There is no such thing as an easy 70.3 triathlon, but not all 70.3s are created equal. Geography being the largest factor on what makes a race more challenging than others, I learned this the hard way by obtaining my first DNF (Did Not Finish) at the 2014 Super Frog 70.3. No training for an open water wave start made for a very, VERY short day. By that time I had already signed up for the Ironman Saint George 70.3. I had googled photos of Saint George after a friend posted about signing up and thought it would make a wonderful race vacation destination. For being an Ironman branded race, the price was reasonable enough to get my husband on board. DNFs have a way of slapping you into reality. Being in relatively good shape would not be enough to get me through the elevation climbs on both the bike and the run courses of Saint George.
Like races, not all triathletes are created equal. That was evident during bike drop off the day before the race. It was mandatory for racers to drop off their bikes the night before. Racers were abound Sand Hollow State Park trying to squeeze in just one more bike and swim before the sun went down. As I scanned the field with aero helmets and tri bikes a plenty, one thought resonated… I do not belong. I started to question myself. Did I train enough? Do I need to be like THEM to finish this race? EEEK.
Yes, I am mildly psychotic about exercise. It tickles my heart when someone suggests “let’s do hill repeats,” but triathletes are a whole other breed. I couldn’t name a professional triathlete if my life depended on it. I got into the sport mainly out of necessity. Running as my sole form of exercise caused injury a couple years ago and forced me into the pool. Although slow, I love the way water feels on my skin. I loved it even more when I started swimming in the ocean. In no way do I consider myself a cyclist. Biking is FUN, but biking on the same roads with distracted drivers scares the crap out of me. I have a tri bike that I solely wanted because it is really beautiful. That pretty much sums me up as a rider. I have a beautiful bike, so I might as well ride it. Running is my first love. I feel most alive when I am pounding pavement, dripped in sweat and my heart thumping. But at almost 38 years old, without cross training I hurt myself just rolling over in bed.
The Swim (00:55:43) 1.2 miles – By all accounts, this was the leg I was least worried about. For the past year, I have been swimming at least twice a week and unlike with my demise at Super Frog, there were no waves in the Sand Hollow Reservoir to fight with. Being the first leg, I also wasn’t concerned about being tired. Murphy’s law, the swim is where I struggled the most. Simply put, I had a meltdown. I wasn’t the least bit anxious until the gun went off to start my wave. As soon as we started moving, my wetsuit felt two sizes too small and I couldn’t breath. I wanted to claw at my collar. I tread there for a minute trying to calm myself down as I watched the other green swim caps get further and further away. When I heard the next wave about to start, I moved as far away from the buoys as I could until one of the volunteer kayakers asked if I was okay. “Pull yourself together,” I tried to tell myself. Then I pulled advice from my memory bank of when I first started swimming with my friend Michael. He always told me, “No matter what, just keep moving forward.” I doggy paddled for the first two buoys then settled into a very slow freestyle. For those afraid of the cold, with a wetsuit I found it comfortable.
T1 (00:09:57)- Ben always makes fun of me and my complete lack of urgency during transitions. At almost 10 minutes, I have to agree with him this time. What was I doing? Blow drying my hair? Applying mascara? I still can’t think of what took me so long except sharing a few giggles with the other ladies who also struggled during the swim. Mental note… cut down on the giggles.
The Bike (03:46:35) 56 miles- This was the leg I was most concerned with. Luckily I have very good cyclist in my life who got me out on the road. During one training ride out at the Great Western Loop, a couple of the boys I was with suggested a new cassette that would get me a couple more gears to help climb. With an elevation gain of 3500+ feet, I would need all the help I could get. With only 2 days a week to train on the bike, I concentrated on hill repeats and a long ride. I LOVED the bike course. The time through Snow Canyon State Park was absolutely breathtaking. If I had access to do this course everyday I could definitely see myself turning into a “real” cyclist. I witnessed a few people having to unclip and walk up two inclines, the initial climb out of the Reservoir area and the last long climb starting at mile 44. All the hill repeat training worked and I didn’t come close to feeling like I would have to unclip. WIN! I only had two bottles of hydration/fuel. Both bottles were filled with three scoops of Carbopro and a scoop of APX. I should have refueled at mile 40. I didn’t realize there would not be any aid stations after the long climb out of the canyon. In 90 degree plus weather, I was completely out of water with still 10 miles left to go on the bike. Oops.
T2 (00:04:31)- I suppose I had nothing to giggle about.
The Run (02:36:26) 13.1 miles- Once I got to the run, I knew I’d finish. Years of Dirt Devil Trail races prepared me well. The hills were tough and the heat made it even tougher, but one foot in front of the the other got me to the finish line. My Desoto Cool Wings were a godsend. I don’t know how many burnt shoulders and backs I passed, but my Cool Wing kept mine completely protected from the sun. I also have something slightly disgusting to fess up to. There was ice at every mile. I’d pour a cup into my sports bra and pull ice to pop out into my mouth when ever I needed to. Mmmm, salty.
Finish time: 07:33:12- Nothing at all to brag about, but considering it is just a few minutes slower than my first 70.3 on a much harder course and included a meltdown I hopefully will never have again, I am satisfied in the direction I am headed. I know what areas to improve in (transition giggling) and a good gauge of how much more I could push before I have nothing left in the tank.
Saint George was a great experience. It was nice knowing my husband and a few other friends were out on the course as well. It seemed a familiar face would pop up when I needed it the most. The people of the city were also the nicest I’ve ever met. My next 70.3 will be the PPD Beach to Battleship in Wilmington, North Carolina in October. Geography will be in my favor and I do have the urge to actually follow a training plan and improve my time. Will I ever be like those athletes trying squeeze in one last training ride/ run? Probably not. Not if it means having to wipe the ridiculous smile off my face.