It was awesome.
Not without its ups and downs but overall, a wonderful experience and methinks the WTC has found itself a perfect venue for their 70.3 World Championships! Hills, heat, wind. Reminds me of a little island in the Pacific...
Ben, my mom and I arrived in Las Vegas on Friday. It was a whirlwind day of registration, expo, building bikes, doing odds and ends, seeing wonderful friends, the welcome dinner/race meeting and then finally falling into our beds in exhaustion at the end of the night. And our beds, by the way, were in a beautiful home that was right on the run course. Turns out Ben has family that lives in Vegas. It was such a treat to get to stay in the comfort of someone's home instead of a hotel room! Thank you to the Norantes! :)
|At the expo there was a poster with everyone's name on it. See, I'm in the race too! :)|
|The desert is pretty!|
After a nice swim and a little bike ride (gotta make sure I put the darn thing together properly!), we all headed back to Henderson for BAG PACKING! I had forgotten that they treat the 70.3 World Championships like Ironmans so there were changing tents, no loose items by your bike and all your gear had to go into the many, many colorful bags. I must say, those bags overwhelm me. In the end I love them and it makes transition easier but it takes much thought for me to figure out what to put in ALL those bags!
Once we were done with bag packing and lunch, we headed BACK to T1 (it wasn't bad driving back and forth as we were only about 15-20 minutes away) for bike check in, gear drop off and finally to drive the bike course.
|Seems to me, they had to do some digging to make T1.|
|Ben and I dropping off our gear.|
|In case you are wondering what the bike course looks like, this is pretty much it for 56 miles!|
Onto RACE DAY!
I was pretty nervous for this one. While I still feel like a rookie and with few expectations at the Ironman distance (I have, after all, only done one), I feel like I've gotten to the point where I can really RACE a 70.3. My goal was to get on the podium (top 5) and so when my expectations are higher, the nerves come out to play! It was great being with Ben and my mom beforehand to help keep relaxed and when I finally had to go line up for my wave start, I was so relieved to see a familiar, friendly face in Suzy Serpico, who I've raced many, many times through the years. We chatted and laughed and before I knew it, it was time to get in the water!
The horn went off and AWAY WE WENT! I almost immediately found myself in the same exact situation as at Vineman, where I could see, but just couldn't quite get to the lead pack to latch myself on. ARGH!!! I kept telling myself "10 hard strokes" but then I would look up and be about the same distance behind them. DOUBLE ARGH!!! This kept up until the turn around (the course was a long, skinny rectangle) when we started really catching people from the waves in front of us. At that point that little group ahead of me got dispersed and then it was just a matter of swimming hard into the finish. I exited the water in 11th in just under 30 minutes. I'm not entirely unpleased with that because it was the first time I've broken 30 minutes without a wetsuit but my never-ending quest to improve my swim will certainly continue! Progress yes but I still need much work!
Luckily I do think my swim put me in a good enough position to do some serious work on the bike. Just a word about the bike course - when we drove the course on Saturday I very much likened it to Kona. Rolling hills, nothing too brutal, some wind and nice roads. But it didn't take long for me to realize that in fact, these hills were much tougher than Kona. Not necessarily bigger but just relentless. Up and down and up and down and even when you thought it was flat, it really wasn't. There was 5200 feet of climbing and a net elevation gain. I have no idea how that compares to Kona (maybe same amount of climbing but over 112 miles?) but regardless, this was no Clearwater! I definitely enjoyed the course to the max!
I passed a few gals in my AG within the first few miles of the bike but I was really on the prowl for Jess Smith and Suzy, who I knew both swam a good 1-2 minutes faster than me. I came across Jess first but not before another woman in our AG (Stephanie) caught me first. And then it was GAME ON! Jess, Stephanie and I jockeyed back and forth for the next 90-100 minutes, eventually picking up Suzy somewhere after the turnaround in Lake Mead National Recreation Area. I loved it! I was definitely riding harder than I normally would to stay in the mix but I knew the race was right here in front of me and to let them go would be stupid! (by the way, I don't mean to suggest that there was any drafting involved; we all just continued to make good passes and give legal distance once a pass was made!) The ride honestly went by in a flash. I was so focused on keeping the girls in site that I wasn't really paying attention to distance, time, other people, etc... As we exited the Lake Mead area and made our way back to Henderson, I did notice that Jess and I seemed to be the only two left. And then about 10 minutes later, I made my fatal error. I was having a low moment and let Jess get just a bit farther ahead than usual. Then it was a little bit farther. And farther. And then I couldn't see her. See what a little lapse in focus can do?
Coming into T2 I knew I had a good ride (letting Jess go aside) and it pumped me up for the run. Since I had ridden harder than usual I was concerned my legs were going to revolt big time but of bigger concern was the storm that was brewing in my stomach.
Not THAT again!
Oh yes, acid reflux is not my friend.
After doing really well all season with my nausea/reflux issue, here it was again, raising it's ugly head at a VERY inopportune moment! TRIPLE ARGH!
Getting off the bike my legs did not feel sparky. I briefly panicked that this was going to be a very, very, very bad run. But I just got myself moving and told myself over and over that it would be okay.
Luckily after about 1/2 mile, my legs felt great. Now I just had one issue to manage, that being my unhappy stomach. But unfortunately, this left me more concerned with nutrition/stomach/not throwing up and less concerned with keeping Jess in sight. Which as you can imagine, quickly resulted in her being OUT of site after one or two of the turnarounds. I knew at that point that we were in first and second place, so it hurt a bit to not be able to give Jess a good chase but it was what it was. Sometimes you have to go into damage control.
I really liked the run course in that it was 3 loops of down/up/up/down. Kind of like hill repeats! Mostly though I liked the fact that it was so broken up in pieces and mentally easier to manage. I was definitely not in a great place during the run but was SO incredibly encouraged by seeing so many familiar faces on the course and hearing so many awesome cheers! And of course seeing my mom over and over while she updated me on my place/time (with Oscar's help over the phone - what a team!! :)
I found myself in that familiar place of having a dropping heart rate (not enough calories) but unable to really do much about it because any calories in would have instantly = calories right back out. I do have some theories on why this happened again so as usual, it will be more trial and error. I will keep trying until I get it fixed! :)
And then, on that final loop, it started to sink it, I was really going to hold onto 2nd place in my AG in the World Championships. That makes every single early morning worth it.
I crossed the finish line with one of my biggest smiles ever. Not without problems no, but it was one of my best races to date. I really RACED that bike. I met my goal of finishing on the podium. And I think more than anything I saw what "could be" if/when I really put together a solid race from start to finish. Although my biggest flaw as an athlete has always been my lack of confidence, this race went a long way in helping me to feel as if I can perform at the level I have so desired for so long.
And then I was really tired. :)
I found Ben who had a great race in his first World Championships (with many great ones to come) and then we found my mom. I got to congratulate Jess on an awesome race and got to hear about the awesome races of many of my friends who competed! A very, very amazing day! The only thing missing was Oscar. But it will be worth it to have him in Hawaii. That finish line is pretty special too. :)
We collected our gear and walked back to the house. My stomach was REALLY unhappy at that point but by the time the awards dinner rolled around I was definitely read to EAT! (Mmm...French fries... :)
All in all a wonderful experience. A great course. Great traveling with Ben and my mom. Many fun times and we didn't even get lost once! My navigation skills have improved dramatically! :) I got to see old friends, meet some new ones, compete with amazing women in my AG and be a part of an awesome event. Yep, I'd say God blessed me good. ;)
Many, many, MANY thanks for all the good luck wishes and encouragement along the way. I read every FB comment, email, text and tweet with so much appreciation!
And now I'm back home, with a big long "to-do" list. I'd best get things crossed off quickly because I've got a little trip for another little race in just a few short weeks!
PS More pictures of race day/awards to come!