I said I would be blogging along this journey but honestly there hasn’t been much to say, other than the mental hurdles I posted on Instagram, it’s been a pretty easy few months. Mentally it was tough to back off and go slow. I had to train and race in just zone 2 and give up my tri bike. Both of these were tough but early on I deliberately surrounded myself with athletes that were supportive and had my back.
They supported me when I needed it and were understanding when I had to cut my ride 5 miles early sometimes for the heat. They knew and supported that I had to ride to my comfort level and had zero judgments of my speed or abilities partly because they knew my racing ability and didn’t make me feel bad for how much I had slowed down recently. My training plan going into the race was to do 1,800-2,200 yards 3 days a week at masters and to have ridden at least a 2.5 hour long bike ride in preparation. Most of my bike rides were to learn what my new comfort level was.
Leading up to the race we had a few logistic changes in our travel plans between my pregnancy and size of our vehicle it changed from a road trip to Miami to meeting friends there, so this was my first time flying with my bike. EEEEEKK! Thankfully Josh and the Bike Shop at Woodward helped me pack and get my bike ready to fly.
I arrived at our hotel a little after 9pm Friday night which is 6pm local time so I decided to just get my bike built quickly that night so I could take it to the venue and have the mechanics look at any problems I might have. Turns out I did have a problem I couldn’t fix and needed a part replaced (not damaged on the flight). In the end I’m glad I built my bike Friday night instead of waiting.
SATURDAY- AQUATHLON (1,100 yard swim|5k run)
It’s weird having a race start at 11am and transition opening at 10am. We were able to sleep in before getting to packet pickup at 9am. Before all the race festivities I had something important to do. I saw a new OB just before leaving Fresno. I had a false high blood pressure in the office, and he instructed I could only race if I took my blood pressure race morning and it was bellow 140/90. I was nervous taking the reading because what if it was high? I did all this training and traveled cross country to just throw in the towel right before picking up my packet. Thankfully my blood pressure was elevated for me, but it was under the threshold. I chalked it up to travel fatigue, stress, and nerves. So, I was all set to race!
We grabbed our packets, snapped a few pictures, and eventually made our way to the swim start by the time it opened at 10am. I always feel naked at Aquathlons because you really don’t need much: running shoes, race belt with bib, and maybe a visor or hat if you really want it. They gave us tall cylinder transition buckets which was kind of awkward to fit our stuff in. My size 8 shoes wouldn’t fit flat in the bucket but oh well I placed my shoes with visor over the top and then hung my bib over the side for easy grabbing.
A week leading up to the race it the water temperature was announced at 80° and the swim may not be wetsuit legal. I’m pretty sure I was the only person I personally knew who was happy about the race potentially not being wetsuit legal. In 2017 we thought Aquathlon Worlds would not be wetsuit legal so I intentionally did a season training without a wetsuit whenever I could. Prior to that summer my wetsuit was like a security blanket that I needed. I’m much more confident as a swimmer now that I can go with or without it. I specifically didn’t want to wear a wetsuit this weekend because I wasn’t looking forward to trying to squeeze my baby bump into my wetsuit. I brought my old wetsuit just in case but preferred decide between forgoing the benefits of a wetsuit or being uncomfortable. Thankfully the water temperature was 83° race morning, so it was far from wetsuit legal and very comfortable. The water was choppy Saturday morning but we only had to do one loop of 1,100 yards so it shouldn’t have been too bad.
It was a wave beach start, so our wave had time to spread out across the beach and we kind of formed two rows. I intentionally started in the second row and intended to be very cautious and keep my distance from other swimmers even if it meant having to go wide and swim extra distance. Safety was number one this weekend.
It was a rough swim. That pretty much sums it up. It was choppy but I had to just keep swimming around the sudo rectangle and get out of the water. I kept my distance pretty well from other athletes until about ¾ of the way through the swim when I encountered a breast stroker. Being kicked by someone doing a breast stroke kick is NOT fun even while not being pregnant. I tried to keep my distance and veer left but she followed me. She had her head above water, so I popped up and said, “please don’t kick me” and she backed off a bit. If I wasn’t pregnant, very concerned, I’ve been punched and kicked before no problem but wanted to avoid that right now. I really felt like I had a bad and slow swim. I wanted to be close to 2:30/100 yard but swam 2:45 and over 150 yards long which added up to a lot of extra time.
I got out of the water unscathed and a little slower than I wanted but oh well. I jogged over to transition to get my running gear. Luckily my left neighbor never showed up, so I grabbed her water bottle that was in her bucket and rinsed my feet off quickly to put my socks and shoes on. Threw on my hat and made my way to the run out while buckling my race belt.
I haven’t been doing much (really any) run training over the past few months because I’ve had some arch discomfort that I’ve been nursing. I went into the race knowing I may have to walk the whole 5k and that would be ok. Safety first!
Prior to the race I had decided to try a 1 minute run, 2 minute walk interval. I had set my intervals up in transition while getting ready for the race. Well…. turns out I was distracted, and I programmed a 1 minute walk recovery instead of 2 minutes *face palm*. That I definitely couldn’t maintain so after a few I switched over to 30 second run and 1:30 minute walk. It was perfect! I basically spent the whole “run” looking for people I knew to give high fives and encouragement because when a race sucks it helps to focus on other people. I’m so proud to finish the run doing consistent intervals the whole time!
The stressful part of the day was getting my bike fixed, second packet picked up, and bike checked in all between 2:30 and 4. I barely got it done but dropped off my bike just before 4 and headed back to the hotel. We all prepped for the next race day and then got pasta for dinner.
SUNDAY- AQUABIKE (2,200 yard swim|56 mile bike)
Sunday the big day. We had to get up at the crack of dawn in order to park and get transition set up. We left the hotel at 4:30am in the hopes of getting to venue by 5am. We got to transition at about 5:15 to start setting up transition before they cleared us out at 6:20.
One of my four roommates was in the second wave with me at 7:44 and one transition spot over which was pretty fun race morning. We got transition set up, pictures taken, and out of transition just in time so it was a pretty smooth morning. Nerves were a lot better because of the practice swim yesterday but I was nervous about making the bike cut off. I’d do my best and cycle as long as they let me. IF I had a good swim, I was confident I could make the bike cut off but yesterday’s swim was rough and slower than I wanted. Calmer waters today did make me feel better and I got plenty of encouragement from my Athena tribe and sisters on my walk to swim start. Big thank you to all of them!
It was a bit of a walk being a point to point swim but good for my mental head space. Once we got to the swim start area there wasn’t really time for anything, but a few stokes out and back and to get goggles ready. At this point I was glad to have done the Aquathlon the day before because I knew how the swim start would be handled. Before we knew it Ashley and I were taking our place on the beach and it was race time.
The water was calmer, so I was hopeful to have a better swim. The swim started out ok until the later waves started catching up to us. The bodies passing caused a lot of chop and I ended up having to stop multiple times to cough up water.
On the back half of the loop a guy kept hitting my on the back and legs repeatedly. I would pull ahead and move to the side and he would find me again. After a few hundred yards I decided to swim wide towards a support paddle board and just chill for 30 seconds to let him go by. It worked and I had a little better swim after that. By the time I finished the first loop most of the fastest athletes in the wave had passed and it calmed down. We had to exit the swim on to a rough clay like surface at the swim exit before starting our second loop.
I eased back in and finally got into a good rhythm. It felt like the second loop was a lot faster than the first and was done before I knew it. At the swim exit I knew they had volunteers assisting you out of the water but wanted to swim a little farther in to shore because I’m short. I went around the first volunteer, but he jerked me out of the water and forced me up causing a calf cramp. I was not very happy trying to walk out a cramp pretty much all of transition.
I couldn’t jog transition because of the calf cramp I was trying to stretch out while walking. I got it to release almost all the way by the time I got to my bike. After that I tried putting my socks on standing like always but had to sit down for the first time in my life in transition! I just couldn’t balance so I took the time to sit and do it. Between shaking out the cramp and sitting down I had a super long transition, over 6 minutes, but now time for the bike. I had one more part, the hardest part, to finish and the butterflies were there.
When I started, I had some tension in my right hip flexor that I had to stretch out for at least 3 miles. After the tension went away, I felt pretty good for the rest of the race. Even with stretching out my hip my average speed was pretty high. I didn’t feel much of a tail wind; I was hopeful it was just race adrenaline and I might actually have a pretty decent bike split.
I stayed optimistic all the way through the first loop of the bike course until I got to the second half of the second loop and the wind REALLY picked up. It. Was. Brutal! and pretty much didn’t lift. The head wind was so strong that you almost came to a complete stop after coasting for 60 seconds. I was mentally getting defeated. It dropped my average from almost 15 mph to a measly 12.4 mph. I wanted to be done so bad but had 20 miles left. I’ve never felt this defeated on my bike before, it’s always been my strongest and favorite leg. I stopped multiple times to shake out my feet and stretch and then pressed on. I was so happy when the course finally turned to a tail wind!!! Hallelujah! But that only lasted for all of 3 miles. I wanted to cry when we turned back to a had wind almost immediately. The rest of the entire course was into a head wind. I had to stop briefly multiple times to shake out my feet and stretch a bit. I made one last stop 2 miles from the park with a police officer to shake out my feet and rally up the mental stamina to continue. One last stretch! I felt like crying multiple times on the course but actually shed a few at the edge of the park because I was almost done. It was sweet of other athletes milling about their cars to cheer for me as I came in, but the foot traffic and cars were a little dicey to navigate. I accidentally went past the mount line (because there was no actual line) up to the carpet instead. I apologized to the volunteer and he seemed to be understanding. I ran as best I could to the timing mat to finish my time. As soon as I crossed it, I really wanted to throw my bike and be done with it (but I didn’t). I racked my bike on an empty rack right next to the bike in and fell on the ground. I have never been happier to be off my bike or done with a race. At the moment, it felt like the hardest race I’ve every finished, even harder than Vineman Ironman.
I said after finishing it felt like the hardest race I have ever done in a large way because of the mental aspect and feeling defeated going so slow. I was never uncomfortable outside of my feet going a little numb and hurting but I was so exhausted after! The morning after halves or fulls I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. It sucks to do everything! Walk, stairs, sit down…. everything. The next morning after this race I was fine. I’m not sure if it was because of the lower zone, not running, or just recovering better at each race. Maybe a combination of all three. Regardless I’m super grateful to be feeling so good after the race. A few days later and my resting heart rate is recovering really well, and my blood pressure is still under the threshold of concern.
In the end I am so proud of finishing and honestly, I’m quite shocked I wasn’t dead last out of the entire race. I didn’t even place last in my category for each race. I was able to secure a spot for both Aquathlon and Aquabike Worlds in Almere, Netherlands next year. I have some big decisions ahead and what I want to do at 5 months postpartum.
Athena: 4/5 (25%)
Gender: 184/219 (16%)
Overall: 343/407 (16%)
Athena: 5/6 (20%)
Gender: 142/172 (18%)
Overall: 307/377 (19%)
Special thanks to my bike sponsor Rubber Soul for doing a special fit for this race and providing me with race wheels, Boco gear for the best hats and visors, Coola for keeping my skin protected with top quality sunscreen, and SBR sports for keeping my skin healthy with all the pool hours I’ve put in.