sleep for about 45 minutes. We watched some of Unbound Gravel in the afternoon and I spent a little time on mobility and foam rolling throughout the afternoon. As for the rest of my meals, I had a bag of basmati rice (microwave kind) combined with a can of Amy's no chicken chicken noodle soup. I did the same thing before Chatty and it worked really well. I haven't been having any vegetables in 24 hours before my races and I just stick with easy to digest foods. I ate all of the rice/soup in the afternoon (I hate some at 2pm and then the rest at 4pm) and snacked on pretzels, granola and blueberries throughout the day. I laid down for bed around 7pm and feel asleep around 8pm. I slept pretty good until around 1pm and then I was lightly sleeping until my alarm went off at 3:30am.
After I woke up, I took my time getting out of bed and made myself a cup of coffee (I do Nescafe Gold instant coffee) and a Cinnamon Raisin Bagel w/ peanut butter, strawberry jelly and a banana. I had no problem getting down my pre-race meal. I also had a glass of water. After I ate my food and did some mobility and foam rolling, I went for a short jog around the block to get my digestive system going. I ran into our neighbor across the hall and he needed a ride to the venue so we happily offered to take him. Oddly enough - his bib number was 705 and mine was 703! How crazy. Around 4:10am we left for the race venue at Rivers Edge Sports Complex. Karel drove us (Campy came along for the ride) and arrived just before 4:20am. I was able to get on a bus just before 4:30am and ended up sitting next to our athlete Greg. I brought with my two bags - my morning clothes bag with my swim stuff (I brought my swim skin just in case as it was right on the verge but ended up being wetsuit legal at 76.0) and my bike bag w/ my helmet, socks and cycling shoes, along with my bike nutrition and bike computer.
After a 40 minute ride to the lake (which included a 20 minute wait at a church parking lot to let other buses through due to the small and tight roads at Carvins Cove Resevior, we arrived right around 5:30am. During the 20 minute wait, I decided to make good use of my time by putting on my AMP cream on my legs and arms/shoulders, sunscreen and body glide.
After doing a warm-up jog and going to the bathroom, I checked my bike once more and then dropped off my clothes bag and put on my wetsuit and cap and grabbed my goggles and throw away sport drink bottle of Skratch (strawberry lemonade). I took 5 Gu aminos and had 2 Ginger Cliff chews around 6:10am, which was about the time we started lining up for the swim start of 6:30am. I found Kaley and Lisa, two great Trimarni swimmers and we chatted and laughed for the next 20 minutes, which was great energy to start the race. We positioned ourselves in the back of the 28-30 minute swim group. After the national anthem, the gun went off and it was time to start the race.
1.2 mile swim - 28.17, 3rd fastest female swim, 1st fastest age group (35-39)
T1 - 3:13
I removed my cap and my goggles and removed my wetsuit to my waist. As I took off the sleeves, I let go of my cap and goggles so that they would stay in the arm of the wetsuit (one less thing to carry). I made my way through the tight transition area and started my bike computer, put on my socks and cycling shoes (I wore my compression socks under my wetsuit) and put on my helmet (visor up so that it wouldn't fog). I grabbed my extra "emergency" nutrition (Skratch krispy bar, Ginger Cliff chews and a gel) and put my swim stuff in my Blue gear bag so that it could be shuttled back to the finish area. I made my way out of the transition area. I was expected to mount the bike right after crossing the bike out arch but we had to mount our bikes at the top of a hill...which made for a very long run with cycling shoes on out of the transition area. But since we had a lot of climbing to do to get out of the transition area, I didn't stress about it and just made my way as quick as I could to the mount line, moved my way to the far right and out of the way of other riders and got on my bike, clipped in and off I went.
56-mile point-to-point bike, 20.46 mph average, ~3300 feet elevation gain (it ended up being 55.2 miles), 3rd fastest female bike, 1st fastest age group.
For the next 4.76 miles and 30 minutes (averaging 9.25 miles), I switched my computer over from my metric screen showing lap time, speed, cadence, lap normalized power and 3 sec power to my navigation screen. Since I had the map loaded in my Garmin from Thursday's ride, I found it beneficial to have it on as I was riding on the Blue Ridge so that I always knew exactly where I was on the course and how many more miles I had left in each part of the climb. This helped me with pacing and also helped me execute the climb to the best of my ability. After the first 23 miles, I did not have any metrics on my screen for the remainder of the ride and just entirely rode by feel and used my navigation on my computer to help me with my pacing. I stayed up on my liquid nutrition and took in another two chews before the long descend (around mile 34 in the bike). There was nice cloud cover which kept me feeling comfortable. Although I remained the female leader on the course until we finished the Blue Ridge, on the tracker I was "virtually" passed somewhere after 27 miles. Kathryn Buss is a local professional cyclist and triathlete and completely crushed the bike course. When she passed me with only 6 miles to go, she flew by me. She told me "great riding" but I didn't even have time to say anything to her. Part of me was a little crushed that she was flying by me but I also kinda liked not being the leader and instead being the chaser. I felt this to be a little less stressful starting the run and not having to worry about who was behind me but instead focusing on who was in front of me.
I passed several guys on the course and many of them gave me a cheer and were super nice. Also the spectators and volunteers were incredible. I grabbed a bottle of water on the 2nd aid station to sip and cool myself but the aid stations were a bit dicey and dangerous with bottles falling everywhere so I didn't grab one at the last aid station. I ended up finishing 400 calories of INIFNIT in 1.2 liters of water and then another 26 ounce bottle of NBS Carbohydration with 200 calories. In total I consumed 600 calories of liquid nutrition and about 120 calories worth of Cliff Chews (Ginger). So ~720 calories for the 2:42 hr ride. The views on the Blue Ridge were stunning and although I was in race mode, I made sure to enjoy the moment and find gratitude in this experience. The last few miles of the Blue Ridge were a little punchy as the rollers didn't have good rhythm to them so it was a bit more of climbing than descending but once we turned on to the main road again from the BR parkway, it was a fast and fun, semi technical 6 miles into town. We rode through the downtown of Roanoke and it was great to have so many cheers throughout the course.
T2 - 2:16
After dismounting my bike, one of my cycling shoes fell off the pedal as it hit the ground. I didn't realize it until a volunteer ran up to me with my shoe. It was a long run on the grass field to my spot on the rack with my run bag. As I was making my way to my rack, I saw the leading girl run out of the transition. At this point I was virtually 2:39 behind her (although it was only about 90 seconds in the moment due to the rolling start). I removed my jersey and put all my bike stuff in my bag and put on my running shoes and hydration belt and grabbed my bag with all my stuff and ran out of the transition area. I made my way to the bottle fill table and filled up my flasks with water (a volunteer helped me) from cups and then made my way through the run course on the grass (which I liked the soft surface) as I put on my visor, sunglasses and cooling towel.
13.1 mile run (it ended up being 13.2 miles), 1:43:50 (Garmin had 1:42.49, 7:48 min/mile - just a few seconds slower per min/mile than Chatty two weeks ago). 5th fastest AG, 9th fastest overall female.
As I started the run, I expected to see Karel to give me an update but no Karel. I was a little worried but later learned that Campy needed to smell every bush and it's hard to speed walk with our 13.5 year old pup. The first mile out to the aid station was ok but I didn't feel the best. I just didn't feel like I had good rhythm so I made a quick stop after the aid station to reset my form and stretch out for a few seconds. I had the 2nd biker in front of me which was nice for added cheers as I was the 2nd female on the course. I knew I had some strong and fast female athletes behind me but I used the first loop to just find a good rhythm. I sipped on my flasks about every mile and as needed if I needed a pick-me up. No GI issues. It was getting hot and there was no ice on the course for the first few miles, just water in cups.
As I made my way back to the spectator field street, I got a little pick me up. I saw Karel and he told me I was sitting steady in 2nd and 3rd place was over 7 minutes behind me. As I made my way to the far end of the course, I started to feel a little better but had to throw in another reset stretch at the far loop of the course. After making my way on the wooden bridge and finally getting some ice in my sports bra (makes for a great ice holder) and then holding on to it as I ran, I started to finally feel better. Around mile 4 I was almost 4.5 minutes down from first so my focus was just on maintaining 2nd place. As more athletes got on the course, I felt my energy pick up. I found my form and was really soaking in all of the cheers. And anytime I saw one of our athletes, I felt an instant boost. Although I wasn't making much gain on 1st place, 3rd and 4th place were running really fast and were gaining time on me. Karel was really encouraging and every time I saw him, he knew just what to tell me. I was sad that he had to defer his entry due to his broken hand so I felt like I had to run for him - just like I did at Chatty 70.3 two weeks ago. Although it was getting really hot, I do well running in the heat and historically, I get stronger as the run goes on. After checking off the last short out and back section, I only had about 5 miles left. I didn't feel the best between miles 8-10 so I just focused on my form and managing my effort in the heat. I never felt overheated but I also was doing all that I could to prevent a massive slowdown. Still at 7.4 miles, I was 4 minutes behind the 2nd place girl. At mile 10, the gap had closed to just under 2 minutes. I was passing several guys and they were telling me that "she's just ahead, you can catch her." I didn't want to take too many risks as I still had three more miles to go but as I got to the wooden bridge again before the exposed hot part of the course (with an awesome aid station filling me with great energy) I could see first place in my sights. At this point I didn't think that I would get first even if I passed her as I didn't think I had gained enough time on her with her lead leaving T2. But as a competitor, I wasn't going to let up and I thought it would be really cool to still cross as first female finisher and hold the tape at the finish line (which was my goal going into the race).
At the aid station I did a quick reset break as I knew I would have to give everything I had in those final miles. I took a quick sip of coke and I was on a mission. Just after the aid station at mile 11, I pass the leading girl and I was now in first place. Still not knowing if I was the virtual leader, it felt pretty incredible to be leading the race as the cheers from the athletes on the course and the spectators were giving me so much energy. I continued to take sips from my flasks to keep my blood sugar up as my brain was working overtime to continue to work with my muscles to keep me moving forward. I was doing everything I could to stay strong and I was soaking in the moment behind the first female biker in front of me. I was surprised to see Karel w/ around 1/2 mile to go as I expected him to be at the finish. When I saw him he told me "You have to give everything you have - no letting up. It's going to be really close!!" I assumed he was talking about the girls behind me as I didn't think I had ran fast enough to finish far enough behind the girl that I passed. I just assumed Karel was making sure that I stayed 2nd. As I sprinted my way up and over a short bridge and on to the grass, I made my way to the finish line and I was greeted with the tape as the first female finisher of this inaugural event.
As I held up the tape, I was engulfed with a lot of photographers and media which was a bit overwhelming as I was so exhausted. I just fell to the ground and tried to come back to life from such a tough battle. Even the race announcer Dave was shocked that I had overtaken the leader in the closing miles. When 2nd place crossed the line, she also had the tape in front of her and she was a bit confused. I told her that there was a good chance that she was the winner of the race and she was shocked. When we finally got the news that I was 2nd overall female by only 2 seconds (and 3rd and 4th were just 75 seconds behind me), I was a little bummed but I was extremely grateful for the race I put together, especially two weeks after a breakthrough race at IM 70.3 Chattanooga. It was a battle to the finish line and I loved every minute of it.
1st Age group (35-39) (out of 50)
2nd Place female (out of 397)
41st overall (out of 1379)
I did a few interviews with the media that was there and then got myself a coke and water before walking to the run course to meet up with Karel. During this long walk to the other side of the river, I had time to collect my thoughts and to find the positives from this race experience. I could look at it that I was only two seconds away from the overall female win but I chose to see it as I closed the gap down to 2 seconds and held off 3rd and 4th place. I didn't feel broken after the race so that was a good reminder that my body is healthy and strong and I did a good job fueling and hydrating during the race.
Video clip post race (~1:25 min)
Thank you for the cheers and kind words on and off the course, via email, text message and on social media. I appreciate them all and I hope that I can continue to inspire and motivate you to do incredible things with your amazing body. I loved the course so much that I will be back again in 2022!
And congrats to all those who raced!