I signed up for Steelhead 70.3 a little late in the season. I didn't have any 70.3's in August and I really wanted to race! My friend Rob, from Chicago, a former track teammate at Southern Illinois University who now does triathlons as well, was racing Steelhead and said I could tag along if I got a flight to Chicago. My tribal teammate Nick Chase was racing as well. Once again, it's always nice to have your friends out on the course with you on race day! :)
The night before the race, for some reason, I could not sleep. I ended up getting about 4 hours of sleep but that happens quite often for me before a race. Why? I am not sure, I guess I was thinking about the race.
Race morning was a little bit chilly, I loved every minute of it considering Florida has been feeling more like an oven this month. It was a nice change. I arrived at transition around 5:15. After getting everything set up and going for a short warm up run, we started the 1.2 mile walk down the beach which was a workout in itself! The water was cool (around 66 degrees) and the waves were rolling in. It looked like the Gulf to me. I felt right at home. Arriving at the swim start I put on my Xterra wetsuit and got in the water. In no time, the race started and the male pros were off. We were up next. It was a running start, which is not my favorite but I should be used to water entries since we practice it all the time at work when we train.
Standing on the shoreline they were announcing names and starting with us was the PC (physically challenged) who was a visually impaired athlete. She was the only visually impaired athlete to finish a 70.3. Now that's an impressive accomplishment!
Gun went off and the race was started. The water was cool and clear, I was actually enjoying this swim, even though it was up current and a little choppy. (Showed on our swim times.) As we were swimming I could see the sun rise. I thought the lake was beautiful :)
I exited the swim in 7th place. A hill with deep sand was there to greet us at the swim finish. I left transition in 6th place. Nick's girlfriend and parents were near transition cheering for us and they let me know what place I was in.
Starting out on the bike all I could think about was how I needed to catch a girl out there. Top 5 paid money and I really wanted to make the podium. The bike course started with a lot of turns (all marked so well it was Brittany proof, I wasn't getting lost this time! :))
Since I lived in Illinois for 12 years, I felt right at home on this course. There were corn and soy bean fields, reminded me of where my mom lives. There were some rolling hills (more than I expected) and for me it was a solo ride. I spent about 45 miles riding...alone. I didn't see any other cyclists, just some officials on motorcycles. The only good thing about riding alone is knowing you can't get a drafting penalty. ;) Other than that, you have to keep yourself entertained and focused on racing. After 45 miles I thought I saw a cyclist really far ahead, I lost sight of them for a while but was slowly reeling them in. I got closer and closer and finally got close enough to see it was a girl, yes, 5th place! I ended up passing her around mile 53. I know most of these girls are amazing runners and while my running off the bike has improved, it is not where it needs to be, yet. I would need to make a gap between us before the run. With only 3 miles to go that wasn't going to be a lot but I gave it my best shot. That's all you can do.
Starting out on the run, I felt great, had a good pace going for the first 4 miles. I was unaware how hilly the run course was. The sun came out and it stated to get warm, was drinking water through the aid stations but I felt like I was fading and my pace was slowing down. :-/ I started sipping on a gel which helped but after a couple miles I felt like I was struggling to keep on pace. I got passed and moved back into 6th place. I couldn't stay with her even though on a good day her pace was nothing faster than what I should be running. I saw another girl a couple miles behind me on one of the out and back of the course. As long as I kept running It seemed like I wouldn't have a problem keeping her from catching me. On top of how I felt, the hills were the kicker! Around mile 10 I started drinking some coke, that woke me up and I picked up the pace for the last couple miles. I was impressed with the amount of people who came out to watch this race. There were people all over the run course, sitting out in their yards, along the roads. Even on the bike course they were cheering you on. I thought it was a great race venue. Unfortunately, this is the last year they will be having a pro wave, $$ or points so I won't be doing it next year but I thought it was well organized and the bike course was well marked (which makes me happy. ;))
I was wanting to be in the 4:30's. I was very close as I finished in 4:40:25. Next time I'll be there! Nothing happens overnight but as long as I am moving in the right direction, I am happy. Even though 5th place would have been nice, I didn't have it on the run that day. I am working on getting my nutrition down and once I do, I will be that much better :)
"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games.
26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've
failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I
succeed." - Michael Jordan