After we checked in, I saw a lot of familiar faces as we were talking and showing Meagan her new ride. EGO p/b Sammy’s Bikes teammate Katie O’Connor stopped by to chat with us. And then something happened that warmed my heart so much that I completely forgot about the mean volunteer who made me cry. A lady came up to me…, “Giuliano? Mrs. Giuliano?” Um, yes, that’s me. Two of my former students walked over! Turns out their dad was racing….like I said, this is truly a Chicagoland race. It was great to chat with them and it just made me feel so happy that they wanted to take the time to say hi!
39:07, 13th in my age group
Steelhead has been a point-to-point course for awhile, but changed that this year (likely after how horrible last year’s swim was for many people!). We would go out 5 yellow buoys, turn right, follow 3 more yellow and 3 orange buoys, turn right, follow another 5 orange buoys, and finally get out of the water. I planned on swimming a fairly straight line pretty close to the buoys to keep my space from the other swimmers, but found a great deal of congestion during the first two buoys. After making the first turn, it seemed as though I could not figure out how to swim straight. I am fairly confident that the “backstretch” there was slanted, but either way, I felt like I saw sighting and readjusting my swim course much more often than usual (though, the current may have caused part of that as well). The last 5 buoys coming in went by much faster, which gave me hope that I had swam a PR.
Not so much. I saw 38:xx on my watch and was pissed. After both 70.3s this year being 36:30, I couldn’t believe I was that much slower (and with using a wetsuit!). I knew that my goal of setting a new 70.3 PR was likely out, but kept that angry feeling as I plowed through the transition to my bike.
The good news about my bike being the second one on the rack is that it was pretty quick to get to. The bad news? I had to run my bike through everyone else in transition to get it out to the bike course. Steelhead’s transition is LONG, and weaving in and out the athletes was a little annoying. I actually called out “on your left” to an older guy…and he moved, but I did feel like maybe I was a little too competitive. Oh well.
2:32:16; 22.07mph, 4th in my age group
Well. Not quite what I was planning. The Steelhead bike pretty quickly brings you to a fairly long “climb” (for that course!) and my legs did not know how to respond. Having done this race many times, I knew that this “climb” was coming, so it’s not like my body was unprepared. For whatever reason, my legs just couldn’t seem to function. This went on for the first 15 miles. I focused on looking at my watts and doing everything I could to NOT focus on the speed.
My only actual goal for Steelhead was to bike sub-2:30. After biking 2:31 at Muncie, and knowing I perform pretty similarly on the two courses, I knew the way I have been training could lead me to that sub-2:30 if I went in pretty well-rested.
This is where the competitive battle in my head comes into play: do I sacrifice training for Kona so that I can do well at Steelhead? While obviously a PR and a sub-2:30 bike would have really boosted my confidence, the true goal of my 2015 season is to do well at Kona. So, one week before Steelhead, I biked the Ironman Wisconsin course. Three times. And averaged 0.5mph faster than I ever had in my life. So, to say I had a “good” weekend riding the Madison course last Sunday would be a severe understatement (oh, and we also ran 18 miles in the hilly Wisconsin Dells the day before, so it’s safe to say I demolished my legs the weekend before Steelhead).
I kept reminding myself that my legs were tired, and to focus on nutrition as hopefully that would help my legs come around. Just after the 15-mile mark, I passed a guy. The next thing I know, he’s riding next to me….”Sammy’s, huh? Oh, wait, are you Ryan’s wife?” For the next 15ish miles, we played (legal) leapfrog and he kept me honest with my watts and really helped me more than he probably knows (so thanks, Jim!). Another female tried to join in, but I was absolutely not having that. It’s one thing if a guy passes me….but no longer can I be okay with allowing females to pass me if I want to be reaching my goals!
My watts were finally coming around and I was hitting the numbers that I laughed at Ryan for telling me to hit. With less than 10 miles to go, fellow Chicagoan Aneta flew by me with a motivating “Let’s go Jacqui!” that helped me have a strong final push. Unfortunately, the fact that my first 15 miles were SO off of my goal watts really did some damage, and I rolled in 2 minutes slower than my bike goal.
As I rolled into transition, race announcer Dave Kappas noted that I was about 15 minutes down, but “if anyone can make that gap up, Jacqui can” and I left transition on a mission.
1:27:25, 2nd female 25-29….fastest (female) run split by 2+minutes
As I bolted out of transition, the spectators on the first mile stretch were awesome. Being the 4th wave, there weren’t TOO many people ahead of me (like a few hundred out of 2800), so the excitement from the spectators really just pumped me up. I even felt like I was FLYING up the big hill that is encountered right before Mile 1.
Unfortunately, my plan on the bike to dial in on my nutrition did not sit so well with my stomach and I had to make a quick bathroom break shortly after Mile 1. This added 56 seconds to my overall split, but likely would have caused real stomach issues during the run, so it was worth the stop (I divulge this in light of recent articles about such issues being posted).
BIG Thanks to.....
(PS how do we not have a picture from this whole weekend? Sorry!)
-PowerBar for fueling my pre-race, bike and run. The gels and bars give me the perfect “kick” that I need to get refocused and push harder.
-Saucony for the best shoes ever that led me to the fastest female run split!