2nd AG Qualifying for Word Championship in Austria
I heard of the Ironman St. Croix 70.3 many years ago when I started into endurance triathlons and it was always on my bucket list of races to do. Yes! Because all reviews were saying that it is the most challenging ironman 70.3 but the most beautiful. A race that every triathlete should do al least once in a lifetime!
Well, the moment I’ve been waiting for is arrived: The post-race report. Does this mean I survived? Yes! And I qualified for Ironman 70.3 world championship in Austria.
We stayed at the St Croix Comanche hotel! Very charming hotel in the middle of everything, close to the start line and so close to all bar, restaurants and clubs.
Therefore every night we had to listen to music and people partying just down our hotel! I loved the location especially because we stayed and toured the island for 10 days!
The only problem was that the night prior the race we could not sleep early because of the crazy sounds of the parties!
St. Croix is special for many reasons. The first of which is the pre-swim swim. Yes, that’s correct. The race starts on an island off of the island, so all racers get to swim to the race start about ¼ of a mile out into the ocean. Also 4 days prior the race, the director offers well organized OWS of the entire swim course.
The ocean swim was a triangle, with the first leg being the longest and into the waves and current. The first leg is also the best time to get kicked, have your goggles smacked off your face, and stray significantly off course if you don't know how to sight. I got kicked a lot, smacked a few times, heckled by one or two people, and waved to by one of the underwater scuba divers they provide for safety ( so cool- they made me feel safer!) I’m proud to say that I did not lose my goggles, nor did I stray too far off the course!
I peacefully swam through the 1.2 miles fighting the current and the waves and watching all kind of colorful fish under me including many sea-stars.
In the mountains of St. Croix in humidity, wind and heat I was just a bit off this time, but I paced myself knowing that the course was not just about the challenging BEAST. The course (very technical) starts with a nice 8 mile loop of hills. The people of St. Croix, who are some of the nicest around and were cheering us for the entire course, love the triathlon because it is the one time of year where the corrupt government (their words, not mine) pave the road. OK, so they don’t exactly pave. They fill pot holes on just the left side of the road, which is where you bike and also drive. So the entire course was bumpy full of debris and wild animals (mongoose, roosters, iguanas). I lost my bottles and my little new pump 3 times and went back to pick them up.
Onward to the next 48 miles St. Croix’s course reminds me of a long escalator that goes up into the clouds, and at the end you’re magically at the bottom where you started. There were hills upon hills, and they all seemed to go up at steeper and steeper inclines. To make it more interesting, when there was an occasional downhill, it was incredibly twisty with a 90 degree turn at the bottom so that you couldn’t build any momentum.
Mile 19.5 is where I saw a bunch of people waiving and cheering, and a 90 degree curve marked the entrance to the world famous BEAST. I screamed:"Is this the beast?" They said YES! My heart started beating fast! I was afraid! During my training I was often horrified thinking of it. The beast is a mile bike up a winding black diamond skill hill with inclines getting up to 27%. Earlier in the week I drove it up and down. At mile 20 after 20 miles of hills, I started passing other athletes who were walking pushing their bike up! The 10 minute climb was exactly what I expected. It was a BEAST and I had to be a BEAST to climb it! It was intense.
Reaching the top of the BEAST is an amazing journey, and one you cannot enjoy too much as the clock is ticking and there are 35 miles of hills to go. Yes, the course after the BEAST is significantly harder than the course leading up to it.
The last 10 miles of the bike has some of the longest winding up-hills of the course. Unbelievable! With relatively tired legs it was time to plow through the last leg of the bike. Brutal, but I accomplished goal number two, which was to beat the Beast and to finish strong the bike course.
I was happy to see my friend Les waiting for me in transition. She raced the sprint course and she was done! I had at least another 2 hours to go!
The run it is hard, hot, hilly, humid, but amazingly beautiful! Since my waves was almost the last one, I was "fortunate" to run in the hottest part of the day. I felt great at the run start. I truly did. The secret? I stayed well hydrated during the bike portion (I drunk 6 bottle of fluid) and I did not push as I usually do when I train.
Of course, it is hilly as well. Why not, right? It goes 2 miles up to a very beautiful resort hotel (the buccaneers), 2.5 miles around the hotel grounds, and then two miles back to do it all over again on this double loop. There were hydration stops with bananas, oranges, ice, coke and Gatorade every ½ mile or so. Well, on my first loop anyway I went easy. I carried ice and sponge in a bag, and every 5-10 min I was pouring water on my head and putting ice inside my tri suit! Then came loop two. That was the part I hated because I had to turn back while I was there close to the finish line! Luckily, as I predicted, I was still feeling great.
Though many athletes were done as I began mile 7 of the half marathon finish, I did see a few of my friends that I met during my time on the island. Yes, that is one of the reason I loved St Croix! At the end almost everyone knew each other. The island is so small that you meet everyone before the race!
The last ½ mile is very interesting. As you approach the finish line, you have to detour by turning left up a road that stretches about 4 blocks in the middle of the town. Unbelievable! They do this so that the triathletes can take one final stroll through town so that spectators can cheer. As I approached the finish line and I strongly crossed it, I was happy to see dear friends Les and Michele who were waiting for me! This meant a lot to me!
In summary, I had fun. I truly did enjoy the entire race. When you race at your pace only to impress yourself, the pressure is nonexistent and you can truly enjoy the sport!
This is one unique course that I would repeat! I usually do not like to repeat same ironman course because I get bored easily. Well, here I didn't have time to get bored! It was beautiful and challenging just like they call it:
THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.
I want to send special thank to my friend Les and Michele who came to support me in St Croix, to Shanin who helped me a lot in the island and also raced strong, and to my wonderful husband Mike Elbooz who always supports my crazy training schedule!
Remember that your training is to help you execute on race day. To reach your full potential as an athlete at your upcoming race, it's important to use every training session to perfect your nutrition, pacing and mental strength as well as to discover what gear/equipment is going to give you the best race possible.
As I tell my athletes for race day:
Trust your training, trust your plan, trust your nutrition and trust your gear!