The lead up to this race was both uneventful and very eventful. Training was pretty stable and consistent. After a solid offseason and recovery at the end of last season, I started to pick it up at the beginning of January with Matt Hanson’s training camp in Clermont, FL. We had a wonderful time getting outside on our bikes, putting in some base miles, and getting some sun. I also joined Matt Hanson’s Racing Team for the season and am pretty stoked being able to be part of the community and continued checking off my coach, Jen Harrison’s, workouts one by one.
The eventfulness came in my non-triathlon life. After months of loading up my bike, swim gear, running shoes, Normatecs, and basically my entire life in no less than 10 bags into my car every weekends to visit Ted in Minneapolis, I decided it was a good time to make a change. I was ready to move on in my career and on December 17th, I became a Clinical Research Program Manager for UnitedHealth Group’s Research and Development department. I can’t say enough good things about this super fun and nerdy job so far (including a recent promotion to Associate Research Director!) and living in Minneapolis has been a dream.
I love our apartment’s city views, having the best running trails around right out my front door, and wouldn’t trade carpooling every day with my favorite guy for the world. I miss my Rochester friends dearly, but it’s not too far away for visits! With all the changes of a new routine including a new pool and Masters swim group, the stability of training was a familiar comfort.
The week before the race, I had a less than stellar last long run where I felt slow, sore, and uninspired and I actually stopped in the middle of one race-pace interval to catch my breath and cry a little - ha! But I remembered, I ALWAYS have an awful workout the week before the race so at least it was out of the way. And one workout doesn’t negate all the previous solid workouts, so I did my best to brush it off and get fired up about racing strong!
We arrived in Galveston mid-day Thursday, jam packed our rental SUV with bikes and suitcases, hit up the expo and toured the run course, and got to bed early. Saturday morning was the typical pre-race short bike+run and transition practice then a big brunch. The weather was foggy and cool, but better than hot! We all piled into Ted’s folks’ rented Suburban for a tour of the flat bike course and for me to ride over the San Luis Pass bridge. The bridge is known for having nasty crosswinds, so I made sure to do a
quick preview to get feel for it.
We had a relaxing lunch at our Airbnb, then checked in our bikes and attended the pro panel in the afternoon. Highlights included meeting Meredith Kessler(!), chatting with Matt Hanson and getting handed new 2019 Racing Team kits that came in, and watching Ted walk into his first ever pre-race PRO meeting. I tagged along to the building in search of a restroom and fangirled hard seeing all of the pros up close! :) That night, we ate dinner at home (nearing the end of 2 days of ALL the carbohydrates) and got to bed early.
Ted almost murdered me race morning when we 10 (or 20) minutes late getting out the door because I was busy applying my Oiselle tattoos and getting my hair braided (thanks Mom!). But a few minutes of scurrying aside, my dad dropped us off with enough time to set up our transition and bikes, use the porta-potty, and walk to the swim start. The pro men went off at 7:05am and my wave (now a 35-39 year old lady!) was scheduled for 7:48am, so I got to watch the cannon fire and try to pick out Ted in a sea of yellow caps from shore! After he went off, I had time to do a quick warm-up jog, pop an AltRed for an extra kick, and talk to my parents while getting into my wetsuit. Side point -- we didn’t have a chance to swim the days prior, so this was my first time in my wetsuit since September -- gah! But my Roka wetsuit is super comfy and my new wetsuit spray made the whole process slick! Before I knew it, I was lining up on the dock ready to race.
Swim (29:53; 5th AG; 28th overall female including pro field)
The swim start is a deep in-water start where we jumped into the water off a dock about 2 minutes prior to our start. The water was chilly and salty, but it felt good and I got in a few strokes before we lined up. I placed myself at the front near the inside and behind a woman with swedish goggles (dead giveaway for a strong swimmer!). At the horn, there was the expected mad mass start, but it was a lot rougher than I expected! Lots of elbows and feet that threatened to push me under, and it was tough keeping my sights ahead especially when we started to catch the previous waves swimmers almost immediately. I lost a front pack right away, so it was a good lesson in needing to be MORE aggressive! I eventually managed to find another lavender colored swim cap making her way through the crowd and I stayed on her feet the rest of the swim. The other factor during the swim was the choppy water. The last stretch of the triangle shaped route heading back into shore got rough and by this time we were swimming through even more athletes. It reminded me a lot of busy mornings with my new masters team practices -- 6 people to a lane, 5 of them usually big guys, all swimming so close that taking a breath becomes almost impossible. I was right at home. :)
I exited the water with about 8 other athletes all making their way up a single file ramp. We were so crowded, my own mother couldn’t pick me out making my way through the others! I made it a point to find a capable wetsuit stripper (when I raced here in 2016, it took 3 of them and me hanging in mid-air to get me out!). They must have done some training this year, because I was in and out in a split second heading toward my bike. As I ran, I could tell the water was rough - I felt nauseous! Thankfully, this subsided quickly as I made my way through the maze of bikes.
Bike (2:24:15; 1st AG; 23rd overall female including pro field)
Coming out of transition with another crowd of about 8 other athletes, I pulled to the side to mount my bike and happened to be no less than two feet from my dad spectating on the side lines! I casually said “Oh, hi.” and got on my way. This course is a flat and fast course and after about 3 miles of navigating through a small neighborhood and softball fields, it was a straight out and back along the seawall. I got into an aero position and prepared to get nice and comfy for the next 2 hours. I didn’t mind at all! It went by fast broken up by passing someone every 2 seconds, yelling “on your left”, and watching the pro race unfold on the other side of the road heading back into town. Uber-biker Andrew Starkowytz had a massive lead on the rest of the field followed by Matt Hanson in second (go Matt!). I counted the places and time gaps and was ecstatic when I saw Ted cruise by in 17th place only 6-7 minutes behind Matt. We were close enough on opposites sides of a two-way, so he heard my full volume screams of “Ted, Ted, Ted!!!” and gave a shout back! It was too fun to see each other!
There was a nice tailwind for the first half and I was having a blast seeing my speed. I kept my power on the lower side of my targeted range with a plan to pick it up a bit heading back into the head wind. This worked well. I had enough energy on the way back into town to fight a little more into the wind and felt pretty strong.
I practiced staying focused a lot during this ride. Because it was relatively uneventful with no twist or turns, my mind kept wanted to drift to the run. How would I feel? Would I be tired? Would it get as miserable as last year’s 70.3 Augusta heat sufferfest? I did the best I could to stay present and focus on the task at hand. Good cadence, eat, drink, watch watts, keep head down, relax. I always remember my first coach Joe’s advice: only think about the part of the race you’re in. When you’re swimming, you’re thinking about swimming. When you’re biking, you’re thinking about biking. When you’re running, you’re thinking about running. Nothing else. This helps me a lot. There’s nothing you can do about the run while you’re biking anyway, right? After a lot of biking (and my fastest 70.3 bike split to date!), I was heading back into transition.
In the most photogenic dismount ever (seriously, my mom caught me at exactly the right moment!), I ran into transition, dropped my bike and picked up my run gear. As I was running out, my dad was on the fence windmilling his arm yelling, “Go, go, go!” I figured either my shoe changing looked like it took an eternity or I had work to do on the run. Either way, I picked it up!
Run (1:27:10; 1st AG, 18th overall female including pro field)
As soon as I left transition I felt like I was flying! In my favorite new gear purchase to date, I was running in my new Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes that literally make me feel like I bounce off the ground! Then almost immediately, I saw Ted standing on the sidelines in a sweatshirt with his backpack with his parents. It was almost a sigh of relief that I knew the outcome of his race. We had guessed his very irritated IT band wasn’t going to hold up and I was thankful he was smart and decided to cut the race short. It’s a difficult call to make, but I’ve been there before (hello Waco 70.3!) and knew it was for the best and he’d made the right choice. I also knew I was now running for the both of us - I wasn’t going to waste my chance. Running is always a privilege.
The run course was 3 loops about 4.25 miles long, and as I started I was folding in with the female pros on their last lap. I passed Lauren Barnett within the first half mile and said, “Don’t worry, I’m on my first lap”, as she eyed up my calf looking for my number on the way by. She responded with, “you look way too fresh to be out here, go get ‘em!” It was a huge boost of confidence and I was fist pumping and beaming ear to ear when I passed my mom and the crew shortly after. My mom was yelling, “Go go go! You’ve got work to do! You know your job!” I didn’t hear any specific splits about where I was in relation to the other girls, but I assumed this meant I had a little catching up to do, so it was time to put my head down and go work. During this first mile I found a girl holding a fast pace to stay with and by mile 1.5 we were gaining on more of the women’s pro field. And then, in perhaps the most unbelievable moments of my life, we came up behind Linsey Corbin -- one of the most well-known and successful names in the sport and a huge role model of mine -- and here I was, about to pass her in a race! In a flustered state, I managed to squeak out a “Good job, Linsey!” as I passed.
Shortly after, the speedy girl in front of me dropped off, and it was up to me to keep up the momentum we started. The second lap wasn’t nearly as eventful, but I focused on not letting the pace drop as best I could and preparing myself for the last lap. In 2016, my legs shut down in the final miles and I was determined not to let it happen again. As I rounded the corner to start my last lap, I gave a small wave to Ted and my mom and heard, “You have one minute to make up! You’re on pace, you can do it!” That lit a fire. I was ready to ease up a bit as the fatigue was starting to set in, but then I knew I didn’t have that luxury. Shortly after, I passed under an overpass where one of my favorite memories from the 2016 race occurred. I had looked up and was shocked to see my dad and my sister Jenna standing above cheering with a ridiculous grumpy cat poster. Sure enough, as I looked up this time, there was my dad again! Missing my sister and poster this time, but still just as amusing. I laughed out loud and was so grateful for my amazingly crazy family.
The last 4 miles seemed long and I was hurting, but like I did in 2016, once I hit mile 12 within 1 to go, I channeled my late Grandpa Ray for the strength to keep pushing to the end. Hitting the red carpet is one of the best feelings in the world. The pain is forgotten and the sight of Ted and my parents screaming and slamming their hands against the cardboard that lined the finisher shoot spread so much gratitude through my body I couldn’t help but finish with a kick.
I promised my mom I wouldn’t do my usual “collapse into the volunteers’ arms as soon as possible” act and remained upright and collect my medal. Without a flood of medical professionals, it was a little less exciting, but hugging my mom and Ted over the fence with teary eyes was, and will always be, just as exciting. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude. I had came to Texas to race strong and to push through to the end and looking at my watch to see a 2+ minute personal best on the run told me I did just that.
I have the best support system in the world and wouldn’t trade it for anything. After hearing the full story of Ted’s first pro race -- lining up with the best in the sport, hammering the bike, and then making a difficult but super smart call to cut the run short, we made our way to the athlete tent. “Wait,” I said, “did I win?” “YES, silly!”, was the response. Sometimes when you’re racing with your heart, I realized, none of the rest really matters.