Thursday, August 3, 2017

Ironman Lake Placid 2017 Race Report

And just like that it’s been over a week since my Ironman #9, and my first Ironman Lake Placid! Lake Placid has been the very first ironman I ever spectated back in 2010, and it would be another 2 years before I did my first IM. It sure took me long enough to make the trip back to Lake Placid to actually race.

In 2010, I was a complete rookie and although I really wanted to do one of these things, I wasn’t quite sure how that would be possible. The descend down to Keene absolutely terrified me, and I remember to this day how scared I was barely hitting 40 mph. I literally thought my bike was going to fall apart!  

Fast forward to 2017, and what difference a few (ok – 7 years) can make. I was super excited to race for a few reasons:
  • ·       Racing with teammates, athletes I coach, and friends is the best! 
  •       With the close proximity to Boston, LP would feel like a hometown race and the amount of on course support would be second to none! (the truth) 
  • ·       Already having my Kona slot from Ironman Texas, this was a no pressure kind of race – well except for the fact I still wanted to win because that’s just me
  • ·       No women’s pro race, which meant the possibility of winning the whole thing was of course super exciting as well
  • ·       My 1st ever Ironman wetsuit swim – yes – you read that right!

THE SWIM: 1:07:36

After my less than average swim at Ironman Texas this year, I was a little hesitant about this whole time trial, self seeded swim start, but I must say it was MUCH better organized than in Texas. Instead of dodging bodies for half of the swim, I could actually move straight forward without swimming into walls of people. I suppose this is also a lot easier when the under water visibility extends far beyond just your own elbow!

Calmness that is Mirror Lake before all of us jumped in!

I even got to warm up in the water, which for me is huge! (Also not a possibility at IMTX), Before I knew it, Bash and I were slowly making our way toward the middle of the 1:00 – 1:10 corral. It was super awesome to be lining up with my training partner in crime, and it sure helped to keep the nerves in check. Bash is definitely faster off the start line, and he regularly kicks my ass in the pool, so my goal was to just try to stay on his feet. Heck if he could have just dragged me around the lake for 2.4 miles, I wouldn’t mind either ;). 

Around 10 people in every 4 seconds! 

We both ran in side by side along with few others, and the trashing began. As expected, Bash took off but without me (insert sad face). It wouldn’t be the first time, so I just focused on my own rhythm and swimming as straight of a line as I could. I also stayed away from the buoy line and the underwater cable because I simply wasn’t up for a boxing match. 

Churned up Mirror Lake 

The lake was crowded, but I was holding my own space and shortly after probably 500 yards or so I found a set of just the perfect feet to draft behind. I tried passing the guy a few times to no luck and every time I pulled up next to him he would pull away. He was my guy, and I stayed on his feet – the entire 1st loop! He was clearly staying away from the cable, he was swimming straight and he also avoided the congestion at the turn buoys by swimming wide. I happily followed. We had to swim around a few folks throughout the first loop, but for the first time ever, I really fought for my feet and stayed there even through congestion! YES! 

Unfortunately my guy decided to take his sweet time in between loops 1 and 2, and so I bolted out of there and dove in for loop 2 on my own.The water actually seemed to be clearer, and before I knew it I found myself on the cable. After not even catching a glimpse of it on the first loop, I honestly thought they took it out for the race. But there it was! Best part – there was nobody on it! I felt like I just won the lottery! 75% of the 2nd loop was contact free – I swam around a few folks but not many and was smooth sailing on top of the cable breathing 10 strokes to the left, and 10 strokes to the right! Yup – for the first time in a race I breathed to my right side (It only took 7 years but that’s a story for another day). I only left the cable when swimming around the turn buoys so that I didn’t get stuck and could keep my rhythm going – mission accomplished!

Gotta love the BlueSeventy Helix! 

I got out of the water with a new shiny PR of 1:07:36 just under my best goal time of 1:08, I breathed to both sides, and for the first time in my triathlon career, I took absolutely zero breast strokes. (Oh the little things). I felt like I didn’t even swim, and was only 12ish minutes down from the super fast fishes, and 7ish minutes behind the contenders – great start to the day for sure!

T1: 4:24

Wetsuit strippers for the win! The half mile pavement run to transition – not so much, but I did my best!

THE BIKE: 5:16:19

Where to begin. “Black Firebird” was ready to rock and so were my legs. My legs felt awesome all day long, and the power numbers reflected that. Unlike back in 2010 when 39.1 mph felt like flying, I found myself hitting nearly 50 mph and looking for more gears.

Turtle time!  

It however apparently wasn’t fast enough for select few, that figured riding in a group would be more fun. By the time I got to the bottom of the Keene descend, and began the flattish trek from Keene to Jay to Ausable Forks (my favorite section btw), the group only grew in numbers. I put in the first of my (bigger than I really wanted for this stage of the race) efforts to get away only to get swallowed right back up momentarily. And so the cat and mouse game began. I grew more and more frustrated and had a few choice words with the group as they squashed my first couple of attempt(s) to get away. I knew that given the nature of the course at this point, this group wasn’t about to break up anytime soon, and so I had a choice to make.

I chose to put in one final surge and was finally able to get far enough away to not get caught and cut off instantly. In order to stay away, I had to keep the pedal to the metal, which meant 200+ watts for 90 min. Not something I am not capable of, but not the strategy I wanted to employ this early into the race.   I don’t know how long the group behind me stayed together for, but at this point, I was just glad to focus on my own race.

I rolled through the first loop above race pace, but at least finally defrosted and feeling great, trying to forget what I just witnessed on loop 1.

Up the bears and smiling! :) 

2nd loop was essentially empty, and I rode probably about half of it with 2 other male riders leap frogging back and forth in a LEGAL paceline! It was a breath of fresh air when I wasn't being re-taken right after passing them because I was a "girl" and girls shouldn't be able to keep up with guys. I was still holding my goal watts and was glad to see that riding legal is possible when everyone makes the effort to!  My power was right where I wanted it to be and so it looked like and felt like I may just survive my harder and more variable effort from the first loop without any consequences. (Ironman however is a long day so more on that later)

Aero is the name of the game! 

Somewhere along the 2nd loop I also realized I had lost half of my rice/potato cakes and since I only brought one extra gel, I had to adjust on the fly. I opted for bananas, and they seemed to do the trick. Let me tell you – peeling half bananas while moving swiftly through aid stations is a lot of fun! ;)

Overall I had a very strong ride, and one I am very proud of. I rode clean, I had my highest IM power output ever, and better yet – I never faded. My effort all day long never felt forced even when I rode way above my goal watts for quite some time, and that is something I can 100% build on for Kona.

I rolled into transition with the fastest female bike split, and as 3rd female overall.

T2: 2:41

I probably could have done a little better but don’t tell my coach (I had to fix my hair – my bun came apart and it was really going to annoy me on the run). The volunteers were awesome as usual and I think I had about 5 of them trying to attend to me. If they only knew how many times I peed on myself during that bike ride you would have probably stayed away so thank you ALL!

RUN: 3:37:51

I have never ran more hills in training that I did in prep for this race, and I was excited but still a bit intimidated by the hills (mountains really) on this run course.

As I started the run my legs were feeling great, but although I was trying to hold back, my HR seemed a bit higher than usual. I kept trying to slow myself down to get the HR down, but it wasn’t budging. (I do sweat quite a bit and I did drink quite a bit less during the bike especially on the first loop because I was freezing so dehydration may have been settling in)

Look ma - both feet of the ground! 

I made sure I fueled properly (1 clif shot block every 10 min plus salt and I tried to get in as much water as I could between my tiny 8oz handheld bottle and the aid stations). It sure was nice not having to worry about overheating and cooling down every mile because the temperatures were essentially perfect! I did wear my CoolCore cooling towel around my neck and headband which I just kept pouring water on to keep wet and cool throughout the day.  

Clif shots #nomnom

Since this wasn’t a female pro race, I also started the run with a biker, which was awesome! Although they are not allowed to ride in front of you, I sure felt like a celebrity all day long (well until mile 20 ish when I lost her) because I fell to 4th overall. 

There she is - Brigitte, my biker

I was running well for about 17 miles and although I was 3rd female on the road, I was still running in 2nd due to the nature of the rolling swim start. 

The wheels however started to fall off at mile 17 and my legs became harder to turn over with each step. The thought of taking another clif shot block was making me sick too. Too bad I still had two mountains to climb (they joys of a run course with 1600’ feet of elevation!) and 9 miles left to run!

Miles 17 through 21 were still sort of respectable although this is also where I lost my biker. Probably a good thing because I don’t think the snail pace with which I was moving up the hill would translate well to being able to stay upright on the bike!

Miles 21-25 were some of the toughest miles I ever ran – I mean shuffled. My pace dipped into the 9s, and I nearly saw even 10s – the wheels were off and perhaps this is where my early bike effort coupled with a few fueling mishaps reared its ugly head. With 1 mile to go, I saw couple other girls closing in on me (on an out and back section), and somehow willed myself to kick it into high(er) gear. After spending the last 4 miles what felt like barely moving, I turned on the afterburners so that I wouldn’t get caught (turns out those 2 girls were just finishing the 1st lap), and what felt like a 6 min mile effort turned out to only be 8:22 mile pace – funny how that works, eh? 

I don’t remember much from the finish line, besides the fact that I was really happy to see it! 

Hello, Ironman finish line #9

I loved the ever so challenging and relentless Ironman Lake Placid race course, and I absolutely loved the support I received out there on the course. SO SO SO many people cheering for me literally all around the entire bike and run courses and sharing the course with my athletes and friends was absolutely amazing too! They all kicked ass and either PRed or finished their first IM and I really couldn't be more proud of all of them. 

 Finish line smiles! 

 Part of the E3 Crew along with the boss 

The first time Ironman and his cheering crew! 

My finish time: 10:08:51

Not sub 10 hours, no finish line tape but lots of lessons learned and positives to take out of this race! I wanted to race fearless and I am proud to say I did! It wasn't good enough to break the tape (4th overall, 2nd AG), but I had a great swim for reasons far beyond just the time, my strongest bike to date power wise, and although I faded hard on the run which cost me that sub 10 finish, I have learned a lot! 

Thank you to ALL the volunteers, my bikers on the run, and of course my coach Jorge for everything, as well as my sponsors Quintana Roo Tri - we had the fastest bike split :) , The Refreshinq Co. for making sure I am healthy and recovering well day to day, Coolcore for keeping me cool, BlueSeventy for helping me keep getting faster in the water and Levelen for helping me dial in my fueling! To my supporters  CycleOps and FinisSwim - thank you! Your tools are part of training routine on consistent basis! 

After much needed recovery, it's now time to buckle down and get ready for the World Championship double with 70.3 Worlds in Chattanooga, and Kona. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Patriot 70.3 Race Report

This year was my fifth year in a row racing the local SunMultisport Patriot 70.3. There is just something about sleeping in your own bed and rolling to the start line few hours before the race. The logistics are super easy, and it really doesn’t get more convenient than that. I don' usually have problems sleeping the night before the race, but the butterflies were flying high on Friday night! 

The lead up to the race went super well, which is rarely the norm! My sighting and straight swimming has been more and more fluid, my power on the bike has been the best yet, and I can’t remember last time, I actually rode so well and not just physically but also mentally executed some of the toughest sessions I used to really struggle with. My running off the bike has been super solid too, so I was very excited to give cracking that 4h30min mark another try. (Spoiler Alert – it didn’t happen, and I really wasn’t even close - dammit) 

Race morning was rainy but at least it was warm because the humidity was like 1 million degrees. I set up my transition in pouring rain but by the race start, the rain stopped, and the fog somewhat lifted of the lake!

 Just a little foggy at the swim start

SWIM: 33:33

I snuck into my BlueSeventy helix although not so easily because humidity, and did a quick swim warm up to get the heart rate up and get ready for the swim start. Since I was starting in the open/elite wave I actually had a real strategy – so pro I know ;). No worries – that strategy of staying on Lisbeth’s feet went out the window very quickly, as I watched her swim away from me in a heartbeat or two. Although I got dropped like a bad habit, I swam hard, and eventually settled into my own race pace as I found myself swimming completely alone! Dammit, plan B to the rescue. Plan B was simple – swim straight! Mission accomplished (for the most part), and a new Patriot swim 70.3 PR. Still not quite where I want to be but PR is a PR. I felt good about my swim and how fresh I felt coming out of the water, which is often overlooked by athletes, but being swim fit makes your bike and run easier too!  

T1: 1:58

T1 was a bit of a mess - I am really much better at IM transitions. My wetsuit got stuck on my ankles (duh - I should have used the wetsuit strippers), and when I put my new aero helmet on I couldn't see a thing - oops!

Arms out - that's the easy part ;) 

BIKE: 2:24:42

My helmet shield was covered with rain drops and since I never used this helmet in a rain I didn’t know what to expect. (In my defense I just bought it 1 week ago and the day I tested it the sun was shining). I blindly clipped in, and set out on my merry way, 6-7 min down on the super swimmers Stacy, and Becky, and 3 minutes down on Lisbeth who can really ride! You are not a multiple ironman Kona World champion if you are not a great athlete!

I spent the first 5 min trying to decide if I will be able to see well enough through the rain drops on my shield or if I should remove it instead. Eventually I successfully without stopping and or falling off my bike removed the shield, and surely sacrificed some aerodynamics for visibility. (Safety first) I put my head down and went to work. It was just me, myself and me for pretty much the entire bike ride. It’s a VERY different feeling from having carrots to chase the entire ride, but at least I didn’t even have to say on your left once ;)!

If I haven’t done this race before, I would have thought I was lost. I have never been this completely alone ever. I was riding strong but I was starting to question just how far I really was or what was happening at the front of the race. When I rolled through the transition area again, I finally got a word I was now about 2 minutes behind the leader, which at least gave me a breath of fresh (although VERY humid) air. I was closing the gap.

Serious chase mode! 

At this point I put my head down (shield back on), and it wasn’t until probably mile 35ish that I passed Becky, and it was another 10 miles before I found Stacy and Lisbeth at the front of the race. I was never happier to see them. I put the pedal to the metal for a couple miles to make sure they didn’t try to stay with me and although my nutrition for some reason wasn’t staying down, I was able to put down my best 70.3 power ever. My time didn't quite reflect it but that's more thanks to the conditions rather then mega legs. It was also nice to build bit of a lead going into the run. 

T2: 2:34

T2 was much of the same as T1 – this time I was fumbling with my socks because my feet were covered in mud and last thing I wanted out of this race was blistered feet. I also came to find out my sun glasses were broken in half L

RUN: 1:35:41

Running without sunglasses is weird, but I managed. I had a lead biker who was awesome and at least that reminded me that perhaps I wasn't lost, the run course was just that empty ;). Quite refreshing not having to fight for fuel or ice at aid stations, but also a lot easier to chill out and forget that you are racing. I got passed by one guy whom I tried to keep in sight for as long as I could, but he was moving and me – not so much! I did end up catching 2 more guys and those were the only athletes I saw for the 13.1 miles.

My run was rather unimpressive and although my huffing and puffing would indicate one pace, the real pace was much slower. Heck I ran faster the week before on a much hotter day in training, but so is racing. I suspect the slight lack of my ability to keep my regular fuel down may have had something to do with it, but I kept pressing on, and chasing my lead biker.  (Thanks Rachel :) )

TOTAL TIME: 4:38:27 

I was really glad to see the finish line and live up, I mean race up to my bib number! Wearing #1 is NEVER easy and raising the finish line tape is always special!

Finish line smiles :) 

It wasn't my fastest, but it was my best swim on this course, and highest 70.3 power output on the bike, which gives me confidence for the rest of the season.

The podium :) 

This year's race was even more special because I got to watch many of my teammates, and 3 of my own athletes absolutely crush it with big PR's, and be right there as they finished! Locally races really are awesome, and watching hard work pay off is awesome and rewarding! 

 Lindsey crushed it, won her Age Group, and came in Top 10 overall female! 

 Chris had some nutritional issues but despite that absolutely destroyed his PR by 30+ min

Geoffrey too bettered his PR in only his 2nd 70.3! 

I am already looking to this race again next year! 

As always, THANK YOU to my coach Jorge for keeping me at the top of my game, Quintana Roo for Mr. Flash and yet another fastest female bike split that helped me get back into the race, Refreshinq for helping me stay on top of my game day in and day out, BlueSeventy for the speedy wetsuits and awesome goggles for any and all conditions, Coolcore for making sure I stay comfy, and cool while training and racing and also all of our E3 Training team sponsors - you guys rock, and I appreciate the support more than you know. 

Next up - Ironman Lake Placid! 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hello summer, Hello Coolcore!

I have been a big fan of Coolcore ever since I did my very first race in the heat, and knew that unless I can keep my body temp down, I will stand no chance of achieving my dream of winning the amateur title at the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.  Never say never, but I doubt I will ever have to worry about being cold when racing in the hot and humid conditions of Hawaii.

I have been using the Coolcore cooling towel and headband ever since 2013 in all my hot races and when training during hot summer months so I am super excited to make our partnership officially official this year and I am even more excited about their NEW product launch! Keep reading to find out more!

That’s how excited and happy I am to be part of the Coolcore family!

Keepin’ the noggin’ cool!

The Coolcore products are perfect for anyone with an active lifestyle whether you are a weekend warrior who enjoys the outdoors, or whether you are super competitive like myself reaching for the top step on the podium.
Happiness is not being overheated at the finish line!

All Coolcore fabrics are chemical-free and I couldn’t be happier with the benefits they offer. They cool better, and also offer protection from the sun! Finally, they last longer because there aren’t any chemicals to wash out.

Putting the Coolcore top through it’s paces in the famous energy lab in Kona, Hawaii!

So what is the best part? Coolcore just came out with a kick ass apparel line, that you must try!   With summer FINALLY here, you will NOT be disappointed! Use code JANAR for 15% off!

Ready, set, GO! 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Teamwork and The Refreshinq RQ Program

Triathlon may be labeled as an individual sport but it is far from it! We are out there on race day on our own, but nobody gets to the start line without a team!

The triathlon journey is a process that goes far and beyond the finishing time on race day, and strong support network of family, coaches, sponsors, and supporters make a big difference. All these people create YOUR team, and are along for the ride full of ups and downs.

I am super excited to have expanded my team this year to include The Refreshinq Co.! Their goal is to help everyone from top performing athletes to weekend warriors become their best AND never quit getting better via all natural, pharmacist-curated supplements in the form of vitamin packs and/or patches!

Quick look at some of the Refreshinq Co. products

Their goals line up perfectly with mine, and although my partnership has just started few months ago, they have already been a key part of my team in my mission to never quit reaching my goals, and leaving no stone unturned on my journey to the top of the Ironman World Championship podium.

Taking advantage of Refreshinq’s RQ program has already proven critical in my continuous development as an athlete that goes far beyond swim, bike and run.

The RQ program showed me exactly what was going on inside my body (via InsideTracker blood test), and it further provided me with next steps to optimize not only my overall health, but also my performance.

I did my Insidetracker blood test after a long/tough and pretty aggressive 10 week training build toward my first race of the season – Ironman Texas, and less than 48 hours after my longest training run of 21 miles on the Boston marathon course. Throughout my build I was feeling strong week after week, but I was definitely quite tired and sore after this run which wasn’t surprising – the hills of the Boston marathon course along with the accumulated fatigue will do that to you.

Black arrow shows my aggressive build. Blue dot simulates my fitness, while red dot (pink line) simulates my continuously building fatigue week after week.

After I received my InsideTracker blood test results, I completed an assessment form to give my “personal coach”(RQ Health Coach) more information with regards to my background, activity level and goals, and was then contacted shortly after.  My “personal coach” and I went over each and individual blood biomarker regardless of whether those biomarkers fell into the optimal range or not, and we further discussed how they affect my health & performance, and what I can do to optimize each.

It was very eye opening, and enlightening to know what each biomarker means and how it relates to my goals instead of asking “google” and worrying that there may be something seriously wrong with me because that’s exactly what I did when I saw this:

 What the heck is wrong with my liver? (Pro Tip: Stay away from WebMD!)

Oh, you just trained really hard for a while, and so your muscles are well – feeling it! This IS related to your increased liver enzymes – got it! (I finally feel like a huge weight got lifted of my chest)

No, I didn’t have a serious condition that Mr. Google suggested, and could stop worrying. Thank you Refreshinq! You put my mind at peace, when I was explained just how all these biomarkers are related to each other and my training.

Having the ability to speak with an experienced health coach allowed me to understand just when nutrition is enough to optimize my health & performance and when vitamins/supplements are necessary.  

What is even better is that I don’t have to spend more time online or in a CVS isle searching for which supplement – in my case which probiotic is best for me, because The Refreshinq Co. has me covered!

The advantages don’t stop here. Knowing that the recommended supplements are all natural, pharmaceutical grade and 3rd party tested is just another added and very important benefit to me as an athlete and supporter of clean sport! 

I am very excited to have The Refreshinq Co. part of my team, and would highly suggest for all of you to check them out and give them a try! Whether you are a weekend warrior or elite level athlete, their products AND services are first class and will make a difference in your health and performance! Let them help you never quit reaching your goals!

Please comment below if you have any questions, or use code JANA10 for 10% discount.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ironman Texas Lead Up and Race Report

After last year’s Ironman Texas, I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to do this race again. Not because the swim was changed the day before the race, or because the bike course had more turns than its distance, or because the weather was more hot/humid than Kona (I actually welcomed that because gaining more experience in Kona like conditions is beneficial to me!) but because I wasn’t sure I was ready to put myself through nearly 100% indoor training again.

Last year, I struggled! I struggled through many of my long rides, and as the weeks went by I was slowly but surely losing motivation. I was quickly approaching the edge of burning out. Indoor training can be quite monotonous and I honestly didn’t want to put myself through that again. So instead, I signed up for Ironman Lake Placid because I knew I would have plenty of friends to train with, and I wouldn’t be confined to my pain cave a.k.a living room weekend after weekend.  

Yet as the weeks went by, this little voice inside my head kept telling me to sign up for Ironman Texas regardless of all of the above. Come December, I was swimming better than ever, and my motivation to redeem my mediocre race at Ironman Texas last year was sky high, Right around the New Year, I came down with a nasty sinus and ear infection and there went my streak of kick ass training. I was laid up for pretty much 3 weeks with zero energy to train and that is not like me. With 15 weeks to Ironman Texas, I watched my fitness hit its lowest point since years ago. I did however become great at puzzles.

Home sweet home (Prague, Czech Republic) 

 My 2nd home 

Because this is exactly how I spent my New Years! 

Although sitting on the couch wasn’t exactly how I wanted to kick of 2017, I think it allowed me to really get hungry again and so while on antibiotics,  I finally pulled the trigger and signed up! 

I started the build toward IM Texas mentally fresh and ready to bring my A game day in and day out.
What followed was something I could only dream of. I put together probably my best ever training block, and I very much continued to surprise myself week after week whether it was in the pool, on the bike or the treadmill. (Yes – I did a lot of my runs indoors).  Just when I thought I was surely going to blow up, my mind was sharp, and my body continued to perform week after week.   

Consistent build from 1/9 to 3/26 (11 weeks of consistent build), followed by a down week, before one final push during our training camp in Tucson, Arizona. 

During this time, I averaged little over 15 hours of training between swim, bike, run and weekly strength and plyo session. 

Consistent build, with 1 down week followed by a big week in Tucon, AZ (training camp), and taper week before race day :) 

With 2 weeks before Ironman Texas, we had our annual training camp in Tucson, and although my swimming decided to go on vacation, my cycling and running were the best ever. I was putting out power day after day that I have never done before fairly effortlessly, and my running legs were sharp. The long run at the end of camp is always a struggle thanks to the accumulated fatigue and although this year it wasn’t any different I ticked of 15 miles at a pace 40 sec per mile faster than a year ago!
Needless to say I travelled to Texas knowing that I was in one of my best IM shapes to date even if all of my swimming has been done in the pool, all but 6 days of cycling had been indoors, and probably 80% of my runs were indoors too or in temps below 40 degrees (and I am being generous here) 

I arrived in the Woodlands on Wednesday mid day, and headed right to packet pick up before settling at the same homestay as last year – the Broncalo’s. It seriously felt like I never left and Jesus and Laura are seriously the best! I spent the next two days, just making sure I had everything ready for race day, and I even got a pre-race swim in with the PushGlideKick team and the awesome Gemma Hollis. My swimming really decided to show up that day, so it felt like everything was coming together just in time for the big day J.

 Outdoor pools make everything better! 

We won’t talk about the day I tried to squeeze myself into my wetsuit just to make sure I was ready for anything. I haven’t had mine on since September so had to do it. Good thing there is no photographic evidence of this as trying to squeeze into a wetsuit when it's nearly 80 degrees and just as humid really wasn't pretty! (It did take 2 people to zip me up!) 

 Mr. Flash ready to rock! 

 T1 bag plus missing rice/potato cakes (no I didn't use the toe warmers, but when forecast initially called for low 50s, I had to be ready) 

T2 bag 

I woke up on race morning to temperatures in the low 70s with humidity in the mid 90s! Humidity for breakfast anyone? With T1 and T2 being in two separate places there was no time for messing around. Just like last year, there was no in water warm up for us age groupers, so the 15 min walk over served just as that. 

The Swim: 1:16:30

The swim was a self seeded rolling start except there were no signs that would indicate any swim times. This is where I made my first mistake that 100% cost me some time. How much time – we will never know, but I know my swim is better than the time shows. 

 You can see the masses getting ready for the swim start! And that yellow circle - yup - that's me stretching it out instead of swimming already! (Photo Credit - David Reynolds)

I got in the water too late and found myself in a 2.4 mile boxing match inside a watching machine, with underwater visibility up to about my elbow. I spent at least the first half of the swim either swimming into and around people or looking up every 2 strokes to see where to go. I then spent the 2nd half of the swim trying to pee while swimming, which for me is impossible! It was becoming downright painful, and I welcome any tips and suggestions – TMI I know.   

 Bodies everywhere 

Looking at my splits, the last 2000 yards were actually nearly 5 sec per 100 yards faster than the first half!  Unlike last year, I didn’t panic and just kept on trucking although apparently way too slow! I wore the BlueSeventy Nero Race yellowlense goggles that will make even the gloomiest day bright, which allowed me to see the buoys very clearly. I did have a bit of a hard time finding my way into the canal, but once in there I found a descent rhythm. The water in the canal was super choppy but it didn’t really phase me – the very slowly moving bodies however did. I made my way around everyone the best I could, even if that included multiple times of me coming to a dead stop to actually survey what may be the best way to get around the wall of mostly men in front of me. I got pushed, and punched and kicked and shoved, but I shrugged it off. Before I knew it a volunteer was literally pulling me out of the water up onto the stairs like I was a 5 pound weight!  

T2: 3:34

I glanced at my watch, saw my time and very quickly bolted out of there. This wouldn’t be the first time, I would be dissatisfied with my swim time, but I knew the day was young. I actually felt the best I have ever felt coming out of the water, and quickly shifted my focus to what I needed to do in transition and onto the bike I went.

The Bike: 4:58:53

Although I would normally let my crappy swim dictate the first part of the bike, I never once again even thought about my swim time (until post race of course).  I held back a bit even though my legs really wanted to go. I also knew what it was like to race in the heat/humidity in April after training through the east coast winters. (Although the weather was far from what it was like last year even temps in the 70s coupled with 90+% humidity at the start of the day will eventually catch up with you when you are used to the temps in the 20s & 30s). I was moving well, and sticking to my pacing and fueling plan. As a very rhythmic rider, I was actually really excited about this bike course.  It really played to my strengths especially coming of 99% indoor training. I love to just put my head down and go to work. I never even used the front chain ring!

Just getting started! (Photo Credit - Scott Flathouse

Once on the highway, I just put my head down and began to pick up the pace some. 

The scenic IM Texas bike course ;) (Photo Credit - David Reynolds)

The wind was starting to pick up too but it felt like we had an equal head and tail wind both directions. The whole first loop I was staying steady at around 23 mph, and I even did some quick math once I passed the 56 mile marker. At mile 56 I was on pace for a 4:52 bike split. Say WHAT?

Beating trains! (I sadly don't even remember this train!) 
(Photo Credit - David Reynolds)

At mile 82 I was still on pace for that very same time but the last 30 miles back into transition, the wind decided to come out and play! It was headwind and crosswind from hell! I was actually still feeling strong and was able to up my effort/power some more hoping to add some more time on my competition. After averaging 23+ mph for 82 miles, going less than 20 mph however felt super slow, and I spent the last next 20 miles watching my average speed quickly deteriorate to just over 22 mph.
As much as I always wanted to ride my bike on the highway, I was very glad to get of it and put in the final push toward T2. I rolled into T2 with my best power output yet over the IM distance, and feeling strong! 

T2: 3:09
I hopped of the bike, handed Mr. Flash to the volunteers and immediately noticed that my legs were feeling awesome! Thanks to an empty changing tent, I had about 3 volunteers helping me with just about everything! I don’t know who you were, but thank you, thank you, thank you!

The Run: 3:27:40

I bolted out of the changing tent on a mission, with my heart rate way too high! I knew better than that yet I was still flying high. Thankfully only few hundred yards in Kurt Perham of PBM Coaching pretty much told me to cool my jets and I finally began to slow my pace down – my running has been coming along great but not 6:40s-6:50s great ;).

My HR was still a bit high but my effort was feeling super easy, and my legs felt fresh! The weather was a far cry from last years heat and humidity, so for the first time ever, I wasn’t overheating from step 1 BUT my HR was still a bit elevated for the pace I was running. The challenge of racing in the heat/humidity after training through east coast winter is real.  

 Thumbs up to feeling awesome! (Photo Credit - Janina Rajecki Davis)

The eventual winner Emily did pass me fairly quickly around between miles 1 – 2, but I was able to keep her in my sights for the next 6ish miles. I also learned (from her husband) that there was another competitor about 2:30 min up the road from Finland currently leading our AG. I wanted to find her! (This was probably around mile 5)

Still in control (Photo Credit - Janina Rajecki Davis)

I kept on moving with ease and it was at the beginning of the 2nd loop (probably between miles 8-9) that I all of a sudden lost Emily. It turns out she made a quick pit stop and hence I now found myself in front of her. My legs were still feeling good – my HR had settled although still a bit higher for the pace I was running, and I continued to look for Venla the Finish girl who I knew was still in front of me. 

When I hit probably mile 13ish, Emily’s husband told me the gap to the Fin was now down to 1:16 so I knew if I just kept my pace, I had a chance of catching her before the race was over! Of course I am sure he was saying the same to his wife, who kept getting closer and closer to me all of 2nd loop. It was so FUN to be in such a close race! 

 It's getting more real! And yes - the competitor behind me is Emily! 
(Photo Credit - David Reynolds)

By mile 18-19, I ended up passing Venla, and was told by David that I was now leading my Age Group! At this point Emily was back on my heels, and was closing fast. I was definitely starting to feel the hurt. I began to feel low on fuel and I couldn’t get enough liquids in me at each aid station. When Emily passed me around mile 20-21, I went with her for nearly 2 miles, but the lack of fuel has caught up with me and I was feeling awfully thirsty secretly wishing for more aid stations along the way! 
 You gotta love the matching stride! 
(Photo Credit - Janina Rajecki Davis)

Anything can happen in the closing miles of the marathon, and I made the choice to settle into more manageable pace instead of potentially blowing up just a few miles before the marathon. I had come to Texas to get a slot to Kona and I knew if I could just hold on to my pace it was going to be mine. Emily’s pace was too fast for me, and as much as I wanted that “W”, I wanted that Kona slot more.  Blowing myself up and getting caught in the end of a very long day wasn’t in my best interest.  I made a safer decision of the two, but you better believe if this was Kona, I would turn myself inside and out!  

I ended the day with an Ironman PR of 9:49:46, one speedy bike split, new run PR of 3:27:40 and the Kona slot I came here for so it’s hard to be disappointed.

 Hello Kona #5 

Kona girls - 2nd, 3rd, and 5th (1st and 4th already had their slots from IMAZ)

2nd AG by couple minutes stings, but finishing 3rd overall amateur at a competitive North American Championship race after being 10th last year is nothing to sneeze at, and I am super excited for the rest of the season! 

I may have travelled to this race alone, but I felt far from alone! The Woodlands community is absolutely amazing, and I have met many people here that make this race feel like a hometown race for me! Big Thank you to my homestay – the Broncalo’s, David Tilbury-David for being my bike mechanic away from home and making sure I put together Mr. Flash just right, his wife Janina for the awesome run photo’s, Gemma Hollis (PushGlideKick) for letting me swim with her squad while I was here in the Woodlands, Scott Flathouse and David Reynolds for the awesome photo’s used in this blog! The Texas triathlon community is truly awesome!

And of course thank you to my coach Jorge Martinez (E3 Triathlon Coaching), and all my sponsors/supporters without whom I wouldn’t be standing at the start line ready to go year after year!

Next Up: Patriot 70.3 followed by Ironman Lake Placid!