1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of biking and 13.1 miles of running is no easy task for any mere mortal…add in the coldest temperatures we have seen so far this season, 25+ mph winds, and a potential hurricane and you have a recipe for quite a challenging day.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a pretty mentally and physically tough cookie; I can put my head down and endure any discomfort or challenge that presents me. Well, the exception to that is being cold. I am a wuss, and my Edie Bauer ankle length down coat that I have been known to bust out as early as November is a tell tale sign of my temperature intolerance. I did the Gran Fondo a few years ago in a massive rainstorm with no appropriate clothing and to this day it is the hardest physical day of my life.
The week of this race was a pretty tough one emotionally and physically. I was struggling to recover from a hard week of training and external stressors. The thought of shivering and pushing myself to my limits seemed like a big risk to take with my “A” race: Ironman Arizona only 6 weeks away. After all, Montauk was just a practice race to look at how far I had come since Maine, what still needing tweaking, and as always a test of pacing/transitions/nutrition.
I turned to my good friend, Matt, who is great at giving real advice. He tells me to suck it up when I need to but back off when im in overdrive. We decided that if I could go out there, have fun, enjoy the process, SMILE, and go through the motions without having to go into the mental extra gear, then I had nothing to loose.
For any of you who have done any kind of extreme endurance event you will relate to what I call a “Porta-potty moment.” These are moments when you look at yourself in the mirror of the porta-potty and say what the f*** have I gotten myself into! It’s those times that make you the athlete you are. If you can rise to that moment, prevail, and cross the finish line, you have won. My goal for this race was not to have one of these moments! They take a lot out of your physically and mentally detract from getting back on the training wagon. With the two biggest weeks of training of my life following this race I could not afford to take myself to “that” place.
So Mumager, Sammy and I headed off on Saturday morning. Managed to get our money back for Friday and Sunday nights as we originally intended to have a nice long, relaxing, vineyard-drinking weekend in the sun. We got to the expo which I ran through like a practice transition grabbing my goodie bag, numbers etc. and back to the warmth of the car! I was no joke legitimately freezing. I don’t struggle with pre-race nerves, I get jitters, excitement or stressed but I never experience straight up nerves. Every race I go into I am 110% physically prepared for, I make sure of that. I control the controllable to the nth degree; my struggle is with the uncontrollable so I was anxious to see how that would play out.
After sleeping about 6 hours in between heavy rain, wind, and tossing and turning on the bench I mean bed we were sleeping on, the alarm went off at 3:50. First step get breakfast in and get the kettle going. Tea and lots of it would be happening to get my core warm immediately. I did my 10-minute Headspace meditation, clearing my head of the worries of how this day would play out. I also did about a 10-minute mobility routine to get warm and loose.
The morning looked like the day of the Perfect Storm At this point it was still dark, but even when the gun went off at 6:50 it wasn’t much lighter with the looming cloud coverage. I went to set up my transition, which was the easiest I’ve ever done. All my kit would remain in my bag don’t want your $200 aero helmet flying off in the wind! I got body marked and headed back to the warmth of the car (seeing a theme yet??)
At this point just to be clear I was wearing heavy sweats, a long sleeved tshirt, and two jackets…. and was cold. About 6:40 I ripped off the band-aid, stripped down and put on my wetsuit. I decided not to wear my normal racing kit and opted to swim with just tri shorts and a sport bra so I could put warm layers on post swim.
I left Mumager and Sam in the car for this one, the swim is the most boring (because the hours of biking of run is fun right??) of the triathlon spectating. My Mum particularly gets nervous at the swim; all she sees is a 7-yeard old Milly clinging to her at swim lessons not wanting to get in.
Rumors were the water would be warmer than the air so that would make the swim cakewalk. Well the masses of rain from the day before changed that up a bit. It was freezing! I swam without putting my head underwater for a minute just to control my breathing. Since Maine, I managed to have a lesson with Chris Coffin, who has helped me no end with swimming. I am finally starting to see my numbers back to where they were before Texas so confidence was high. It was smooth sailing on the way out but very choppy coming back, but I came out of the water 7 minutes faster than 2 years ago at this race and a half-ironman PR. The best part was I felt comfortable and strong feeling like after a few more weeks of getting comfortable with those paces I could hang there for 2.4 miles…. that’s the goal!
Transition 1 (T1) was a joke. I knew the priority was to get warm and dry so I let the time go. I got my wetsuit off seamlessly and dried off. I put on: a thermal top, t-shirt, long sleeved cycling jersey, wind jacket, and leg warmers. All in 10 minutes! Winner….ha. But I felt good, warm and ready to tackle this windy ride.
The mentally demoralizing part about biking in a headwind is your effort and speed never correlate. I typically do a half ironman bike leg in about 2:50…..this one took me 3:30. To put this into perspective I averaged 10 watts higher over this ride compared with Maine 4 weeks ago, which is a huge improvement although my time was not indicative with that. My heart rate was actually 2bpm lower over the course of this race so very clear to say I have progressed in that manner. It was a challenging bike course no doubt; even without the wind it is a surprisingly hilly course. But I didn’t falter once; I was warm, happy and had a great time. I remembered Matt telling me to “smile” and my good friend Tawnee telling me to “HTFU” and I did both of those things, even when pushing 200 watts for 8mph!
Onto the run! T2 was great, one of my best, I was amped to have beaten the bike course and stoked to be running in my Endurance Planet shirt as they called my name out as a member of EP Triathlon Team. My good friend Tawnee Prazak is the owner and host of the best podcast out there and graciously sponsored me this year. I was excited to be promoting her.
I stripped down to the thermal top and t-shirt and saw Mumager and Sammy as I ran around the corner feeling the 56 miles of wind in my legs but keeping my heart rate steady at a decent pace. I knew this course and anticipated the “Murder Hill” about halfway through each loop. This year and last year I got the same comment as I ran up “Show off!” The run is my time to shine, but being a “B” race I made sure to have some fun, cheered on some people, and offered encouragement to those who looked like they were having some “moments” of their own J
I paced the run closer to 160bpm this time (about 5-10bpm over my Maine heart rate) All my previous half ironman averages were 160bpm and I felt I under paced the run in Maine. I’m finding 160 is probably my sweet spot for half ironman distance on the run. Amazing to think last time I did this race my bike average heart rate was 128, and this time 142! Heart rate is an interesting thing and one of my favorite topics but my issue then was I had not developed the bike musculature to push my aerobic abilities to stimulate heart rate. I see this all the time in new triathletes, particularly coming from a running background with strong aerobic systems. It takes times, lots of low cadence and strong bursts of power intervals. Ideally I would like to see that average get to 150bpm for the half-ironman bike leg so there is work to be done!
The last mile of the race I knew I had it the bag so I kicked it up a notch and came in strong, 6th overall and 2nd in my age group. For a race that I almost bailed out of for fear of the uncontrollable variables I can now relate to people who fear the starting line. Part of this journey for me is just experiencing all the conditions, emotions, and situations that one of my athletes might find themselves in, so I can help guide them from an experienced perspective.
The night of the race I went over to a friends house and we were going over the results, mine versus the women who came in front of me. I should I was beaten by mere seconds by a lady the same age as my Mum! R.E.S.P.E.C.T. He pointed out that the woman in front of that had only a 3 minute T1 and if I had changed quicker I would have beat her too. He was perplexed that I was not filled with rage! It made me realize that I have and always will be intrinsically competitive, when the gun goes off the only thing on mind is to swim, bike and run faster than Milly ever has before. This goes back to controlling the controllable, I know my destiny is in my own hand and I have direct control over how I perform. I can’t say that for my competitors. So my journey is my own. I don’t need to compare my results or progress to another because its apples to oranges.
With now 5 weeks to go until IM AZ, I have two big weeks of training. This week was high volume, low intensity to recover from the race. Next week will be my peak week at 32 hours with a good dose of intensity. I can’t wait! I am more motivated then ever and really starting to feel like it is all coming together! Embrace the unknown…sometimes its good to be a little scared…and show yourself you are stronger than you thought!