I was pleased to participate in the Hits Race Series Half Distance Triathlon in Grand Junction Colorado (my hometown) over the weekend. This was my first 70.3 event starting with a 1.2 mile swim then 56 mile bike ride and finishing with a 13.1 mile half marathon run. This is a challenging event even in perfect conditions but Mother Nature decided to make it even more difficult. The air temperature at the start was 43° with waters temperatures around 60° by the shore and about 58° farther out, so it was cold for the 7 am
mass swim start (all ~230 of us). As I was waiting for the swim start countdown in the water I couldn’t stop shaking and was relieved to get started so I could move my muscles and get warm. When the horn went off it was chaos as everyone was fighting for space with lots of splashing, kicking and arms flailing everywhere. It’s like being in a washing machine and reminded me of Nationals a few years back when I got hit so hard I got a concussion so I guarded me head well and tried to find people to swim parallel to going my speed. It was difficult to relax and my stiff cold arms didn’t want to move and I found it hard to rotate or pulling quite as effectively so my timing was off and I was swallowing more water than I would care to admit. After about 300 yards the crowd finally started to thin out and my body started to warm up so I could relax and get in a groove. Upon finishing the first loop we had to get out of the water and go around a yellow buoy on land and then swim another loop. I took this opportunity to glance at my watch. I was shocked to see such a slow time even with a rough start. I was determined to swim a much stronger second loop. After the race many people suggested the swim was 300 or more meters long so that made me feel better. Getting out also added time and with the cold conditions all of the swim times were slow and some pulled out of the race b
ecause of hypothermia. Looking back at my GPS data I ended up swimming 1.75 miles. Clearly it was long and I took the scenic route and need to work on swimming straight. LOL
There was a long run from the water to transition of maybe 150 or 200 yards or so. Before the race I had decided it was worth the extra time in transition to put on layers because I tend to get cold easily and didn’t want to go hypothermic. As I pulled my wetsuit off I managed to pull my timing chip off as well; as I was trying to put the Velcro strap back together I discovered my hands not wanting to work. It was hard to get a grip on things between my pointer and thumb, they were frozen. I struggled to pull on arm warmers so ditched them but I did pull on my knee warmers, beanie, a jersey (couldn’t get it zipped), cycling jacket (it took me a long time to zip this up but I knew I needed to keep the cold air out) and gloves. The cycling gloves were by far the hardest to get on but I knew these were a must so I struggled for what seemed like an eternity to get them on. After strapping up my helmet – that buckle was a struggle too – I was finally on my way. That was the longest transition time of my life but I figured it was better to finish then have to pull out with hypothermia as many did (or so I heard).
I was very timid on the bike as I am still nervous to ride out on the roads after being hit in the Fall and took every turn extra slow. Undoubtedly this cost me time and results don’t reflex my true potential but I didn’t wipe out either. On the bike I pumped my fists opened and closed to restore blood flow and hoped to improve my grip for gearing and grabbing food I needed to consume. It worked and my hands started to get warmer! I believe getting the proper nutrition on the bike can make or break the race and started eating and drinking as much as my grip would allow me to. This was a challenging bike route and leading up to the first climb I geared into my small chain ring and passed many cyclists on the accent. Unfortunately lever gearing from the tops of my aerobars takes working hands so I had no luck getting back into the large chain-ring for the remainder of the 56 mile ride despite many attempts; This robbed me of some speed on the decents and my overall bike time did not reflect my ability. I knew I had a lot of time to make up from the swim and T1 time so this was a bit frustrating not to have all my gears to utilize.
For the entire ride we had a light cold rain and even had the wind pick up at times blowing me around. About mile 30 I found it difficult to get my speed up and even though the road seemed flat it wasn’t. This false-flat went of for 10 miles with a strong head wind. I was greatful this was an out-and-back portion of the ride because I knew it would be much easier to make up speed the other direction. At about mile 38 or so I saw two ambulances zipping by and found out later that a girl was so cold she ended up wrecking and hit her head going unconscious and was taken to ICU. That helmet saved her life and she suffered a broken wrist and most likely has a severe concussion. Here’s the story
Scary! Having suffered from concussions myself, I feel her pain. From what I know she is doing well now. I know of another women that had some possible frostbite on her toes but I pushed on despite the awful conditions.
I pushed as much as I could after the turn around on my bike despite not having all my gears (my hands were still not working well enough to engage my front derailleur).
Upon coming into transition I was excited for the run (my favorite part). In T2 while removing my leg warmers I pulled off my timing chip yet again and had to replace it (Velcro – sticky little bugger) but my hands worked much better this time. After leaving transition I noticed that my GPS watch had been stopped so I took the time to clear and set it for the run so I’d have some feedback on pacing. I felt pretty strong and believe I got the nutrition I needed on the bike. I utilized Elete electrolyte tablytes – which are much more concentrated than other products on the market so you don’t have to take as many – great product! (Visit eletewater.com
, set up a free account and use the code “blonderunner” to save 15% on your first order).
The first 10K was strong with a 51 split at the turn around right on goal pace for a 1:42ish half however my left knee was starting to bother me. About 4 months ago I had knee surgery as a result of being hit on my bicycle by a truck last Fall. It has slowed my training and my knee has been off and on sore. I had another few strong miles but with the up and downhills the knee really started to bother me and I could feel my form changing. I tried to keep my effort steady and my running smooth but my legs started feeling heavy and I had some slow miles in there and considering the overall decent out and overall increased elevation on the way back my effort was steady. I was constantly passing people despite the knee and ended up with a 1:51 half marathon split. Not too shabby after a cold swim and wet long ride. I couldn’t help to be thrilled to finish my first 70.3 and into my families arms. It was a scorching 48° at the finish #sarcasm
Despite the conditions I managed to take First Place in my age division which I was thrilled about. It was an unforgettably cold and challenging event. The sun finally came out for the award ceremony. It was fun to make some new friends and visit some family while in town. I was happy to have my husband and kids to share this experience with and I really appreciate their support along with friends and sponsors. A special thank you to Xterra Wetsuits for keeping me much warmer in the water with your great wetsuit, cap and booties!