There is so much to say about this race. I love this race. It was my first ever 70.3 in 2012 and I keep coming back because I love it. The location is awesome around Moody Gardens, I get to escape to salt water and I get to race!
We left Friday super early to try and beat the traffic out of Dallas. Luckily we got to use the HOV lane for a good bit so that helped. We made our way down 45 and stopped at the Bush Airport in Houston. Brian was unfortunate enough to have to fly out within hours of the race and we decided it wasn’t a good idea for me to drive out and then back to Galveston to the hotel, so we got him a rental. We went to the athlete check in and everything went smooth. I had a good laugh because there were kids handing out the shirts and one kid flipped out. I always order a men’s shirt (they fit more comfortably) and the kid wouldn’t stop yelling at the other guy to not give me the shirt. I had to show him my packet to prove that I ordered a men’s to calm him down, ha!
Settled into the hotel for the night and didn’t set an alarm for Sat morning. Of course that didn’t stop us from being wide awake by 7. We went to breakfast then poked around the room a bit on social media before we got the bikes ready. A quick few loops around the semi-abandoned mall we were staying next to and a quick out and back run and I was ready to go. Bikes got loaded and we headed to the island to have lunch with coach Mary, Donna, Molly and Trent. I hadn’t yet met Mary in person, so I was giddy excited!
We all had a great lunch chatting about life in general as well as triathletes and the funny things
they we do. Brian and I then stopped by the Moxie Multisport house to grab his new kit. He is pretty excited to be part of their team this year and the race was covered with him teammates! I never saw him and I stopped looking at one point because there was too many of them looking identical! It was great to meet them and soon we were off to rack the bikes. A quick dropoff and back to the hotel to lay down we went!
A quick nap and some grogginess later, we headed to the same restaurant we ate last year. I still stick with my hibachi style meal that sits so well. We scarfed our food down not realizing how hungry we actually were (apparently I didn’t have any of the 17 normal snacks during the day I eat at the office.) Pre-race tradition also led us to Orange Leaf for some good luck froyo, you know, to top off those stores and all, it’s a very technical stop. Off to sleep after some last minute prep and before I knew it the rude alarm was going off.
Headed to the race site and got a spot within spitting distance of transition (which would bite me later trying to exit the race site at the same time as everyone else) and went to work on setting up transition. Brian pumped his tires and brought the pump over. I pumped the back tire and asked him to pump the front one. Somehow the stem broke on the front tire, so Brian took it over to the mechanics, who tried to charge us on race morning! Um, here I thought my investment in Ironman might actually get me a free tube? Brian told me that when he brought back my tire, while I was angry I sent him back with my wallet and the guy then said no to taking the cash. I still think that should have been the answer in the first place. Alas, I digress. So transition gets set up and after hanging out in the car for a bit Brian, Sarah (wonder sherpa) and I head to the start. Being the wave right after the pros can be pretty stressful for me trying to get everything done and over there. Big thanks to Sarah for holding all my crap and helping me get ready to swim! Before I knew it I was on the dock trying like hell to see the buoys. Turns out they delayed a short bit for fog, but probably not long enough.
Hopped in the water, played around a bit and then the gun went off. Now it was not only foggy, but very choppy and very windy. My swim was a shit show. I apparently forgot how to sight and how to swim a straight line and got smacked in the face regularly when I tried to breathe with waves. Rather than be frustrated I just put my head down and went to work! It was my first race swim in my new Maverick Pro Wetsuit from Roka and let me tell you it swam like a dream. No shoulder pulling like my last suit and the neoprene is buttery soft. There is nothing like swimming in this suit. No chafing or anything, it was an amazingly comfortable swim. We went from swimming against the waves, to them carrying us and the last turn had us parallel to them. Let me tell you, parallel is not as much fun as you’d think. Although I wasn’t unsettled by the swim (just annoyed), I was pretty gosh darn excited to get out. Got out of the water and saw the time, I was a bit disappointed. I know I am capable of better, but I refused to let that dampen my day. Turns out most everyone had a slow day.
Nice and quick transition and I was off on the bike! I knew there would be a tailwind on the way out and that the wind was projected to shift, so I wanted to take advantage of the tailwind while not burning through my legs trying to keep my HR in a specific place. It’s a fine line. I was hoping that my HR monitor would help me gauge effort level, but once I popped on the actual piece it wasn’t working. All I could think was crap, another repeat of last year. That’s where the HR monitor failed and it ended up being an awful experience with effort level and frustrating post race coach/athlete discussions. But, I was told if my HR fails, trust my gut, I know my effort levels like the back of my hand and ride. So I did. I stayed on top of my nutrition and just kept my head down. It can be a bit of a downer being first after the pros because I just get passed all day by the faster people in later waves, but I tried to focus on me and kept repeating my word of the race: patience.
Getting closer to the turnaround I keep seeing the grimaces on the faces facing the wind, yikes. But when I made the turn it actually wasn’t all that bad. At some point while I went to the bathroom and rinsed myself off with water, I thought what the heck and put a bunch of water down my top. It seemed as though it was the salt water that messed with the strap and once I got clean water on it I was in business! I was super excited on the way back to have that metric to go against. I kept my race directions in check (patience, patience) and just spun the whole way back and kept my head down. I knew I had made stupid ridiculous time on the way out (1:17 first split versus 1:36 second split, but Brandon Marsh also said he had a 20 minute difference, so I’m in good company) but I also had an idea that my time on the way back was still pretty good. I kept checking in, asking myself “how are my legs, can I run on these? Is that fatigue, regular I’ve been spinning for house or pushed it too far” but made the right decisions on pacing to set myself up for a successful run. Making the last turns in I got my feet out and charged into T2!
I grabbed my stuff and immediately took off on the course. I tried to get my HR down, but knew I could also be patient for a few miles to have it all come around. Having done so many T runs in training, I knew that I could go through a range of possibilities in the first few miles, but it’ll all come around. I think I literally laughed out loud when the first split came across as a 9 minute mile. I knew I was tapered, but I also knew I probably couldn’t handle that pace at this point. The next few miles ticked off a bit slower then I settled into a good HR and rhythm. My legs wanted a bit faster, but that would raise my HR as well as cause me stomach issues, so I just kept pushing forward.
I feel like I should point out here that my first half in 2012 was my fastest run split at the 70.3 distance. I have struggled to put together a good run since then. In Kansas it was so miserably hot it’s all I could do to move forward, and in Galveston last year my mental game was off and I did’t believe in me – I actually spent the entire run pissed off. That being said I really wanted to show myself I could do this.
Having a great half marathon in February on tired legs was really a huge boost of confidence and I had gained fitness since then. I really secretly wanted to run the whole thing. I’d done my fair share of walking in previous races and I just wanted to show myself I could. So I did. I ran the whole race. No walking through aid stations. No walking up the one steep grade we had, nothing. I ran. I was miserable, and my legs hurt and I was tired and it got hot. But that didn’t stop me. I kept asking how badly I wanted to PR and to get under 6 hours and how much did I want to run. So I kept running, even on the last lap when there were moments of wanting to walk an aid station. I coaxed myself out of that want and reminded myself I had less than a lap to go, I could run that in my sleep and to just move forward. When I saw the mile 11 sign I wanted to hug it. Seriously. I knew I was home with two miles to go. I tried to pick up the pace and HR just a bit but struggled and just did what I could to bring it home.
Going down the finish line was awesome. I knew I crushed my run in comparison (took about 15 minutes off my previous time and was within 5 of the half marathon I ran in Feb, so a really positive showing) and I was pretty sure I was comfortably under 6 hours. All in all it ended up being about a 20 minute PR for me. I was so excited and I beamed with pride and confidence in myself.
I don’t know if I can put into words what this race meant to me. After going through time last year where I questioned my gut, my faith in myself and I turned to food to comfort me, this race brought me back on track. Working with Mary has changed me. She let me know it was right to trust my gut and that I knew my body and to start believing in myself again. We are working to get me where I know I can be. It will be a long road and I learned some great lessons this race and also am taking home things I want to work on. But I’m here to fight and I showed that. I’m happy with my placement and my time. It’s a good reflection of where I am right now and shows me with hard work, what I can accomplish. I used my heart and my head and brought myself home across that finish line.
For the first time I felt like I belonged at an Ironman event. Yes I’ve completed 3 halfs and a full, but I finally felt like I knew what it took to get there and I worked hard and smart to show what I had that day. I am a triathlete.
Post race Brian headed to the airport and I hung out with Mary, Donna, Molly and Trent. It was such a joy to spend time with them. Triathlon has brought amazing people in my life, and they fit right in there. Although Donna was unable to start due to a derailleur issue, Molly had issues flatting, Trent got hit or hit a car, we still don’t know which, and Mary fought calf issues, they were all amazing and happy to be there. We shared stories and lots of laughter and I left them with my heart full.
These races are where I feel at home and where I belong.
I want to make sure to thank the companies that are supporting me this year.
I can’t say enough amazing things about my Coeur Sports kit. It was cute and completely functional. For the first time in a race I didn’t think about what I was wearing once. No tugging, pulling or anything. I’m excited to have them support me and have an awesome team of women in my corner. I definitely thought about my teammates and they helped me along the course.
Osmo has changed my nutrition completely and has allowed me to successfully race. Thank you for your support of the Coeur team and thank you for creating a product with women in mind. Women are not small men and I thank you for not treating us that way.
As I said before, I’ve had other wetsuits but my Roka wetsuit blows them out of the water. I had no idea you could actually be that comfortable in a wetsuit. Thank you for supporting the Coeur team!