Race Report: Rev3 Knoxville Half

Taryn and I headed down to Knoxville on Friday for our first half of the season. I hadn’t done this race before but heard great things about it from Alyssa and others and was super excited for the race.

Taryn and I stayed at the Four Points Sheraton directly across the street from the race expo, which was an awesome choice. I would definitely recommend staying at the Sheraton if you decide to do this race (and you should!).

Most of Friday was taken up with the drive, so we didn’t pick up packets until Saturday. After we got those, we hit the practice swim, which is always really critical for me, with swimming being my weakest of the three disciplines. Luckily, the practice swim went great. Everyone was super friendly, the swim was very low key, the water temp (68 point something) was perfect – I couldn’t have asked for a better start to race weekend. We also did a short ride and run, checked our bikes in at transition, attended the athlete briefing, and then went to bed early. The day before a race always goes by faster than I want it to!

With everything going so smoothly on Saturday, I woke up feeling positive and excited on race morning. I got up at 4:00 and we left the hotel around 5:15, which is when transition opened. No race number tattoo or directional snafus this time. We were able to walk to transition and get there by 5:30, which was great, and we had until 6:30 to get set up.

We thought an hour in transition would give us more than enough time to get ready, even if something went wrong. Sure enough, I had to visit the mechanics, as I couldn’t get a reading on the pressure in my rear tire (this is a recurring problem, as I need a valve extender on my rear tube and it’s constantly causing me problems). In any case, they were super friendly and helped me out quickly and efficiently. Huge thanks to those gentlemen for helping me out!

I also spoke to the race officials in transition (I had a random question about where I could put my bag because it was too large to fit neatly by my bike) and they were super friendly. The head official was from Atlanta and we chatted a bit. I loved the low-key, friendly atmosphere at this race from start-to-finish. It really makes such a difference in terms of keeping the athletes calm. The Race Director told us in the athlete briefing on Saturday that our racing experience was their top priority and it really showed throughout the weekend.

As I was finishing getting set up in transition, I happened to look down at my ankle. No chip. I stayed calm, and walked over to Taryn to tell her what was happening. She immediately stopped what she was doing and went to talk to a volunteer about getting me a new chip, as I retraced my steps trying to figure out where mine could have gone. Ultimately, I found it (it had slipped off when I took my pants off), but it was definitely a scare.

We finished getting organized in transition and started the walk toward the race start right around 6:30, with our wave scheduled to start at 7:00 a.m. It’s about a half mile walk from transition to the swim start, but it wasn’t bad at all. And, as a bonus, we were treated with a gorgeous sunrise. 

Soon enough the race was starting and the two waves in front of us had gone off. It was our turn and we walked down to the dock. It’s an in water start, and they give you about five minutes to warm-up in the water before the start. We jumped into the water and I felt good warming up. I was ready to go!

Swim: 45:25 (10/14 AG, 29/47 women)

Oh, the swim. My day did not get off to the start I had hoped for.

In terms of the race itself (as opposed to my personal performance) I actually really liked this swim. Our wave was quite tiny and we were able to spread out a lot at the start. It was a simple out and back course (with the back section slightly longer than out, since the swim start and finish were at two different points along the river) and the water temperature of 67 degrees was really perfect for a long-sleeved wetsuit. The sun made sighting for the first half quite difficult, but, generally, I liked this swim more than most. It should have been a great swim day for me.

It was not.

The problem came when my cap started creeping upward around the turnaround. If you know me at all, you know I am a rule follower. Always have been, always will be. The minute my cap started to slip, I was panicked about getting a penalty. At the athlete briefing the day before the race, they had emphasized littering as something they would be looking for during the race. Surely coming out of the water sans cap would be a penalty, right? I wasn’t sure. But I thought it was a possibility. I knew I couldn’t swim holding my cap in my hand. Especially since I wasn’t even half way through the swim. I had to figure something out and I had to do it fast.

I tried stopping several times to pull it down. This wasn’t working because my head was wet and the cap would just slide right back up. The only result was that I was messing up my goggles. It was one of those situations where time (and quite literally other racers) seem to be passing you by at warp speed, but you can only seem to work in slow motion. After several attempts, I knew this approach wasn’t going to work. I finally swam over to a kayak and asked the kayaker if I could hold on and try to fix my cap. I took my goggles off completely, took the cap off completely, and started from scratch. I finally got my cap back on my head, got my goggles back on, and started swimming again, but it felt like an eternity had passed while all of this was going on.

I did finally finish and get out of the water (volunteers pull you up on to the dock and then there is a bit of a run to get back into transition), but I was definitely shaken up.

Looking at photos afterward, it was very obvious my cap wasn’t on properly before the race even started.

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Photo from the Rev3 Facebook page.

Lesson learned to make sure I really pull my cap down completely before future races.

Bike: 3:15:33 (7/14 AG, 12/47 women)

I’ve done a lot of riding this month, including the Tour de Skyline, which entailed riding over 200 miles in 2 days with a ton of climbing. I thought I was set up for a super strong bike.

However, with the less than ideal swim behind me, I spent the entire start of the bike just trying to calm down and stop being mad at myself about my damn cap!

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Photo from the Rev3 Facebook page.

The course starts in the city and then heads out to the country. In the more rural sections, there were some spectacular views. It actually reminded me quite a bit of riding in Loudoun County. Hilly, but very scenic and green.

I would classify the bike course at Knoxville as a challenging course. Before the race, I had read in a race report that this is “not a PR course” and I think that’s definitely true. There is a lot of climbing and for some reason, I felt like I couldn’t really take advantage of the downhills as much as I normally would, which usually helps make up for the climbing on a hilly course.

There was a course marking snafu (not Rev3’s fault), but that didn’t impact my race. I thought the course was very well-marked with color-coded arrows and signs throughout. There were also a few special “caution” signs along the course and those were helpful. I really only found one turn to be especially tricky.

There were two turnarounds on the bike course and I was able to see Taryn twice along the course, which was nice.

My overall bike speed was slow – in the low 17s – which is slower than where I wanted to be. Even though I stayed on top of my nutrition throughout the ride, I definitely felt like I wasn’t able to go as fast as I had expected.

I finally got back to transition at 3:15, which was honestly pretty disappointing. I dismounted, ran back in to transition, and got ready for the run as quickly as I could.

Run: 2:18:19 (9/14 AG, 22/47 women) 

So, my PR for a 70.3 run is a 2:02, which I ran at Challenge Atlantic City last year. After my solid run at Monticelloman (a 54:14 on a challenging run course) earlier this month, I thought I would be in the same 2:00 ballpark here, but obviously, I thought wrong.

I didn’t start out strong and die in the heat or get injured or anything like that. I was just running slow from the get-go. I tried taking in extra calories along the run course, thinking that may give me a boost, but instead, all it gave me was GI distress.

At each of the aid stations (spaced about one mile apart along the run course), I took a gel or Coke or Gatorade. I tried ice in my bra. I tried ice in my hat. I really wanted to “fix” whatever my problem was, but nothing was working. I’m honestly not sure what I could have done differently to remedy the situation. I was just slow. 

The only thing that really hurt on the run was my feet. I am using a different brand of elastic laces this season and they are not as adjustable as the ones I used last year. My feet must have been swollen because my shoes were painfully tight (I wore the same shoes in Monticelloman without any issue). Although this wasn’t ideal, I don’t really think it impacted my race. It was an annoyance, but, again, I don’t think there was any clear cause to my bad run – it was just one of those off days.

Toward the very end of the run, two of the Rev 3 Team athletes ran up from behind me and were trying to encourage me along (thanks, guys!), but I really didn’t have anything extra to give. They ran past me and I just kept trying to put one foot in front of the other until I crossed the finish.

This ended up being my slowest 70.3 run EVER (yes, even slower than Syracuse, which is a much tougher run course) at 2:18:19. It was definitely NOT the run I had expected to have at this race.

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My final finish time was 6:25:52 (it hurts just to type that), which landed me in 8th place in my age group (18 out of 47 women).

In happier news, Taryn was waiting at the finish for me. She had a fantastic race and WON her age group! This was her second podium this month!

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We ended the day on our balcony, over-looking the expo, sipping sparkling wine to celebrate Taryn’s awesome day. It was the perfect way to end the day.

Despite my performance, Rev3 Knoxville was a great race. The volunteers, Rev3 staff, and Rev3 Team athletes were all fabulous. I loved the course. Rev3 puts on a fantastic, well-organized race. I loved this race and definitely plan to go back someday.

While my race was disappointing, I am trying to convince myself that I will come back stronger and smarter from this experience. Everyone has bad races – even the pros – and the only thing I can do about it now is to have a positive attitude and move forward.

As always, I want to thank my awesome husband for his support; Alyssa, who even called me after the race from somewhere on her journey home from Lanzarote to give me a post-race pep talk; Bobo’s Oat Bars; and all of Ignite’s fabulous sponsors.

Next up for me is the Tupper Lake Tinman half on June 25.

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Coaching

It’s been over one month since the Ironman and my life still hasn’t returned to “normal.” I don’t mean that in a bad way, or even a good way, but in the BEST way! Lots of exciting things are happening and I’m looking forward to sharing them on the blog over the coming weeks and months.

One of the biggest pieces of news I have to share is that I’m joining the fabulous, talented team of coaches at Machine M3 to help out with their Youth Triathlon Team!

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As you may remember, last winter, I decided one of my big goals leading into the 2015 season was to work on my strength. A few people had recommended TRX to me and I was intrigued, but a little intimidated. My friend Cassie teaches TRX at Machine M3 in Vienna, VA and she encouraged me to try a class there. I’m so glad she did because I tried my first TRX class at Machine M3 in February and haven’t looked back! TRX is now a regular part of my training routine. Not only has it helped me improve my swim, bike, and run, but it’s something I look forward to each week because the classes are fun and social, too. M3 recently added yoga to their scheduled as well, and I’m looking forward to mixing some yoga into my routine in the coming months.

While up until now, I’ve been a “student” a M3, that is all about to change. Starting next week, I will be helping Andrew, the head triathlon and masters swim coach at M3, with their elite group of youth triathletes. I’m so thrilled about this opportunity. I have a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm to share with the athletes and a lot to learn from Andrew and the other coaches. I can’t wait to get started!

The great thing about the youth team at M3 is that the athletes have the opportunity to come together for in-person, coached, group workouts several times a week. So, even though triathlon is an individual sport, M3 athletes get all the benefits of being on a team – the camaraderie and support of teammates during training and racing, and the motivation that comes from pushing each other to improve and succeed. I wish I could have joined a team like this when I was growing up!

I’m so excited to start working with the athletes and to follow their progress throughout the 2016 season. If you live in the area and want to learn more about any of the M3 programs I’ve mentioned, visit the M3 website at www.machinem3.com or like M3 on Facebook.

Post-Ironman Recovery and Planning for 2016

It’s now been over two weeks since I finished Ironman Chattanooga and I am still on my post-race high! I’m not sure I can adequately describe my feelings in words, but suffice it to say, the race was one of the best experiences of my life and I can’t wait to do it again!

Since the race, I’ve been taking it easy. My first draft of this post used the word “lazy” but I’m trying to be better about positive self-talk. So, I’m telling myself I’m “giving my body the break it deserves” after such an enormous undertaking.

Truthfully, though, my physical recovery has gone better than I anticipated. The day after the race, I was sore, but I didn’t feel as bad as I had expected. This may have been a result of pounding calories during and after the race, but maybe that is just wishful thinking on my part. 🙂 In the following days, the only thing that really hurt was my left hamstring, which had been bothering me leading up to the race, so that wasn’t a big surprise. The important thing is that it held up during the race itself (thanks again, Peter!).

During the past two weeks, I haven’t worked out much at all. I’ve done a couple of short runs and rides (on my road bike), TRX class three times, some home workout DVDs, and that’s basically it. I initially ate whatever I wanted, too – which turned out to be an embarrassing amount of vegan junk food (I discovered, unfortunately, that there are WAY too many amazingly delicious vegan junk food options on the market!). But after about ten days, I needed to get back to eating more normally. Ten days is definitely the longest I can survive living like that.

I am still a bit out of sorts scheduling-wise. This has been the hardest part of post-race recovery for me. I think I thrive when I’m in a structured routine and not having that these past two weeks has thrown me a bit off-center. My time management is actually worse, even though I would have expected the opposite since I have so much more free time now. I’ll be glad to get back on a normal schedule next week.

Now that the Ironman is over, I’ve started planning out my 2016 season. Choosing races is always so much fun!

As I’ve already mentioned, I’ll be running the L.A. Marathon in February. This will be my 6th stand-alone marathon. I’m excited to focus on running for a while, although I am somewhat nervous about the hamstring holding up. We shall see how that goes.

My first tri of the season will be Rev3 Knoxville (half) in May and then I’ll be racing Toughman Tupper Lake Tinman in June. My “A” race of the season will be Mont Tremblant on August 21st. These will all be new races for me and I’m so excited to experience them for the first time.

I may add a local half marathon or ten miler in the spring, depending on scheduling, and I’d like to go back to Team HPB tri camp in Tucson, as well. It’s always so tricky to fit everything in!

I’m actually super excited about Tinman, which jumped out at me because I spent many childhood summers vacationing in Tupper Lake, New York.

Tupper Lake, NY, circa summer 1988? (age 7?). In my mind, that was a beautiful sandcastle.
I’ll be swimming in that water at Tinman.

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Tupper Lake is an absolutely gorgeous area and should be beautiful for racing. Tinman is also a smaller and very affordable race, which really appealed to me, as well. When my mom told me my parents would come to the race if I picked that one, that sealed the deal for me! They’ve never seen me race a triathlon before, so that’s going to be huge. I’m also really looking forward to setting some new goals for the half-iron distance, now that I have three 70.3s under my belt. I think I’ll have more confidence to actually race them now, too, since I know I can survive twice that distance in a race.

In addition to my parents coming to Tinman, Taryn will be joining me at Knoxville and Mont Tremblant, and Ashley at the L.A. Marathon, so I’ll have lots of company at my races next season.

I really couldn’t be more pleased with the year I had this year and I’m super excited about what’s to come in 2016!

 

It Takes A Village

We’re leaving for Chattanooga on Wednesday morning and before we go, I wanted to take some time to say thank you to the people who helped me get to the starting line of this race.

Thank you

First and foremost, I need to thank my amazing husband who has supported me on this journey since day one – really, even before day one, because I don’t think either of us knew where this was headed when I did my very first race (a half marathon) in the spring of 2009. Triathlon is not a cheap sport (understatement of the century), it takes up a ton of my time and energy, and can be emotionally draining. He has put up with A LOT and I definitely wouldn’t be here without him. Thanks, Love!

One of Jon’s signs from my very first marathon. He has always supported all of my running and triathlon adventures, even though he thinks it’s all crazy. 

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I also want to thank my in-laws for making the trip all the way to Chattanooga to cheer me along. I’m so lucky and thankful to have their support!

My next thank you is obviously for Alyssa. There is no doubt in my mind that she has prepared me for this race better than anyone else could – even Brett Sutton himself. I trust in her 100% and I am so thankful to have her in my life as a coach and friend. Alyssa could tell me to walk backward for the entire 26.2 miles of the marathon and I would! Thank you for EVERYTHING, Alyssa – I cannot possibly begin to repay you for what you have done for me over these past two years.

With the world’s greatest coach after PRing my marathon last year.

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I also want to thank all of my training partners – especially Taryn and Emily – who have helped me get through countless bike and run miles leading up to this day. Their company kept my mind off of the miles and how tired I felt. I really enjoyed training with you ladies and look forward to many more runs and rides in the future!

At the Reston Century Ride with Taryn.

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Open Water Swimming isn’t so awful when you have a friend by your side!

I logged lots and lots of miles with Emily this summer.

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And, of course, I owe a huge thank you to my Team HPB Teammates, MRTT friends, and other running and triathlon friends who are either too fast or too far away to train with, but who have offered me moral support and advice along the way – Leslie, Bri, Megan, Ashley, and others.

Leslie kept me running when I wanted to walk during a tough run at camp this summer.

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Riding with Megan in Maryland.

I heart my team!

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I can’t name everyone in MRTT in this post (we have over 1,000 members!), but I’ve gotten so much awesome support from this fabulous group of women.

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I’ve been fortunate enough to be a brand ambassador for MooMotion for two seasons now and I really can’t say enough about the support Melissa has provided me – not only keeping me in beautiful, comfortable, functional clothes for these past two years, but also encouraging me during all of my training and racing. Thank you, Melissa!

I love my MooMotion kits!

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Thank you, too, to the folks at Bobo’s Oat Bars for keeping me fueled on many (many, many) long rides. I cannot even imagine how many Bobo’s bars I have eaten this year! I actually should have counted because I’m sure it’s a ridiculous number!

Fueled by Bobo’s Oat Bars!

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There are so many other people who have helped me get my body and bike in shape for this adventure – Alison at Machine M3 (TRX), Steve and Alex from Transition Tri, and, most recently, Peter Sherry for helping me deal with some last minute injury issues leading into the race.

Thank you, Steve and Alex, for getting my bike in shape for the race!

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Thank you Machine M3 for making me stronger this year (Alison is camera shy!)!

And, finally, a big thank you to all of my friends and family members who could not possibly care less about running and triathlon and who I am sure are SO sick of hearing about all of this and put up with me anyway. You’re the best!

No matter what happens on Sunday, I am proud of the work I have done to get here.

Let’s go!

One Month to Go!

With just one month to go until Ironman Chattanooga, I am feeling pretty great. Don’t get me wrong – I’m definitely tired – but I’m really happy with where I am training-wise.

Since my last update, I’ve had a couple of big weeks.

Three weekends ago, I did my first-ever solo 100 mile ride on Saturday and a semi-long run on Sunday. For the run, I ran with my friend Emily along the C&O Canal Towpath from Georgetown (in D.C.) and that was a really nice change of scenery for me. I’ve never run on that path and was eager to try it out. Emily and I had a great run! I really liked having the company, as it made the time on tired legs pass more quickly. While I usually do most of my runs solo, it was definitely worth the extra time and effort to drive into D.C. with a friend to keep my motivation high after a big ride the day before.

Quick photo op in front of the canal.

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Since that training excursion worked out so well, the following weekend, I decided to do something similar for my bike. I drove up to Columbia, Maryland to ride with my friend and fellow Team HPB-er Megan. I’ve ridden in that area twice before, but not this season, so while the route was somewhat familiar, it didn’t feel boring. Getting to ask Megan a million questions about her first Ironman (at Lake Placid just a few weeks ago) was icing on the cake. I hadn’t seen her in-person since her race, so it was great to hear all of the details about her awesome day.

On the bike with Megan in Maryland.

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After riding with Megan on Saturday, I did a solo trail run on Sunday. It was a really beautiful day to get out on the trail!

The Cross County Trail (“CCT”) is a great place to run if you live in Fairfax County.

 

This past weekend, I ran (a lot!) on Saturday and then did the Reston Century Ride, which I also did in 2013, with Taryn on Sunday. It was a really beautiful day and while my time wasn’t much faster than when I did the ride in 2013, I felt a zillion times better afterward. In 2013, I could barely walk to my car after the ride, but this year, I did a nice easy run afterward and felt relatively fine.

After the Century Ride with Taryn.

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I still have a couple of big weeks to go and while I’m a little nervous about it, I’m excited, too.  Race day is almost here!

 

 

Exciting News!

I am so very excited to join the Bobo’s Oat Bars team as a brand ambassador!

I first discovered Bobo’s over the winter and I have been hooked ever since. They are vegan, non-GMO, and absolutely delicious! I use them when I need a quick breakfast or snack on the go (they are perfect emergency purse snacks) and for fuel when I’m cycling.

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There are so many flavors that it is hard to pick favorites, but I’d say my top five are Apple Pie (gluten free!), Cranberry Orange, Lemon Poppyseed (gluten free!), Almond, and Peach (gluten free!).

Bobo’s bites are smaller versions of the full-sized bars and make great snacks! They would be perfect for packing in school lunches as a nutritious and delicious alternative to cookies.

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Several of the flavors are gluten free (and I have to say I honestly can’t taste a difference between the gluten free and “regular” flavors).

If you haven’t tried them yet, you should!

Race Report: Challenge Atlantic City Half

On Sunday, I finished my third 70.3 distance race – Challenge Atlantic City. Apologies in advance for this very detailed race report. I have a lot to say about this one.

I registered for this race last October and have been looking forward to it ever since. I heard great things about the full last year and was so happy when they announced there would be a half option in 2015.

Heading into this race, I felt confident, which is out of character for me. That confidence allowed me to actually be excited to race, instead of feeling anxious. I really believed I was going to have a great race. My confidence came from knowing I had done the work, and believing 100% in my coach and my training plan. I was definitely ready to race.

In the week before the race, I thought about some of my race goals, in relation to my previous 70.3s, and came up with the following:

Ironman 70.3 Syracuse

6/22/14

Rev3 Poconos

9/14/14

Challenge Atlantic City Goals

6/28/15

Swim

46:56

46:52

as close to 40:00 as I can get

Bike

3:33:49

3:05:01

sub-3:00

Run

2:18:18

2:09:55

better than 2:09:55

Finish Time

6:47:06

6:10:44

sub-6:00

I didn’t verbalize any of these, but in my mind, this is where I wanted to be.

Pre-Race

Jon and I headed up to Atlantic City on Friday. I picked up my packet and attended the pre-race meeting. The best part of the pre-race meeting was the announcement that the start would be a rolling start, meaning we would jump into the water a few at a time, a few seconds apart, instead of a mass start. I know some triathlon purists hate rolling starts, but with my open water swim anxiety this was welcomed news.

Jon and I had some time to gamble and get dinner and then we headed back to the room. We stayed at the race’s host hotel – Bally’s – and there were a number of issues, including two big items. First, we were given a smoking room, despite asking for non-smoking. We were able to get this switched, but it was a hassle with all of the luggage. Second, the elevators at the hotel were broken, which was a huge headache, especially bringing in all of the luggage from the car, which took several trips. If I ever come back to Atlantic City, I will stay at a different hotel. If you are planning to do the race in 2016, I would recommend looking for a room at Caesar’s, since that is connected to Bally’s, but is a much nicer hotel. The Tropicana would also be another option, although that would be a longer walk to athlete check-in, the expo, and the mandatory pre-race meeting (which all take place at Bally’s). 

In any case, when we got back to our room after dinner, I finally went through my race packet, only to discover that I was given the wrong tattoos. Instead of my race age (35), I was given a “46” tattoo that corresponded with my bib number (1046). It turns out that several people were given the wrong age group tattoos and the race organizers ran out of extras, so we were told to get a Sharpie to write our age on our legs, in lieu of using tattoos. This was one of several logistical hiccups at this race. Luckily, I was able to purchase a Sharpie at the hotel gift shop.

[On a side note, while I’m writing about the tattoo snafu, the athlete guide also lacked a detailed description of where to apply your race number tattoos (other than the age tattoo). This led to several posts on the event’s Facebook page asking questions about tattoo placement. The athlete guide also failed to provide the exact location of the race day shuttle bus pick-up at the casino. A more detailed athlete guide would be helpful for next year. I know this is a second-year race and they are still working some kinks out, but hopefully these things will be improved in future years. The race organizers indicated (quite admirably) that they want honest feedback, so that they can make improvements for next year’s race.]

On Saturday, I woke up early and practiced making my pre-race breakfast in the room, using my new electric kettle. Then I went to Bader Field, where transition was set up, for the practice swim in the Back Bay. We were told the water temp was 78.5 and it felt great. I wore my new Roka swim skin and that felt great as well. I did two loops of the practice course (this wasn’t the race course, but just a small area set up for the practice swim) and I felt like a million bucks. 

At the practice swim.

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I did a short ride and run and then went back to the hotel. Unfortunately, the practice swim was from 7:00-9:00 a.m., but we couldn’t check in our bikes until 11:00, so this meant two trips back and forth from the hotel to the transition area at Bader Field. That’s another thing I hope they change in future years.

I checked in my bike Saturday afternoon. Jon and I gambled a bit more, had a nice dinner, and then I went back to the room to lay out all of my stuff for race morning. I set my alarm for 3:15 a.m. and got into bed.

A terrible storm rolled through Saturday night and transition was pummeled with wind and rain. All of the porta potties blew over and there was, apparently, a lot of debris along the bike course. Bader Field flooded from all of the rain. I wasn’t sure exactly what the impact would be on race morning, but I did anticipate that this could have an effect on the race.

A view of the rain and wind on Saturday night from inside the casino.

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Race Morning

Since I wasn’t sure about the shuttle pick-up location, I decided to drive to Bader Field. The field was in poor condition because of the flooding, but at least the rain had stopped for us to get set up in transition. I filled my tires with air, filled my bottles, laid out my bike and run gear, and had a small snack.

Swim

They announced that with the rain the prior night, the water temp had plummeted to 74.1 and the race would be wetsuit legal. In other words, totally different conditions than my practice swim the day before in my swim skin in much warmer water. I was not happy, but what can you do? (I know that as a weaker swimmer, I should have been thrilled, but I’m convinced my wetsuit doesn’t fit me right. It’s not comfortable at all and really pulls on my chest and neck.)

In any case, I really wanted to try to have a good swim at this race. Usually, my goal is just to get through the swim to get to the fun stuff, but this time I really wanted to try to think about having strong arms and keeping my head down, and try for a good time.

The race started a bit late because of the storms. This was totally understandable and I have to give credit to the race organizers for keeping us informed throughout the morning about the adjusted start times and what was causing the delay (they allowed us extra time in transition, which was nice, too). Once they announced we were starting the rolling swim start, I tried to line up toward the front of the line, thinking that meant less people to pass on the bike.

I jumped into the water and started swimming okay, but as usual, a few seconds in, I started to feel like I couldn’t really breathe. I fought the urge to stop and tread water and just thought through some of Alyssa’s open water swim tips in my head. It was really hard, but after a few minutes I did start to feel better. No stops during this swim is a big step forward for me. Alyssa somehow always knows what is going on in my head and what I need to do to overcome any negative feelings and this proved true yet again.

I did notice that the current was pushing me off course as I approached the first set of turn buoys. This was really disheartening, since I really was focused on my improving my time, but I told myself going into the race that I wasn’t going to be upset when little things went wrong and I tried to put the extra distance out of my mind.

I got a bit tripped up – literally – on the ropes holding down the turn buoy as I tried to make my turn. So mortifying! I’m sure the people behind me were thinking I was a disaster, but I eventually got over them and kept on my way.

On the long straightaway, the group broke up a bit, which was great for me. During that section, I felt like I was able to really focus on swimming and not watching out for other competitors.

Despite having completed a 2 mile swim just over a month ago, I started thinking 1.2 miles was feeling really long, which is never a good sign, but I kept plugging away.

At the next set of turn buoys, I got stuck in the ropes AGAIN (OMG!) and then was fighting some bad some current to make it to the swim exit. That last little bit felt like it was taking FOREVER and I was definitely drinking some water from the chop coming up as I breathed.

When I finally got out of the water, I looked down at my Garmin and it said 44 – something. My heart sank. I was SUPER bummed. I had really wanted to be closer to 40 minutes. After the fact, I discovered that a lot of the swim times were slow because of the current and I actually was 14/39 in my age group for the swim. This is great for me, since prior to this year, I have always been at the very back of the pack for the swim. But, I didn’t know that at the time and the disappointing swim time really stuck with me throughout the day. I guess the lesson here is that you never know what time is a “good time” on any given course and shouldn’t get too focused purely on the numbers.

Swim Stats: 44:42 (2:19/100 m), 14/39 AG

Bike

I definitely underestimated the difficulty of this course. It’s a flat course, which I thought meant “easy,” but in truth, that meant pedaling the ENTIRE time. No coasting, no free speed on the downhills. Just pedal, pedal, pedal. I was aero almost the entire time and that caused a lot a physical pain for me (the story of my bike saddle woes is a story for another day). I don’t have much to say about the bike, really. Some people have said they really liked the bike course, but I found it a bit bland, if I’m being honest. There wasn’t much in terms of scenery, as compared with the previous two 70.3 distance races I have completed (Syracuse and Poconos). LOTS of people got flats because of the storm debris along the side of the road. Thank goodness for my flat-resistant tires!

The big issue I had was that the course was over 58 miles long, which was SUPER disappointing because I had really wanted to try to go sub-3:00 on the bike. There seems to be some dispute about what the issue was here – whether the race organizers knew the course was long and never disclosed it, or whether we were misdirected on course – but the bottom line is that neither of those are acceptable excuses. The IM Chattanooga bike course is long, but as an athlete, you know that going into the race. Here, we were all just wondering what the heck was going on as our Garmins showed more and more mileage adding up. My Garmin ended up recording a 3:09:57 for 58.17 miles (18.4 mph pace).

Bike Stats: 3:10:33 (18.26 mph for 58 miles, although I think the course was even longer than that), 9/39 AG

Run

With the saddle issues on the bike, I was honestly not sure I would be able to run. I figured I would give it a go and do the best I could. I racked my bike and decided that with the cooler temperatures, I wouldn’t carry my own fluids for the half marathon.

From transition, we had a short run to get on the boardwalk, where the majority of the run would take place, amongst oblivious tourists. When I got out on the boardwalk and the sun came out, it did start to feel a bit warmer than I had anticipated. Since I did not carry any fluids with me, I knew I was going to have to make sure I was drinking a lot at the aid stations. I also kept wondering whether I would see Jon. Since the race started late and the bike was long, I was running over an hour behind when I told him I thought I would be starting the run. I thought maybe he went to the finish to wait for me and I wouldn’t see him along the course. I think both of those thoughts distracted me from the actual run, because although I didn’t feel like I was running fast, my Garmin was showing fast miles ticking off one after the other. Up until about mile 8, I was actually on pace for a sub 2:00 half, much to my surprise and delight!

To keep the run on the boardwalk, they had us running back and forth on some sections several times, which made the run feel REALLY long. While I liked running on the boardwalk, I didn’t like running back and forth like this. There was also a section (around 9.5) where there was no one directing us at all to a turn-around point marked with tape on the boardwalk. Thankfully, I was running next to a guy who said he had seen the tape earlier in the run, so he knew we were going the right way. I hope next year they have someone directing traffic a bit better there. I can imagine someone cutting that portion of the course (intentionally or unintentionally) and it could easily be remedied by placing a volunteer at the turn and better signage leading up to that turnaround (so that folks know they are correctly following the course).

Along the boardwalk, the tourists were a mess. They would walk right in front of you without even looking – and not just kids, adults, too. At the beginning this was a bit charming, but as time went on, it became less so. 

I did end up seeing Jon several times, which was one nice thing about running back and forth so many times, and he said my pace was great. I knew I was slowing down toward the end, but I really tried to keep pushing to stay as close to 2:00 as I could.

Jon snapped this pic of me running along the boardwalk.

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I crossed the line in 2:02 and change, THRILLED with my run time. I got my race medal (the race medals are GORGEOUS) and an ice cold towel, which was AMAZING!

Crossing the finish line.

CAAD0599

Run Stats: 2:02:16 (9:20 min/mile), 7/39 AG

Finish: 6:03:42, 8/39 AG

Ironman 70.3 Syracuse

6/22/14

Rev3 Poconos

9/14/14

Challenge Atlantic City 

6/28/15

Swim

46:56

46:52

44:42

Bike

3:33:49

3:05:01

3:10:33 (*58+ miles)

Run

2:18:18

2:09:55

2:02:16

Finish Time

6:47:06

6:10:44

6:03:42

I’m super happy with my day. I cannot thank Alyssa enough for getting me here. Even one year ago, I could never have imagined finishing 8/39 in my age group at a 70.3. We work our asses off on Team HPB, but that’s what makes someone like me – a back of the packer – transform into an athlete who can run a 2:02 half marathon after four hours of swim/bike. I would have never imagined I could do that. “Work works,” as they say!

Thank you MooMotion for my beautiful kit. Jon said it was great for spotting me in the crowd throughout the day. I also want to thank the awesome volunteers and law enforcement personnel who took care of us on race day, Oiselle, Bobo’s Oat Bars for fueling all of my training, and Machine M3 for helping me with my strength this year. 

As for the race itself, I’m not sure I will be back. I really wanted to love this race, since I want to support non-WTC brands, it’s within driving distance from my home, and Atlantic City provides entertainment options outside of the race (which makes it a nice trip for my husband, too). But, I didn’t like the bike or run courses and frankly, all of the little logistical issues really added up for me. I have also heard reports of other issues that didn’t affect my race, but impacted others, such as aid stations packing up before all athletes had finished the full, no finish line food for aqua-bike participants, an insufficient number of finisher’s medals, etc. There were no contingency plans for parking in Bader Field and it was basically a mud pit after the storms went through. We were able to get our car out, but lots of folks got stuck. I certainly don’t expect perfection, but several of these things could have been planned for and I hope they will be addressed for next year. The race organizers have repeatedly indicated that they want to improve the race and I have no reason to doubt that is genuine.

In any case, I had a great race and enjoyed an extra day in Atlantic City with my husband, which was a nice treat for us. The long weekend getaway was a much needed break.

Now, it’s back to work. I am off to Team HPB tri camp tomorrow!