Thursday, December 11, 2014

Two Ironman's in 7 weeks

I take my hat off to the serial IM racers out there, because that is no easy feat.  And if that is something that any of you out there are even entertaining, please make sure that your training has physically and mentally prepared you for the “battle”, because a battle it is. 

But let’s back up a bit. My 2014 season goal was to win the age group amateur title in Kona (Kona Race Report), and IM Cozumel was not on the original schedule. I failed to make that happen, and finished 6th. 6th in the world is nothing to be ashamed of, but I was disappointed. I made certain choices during the race, I wanted to get back but such is racing. It was only few hours after I crossed that finish line an Alii’ Drive that I knew I had to get back to Kona in 2015. And that is when IM Cozumel had made its way to the forefront of my mind. My choices were limited, and I was either going to take a big risk and enter an uncharted territory of following up an Ironman with another Ironman in 7 short weeks (IM Cozumel), or I was going to spend the winter riding my bike on the indoor trainer with the heater on full blast, and no fan to try to acclimate to the heat of Texas next May.  I took about 10 days completely off post Kona and then slowly got back into it. After couple of weeks training, the decision was made. 

 One thing that was very clear to me from day 1 post Kona, I was mentally ready to give it a go! I had also felt great physically, and had some great training sessions which indicated I was fully recovered but not ever  following an Ironman race with anything but offseason had left me with some doubt. I was however more confident than doubtful that this was the right decision and all signs were giving me the green light! I paid more attention to how I actually felt during every single training session and adjusted accordingly when necessary. I paid attention to every little detail more than I ever had (recovery/massage/ART/nutrition/hydration), because I was never at any point going to sacrifice my health. And even if I did, my coach wasn’t going to let me.

I left home bright and early on Thanksgiving Thursday, and finally arrived on the island that evening. The last part of the trip involved one rocky (understatement of the year) ferry ride from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel which really started off my “mind over matter” IM Cozumel experience.  The wind was so strong, I am surprised we didn’t reenact Titanic. I am still not sure how I didn’t throw up. When I finally got off the ferry 40 minutes later, I almost blew away!  Bring it wind, bring it!

Friday, and Saturday were spent building the bike (Huge Thank you goes out to Brian Hughes who pretty much put it together for me in record time), registering, and just making sure all systems were go.  I may have still been carrying some residual “off” feeling from the 40 min rollercoaster ride (I mean ferry ride), but it was easy to shove to the back of my mind. 

Seen on one of my two short pre-race rides

Fireball 2.0 ready for its sleepover

Race morning, I was nervous but confident. I was nervous because, I have NEVER backed up an Ironman race with another race, never mind another Ironman. I have always gone straight into the offseason. I was nervous because no matter how hard you train, or how confident you are, Ironman is a very long day where things that are out of your control can go wrong! I was nervous because I didn’t want those 4 or 5 hour long indoor trainer rides in 80 degree temperature, 75% humidity with no fan, followed by long freezing runs go to waste. I was nervous because I really wanted to make the time away from home worth it, and the only thing that was going to make it worth it for me was to come home with that Kona ticket!  

I was confident, because not only did I train hard all year. I was confident because I had some great long post Kona training sessions that proved to me that I was more than recovered from Hawaii! I was confident because I felt very mentally strong. I was confident because I had a new sense of focus that was a direct result of my “failure” in Kona. I was confident and eager to show, I have learned from my mistakes and I just couldn't wait to see what the day would bring. 

Just missing the potatoes in this set up
With Cozumel being a two transition race (T1 and T2 are in separate locations), and the swim start being yet another 2.4 miles away from T1, logistics are a bit of nightmare but race organizers did a great job!  Can you say women’s and men’s specific porta pottys? Probably the one and only place with the mens lines being longer than women’s.  Huge plus on race morning!
THE SWIM:  1:04:20 (21st AG, 94th female overall)
Point to point straight shot, warm, super clear beautiful swim complete with occasional jelly fish stings. For the first time this race also featured a wave start, and although I wasn’t a fan at first, it turned out to be the best thing EVER. Some of the guys may think otherwise, but from a selfish perspective of having a clean race for the amateur females, I would like to think it was the best wave distribution ever!  
The current itself wasn’t as strong as one would think based on how it was advertised (IM Chattanooga by far wins that crown), and I honestly didn’t even feel it until the end of the race.I swam relaxed, strong, pretty straight and mostly alone the entire time. As a result, I would sight more often than I normally would to avoid zigging and zagging. I had to do some navigating around the slower swimmers, but I was able to find my rhythm early on and stick with it.
Before I knew it, I was climbing up the stairs, and running down towards T1. 
T1: 4:29
I moved as fast as possible and didn’t really have any hick ups. Unless of course you count the mouth full of “who knows what” that came up out of nowhere as I was running out of the changing tent towards my bike as one.  For a moment I thought that this may make the rest of the race quite interesting, but I quickly shrugged it off and accounted it to couple of the gulps of salt water I took in by accident during the swim. 
THE BIKE: 5:14:46 (1st AG, fastest female amateur bike split by 15 minutes, and 2nd including pro's)
Having done this race last year, I was ready for a few things. The normal Cozumel conditions consisting of a strong head/cross/tail wind, the sun, the rain and huge draft packs! I was mentally ready to handle it all!  In the days leading up to the race, these signs were plastered absolutely everywhere, so I really couldn’t wait to see if they were actually going to be enforced! 

Among all places, found in the women's bathroom at registration/expo
I wasn’t a fan of the swim wave start, as I really feel mass starts are part of the true IM experience, but I also had a bad taste left in my mouth from Mt. Tremblant worlds and the short 3 min gap separating each wave, which was also the case here. However as I mentioned before, sending all females first with the exception of the 50+AG  males was probably the best thing that could have happened– at least for me. The draft packs/pelotons from last year were non-existent, and I pretty much had a clear road the entire time!  I did most of my passing in the first loop of the 3-loop course, and was able to keep my head down, and the pedal to the metal the entire time without any distractions.  I can’t speak to what happened behind me, but from where I was in the race, I saw the least amount of drafting if any at all. I can only wish every single race was like this! Kudos to race organizers for changing it up, and trying to make the race more legal hopefully for all of us.

My plan going into the race was conservative given the short little race I did just 7 weeks prior. Conservative meaning riding around 70-72%. I had mixed feelings about the plan with bike being my strength, but by race day I was 100% committed. Keeping these numbers slightly lower would hopefully mean a faster run split, which is something I have yet to be able to do in an IM but know  I can do.
With potato's in tow
I stuck to my numbers on the first 2 loops, and even had to hold myself back from going too hard. You can see my power file here (Bike Power File) Pedal to the metal the entire time except for coasting through aid stations, during pee breaks, and the twisty turns through town. 

Making my way through town 
Aero was the name of the game
I was following my slightly updated fueling plan, which was working like a charm, until the last 20 miles or so of the bike. Remember the little “incident” from T1? This time I was able to keep everything down, but just started to feel slightly nauseous. The thought of another bottle of Gatorade was making me sick, but guzzling down the water seemed to do the trick. The thought of how am I going to run a marathon feeling like this had most certainly entered my mind, but as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared! The power of positive thinking had returned in an instant. I had made the choice to back of power in the last 10 miles of the race, and tried to get this “nauseous” feeling under control. I was still moving fast, flying by whoever was in sight, and with the exception of Gatorade my nutrition was staying down. Another crisis averted.
113.5 miles later I was dismounting the bike and running into a very empty T2 ready to run.
T2: 1:23
The privilege of being in the T2 alone is lots of attention. Too bad I didn't enjoy it for long. I was out of there quick. Thank you volunteers! 
THE RUN: 3:33:46 (1st AG, 8th fastest amateur run) 
Going into the race, I really wanted to run well and I wanted to leave it all out there. Running out of T2 into the streets of Cozumel was awesome because the crowd support is absolutely unbelievable. However it also makes you run faster by default. I made that mistake last year and I most certainly did not want to repeat it. Enough with letting my pace drop into the 9 or 10 min paces – I can’t run that slow in training so I really didn’t want to do it in a race!
The sun was out and it was hot, but I was ready for that. The course on the first loop was very empty, which made me feel like one of the pro’s. I had the aid stations all to myself, and getting a ton of attention. Plenty of ice, water, coke (in this case pepsi), you name it they had it. I was able to stay right on pace and my targeted HR the entire first loop (8 miles), and was feeling GREAT! I also felt this great in Kona, until I didn’t. 

Mile 7ish - everything is better with a smile!
The goal was to keep the same pace for loop #2, but that all came to a halt quickly at mile 10. The “nauseous” feeling from the bike had returned, and my pace right along with my HR started to drop slowly but surely with each mile. I am fairly new to running with heart rate, but I have never watched my heart rate get lower and lower with each mile like it was happening here. To the contrary, given the conditions, I was pretty sure I may see my heart rate higher than I normally would have for my IM pace. I thankfully continued to be able to keep my nutrition down and just kept focusing on one mile at a time. I didn’t look ahead, I didn’t have the countdown going, I wasn’t hating life, I wasn’t wondering why I do this, and I wasn’t swearing of ironman like I have in every single one of my other IM races.
All my energy was going into keeping it together one mile at a time, and not letting my pace slip any further. The nauseous feeling would come and go but I was so focused on forward progress, that that became secondary. By mile 19 my legs really started to hurt, and my HR was lower than I have ever seen it.  It was that “hey, what do you want from us, we just did this 7 weeks ago” deal. It was now really mind over matter, but where before I would have slowed down and pondered the “why” am I doing this, or how many miles I left, I was able to stay in the moment, and keep pushing. 
You can see my Run File here and how I had to fight for every single mile after mile 10. 
Come mile 24, I started to pick up the pace, and come the last 1.2 I laid it all out. Every fiber in my body was quite possibly screaming to stop, but for the first time in an IM, my head didn’t get in the way. 

Mile 25/26 - focusing on bringing it home 

Rounding the last corner toward the finish line

Steps away from the finish line and the smile is back

 I couldn't be happier with my day. Mission Accomplished! 
The second I stopped, I realized the pain I was in, but I was quite possibly the happiest human alive on the entire island of Cozumel!
Ouch but oh so worth it! 
I still didn’t run as fast as I know I can and will, but I had mentally and physically put together the race I was looking for.
I got my Kona ticket, finished 1st AG (30-34), 2nd Overall Amateur, and 8th Overall including a very descent professional field. I ran a marathon PR of 3:33:45, and broke 10 hours with an official time of 9:58:44. More importantly I stayed focused and in the moment every single second of this race not once doubting or figuring out "why". 

With that my 2014 is in the books, and although I had failed to reach a few goals of mine, I had learned and grown more than ever, which is something that wouldn't have happened had I not come short. 
I can't say enough to my supporters near, and far and my sponsors that allow me to chase my dreams. In no particular order: Landry's BicyclePowerBarE3 TrainingEC3D SportsBlueSeventyCastelliRacePakBeet It. THANK YOU! 
And now, it's offseason time and time to put together the 2015 Race Schedule which will be highlighted with my 3rd IM Kona World Championships next October. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ironman World Championship - Kona 2014

It’s been almost a month since THE race, and my mind is still racing. I have so much to say, yet I don’t know where to start. Every time I sit down to put my thoughts on paper, my fingers get paralyzed. I shut my eyes, and I feel like I am there!

October 11t, 2014 – almost 7 am, treading water at Kailua Bay in Kona, Hawaii surrounded by hundreds of other super fast women, and spectators, waiting for the canon to go off to start THE race I had my eyes set on winning for the last 2 years.  I did say “winning”, and I did say “2 years”.  

I have a tremendous respect for this race and Kona to me is a very special. Yes – it is the World Championship but it will also forever be my very first ironman! Talk about throwing myself into the “fire”!  It further presents the greatest challenge for my body and mind. It is 140.6 miles of unpredictable, where every little mistake, misjudgment, and weakness gets magnified. As Jan Frodeno said: “It’s paradise, and it’s hell all at once”. 

Paradise! The best sunsets in the world brought to you from the dinner table

Riding your bike through the lava fields can turn into "hell" very quickly

The atmosphere on the island is absolutely electrifying and hard to put into words.  You really have to be part of it to understand. Whether as competitor, volunteer, spectator, or just a tourist that happened to vacation on the island during the 2nd week of October, you will feel something special and even you may start walking around town in spandex of half naked ;).

 Gotta love the underwear run!

Love me so Barnana! 

Just getting to Kona is a journey! It is a long process! One that requires a lot of dedication with which comes sacrifice! And although triathlon is an individual sport, it takes a village, and I would like to thank mine for allowing me and helping me to chase my dreams.

I arrived on the island full week before the race, which meant I got to  swim/bike/run a little on the course, get acclimated to the 6 hour time difference, and soak in the atmosphere that this race brings with it. Unlike two years ago, when I toed the line as an ironman rookie, this year I felt a certain level of confidence that I really do belong here. The chiseled, “I am in the best shape of my life” bodies walking around town didn’t intimidate me. I 100% believed in my preparation and my own ability to end up on top of that podium. I knew anything can happen, but I also knew that if I execute my "perfect" race, I’ll give myself a chance to stand on that IM World Championship podium with an “umeke” bowl over my head that I had dreamed about so many times.

Fast forward to race morning. The dreaded breakfast  (it’s always a struggle to get it down), the unusual body marking process (because if you made it here, we will just have people apply race number tatoos on you in the am), the moment when you are asked to step on the scale which becomes very important post race in case you really do leave everything out on that race course, the “long” walk to find your bike racked on the famous pier to get it ready to fight the elements out on the Queen K.

The final minutes once all that is taken care of always feel like hours! That was true especially this year, since this was the first year of wave starts, and we were the last wave to go off at 7am – 10 min after the AG men, 30 min after the PRO women, and 40 min after the PRO men.  

THE SWIM: 1:18:23

I was really nervous, but as soon as I entered the water, and looked around, I knew I was ready to fight.  The swim start in Hawaii is special! The last 5 min of treading water was a great indication of how the swim would go. Just because there were less of us, didn’t mean it was going to be any less physical. To the contrary, I was getting kicked and pushed around before we even started swimming but I held my own. I wasn't  happy to just be here, I wanted to win. I took one last look around me and before I knew it, the cannon went off.


I felt great, swimming steady and pretty effortlessly. Although I didn’t start on the buoy line, I made my way to it fairly soon, and had quite a bit of company along the way. The water was choppy, but I felt great even though I kept getting pushed and kicked and smacked from both sides pretty much the entire way out to the turnaround. As we started to near the turnaround we started to run into blue caps which given the conditions became a bit more difficult to navigate. The chop kept increasing, but I continued to feel very good while passing more and more blue caps (men) and working with a few other women that were swimming around me. I had my Garmin set to beep every 10 minutes, but I was so in the zone and concentrated on the task at hand, I didn’t even know how many beeps I have heard so when I heard one loud beep as I was nearing the pier, I was super excited to see the 1 hour mark. Instead my Garmin read 1:10, with at least another 500 yards to go which threw me for a loop and with that a pretty big emotional let down.  The quiet, calm and focused head of mine went into a full on brawl. I was not happy, and I just couldn’t understand why I swam so slow when I felt so good! I felt like I let myself and few others down in a big time.

 I end up smashing my knees and tripping on those steps every time!

In retrospect, I ended up swimming almost 2.7 miles which would actually explain why I felt so good. 1:18 for 2.7 miles sounds much better than 1:18 for 2.4 and would be right around the pace I was hoping to actually swim. None less it was time to keep moving, but even though I was really trying to leave the swim behind, it kept popping up at the forefront of my mind for a bit longer than I would have like it to.  

THE BIKE: 5:21:15 (6th fastest amateur bike split)

This one is a tough one to write about. Yes, it was hot, and yes it was incredibly windy - as in athletes getting blown of their bikes windy but that is Hawaii. I felt awesome getting on my bike and although I spent the first 10 miles still thinking about how I could have felt so great but swim so slow, my power numbers were falling right where they needed to be. I may have ridden more centuries this year than I did during my entire triathlon career and as a result, my pacing was dialed in! 

Trying really hard to forget about the swim! 

Once I made it onto the Queen K, I finally put the swim behind me, put my head down, and went to work. I kept riding by feel, but was locked in within the power ranges my coach and I discussed prior to the race for different sections of the race. I would slow down at every aid station to grab fuel whenever I needed or at least a cold bottle of water to cool myself off. The wind was real, and the heat index was rising. I found myself pedaling downhill in a small front chain ring just to go 10mph – did I mentioned it was on a downhill? I didn’t let that get to me but it was seriously windy. I kept moving, staying aero and before you know it, I was climbing up towards the turnaround at Hawi. The road went up, and my numbers went up with it which was the plan.

I continued to feel great until I didn’t. The descend back from Hawi was rough! I usually strive on the downhills and have no fear, but I was worried I may not make it down in one piece. I tried to relax as much as I could while still moving at a descent clip (at times way over 30mph), but between the strong crosswinds/gusts and watching people being blown all over the road right in front of my eyes, I was scared. I lost the great rhythm I had going for the first 60 miles of the race and I also neglected my to this point spot on “cooling” and drinking. I drank when I thought I could let go of my handlebars which wasn’t too often, so by the time I got to the bottom of Hawi and back on the Queen K around the 80 mile mark, I was boiling. It was then in the heat and wind of the moment when things started to fall apart. I made the decision to stick to “x” pace, instead of putting my head down and getting it done. The last 30 miles were rough. I had some great moments where I was able to get back into my rhythm and just get it done, but I had some sections during which my power plummeted to numbers I would normally only see on a recovery ride. The wind was still out in full force and it definitely wasn’t cooling. I did get back on track in terms of cooling and nutrition, but the “damage” was done, and decision to back off was made.

Looking back, yes, I moved through the field all day long making my way from 50th after the swim to 5th in my AG, passing a total of 601 athletes and posting the 6th fastest female amateur bike split, but it is the leg of the race I am disappointed about the most. I failed to capitalize on my strength, but I will be back to make it right!

Despite the hot and windy bike, and due to my decision to roll through the last 10 miles with ease in favor of not overheating or destroying myself, I rolled into transition feeling good and ready to run. 

THE RUN: 3:36:05

I had one thought running through my head at the beginning of this run, and that was to NOT go out too fast as I did the other two times I raced this distance. It didn’t help I had one of my competitors running about 25 yards in front of me the entire time, but I was trying my best to hold back, so I could actually run when it counts the most (The last 10K).  The second thought I had was to cool and fuel at each aid station. I was like a robot moving through every single aid station and grabbing just about anything that was being offered to me. Sponges, ice down the shorts, water, coke, water, more ice, and just keep moving. 

No idea what I am doing with my hands BUT probably telling myself to slooooow down! 

I was staying cool, in control, running pretty much right on pace plus or minus a few seconds here and there. Around mile 3 or 4, someone on roller blades with a camera in his hands started to follow me and finally asked a few questions, and in Czech! Aaaaaaah, Czech TV here. Oh boy, I better look like I know what I am doing ;). (You can see the shortened clip here, but a 1 hour Czech version of the race was shown few weeks ago back home). I got almost 30 seconds of fame! 

I kept ticking of the miles, and even felt great going up the famous Palani hill. I was really confident and happy, I was finally going to nail this marathon thing off the bike! I started to become pretty emotional, which obviously happened way too soon, but it happened. I started to slow down a touch around mile 16, and by mile 18/19 things started to fall apart quickly. Just in time for the famous run through the energy lab! Even though by this time we had a cloud cover and it was nowhere near as hot as it was the time I did one of my training runs in there (if I remember correctly it may have even rained some while I was in there), I was struggling big time and started to question my existence. The super positive emotional state I was in just a few shorts miles away, turned into how the heck am I going to survive the next 7 miles! I kept moving as best as I could, but it wasn’t pretty and the count down to the finish line was on. The typical “why am I doing this” popped up in my head more than a few times in the last 6 miles. I am not counting the last 1.2 because I call it the “free” mile. No matter how much you are hurting that late in the race, the last mile in Kona is special, and the fan support has the ability to take all the pain away (temporarily). I threw myself down Palani, and emptied the tank as I crossed the finish line. 

 Happy, and exhausted

 Wobble Right 

Wobble Left
 Finishing Time: 10:21:29 (6th AG – 30-34; 17th amateur female, and 46th Overall including Pro’s)

Couple hours, and about a gallon of chicken soup and some time in the med tent, I was alive and smiling again :) 

I was very bummed to miss the podium by 1 spot (again), but that’s racing, I had nothing more to give on that day, and for that I have zero regrets. There were a few other women that were stronger than me, and made better decisions than I did. Congratulations to them all!  Watching everyone get on the podium the next day to get their “Umeke’s” made the tears flow again but coming short has only made me stronger.

See those Umeke's on that table? There is one with my name on it, I know it! ;) 

Although I “crumbled” when it counted the most, it has already proved to serve as an invaluable fuel to fire for next time, because I’ll be back with a new laser focus and a better physical and mental game! Not to waste any time, the quest already started and I made the decision to toe the line of IM Cozumel in couple weeks. Race number #2221 if you are to full from Thanksgiving dinner and want to follow my progress on race day ;) 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Triple 7

7th Overall Amateur, missing the podium by 7 seconds on September 7th

Mont-Tremblant 70.3 World Championships was not just another race. It was not just another half ironman, it was not just another World Championship. I have raced my very first 70.3 world championship back in 2010, and every year since then except for last year. Last year I decided that next time I’ll go back to race a WC championship event, I won’t just celebrate getting there but I will want to win it.

Call me crazy, call me delusional, call me cocky, call me dreamy, but I like to set my goals high and then go get them. My goals are not secret. Everyone that knows me, knows what my goals are! I love to win, I hate to lose. I love to get the best out of myself, and I love the journey, the process, and what it takes. But let’s back up to this past Sunday.  

It was no secret that my goal going into this race was to win - to win my age group and the overall amateur title. Few days before the race I shared this picture on facebook. 

I wanted that trophy, and I wanted it bad. Too bad I would have had to race and win the pro race to get one but you get the point.

To arrive at a world championship event confident that I had the tools to win has been a long process. One that didn't just take days, weeks, or months but rather years – 4 to be exact. I specifically dedicated last year and this year to improve enough to have that chance and the ability to compete with the best of the best. Or at least the best that show up, and this year definitely didn't disappoint in that department. Quality field was assembled and athletes from 67 different countries toed the line.

Easy to spot czech chick I mean czech flag

It was a process throughout which I learned more about myself than I ever thought I would. This year, I raced very little, and really concentrated on putting together solid training blocks that would get me closer to my goal. I stuck to the plan. I trained hard. I paid more attention to detail not only in my training but also recovery. More importantly I was able to stay healthy and very consistent. I cannot stress enough how important consistency is! It wasn’t always easy, and there were lots of laughs, but also tears, but I had a blast! I won’t bore you with details but come September 7th, I was in the best shape I have ever been in, and ready to show the world (literally)! 

I arrived in Mont- Tremblant on Thursday afternoon, registered, walked the expo, and went for a quick ride. On my 45 min ride, I picked up a leech (little did I know it was just a preview of what is to come on race day), and then I saw Meredith Kessler zoom by. I do have to say it took a lot for me to not catch up to her and ride with her, but I decided to save my watts for race day and stick to my training plan. 

Checking out the course on Thursday 

Once I was done with my ride, we headed to our place for the weekend, which was another 30 or so minute drive further north but it was so worth it!

Waking up to this certainly didn't suck! 

Just beautiful and so incredibly relaxing I can't even put it into words

Thank you Brenda and Noah for the hospitality.  I bet none of my competition was carbo loading while sitting around the camp fire and making or watching others make s’mores! ;) 

The only compression tights or socks in sight were my own! Thank you EC3D for your support! 

Checking in Fireball v2.0 into transition area the day before the race of course fully decked out in EC3D compression gear

Race morning couldn't come fast enough! I was super nervous, but mainly because I knew I had the tools to get it done. Nonetheless that made getting breakfast down near impossible. It was quite chilly in the morning, and I couldn’t stop shivering regardless of the many layers of clothing I was wearing. Thankfully couple of my teammates/friends were staying at a hotel right in center of the town so I was able to warm up inside their hotel room and put my wetsuit on there rather than by the lake. By the time we walked over to the start, I had just enough time to warm up in the water, and before I knew it the gun went off.

THE SWIM: 32:44

It’s no secret that swimming has always been a huge Achilles heel for me, and I very well knew that if I swim like a turtle, my hopes for winning will be over.  However, my consistent work in the water had finally started to pay off.  I have been swimming well in training, but in the end that meant nothing to me until I proved it to myself in a race. I was confident yet still super nervous about the swim. I lined up in the front very well knowing that I will most likely get swum over but I was determined to find some feet and stick with it. 

I am in there somewhere but this time in the mix

I was going to try to do anything to not get dropped and swim alone. I had no desire to show the world my amazing zig zag abilities. I did just that and found a pair of feet that few of us were fighting for, but I wasn't giving in this time. I was staying on these feet, and I was not letting go of the girl that was swimming directly next to me either. I was getting punched, pushed under, kicked, but I didn’t care and kept on moving. We were swimming directly on the buoy line and perfectly straight from buoy to buoy. I was seriously the happiest girl in that lake right there and then even though this was by far the most physical swim I have ever been part of! The occasional punches and fighting for space lasted the entire 1.2 miles, but I didn’t care. I was still with my swim companion even after the 1st and even 2nd turn buoy! We were now in the final stretch and I still wasn’t getting swum over by the super swimmers from the wave behind me. I knew I was swimming well, but sighting was becoming more difficult due to the bright sun that was now directly in our eyes. I actually couldn’t see much besides the swimmers ahead of me, but I was fine because I wasn't alone. That is until my goggles started to fill up with water. Moment of panic quickly entered my head. I continued to swim for just a little longer, until my goggles were completely filled up with water and I decided to let my swim buddy go to. I made a quick adjustment and tried to catch back up, but my goggles filled up  almost immediately again. As much as I didn’t want to swim alone for the rest of the swim, I wear contacts and I really couldn’t afford to be blind for the rest of the race so I stopped again, and this time took a little more time, fixed the goggles, and got on my way, except this time completely alone. It was also the time I started to see the super fast fish from the wave behind motor by me. I tried holding on to some feet for short periods of time, but it didn’t last long, these guys were moving.  

If you looked carefully you can see the return buoys in the distance

In the end, this was by far my best swim to date. When I got out of the water I saw the watch click over to 32 min, I couldn’t have been happier! Of course I also had the thought of “if it wasn’t for stopping twice to fix my goggles, I could have posted a better time” run through my head, but I didn’t dwell on either. I have worked very hard to be able to get myself closer to the competition at the beginning of the bike and I finally made it happen! Great start to the day. 

T1: 4:52

Out of water, quick pit stop with the wetsuit strippers, run on the red carpet

Look, I am flying

Just to give you an idea how long of a run this was, but the spectators were amazing! 

Into the tent find bag with all bike gear (too bad someone totally moved mine from its original spot), helmet on, shoes in hand

The mess inside the tent

Run some more, find bike, put shoes on, run with bike to the mount line. Quite possibly the longest T1 ever! I was just glad I didn’t trip on the red carpet because that would just be embarrassing.

THE BIKE: 2:22:10

It was time to take an advantage of my strength. I was ready! I wanted to really go for it and just see what happens. I had to put myself on the line if I was going to have a chance at winning, and I did just that. I had ridden harder, and pushed more watts than I ever have in a race of this distance and although I ended up with one of the best amateur bike splits comparable to many of the top pro’s, it was this part of the race that made me almost quit the whole race. Although physically and mentally I was ready to ride hard, I was not ready for the draft fest that this race turned out to be. It didn't even occur to me that Mont-Tremblant could become another Clearwater. I don’t want to turn this post into one about drafting, but it was so bad, that I seriously contemplated quitting the race right there on highway 117. Being passed by constantly growing pelotons full of people who I have already passed sucks! It is also highly dangerous, which is another story! Playing cat and mouse with said pelotons sucks even more! Pushing close to 4.5 w/kg into headwind, re-passing pelotons, and barely moving faster than girls on road bikes with clip-ons sucks the most! 

I kept pushing the pace and did my absolute best to ride an honest race. The hill near the turn around at mile 20 immediately followed by an aid station broke up the field quite a bit which was great, because I could finally just put my head down and enjoy the smooth roads Mont Tremblant had to offer. 

I was able to one by one pass a lot of the people that swallowed me up like I was standing earlier in the ride, some of which I was now passing for the 2nd or 3rd time. I was focused again on me and only me until we started to ride back into town. This 5 mile section from about mile 35 to 40 included either slow climbs or fast descends but was coned off and super narrow in spots which made it impossible to get around people. I may be light, but I can carry my power and fly downhill which was impossible given the road situation. Miles 40-50 were full of punchy climbs and short descents which included more of the same cat and mouse games but you get the point by now.

Aside from being extremely frustrated by drafting in the earlier parts of the race, I had a great and honest ride. My Fireball v2.0 showed just how fast we can fly together. Thank you Landry’s Bicycles and Trek for the speed machine! 

Fireball v2.0

I had a fast bike split that may raise some eyebrows, but I am proud to say I worked for it! I posted the highest power I ever have for this distance, and I rode my heart out. Before I knew it, I was rolling into T2.

T2: 1:21 

As long as T1 was, T2 was quick. I hopped off the bike, handed it to the volunteer, and found my bag quickly. Socks/shoes on, and I was off.

 What T2 looked like

THE RUN: 1:34:58

Getting off the bike, my legs felt great. No brick like feeling that one could expect after taking a little bit of a risk on the bike. I left T2 with the eventual overall amateur winner Ashley, who deserves a shout out! She brought her A game, and totally killed it, especially on the run! She showed me how it’s done and quickly left me in the dust!  

Starting the run

The Mont Tremblant run course was 2 loops of either up and down with very limited flat surface. There were spectators everywhere, and especially on the cobblestone climb that went through the center of town.  

Good thing there were a ton of spectators or else this hill would have been a lot tougher especially the second time around

Looks way more intimidating when empty!

I would have liked to run faster, but I laid it all out there on the line, and with that I can’t be upset. I knew I had a girl closing in on me fast in the last mile of the run, and I gave it my all. When she ran by me on that last cobblestone section with about 100 yards left, I tried to go with her but just had nothing left. She ended up beating me by 7 seconds for the final spot on the age group podium.  Not how I imagined this race would end. I was upset, I was quite emotional, I was frustrated, and I quickly came up with many scenarios on where I lost those 7 seconds. I will never forget that cobblestone section of that run course.

Thank you to all my sponsors - BlueSeventy, and Castelli for keeping me chafe free, Landry's Bicycles and Trek for the speed machine now known as Fireball v2.0, PowerBar for keeping my belly happy and energy levels high, Beet-It for being a big part of my pre-race nutrition, RacePak for always making sure I have enough snacks everywhere I go so I don't ever get hungry (those guys know that if that happens it's not pretty), and EC3D for being my go to pre and post race choice of recovery attire. My E3 coaches, teammates, training partners, and of course my supporters at home (you all know who you are), thank you! I couldn't do it without you, and your support is appreciated more than I could ever explain. Kona is less than 30 days away and I have big plans so buckle up because this was just an appetizer! ;)

I’ll leave you with a sentence that summarizes my Mont-Tremblant race experience, which I borrowed from a blog of a fellow racer:  

“It was an awesome venue, with many amazing athletes, and I raced clean with all my heart and soul”
Overall time: 4:36:06 – 6th AG (30-34), 7th Overall Amateur, and 29th including the pro women