Vineman x 2
July was been a busy month! Hanna turned 10 months, I gave my notice at my full-time job (more to come on that in a future blog post), and I raced Vineman…and Vineman! Traveling to races is tough and expensive so I’m so lucky to have two amazing events basically in my backyard! How could I not give both of them a go? I mean, how fun is it, when people ask what you are racing next, to say, “Vineman and Vineman”?
First up was the 70.3! Although this was my lowest place in the pro field this season (13th) I still feel like it was my best result and race post baby (so far!). The field was STACKED – 26 female pros in all (how awesome is that? I think we had more than the men!!) – so I was pretty pumped to come in the top half. And I was 2nd overall for the breast-feeding moms division!
My result was also not my best time on that course (4:39 vs. 4:31) BUT the pro race was non-wetsuit (MY FAVORITE!) and we had a lot more wind on the bike than my PR year (the kind that is in your face, not at your back). When I factor in those two variables, I’d say I was pretty close to my best Vineman 70.3 performance to date, so I’ll take it!
Just 3 shorts weeks after the 70.3, was the Ironman. I really didn’t know what to expect going into this race. I didn’t have the bike or run miles in my legs that I would normally have for Ironman. In 2014 I lost count of the 100+ mile bike rides I completed. This year was a little easier to track since there were 2. Although I have been able to regularly run 14-16 miles on Sundays (with Hanna and her jogging stroller, of course!), I only managed to run longer than that once. And my 2-3 swims per week at about 3.5k yds per swim really wasn’t the ideal training. BUT the race is so close (and in wine country!) how could I not just give it a shot? I also thought it would be a great way to gauge my fitness and see what work still needs to be done before Ironman Arizona in November.
Given my limited training (who knew babies were so time consuming??) my goal for Ironman Vineman was simple: finish strong. I knew I could finish (barring any major bike mechanical issue). I would crawl across the line if I had to. BUT what I really wanted was to pace it correctly and be able to run strong for the entire marathon (maybe a tall order considering my run fitness?). Looking at the original start list, I also thought there MIGHT be a chance to sneak into the top 8 and MAYBE get my trip partially paid for! That’s right, true professional racing, right? I just hope I cover my travel expenses?
Anywho, all of a sudden it was race morning. I was feeling nervous and excited and ready to go! The gun went off and I immediately settled into my “race pace” (aka my “don’t overdo it so you can actually finish the run” pace). I was BEYOND happy to have ANOTHER non-wetsuit swim (especially since I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Roka speedsuit). It makes the swim a little slow, but I was perfectly comfortable in the water for 2.4 miles. The highlight of the swim was hitting the part of the river where there was pretty much no way we could keep swimming. I was with Monica Juhart and Kate Bevilaqua and we all shared a laugh as we stood, walked a few steps, and then continued on with a few dolphin dives, and finally short strokes to avoid scraping our hands on the bottom. I really felt like the swim FLEW by and all of a sudden there was the swim exit. While first out of the water wasn’t even on my radar at the start of the day, I realized with about 100 meters to go it was within reach. I picked up the pace a bit and crossed the swim out line BARELY ahead of Monica. For a few seconds I was leading Ironman! I knew that wouldn’t last long so I savored all 5 seconds and then refocused to the bike.
I really love this bike course! (good thing since I basically got to do it 3 times in 3 weeks!). The roads are almost all in really good condition, the terrain is rolly, and the area is gorgeous. I have been to almost all the wineries along Mark West road so it was fun to think about my experiences at each one as I rode by, Yes, I was focused, but in 5 ½ hours of riding, there is still a lot of time to think! I also rode REALLY conservatively to ensure I wouldn’t have a major explosion on the run so I wasn’t really pushing the pace! I sat in 3rd for most of the ride, but on the last loop I caught back up to Kate, and then Monica. I was still feeling good holding my steady pace and was pretty shocked to be coming into T2 in 2nd place! I knew it probably wouldn’t last, but I decided I was going to enjoy it while it did! The highlight of my bike (besides riding my way back into 2nd) was at mile 70.4. That is when my former coach, and current mentor, Tim Sheeper came flying by. I had a bet with my Team Sheeper teammates to see at what mile he would pass me. The guesses were all over the board, but my personal goal was to hold him off until mile 60…mission accomplished! If only he hadn’t passed me like I was standing still J
Onto the run! At the last minute the run was changed from 2 loops into 3. I was actually excited about this – I could see friends and family a lot more often! The “loops” were actually out and backs, so you could also see the competition a lot more often (cue the nail biting). As I started the run, I heard people saying, “she’s only 19 minutes up, you got this!” Ha, referring to the fact that Sarah P had been running for almost 3 miles before I even got started. I laughed out loud and said, “yeah I’m not going to catch her”. I ran pretty slowly the first 2 loops. I was excited to see that none of the other girls were really putting much (or enough) time into me to catch up…except one. Pocket rocket Ashley Paulson came off the bike pretty far back, but it was clear at the first turnaround she was coming for me. It took her until mile 14 or 15 to finally make the pass, but there was no way I could even hang on for a second. I wished her luck and decided that I had better hang on to 3rd (In the end I think her run was about 30minutes faster than mine– so probably about a minute per pound of our weight difference, ha!). I was right about the 3rd loop – it really tested me. I felt strong and smooth, until about mile 18. Then the wheels started to come off a bit. That is when I started HAMMERING the coca cola. I was running almost 9 minute miles, but I knew I had to keep RUNNING. I had a couple porta potty stops that probably cost me a minute or two, but I knew if I gave into the urge to walk, I would end up in 4th, or worse. At the last turnaround I thought I saw the next girl back was now within 2 minutes. What? Hadn’t she just been about 5 minutes back? Crap. My body was screaming at me and I wanted to let up so much, but I come that far and I WANTED that 3rd place finish. Funny how before the start I would have been so pumped if you told me I was going to get 4th. Now I had 3rd and I wanted to keep it.
Normally I’m at least able to smile or give a wave or a cheer to teammates on the course. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t smile. All I could do was keep focused on the road in front of me and ticking off the miles. Finally I was on my last mile. My pal Hailey was on the course and confirmed I still had at least 2minutes on 4th so I knew I was safe. I kept the pressure on (at least as much as I could at that point). Then there was the final corner right before the finishing shoot. Waiting there were my husband and daughter. I stopped and gave Hanna a quick kiss, almost tearing up at seeing my two favorite people, and then rounded the corner to home. Although this was the 10th time I had crossed an Ironman finish line, it was definitely the most special. Not only did I fight harder in those last few miles than I have ever fought before, I ended up in 3rd, and did it with a new baby and a full-time job. And of course I got to see my beautiful baby girl waiting for me at the end.
The race wasn’t perfect (are they ever when you are a competitive person?). And I still have a lot of work to do. But this was the best possible result I could have hoped for. I’m so grateful to all the people – friends, family, teammates, and sponsors – who helped make my return to racing at the professional level possible. I’m especially grateful to my wonderful husband, who was mommy and daddy every Saturday for the past several months so that I could continue pursuing my passion. I really couldn’t be where I am without his unwavering support.
So what’s next? Originally I was planning to race Ironman Wisconsin (mostly because I LOVE that race) and possibly Austin 70.3 (mostly because I LOVE that city). But I realize now that I would rather take some time to recover and then really focus on my Ironman Arizona training. I am still hoping to go for my PR there this November and there is still a lot of work to be done to get there!
Hanna with Auntie KK while mom was in doping control. Congrats to this lady for 4thAG and KONA!!
4/20 Wildflower 70.3 - 9th pro
7/10 Vineman 70.3