Ironman Journey: World Championships Race Experience
Hard to believe we are in the last week of September. This month has been busy with work, training, racing and hurricane preparation and clean up. Before the month is over I wanted to share my experience racing at the World Championships in Chattanooga on Saturday September 9th.
The trip to Tennessee started off with a 14 hour car ride through the night as we were leaving the state with millions of evacuees as Hurricane Irma was heading towards Florida. Pulling into our hotel at 8 AM the morning before the race with no sleep, race and hurricane stress is not how I envisioned this trip to start. I was already sad as my husband was unable to make the trip due to work responsibilities with an approaching hurricane. I understood but was still sad he wouldn’t be there. I felt awful to think Florida was in a state of emergency as I head off to race a triathlon. I guess you can’t control these things. With the well wishes to race anyway, my two co-pilots made the trip possible and helped keep my nerves down.
With two hours of sleep, I got up and made my way to athlete and bike check in. The expo was large, athletes and spectators everywhere. I could tell I was getting ready for a unique race experience. The day was smooth, I think I was running on adrenaline. For dinner I met up with my teammates from Moxie. Everyone was excited and lots of chatter about the anticipated swim current (as the swim was upstream) and the crazy hard climb up Lookout Mountain. I had a glass of wine, was the best thing I did all day to calm my nerves.
Race morning! Since we had to check bikes and gear bags in the day before, there was not much to do before my 7:38 am swim start. I was able to sleep in until 5:30 AM. This is late for a race morning. I slept terrible anyway.
I went down to the team tent and was able to catch up with some teammates before the race. I had the earliest swim start for our team. I had some help getting my wetsuit on and made my way to the swim start. This race had a rolling start, ten athletes at a time, would jump off the dock into a cross current swim that would quickly turn to an up river swim. In the staging area I met up with another friend from my home team of Seminole County Triathletes. She was nervous too. We were packed into a large pack of women 40-44 years old. We ended up in the middle to the back of the pack as we had well over 200 women in our group. Positioning didn’t seem important so I was just trying to amp myself up before jumping into the water.
The swim was not as difficult as I had anticipated. I could feel the current but I was more focused on the fact I could not see the buoys as the sun was so bright. I made my way up river asking a few kayakers where the next buoy was. I swam head first into three of them. Well at least I was swimming fairly straight. When the swim was over I was so excited that I was running with my wetsuit and gear bag up the red carpet when I fell. Yup, total yard sale stuff everywhere! I laughed it off as I continued up the red carpet to Transition One (T1). Transition was different than most Half Ironmans but simple enough. I ran into my teammate again and we wished each other good luck for the course ahead.
Onto the bike! I was mentally prepared for what was supposed to be a crazy difficulty 25 miles of climbing of the 56 mile bike course. The warm up was short, only four miles before starting the climb up Lookout Mountain. Living in Florida I have never been able to climb such long and winding roads. I loved it! The course was extremely difficulty but it’s the World Championships and it should be! I exerted a lot more effort on the bike than I had reviewed with my coach. I was nervous I would not be able to run but I felt so good and was having so much fun. Not really the approach to take but I had nothing to lose. I wanted to give it my all.
Onto the run! Wow! Again, lots of climbing. The course was two loops. Lots of spectators and aid stations. My travel companions were everywhere cheering me on. That helped so much! I really focused on staying on top of my nutrition all day and using the wet sponges to cool me down. I had a strong run the first loop but started to die about mile ten on the second loop. I was able to pull it together for a strong run to the finish line. I did my Moxie dunk at the finish. I was happy to be done. The finish line is always a mix of emotions. Literally blood (from my earlier fall), sweat and tears. Sad John wasn’t there to catch up but my friends and teammates were there with cold beer and a place to relax as we cheered the rest of the day.
I am thankful to my husband for his continuous support, my family, friends and teammates from all three teams I belong too. Big shout out to my team sponsors and the support crew at Lake Mary CrossFit, D2 Cycling and the Bearded Bike Doctor. We have less than 6 weeks before the big one… Ironman Florida here we come!