What a great day.
As per usual, I could not sleep the night before. 12am - 3am was all I got. My mind was racing with thoughts on goals, nutrition, weather, seeing my family on the course, last year's times, everything related to the race.
My dad drove me down to the race start. Zach was working and Mom was waiting for Terran to wake up and then would come find me on the course.
I met a really pleasant woman from California on the shuttle bus into the park and we got body marked together. She was nervous for her first one so I tried to give her some tips and help her feel comfortable. We saw each other a few times before the swim and gave each other smiles. I got my stuff all ready and then before I knew it they were closing transition. I found Zach and Dad pretty easily and we were just chatting because I had about an hour until my wave. Robyn found me and gave me a hug and good luck wishes. I decided to go to the bathroom because those butterflies were making my belly feel funny. We waited in the slowest line, but it gave Amanda time to get to the park and find us. Brock came over and I realized my wave was getting closer! Dad headed over to see the pros come out and we saw the first few guys headed out. I headed to my wave group and felt pretty calm. I knew I was ready and all my gear was ready to go. I chatted with three girls as we walked down the corral. It was nice to have last year's experience to go off of.
Dad found me again right before I headed to the sand. Amanda found me in the crowd and I gave her two thumbs up! The three minutes in between each group were going really quick so I had to get in the zone. I wanted to line up close to the front. The swim start wasn't as far out as last year so we were crowded around the starting line, everyone moving and kicking to stay afloat, bumping into each other.
The horn blared and we were off. It was chaotic. The climbing over each other things I have always heard about but never experienced...it happened. People grabbing my feet, arms hitting my face, full bodies bumping into me and not moving. I tried to steer clear of people but someone would always come back up by me. It was hard to keep a rhythm. I finally got in one when the fast swimmers of the next wave would hit. It was like that the whole way. Although frustrating, I was able to stay composed for most of it and keep swimming. My goggles weren't flawless but I was able to deal with a tiny drip on the left without interfering with my swim. The last stretch seemed to never end, but then I was at the ramp! I ran up it feeling happy and strong and thinking I did pretty well. I love the volunteers that rip off the wetsuit and make it so easy!
One of my goals was to have a little bit quicker transitions. I had a great position down the main aisle and had all my stuff laid out. While I was swimming I realized that I had forgotten to get my Garmin out and ready. I was hoping it was still in my bike shoe!
It was there, and transition went pretty flawlessly. I was able to swallow a few bites of banana and get my socks on my wet feet okay. As I headed out, it was crowded at the bike mount area and I had to avoid hitting people and getting hit. I saw Zach and Dad as I headed out. Every one was going really slow, which was weird to me, so I passed a bunch on that small downhill and tried to find the gear that would be comfortable. There were a lot of participants. I'm guessing the crowdedness came from the different wave structure this year, but it was problem a few times throughout the race.
I got into my groove and rode through Hurricane. I saw Rachelle Ballard and some of her family before the turn onto SR-9. That gave me a little boost and I was feeling really good.
A few miles later my triceps were burning and I couldn't believe it. I was only like fifteen miles in! But I realized it was probably my lack of swim training and my arms must have worked pretty hard to stay quick in the water.
The ride through Hurricane and into Washington went great, with a few times of having to slow down because there wasn't enough room to pass! Not my favorite thing, but not too big of a deal either. I saw Dad again as I came down from Coral Canyon and turned onto the overpass road. He caught back up to me on the overpass and cheered me on. He asked how I was and I honestly felt great! I felt like I was pushing the pace a bit but also that I could maintain it. The stretch from there to Red Hills Parkway didn't drag on as it has in the past and before I knew it, I was up on that hill. We saw the lead pro on his run, so that was a wonderful distraction from the slower pace I usually have on that spot. I spent the next several miles watching the pros, cheering on many of them, and hoping Heather Wurtele was in the lead. We finally saw the women, with Meredith Kessler in the lead and Heather in third. I thought "oh, well, Meredith is great and too bad about Heather." And I kept biking. Turns out, Heather caught up and won, which was really exciting to me!
I was still feeling good as I passed Bluff and headed into Snow Canyon. According to my watch, I was about twenty minutes ahead, so I just needed to maintain my goal average of about 17-18 miles per hour and I would be right on for sub-6.
This is about where my mind messed up a little bit because somehow I thought I was closer to the park than I was, so that stretch was really long. I hit 40 miles coming into the park, and that blew a bit of wind out of my sails because I thought I was a little farther than that. I checked my watch and I think I was still ahead of schedule, but I also knew that the hard part was up ahead. I didn't know that they had added additional hills on a bike path, and an out-and-back, all in the park. That was pretty hard and my legs were feeling it. I also started to feel the heat right about this point. I had tossed a water bottle and grabbed a Gatorade, which was really too sweet and since it wasn't water I couldn't dump it on my head. I started looking forward to getting some water at T2. I finally passed the out-and-back turn around (it seemed like FOREVER to get there from the bike path) and I was tired. I headed up into Snow Canyon, wondering if my legs had enough strength.
Earlier in the week I had told my Dad that I had never stopped on Snow Canyon and I never planned to. It was a good thing I had told him that because the instant the thought of stopping came into my head, that claim put the Kabosh on it. So I knew there was no stopping and I just had to keep my legs moving. There were a lot of people struggling and I was able to exchange comments a few times to keep my mind distracted.
Finally I was at the top and willing my legs to take advantage of the downhill, but they were pretty roasted. This is where my mind zeroed in on making the best of what energy I had and just getting to T2. I felt like I was doing okay timewise, but I knew I would going to have to perform well to get sub-6. The way my legs were feeling, I had to wonder if that would be possible once I started running.
I had come into the race being sick for 5 weeks and only 8 weeks of training, so I knew that optimal performance was not likely. As I was finishing those last few miles on the bike, I was okay with the possibility of not achieving sub-6, but I also knew that I still wanted to do the best I could that day and that meant working hard and digging deep. So that's what I did those last ten miles. I pushed when I could and got to T2, seeing Zach, Terran and Mom cheering me on as I rode down Main Street (Dad said he was running for the camera). Amanda had also been cheering her heart out right before the round about, so I knew I had some positive energy to run toward.
Again, I focused on a quick transition, and headed out on the run. I was happy I didn't need a bathroom break like last year.
I had to take off my shoes and socks to get some rocks out (from running barefoot from the swim) and retighten my shoes. Then I was onto the run. I turned the roundabout and headed up Main, looking for my family who I knew would help me on. Smiles and cheers pushed me through that hill and Amanda and Bodie were around the corner with signs. One said "run with your heart and not your legs" which ran through my head a few times.
I came up to the Salt Lake Tri Club aid station and Robyn was there handing me ice and running with me. SHe reminded me that running is my strong suit and that I could do it.
Then came the rest of diagonal, all at a little incline. I was getting to the first aid station and I knew I was going to walk through it to give my legs a second to catch up. I had been having a hard time keeping a quick pace and I knew that big hill was up in front of me. Walking during a race is somewhat of a strategic thing for me, so I try to use it to my best advantage. I also joke around with other runners because it keeps my mind on the overall fun experience and not how hard it is in the moment.
Right after the first aid station, this lady was yelling to some spectators and afterward she joked that it wasn't the best idea. Another runner and I had to laugh with her, then I passed them as we turned toward Red Hills and that first big hill. Turns out, one of those ladies was Lorraine. I'll tell more of her as I go.
I picked out a post that I would run to then walk a little bit. This is a good technique for me because it keeps me going and helps me feel like I am still pushing myself. A man gave me his tip of run ten posts, walk two. I like that quite a bit and used it on the next hill, where the posts were more spread out and there was an aid station at the top so I ended up just running twenty and making it up the whole hill. I was guzzling water and pouring it on myself at every aid station. This aid station (around mile 4) I realized I had a little too much liquid in my belly so I grabbed some pretzels. I knew on the bike that somehow my nutrition was not quite working for me, and I was feeling it on the run. A little bit too much liquid and a yucky feeling brewing on the inside.
After that aid station was the big downhill and I knew if I was going to hit 6 hours I needed to haul down the hills. I pushed it as much as I felt was safe given that I still had 9 miles left. I felt awesome running fast down that hill and the adrenaline and speed stuck with me for about a mile. Then I hit the path through Pioneer Park and I deflated again. A guy passed me and said "come on, it's just a little hill" so I took that optimism and used it to run through. I got through that and headed down the downhill to the turnaround point. I had to stop for a bit because my guts were hurting so bad. I was ticked because it was a downhill and that was my only hope for speed. I knew at that point with my stomach acting up and not being able to run downhill, I wasn't going to make sub-6. Again, I was okay with that knowledge because I knew I was giving my all.
I was able to continue running and then I saw Amanda with her signs and excitement at seeing me. She told me how great I was doing and that I was right on track. As I said, I knew I was a little behind, but her encouragement pushed me up that hill. There was a new out and back at this point that I wasn't looking forward to because you see everything you just did all over again. It was hard. Lorraine and I had been passing back and forth this whole time. She would never stop running, just keeping things steady, and I would run my comfortable pace, but walk through the aid stations and on the hills. In the beginning, we were doing usual courtesies and "good job"s, but here around mile seven, we were feeling the bond of pain and similar pace a little bit. I told her how she was awesome and keeping me going, and she said the same of me. I also saw Brock Bybee as I was heading into the out and back. He was struggling a bit too and I knew the course was hard because we were both pretty confident going in.
Finally, I completed the out-and-back and was headed on the home stretch, with three more hills until the continuous downhill to the finish. I started telling every single person I passed "good job" and "way to keep moving." Somehow it kept me going. Some people would joke back with me, or encourage me as well. Lorraine would pass and give me a little inspiration. If she got too far ahead, it helped me pick up my pace. We hit about mile ten, the last little hill, and I finally asked her name. We were the same pace for a bit and I found out she was 61 and from California. She had been liking my hill countdown, so I told her we were at the last one with a tiny exception of an incline onto the bike path. I then picked up my pace because we were on the downhill of that first big hill from the start. I was feeling really good and hoping I could keep a quick pace the rest of the way, but towards the bottom of the hill, my guts were giving me so much grief I had to stop and bend over. I had been encouraging the runners just starting up the hill and they called out to make sure I was okay. Lorraine passed and made sure I was good. That got me moving again. We ran together again for a while, but I pulled ahead. Then my guts would slow me down and she would pass. We were finally on diagonal and I was trying to push the pace. I had been keeping it in the 8:00 min/mile range. A strong headwind hit and I was worried that would be a miserable two miles. It soon passed and I was fighting the deadness of my legs with wanting to finish under 6:20. Then I saw my dad. Tears sprang up to my eyes as he ran over and I saw Mom and Terran in their cheer spots. Dad gave me a five and I knew it was a perfectly timed boost. The aid station was just ahead and I knew Robyn was just passed that. I was able to keep pushing and then I saw her and her group sprayed me with water guns and she ran with me for a minute. I turned the roundabout and headed down Main. Lorraine was just ahead. A boy somehow ended up next to me, and as I looked at him to say good job, I realized he was really young. He told me he was 18 and his birthday was Tuesday. He was the youngest participant. We ran step for step, which was good for me. Usually I can muster speed to sprint that finishing chute, but I was just about spent with aching guts. I saw Amanda and pulled in front of the kid to give her a five. He sped up to stay with me, keeping me moving quick. Then Zach was there in the crowd, cheering for me! He was loud and that meant a lot to me because he isn't like that naturally and I had to tell him before the race that he needed to be because it would help me. Right after seeing him, the finish line was up ahead. That boy was still close and we had caught Lorraine. Those last hundred feet were huge for me and my mind registered that I was finishing! I crossed that line triumphant, not thinking about my time but knowing that I had given it all I had that day! I got my hat, medal, and water then Lorraine and I hugged. She said she usually finishes around 6:10 but not on that course! We thanked each other for being there together the whole race and took a finish line photo together.
As I was coming out of the corral, Robyn was there to hug me and hold me as I had a few little sobs come crashing out.
We took a picture and she stayed with me until Zach and his dad came around. Then I spotted Mom and Terran. Dad came up shortly after with a hug. It was everything I needed.
Terran wanted me to play in the water with him, so we made our way to the river. Mom quickly took over watching him as I tried to let my emotions catch up to the moment. I went to the bathroom. Amanda found us. Dad and I chatted. I got food and talked to some friends and other triathletes. I went to the bathroom. We sat by the water as I tried to eat and Brock Johnson came over to chat. I went to the bathroom. Zach found me to give me the hotel key. A few photo ops happened. I started feeling a little sunburnt. Dad was ready to go. I could barely move without getting sick again.
It took ages, but Mom saved me and helped me get all of my gear and bike while Dad got the car. I was so sick. The sickest I have ever been after a race. They helped me get our stuff to the hotel and played with Terran while I showered. I ate leftover pizza in bed and started feeling a little better. Zach got back and we went to dinner which finally helped me feel almost normal.
Amanda swung by to give me a balloon and bag of treats, then we went to bed. I slept so great.
The next morning we packed up and I teared up a few times and felt really sad that it was over. It is an indescribable experience that meant so much to me. I love succeeding and knowing I can accomplish things I set out to do. I love being able to do something that others think is impossible or outrageously hard. I love the other athletes who work hard for that finisher's medal. I loved everything about the experience and although training can be a struggle with a family, I can't wait to do it again. And that sub-6, I'm still coming for ya!