While Ryan and I have been lucky to have many great/solid races on the same day, Muncie 70.3 likely tops the rankings of our "Best Race as a Couple" list. Qualifying for Kona at Eagleman in 2013 was amazing. Competing in Kona in 2013 was an experience that has yet to be matched. Qualifying for Kona at IMCabo in 2014 and at IMCozumel in 2014 were both incredible experiences as well. But, Muncie 2015 still might take the cake for this one. Reasons below.
Ryan and I had been putting in some pretty hefty training weeks leading up to Muncie. Coach Bill was relentless, but we knew it would pay out big come July 11th, so made sure to take care of the "little things" (massage, foam roll, sleep, eating well) so that we could cash out big on race day.
Ryan has been coaching a few people in running, cycling and triathlon over the past year-ish and lucky for us, 3 of his athletes happened to sign up for Muncie as well. Ryan's best friend John and his wife Brittany would be competing in their first 70.3 as a married couple, having just returned from their honeymoon (in Kona!!) two days prior to race day. My high school friend Megan, who Ryan coached to her FIRST Ironman (Madison) last year, would be competing along with her brother, Mark, who would be attempting his first ever 70.3. Plus, good friend Oscar would be throwing down his first 70.3 of the year as well. Things were shaping up to be a pretty great weekend.
I teach summer school every year, but last year I took the Friday before Muncie (a Saturday race) off since Ryan was working and had to set up his PowerBar tent/table. This year, with PowerBar no longer sponsoring Ironman, we decided to just leave when I was done with school on Friday.
Ryan woke up at something ridiculous like 3:45am, the excitement of his looming "break 4hour" goal occupying his brain throughout the night. We all left our hotel just before 5am to head to transition. Because of our performance at Ironman events in 2014, Ryan and I had earned "All World Athlete" Gold status so our bikes were in a rack with the other AWAs. While I understand the reasoning for this "status" and distinction, it makes it hard to see who is in your age group.
As per usual, I took the shortest path to get to the turn buoy, and stayed clear of most of the masses. I did reach some congestion when we made our first turn, as that is also when the M18-24 wave finally started to catch me. The turn to come back in put us facing the sun, so I did my best to sight, especially since I was constantly running into people from prior waves. I think my swim definitely could have been faster if I didn't have so many people in front of me, but that's not something I can control, and something everyone else in my wave had to deal with as well.
Overall, I'm happy with a new 70.3 swim PR of 36:27... 1 second faster than Grand Rapids:)
Usually, I go through transitions pretty quickly compared to other females. Not today. I couldn't find the string to unzip my wetsuit and started to panic. There were "wetsuit strippers" available, so I finally just asked one to help me. Well, he then started taking off my wetsuit...which would have been find had he not got it caught around my Garmin. Again, something I couldn't control, so no use worrying about it...just frustration to lead me into the bike!
I've been working on my bike A LOT since that is where I lose SO much time to the other ladies, and it's easier to get better on the bike faster than it is to get better in the swim. I've been doing more outdoor rides where I dial in my power so that I KNOW what it should feel like come race day. When I did my pre-race ride on Friday, I could FEEL the power I was riding at and made note of that feeling to expect it on race day.
Power is a great tool for athletes to use when competing in triathlons. I have really started to see why so many coaches emphasize power vs heart rate or perceived effort. The numbers don't lie. I truly believe that the more I am able to dial in my power, the stronger I will get on the bike, and the less time I'll lose in races to the top females. Exciting!!
Unfortunately, my bike Garmin wasn't reading power as soon as I got on my bike. Remember, I'm the second to last wave, so there's a million people in front of me that I'm weaving in and out of at this point, and I'm looking down, worrying about my power reading. I tried playing around with my Garmin for a bit. I thought about stopping my Garmin 920 (wristwatch) and re-setting it to just read my bike power, but then I would lose all of my data for the overall race. Finally, I just decided to shut off my bike Garmin and turn it back on and hope that my power picks up. Lucky for me, just before I reached the 5-mile mark, my Garmin started reading power again.
Those first few miles likely cost me a minute or so on the bike (which I'll detail later), but I needed to have my power showing so that I could really SEE the effort I felt that I was pushing.
The Muncie bike course is about 6 miles out, then an out-and-back loop down a highway that you do two times. Even the first swim waves would be facing some congestion, and I did see some pack riding, which is always discouraging in a non-draft legal race like Muncie, but as a believer in being honest, I focus on my race and know that karma will come to those who cheat:)
I kept looking down at my power and was pretty happy to see the numbers that I was seeing. My bike splits were really good, and I started doing the math in my head. Remember, up until this race, the bike has always been quite the struggle for me, and has pretty much cost me top performances at race.
The first time I did the math was when my bike Garmin hit the 1:00:00 mark. 22.36miles (for all those math strugglers, that means I was riding at 22.36 miles per hour for the first hour of my race:)). I knew at this point I would be sub-2:37 (my goal here last year) for sure. At halfway (28 miles), my Garmin read 1:18, meaning I'd hit a 2:36 bike split. I took note at mile 26 where I was at, and added that time to my 30-mile time and calculated 2:34. My day just kept getting better and better!
Just before we made the final out-and-back turnaround before mile 40, this 21-year-old kid with the last name Brady (it was on his uniform) passed me. Well, I was feeling pretty good so decided to start being competitive with the boys since I hadn't allowed ANYONE to pass me all day and certainly wasn't going to let some 21-year-old be the first to do so. After weaving in and out between some packs, I had Brady in sight and passed him. I had been watching him and noticed he was pretty timid when passing the packs, so I was not about to stick around with him and potentially get in a crash. I had also started calculating my power and my splits and was thinking I could possibly break 2:30 if I was to have a really solid last 12 miles.
Well, Brady is likely as competitive as I am since he re-passed me about 2 minutes later as we climbed one of the "hills" on the course. Poor kid didn't know how competitive I would be, and we continued this "leap frog" passing up until the end where I put in a big surge to finally lose him. (Thanks, Brady, for pushing me during this time!)
Overall, I rode 2:31... that's a SIX MINUTE PR on the bike. WHAT?!
I quickly racked my bike, again having to weave through people who were WALKING (What???) their bikes into Transition. Despite teaching 12/13-year-olds for a living, I'm not the most patient person, and I had to hold back from giving these people a piece of my mind. I was on my way to a HUGE PR, after all ;)
Let's just say Muncie's run course isn't known for being flat. I'm actually not even sure there is ever a section where it isn't slightly (or extremely) uphill or downhill on the entire run course. For the stronger runners, this is really good news as it really does a lot of damage to those who struggle with the run portion of triathlons to begin with.
The one goal I made for myself on the bike was to NOT have to get off my bike to pee. I (dumbly) did that last year, and even stopped during Grand Rapids this year. Stopping on the bike takes SO much extra time because you have to slow down, get off the bike, pee, get back on the bike, and then get back up to speed. Even if you only pee for 30seconds, you probably lose close to 2 minutes when all is said and done. So, I set my goal pretty low for the bike in hopes of meeting it;)
Since I hadn't stopped at all to pee on the bike and had been doing a pretty good job of hydrating, I knew I'd need to stop on the run. T2 had all porta-potties full, and the 1-mile porta-potty was just opening as I was passing it, so I finally got my "break" during mile 2. I glanced at my watch just to see how much total time I would be losing for having to stop... 1minute 11 seconds. I made sure to keep that in mind for placing purposes at the end.
The first 5 miles felt GREAT. I was grabbing water and Gatorade at each station and my legs were going how fast they usually go (which still never feels as fast as I want them to go since I can breathe and talk normally, but that's just part of the sport I suppose). Just before the halfway turnaround, my knee started doing that cracking thing that it did when I first came back from my patella tendinitis. I kind of panicked a bit, but made my mind focus on other things.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to remember song lyrics when that's the only thing you're trying to focus on? I kept putting "pump up" songs (fast beat, catch, with easy-to-remember lyrics) in my head, but I could only think of maybe the chorus parts of the songs.
I then started to get my mind to focus on things that WERE feeling good. My arms. Man, let's swing those puppies and get them to push my legs forward. My calves. Climb up those hills, stride out on the downhill. My stomach. All the Gatorade/PowerGel/Water isn't sloshing around in here, those six pack abs are rocking this run (kidding, only Ryan has a six pack). Taking the focus off of my burning quads and IT bands really helped, and as dorky as this little replay sounds, I swear it works. Your mind is SUCH a powerful tool; if you can convince your mind that your body is fine and capable of enduring the pain it's feeling, your race will go SO much better than planned. I truly believe that.
I started to feel two pretty bad blisters come on around mile 8, and could feel my pace slowing. Miles 8-10.5 were not such great miles, but lucky for me, at mile 10.5 one of my favorite pro-triathletes, Dani Fischer, was yelling at me, "Jacqui G, you look HOT girl" as I was dying going up the hill. She seriously made my day and got me recharged for the last 2.5 miles (this also likely may have been because she was standing in the exact spot where Ryan met me last year and cheered me in...I'm such a sap).
I really went to my arms and kept seeing "6:2x" in my head for my hopeful mile splits. I probably passed 3 girls in my age group in the last 2.5 miles, one of them literally being with 0.5 miles to go. I had been telling myself ALL day to leave EVERYTHING on the course, and I am honestly shocked I didn't cross the finish line and collapse. I truly left every ounce on the course, and could not have been more excited to cross that finish line.
When I finally looked at my watch, I saw a 7-minute PR. I improved my swim by almost a minute, I crushed my bike by 6 minutes... and I was 5 seconds slower in the run than last year. Overall, I think that could be considered a success.
The best part about this race was crossing the finish line and hearing the announcer say, "Jacqui Giuliano, oh, I recognize that name. Yep, your husband Ryan was the male winner. Congrats to this couple!"
As soon as I saw Ryan and he told me he broke 4 hours, I couldn't contain my excitement. How was it possible for us to BOTH have such BIG breakthrough days?! If you know Ryan, you know he's not super talkative, but the guy wouldn't stop talking... that's my favorite part: recapping the race, noting that there couldn't have been any changes made to make the day any better.
6:27, 6:32, 7:22 (really 6:11 + 1:11 bathroom break), 6:31, 6:29, 6:26, 6:34, 6:48, 6:40, 6:28, 6:51, 6:23, 6:22.
Overall, I ended up 3rd female amateur, which was a place higher than last year. I had the fastest run split and was the only female to break 1:30 which is kind of cool! I was 2nd in my age group F25-29.
First, a GIANT thank you to Alex for keeping everyone updated on our progress through our EGO Presented by Sammy's Bikes Facebook page. Make sure to "like" this page for updates on our races!
Thanks to EGO and Sammy's for always keeping our bikes in top condition and providing us with the power beyond belief that we definitely showed on race day.
Thanks to PowerBar for keeping me fueled on my way to PRs. The gels seriously give me another gear every single time, and I'm so thankful to have found a product that works so well for me in these distances.
Thanks to Saucony for the fastest shoes ever. The Fastwitch make me feel like I'm cruising the entire time! (also, for you Saucony lovers, their fall apparel was JUST released this month and it is AMAZING. And, for summer lovers, their Kineta Relay is the PERFECT summer shoe--slips on easily and is super comfy).
Thanks to everyone who reached out and congratulated me/us on our big days. Knowing we have friends and family from all over who support and follow our passion makes crossing the finish line even more exciting every single time.
And of course, a HUGE thanks to my incredible husband who always keeps me honest and focused on my quest to be as phenomenal of an athlete as him. There is nothing more motivating than being married to this guy!
Now, for some FUN pictures that capture the joy and excitement experienced during Muncie70.3 2015: