“In an uncontrollable world you always have control of yourself and that is most important” – Jason Winn.
This quote just so happens to be on the back of my race day nutrition product (bonk breaker bars) and sums up the start of Eagleman 70.3 race day morning! As I tip toed into the glorious water of the Choptank River I said to my Mum “ Everything that could go wrong already has so from here on out its smooth sailing.” A little dramatic but my positive outlook could have just saved my race.
To sum it up after ignoring my Mum’s alarm clock advice we left the hotel about 15 minutes behind schedule. I woke up at 4:45, turned on the computer to send out the weekly coaching programs (priorities people) and chowed down my Udi’s almond butter bagel with Vega performance protein shake (lots of BCAA’s to start the long day). We made it to the parking lot where buses where shuttling nervous triathletes to the start. In true nervous Milly fashion I cracked some jokes on the bus about my Mum being my “assistant” which got some smiles.
I went straight to transition where I started pumping my tires, my worst nightmare, a flat…. already. Luc (our cycling director at Sherpa and my good friend) had spent hours (I mean hours!) helping me feel prepared with my bike, tuning it up, changing the tires, you name it, but I was still paranoid about mechanical issues. I rushed over to the bike tent where a few overly stressed looking men tried to help me. After a few minutes I started sweating and asked if I had permission to be stressed, something was wrong with the valve…
As I looked over with 5 minutes left before transition closed I was still standing in the tent in my warmup’s with one wheel on when I heard the announcement “Men cannot swim shirtless today.” Hmmm, ok first of all, women can but men cant, interesting? Second of all, what no wetsuits!! As a skinny runner with a non-existent swimming background I need all the help I can get to keep my legs a float. With about 2 minutes to go, my bike was fixed and I ran over to transition, having to use my Patagonia fleece as a transition mat, threw everything down, double-checked, grabbed my swim skin and ran.
I found my Mum and she knew there had been some problems but I smiled and we made our way down to the river as a I started a light jog with my normal warm up routine. It was about 6:55, my wave was at 7:00 and I started to look for fellow light blue caps, nowhere to be seen. I asked the man in charge where my age group was and he pointed to the middle of the river, ouch. My heart dropped, how could this happen? He saw my face and immediately told me not to panic my time would not suffer and he would put me in the next female wave. Phew.
I edged into the river with the 50’s crowd and commented on how young they all looked! They were so sweet about my situation and gave me a spot right at the front, boom the gun was off and away we went. Now the part of the race that was in my control, all the training, all the preparation here was the time to see what I could do. I knew the lack of wetsuit would affect my swim time but I felt great in the water. I was able to stay as straight as a ruler, not veering off in the opposite direction like last years races. The water tasted disgusting but I found a groove and kept a solid rhythm. The swim is never my time to shine but rather just to finish saving as much energy for the bike and run as possible. When we turned the corner to the home stretch I saw some people standing up and running in, but I was so stubborn to see what my time would be so I continued to swim. On the money 45 minutes, same time as my last half ironman, but in a swim skin, I was happy and ready to get to my bike. (Note the picture below, that is not a goatee on my face but remnants of the river….yum)
I was able to get some good speed in transition without the wetsuit and was delighted to see Tawnee Prazak the podcast host of Endurance Planet by my station cheering my name! I have been listening to Endurance Planet for about a year, it is how I survive my long commutes to work! Tawnee has become a mentor and a friend to me throughout my journey this year. She has given me some incredible insight on how to structure my training to get the most out of my workouts and how to prioritize so I stay balanced and don’t loose sight of things. It was awesome to see her out there knowing she knew exactly what I had put into this experience.
Onto the bike….I can’t say enough about how amazing Luc has been this year never giving up on helping me to feel at one with my bike. I feel so comfortable on my bike and so much more efficient and I attribute that 100% to his advice and the work he has put on my fit. I took 36 minutes off my bike split which was where I saw the biggest improvements. Part of that has come from letting go of my run a bit and making sure I do my bike workouts on fresh legs (not beat up from running!) Luc’s 2-hour tempo ride suggestion I used heavily in my last block of training was an integral part of my gains, shying away a bit from my heavy focus on interval training. I felt great on the bike and was actually sad that the 56 miles were over! Then I remember, now I get to run J
I love triathlons because the day just keeps getting better, the swim is alright, the bike is great and the run is always refreshing. My nutrition felt right on par when I started running, using a combination of skratch and bonk breakers and saving my Vega gels (electrolytes included) for the run. I also started using the vega sport pre workout energizer on the bike and have found that to really keep my energy consistent.
I had been picking off people from my age group throughout the bike looking at their age on their calf and seemed to think I was about half way through the pack. I started seeing the pro’s coming in towards the finish line, which is always motivating and exciting. Every person that I saw coming through (it was an out and back course) I would look at their calf to see how old they were! When I realized I was in fourth place (with a 15 minute handicap) I dug deep. My run suffered a bit from my bike split but the end result was a faster finish with a 1:43 half marathon. I came in at 5:24, 1 hour ahead of my ½ ironman time from last year.
I was elated, ecstatic. I found my Mum and bawled by eyes out, I don’t think I have ever cried happy tears in my life. No matter what happened, where I had place the feeling of knowing all the training I had done, the work I have put into coaching myself and executing the workouts had been successful was so rewarding. I want to be the type of coach who doesn’t just talk the talk but walks the walks, I want to go out and try new workouts and I am opening to failing because if I fail, I learn and know not to go there again. I want to be a resource to people that they know they can go to and get honest opinions from someone who has been there and experienced it first hand, not just read it from a book.
It was a long day after I finished the race. We found out I had finished third, and with one spot to Kona and one spot to the half ironman world championships, there was a possibility I could be selected. After a long day of waiting, the rolldown ceremony happened at 4pm and the 2nd place girl took both championships slots. Alas, it was not my time today. But with my focus this year being on the full ironman distance I never ever thought I would even get close to Kona at Eagleman 70.3 I choose it this year as a well timed half in my buildup to Boulder, knowing that there is always a chance. To have gotten so close is a reward in itself and has given me even more motivation to put on the gas and work even harder. And besides, as my Mum pointed out, I don’t want Kona sloppy seconds anyways, I want to earn it J
I am so grateful and thankful most to my Mum, who none of this would be possible without. She is always there to support me, listen to me about my 3-hour ride with low cadence intervals, or how successful my new nutrition strategy was. She is always there at the finish line with a smile, cheering me on. I told my Mum and sister they are in a race (whoever spectates the most triathlons gets to come to Kona J) right now they are neck and neck as they are both beyond supportive and behind me 100% on this somewhat crazy journey.
I am also so appreciative of my sponsors this year who help to make this even possible, Josh Lander Health Sciences, Child Advocates of Connecticut, Vega and Amazing Running Tours. Child Advocates of Connecticut is a non-profit led by Nancy Rebold whose mission is to recruit, train and supervise court appointed volunteers who work to ensure that each abused or neglected child has a safe, loving and permanent home. People don’t think that this goes in Fairfield Country but it is a huge problem, CAC is bringing awareness to that, and it is an incredible cause. I am elated to be a part in spreading their mission.
What’s next? The age-old question! My next objective is to piece it all together, vowing to myself to never run in this next training block without biking beforehand! So for the next 6 weeks my focus is on improving my post bike run and working on building some more strength on the bike by crushing out some hill repeats in undulating Connecticut whilst extending the half-ironman intensity I gained last block into the ironman distance. Ironman Boulder on August 3rd will be a “B” race for me this year with the goal to continue to learn how to pace the ironman distance and enjoy being back in Colorado. I look forward to my “A” race of the year, Ironman Maryland on September 20th. In the meantime hoping to pick up a couple of local triathlons to get in some more transition practice on training days J See you out there!