And to be honest, I wasn’t even disappointed/upset with my race until I saw how close I was to being on the podium as that was never even a goal! However, I’m pretty familiar with dealing with setbacks and using them to set myself up for a big comeback, so Kona #5, I’m comin’ for you!
8th female 30-34. 2nd fastest run split 30-34. 38th female amateur, 18th American.
This was definitely a big learning experience for me. I will 100% always recommend knowing the course prior to racing. If you have to cut a workout to do it, so be it, but I think that definitely affected my race and will plan things better next time around.
I also cannot get over the fact that a WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP event did not have a better traffic management strategy. I understand shutting down all roads is not always possible, however, there were some stretches that were extremely dangerous. I have never felt as unsafe as I did on this bike course and quite frankly, the traffic issue cost me my race. Details below.
BUT, bottom line: I'm so lucky to be able to have opportunities to compete in races like this. Especially with all of the craziness going on in our world currently, I am grateful for everything I have in life. At the end of the day, this is just simply a race that I GET to do. And for that, I am so thankful.
When I checked into the race on Friday, I saw my bib number was 1310 and got chills: Ryan and my wedding anniversary is October 13th, aka 13/10/12 if you write the date the European way. To make things even crazier, my swim cap color was purple, which is my grandma’s favorite color. I felt like I had my guardian angles watching over me for this race and immediately felt a sense of calmness.
After our pre-race swim/bike/run, we popped by a restaurant close to our AirBnB and were not disappointed. Both the food and the décor were awesome!
With our AirBnB being so close, we realized we wouldn’t have to leave until close to 6am (no 3:xxam wakeup call!), which meant our 10pm bedtime would still allow us some decent sleep!
After Nate made coffee for all of us (you're the best, Nate!!), Ryan, his dad, Megan and I headed over to transition. The birthday girl was all smiles all morning and I was SO excited to be spending her special day racing together!
Megan and I seeded ourselves midway through the 31-34minute group as I was hoping to be close to 34minutes. I knew that despite the dam being closed off (meaning the current was much less than usual), this course would not nearly be as fast as the 33.5minutes I swam in Muncie, so after hearing the professional women’s swim times, I decided 35minutes would be a good goal.
As I exited the water, I saw 36:00 on my watch. I was a little upset but knew I swam as hard as I could.
I quickly got my wetsuit stripped off and grabbed my T1 bag containing my bike helmet. I got to the top of the ramp and threw on my helmet, buckled the strap, shoved my wetsuit, goggles and swim cap into the bag and took off to get my bike….after a quick pit stop in the porta potty. I quickly grabbed my bike and started running out of transition.
(beware, long post ahead!)
This is the hardest part for me to reflect on as this was the part that I was most excited for going into the race, yet it was the worst part of the day for me.
Because I got in so late on Thursday, we had to do everything (check-in, pre-race workouts, bike check-in, etc.) on Friday. When Ryan picked me up from the airport, he told me about his and Alex’s 25-mile ride on the first part of the course and figured that would be good enough, rather than me driving the first part of the course on Friday. It’d also save us time and energy. Unfortunately, this super backfired, so PLEASE take my advice and always preview the course before you race!
Ryan told me that Lookout Mountain (an approximately 3-mile super tough climb) was just after mile 5 on the bike and to make sure I just drop to my small ring right away (the easiest gear on the bike). Well, Lookout Mountain actually comes just BEFORE mile 5 on the bike (4.85 to be exact). Right before we made the right-hand turn to start the climb, I had passed a girl and saw a course marshal coming so wanted to make sure to get far enough ahead since she wasn’t dropping back like you’re supposed to (Ryan’s gotten a penalty for this before, despite it being the responsibility of the person passed to drop back).
Right as we made the turn, I see this huge climb and realize HOLY &*%$ THIS IS LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN and drop to my small ring just in time. However, my small ring wasn’t in the easiest gear….it was in the second hardest gear. Oops?
On Friday, Nate, Trina and Mark rode the course and had issues: Trina was caught in her big ring but climbed up the entire mountain so I kept telling myself I could as well; Mark decided to shift into his small ring AS he was climbing the mountain and broke his derailleur. SO, my only real option I saw was to power through in the not easiest gear. This was miserable as girls I had just passed were re-passing me like it was nothing. I was so mad, but reminded myself that this was only the first few miles of the race.
LESSON LEARNED: always ride/drive/preview the course before you race.
Once I got to the top of the mountain (which, btw, I didn’t KNOW it was the top but just assumed, since again, I had no idea what the course was like!), I was finally able to start riding normally again. I was pumped to look down and see the power I was hoping for during the next 10 miles.
And then we started going down Lookout Mountain and this is 100% where my race was lost.
Girls were rather timid going down the mountain, but having done Lake Placid just 5 weeks prior, I was rather confident on the downhills. I was hitting 40+mph like it was nothing and feeling like I could totally salvage my horrible climb from the beginning of the race.
And then I saw a semi truck braking and a rider in front of him. And another 2 riders. And another car. And another rider. And another car. And another rider. And a white pickup truck. And cars coming up the mountain.
I literally went from 34mph to 19mph, down to 12mph, and maintained that slow speed for the next almost 3 miles. WTF. I briefly considered going around the cars but knew I’d be crossing the median (an automatic DQ) and possible run into oncoming traffic.
Once the semi and other cars finally got around the cyclists, I had enough frustration running through my veins that I blew by the girls. Finally, I was cruising again and hitting acceptable numbers for my watts and speed. We had a little out-and-back section around mile 33 so it was nice to see how I compared to other girls at that point. I was feeling strong (probably from the rest I had!) and ready to get my second half of the race going!
Unfortunately, I would run into similar traffic issues THREE MORE TIMES before finishing the bike. Two of the times, I maybe lost 30seconds, so not a big deal, not the end of the world. However, one time, I slowed so much that a girl that I had passed caught back up to me. She was even more mad than I was, and tried to go around the truck on the inside and he slammed on his brakes….she almost ran into his side mirror. At this point, the other female yelled out to a cop “GET THIS GUY OFF THE ROAD!” and he simply responded, “Sorry, ma’am, roads are open to traffic.”
At this point, I decided I was better safe and annoyed than overly aggressive and injured. I made a mental note to make sure Ryan knew about the traffic issues, but figured roads would likely be less congested for him since (a) he’s a faster swimmer than me and (b) his race would be on Sunday so likely in less traffic.
While I’m naturally upset that this 100% cost me a chance at being on the podium in my age group, I’m more upset at how incredibly dangerous this whole situation is. I literally couldn’t fall asleep because I was having nightmares of Ryan getting hit by a truck on the bike. I woke up two times in sweat (but fortunately had no reason to worry).
I did the math (with Ryan’s help, analyzing my Garmin and comparing my times to the other girls I competed against this year) and lost just over 7minutes between braking with the traffic issues and having a poor climb from being in the wrong gear. And the worst part? I finally had a super hilly, challenging course that I was looking forward to testing my legs on and didn’t get the chance to.
Know how I know my bike was really bad? With just under 2 miles til the finish, I passed a fellow 30-34 girl and she goes, “JACQUI?! I thought you would’ve passed me way before now!” It actually made me laugh at how dumb the whole situation was (so thanks, Sam, for making some of my frustration go away and re-planting that smile on my face!).
Even though my bike was the worst part of the day, I had all the right stuff (ice'd chain, sweet bike, a good one-over by my mechanic Ryan) ready to get me to the top on race day. I am confident that my bike fitness will have a much better showing in Kona (especially since I know the course!!) and can't WAIT to race again in ONE MONTH!
I quickly got off of my bike and gave it to the volunteers. I was SO glad to be done with that mess of a bike. Once again, the volunteers were ON and I got my run stuff right away. I quickly slid on my socks, shoes, new sunglasses (thanks, Ry!), and race belt and threw my nutrition in the back of my new kit top. I saw another girl in my age group head out right in front of me at a decent pace, so was fired up and ready to run!
The best part? My run being one of the top splits means that I'm ALMOST back in good run form. This, I believe, will be a critical piece in performing well in Kona (getting my run back to full strength after my April setback).
The first part of the run does a quick little out-and-back for maybe ½ mile. I was able to see that there were a LOT of girls in my age group just right in front of me. I was ready to go….but my stomach was NOT feeling it. I told myself to get up the first hill and through mile one before even thinking about stopping.
Luckily, the first porta potty was on a downhill, so I made a break for it. I told myself that the rest of the run was going to be as hard as I could possibly go to make up for this little pit stop. And I delivered.
My first mile didn’t click on my watch for some reason (it froze on the T2 screen), but my second mile split with the porta potty stop was only a 7:16, so I knew my body was ready to hurt on the run.
I saw Ryan, his dad, Nate, Trina and Mark right as I was heading up Barton (?) hill, around mile 4.5. Ryan told me I was FLYING and running way faster than anyone in my age group. This made me feel really good as I FELT like I was flying and actually had a chance at salvaging my race. Their energy helped me to a 7:01 split (which isn’t bad considering the big uphill).
Again, since I hadn’t previewed the course, I wasn’t really sure what was coming so was just going as hard as I could the whole time. You know what’s nice about climbing a hill? Eventually you go down it. You know what happens once you go down it on this course? You go back up it. Oy. Luckily, I was cruising to some good songs in my head and was still pissed about the bike at this point so was powering up these hills (relatively speaking). 6:50 split got my legs going again, and the downhill pushed me to a 6:39.
During the last mile, I kept reminding myself that I had no idea where other girls were in my age group, so to really keep pushing the pace as every second counts! I ended with a 6:20 final split. I probably passed 15 girls in the final tenth of a mile as I was determined to finish the race completely gassed (and I did).
The hardest part about this finish was not seeing Ryan right after. He was back at the house preparing for his race, so it was hard for me to not have anyone to see after the race given that I was pretty disappointed with the bike situation. I didn’t know how I placed, but just knew that I hadn’t been given the opportunity to ride my best and that really made me upset. Fortunately, I found some familiar faces at the finish line and was able to chat with some wonderful ladies before roaming around to find Nate/Trina/Mark to see how Megan was doing.
I can't believe the next big race is only one month away. One month until Ryan and I GET to celebrate our 5-year-wedding anniversary by competing in the Ironman World Championships. And you can bet that I'll be doing everything I can to make that day the most memorable day of our lives <3