If you told me last year that I'd be doing my second Ironman in the span of 3 months I would have rolled my eyes and laughed. If you told me that I'd do the second of those in 9 hours and 14 minutes I would have had no idea whether that was fast or slow. For my entire triathlon career, I have been focused running a fast 10k after biking and swimming as hard as possible. And, I love that. But, I also realized after racing Challenge Atlantic City that I also love trying to run a fast marathon (after biking and swimming).
So, Bec and I decided I should give it another go and signed up for Ironman Chattanooga. I originally planned to do Mt. Tremblant, a race with a bigger prize purse, but those points do not apply for qualifying for the Ironman World Championships in Kona for 2015. A person can only run so many marathons, so I figured I should wait and do a race with points and get a headstart in the qualification process for next year. The goal of this race was to get points on the board for Kona and now I have 960...a long way to go but it's a start! I also had a goal running time, but when we arrived in Chattanooga on Friday I quickly realized that would be extremely difficult/impossible with 10 miles of huge hills.
Of course, I also had the goal of a podium finish, but that too was made more difficult when we realized the swim was in a raging downcurrent river. The swim was won by Anna Cleaver in under 40 minutes! I won't go into the details of my swim, will just say it was slowed down, even in a fast river. I came out of the water in chase pack (41 minutes!!) but instead of 9-12 minute lead I was expecting we only had about 3-6. Not ideal and frustrating not to be able to use my swim strength to my advantage, but a race is a race and I knew I still had the chance to have a strong bike and run fast.
After about 30 minutes of riding I settled into 3rd position with Malaika and Bec. Anglea was on a mission and caught us about 45 minutes into the ride. She had a great day and went on to win her first Ironman! (Congrats Angela!!) Meanwhile, we were riding a fairly relaxed pace. Mostly I was just trying to stay legal in our three person paceline. The rolling hills made that hard to do and I spent a lot of time sitting up and soft pedaling. Weird to do that in a race! Around 70 miles, I just couldn't take it anymore and I made a move - the good thing about having a twin is that we can read each other's minds and after a few minutes I looked back to check and there was Bec with the motorcycle behind her. We had made a break and kept up our solid pace for the rest of the ride. When I passed her, I even said, "Isn't this fun?". She responded by pushing the pace for a solid 90 minutes. Bec can really ride when she is motivated.
I started the run in 3rd and stayed there for 8 or so miles when Ruth came flying by. Then Jennie came flying by. I started to try to match their paces but decided to do my own thing since it was so early on in the race. When we got to the hills and then the second lap things got crowded and I didn't have any idea where I was until a guy on a bike told me I was about 62 seconds from 3rd. Then another guy on a bike told pointed out 3rd place up the road. I had no idea I was still in podium contention. It was a great boost. Thank you mystery guys!! One of them even went back to find Bec. He came back to tell me she wasn't there and hadn't registered a split since 13.5 miles. I freaked out a bit and just went as fast as I could til the end. Jennie was in third place fighting too so I didn't make up much ground but I ended up doing my last mile in a little over 6 minutes! And I felt great. Close, but no cigar as my grandfather would say. I couldn't believe how good my legs felt, 9 hours and 14 minutes of exercise and I was ready for more. That leaves me confident for the next one and I know I can become good at this distance of racing.
The long drive back to NYC gave me time to think about the race. I had thoughts of wishing I had gone faster, yes, but more forefront in my mind was HOW ON EARTH DID I DO THAT?
1) Equipment: I felt confident and comfortable with my gear. Thank you Cervelo for my fast little bike, ISM for a super comfortable saddle (not a single bit of discomfort all 116 miles), ROKA for my speedsuit, Rudy Project for a comfy helmet and a choice of lenses (I opted to use the red lenses because it was overcast). Thanks to Nate and Doug at Bikeway for making sure my bike was overhauled and ready to race. Also, special thanks to the New York Athletic Club for their support in getting me to the race. Driving down to Chattanooga also helped, since I didn't have to pack and reassemble my bike. Things always seem to go awry in the airplane travel.
2) I enjoyed every minute of it. (Well, not the traffic on the second loop of the bike course- that was scary!). I loved racing with Bec and having my mom and dad there to support us. It's always good to have the team of people who believe in you most there for support.
3) Preparation: I made some sacrifices in order to make sure I had did everything to prepare for this race like a professional. Bec and I did a "run-through" the Sunday before the race where we practiced our watts/hr, nutrition, and legal paceline riding. That was a key session for both of us. While my training was not high volume (longest run was 90 mins, longest ride 85 miles), it was consistent and quality. I am grateful to my reliable and willing training partners to help me get through some hard days - thank you Anne Thilges, David Welby, Brad Austin and Monica Moreno. Want to ride for two hours around a 1 mile loop? Sure! Want to run up a mountain in 100+ degrees? OK! Good people are everything!
3) Motivation and Determination: After a very disappointing race at Hy-Vee, I was more motivated than ever to make up for that result. I witnessed some amazing performances in Mt. Tremblant that really fired me up. Another thing that's really motivating to me is doubters and negative feedback. That's just always going to happen, but I always find it can be be a weapon if you don't dwell on it. Someone insults you or doubts your abilities?? Prove them wrong!!
For anyone interested in registering for this race, I highly recommend it. Chattanooga is a great town. We are going to do a blog post about the things to do there since there are so many.
Congrats to anyone reading this that raced and especially to Angela Naeth, Ruth Brennan Morrey and Jennie Hansen for their podium finishes. I have no doubt those three will be in Kona next year and make an impact.
Thank you to the fans in Chattanooga, especially those guys on the bikes. It was amazing to have so much support on the course. And if you volunteered and I didn't get so say thanks when I got a drink - Thank you! My legs are now recovered from those hills and I will resume training tomorrow for my next race October 26 in Oceanside, CA.