“Surprise yourself every day with your own courage” – Denholm Elliott
Wow, I can’t believe the 2017 season has come and gone already, it seems like just yesterday we were gearing up for the end of 2016 with Ironman Arizona. We flew to Louisville on Wed night and, after a delayed flight, we arrived at our airbnb. Our host was nice to give us a tour; despite our exhaustion it was a warm welcome. Thursday consisted of checking in, getting our bikes from Tribike Transport (thank you again for such wonderful service), and a quick ride. Friday was an easy swim, driving the bike course, and a wonderful coeur sports teammate dinner down at 4th Street live. Saturday was a shakeout bike, and an attempt to run. I hadn’t run in a week due to a lower leg issue (not sure what it is) and the week leading up to the race I was trying to alleviate some of the pain. I had two acupuncture appts, was wearing compression 24/7 and it was starting to feel better. Welp, that ‘run’ was about a minute and I knew what I was going to have to deal with on race day – feeling that spot for a marathon. I was ok with it, I had completed some of my best running workouts to date while dealing with it. After bike check in, quick hugs from Meghan, Rosalyn and Chris, it was off my feet for the rest of the day.
Race Day: Up later than normal, thanks to the dark skies so late, we got to sleep in on race AM until 4:30! Ate my normal pre race breakfast, but was having an issue getting my protein drink down… eventually I think my nerves got the better of me. D and I found parking fairly easily in the garage, and transition was fairly easy to set up. After body marking, we headed up the road (almost a mile) to the swim start. Not sure how it happened, but wouldn’t you know we stubbled upon Meaghan, Chris and Rosalyn in line. THANK GOD. I was about to loose it emotionally and these guys completely get me. Instantly I felt so much better. My other teammate, Christina, somehow stumbled upon us as well, it was so good to see her! Eventually, D and I said our goodbyes, then Chris said his goodbye to us, and soon followed Rosalyn did too. One of my FAVORITE things about this race – walking to the start and jumping in with one of my best friends. I was so much calmer, so much more relaxed having Meaghan by my side.
Swim: 1:02.20 (4120 yds, 1:27/100 yds)* PR
Meaghan and I said our last minute ‘love yous’ and plummeted into the murky Ohio River. After calming myself down for a few strokes, I was under way. This swim starts upstream then turns left into the middle of the river. I was passing people left and right, which was a little weird as we started in the back of the 60-70min swim group. I was finding some good feet and felt comfortable swimming, focusing on my form and breathing. Not too much sooner, we started turning left towards the middle of the river – and HOLY COW was it choppy. Which kind of made it fun. I was really proud of my effort so far and kept rolling with it. I was still somehow passing people all around me. I told myself, even if I didn’t PR in this swim, I would be proud because I was swimming hard, smooth, strong and focused the entire time. I almost didn’t want to get out, which was silly because the water was kinda gross. I kept pretending in my head I was swimming in Cayuga Lake, so I suppose that’s good thing. Before long, I could see the last red turn buoy and thanks to Lauren, I made sure I didn’t smash my legs against the steps. Before I got pulled up, I stopped my watch and saw the time. I freaked out. I got to the landing, got my wetsuit ripped off, and basically freaked out (I think both Rosalyn and Christina saw that). I swam a HUGE PR and was pretty content with the race ending there, ha!
Bike: 5:51.11 (19.14 mph)
As I was running towards my gear bag, I have to say, I realized my leg was feeling great so I was optimistic about the marathon later. Transition was quick, but I was a little sad to see ALL the bikes gone around me, but reminded myself there was a LOT of racing left. One downside to this race is you literally have the longest transitions ever to bike out/run out etc. They took FOREVER but before long, I was on my bike and on my way.
D and I talked about the wind and more specifically to keep my head in it (unlike Arizona last year). The first 20 or so miles were slightly uphill, but a major tailwind so I flew, then you could start to feel the wind. I constantly reminded myself to continue to be patient. I saw Rosalyn in La Grange which was a welcomed sight – I got a little emotional seeing her, but pulled it together. The spectators out on the loop part of the course were awesome. I was a little disappointed in only seeing ONE course marshal the entire 112 miles on the bike and NO one in any of the penalty tents because I tended to see a LOT of drafting. Can I also tell you – the sky got SO DARK on the first loop. Like seriously on top of the wind, I was waiting to see some sort of funnel cloud but fortunately none came.
The second loop came fast, I was sad not to see Rosalyn in La Grange (she was a great sport and wanted to make sure she was back at T2), then that HUGE bump (those who know the course know what I’m talking about) had people almost bike into me. What a disaster that was for people. Bottles everywhere, some people had road rash. I passed a car going up the hill with the pirates in speedos handing out rum so that was fun. Eventually after some uneventful miles, some car dodging, there was the last part of the bike – the 33 miles back to Louisville, in a major head wind. I kept reminding myself of what Kona would be like, but with about 20 miles to go, I felt so defeated. I was watching my HR, focused on keeping my feet moving and keeping it rubber side down. BUT wouldn’t you know, 5 miles from T2 – there was some sort of CRAZIER wind, rain and idk what. Let’s say I just tucked down in aero and fought my way to the end. I got back, shook my head (trying to keep it together) at both Christina and Rosalyn and made my way down to T2.
I basically threw my bike at a volunteer (sorry Benny, it was me, not you) and ran towards my gear bag. I grabbed the bag and a volunteer was running with me. I told her I was about to loose it, but that I was ok. As soon as I said it, the tears started flowing. Dear volunteer, you were awesome, thank you for not freaking out and just being helpful. With one more moment sitting in the chair, with a deep breath and some cheers from the volunteers, I ran out of the tent and decided I would try to run (still crying as I was heading out to the run course).
Run: 3:27.53 (7:56/mi) *PR
Heading out on the run, I had no desire to go. The bike was so mentally draining, I was over the race. I had no idea where I was and I figured there was no way I would achieve my main goal, but nothing was really physically preventing me from running, and I couldn’t see D so off I went. Poor Rosalyn, she was so excited and I was crying as I ran by. Girl – sorry for all the emotions ha. Not too much later I caught back up to Kate W, whom I have to also give a big shoutout to – having you near by was so helpful to me on the bike and the run. OH also, pro tip: change your HR monitor battery before any big race. Yes, mine died with like 20 miles left on the bike. Fortunately, I knew the effort I needed and knew what paces I had been running. ALSO by the grace of god, my HR on my watch was somewhat accurate.
The miles ticked by, around miles 2-3 I saw Beth and Kait, who looked great running and I kept putting on foot in front of the other. I could feel my leg, but it wasn’t getting worse and fortunately my shoes felt just right. At the low points of the race I was thinking of D, my mom, my wonderful supportive friends and family, B Jackson, my athletes, our members at work and for once, myself. This run was about me, and what I could do. I shut the mind off and went on auto pilot, I just ran. I ran into Chris at about mile 6, where I was still unsure, he helped reassure me to just keep going. I felt like I hadn’t seen anyone in my AG all day, which was heart breaking because I knew I couldn’t have been leading my AG, which meant no Kona slot. I dismissed this thought more than once, but it was hard to try to be honest with myself but, I figured I would still give myself this chance and see how many people I could run down. My first goal was to try to keep out running D (I saw him at the end of his first loop) and to get to half way.
My stomach was a mess. I couldn’t go to the bathroom on the bike (sorry for the bluntess) and I didn’t want to stop on the run. I kept downing coke and gatorade. D passed me around mile 11 and a few of the male pros and top male AGers gave me some reassuring feedback about how strong I looked and to keep it going. At mile 13 I saw Christina and sadly asked her where I was – she tried hard to find it quick (super appreciated it!!) but I missed her. Fortunately Rosalyn at that point told me I was in 5th and was running 20 second/mi faster than everyone in my AG. That was when I decided to keep trucking along. A HUGE shoutout to the Drink Maple crew for the pop up stand – the SECOND time in a race where they’ve been there when my stomach needed something else. I carried that bottle with me for 3 or 4 miles. When I reached mile 18, I started doing some math in my head and realized I could run a sub 3:30 marathon – which would be a big PR. At mile 20, I decided to make a quick pitstop as I feared I would throw up (again still had to pee). I didn’t want to stop, fearing my leg would tighten up or I would ruin my rhythm, but I feared losing my hydration more. It was a quick stop, then I was on my way. At this point, it was about getting to the bridge, to the aid station, to the out and back, etc.
Meaghan was on her first loop, where I practically broke her hand giving her a high five. She looked so good, and I just tried my best to hold it together for her. I so wanted her to have a good day, she’s been working so hard and giving it so much. With 3 miles to go, my legs finally started to really ache, like really ache and I started the convo in my head that these were the last miles of the year. Mile 24-25 was the worst, and I pulled it together for the last mile, especially after a police officer let a car go infront of me. I was SO scared to stop that I wouldn’t get going again, I screamed noooo.. but there was plenty of time. In the last mile, I just kept pumping my arms, thinking that this was it, that I was almost done, just a few more turns. Running down the last bit, hitting that red carpet, the noise, I completely lost it. I tried to pull myself together (Sorry mom I didn’t smile, it was all I could do to get to the finish line). I pulled out a big PR, a lifetime PR in the marathon. Upon finishing D told me I beat 4th by 8 seconds, which was my last mile where I dipped under 8 for the last time then I was wheeled away to medical… where I was nauseous again, shivering uncontrollably, and laid there with 3 blankets for an hour.
I ended up 4th in my AG, with PRs in the swim and run, and an overall PR with a 10:31. It’s crazy how competitive my AG is, and I do thank the other strong woman for constantly pushing me to be my best. I started the day thinking this race would make or break me emotionally. This year has been so trying, mentally, physically and emotionally. The lows were so low and the highs at the end of the season were incredible. I thought if I didn’t KQ I’d be done, I’d be a wreck. I left Lousiville knowing I left absolutely everything out on that course. I have no regrets and I am proud. I know I’ll get to Kona, this year wasn’t in the cards for me, but I trust it’s there.
Thank you to the volunteers, the southern hospitality of Louisville and the wonderful community who welcomed us crazy athletes. You all were amazing. Thank you to the woman who was working TSA when we left and mentioned how strong I was and asked how my race went. It was at this moment that I was, and AM, SO proud of how much I’ve faught to be a STRONG woman, a healthy woman.
I can’t give enough words to my Mom, Alex, Meaghan, Rosalyn, and my other friends and family near and far who constantly believe in me and who understand what it takes to do this. A big thanks to D, who is always so supportive, who wants me to just be happy, who handles my emotions when I can’t and who is always trying to build my confidence and my belief. To Coeur Sports and my teammates, I can’t thank you enough, year four has been amazing and I’m incredibly grateful for this new family, for you girls who welcome me with open arms, bring me up when I’m low and continue to push me. To BT Nutrition, Drink Maple, and Honey Stinger for keeping me fueled, hydrated and happy. To Brian and Linda at Fast Splits for taking care of me, my BMC and for always giving me hugs and giggles. To my coworkers and members at the Elliot, for thinking I’m crazy but welcoming me with open arms and not questioning how tired I am or how much I eat.
Next up: A REAL Vacation in Aruba 🙂