Tri For Old Glory, one of my favorite triathlons. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to sign up for it this year due to a conflicting schedule, but since I had been talking it up so much for the past 2 years to my friends, (and many of them had signed up for it), I figured out a way to make it work. Sure glad I did, because this “racecation” did not disappoint!
Saturday, July 8, 2017
Mike was unable to make it for the race (he was flying out to Florida for a training) so Jeremy & Cristina picked me up at around 7:00am. We hit the road early, and since packet pick up wasn’t until 4:00, we arrived in Gruene for lunch.
Had a delicious meal at one of my favorite restaurants The Gristmill. If you are ever in the New Braunfels area, you absolutely must eat here. Three of our other friends from Brownsville, Ernie, his wife Ruth, and Ryan met up with us to eat. The two guys had also signed up for the Olympic distance. We actually recorded a hilarious podcast at the restaurant while we waited for our food.
We all parted ways and drove into Canyon Lake where we would be staying with our friend and Big Sexy teammate Mike R. His family home was beautiful. Located in the beautiful central Texas hill country. He and his wife were beyond welcoming to let us stay. We got to sit and visit with them for awhile before we headed out to packet pick up.
Made our way into San Marcos River Ranch where the tri would be held. J & C got to see where we’d be swimming and running. We headed back to Mike’s house where he had grilled us a delicious dinner of fajitas, elk sausage, and Mexican rice. We continued to visit and trade stories for the rest of the evening. Was in bed by 9:30.
Sunday, July 9, 2017- Race Day
Woke up at 4:00am. Got all my stuff ready and headed downstairs. I had advised Cris to freeze a water bottle overnight because I knew it would be HOT during the run and there are only 2 water stations which are very far apart. We packed up the trip bags and bikes and hit the road.
Transition opened at 5:30am and by the time we arrived several racers were already there. We got our timer chips, and were body marked, then were able to enter Transition area and set up our stuff. Before we knew it, it was time for the pre-race briefing, Star Spangled Banner, and prayer.
We lined up by the lake and the Olympic swimmers would enter the water first, followed by the Sprint swimmers. Olympic distance is 1500m and Sprint is 500m. Right before we began, the race director announced that there would be a change of plans. Some of the lifeguard crew hadn’t shown up, and so he had to cut the Olympic swim down to a 500m. Many groans and not-so-nice words were heard in the crowd, but I put a positive spin on it and said, “At least we get to swim. Plus, we’d be out on the run earlier so it wouldn’t be so hot” (or so I thought).
The swim start was a time-trial start, meaning each swimmer would enter the water about 8 seconds apart. A much calmer swim start than Buffalo Springs had been. We self-seeded by our 100m swim times and before I knew it, I was in the water and swimming away.
Swim was pleasant; calm and quick. Each buoy came in no time and I was out of the water and into T1.
As I was running into T1 I saw Cristina right behind me. Turns out we had the exact same swim time, down to the second (God, I love that!) We were out and on our bikes together and I planned to try and stay with her the whole ride.
I have to say, I am grateful that I had just done Buffalo Springs 2 weeks ago. Just as New Orleans 70.3 had given me confidence in the swim, Buffalo Springs had given me confidence on the bike. There’s no up or down hill I can’t handle <- is what I tell myself ;).
The bike was very enjoyable and we stayed together the entire time. One big accomplishment I made personally was not getting out of aero on my downhills. I’ve always been such a chicken going down a hill and sit up out of aero with my hands on the breaks. Not today! I had re-read my race report from last year, and remembered saying that I wish I could stay in aero on the downhills. So, I was happy with my little accomplishment this time.
Bike was over soon and we were into T2 ready to head out on the run!
There was not a cloud in the sky. The run course goes through the neighborhood centered around the lake. Although the homes are beautiful, the neighborhood is still fairly new and there is absolutely no shade to keep us cool. That’s where the frozen water bottle came in handy. I used it to spray my head and neck throughout.
I had decided not to bring my watch to this race and so I had no idea of my pace. Although I didn’t feel fast, I felt steady. It’s a 2 loop, 3 mile run, and so I was able to see my friends out on the course. As I ran out to start, Jeremy was already starting his 2nd loop and he breezed right by me like a gazelle.
I saw Bob and Norma coming in on the bike, and saw Gracie as she was finishing her run. Cristina was just a few runners behind me and I was able to see her on the few turnarounds.
The first loop wasn’t too bad, the second loop felt like I was running on the surface of the sun. Hot AF. But I knew if I just kept moving forward the finish line would come, and it did.
I had no idea if I had placed at all, but I was happy to find out that I got 2nd in my age group! This race is fun no matter what, but placing on the podium made it even sweeter.
We cheered everyone else into the finish line and celebrated one another’s accomplishments. There are so many amazing people I have met and made friends with through triathlon and I’m so grateful for it!
Post Race- Party Time
After we got back to the house to shower and pack up, we headed into downtown San Antonio. Jeremy, Cristina, Gracie, and I would be sharing a hotel room. And our friends Manny, Natalie, Bob, and Norma also got a room at the same hotel.
Another 70.3 in the books! Happy to say we all finished with smiles on our faces! You know it’s a successful race when you come through the finish line saying, “I’ll do this one next year.”
Friday, June 23, 2017
We were very fortunate to be lent an amazing vehicle for travel! Our friend Jorge Puig, who created the application Spornado, let us ride up to Lubbock in comfort and style. A huge plus was that all 4 of our bikes were able to ride inside the van with us. No worries about outside elements messing with our trusty steeds as we traveled!
The drive, which by our maps projected to be about 10.5 hours, took us close to 12 hours because we were “hydrating” the whole way up. Plus, we stopped for lunch in Kerrville at this wonderful spot called Grapejuice.
When we finally rolled into packet pick up, we were happily surprised to find a few more Brownsville friends who were signed up for the race as well.
Checked into our hotel and then went to BJ’s for dinner. We went back to the hotel and relaxed, preparing to get a nice long sleep.
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Woke up to a cool front that had blown in overnight. It was in the 60’s out! I wasn’t preparing for this weather and had not packed any clothes to keep me warm; only one long-sleeved top. We had planned to drive out to the race site and get a nice short practice ride on our bikes to get a feel for the hills.
As we approached the Buffalo Springs Lake park, the nerves started to creep up in my tummy. We were driving up and down some pretty steep and winding hills, so I started silently praying for confidence and courage.
We parked at the “parking lot” which was located at the top of the first hill we would climb right out of T1 the next day. I was shivering from a combination of nerves and chilly weather. I told myself to suck it up, I’d be fine, and that I needed this practice to have confidence for the race the next day.
Without giving myself any more time to think or worry, we clipped in and pushed off.
Climbing the first steep climb took all of my gears in the small chain. When we reached the top of it and came flying down the other side, I was no longer cold. It sure was fun! We ended up biking to the park entrance (about 3 miles out) and turned around to head back. Many other athletes were doing the same thing we were; getting a feel for the terrain we’d be tackling the next day.
When we got off our bikes back at the van, I was very happy we had done that practice. I felt much more at ease knowing what to expect (at least at the beginning) of my bike ride.
Since we had brought our wetsuits with us, we figured we’d hop in the lake to do a short swim and get that “open water feel”.
Cristina and I only swam out to the 1st buoy (which was probably 100m) and back, but we just wanted to feel the water temperature, current, and practice in the wetsuit. We were happy with how the water felt; refreshing, and calm.
Once our little bike and swim were done, we made our way back to the hotel to freshen up and then head out for lunch. We ended up eating at a good brewpub (even though we couldn’t enjoy any brews!) and then went back to the hotel to rest/ nap.
That evening we got to meet up with the rest of our Big Sexy teammates who would be racing. I was so happy to see Kris again, and Chris McDonald last minute decided to enter as a relay! We had a great meal at Chili’s and enjoyed each other’s company.
The sun doesn’t go down til a little after 9:00 in Lubbock, and so it felt early even though it was getting late. I didn’t have a nervous stomach, I was just anxious that I wouldn’t get enough sleep. Luckily, I was able to close my eyes by 9:30pm.
Sunday, June 25, 2017- RACE DAY!
Alarm went off at 3:30am and I instantly checked the weather. No rain and a high of 80! God blessed us with a cool and cloudy day (ideal conditions for a race in the summer).
Got ready and made sure we had everything we needed. We were out and on the road at 4:30am exactly. Transition opened at 5:00, and we walked our bikes and all our gear down the steep hill in the dark.
I always say this, but I really love setting up my transition area. It gives me such a sense of peace and calm; I just focus on what I’m doing in that moment and that time. Then I take time to visualize my T1 and T2.
Once we were all set up, we got our wetsuits on and made our way down to the swim start.
Now this swim start was called a “wave start” which means you and your age group are to run into the water, theoretically “dolphin dive” in and begin swimming. I have never had a wave swim start, so this was going to be a bit out of my comfort zone.
Cris and I were in the same wave start (thankfully) and we were the 3rd wave to go in. We didn’t have much time to think as the gun went off and all hell broke loose. At least that’s what it felt like to me. Imagine: being thrown into a washing machine full of smacking, punching, and kicking limbs coming from every angle.
I instantly knew my mind could go one of two ways: have a panic attack and quit (like I did in Kemah 2014) OR remind myself that it all pans out and we will get through this and spread out and everything will be okay. I chose the latter mindset, and yes, after about the first 200m we were more spread out and things calmed down.
Unfortunately my goggles fogged up almost instantly, and I didn’t want to stop to try and clear them up, so I struggled to sight the upcoming buoys the whole time. In my mind, I was weaving off course and thought I had completely lost Cristina once we had started our swim. But as I finally made my way to the swim exit and took off my foggy goggles, there she was right beside me! I knew this was a good sign and hoped we’d be able to stay the rest of the race course together like we did at IMTX 2016.
Ran up the ramp, stripped off my wetsuit and made my way into T1. My bike was located in a very convenient spot and I was at the mount line with my bike in no time.
We were told to have our bikes already set in the small chain ring because that first climb would come up so quickly we wouldn’t have time to make adjustments. I had heeded that advice and let me tell you, this first hill (which we had not gotten to practice on the day before) was no joke. Not only was it steep and windy, but it was LONG. So I had to make sure I spaced out my gears to be able to make it to the top. Slowly, steadily, and breathlessly I made it up.
The first half of the bike course was varied with smooth straight shots of road, followed by short and steep up and downhills. Cristina caught me around mile 6 or 7 and I was happy to have her take the lead because she paces me better than I pace myself.
When we hit about 23 miles in, we turned off onto a farm road which was full on chip seal (meaning, bumpy and uncomfortable). My seat and legs were vibrating and I started to see Cristina drift farther and farther ahead. No matter what I tried, small chain easy gears, small chain heavy gears, big chain easy gears, my legs would not respond with enough power to catch back up with her. That’s when I told myself, “My race, my pace” and didn’t let it bother me that I would continue the bike alone.
I will say, once we got off of that godforsaken chip seal road (which we had to come back on for 10 more miles, mind you) the sharp and curving up and downhills were a welcome challenge and change. It was so cool to see what my body and little bike could do.
My butt had had it with the bike and I was ready to get off. I was so happy to see the park entrance again and actually looking forward to getting out on the run, because I knew I’d get to see familiar faces.
I sped down the final hill into T2 and left my signature mark as I transitioned into my run gear. Read my past race reports and you’ll know what my “signature mark” is ;).
My legs and butt and back were so happy to be off of that bike. Even though the temperature was creeping up to 80 degrees at this time, there was no humidity and so it felt nice and comfortable.
I started trotting along and decided to look down at my watch to see what my pace was. As usual, I had forgotten to click something or other, and my watch was not tracking my run so, oh well. My HIM run plan is always to run until I hit a water station and then walk the station.
This run course was 2 loops of 6.5 miles. Since I had never done this run course before, I just took it as it came. The only thing I knew was there was some “crazy steep hill” I would have to conquer twice, and I was told to do my best not to walk it.
There was no way I could mistake that hill. I saw it in all of it’s glory (almost reminded me of Mile 12 in the Austin Half Marathon). And I was determined not to walk it. I’ll tell you, I bet I was passed by people walking it, but I didn’t walk once. When I reached the top, I was about 4 miles into the run, and finally saw Cristina. We still had quite a gap between us and I wasn’t sure if I’d catch her, but I was happy to know I’d get to see her at the turn arounds.
Before I knew it, the first loop was done and I was heading out into my 2nd loop. At about 8 miles in, I finally caught up with my girl. I was so happy to know that we were going to have another finish line pic together.
The rest of our run defined my mantra, “Tri With Joy“. We run/walked, but we did every step together and were so happy that our race was almost done and that we’d accomplished another amazing goal.
We had about 2 miles left when we spotted our Big Sexy family! That definitely put a pep in our step!
And then there she was, the finish line!
Crossing with the biggest smiles of satisfaction. That feeling and rush of adrenaline and energy and accomplishment and pride. That is why I love triathlon so much.
We had crossed the finish line with the exact same race time; down to the second! Even though our bike, transition, and run times had been different. That soul-tri-mates right there.
We all attended the awards dinner that evening where Chris McDonald and Mike Ramirez (the relay team) took a 1st place award!
I am so grateful to have met such amazing people through this sport, and more specifically, through this team.
Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3, I’m pretty sure I’ll be back for you next summer!
So this past weekend I participated in the BISD Sprint Triathlon. This race is special to me because it was the first triathlon I had ever done back in 2011. It lit the spark inside me and I had absolutely no idea back then how important triathlon would be to my physical, and more so, to my mental well-being!
You want to see some funny pics? These are the true definition of a tri-rookie!
Did you check out the cotton shirt and mountain bike? 🙂
I was hooked on entering this race and have done so every year since (except 2016 when I was in the depths of Ironman training). So, this year would mark my 6th time to race this fun little race.
I was glad that I was able to convince most of my friends to sign up last minute; it’s always more fun to have your people there with you!
I woke up from a very restful sleep and was excited to get the day started. Since this race is located in my hometown it was nice to have a 6:00am wake up call. I was also excited to finally be able to race in my Big Sexy Racing kit. This kit feels absolutely amazing. I love my Betty kits, but this one is actually comfortable. I never once had to readjust or even think about any discomfort from the moment I put it on.
We arrived at the pool just as they were opening the gate to set up our transition area. Soon, all of our friends started showing up and everyone started getting ready. Once we were all set, we took a few pre-race photos and said a wonderful prayer. Then it was show time!
I was seeded as the first female to enter the water for the sprint division (no pressure). I love this pool. It’s the same pool I used to swim/train/compete in with my high school team, so it is literally mycomfort zone. As soon as Coach told me to go, I started my watch and I was off!
The swim is a 400 meter distance where we zig-zag between all of 8 lanes (set at 50 meter length). Not too much to report about my swim other than I felt great and passed quite a few male swimmers as I made my way through.
Out of the water and onto T1!
Living in Brownsville, it is a given that it will be a windy day every day in the spring time. I was not surprised to feel the wind coming in from all sides; just your typical weekend riding weather. I had completely forgotten about my watch and figured I’d just use it to keep my pace when I hit my run.
I knew the route of this bike course (13 miles), and so was not worried about getting lost. However, the roads that we ride on have a bit of unpredictable traffic and several traffic lights, so I spent most of my time praying to get all green lights.
Bike ride was over before I knew it and it was time to run!
I knew I had worked my quads pretty hard trying to ride fast through the wind, so I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel during the run. What I did know, was at this point I was still the first female off the bike!
Keep in mind, in all of the years that I have done this particular tri, I have placed, but never won. I was always passed up on the run. I was determined to keep my lead this year.
I was surprised to find my legs felt good, I was not overheated, and almost feel light and bouncy as I ran (which never happens). When a race volunteer rode by me on his bike at about 1.5 miles into the 5k, he said, “You’re the first female I’ve seen on the course!” At this point, there was a bridge that allowed me to make a turn to see if anyone was behind me. No one in sight. This got me excited, “I think I can pull this off!”
Rounded up into the finish line and booked my butt through.
A wonderful little race to kick off my tri season 2017.
Once my own race was over, I got to cheer on the rest of my crew through their finishes. Of course Mike had finished way before me, and our friends who were volunteering told us they were pretty sure he and I were the first male and female finishers.
What do you know, when they announced awards the Gutierrez’s were first male & female! We knew this would be a moment that would most likely never happen again, so we took in our moment (even if it was at a little local sprint race, haha).
My beautiful mother and other girlfriends flew through the finish line, and wouldn’t you know it, practically every one podium’ed!
Of course celebrations were in order that evening!
Up next: Ironman Texas is on April 22, and we are planning a road trip to spectate and cheer on all of the amazing people racing to become Ironmen that day. I can’t wait! We’ll be there in all of our Big Sexy Racing glory!
I have been debating about being super positive in this race report, or being honest. I have always worked hard to add a positive spin to any triathlon race experience. I search for motivational quotes, scriptures, song verses, etc. And going into this race (my 4th Half Ironman), I actually was feeling pretty prepared. I had gotten more long runs under my belt, a few good 50+ mile bike rides, and my last swim on Friday was a PR!
I was actually excited to see what I would be able to do with this beast of a course in Austin. My past two race experiences were filled with many moments of joy. 2014 was my first Half Ironman experience here and though it was hot, I enjoyed it. 2015 had unexpected windy weather which made for a choppy swim and slower bike time, but again, I enjoyed myself throughout. 2016…well, I’ll stop beating around the bush and get to it…
Saturday, October 29:
Woke up to a 4:15am alarm, packed up the car and Mike & I were on the road to Austin by 5:00am. I couldn’t help but notice how foggy the entire drive was. We arrived at the Expo center around 10:30am. By that time the fog was just starting to clear out…(foreshadowing)…
We stood in line for athlete check-in, (well, I stood in line…Mike has AWA status so he skipped the line…anyway) got all our gear and shopped around a bit. The athlete race briefing was at noon, so we had just enough time to stop by the Normatec booth and enjoy 15 minutes of heaven in those compression boots.
The race briefing had no surprises to it: same rules, regulations, and routes as it was last year. The meeting was held outside this time and I felt myself baking in the noontime sun…(foreshadowing)…
We took our bikes to the T1 site and checked them in. I was happy to see my race number 1937 was in the exact same spot it had been my first year in 2014. I thought this to be a great sign.
We decided to walk down to the lake where we’d be swimming the next day. There were a few swimmers out in the water and it was so beautiful. The water was warm, smooth, and calm. Mike and I were wishing we had thought to bring our swim gear with us! Oh well, save it for the next day…or so I thought…
Since our bikes were checked and all the race-site to-do’s had been done, Mike and I stopped by Whole Foods to make ourselves a nice salad as well as pick up anything we would be needing for breakfast the next day. We were both feeling calm, cool, and collected, and both talked about how we were excited to see how we’d do the next day.
Checked into our hotel and got our gear bags ready. Since there are two transition sites at this particular race, packing your gear bags is a bit more tedious. Still, it only took maybe about 20 minutes before I had it all laid out and ready to go.
3 of our friends who would be doing the relay met up with us and we all headed out to an early dinner at BJ’s. I got my go-to Ahi Tuna salad along with many chips and dip during the appetizer course.
Back to hotel room and in bed asleep by 9:00pm.
Sunday, October 30, RACE DAY:
Woke up at about 4:10 and checked the weather right away. 67 degrees and would be heating up to about 88 degrees by 2:00pm. Although hot, not too bad for race conditions. No wind makes for a way better race day.
Got our tri kits on, ate an almond butter Clif bar, wrote out our race numbers and ages on our bodies (no hiding your age in triathlon; it’s there large and blazing on the back of your calf for all to see) and set off in the car with all 3 gear bags.
Got to the expo center and walked our run gear bags to T2, where we would be parking our bikes and taking off for our run. I took note of where my rack spot was and met up with Mike. We got into the school bus which shuttled us to T1.
Mike and I had arrived with PLENTY of time to set up our transition areas and then wait for the race to start. My favorite part of pre-race is setting up my transition area. It allows me to calm my mind and mentally map out what I will be doing.
We were set up, with tires pumped and gear laid out with about an hour and a half until myself and then Mike’s swim waves were scheduled to enter the water.
Met up with our other friends Natalie (who would be swimming in the relay), Norma (biking in the relay), and Lulu (running in the relay), along with Chuy, who would be competing in this particular race for the 8th time.
We talked amongst each other, and as the time drew nearer for the first swim wave to enter (7:30am) it was announced that due to incoming fog, start time would be delayed.
Long story short…it was about 8:30am, DENSE fog, and no swim wave had stared yet. My swim wave was supposed to start at 8:35am, but at this rate, I had no idea what time I’d begin my swim.
Finally the announcement was made: the swim was cancelled. Everyone let out a harmonious moan as we were told that the race would consist of the bike and run course, and that we would all be starting in time-trial fashion (2 at a time) in the order of our race bib number.
Mike was number 378…I was 1937…
I couldn’t complain too much because Natalie had been robbed of her entire race, and poor Norma’s bib number was in the 4,000’s…
So, with that decision called, we sadly said goodbye to Natalie and made our way to our bike rack spots. Norma waited with me as we watched the racers slowly walk their bikes to the mount line. I was VERY happy to see my sorority sister Alison at the same bike rack I was! She had mentioned being interested in this race but I never knew she actually had signed up! That was a happy reunion.
I looked at my watch and saw it was about 10:30am and I still hadn’t mounted my bike. This put me about an hour 15 minutes later than I had expected to start my bike….
Finally I got to walk my bike to the mount line. Since there were so many of us all clustered together, it was a bit chaotic to get started. In fact, a race volunteer actually grabbed my seat and pushed me to start (kinda like when my mom taught me to ride a bike, haha).
I was happy to finally begin this course!
Let me sum up my bike experience in a few words:
CROWDED. WINDY. HOT. THIRSTY. HUNGRY. ACHING QUADS. OVER IT.
I had not planned my nutrition for such a late start. In Texas, late=HEAT. Also, where did this wind come from?! I had to pull over twice to refill my drink, and when I hit about mile 40, my stomach began to growl. A hungry stomach during an endurance event is never a good thing.
I don’t want to try to make any excuses. This course kicked my ass. I remember it being testing on the legs, but I really think the heat set into my legs and I was just absolutely aching when I hit the 40 to 50 milers.
Also, we were all riding on top of each other. Drafting rules went out the window. There was never a moment where I was spread out from anyone. Every time I looked back to pass a rider on my right, 4-6 riders (the 30-34 men age groupers) would be speeding up upon me. Made for a bit of frustration.
Anyone who has ridden this course knows that they save the killer hills for the end. This was no surprise to me. I rode my small chain from miles 50-56 to try to let my legs spin out for the upcoming half marathon ahead of me.
I spotted one camera out on the course and flashed my fakest “TRIWITHJOY” smile. Ha.
T2 (Which technically was T1):
When I finally dismounted my bike and began walking my bike to my rack spot, the urge to pee came at me ferociously. This is not something new and I pulled the “pee on the groud as you sit to change your shoes” move I had done last year. No shame…covered my pee spot with my run gear bag (as I had done last year) and made my way out to begin the run.
As I ran out I spotted Lulu waiting under the relay tent and gave her a wave and a smile. “Here we go“, I thought as I trotted my way down the energizing spectator crowd at the run start.
As hot as it was (about 1:30/1:45pm), it felt good to loosen my quads up from that killer bike ride. I refreshed my mind and began my pump-it-up playlist of running songs in my head.
This run course is a 4 mile, 3 loop course which is nice because you get to see spectators several times (especially if your family and friends are there to cheer you on). The downside to this layout is that your legs have to take on the steep up and downhills several times.
My first loop was actually pretty great. I ran to each aid station and walked and filled my sports bra with ice cubes and drank up water, Gatorade, coca cola, and ate pretzels before starting to run again. I spotted Mike at about mile 3 and was so happy to see him. He said he was just about to start his last loop (LUCKY)…
As I made my way around for my second loop I spotted Lulu still waiting under the relay tent. This got me a bit worried about Norma and I sent up a prayer for her. I also got to spot Carolina running during this time and was happy to see a familiar face.
At about mile 6 I felt that old familiar feeling: my left foot was beginning to ache in it’s arch. EVERY YEAR I end up having the arch of my left foot swell, but only on this course. I don’t know why, it may be because this course is more like trail running than running on a street. Either way, the discomfort set in and I knew I’d need to just fight to ignore it.
(My swollen foot after the race.)
I spotted Mike as he was about to make his way into the finisher chute and was so happy for him.
Last loop was pretty rough. As I ran, I racked my brain to think happy thoughts. How I am so lucky to be here and have an able body. How God placed this passion in my heart for a reason and not to take it for granted. How I may be inspiring someone else.
But let me tell you, it was hard. And I went into a dark and ungrateful place for approximately 2 minutes.
Then, for some reason (and this is super random) the song “Go the Distance” from the Disney movie Hercules popped into my head. Yes, I am an elementary music teacher. But I have no idea how I remembered every word to this song. It brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face as the lyrics ran through my head…
I have often dreamed of a far-off place, where a great, warm, welcome will be waiting for me. Where the crowds will cheer when they see my face, and a voice keeps saying, “This is where I’m meant to be.” I will find my way, I can go the distance. I’ll be there someday, if I can be strong. I know every mile will be worth my while. I will go most anywhere to find where I belong.
Super cheesy, I know. But it did the trick. Before I knew it I was headed down the finisher chute with a huge smile on my face and a spring in my step!
And there you have it, Longhorn 69.1 done.
Sadly, my friend Norma was pulled off the bike course on mile 47. Praise God it was not because she was hurt. The race officials had to pull everyone off the course by 2:30pm to open the roads back up to traffic. I KNOW she would have finished if she had been allotted the time she deserved. Due to Norma not being able to complete the bike portion, Lulu was unable to complete the run portion. All around, an unfair ending for my friends’ relay. I am so sorry.
I am ready for rest and a break from the required training for awhile. I have hung my hat for this Longhorn course and am ready to look elsewhere for a new 70.3 to compete in. But 2016 was quite a doozy in my Ironman sanctioned races, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. These experiences have all made me stronger, mentally most of all.
So I will continue to go the distance and TRI WITH JOY!
I know I’ve been M.I.A from blogging all summer, which is ironic because I thought I would be blogging more often over the summer. Oh well, it was a wonderful couple of months & now I am ready to start another school year.
Yesterday was the 3rd annual Tri Girl Sprint hosted by Bicycle World RGV in Harlingen, TX. This was my 2nd time to compete in this race, and I really enjoyed it last year, so I was looking forward to it this year.
It is very rookie-friendly; consisting of a 300m swim (in an Olympic distance pool), a 10 mile bike, & a 3 mile run. I was also excited to be racing alongside my mom for the first time! She has been training consistently for the past 4 months, and I knew she would do well.
Woke up at 4:30am and got all of my stuff together. Mike helped me load my and my mom’s bikes on the rack & I headed over to pick her up around 5:40am. Had a Bonk Breaker bar and a bottle of water for breakfast. When we got to the race site we made our way to transition and set ourselves up. Since it’s a small race, any place you rack your bike in transition is a good place.
The race was to begin at 7:00, so we waited around the pool for the festivities to begin.
Some of us dunked in to feel the water temperature and make sure our goggles were adjusted correctly.
Before we knew it, a prayer was said, the National Anthem was sung, and we were heading to line up to start.
It was a self-seeding line, so I made my way towards the 1:50-2:00 minute 100 meter swim pace.
The start was nice, with a 15 second gap between swimmers. I really enjoy swimming in this pool and found my rhythm right away & had a pleasant swim.
Jumped out of the water & headed into transition. Threw on my helmet, sunglasses, bike shoes & ran my bike out.
As soon as I took off on my bike I noticed my brakes were making a loud screeching sound when I rounded the first couple of turns. I got into my zone & started hammering away as fast as I could, but I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere.
I also noticed my heart rate was very high and I was breathing heavily. Since I lost my bike computer at IMTX & chose not to wear my Garmin for this race, I had no idea what my speed was. I tried to ignore my heavy breathing and effort & thought to myself that maybe my brakes were rubbing in the back (which was what had happened to me once before when I first got this bike last summer).
I pushed through and finished the bike feeling a little more winded than usual, but was interested to see what my legs had in store for me for the run.
What was cool was that as I was in transition to start my run, my mom was in transition right beside me to start her bike. So I was happy to see her.
I loved how many spectators showed up and cheered us on in and out of transition. Heading out on the run I got a lot of friendly cheers and words of encouragement. We were lucky that it was a little overcast that day, so it wasn’t so extremely hot.
Overall, the run wasn’t so bad. I realized I was in the 3rd overall position once I hit the turn-around, and I knew the two women ahead of me weren’t in my age group, so that helped me kick it up a bit & head in for a strong finish.
Sprinted through the finish line and got interviewed for the newspaper right away; still trying to catch my breath. Found out I was first in my AG! Very happy about that.
Stuck around to see my mom come in on the bike and my other girlfriends finish. I made my way to the corner when I thought my mom would be finishing her run, and ran into the finish line area with her.
I am so extremely proud of her!
A very well-run race that I will most definitely do again next year!
By the way, when I got home and unloaded my bike, I took a look at my brakes and they WERE rubbing the tire frame the whole time! So it wasn’t me biking as poorly as I thought after all, haha ;).
What’s next on the calendar? Well, Longhorn 70.3 is in about 10 weeks, so training volume will gradually increasing, but I’m looking forward to it. I feel like I’m ready to get back on a schedule and a plan. It’s hard for me to train during the summer when my schedule is off. So, it’ll be nice to have that structure again.
Congrats to all the ladies who completed yesterday’s Tri! And remember….
Tri For Old Glory was a blast! This was the first Olympic distance tri I’ve done in 2 years (my last one was the Gator Bait Tri in Boerne, TX). I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as my performance, but again, I had to remind myself that I signed up for this to have FUN.
Woke up Saturday morning and did an easy 1000m swim, just to stretch everything out. Came home and finished packing up. Mike & I hit the road (with our Sandie girl in tow) by about 11:00am.
Arrived at our hotel (which was REALLY nice and dog friendly!) by about 3:30pm. Met up with my parents and we all headed to the race site for packet pick-up. Man, it was HOT!
We walked around a bit and checked out the lake and showed my parents where the transition & finish line would be. Everything is really close together so it’s very spectator-friendly.
Headed back to the hotel & organized our tri gear, then met my parents downstairs for happy hour/dinner.
I was passed out asleep by 9:00pm, no joke.
Transition opened at 5:15, so Mike & I were up by 4:15. Got dressed and had a pb&j Bonkbreaker for breakfast. We left the hotel by 5:10 and were at the race site by about 5:20. Luckily we met up with Gracie in the parking area (which is quite a walk in the pitch dark, carrying your bike so you don’t roll it through stickers in the grass).
Got to transition site and set it all up. I was happy that my nerves were very calm. I was more excited than nervous to see how I would do that day. I expected the heat (especially during the run), but as the sun was rising we noticed a nice cloud cover which really kept things cool.
The race director held a quick pre-race briefing where he explained the swim route for the sprint and Olympic distances. Then he went over the bike route, which he told us to expect some crappy roads before we hit the farm roads. And finally the run route. He said to stay hydrated because this cloud cover would burn off by the time most of us were out on the run.
We met up with Team Healy and chatted around their tent set up. My parents showed up with Sandie girl & Bentley (their doggie). Before we knew it, we had sung the National Anthem, prayed, and were walking to the swim start!
Got to say a quick bye to Sandie girl and got in line. The Olympic distance athletes would enter the water first and follow a 7-buoy 1500m swim in a counterclockwise direction. We were to seed ourselves by 100m swim time and it was a time-trial start which means each athlete enters the water about 3-5 seconds apart. I love time-trials because they are much calmer than wave starts.
I jumped right in and was off! This lake is a man-made ski lake, and so it has a very shallow border all around. I couldn’t see anything through the muddy/murky water, but I felt my hand swiping the bottom of the lake a few times. I tried to swim more towards the center of the lake where it was a bit deeper, so I could feel more comfortable.
I felt good throughout my swim, but I wasn’t sure of my pace. Got out of the water and looked down at my watch to see I swam it in 30 min; not bad!
Ran into transition and got all my bike gear together. It was still nice and cloudy out, so it wasn’t too hot yet. My transition could have been faster, but oh well. Was out of there and on my bike in under 2 minutes.
Guess I was just so fast, mom couldn’t get a pic of my whole body, haha 😉
The beginning portion of the bike was the least pleasant because of those roads! Bumpyas all get-out! I saw a few water bottles that had been dropped along the way. About 1 mile into the bike we hit a steep and short uphill right after a right hand turn. Mike has just passed me up and yelled out, “Get ready for that hill coming up!” That was nice of him, haha.
Once we hit the farm roads it was chip-seal (ugh) and long rolling hills. Despite the bumpy, bumpy, bumpy ride, I really enjoyed the bike. I felt great with my uphill climbs, but I’m such a chicken on the downhills! One of my goals is to be able to stay in aero on the downhills. It was also surprisingly very windy! I guess I bring the wind with me to every race. When we finally hit Scull road (about 3 miles before the end) I was looking forward to flying down that hill. I shouted a “WOOOOHOOOOO!” as I rode down at 35 mph! What a rush! I was very surprised to see my average bike pace was 18mph, even with the wind and those climbs!
Was NOT looking forward to the run because, as the race director had predicted, the clouds had burned off and there was blazing sun. I changed into my visor, running shoes, and grabbed my mini hand-held water bottle for pouring on my head.
I’ll describe my run as a “shuffle trot”. I didn’t want to gas out too early, and my heart rate really spikes in the heat, so I just trotted along. It seemed to be working for me because I slowly but surely started passing people up. The run course is a 3 mile loop, so it’s hard to tell who is doing the sprint or who is doing the Olympic because you don’t know if they are running one or two loops.
There were only 2 water stations (which wasn’t enough for me with the heat!) but I had my hand-held bottle that I used to spray myself, and I was thankful I had it.
I kept an eye on the calves of my competitors (age group numbers, of course!) and handn’t seen anyone in my age group around me. I had no idea where I stood in the race, but as I was passing the last mile I felt someone right behind me. I could hear her every step and breath and was so tempted to turn around, but I never did. When we turned off to head into the finish line area (about .2 miles away from the finish) she yelled out to me, “Are you doing the Olympic?!” Me: “Yes! You?” Her: “Yes!”
And then I kicked it up and “ditched and dashed” (as we like to call it) through that finish line! Glad I did because I ended up placing 3rd in my age group, and if I would’ve pooped out and let her pass me I wouldn’t have podiumed! 😉
For the sake of embarrassment, I won’t post what my run pace was…hehehe.
Overall, I really enjoyed that race. And I PR’d 7 minutes faster overall since my last Olympic tri! I’ll definitely be doing it again, Redemption Racing always puts on the nicest tris!
After the race we cleaned up and headed to Gruene (our happy place) to celebrate. I was so happy to meet up with my dear friends Lexie & Kash (who are expecting a baby in October!)
It is done! It still hasn’t hit me yet, or even sunken in…
Thursday, May 12: Travel & Check-in Day:
I decided to skip my usual 5:15am TRX class (which was a good call) & got up to finish some last minute packing. Mike got home and we loaded up the car and were on the road by 7:00am. On the ride I read some of Joel Osteen’s book out loud to keep us calm. We arrived in The Woodlands around 1:00pm and drove straight to athlete check-in & the expo at the Waterway. We parked and walked our bikes over to get looked at by Quintana Roo. We dropped them off then made our way to the check-in tent.
We got our packets and some awesome backpacks & did a little shopping at the expo. There was going to be an athlete briefing meeting at 2:00, so we made our way over to listen. It was hot and we were dripping sweat as we stood there for the meeting. They let us know the swim course had changed, but it would still be the same distance. Instead of having to swim out, back, and then make a turn off to swim in the Waterway canal, our swim would just be a longer stretch out and back. Sounded way simpler to me, so I was fine with it! There were a few Ironman University coaches who spoke to us and let us know how important nutrition and hydration would be on this course because of the heat. They also reminded us to take it all in and have fun.
After the meeting was over we ran into the Moore family. Laura was just about to check in. We chatted with them a bit and then went to check on our bikes. They were pretty busy and said they’d be ready around 4:00. I was getting hungry and was very, very thirsty from being out in the heat, so we walked over to The Goose’s Acre to get some water and food. When we walked in we saw Mike Reilly (the voice of Ironman) sitting right there at the bar! We didn’t go and bug him though. As we sat down we saw some Bettys come in so we went and sat with them at a big booth. We had met Monica Goggs and her husband Tony back in February before the Austin Half Marathon, but we also got to meet Nadine Voice from New Zealand. We ate and chatted as they exchanged previous Ironman race stories.
At about 4:05 we said our goodbyes to go get our bikes. I really wanted to make it to the athlete banquet, which was at 5:30, but we were cutting it close and still hadn’t even gone to our hotel to check in. By the time we got our bikes and made our way back to the car, I realized we most likely wouldn’t have time to shower and get ready for the banquet in time, so I was a little bummed. We found our hotel and got our bikes and all our stuff up to the room.
Once we finally unpacked and relaxed it was time to start working on our transition bags. We had to prepare our bike and run gear bags because they had to be dropped off the next morning. I put on some calming music and we got to work. One of the Ironman coaches had told us to lay all our gear out on top of each bag and make sure we had everything before packing it all inside. We did that and made sure it was all there.
We each took a much-needed shower and headed out to dinner at about 8:00. Back to hotel afterwards and I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow by 10:00pm.
Friday, May 13: Day Before Race & Practice Swim
Woke up about 6:30. Today we would be checking in our bikes, bike and run gear bags, and doing a practice swim in the lake. The Moore’s were staying in the same hotel as us and we had decided we would drive over to Jeremy & Cristina’s hotel and then we’d all caravan to the site from there. We parked in a parking garage and then preceded to walk our bikes and bags to T1, which was about a mile and a half away. We racked our bikes and turned in our bike gear bags.
The practice swim had already begun, so we let the guys swim first while we waited with the kids. When they were done we headed down to the ramp to get into the water. It was a beautiful day and the lake looked gorgeous.
We got into the water (the first time trying our swimskins) and started swimming. Cris and I were swimming together, but we found ourselves swimming pretty off-course and had to make our way back (my goggles were fogging up). We ended up swimming about 1100 meters. Felt good.
After we swam Michael Moore gave us a ride back to our cars s0 we could grab our run gear bags and take them to T2. This site wasn’t as far away as the other. We dropped off our bags and I took a look around. I knew the next time I saw this area it would mean I was off the bike and ready to start my marathon!
Michael Moore picked us up once more and was kind enough to drive Mike and myself to meet with Cycle Chauffer (a business service based out of Austin, who collects your bike and all of your transition bags and things when you’re done with them in the race so that you don’t have to worry about any of that when the race is done. Seriously a God-send!).
Once we finally got all of that done, we drove back to our hotel to clean up. We all met up for lunch at Zoe’s Kitchen (which was delicious!) Kris and Lacy Healey met up with us there, and soon after so did Jeremy’s parents who had driven in from Louisiana. We all enjoyed each other’s company on the patio for awhile. We said our goodbyes and Mike, myself, and the Moore’s made our way to the Lululemon to find our names on the wall.
Went back to our hotel to meet up with our moms who had just arrived. The rest of the day/evening we relaxed and rested. Had dinner at BJ’s Brewhouse early and was back in hotel, showered, and ready for bed by 9:00pm.
Saturday, May 14: RACE DAY!
Alarm went off at 3:40am. Mike had already gotten up at 3:30 and was dressed and preparing our water bottles. I took a moment to wrap my brain around the realization this was the day!
I put on my kit and began the tritat application process. (And believe me, it is a process!) I applied Mike’s numbers to his arms and he applied mine to me. We met up with our moms and Laura & Michael in the lobby at 4:30. We all caravanned to Jeremy & Cristina’s hotel and then made our way to the Waterway area to find parking. As we walked the mile to the swim start/T1 area, Cristina and I kept calm by reminding ourselves, “Today will eventually come to an end.” Jeremy had told us to really enjoy today because it would be over before we knew it.
As we approached T1, we were seeded into the masses of humanity. I grabbed Laura and started singing a hymnal song my Grandma would sing to me:
“I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river in my soul. I’ve got joy like a fountain, I’ve got joy like a fountain, I’ve got joy like a fountain in my soul.”
I knew she was nervous because she has been struggling with an on-the-verge stress fracture in her foot and had been wearing a boot for the past week. I felt like we both needed a little song to keep us calm.
2016 Ironman Texas North American Championship
2016 Ironman Texas North American Championship
We all split to go to our bikes. I felt pretty calm and have come to learn that I enjoy preparing my transition area because it keeps me busy and focused and not able to get nervous. Once Mike was done with his area, he came over and pumped my tires. We all met up and headed over to where our friends and families were waiting for us. I handed my backpack to my mom and then Gracie said a beautiful prayer for all of us.
We all made our way to the port-o-potties for one last break and as we were in line we heard the cannon go off for the pros to begin. That made my stomach do a flip flop. Jeremy said goodbye to us so he could make his way down towards the front of the swim start. Before we knew it, we had our swimskins on and were making our way into the crowd of thousands of athletes. We were told to seed ourselves by our projected finish time, and us girls thought we’d be good at about the 1:40 time, so we headed to that area. We found Carolina & Jody there and all said a quick prayer together.
Our line started moving; quicker and quicker. The music was blasting & I started to feel the nerves creep up on me. Mike had made his way through the crowd where I was and walked beside me. We saw Swim, Bike, Mom just as we were getting in, and we yelled out to her; it was so cool! (Fan-girl moment) And before I knew it, my body was in the water and I was going.
“This is it!” I thought, “You’re doing this, remain calm!” I started playing my usual swim songs in my head which range from John Mayer, Jason Mraz, to Hanson, and the Pocahontas soundtrack. Whatever keeps me distracted from what I’m actually doing! I got into my swim rhythm as best as I could. Sure, there were people all around me, but I just weaved my way through, sighting the yellow buoys.
At about 700 meters in, I recognized a tattooed arm to my right. Black AWA swim cap, Texas flag goggles, yep, that was Mike! He turned to breathe on my side and said, “I love you!” Haha. We swam together for probably the next 300 meters, but people were swimming between us, and sometimes on top of us, so we parted ways. Before I knew it, I was at the turn around red buoys! Just another Half Ironman swim left to do!
As soon as I was headed in the opposite direction I noticed the fog. I guess because the water was so warm (81 degrees) a fog or steam was settling. So it made it hard to see those orange buoys. I was having to sight a lot more than I wanted to; plus, the wetsuit men were catching up to me and they were big and whacking me every now and then. I just wanted to be sure to protect my head. Luckily, I never got hit in the head. Soon, I started to hear the loud speakers. Was I actually almost done swimming?!
I felt great and looked up and saw the bridge with all of the spectators. It was amazing!
Finally my feet hit the ramp and I was running up!
A volunteer helped me unzip my swimskin, and as I ran to the change tent I saw my cheer crew! They were screaming their heads off. I grabbed my bike gear bag & volunteers came up right away to help me with anything I needed. About 3 minutes later Cristina ran into the tent! It was great to see her!
We finished transition and went to get our bikes together. Even though our bikes were racked on opposite ends of each other, we ended up running out side by side (foreshadowing). When we got to the mount line the crowd was amazing. We saw the Healeys, Bettys; so many people screaming for us. We mounted and we were off!
I decided I’d stay with Cristina for as long as I could. Not even 2 miles in we went over a big bump & I heard a clanging and something falling off ad hitting the ground. I didn’t know what it was, but about 5 minutes later when I looked down to check my speed, I realized it was my computer that had popped off. Oh well, I was still right with Cris and we were passing a lot of people. My legs felt great.
About 15 miles in, Mike came up from behind us. It was great to see him! Turns out, I was able to stick with Cris this entire ride! It was the most amazing thing. At about Mile 35, I was out of drink in my aero bottle, so I let Cris know I’d need to pull over at the next aid station to get some water (because I’m a chicken and scared to grab or reach for water bottles while riding-summer goal!) Anyway, we pulled over and heard a big crash behind us. A poor guy had crashed his bike I guess because he didn’t see us pulling over (even though we did it slowly and safely). He was okay though.
Before I knew it we were passing the Mile 40 sign! “Nu-uh!” I said, “That can’t be right!” Pretty soon we were at the Special Needs Station at about Mile 53. I really needed a potty break, so this was perfect timing. I ate 2 of my mini Payday bars and wiped my face with the grapefruit wipes in my Special Needs bag.
Hopped back on our bikes, and a little while later I heard a motorcar pulling up beside me. I knew it was a race official, so I slowed myself way back because I didn’t want to get a penalty card for drafting. The rule is you’re supposed to be 6 bike lengths behind the rider in front of you, which is hard to do in many cases! Well, this race official decided to speed up & she had her eyes on Cristina. I saw her reach for her cards and I thought, “Noooooo!” as I saw her flash the blue card at her. I stayed behind until they had sped away out of sight, then caught back up to Cris. She turned her head back to me and I said, “I know, I saw everything.”
The next water station where the penalty tent was came upon us and we pulled over. I really needed water to drink and to add to my aero bottle, so I had no problem with stopping there. After I got my water I walked my bike up to Cris and asked how long the penalty would be for. 5 minutes. That’s nothing! It never once crossed my mind to keep going and leave her there. Not after we had already gotten this far together! So we waited it out, no biggie. A nice little break.
Soon as the race official said the time was up, we took off. The next 40 miles were pretty uneventful. When we finally saw the 90 Mile marker we got excited.
T2 came upon us quickly. This was one of the main moments I had anticipated: Being able to send my bike off and out my two feet on the ground to start the last portion of the race! Cris and I were hugging as we were running to get our run gear bags. I teared up and said, “We’ve done it!”
As we ran around the corner we spotted Kris Healey and he yelled out to us; he was so excited for us. It was so great to see a familiar face.
We grabbed our bags and headed into the changing tent. Both she and I had planned to change completely for the run. We put on run shorts and she lent me another Team Betty tri top (since I had been in a one piece). We saw Jennifer Kilgore in the tent too, which was cool. The volunteers in that tent were so helpful and sweet. Soon as we were changed, we did a quick port-o-potty stop and were headed out to run 26.2 miles.
I can never tell what my body’s going to do when I start my run in a tri. More often than not, I actually get a quick start. Today was a little different. I took off a little bit ahead of Cris, but felt my heart rate rise pretty quickly. The heat of the day (which hadn’t bothered me on the bike) was getting to me and I realized I wasn’t going to be able to run like I usually do. Also, I had never run more than 16 miles at once before, so I knew I’d really need to pull back.
When I got to the first water station (there was one at every mile) I started walking and Cris caught up to me. I told her I was gonna need to pull back and she said, “I’m fine with a slow run/walk!” And so that’s what we did: run the miles in between and walk the water stations.
Once we got to about Mile 5 we started hearing music and the people. I was looking forward to Catapult Corner because my sorority sister Alison had told me she’d be there. And there she was! She ran beside me for about 300 meters and we talked. I hadn’t seen her in months and I was so happy!
The next people we saw were Team Healey and they went crazy cheering for us as we ran by.
We crossed under a bridge and heard our names being screamed from across the water on the other side. It was Gracie waving and saying, “I’ll let your family know you’re on your way!” and she sprinted away like an Olympian. Finally we saw our crew across the water. We had a big group and everyone was going crazy. It was awesome! We continued running and knew it would be about 3-4 more miles till we’d get to run right beside where they were.
The heat was pretty intense but we were keeping cool by drinking ice water, chewing ice, and shoving ice cold sponges in our top. Then we started to hear thunder. I looked up and noticed a cloud cover forming. I said, “It’d be nice if it’d rain on us.” Famous last words.
Within the next 10 minutes or so, wind picked up, raindrops began to fall, and all at once it was a full-on crazy thunder/lightning storm! We continued to run through it and then I felt something hard and sharp it my shoulder. Again, on my arms. “It’s hailing!” I yelled. We picked up our pace and kept running through it. Our socks, shoes, entire bodies were sopping wet.
We ran and ran, finally coming upon where our family was supposed to be. We figured they had to go inside somewhere; it was dangerous outside! Funny how I thought that, but never once did I think about us two stopping. I was bound and determined we were gonna do this! We passed the spot our family had been, but then came up to a bridge and there they all were! Piled underneath and screaming and cheering for us!
The storm was still going strong as we rounded into our 2nd loop, but we both decided we needed a walk break. As we walked a bit, the hail had stopped and rain had lightened up. I was very worried for Laura and praying she wasn’t out on the bike anymore.
At Mile 12 we noticed a mass of people stopped ahead of us. It was all of the athletes who had been stopped. We came upon the crowd and couldn’t see anything in front of us, but we learned they had pulled all of the athletes off the course and paused the clock to let the storm blow through. Apparently everyone had been stopped for 45 minutes, but Cris & I had been on the opposite side of everything so we were clueless and just kept running! We were only held back by about 2 minutes here, and then everyone started running again.
It actually looked pretty awesome as hundreds of us ran in a ginormous pack; reminded me of the Austin Marathon.
When we got to about Mile 13 we spotted Laura in front of us. We ran up to her and all hugged. I was so happy to see she was safe. She looked great even though I knew her foot had to be in pain. Us three got to run/walk together for the next few miles. It was great. Our family saw us across the water again and they yelled out, “Laura’s with them!” It was the first time they’d seen her since the bike.
At this point my everything ached. My knees, hips, ankles, and especially the bottoms of my soaking wet feet. But we were about ready to start our 3rd loop and I knew we were so close! When we got into the 20 milers, we knew we needed a little more motivation. Cristina started reading her motivational tags at every mile and it really helped.
At about Mile 23 we knew we’d see our family one last time from across the waterway, so we said, “Let’s walk to the bridge then pick it up and run when we pass them.” Well, I guess they had decided to move a little closer than we expected because we heard our names being shouted and we started running and yelling to them, “We were not walking!” They started laughing and we started to get really excited. “All we have is a 5k left!” I said.
When we were finally getting to the last water station I started singing, “She’s just a girl and she’s on fire….” my power song. We were both running and singing because we knew it was real, we knew we were about to accomplish one of the biggest dreams of our lives.
This girl is on FIRE! She’s walking on FIRE!
We rounded that last aid station and rang the 3rd loop bell. We were ecstatic. Our song changed to, “This is the DAY! This is the DAY that the Lord has made!” Just about 1 mile left to go! As we finally got to the turn off that said FINISH LINE, I grabbed Cristina’s hand and said, “This is it!!!”
We ran that last 500 meters and finally….there it was. The moment that I had been dreaming, anticipating, crying at the drop of a hat for. The blazing white lights, the Ironman mat, and Mike Reilly’s voice.
We grabbed hands and were laughing and crying at the same time.
“Cristina Boreaux, Jenna Gutierrez, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!”
Best. Day. Ever.
The volunteers went above and beyond at the finish line taking care of us. We were exhausted, wet, and freezing, but we had done it. The dream in our hearts for the past 12 months had come true.
All of the early morning wake ups. The LONG runs and rides on consecutive weekend days when all we wanted to do was sleep in and/or drink wine! The aches, pains, black toenails, books on tape for my long runs, nerves, fears, doubts. Our dream had been realized.
Throughout this journey I will say one remarkable thing. Not only has my mental strength and patience grown, but my spiritual strength. I have learned so much about trust, faith, and positivity. It has spread throughout my life: from training, to relationships, to my job, and my daily attitude. Ironman helped me to grow in the best way.
So I’m back and partially recovered from NOLA 70.3. A little background info: this was my third Half Ironman, my other two were both in Austin in 2014 & 2015. My husband had done NOLA 70.3 as his first Half Ironman last year and had enjoyed it so much that he signed us both up to do it this year. I had also never been to New Orleans before (other than driving through it) so I was looking forward to traveling somewhere new.
We are about a month out from Ironman Texas (ahhhhh), and so this was a great “brick” to run through and get that feeling of being in a race again. Little did I know this would be THE MOST physically challenging day of my life (so far).
Friday, April 15, 2016: Travel Day
Brownsville is approximately a 10.5 hour drive from NOLA, so this day was dedicated to travel. Mike’s mom was coming along with us and it was her first time to ever experience what a triathlon really is.
We got on the road about 5:30am. The drive through Texas actually passed by pretty quickly. We got to Louisiana around 1:30pm and stopped for lunch. When we hit Baton Rouge, traffic was at a standstill. It actually ended up taking us almost 2.5 extra hours to finally get to our hotel. We were staying at the Hilton Riverside which was were the race expo, briefing, and packet pickup would take place. Went to dinner at a nearby restaurant Gordon Berisch, and I had salmon, grilled asparagus and sweet potato fries. It was quite delicious. Made our way to bed by 10:00pm.
Saturday, April 16, 2016: Day Before
Woke up without an alarm around 6:30am. Mike and I had planned to do an easy 20 minute treadmill run, but when we got to the hotel gym, we realized it was more of a fitness center hosting tournaments and whatnot, so we were charged $12 a person to use the treadmills! Oh well. The treadmill I ran on faced a window. Even though it was still dark, I could see the trees blowing around pretty ferociously. When we had arrived the night before there were strong gusts of wind outside as we walked to dinner. I had tried not to think about it too much, but I was a bit uneasy. I knew I had ridden in windy conditions before, but I was thinking about the open water swim more.
The first race briefing was at 10:00am. The race director told us to expect wind, but that the harbor we would be swimming in was usually calmer than the surrounding water. He also sad we’d have a headwind to fight on the bike out, but a nice tailwind on our turnaround. That made me feel a little better.
We went to the race check in and did some shopping. I also met a Betty sister named Tracie. She was sweet and told me she’d be doing the swim portion as part of a relay team.
We had until 3:00pm before we could check our bikes in. We ended up eating lunch at the hotel restaurant. I got a grilled chicken caesar salad and more sweet potato fries (mmm!).
We went outside the hotel to try to find Café DuMonde, and MAN it was chilly and WINDY! We were getting turned around and couldn’t figure out how to get there, so we ducked into a nearby outlet mall and there ended up a being a small chain Café DuMonde inside that mall. So we got some coffee there.
Finally it was time to check our bikes and we drove out to the race site. I found my spot on my bike rack #1038 and racked her up. I looked around transition for some type of marker to help me find my bike quickly. I memorized a nearby flag. Mike had an ideal rack spot; right near the bike out. I walked over to the bike out to see where I’d mount my bike and which direction I would head.
Then I asked Mike to show me the swim in. For some reason I was most nervous about the swim. I have been a strong and confident swimmer for the past 25 years. However, in 2014 I had a traumatizing experience at an Olympic distance race in Kemah, TX. I was thrashed around by the waves so viciously and had to get pulled out by a lifeguard. That day broke my heart and I never want to go back to that dark moment again.
As we looked out, we saw that the water had quite a strong current. You can tell what was going through my mind in the pictures below.
Our swim start was at another location around the harbor. I wanted to see where I would be jumping in to start my race. Once we got there, my heart started racing. White caps and treacherous waves. The buoys were being tossed around and were way off-course. Right then and there I decided I would call my dear friend Gracie to pray with me and give me some motivational words later on that night. If you know Gracie, you know she’s the BEST person for that!
I tried to keep positive affirmations in my mind, but I was nervous.
We got back to the hotel and freshened up. We ended up meeting with some friends at Mother’s for dinner. I had a turkey po’boy, but only ended up eating the turkey meat and one slice of bread; there was so much bread!
We got back to the hotel room and got our last minute stuff together. I organized my nutrition, race kit, etc. At about 8:15 I talked to Gracie and she really helped to calm me down. Some words of hers:
“No weapon formed against you shall prosper.” ” If God be for you, who can be against you?” “You’ve already won; celebrate your victory in advance!” “The challenge in this race will only make you stronger for your full Ironman.” “The run will be your victory lap!”
I was crying, but I was grateful to be refreshed and re-motivated. THANK YOU GRACIE!
Sunday, April 17, 2016: RACE DAY
Woke up around 3:45am. I had a calm feeling inside. Had a PB&J Bonkbreaker (which was delicious) and mixed my hydration bottles. I was worried about being chilly on the bike ride and hadn’t packed my arm warmers, so I stuffed a dry-fit half-zip in my bag in case I wanted to throw it on after I got out of the water. We got our tri bags and headed to our car. We left by about 4:20am and made the drive over to the race site.
When we parked and got out of the car, the winds were still strong and it was still chilly out, but it was still dark, so I couldn’t see the water yet (which was good). I took my time setting up my transition area and then just stood there taking it all in. I had a peace and calm inside of me. I knew I was in for a challenge, but I told myself giving up was not an option, not today.
Mike came over to check on me and pump my tires. I spotted another Betty sister Leisa, who I had met the day before at bike check in. We chatted awhile and then it was time to put on the wetsuits and leave transition.
The race announcer told us the race would be pushed back 15 minutes because the buoys were off-course and had to be put back. This told me that the water was choppy, but I didn’t let it psyche me out. The sun was beginning to rise and we began to make our way to the swim start.
When I finally walked out to the dock that I would soon be jumping from, I looked out to the water and told myself it didn’t look as bad as it had the afternoon before. I said a prayer for God to lead me safely through the path of least resistance. We said a prayer altogether, the National Anthem was sung and the pros were off!
Mike’s wave was shortly after, so he had to say bye to me. Right after he left another girl came up to me and asked me if I was from Brownsville. She said she had recognized me from Facebook, and she was from Harlingen. Her name was Priscilla and she was very sweet. We talked for awhile and before we knew it, it was time for our swim wave to head out.
As we were walking to the end of the dock I saw Leisa again. Talking to her right before we started distracted me from being psyched out. I put my goggles on and could tell they weren’t suctioning quite right. This swim start was a time trial, meaning 8 people would jump off the dock at a time with about 12 seconds in between each group. I didn’t have time to fix my goggles because the whistle blew and we all jumped in feet first.
The start was quite chaotic. Right away the waves began to toss me around. I had a split second of panic where I contemplated flipping to my back, but I knew if I did that, I would panic more. So I pushed through and forced myself to start stroking and kicking; breathing every 3 strokes. My right eye goggle started leaking, but the waves were so strong, I couldn’t stop to fix them just yet. Sighting was very difficult (especially with one eye) but I finally spotted the first buoy. I pushed on and noticed many people hanging from the sea wall. I knew they were stopping to breathe and rest, but I pushed on.
Our swim course was in the shape of an “M”. We’d swim out, turn at the yellow buoy, swim back in, turn at the yellow buoy, swim out, turn at the yellow buoy and then make our way out at the swim exit. This would have been a somewhat confusing layout on a calm day, so you can imagine how it was now. It was quite a fight to make it to the first yellow buoy turn. My right eye was completely full of water. Somehow I found a pocket to fix my goggles and continue on. It helped so much. When we were swimming back in after that first turn around, the waves were not as treacherous. I finally found a rhythm. But I was still having to sight a lot because I had to know what buoy I was heading towards as well as watch for wayward swimmers. It was extremely difficult to stay on course.
Long story short for the rest of the swim: it was tough. Kemah tough. But I found my feet climbing the steps out of the harbor and I was so happy. I conquered “my Kemah”!
The run to transition was pretty far and when I got to my bike I realized my body was warm enough that I wouldn’t need the jacket. So I had a couple Gu chomps, a bite of a Honey Stinger, and ran my bike to the mount line. Clipped in, and I was off!
Right away we were hit with that strong headwind. I later learned that the winds were consistently at 25mph with gusts of 30mph. I had to get into my small chain right away. Even though this course was flat and smooth, the wind was brutal. I looked down to my bike computer and saw an average of 13mph! I was also struck with strong gusts of crosswinds. So strong it would push my bike sideways; I really had to brace my core to stay balanced.
I already saw pros making their way back. I wanted to shout, “Is it easier on that side?!”
At Mile 20 I finally spotted Mike on his way back. I yelled out to him, “MICHAEL!” He shouted back, “Hey!” (Later he told me that he was so relieved to see me at that moment because he knew how brutal the swim had been.)
Then, a small disaster struck. My right contact popped out of my eye! I am blind without my contacts, seriously. The wind blowing had really dried my eyes out and when I had blinked it just popped out! I pulled over and was so grateful to find it was stuck inside my sunglasses. The problem here was that the wind was so strong, if I tried to position it on my finger to put it back in, it would blow away. I was praying out loud, “Please God, help me get this back in!” I was crouched over trying to block the wind and reposition my contact. After about 4 or 5 minutes I got it back in. I was so grateful! I hopped back on a felt some strength renewed in my body. That short break had given me a chance to stretch out my back which was aching.
It felt like forever to hit that turn around. I was so looking forward to that tailwind. Unfortunately the wind was still there, but in the form of crosswinds. Yes, it wasn’t as strong, but it was still there. I decided to bite the bullet and push through. I knew I was halfway done. Between Miles 35-45 the wind let up enough for me to push my speed up to 19-21mph. It felt great to see those numbers. The last 15 miles were still pretty windy. During the last 5 miles a girl rode up beside me and said, “We’re almost there!” I said, “I’ve never looked forward to running more!”
Finally I heard the crowd! Rode to the bike dismount and ran the bike in. My watch hadn’t been working for me, so I took it off and threw it in my bag. I didn’t care about my pace, I just wanted to finish.
Headed out of transition I immediately felt relieved to stand up straight and stretch out my neck and back. There were water aid stations at every mile and my plan was to walk at each one. It gave me something to look forward to. Right after Mile 1 we ran up a steep bridge. I knew I’d have that to conquer on the way back to the finish.
At about a mile and a half, the same girl I had talked to on the bike ran up beside me. We started chit chatting and ended up running side by side. Her name was Lauren and she was from Alabama. She had just moved nearby and had signed up for this race months ago. She was recovering from a hamstring injury, but is qualified for Boston 2017!
At about Mile 4, I saw Mike running on his loop back. We got to give each other a high five, and I knew we were so close to this all being done. Lauren and I felt great the first 6.5 miles because the wind was at our backs. But at that turn around, the wind hit us dead-on. It was actually just quite ridiculous how strong it was. The water was crashing over the sea wall to our left and spilling over onto the road.
I started to struggle and feel my heart rate rise at about Mile 9. I knew I had to pull back my pace. So I told Lauren to go on ahead and we parted ways at Mile 10. She definitely had helped me keep a pace faster than I would have done running on my own. At Mile 11 I had to walk a bit more. Mile 12 went up that steep bridge. I decided walking to the top of it would be faster than my shuffle-run pace, so that’s what I did. When I got to the top I told myself I would not walk that last mile. I was so close! All I could think about was that finish line and being able to lay down when it was all over.
FINALLY I heard the crowd and saw the finisher chute! Tears filled my eyes as I crossed that finish line. Tears of joy and gratefulness. I literally gave everything I had in that race.
I got my medal and lay down right there on the cement. I was done. But so happy.
I had no idea what my time was, but I didn’t care. I had conquered so many doubts, fears, and obstacles. That was enough for me. This was my redemption race.
I had to lay there for about 5 minutes before I could think about moving again.
It turns out I actually PR’d on this race. It is still unbelievable to me. Somehow I had a faster bike and run time compared to Longhorn 70.3 in November! I improved by about 20 minutes!
I have read many horror stories about this exact race. I am so grateful my husband and I finished safely. I am also so grateful no one died out there; it was that bad, people.
4 weeks from IM TX! I have more confidence in my abilities!