The first thought that crossed my mind when entering the water was that it was pretty darn cold! The announcer had said it was 64, which isn’t terrible, but still not close to warm. Leading up to the race I had a little fear of how I would react in a wetsuit since I wasn’t able to do a pre-race warm up and the last time I swam in one (IMWI) I had a full on panic attack. I did make sure when I put it on that it was pulled up high in the legs/arms so it wasn’t tugging on my neck and shoulders, which I think helped. Off I went, getting used to putting my face in the very cold water, and eventually getting into a rhythm. The seeded swim start was awesome as I had very little body contact throughout the whole swim, and it wasn’t nearly as crowded as the wave start/mass start swims I have in the past which was really refreshing. I did have a few moments of panic but was able to talk myself out of them and got back to focusing on pushing the pace. Soon I could see the final turn and I just tried to keep having strong, even strokes and picked up the cadence a bit more to pick up the speed. Once I got out of the water and wobbled to the wetsuit strippers, I checked my time and was happy to see it was right at 37 minutes (really, it was 37:00 on the nose), hooray!
I ran to my bike, put on my aero top (which I practiced several times since I knew putting it on while wet might be hard), helmet, glasses, socks, shoes and then a spray of sunscreen on my neck (ouch, wetsuit definitely rubbed), arms and legs and I was off!
I quickly settled into the bike and was greeted with a hill not too far out of T1 which helped get me into a groove and pace myself a bit rather than hammering the first few miles which I sometimes do on a flatter course. I don’t have much to report on the bike leg, other than the pretty views and the hills (Snow Canyon did NOT disappoint), the bike was fairly uneventful. Even a little lonely at times. I was surprised at how spread out everyone was on the course, but I guess hills really do lead to a more honest course. The entire ride I was on top of my nutrition and salt tabs (actually I think I could have had an additional huma gel for a few more calories), and after the 8 mile Snow Canyon climb – which was in no way easy, but definitely manageable if you pace yourself, I let it loose and flew down the final 8ish miles back into transition.
My bike time of 3:10:12 was a little disappointing as the past few 70.3’s I have been right around 3 hours or a bit under, however given the challenging course as well as the fact that I had only ridden outside once this year, I wasn’t shocked at the time either. Plus I stayed within the planned watts range, so that reassured me I did the best I could do.
I ran into T2 and spent too much time there, but with the logistics of not being able to set up T2 and having everything in a bag, along with having to put your bike stuff back in the bag, just made it challenging to be speedy. Once I exited T2 (and took what felt like forever for a pee stop) my legs felt pretty flat, but they usually do the first couple of miles after the bike, so I decided to ignore them see how they felt after mile 2. However after mile 2 they still hadn’t seemed to come around and I had another huuuge climb before mile 3, which I ended up doing a little bit of walking up as I didn’t want to kill my legs for the remaining 10+ miles left. I had thought based on the elevation chart that the hills on the course ‘kind of’ calmed down after mile 3 until the last three miles, however I WAS WRONG…. there were many more hills like that on this course.
I saw JMR at mile 4.5, which was a surprise, and gave me a little boost….however it didn’t last long. My body just felt tired, and on top of that I kept having waves of nausea. I was on top of my nutrition on the bike, didn’t push the watts beyond the planned number, so I wasn’t sure what the deal was with how I was feeling on the run, other than the fact that I hadn’t ridden outside more than two hours and maybe at this point my body wasn’t sure what to think. I’m sure the hills on the bike and high 80 degree temps when I started the run didn’t help either, although I was secretly hoping my 2x a week of hot yoga would have helped with heat acclimation a little! Every .5 miles or so I tried to push the pace a bit, but my legs weren’t a fan and it brought back stronger waves of nausea, so I just tried to keep moving forward, even if it was not exactly a fast pace but at least something other than walking. When I saw the turn-around I was so relieved… halfway done!
The next three miles were just a sufferfest of moving forward, refueling at aid-stations, and more moving forward. I was able to somewhat pick up the pace a little in the last 3ish miles (there was another pretty big hill in there that I did a tiny bit of walking up), and as I was rounding the turn for the finish line, I started to get a little choked up. 2017 was filled with a lot of ups and downs, lots of disappointment and lots frustration, however this year things have been moving in a much better direction, far from perfect (life isn’t perfect), but I’m just in a much better place physically and mentally which has made a world of a difference. Even though the finish time I saw on my watch while crossing the line wasn’t the time I had hoped for going into this race, just crossing the finish line was a pretty big deal to me given where I was last year at this time, and I was extremely proud of that. There will be other races for PRs, but this one was definitely more about the journey than the race itself.
Once I collected myself and stopped secretly ugly crying behind my sunglasses, I found JMR and rehashed the race while he filled me in on his own mini adventures (being a sherpa/race spectator is hard and has its own challenges!). Then after a little sitting around, we got my bike and gear, dropped the bike off at the shop to get boxed up for her trip home and headed to Zion! I’ll write a separate post on that part of the tip.
Run time: 2:17 (ouch), Total race time: 6:13:17.