Archive for the ‘Race Report’ Category

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In training, I had done so many bricks (runs off the bike). In fact, some of my toughest runs during training were these bricks. I felt that these sessions had really prepared me, both mentally and physically, for the Ironman marathon.

As I completed the bike I began to prepare my mind for the challenge ahead. Transition 2 did not involve too much. Socks, shoes, visor, race belt and my hand held hydration came out of the bag while all my bike gear when in. I hit the bathroom just as I exited the transition area. When I came out, my friend Bill ran by starting on his journey.  We exchanged a few words but had to laugh at the interesting timing we had during the day when paths crossed several times.

As I ran out of T2, I thought “oh boy”… it started out tough.   I felt some aches in areas that are not typical, nothing concerning, just curious as to where they came from on that day.

My stomach indicated that selecting coke at the aid stations would start sooner than later. I knew the first few miles of the course were rolling and I needed to run smart. This involved some short sections where power walking would be the way to go for me.

After the initial rolling section, the course made its way onto a trail or what we call at home a greenway. I train a lot on the Raleigh greenways and it’s really my favorite place to run. I was excited about the part of the course and I was happy when I made it there.

I finally fell into a good rhythm after the initial miles being a bit of a struggle (more so than what I anticipated). I was taking water and coke at the aid stations (I had Infinit hydration which were my calories) in my hand held bottle.

There are some runners that find others out on the course to pair up with and that strategy often proves to be beneficial to get through those miles. For me and especially at this race, I am very internal and tend to find that place in my mind where I can dig deep and maintain my focus.

The greenway section contains the turn around for the first loop of the course. Once you hit mile 8 at the turnaround you start gradually heading back into town doing the “back” part of the out and back.  Flat sections which were the greenway and then back to the rollers as I got closer to town.

The rolling section was where I saw Tony and Paige which is the perfect section to get a little boost from seeing the support crew! Tony always asks me how I am feeling and I am honest with him, and this is helpful to me.  About .5 mile from the completion of the first loop was a huge video screen which allows spectators to make videos which play as their athlete approaches.  Tony’s video popped up when I ran close and had great words of encouragement.   I loved it.

Completing mile 13 put me back into the Village and SO close to the finish line. The energy gave me a little boost and made me so hungry for MY finish! I stopped for just a few seconds at special needs. I grabbed a bag of gold fish crackers and another container of Infinit in order to refill my hand held. I left one container in the bag since I had not consumed as much as I had originally planned. The volunteer there was awesome and I didn’t lose any time!

There is nothing tougher that I have done than the second 13.1 miles of an Ironman marathon.   The mind has to stay engaged in order to keep the desire high to meet goals. It is so easy to succumb to walking or letting the pace ease up more and more as you get further in, but I had met two goals on my first two legs of the race and I had two more goals that I wanted to knock out more than anything.

I saw Tony and Paige early on the start of the second loop and I knew that was the last time until the finish line. Since there was five of us racing, I saw my teammates pretty frequently which was terrific as well. Even more so on lap 2, the story was aid station to aid station which equated to one mile after another.

The second time I saw Tony on the “leave inspirational videos to your athlete” screen, I was so excited because the finish line was waiting.   I was so close that I could taste it. Before I knew it, I was running into the Village. I took my hand held bottle and stuck it in the back of my shorts so I could celebrate my finish and be without it in the photos.

The path to the Village was lined with spectators and the energy was absolutely amazing. I let it so soak in step after step. This was my celebration of hundreds of  miles and hours of dedicated training.  It was absolutely worth it and my emotions showed just that.

The finish line was awesome and I was stoked to finally put the exclamation mark on this Ironman journey.

I was super fortunate to have the finish line to myself.

I am also super fortunate to have some great finish line photos that captured my celebration.

I love this video clip where I get to hear my name announced as a finisher and then Mike Reilly sneaking in my announcement as an Ironman.  Perfect!

A little more celebrating!  Have to enjoy that finish line!

The volunteer that helped me after the finish line was super and he did everything to make sure I was feeling ok, steady on my feet and did not need any medical attention.  I grabbed a couple of things for recovery and made my way for the finisher photo.

All smiles for my official finisher photo

I was able to find Tony relatively quickly and he told me my finish time since I didn’t have my overall time from my Garmin mishap.  When I told me 12 hours 25 minutes, I was so excited.  I had hoped for a sub-13 hour time, but finishing sub-12.5 hours was the icing on the cake.

One of the unique things about IM Mount Tremblant is that the finishers are given the local specialty of poutine.  While I was only able to have one or two bites, I had to give it a try!

Official Run Stats

Full Stats

Since a couple of months have passed since this race, I have reflected on this day so often.  Even though this was my second Ironman, it certainly was not any less special than the first in 2014.  Having Tony by my side supporting me 150% during training is priceless.  Obviously having him on race day as my #1 Sherpa makes my day complete.  Also, this race included four of my Oak City teammates which was so awesome.  My main training partner Bill and I spent countless hours swimming, biking and running together training for this race.  I could not have asked for a more  fun, consistent and reliable partner  in crime to undergo this crazy race preparation and I am happy to say that he met his main race goal as well.

Ironman is a journey unlike any other.  I am so fortunate to be healthy enough to have completed two of these special events in my life.  I do not take these accomplishments for granted and hope that I have a tremendous amount of tomorrows to keep challenging myself and pushing past limits that I once thought I had.

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The bike was next!!! I felt my training had really prepared me for this bike course and I was anxious to test my fitness. Mentally, I could not have been in a better place to start 112 miles on the bike since I felt great about my swim performance.

Just starting out on the bike and happy to see Tony and Paige!  It was a beautiful day to be on the bike.  So lucky!!!

As you leave transition, Montee Ryan is the first stretch to get you going. I spotted Tony and Paige early on so I was even more ready to tackle my ride. There are some rollers on Montee Ryan but this a good stretch of six or so miles to get your legs bike ready. This stretch also includes a fast descent on a bridge that is designated as a no-passing zone for safety reasons.

Headed out to start the ride

Before I knew it I was at the right turn to highway 117. Since we drove the course I knew this stretch was really going to be a bikers’ dream. Lots and lots of open roadway with no traffic, rolling hills and smooth pavement. It is also an out and back so I knew I would see my teammates along the way.

Riding on Montee Ryan

One key thing I knew I had to keep in mind was to not push the pace too much early on. With the aforementioned conditions I described, this would be easy to do. I planned to keep a constant eye on my power readings to ride smart.

Overall I felt okay with the exception of a spot in my right glute/hammy that is not unusual to creep in. It is more of being slightly uncomfortable and not painful and I don’t think it impacts my power or ability to ride in aero, but still don’t want it to be hanging around. I decided to take an Advil to keep it to a minimum. I also had a slight touch of nausea which was completely unexpected. I was following my Infinit (liquid nutrition) plan as I had done during training, plus the temperature was super nice, so heat was not an issue. I would just carry on as planned getting my water from the aid stations and getting my calories from my Infinit.

There is a turn-around on the highway that takes you back toward town. This out and back section of the course was super. Absolutely nothing to complain about. Plus, one awesome thing that I saw continually on the course, from early on, was the bike support staff that was zooming around the course on mopeds. They had spare wheels on the back and I am sure lots of supplies to change flats and help with mechanicals as needed.

Then there is one small “detour” as you leave 117 through Saint-Jovite and then you end up back on Montee Ryan to take you back to the Village.   You go through the no passing zone again and feel a bit more climbing on the way in that what you encountered going out.

All smiles because I had not yet started the climbs on Duplessis!!

Before knew it, I was at “hot corner” and rode through to start the section that is the toughest stretch of the bike course.   As I previously mentioned, we drove the bike course on Friday so we had some idea of what was coming up, but riding it is a totally different story.   I saw a aid station at the beginning of this out and back and planned to stop here for a bathroom break on the way back if there was not a line. (I really hate having to stop on course, but it is inevitable for me. I at least try to stop when there is not a line so it does not take even more time. )


Duplessis had the toughest climbs, but some of the prettiest landscape

Chenin Duplesis did not disappoint. This was a test of my climbing skills for sure. It was one punchy climb after the next. When I crested one and hoped for a little time to recover the next one was there waiting….recovery??…..ha ha!!!! I just tried to climb these hills as smart as I could because I was not even at the half way point yet. When I hit the turnaround point I was so happy to have gotten through for the first time. Heading back to the Village on Duplesis included the second no-passing zone. (For those that might not be familiar, these no-passing zones are designated as such for safety reasons. It is a section of descent where the speeds can be quick and to minimize risk to other athletes, no passing can occur in this area or it can result in an automatic disqualification.   Theses zones are short so the potential loss of time is essentially non existent.)

Before my planned stop at the aid station, I tried to change screens on my Garmin to check some other data point (I don’t even remember what I was trying to see) and I hit the wrong button by mistake.   I hit the lap button which automatically sent it to Transition 2 mode…..crap!!!!!!! Stupid me! That is the last thing I wanted to do. So then I was just trying to figure out what to do to be able to continue seeing what I needed to on my watch for the second half of my ride, my upcoming run but also total time for the race overall.

After my stop at the aid station (no line thankfully so pretty quick break time wise), I took my watch out of triathlon mode after mentally noting my overall time) and started bike only mode. This was not that big of a deal, but for my type A, data junkie self, it was annoying. But if this was the worse thing that would happen, I could deal.

At the bike course turn-around

56 miles to go!

Right turn off Duplesis at hot corner to hit the bike course turnaround point. I saw Tony and Paige and did my mental check to start lap 2 for another 56 miles. Special needs was coming up soon and I knew I had to stop there to pick up two more bottles of Infinit.   Luckily, the volunteer that grabbed my bag (they called out my number as I approached) was awesome. I stopped, he opened the bag, I grabbed what I needed and was quickly off again. I didn’t even have to dismount my bike.  Nice!!!!

Having two laps of the course allows you to know exactly what is coming up. I was generally feeling okay overall and my fueling plan was pretty much going according to plan. I just needed to keep doing what I was doing.

Lap 2 on Montee Ryan


Thankfully, it was a fairly smooth lap 2.  As was confirmed on the first loop, the stretch out on 117 is a really fantastic section of a great bike course and I really tried to enjoy the scenery and take it all in.

On the way back up 117, there is a longish steady climb that keeps you honest. I felt this way more than during the first loop.  At the top of this climb was a aid station and I noticed that there seemed to be no waiting for a bathroom break, so I took full advantage of trying for a quick pit stop.  Right before I mounted my bike I saw Bill buzz by on course.  I had seen him out a few times as well as most of the others and the hometown team was looking good!

Headed back toward the Village during lap 2

As I headed back toward the Village, I knew what was in store for me…another pass on Duplessis.  Oh boy, the first time was tough and with 100 miles on the legs, I knew the second was going to be a real treat!!

Ready to tackle Duplessis a second time!

My plan was the same…to just ride smart and stay as mentally strong as the climbs as possible.

These Views!!

I won’t lie…it was hard, so hard, but I got the work done.  My legs felt every one of those punchy climbs.  On the ride out from this out and back, I was getting more and more excited about almost being done with my bike leg and feeling like I had a good ride.  Going into the race, I felt that I should be able to ride this course in less than 6.5 hours, and I knew in those final miles that I had exceeded that mark.  However, I had started thinking about the run coming up and the challenge still ahead of me.

Official Bike Time per Ironman

Once I got into T2 in the changing tent, I was handling the logistics of my gear and as well as mentally preparing myself to start the run.  I had a little nauseous feeling, as well as now and again during the bike, which was surprising due to the history with my fueling during training, but I headed out to get it going.  After a quick pit stop before exiting the transition area, I saw Bill as he was headed out on the run.  We exchanged comical greetings and I was right behind him and he was looking strong  (after the race we learned that our bike times were one second apart…even considering we did most of our long rides together, that’s crazy).

Official T2 Time

26.2 miles coming up and whether or not if I felt ready to tackle it, I was going out to give it my all!

posted by on Ironman, Race Report

Race morning!  I actually slept fairly well, but did wake up before my alarm.  I was the first one up, made breakfast and was feeling pretty awake (not a walking zombie like I am sometimes at these crazy early race morning hours).

We headed out on schedule and the plan was to get body marked, drop off special needs bags, visit bike in transition to add bottles, add air to tires and make sure bike was good to go.  All this didn’t take too long and then we were headed to the swim start.  A (rather lengthy) detour for the last bathroom break where we (not planned) met up with Merrick and April while we waited in the (long) line.

After we all were set we resumed our walk to the swim start.  We had gotten close, but not actually there and when we saw lots of people in the street putting on their wetsuits and doing the final prep….we realized that the actual swim start was crowded, hence the need to use this space further out.  The time was passing quickly and while we were not late, we didn’t have extra time.  Before long, the Canadian military jet “fly over” happened….we heard it, but did not see it.  It was foggy and visibility was low, but we certainly heard their presence.

Ready to Race (before we knew about the delay)

After arriving to the actual swim start, which was super crowded, we said our goodbyes to our super Sherpas and Merrick, April, Bill and myself found our respective swim corals, which was based on expected total swim time.  Bill and I were in the same time range so we found out spots together.  My general swim time goal was to improve over my Lake Placid time of 90 minutes, but I hoped I would be under 1 hour 25 minutes…possibly around 1hour 23 or 24 minutes.  Still I lined up in the 1:25 coral.

The fog over Lake Tremblant

We soon heard of the delay in the swim start.  To hear the formal announcements that were being made was impossible.  It was word of mouth amongst the athletes and volunteers that passed the news.  Initially we thought it would be a short delay, but then the delay switched to one hour. This was due to the thick fog that had settled over the lake.  (I don’t know the actual sequence of events or how many delays were actually announced, I only know what I heard.)  Thankfully, Bill and I had each other to keep company.  We did not see Merrick or April during this time and our paths never crossed with Matt pre-race.  Despite wearing a full sleeved wetsuit, I was cold while we waited (it was in the low 50s).  Other than that, I felt calm and the delay did not make me anxious (however, the thought of an extra hour without food did creep into my mind).

The fog had lifted some before start

Before the hour was up, the fog had lightened up and they announced the swim was going to begin!!!  The fog actually thickened back up before the official start, but at that point, it was “go time” or the swim would be cancelled (which we heard later).

More fog when we actually started the swim

After the pros were started the rolling start for the age groupers began.  The amount of time that they planned to allow to get the swimmers in the water between the corals, quickly decreased, as they wanted to get this thing going and be able to give all athletes the full 17 hours allowed to finish the Ironman.


The water felt nice at 72.5 degrees as I began my swim and the start to my day that I had worked so hard for.  All the months, weeks, days and hours came down to the day ahead of me.  I knew I was ready to give it all I had and that is a great feeling and all I can ask of myself.

As a result of getting swimmers started faster, the swim was VERY CONGESTED.  I don’t really get too aggressive in the water and I do try to minimize body contact as much as possible, but it is generally inevitable (there was one particular instance where I was being sandwiched between two male swimmers and that is just not a good situation to be in!).  Overall I found my swim groove early and felt comfortable with my pacing.  The terrible chop that was present during Saturday’s practice swim had diminished and while all the swimmers certainly stirred up the water, it was nothing in comparison to the day prior….thank goodness!!!   I had not swum in my wetsuit since May.  I had done ALOT of open water swimming during training, but it was just too warm for me to practice in my wetsuit during that time.  However, I was quickly reminded that my Roka wetsuit is really magical!!  I can’t say enough about it and this is the first full sleeved wetsuit that I have liked, let alone loved!

The visibility was really low and when I would pass a buoy it was often a bit of time before I could see the next one.  However, I just sighted to the masses of swim caps and hoped that the majority of them were all swimming as straight as possible to the next buoy. With the yellow sight buoys, we were able to pass on either side, so swimming out I decided to have out them on my left since I have a tendency to pull left in hopes that strategy would keep me a bit straighter.  At the turn buoys, they had to be on the swimmers’ right side.  After the first turn, I did get a little confused as I thought there would be two turn buoys (red).  But the first one after the red turn was orange so I kept going.  Then I found the second red one which indicated that I needed to turn again.  (Apparently I did not study the above course map enough!!!)  After the first turn, I noticed that the congestion had started to thin out a bit.  It also seemed that I while there were swimmers passing me, I was also passing some as well.  I felt like I was having a good swim, but no idea of my time!

At that point, I was over half way, which is always a mental boost.  The visibility had improved as well.  I knew that I just had to keep doing what I was doing and thought I would be just fine…each buoy at a time.  For some reason, after the second turn, I never made my way over for the buoys to be back on my left side.  I was consciously aware of this but also felt like I was doing a decent job with my sighting and trying my best to maintain a “straight-ish” line.  There was one instance where I recall really going astray on my line, but overall I kept it in the forefront of my mind and that helps a lot.  There were a couple of times were the congestion arose again, but way better overall than the first 1.2 miles.

At the end of the swim I had gotten to the point to stand and make my way on foot.  Little did I know that the bottom of the lake was very squishy and was not easy to stand.  I immediately stumbled but as I got my footing, I glanced at my Garmin for a time check.  I was not quite ready to hit the lap button, but I saw that my time was 1:20:xx.  Yes!!!!  As I sloshed through the final exit to the stairs, I felt like I had done my job with the swim.  I finally hit my lap button just before climbing the stairs (I was smart and held to the railing with both hands) and my unofficial “official Garmin” time was 1:21:36.

Official Swim Time per Ironman

I could not have been happier!  What a great way to start the day!

The calm before storm of the swim finishers!  Clearly all the fog had lifted and blue skies were everywhere!

I quickly made my way to the wetsuit stripper where two volunteers did a fantastic job of quickly getting me out of my wetsuit.  As I was running along the chute to T1, I saw Paige and then Tony.

My first bit of work was done!

I am pretty sure I shouted out something to him about a good swim, but he could probably tell from the smile on my face anyway that I was in a happy place.

All smiles to see Tony

My day had started off great!

In T1, I grabbed my bag and started doing what I needed to do.  There was not a volunteer to help me, but I managed ok (I didn’t do the best job spraying the sunscreen on my back, but I got most of it).  I was unsure about putting on my arm warmers, since the weather was nice, but I opted to put them on (they are easy on and easy off) since all my training in the heat would make the early time on the bike feel cool.  Overall I would have been fine without them, but I wore them for probably about an hour, so not a bad decision.  Funny thing happened in transition….I had been in the women’s tent for two to three minutes when I noticed beside me a guy that had just walked in.  He was SUPER focused and he didn’t realize where he was until I mentioned it to him.  He quickly ran out embarrassed!!

Official T1 Time

As I left the changing tent, there was an empty restroom, so I took full advantage since that does not happen all that frequently and I hate having to wait while the time ticks by.  I also prefer to take the extra time during transition versus on the race course.

I found my bike easily and felt ready to ride.  The sun was out and it looked to be a beautiful day to race!  112 miles, here I come!



posted by on Ironman, Race Report

We had a 7am flight on Thursday morning from RDU where we had a layover in LaGuardia before flying into Montreal.  The whole crew from Raleigh flew out the same morning, but Tony and I shared a flight with my primary training partner Bill and his wife Paige.  This was an easy series of flights and before I knew it we were in Canada (my first time there).  Tony had rented a full size SUV which resulted in us having a Yukon XL (the size of a small boat).  Fortunately, we had plenty of room which we needed with all the gear required for two athletes racing IM as well as four people on a weeks’ plus vacation.

Tony drove us from Montreal to Mont Tremblant and it was not a bad drive.  We had planned to stop on the way for lunch but the choices were limited and while there were lots of McDonlads and Tim Hortons, we didn’t find anything that overly appealing.  Since snacks are in abundance with two tapering athletes, we were prepared!  In Mont Tremblant we stayed at Sommet des Neiges.

View off the balcony from our room (this is up the ski slope and you can see the “Panoramic Gondola”). Included in our room were tickets to this gondola.

The four of us had booked a two bedroom/two bath condo with kitchen and it totally met our needs.  The bedrooms included one with a king size bed and one with two queens.  The rooms were spacious and allowed us to have space for all our “stuff”.  If planning to race this event and considering lodging options, I would recommend this location.  It is located in the Village and close (walking) to everything.  While there are hotels closer to the finish line, this option allowed us to be in the heart of all the activity, but not on top of the commotion.

View of the Village from the balcony from our hotel room.

We were directly off the top of the free cable car which was running every time we needed a ride (not 24 hours, but much of the time).  The walk down (and up) the hill was not bad, but the ride was fun and only took about 90 seconds or so.

After dumping our stuff in the room (and Tony having the adventure of finding and then parking our rental in the underground parking garage which had a abundance of “small” parking spots) we were off to the athlete check-in and bike pick up from Tribike transport.  Somehow the five of us all ended up being at athlete check-in at the same time and we had not even communicated yet that day!

The Raleigh Crew!

This ended up being a great opportunity for some photo ops since Merrick was the only other one staying in the Village while April and Matt had found VRBO options outside the Village.

I HAD to add this photo “out take” of April almost getting stuck in the back of the chair. It took her a while to crawl out!  It was a BIG chair!

After these initial activities, we decided to do a quick grocery store trip and planned to meet some of the others for an early dinner in the Village.

I always enjoying vacationing in places where walking to dinner is the way to go.  It was great to finally get a feel for the Village (that I have read and heard so much about) and all the neat little shops that were calling my name.  It is really as quaint as I was expecting.  It was our core four plus Merrick that met up and had dinner outside (SoCal Restaurant) enjoying the cooler temperatures.

This sticker was seen on several of the doors in the shops in the Village. Very welcoming!

Friday’s plan included rain so we wanted to get out and get in our shake out run while it was still dry.

A quiet Friday morning in the Village.

We decided to combine our run with a scope out of the transition area and the flow in and out of transition.

Marking the run course

Post run ride on the cable car

The rest of the morning/afternoon included driving the bike course (with a visit to Saint-Jovite and the Restaurant Le Vieux Four for lunch) and then some shopping at the Ironman store.

An example of the permanent signs that mark the bike course.

Shopping at Ironman Store and I found my name!

We had several hours of down time in the room to keep our legs fresh.  It is easy to get caught up in all the pre-race activities and it is important to make the decision to rest.

Bill and I attended the evening athlete meeting and then met Tony and Paige for dinner in the Village at La Maison de la Crêpe (we decided we would be back during the days after the race to try their sweet crepes).

After dinner we were walking in the Village and thoroughly enjoyed the fireworks show!

How many Ironman races have fireworks? Mont Tremblant really rolls out the red carpet for the athletes!!

The Village illuminated

Views of the finish line at night were extra exciting!

Saturday was dry and forecasted to be a nice day, so the plan included a short ride and a swim to check out the Lake Tremblant.  While it was a pretty day, it was a bit breezy which resulted in a VERY CHOPPY lake!

I was all smiles BEFORE the VERY CHOPPY swim!

We planned a short swim, but it took so much more effort in the chop than “normal” that I became very uninterested in being out there too long.  All I could think about is if we had to deal with those conditions on race day…it would not be pleasant!

The short ride that we did earlier resulted in both Bill and I having to make some minor adjustments on our brakes.  Tony had to be creative and find some tools we did not have to adjust mine, but he delivered me a “ready to race” bike, just as he always does!

After getting everything packed and final check on all the gear, we headed down to rack our bikes and drop off bike and run gear bags.

The Purple Butterfly was ready to be racked.

There was certainly no extra room on the rack

All the bike gear bags

All the run gear bags

Far from Alii Drive, but that is the most iconic street in all of Ironman, so we can pay tribute anywhere!

After all the essentials drop off, Tony and I checked out the fun photo ops around Ironman Village.

You can’t walk by the chair and not sit it in!

The GIANT M-Dot!

We spent the rest of the day resting and staying off our feet.  Dinner was cooked by our wonderful spouses in our room so we could have the exact pre-race meal we wanted and needed.

My dig deep bracelet was a gift from my friend Tarina. It proved to be a great reminder for the entire race and her tough spirit was with me throughout the day!

We called it an early night as the alarm was going to sound before any normal person would want to get up.  We had important business to attend to the next morning….

posted by on Race Report, Triathlon

Going into this season of Ironman training, I was not sure what, if any, races I would participate in for a lead up to race day.  When I raced Lake Placid in 2014, I did not race a half prior to.  I didn’t necessarily feel that I was at a disadvantage, but it’s never a bad idea to dust off the cobwebs and feel those pre-race nerves once in the season prior to your “A” race.  Having Raleigh 70.3 in your backyard certainly gives one obvious choice for a half IM.  However, having done that race three times (and the brutally hot run), I was not super anxious to give it another go this year.  Unfortunately, the final running of Raleigh 70.3 happened this year and I won’t have the opportunity for a fourth go, which I had wanted to do at some point.

I read about a half iron distance race called Mountains to Main Street in Greenville, SC and it peaked my interest.  Timing wise it would fit into the training calendar very well, plus it was two weeks earlier than Raleigh 70.3 which gave some hope that this race would be a bit cooler and wet suit legal.  I was not able to find out a lot about the race (specifically race reports) for several reasons.  It is a much smaller race than any IM 70.3, 2016 was the inaugural year and the 2017 edition was cancelled due to severe weather.   I did learn that the bike course was new for 2018, so the little I did find about the race was not helpful for insight into the bike.  Weighing the pros and cons with my training partner, Bill and I decided to give it a go.  We did know that this bike course would be challenging given the elevation gain published about the route, which would be good training for IMMT.  This was also my sixth 70.3 distance and a new race experience was appealing.

One side note to add is that about 10 days before the race I started having some pain in my right foot.  It was in the area of the inside of the low ankle above the heel.  In the past, now and again, I have had soreness in my Achilles, but I would give it some TLC and within a couple of days, it would subside.  At first I thought this was the same, but I gradually realized that it was not!  The Monday before the race I saw my PT and by this point I was not walking too well.    I was better upon leaving the PT and adhered to his follow up instructions during the week.  I had already decided that there were be no running during the taper week in hopes that I could get back on track.  On the day we traveled, I was still not at the point I wanted to be as far as feeling ready to run.  In some odd fashion, the pain/tenderness and actually crept over to the outside/right side of my foot as well!  I was trying to not stress over it but knew that there was a chance that I would not run on Saturday.

The four of us drove/rode down together from Raleigh early Friday morning.  There was some rain along the way, but we still had our fingers crossed for a drier day Saturday (race day).  With a car full, the drive passed quickly as we chatted the entire drive.  We drove directly to packet pickup which was at a really nice Tri Store (Carolina Triathlon) in Greenville, SC (even though I was really confused with the tag line on the store’s sign that said “run, bike, swim”…).

After packet pickup, we grabbed lunch at a really nice spot downtown where we sat outside and enjoyed a nice afternoon as the rain had moved out for a while and we was a really pleasant afternoon.  Post lunch, we checked into the Air BnB house which we were all sharing, dumped our gear and then headed out to drive the bike course.  Since this was a point to point race, we had to drive (about 50 minutes) out to the swim start which was also the bike start.  We were able to get the lay of the land for the swim course, T1, etc.  We also had a chat with a racer that we saw finish up a swim in the lake.  We asked him his opinion on the water temperature as we saw that he swam with a full sleeved wet suit (the water temperature had already been announced as wetsuit legal for the race at 77 degrees so I was on the fence about wearing my new full sleeved suit (which is what I wanted to wear since I had only worn it a few times so far) or my ol’ reliable sleeveless since it was on the high side of being wetsuit legal).  The recon for the bike course went well.  So glad we took the time to drive it and there were lots of areas to keep in mind (for safety, strategy, etc).  After the drive, it was back to the house for race prep, out for pasta dinner, finalize last minute gear details and then off to bed with an early alarm on the horizon!

We were fortunate enough to have wonderful Sherpas for race day (Tony and Paige).  This allowed us to drive/ride to the swim start (and not rely on the shuttle) and have our bikes with us on race morning (instead of leaving them in T1 overnight in the rain).  We arrived and had plenty of time to spare, which was awesome because I still felt asleep after arriving to the park despite a longish drive!!  I also had lots of time to get my wetsuit on, which was needed.  Despite a warmer water temperature, I decided to wear my “new this season” full sleeved wetsuit.  I packed my sleeveless, but the main reason I purchased the sleeved was for IMMT and since I was mainly doing this race as training, I wanted to use the same gear.  I have trained a few times in this wetsuit, but it definitely MUCH more difficult to get on (and position correctly) than my sleeveless (which has broken in after several seasons).

Getting the wetsuit on

The swim took place in Lake Keowee which is located in South Cove County Part in Seneca, SC.  It was a really nice park and the water was very calm for race day.  I lined up on the far left side, which gave me good position for sighting and my best approach to streamline my swim course (and stay as straight as possible).

Its almost “GO” time!

After I was able to get my swim going and felt warmed up, I was able to get in a very good rhythm and had a smooth swim overall.  Little contact with the other swimmers (bonus for small races) and buoys allowed for plenty of visibility.  Only once do I recall getting off track and that was at one of the turn buoys and I was a bit too aggressive with the turn.

First race in the new wetsuit!

I  was pleased with my swim execution and overall, I think this was my best 70.3 swim as well as the best 70.3 swim venue I have experienced.

Onto the bike.

We were not on course too long before I tucked away my sunglasses and knew rain was going to be a factor.  Throughout the bike, the rain was not crazy intense, but enough to cause slick roads with hazardous descents.  This made the course even more interesting than it would have on a dry day.

A wet day!

When we drove the course on Friday, there were several areas of pavement that we knew were not great.  However, with the bike, the “not great” quickly turned into “poor”.  A great majority of the course had poor to terrible road conditions (the race web site describes the road conditions as good to ideal…????  If this was good to ideal in SC, I would hate to see bad!!!).  There were some sections that met the “not great” criteria, but this was in the minority.  I have ridden plenty of crummy roads in training and racing, but you eventually get relief when you turn a corner or just finally get lucky with some smooth pavement.  We did not have too much luck in that department on this ride.

First race for the Purple Butterfly!

There was also A LOT of climbing on this course (around 3700 feet), which we were expecting.  However, the huge challenge came on the descents.  Any opportunity to gain speed or momentum, was cut short due to slick roads or just the nature of the course being downhill and ending at a stop sign or a turn with no room to gain speed.  I had to break much earlier than normal to feel as if I had a safe stopping distance on most of these downhills.  The course was also long, which we knew it to be advertised at 58 miles (my Garmin actually captured over 59 miles).

Trying my best to cruise along on the unfortunate road conditions

The great thing about this course was that since it was a small race over 59 miles, it was not crowded so Tony and Paige were able to make frequent stops, take a lot of pictures, cheer us on, and even stop oncoming traffic at an intersection where there was no police presence!  Needless to say, unlike the swim, this was not my favorite bike course and I was more than ready to wrap it up!

As I started the run, the big question mark of the day remained.  Would I be able to get through 13.1 miles after the soreness I had been experiencing?  I wanted to give it enough of a go to allow my foot to warm up and transition from the bike to the impact of the run before I made the decision.  The first two miles were tough and I was really on the fence (even stopped a couple of times), but it loosened up and I felt good enough to continue.  I found my consistency and only briefly walked at the aid stations (to supplement the Infinit in my hand held with necessary water).  The start of the run was briefly on packed dirt before it transitioned over to a paved greenway/trail system (called the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail).  It was a two loop run with the turn-around points at miles 3.6, 6.2 & 9.0.

Starting out on the run and pulling out the sunglasses

As our luck would have it (or really not), the rain stopped and the sunglasses came back out just in time to start running!  OF COURSE!!  The run did get warm, but it was not horribly intense as some races I have done (not to specifically name Raleigh 70.3, but I can’t help myself).  The trail system did provide some shady areas which is always appreciated!

Enjoyed the shade when I could!

I really liked the run course and will say that it is one of the best for this distance I have experienced.  The trail system is open to pedestrians, but I didn’t have a problem with this at all.

I was happy to see Tony as frequently as I did!

The fun part is that Tony retrieved my bike from transition (using the buddy pass) and rode it down on the trail to lend some encouragement and snap a few photos.

Great run course!



Feeling a bit warm here!

The last couple miles seemed to last forever.After completing the loop section, you veer off, still on the trail, but are headed downtown towards the finish line.  At this point, there were far fewer races and the course was not marked too frequently.

At a couple of points, I wondered if I was still on course!  As I was close to 13.1, I still could not see a finish line, hear music, etc, and I was SO READY to be done.

Finally close to the finish line!

I finally emerged off the trail, did some looping around, crossed a bridge and the finish line was in sight!  13.28 miles and I was done!

The finish line was so sweet!


I was excited to learn that I grabbed second in my age group.  This was definitely not a personal best race for me, but it was very beneficial in my Ironman training and experiencing a new course it is great opportunity.

2nd place in AG!

It is so unfortunate that the road conditions are so poor because the swim and run courses are really great.  The climbing was a great challenge and I would jump at the chance to give it another go (and hope for a dry day), but there is no way I would be in for another 59 miles on those roads.  It was nice to support a local race and there are some great benefits, but this one is not one I will be looking to redo.

Garmin data

Safely in 2nd….not too close to 1st and good cushion over 3rd

Post-race was crazy easy!  Tony and Paige had already gathered ALL our gear and all we had to do was walk to the car!  WHAT?!?!?  Yes, BEST SHERPAS EVER!!!   We enjoyed some down time and relaxation before celebrating with dinner, drinks and my customary milkshake!!!

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For several years, I had the idea to get in routine trail runs during the off season.  However, this was something that I had not followed through on.  This year I had the same idea, but I did it. 

After my last triathlon in October, I started getting in a few trail runs here and there and before I knew it, it was in my regular weekly rotation and I was enjoying it. 

My first time in the Salming Elements (right) and I quickly fell in love with them. Tony’s choice is the Salming Trail (left). #nononsense #runswedish

I even took advantage of the open Xterra course when we were in Maui for Tony to race at Worlds.

A very muddy course a few days before Tony’s race

I managed to stayed on course!

Post muddy run and my Salmings helped me stay upright!

 I had tried trail running in the past and I knew that it was a “risky” activity for me.  The very first time I ever ran trails, I fell two or three times.  This was the main reason I had in my mind that this was something I wanted to reserve for the off season.  The trail we run is very technical (and that’s just not my inexperience talking) so it was a big challenge every time I went out.  I am typically one that really likes to “zone out” on my runs, but when running trails, I have to keep my mind in the game and engaged with every step!  However, there is just something about running in the woods that is just good for the soul!   

Over the weeks, I improved and felt more comfortable, but still, was unfortunate enough to have a few painful spills along the way.  Just rub some dirt on it and keep going…..right???

23 degrees didn’t keep us from our weekly trail run (and that’s cold in NC)!

The idea of doing a trail race came up with my training partner and so I thought, why not?  It would be fun to do a new race format and to have a goal tacked on to our off season activity as well as a good way to start 2018.  The UGTB Grindin’ trail race was this past Saturday and it was produced by @fsseries, our local race company, at Harris Lake County Park.  There was a 5 mile or 10 mile race option and most of us opted for the 10 mile option. 

The crew ready to run!

The 10 mile course involved two loops, but not the same loop twice.  The first loop was on the park’s mountain bike trails which are generally not available to runners.  From what I had heard prior going in, these trails would not be as technical as what we had been training on, but still I didn’t really know what to expect. 

The first loop was fun.  It was much less technical, but I liked it a lot.  It was not too rocky and while there were roots you had to keep your eyes open for, the packed dirt course allowed for a bit quicker pace than that from our training.  The course then took us almost back to the start and then on a paved road for a bit longer than what I expected.  We then picked up the second loop which consisted of the running trails.  These were more technical than the bike trail we had just completed and a bit more like our training trails.   

We had a beautiful morning and I had only one big goal going into the race….stay on  my feet!!!  I am happy to say that I accomplished this goal.  I didn’t have a time goal in mind and just wanted to enjoy the format and the day.  Overall my pace was much better than training, but as previously mentioned, this was to be expected due to the difference in the terrain.    

I am glad that we decided to start the season with this race.  More importantly, I am glad that I spent time in the off season rediscovering why  I have been wanting to spend more time on the trails!  


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Luckily race day #2 didn’t have to start terribly early.  Start time was 8:30am and the drive would only take 20ish minutes with simple parking logistics.  The morning was even cooler than Saturday and I don’t think most of us were ready for it to be in the low 50s.  While it would give us another beautiful day to race, it was a chilly start for sure!

Tony and I arrived as planned…picked up race packets and quickly spotted the rest of the crew doing their own preparations.  As expected, parking was conveniently located to packet pick-up and transition, which is always a bonus.  Set up went smoothly and once again Tony and I were racked in transition side by side.  We all reconvened with plenty of time to get some pre-race snapshots and then find a spot of sun (we were all cold!!) to wait.

The crew ready for day #2!!

This race was new to all of us racing from the team.  It took place at the Sandling Beach State Recreational Area at Falls Lake.  It is a unique distance…a hybrid between a traditional international distance and a half iron distance.  The distances were 1 mile swim, 40 mile bike and 9 mile run. 

The swim was a time trial start with all participants starting the swim one at a time going off every couple of seconds.  The 2-loop one mile swim was a triangular shaped course with the swim start/finish on a sandy beach area. We swam the first lap of the swim, briefly exited the water, and then re-entered the water to swim the second lap.   By the time we got to the swim, I think we were ready to get in the water since we were all quite chilly.  The water temperature allowed for a wetsuit legal swim, but we knew the water was going to feel nice compared to the morning air temperature

As I began my second day of racing I was not sure how I was going to feel.  I started swimming and realized that I was not feeling that bad!  I was able to get in my groove fairly quickly.  As expected, the water felt amazing, so not a bad start at all!!! 

As I rounded the first turn buoy the water definitely changed.  I could immediately feel the chop and the attempt to swim in a straight line was even more of a challenge than normal because I could feel like I was being pushed out from the buoy line.  I needed to sight more frequently and try my best to compensate for the current.  Overall, I think I did a decent job with the conditions.  As I approached the second turn buoy, I was getting a bit pinched between two men.  One of which decided to try to hammer over me and unfortunately I let that piss me off.  Wasted energy….I just don’t get it though…this is a small race and I certainly didn’t start at the front of the pack to battle the typically more aggressive swimmers!!! 

As I was sighting back into the shore, I was having a bit of trouble seeing the dancing man at the finish line.  After I finally spotted it, I felt like I was back at shore pretty quickly.  I made my way out of the water and just a few seconds out before I was starting the second lap.  This time through was a bit smoother.  I knew exactly what to expect and I did not have any body contact to distract me.  Before I knew it, I was making my way out of Falls Lake for the second time and headed into T1 to strip out of the wetsuit and jump on the bike.              

The 40 mile bike course exited the park where we made our way out onto the course before beginning the two 15.5-mile loops.  The bike course description is described as “rolling”, but definitely includes a couple of pretty challenging hills.  We were fortunate enough to ride the course a couple of times in training, so knew exactly what to expect….including the hills.  I had planned to take the first few miles very easy in order to keep the heart rate in check and try to figure out what I had in my legs for the day.  The loop section starts on Beaverdam Road and this is one stretch I was looking forward to the least.  It does not have the toughest climbs, but it is not flat and ends up being more challenging than you expect as you ride it.  Plus, it feels like it will never end!   I was glad to get though with Beaverdam Road for the first time but also knew at that point that my legs were feeling some fatigue.  I pretty much knew I would not be able to push like I usually like to on the bike…there was still a 9-mile run remaining to complete this double down challenge.  Usually during a race I am very focused on my Garmin data, but decided to take a different approach and really go by feel for the rest of the ride. The hills were just what I knew they would be and I tried to take them as easy as possible, keep the effort at a reasonable level and not spike my heart rate too much.  

The second loop was pretty similar to the first in the way I rode and the level of effort.  I checked my Garmin a few times during the ride, but it was nice to mix things up a bit and not have the extreme focus on the numbers that I typically do.   I was happiest after completing Beaverdam Road for the second time, even though the toughest climbs were still ahead.  There is just something about that stretch of road….

The 9-mile run course stayed completely inside the park boundaries. It was a two loop course with each loop being 4.5 miles, and because the run is entirely on park roads, much of the entire run course is shaded (even though heat was not a factor).  The first mile was tough running off the bike.  I thought, oh no!  This is going to be a very long nine miles!  Before the end of the first mile, I felt like I had a small twig in my sock.  I debated back and forth about whether I should stop and try to clean out my sock and finally decided that was the smart move.  While it did cost me about a minute or so, I think it was the right decision.  After that brief stop during the first mile, I felt like I finally got my legs within the next half mile.  YAY!  I saw Tony and the other guys soon thereafter.

As I progressed on the course I felt like I was able to stay on a pretty consistent pace throughout the nine miles.  I think making the decision to ride by feel on the bike helped me to stay strong on the run.    Overall I liked this run course…there were a few rollers we had to contend with, but nothing too crazy…just enough to keep us honest!  The bonus was the format allowed me to spot my teammates on course.

The finish line was a welcome sight.  Tony was there and I immediately said to him“the off season starts now”!  This back to back race format was certainly a challenge, but I am glad that I tackled it.

Garmin Results which are close to official results

Garmin Run Splits

Post-race included awards where a couple of the guys had podium places, including Tony being awarded third place overall for the double down challenge as there was a separate awards group for the folks that completed both races.  They somehow botched the recognition of the women that completed both races when they announced that only two women had completed it (when there was actually nine and neither I, my teammate April, nor the several women I was standing around were included in the two that were recognized).

Tony on the podium again!

I later learned that I had placed third overall woman of the double down challenge.

Those of us that raced were joined by several others from the team for a cookout there in the park.  It was a gorgeous afternoon and a nice way to celebrate our two day racing affair.

Later that evening Tony and I had a quiet dinner for two sitting outside at our favorite sushi restaurant.  My birthday was celebrated doing something I love to do with great people! What better way to start a new year than challenging yourself to do new things that are tough and outside your comfort zone?  Especially when I can share the experience with my husband and three amazing training partners!  I was thankful to start year 43 this way and know that this will be a fantastic 43!         


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After Chattanooga 70.3 in May (which was my season “A” race, at least early season), I was not sure what I would tackle for the rest of the season.  Initially my thought would be some local Olympic distance or sprints.  One of my teammates that has also completed Choo, found a challenge that she threw out to the rest of us.  It was called the “Double Down”.  It was a collaboration between two local production companies.  The FS Series race called the Battle at Buckhorn (sprint) was on Saturday and the Set-Up Events race called the Sandling 50 (not a standard distance race….a total of 50 miles) was on Sunday.  They were offering a super economical price to race both (the total just a bit over the cost of one stand-alone race).  At first I thought…”nope”, but as the time passed through the summer, I thought it might be a cool challenge to go for.  What better way to spend my birthday weekend than racing back to back….right?!?!?!?  In the end, there were five of us that ended up going for the Double Down challenge! 

Welcome to the Battle at Buckhorn!!

Saturday’s race is one of my favorite sprints.  Well now that I mention it, maybe it IS my favorite sprint since I have completed it four times.  In the days leading up to race weekend, I had thought about how I wanted to handle these races.  The final decision was that I would go for the sprint and give it an effort level like it was my only race for the weekend and then just give whatever I had left in the tank for the race Sunday.

Saturday morning was like a typical race morning.  No drama or hiccups….we left (generally) on time and arrived to race parking at the goal time.  The parking is a short-“ish”walk from transition, just still far enough that you need to plan accordingly.  Most of the team arrived within a few minutes of each other and we made our way together. 

Leading up Saturday, we had warmer days, but a couple of the mornings late in the week had temperatures cool enough that we expected a wet suit legal swim.  Also, temperatures for race weekend were expected to drop and feel very “fall like”.  Great racing weather!!!!! 

The Oak City Tri Crew sans April who had to run back to her car for goggles!

The swim included three waves….all women started at 8:00, men 39 & under at 8:07 and men 40 & up and 8:10.  They used the “ladies first” format that they started last year and I am glad they have maintained it rather than the mass start with the guys from a couple of years ago.  The water was 76 degrees and I felt good in the water.  I was able to quickly get my rhythm and maintain it throughout the 750 meter swim.  Plus, I felt like my sighting was really good (big win for me).  According to my Garmin, I swam 841 yards (769 meters).  With the wetsuit, I feel I should have averaged a quicker pace, but I will focus on the positives! 

The 17 mile bike course is fairly typical for our area.  A few rollers, a few flats and one memorable hill.  This year the race company threw in a bit of incentive by making the aforementioned “memorable hill” a Strava segment.  They awarded Queen of the Mountain and King of the Mountain for the first time this year.  The overall female winner won QOM, which is not complete surprise, but it was a neat concept to track. 

I feel like I rode fairly well overall.  The hill is around mile 12 but it was not until after that where I felt like I could really gain extra momentum.  I rode better than last year, but still my PR on the bike course stands from two years ago (and that was a hotter year….ugh!!).

Onto the run. 

The 5k distance in a sprint is never easy and I wanted to see what I had.  My run splits got progressively faster, which I will take.  I was pushing hard and was hoping to squeak out a sub-8 minute average (which was my Garmin PR from AGAIN 2 years ago), but I was happy with my effort.  I knew there were a couple of other girls in my AG really close and I stayed strong.  Little did I know that Tony was making up serious ground on me and passed me just 50 feet or so from the finish chute!  I was happy for him because I successfully served as his “rabbit” which gave him a super run time!!

You can see me in the background here….Tony had just passed me as we entered the finish chute!!!


We hung around for awards because we had a couple of podium finishers in the group, including Tony nabbing second in his AG. 

Tony with his buckle for 2nd place AG!

I finished fourth overall in my AG, but was pleased with my race effort and delivery. 

Official Race Results

Official Race Splits

Garmin Times

Garmin Run Splits

The team headed back to Raleigh where we met up for a great brunch (pancakes and French toast everywhere) to discuss our individual experiences and to chat about the longer of the two races the following day.  The rest of the afternoon was all about recovery and being in the best shape we could going into day two!!!     

Day two race report, still to come!!






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This event is a repeat event for me.  I raced it last year and it was my first Olympic distance in 2011.  Last year there was a lot of uncertainty leading up to the event about the swim.  Due to lack of rain, the water conditions were a concern. In the end we were cleared to have the swim.  Unfortunately, this year was the same, however, it was due to having too much rain.  A email was sent by the race production company on Thursday saying that due to the abundance of rain lately, the results of the water test showed that the conditions were not safe for swimming.  Another test was performed on late Thursday afternoon and we were notified Friday afternoon that the conditions had improved some, but still did not meet the minimum requirements for safety.  The swim was cancelled and would be replaced with a one mile run to start.  Obviously not what we were hoping for, but can only make the best of it!   

The morning began extra early (4:30am) since our drive was around 1 hour 45 minutes.  We left at the time we planned (5:15am) and Tony was sweet enough to act as driver, race sherpa and photographer.  My training partner Bill and his wife, Paige, rode with us, so the drive time passed quickly in the car with lots to chat about.  Race start was 8:00am and we arrived with plenty of time to setup transition and perform all other final preparations for the race (including a running warm-up).  It was overcast and humid with low chances of rain during race hours.  We were all hoping that the clouds would stay in place to help control how hot it would feel as the race progressed.  

Pre-race with my #1

Before we knew it, it was go time!  The start began like it would have if we were swimming.  The Olympic distance men (there was also a sprint race) began at 8:00am and the Olympic distance women began at 8:03am.  I didn’t have a goal pace in mind, but I wanted to get in a solid start.  It was a simple, flat out and back. 

Starting out with the one mile run

I tried to get through T1 as quickly as I could and then onto the bike.  We were lucky enough to still have some cloud cover at that point.  I jumped on my bike and headed out of the park area, which included a few speed bumps.  As suspected, I saw Tony on the way out of the park poised to take a few quick photos. 

Leaving the park to begin the first bike loop

The bike course was a two-loop of the sprint course on flat roads with minimal turns.  The worst part was coming back into the park area to start lap #2 because you had to cross the speed bumps again (both in and out) and make a sharp turn around, therefore losing your momentum.  The design of the course allows you to spot your teammates frequently, which is always a bonus!

There was a noticeable headwind on the way back in from the turnaround for each of the two loops that was definitely a factor.  Not sure that I felt ANY tailwind on the way out though!  I felt strong on the bike and I was working hard!  I was fairly confident that I knew my positioning in my age group when I entered T2.

Finishing the bike

I had a hand held water bottle in T2 and I am glad I did.  By the time we started the run, the earlier cloud cover had burned off.  I don’t prefer to run with a hand held (I use a fuel belt more in training), but this was the easy go to, and I was really glad to have it!  As the run continued, the heat did as well.  The run is a two-loop design through the downtown waterfront area with hardly any shade.  As with the bike, the course design allowed me to see my teammates and we could all pass along words of encouragement or thumbs up.  This is what makes the team events THE BEST!!  The start of the second loop took us back into the park near transition/finish line (this is the only area where there is a bit of shade) where I saw Tony. 

Coming in the start the second loop of the run

I just had in my mind that I was half way done and to stay as strong as possible. 

Enjoying the very brief amount of shade as I pass the half way mark

I was focused on trying a maintain a consistent pace, but I know the mile 4 to 5 was my slowest and that was when I reached the last turn around and all I could think of was how tough the heat and sun were.  I tried to think of Tony’s approach which is the faster I can go, the sooner I will be done! (Fast was definitely relative, but it kept me from slowing down too much).  As always, it was awesome to cross that finish line where I immediately found some shade.

Post race with my Oak City Tri Peeps in our favorite Salming shoes! @salmingrunningnorthamerica #nononense #runswedish

Catching up with my friend MC that I don’t get to see very often.

Garmin Times:  Obviously “unofficial”, but it is important to me because it always gives me a better gauge of my true times, since the distances tend to not be “exact”.   Also, it gives me a better opportunity for analysis.

I was happy with the first mile run that we started the race with.  I started easy and gradually built as I warmed up even more.  As far as the bike, I was able to hit a new PR…it was just a smidge over last year, but a PR is a PR!   As far as the run, I didn’t quite hit the pace I was hoping, even what I was able to do last year, but I know I gave it all I had.  

Garmin Times


Garmin Run Splits

Overall, I am happy with the day and was pleased that my official results had me at second place in my age group.

Second Place Age Group

Official Race Splits

Official Finish Times


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I feel that Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga was a long time coming.  I really wanted to do this race in 2016, but I missed registration and it sold out.  I knew this race would be on my calendar for 2017 and things turned out even better because I had company!

This is only the second race out of state that I have done.  The other being Ironman Lake Placid.  We are very lucky to have a wide variety of races in North Carolina to choose from.  With that being said, the travel logistics took a bit more time planning and even changed fairly last minute. 

There were five of us from the team racing and we were also traveling with other family members, teammates and friends that were going for support.  Most of us had all planned to leave Friday morning to embark on the 7-8 hour drive from Raleigh to Chattanooga.  The last minute detail that changed is that Tony was able to fly the two of us.  He learned that the plane he flies has backseats that recline.  Therefore, with some consolidation of the bikes, we were able to get both bikes and all our gear in the plane.  Needless to say, that saved us a lot of travel time and added extra adventure to the weekend!

All of gear safely packed for travel!

On our way!

We arrived in Chattanooga around lunch time after around 2 hours of flight time.  After unloading the bikes and all the gear and packing the rental car, we were off!  

First stop was lunch at Big River Brewery in downtown Chattanooga.  We had a nice lunch and ended up being within walking distance of the Athlete Village for check-in.  We decided to go ahead and get that taken care of and since there was no line at all, it was great timing.  There was some shopping as well and I lucked out and found a great shirt on the clearance rack!!!  

Scoping out the river and the swim finish

There was a bit of time to kill since we were not able to check into the rental house yet (the team and crew were staying together for the weekend).  We found a coffee shop that the waitress from lunch had recommended.  It is called Rembrandt’s and we both had a nice cold brew coffee.  Hit the spot! 

When it was time, Tony and I made our way to the house to get settled in.  It would only be an hour or so before others started arriving so it was good to get in, get unpacked and start relaxing.  Over the next few hours, everyone arrived that was supposed to have a Friday arrival.  

View from the porch of the rental house as a barge floated by.

We had a nice evening including dinner outside at a tasty restaurant called Food Works.  It was before crossing the bridge in the downtown area, so we were hoping it would not be crazy busy with all the out of towners.  We had a great table outside and it was a perfect way to officially kick off the weekend!   

I had a great nights’ sleep and woke up Saturday to a beautiful morning.  The morning included breakfast, coffee and lots of conversation about race prep and the day ahead.  There was some discussion about getting in a short swim that morning.  Our house was directly on the river so it would have been super convenient.  In the end, no one ended up swimming and I think that was a good decision…at least for me!  The remainder of the morning was spent prepping our bikes because we had bike drop off later that afternoon.  Everyone had done packet pick up on Friday so that was handled.

Bike prep done and ready to go!!

After bikes were prepped, we all piled into two different cars and drove the bike course.  So glad we made this decision.  I think it helped everyone in different ways, but it was time well spent.  For lunch and we ended up at a place called the Frothy Monkey.  Sandwiches all around and it was a good find.  We headed back to the house to grab our bikes and take them for check in.  With it being hot and also rain in the forecast for overnight (and into race day), we all planned accordingly for leaving our bikes in transition.

All the girls!

Her place for the evening.

Team photo after bike check-in

With all the errands finally done we were at the house to rest, make final preparations and have a great dinner.  Later on in the evening… happened.  The heavy downpours of rain started.  The forecast which had been monitored frequently for days and days and days called for 100% chance of rain (yes….100%, not 99%…., but 100%) and a bit milder temperature (upper 70s I believe) for race day.  That had dropped from being forecasted in the mid to upper 80s from earlier in the week, which we were happy about, but that rain was definitely on our minds.  The consensus was to PLEASE let us get off our bikes safely and then it was free game to rain!  As the rain began Saturday evening, my mood definitely changed.  I had raced in the rain before….heck my biggest race ever included torrential rain…but it was not something I was looking to repeat.  We had also discussed the idea of the swim being cancelled since it was raining so hard, and that was definitely not something we wanted to happen!  When I went to bed that evening, I was not in the best place mentally.  All I could imagine for Sunday was pouring down rain from the time we left the house to the time we returned.

The CRAZY EARLY alarm at 0’dark thirty on Sunday morning and everyone’s pre-race ritual starts.  I am not a morning person and certainly not one at 3 something in the morning.  There was some small talk over breakfast, but personally, I know I was just trying to wake up and get my head in the game…this actually took much longer than normal.  The good news is that IT WAS NOT RAINING!  It seemed that the rain had moved through the area much quicker, so YAY to that!!!!!                    

Our house was about 15 minutes from downtown and we headed out by 4:15am.  Since no one in our group had done this race before, we were not familiar with the logistics.  We got downtown, parked, body marked and into transition for final preparations.  We had to catch a shuttle for a very short ride to the swim start (no line to catch the shuttle).  In the end we had plenty of time, but better to be safe.

Race morning team photo

Once arriving at the swim start, this is where the waiting began along with a bit of frustration.  The Athlete Guide read that it was a self-seeded rolling swim start.  The only other self-seeded swim start I had participated in was at Lake Placid.  They had volunteers with signs of expected swim times and you gather behind the sign that is appropriate.  When we arrived at this swim start, there was just a long line that we joined.  Shortly after arriving, we overhead a volunteer announcing…”If you are a fast swimmer, then you need to go to the front of the line”.  [This started the confusion and frustration for a lot of people.  I don’t consider myself a “fast swimmer”, but what does that mean exactly?  In the end, they did provide a bit more detail regarding “fast” and which light pole we needed to be lined up at for a particular time range, but there were no time signs and it was very unorganized.  In the end, Tony went closer to the front, three of us were more in the “middle” and one decided to head further down the line from the three of us.]

At 6:50 the pro men started and then 6:55 the pro women.  The age groupers were scheduled to start at 7:00.  However, soon after the pro women started, we noticed that there was a boat moving a buoy (also causing lots of wake in the river) which made us start asking questions to one another.  7:00 came and went (without us starting the swim) and eventually there was an announcement made by the race organizers that they were removing the “upstream” portion of the swim thereby shortening it from 1.2 miles to approximately .80 miles.  Apparently, the pros were having some difficulty in the upstream portion (due to the heavy rain) and the decision was made to keep things as safe as possible for the age groupers and change it up.  I was definitely bummed out, but totally understand why this decision was made.  More time passed as the changes were made to the swim course and I am not sure what time the age groupers actually started.  However, I was definitely ready to go by that time!

After the horn was sounded, we slowly made our way to the river.  There was a small dock that we had to go from.  I was watching most people just jump off the dock and I was not wild about this idea.  What if my goggles or seal came loose just enough for water to seep in?  Maybe I will hold them as I jump in….decisions…..  Then I saw someone quickly sit down at the edge of the dock and slide into the water.  That might have taken 2 extra seconds, but when I saw that, I knew that was what I was doing!  I had discussions with my two teammates that I was in line with about how we would get into the water.  Tarina and I decided to take the same approach.  Major props go to Bill who had planned to not do a repeat of his Ironman Louisville swim entry (which was a quasi belly flop) but did exactly that!  It made for a bit of comic relief seconds before my own swim start but lots more post-race!

The official water temperature was 73.6, so wet suit legal!  When I got in it only felt chilly for a few seconds.  I quickly fell into my rhythm and felt like I maintained it throughout.  For at least half the swim I was side by side with Tarina and we even bumped into each other one time…oops!  There were plenty of swimmers but I never felt like it was not crowded, which is great for me.  I tried to keep my head in the swim, which is key, and stay focused on my technique.   I have found that this typically gives me better results overall.  Before I knew it, I was aiming for the ladders surrounded by volunteers to help us out of the river.  SWIM DONE! 

I saw my swim time and distance as soon as I got out of the water (I usually hit the lap button on my Garmin as soon as I stop swimming instead of waiting to cross the timing mat for transition).  I actually saw .82 miles, which seemed pretty close to being on point.  It was hard to gauge my time since it is a swim with the current and shorter than planned.

The run to transition was not a short one but included a brief stop at the wet suit strippers that did a fast and fabulous job!  At that point the weather was still cooperating…it was not raining and very overcast.  I tried to be as efficient in T1 as possible, but I know I need to improve to cut down my time.

Onto the bike!  This is where I am most comfortable.  However, I had a bit of concern in the back of my mind.  The past several weeks leading up to the race, I had some issues in my right glute/hamstring.  It was only when I was on the bike (not on the run) and it had improved the last week or two just before the race.  I had also spent a TON of time on the foam roller; however, I was still going in with my fingers crossed! 

I was very excited about this bike course.  Having driven it I felt prepared and was ready to tackle a new course.  Well, frustration set in within the first few miles.  There were a couple sets of railroad tracks and despite them being covered, the area gave us a rough ride.  Over the first set and immediately I heard my back bottle hit the ground.  CRAP!  I stopped, laid my bike on the ground and ran back (as best I could in bike cleats) and grabbed it.  Ok…big loss of momentum, but back on the bike and into my groove.  Shortly thereafter there was another set of tracks and AGAIN I had a torpedoing bottle.  It actually crossed my mind for one second to keep going.  Since I use Infinit though, all my calories were in the three bottles I was carrying on the bike.  I didn’t have a choice.  Same routine with stopping and it felt like the second time took me even longer.  I was so pissed, but what else could I do?  I tried to put it out of my mind and ride the way I know I could.  

Before I knew it I was out of town and this is where the course really gets enjoyable.  Overall I think the course was a bit crowded, but in comparison to Raleigh 70.3 (which I have done three times), I would say not too different.  My guess is that a shorter swim course provided a smaller window of time for people to get more spread out.

I was just doing my thing and stayed of out of the draft zone when I was not sure I was ready to pass, but also did plenty of passing when my legs gave me the go ahead.  It still blows my mind how many people will ride in the middle or to the left of the lane.  The concept is quite easy…STAY TO THE RIGHT…PLEASE!

The biggest advantage I gained from us driving the bike course was the preparation it gave us leading up to the short, STEEP climb on Andrews.  Otherwise upon making that left hand turn, I definitely would have been in the big ring and HATING life at the point!  However, I did know when to expect it and shifted to my small ring and was ready to hit it!  Upon the turn, I immediately saw two people walking their bikes up the hill and one lady that appeared to have dropped her chain.  YIKES!  That is a legit hill! Thankfully it was short and I just gradually shifted my rear gears and spun up.  I was glad to have that one done and ready for the nice recovery section after.

As I was covering the back half of the course, I would do periodic checks with myself and I continued to feel good.  I knew my pace was great but wanted to keep it in the forefront of my mind that “I was not out to win a bike race” (wise words by my training buddy Bill).  Really, I wanted to push when I could but didn’t want to leave it all on the bike when I still had a half marathon to run.    

As I entered back into town, I was excited about the ride I had.  I was still mad because I had dropped a bottle twice, but I knew I did the ride I could and really exceeded my expectations.  I just wish my Garmin bike average had carried over to to my official finish time.   

Since my Garmin is set to auto pause (and didn’t capture my stops for the dropped bottles), I know my true ride time and distance and a 20+ average would have been crazy exciting to see in my race results.  Still a new PR for that race distance is something to be very proud of!    

Ride data from my Garmin

As I was coming into T2 I saw my training buddy Bill.  Since seeing Tarina early on the bike, I had not seen any of my teammates or Tony racing.  However, the support crew that was there to cheer on our team was loud and so awesome!  It made me smile every time I saw and heard them!

I tried to be as efficient as possible in T2, but once again, I need to improve on my time here.  I started out on my run and my legs didn’t feel that bad.  Maybe I had actually been able to ride that bike course and not crush my legs! 

Starting out on the run

I expected the course to be relatively hilly, but other than that, not sure what to expect.  Overall I was feeling ok…I did have a slight touch of uneasy stomach, but nothing too concerning.  I planned to take Coke at the aid station to hopefully keep it settled. 

The early part of the 2-loop course was definitely not my favorite.  This section is along a highway stretch with no shade and some long gradual hills as well.  The next section was much better as it was along a river walk and had some breeze and shady areas.  There was also a terrific aid station which was a luau theme and lots of fun volunteers. 

After you emerge from this stretch you hit THE HILL!  I continued to run up it on the first loop until about half way.  Then power walked up to the top which was a much better decision.       

The next section of the run took us over a huge bridge which was pretty cool.  I was excited to be nearing the end of loop one.  I had some tough stretches during that loop.  It was starting to warm- up as the sun was peeking out.   I was ready to get through this.

Loop two I knew I needed to keep my head in the game.  Overall, I think I did a pretty good job.  I minimized any walking to be at the aid stations were I was trying to stay cool and keep my stomach happy.  When I hit THE HILL the last time I did power walk as I learned the first time through that was the best plan.

As I neared the finish line I told myself to let go of the focus and enjoy it.  This is something I don’t always make a conscious effort to do, but is was great!  I found myself more emotional than I expected.  With a new PR in the pocket (includes accounting for the shortened swim), I was relieved.  The fifth finish line for a 70.3 is still as sweet as ever!

I immediately found Tony and Bill and we all shared hugs and congratulations.  We met up with our cheering section who were just awesome throughout the day.  Soon after, Tarina and April crossed the finish line and we were all together again.

All smiles!!! (from left to right) Tony, me, Tarina, April & Bill

We knew soon enough after quick conversations that everyone on the team had raced to new PRs!!!  Even estimating the additional time the shortened swim would have added we had met some great goals.

We gathered all our gear and headed back to the house.  Everyone was ready for showers and some serious relaxation!  Hanging out after the race at the house was great.  We took turns in the Norma Techs and shared details of each of our days.  This quality time after the race was truly one of the highlights of having the house that we all shared.  Since no race day is complete without appropriate celebration the entire group went out to dinner at a downtown restaurant called Stir.  It was great ending to our day!

Since I have had time to really reflect on my race, overall I am happy with my day.  My ultimate goal was to lock in a new PR at this distance.  5:53:43 was my long standing PR from Beach to Battleship half in 2012.  I was able to do that.  I felt strong in the swim and only wish it had been safe for us to have the full course.  With the exception of the bottle mishap, I don’t think I would change anything about my bike.  I thought I would be able to gut out a faster run, but I gave it all I had, and that’s all I can ask of myself.  Another one in the books!