On our first anniversary, Danny and I decided to start the tradition of doing a race each year around our wedding date. We thought this would be a great way to celebrate and a perfect excuse to travel somewhere fun to race. So when we were talking about a race for this year, I suggested we do a half ironman (because why not?!). Danny found the Pigman triathlon in Cedar Rapids IA and since neither of us had ever rode bikes or raced in Iowa, it sounded like the best bet! When we registered I didn’t give much thought into what other races I wanted to do this season, and it worked out that this was my first race of the season.
The morning of the race I felt really good. Of course I was nervous for how the day would go, especially so when I thought about my lack of consistency and mental prep with training, but I put no pressure on myself to do anything too amazing. I knew the purpose of this race for me was to just get back into it, get my feet wet, and remember why I love to do it. I knew I had the experience and fitness to finish and putting the extra pressure on myself to perform at a high level would set me up to fail. My goals were to have fun racing with my husband again and to simply enjoy being out on the course.
When we got to transition and began setting up I noticed a sign that said “water temp 81 degrees.” Man, that meant no wetsuits and a even slower swim for me. I shrugged it off telling myself it’s no big deal because it’s not like I haven’t done it before! As the sun began to come up I felt sweaty but cold at the same time. For fun I checked the weather and it was 64 degrees with 94% humidity. That explained it! The high for that day was mid 90’s with nearly 100% humidity!
Swim: Way slow, but surprisingly smooth. I was calm and really enjoyed being in the open water. The layout for the course was strange, but the time trial start was good for spacing us out. I didn’t do much for drafting mostly because I’ve have yet to really hone in that skill. My shoulders started to get achy and tired toward the last 1/4 or so, but I kept a positive mind and was looking forward to the bike!
Bike: this was a 4 loop out and back style course and the flattest I’ve raced at this distance. Danny kept saying it was a ‘PR’ course because it was so flat. I knew I wanted to bike smart, but I also like going fast and my goal was to have fun, so after I finished my first loop (and my shoulders quit aching from the swim) I told myself ‘go for it. PR the bike because the run will be brutal either way!’ I knew it wasn’t necessarily smart but it was fun and I was right the heat was horrendous in the run. On my second lap right before the turn around, where I knew I was going from a little tailwind to a headwind, I was thinking about Ben and how it would be nice if he could help me to power through that headwind. Well, I made the u-turn and as I was picking up my speed again I passed a volunteer’s car with windows and doors open and his radio on. This was the first song I heard on the course that day and it was “See You Again.” Really Ben?! The part I heard was “let the light guide your way”. Obviously whenever I hear that song it pulls at my heart, but I often hear it in the most meaningful times and I believe he has something to do with it. My eyes instantly filled with tears and I was so happy to feel him with me. So, I put my head down and powered on. I ended up averaging 19.5 over that 56mi course, putting in the 2nd fastest split in my age group, and this definitely was a PR for me!
Run: Well I started off pretty good, but quickly felt the heat and humidity and lack of training, overdoing the bike, and lack of nutrition all just smack me in the face! Ha this was also a 4 loop course with nearly zero shade. Once I made it to the second aide station I began catastrophysing about the heat and how I didn’t bring any calories with me! Part of my no pressure race mode allowed me to assume there would be food and electrolyte drink at the aide stations without ever actually confirming it. So I ran about 5 miles off he bike without taking in any calories and it was bad. I felt really poor. But then on my second loop there it was a beautiful glass of red something. I grabbed it and downed it then stood at the table eyeing up the bananas and oranges and pretzels! I took two bananas because this is what I would typically eat in a race and thought I shouldn’t eat a ton of crap I wasn’t used to… Especially since I didn’t know what I just drank. I walked a bit after that and then started running again. I felt like a new person after getting those calories! The rest of the run was a run, walk, soak myself with water and ice, hydrate, and repeat. It was super slow. Lots of walking. And super duper hot. But awesome and humbling and empowering to be back doing what I love.
Im so happy to have done this race. Training felt somewhat like a chore earlier in the year and with an added whole new level of emotional instability, this year has been very challenging with respect to setting goals and doing things to better me. We had just gone through the dreaded one year anniversary of losing Ben just 10 days prior and it’s so easy for me to say ‘f all of this, I’m done’ but I know he wouldn’t want that for me. He would want me to keep doing the things I love to do and I want to keep doing the things I know made him proud. I’m also so thankful and fortunate to have married the man I did. We are so lucky to share so many of the same interests and we’ll do everything in our power to keep this tradition alive!!
Sending all my love to my one and only incredible husband Danny, my super supportive mom who blasted my photos on social media showing off her mad skillz I didn’t know she had, the rest of my beautiful and encouraging family, my inspiring SOAS sistas and teammates, and all of my friends who have helped me along this journey to return to doing what I love to do. Xoxo