I have never gave up so many things for a race.
All my focus was on the mental and physical preparation. I stopped drinking alcohol for 2 months prior the race and I cut most processed foods. This preparation taught me a lot about myself. I have always been a healthy person, but this time I became much healthier. I was counting my sleeping hours, monitoring my resting heart rate, and meticulously logging my nutrition. I also followed a Sauna Protocol and I faced my OWS dark fears practicing in open water with the help of coach Leo. I could not do this all by myself. Coach Hector gave me the a perfect plan to achieve my goals and the right motivation to start becoming a healthier individual.
This race is logistically complicated.
I've done races with two separate transitions before, as this one has, but never one where each discipline is point to point. Nothing ends at the same place as it begins. And to be honest, I didn’t mind this at all. I loved that my bike got back close to finish and that all my swim stuff magically appeared with it.
After a very early wake-up and taking various shuttles to various transition areas, we all arrived to the swim start area. It was dark and cold (50 degrees air temperature and 70 degrees water temperature).
The swim is a wiggly, winding point to point course. It is a salt water canal swim and usually wet suit legal, so it was bound to be pretty fast. Additionally the tide was pushing as well, so I was expecting a fast time, even more so as I had trained quite a lot on my swim. To avoid panicking in the water, I jogged in place for about 5-10 min while standing in line waiting to start. I did 10 pushups and I think people thought I was crazy. LOL! But all I needed was to raise my heart rate a bit before the start. I took the first few minutes in the water easy, and then I just found a groove. It got a little congested here and there and at one point some women aggressively pushed my leg down around the first turn buoy. I kept swimming and swimming and counting and counting (this helped me forget about panic attacks). Directly when starting the swim you could feel the salt water, wet suit and current helping a lot during the swim. Tried to swim technically all the way through and near the end I was even able to pick the speed up a little and pass some more athletes.
Water exit went pretty smooth as there were plenty of ladders to climb out of the water. Normally I get out of the water in the middle of the pack, so I was pleased to know I got out of the water 43rd out of 164 by AG and 21st out of 803 by gender.
Swim Time: 30:30
Avg Pace: 1:35 min/100m
Division Rank: 43
This is a long transition and complicated transition. It is a bit more than a quarter mile run across and down the street to the transition entrance. The wetsuit strippers were fast and the volunteers at this race were just fantastic in general. I had a pretty quick transition.
T1 Time: 5:26
If I could use only one word to describe the bike course, I would say "flat". If I could use two words to describe the bike course, I would say "flat and windy". If I could use three words to describe the bike course, I would still say "flat, windy and congested". However it was fast, very fast. It was basically a long way out on a highway and then all the way back. Temperature was great. It was in the low 60’s and cloudy. The sun was coming out sometimes.
I directly felt pretty good and got into a good pace right away. There are 2 bridges with some metal work that I passed twice. I took caution when I passed those as they are tricky.
There was debate over whether it was "pancake flat" or merely "flat", and I would argue that there were enough overpasses and bridges that it was bumpier than a pancake, but certainly not much more. So lots of time spent in the aerobars, coming up only to eat, drink, and deal with hazardous road conditions and hazardous people….
There was almost nobody around on the bike course when I started. For most of the time there was nobody in front or behind me for as far as I could see. There was no target to aim for. The flat and straight course straight made it extremely boring so I was happy to see Sonja and other athletes. Lots of riders were drafting from the beginning of the ride. There were no referees. I never saw one. I normally make up a lot of positions on the bike, but this time I was 2nd AG and 5th overall women. WOW!
I peed about 5-6 times while biking confirming I was hydrated. A guy told me:"Hey, You are leaking!" I responded: "Oh...Yes! I am peeing!" That was funny!
Other than the bridges and the drafters, the only truly annoying part of the ride was the congestion.
I was getting stuck. Someone would pass me, and then slow down, so I would be forced to pass them again in order to not slow down myself. After yelling at all those drafters, I was damned if I was going to be forced to involuntarily draft myself. So I did a lot of surging and passing on the way back. Not always in a bad way, though. I ended up leap frogging with Sonja over and over and over, and we cheered for each other since we were doing it so often. We kept each other motivated and inspired! And maybe faster than we'd otherwise been!…
….We were obviously heading towards a town, which I was hoping was Wilmington, and then after some more railroad tracks and one last bridge/grate, we rolled back into civilization. We hadn't really investigated this part of the course, so I wasn't sure how close to T2 we were, until giant buildings loomed up before us, then event fencing, then a turn which was surrounded by cheering crowds (which we hadn't really seen since the first few miles of the bike). I figured that this turn was finally going to take me to transition and the dismount line. We rode 57.8 miles instead of 56.6.
I stepped down and stopped at the line, and quickly ran into transition. I was 2nd out of 164 by AG and 5th out of 803 by gender.
Bike Time: 2:30:21
Avg Pace: 22.83 miles/hr
Division Rank: 2
A huge race means yet another huge transition area. It was another long run through transition just to get to the official run race course start. I was pretty fast here too.
T2 Time: 2:33
Yay, running! The last thing I had to do before the party can begin!
I felt great right out of transition! My legs felt good and I got pumped when the official out of T2 screamed: you are woman nr 9. Wow! I felt like a pro!.. lol!.
Started with my rocket fuel formula right away.
The sun was out now, but not for long. Fortunately a storm was coming and it got cloudy. One single loop here, through downtown Wilmington and around Greenfield Lake. Once I got to the lake the run was pretty shaded which did help.
However, who said it was a flat run? Because it wasn’t that flat. We had a couple of climbs to run. The first few miles had quite a bit of climbs in the glaring sun.
The aid stations were spaced out strangely. My plan was to run from aid station to aid station and take 20 sec to fuel and hydrate. I did stick to that plan in part. The aid stations were amazing. They were all well organized. However, I had my own nutrition plan, so I stuck with it. (In addition to my rocket fuel formula (2 bottles) I licked some Base salt about every mile, took 2 Cliff gels spread out over the run and drank water at each aid station)……
The good news is, my legs felt good until mile 10 when the usual tightness attacked my Ischial Hamstring attachment. (It's a pain in the butt!) I tend to come off the bike feeling warmed up and loose, and my body doesn't usually object to the transition. So I was cruising past folks, running by feel, and trying to settle in. I tried not to think about how many miles 13 was. Plus that 0.1 at the end.
After 400 mt I see Sonjia again in front of me, and I cheered as I passed her.. Then a couple miles of climbs in the sun through the downtown area, we turned into a much shadier, prettier, tree-lined avenue. The shade seemed to drop the temperature at least 10 degrees, and life (and running) felt tolerable again. I tried to keep my pace and my energy up, encouraging people as I passed them or they passed me, cheering for folks going the other way, and thanking the aid station volunteers…
Around mile 4-5 Erika passed me. I was waiting for that moment and I passionately cheered saying go, go, go, catch them. She is so strong and fast. I knew she would pass me and be on the podium.
After the turn around somewhere around mile 7 I saw Sonja again, then Yelena and I was wondering how come she did not pass me yet. Then I saw April. She was looking strong. We cheered for each other.
After mile 8 I decided to finally pee. I was holding it because I did not want to wet the shoes to avoid blistering. But now I knew I had only 40-45 min to go.
At mile 11-12 My body was ready to be done. But I only had 1-2 miles to go. I can do anything for 2 miles. I turned onto the street we'd run out on, so I knew I had to be somewhat close.
Holy S***! I was back on the hill, but I knew I was close to the end, so I tried to stay strong. I really wanted to walk. I did not let myself walk.
I started to try to push, to give whatever I had left, which at that point wasn't much. I heard people cheering my name, but wasn't sure if I knew them or if they were reading it off my bib. I tried to smile instead of grimace. I entered the chute, forcing my legs to keep moving.
I saw the clock at 5:02:00 and I was so happy! When I started the run I messed up my garmin watch and I had to start a new workout for the the run leg, so I did not know my exact time.
Then as I crossed the finish line, even though I keep telling myself I need to come up with a finish line maneuver that doesn't have so much potential for bad faces and awkward body shapes, I ended up only doing a big smile.
I knew I lost some positions since a couple of women in my category passed me. I was so happy to see Donna at the finish line waiting for me. She told me: you are 4th! However after a couple of minutes I was already 5th. The 4th place beat me by 16 seconds.
Avg pace: 8:28 min/mile
Overall time: 5:00:40
I COULD HAVE Subbed 5 hours. If I knew it, I would have probably pushed a little more! Who knows if I was capable? I will try next time. Yes! Because my goal is to get faster on the run leg and feel more confident during the swim leg. I know I can and with the help of my coach I will!
Also, learning that I had a PR on the bike leg gave me a great feeling. My goal was to get the podium and to qualify for IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships 2020 in New Zealand. I am pretty happy that all the training paid off!
I’ve trained hard for this race like I've never done. I wanted to qualify for IRONMAN Worlds early so I can’t take it easy until November 2020. And I did it! I got the podium and I got the token to New Zealand IRONMAN World Championships. Hooray! I enjoyed the new journey with coach Hector…
I want to thank everyone. I know many of you were following me and sending ShutUpLegs vibes! Today was a good day!
Felt good following my coach’s plan. He finally nailed my training. Hector is passionate, knowledgeable and efficient. He is getting the best out of me as an athlete and coach! And I need to thank Ows Leo for helping me overcome my OWS fears I had the last couple years!
I’m also proud of my athletes who raced and nailed it today. Erika placed 3rd in her category (she beat me of course... she’s so strong!) and also got the New Zealand IRONMAN World championships token! And April got a PR on 70.3 course. Thank you to our Sherpa Donna who followed us all Over Wilmington.
Congrats to all who raced today and thank you to all volunteers at NC IRONMAN 70.3.
Also Yelena, Jessica and Sonja got the token. Congratulations girls! We will have fun in New Zealand.