I am truly still on cloud 9 as I write this recap! I think neither Hillary or I really knew what this day would bring. About a month ago – the same fun conversation where she duped me into racing Savageman 5 days later – she let me know that the training block I was about to start was a “fun” one. If you know Hillary, you know that “fun” is also synonymous for really, really hard. I had no idea what it meant but I knew it would bring a lot of Smashfests for the next month!
And, I was right. I’ve logged 30 hour training weeks in the past (purely swim/bike/run time) but this was mostly on account of some long weekends where I put in 2-3 huge bike days. In the four weeks prior to B2B I logged four 30 hour training weeks — and I never rode anything over 4.5 hours. That meant there was A LOT of work going on, across all the disciplines. And the truth is – I did….okay. I didn’t do great. I didn’t smash every workout and I certainly didn’t meet each expectation or goal set for the sessions. I split my bathing suit and cut a swim short. I took breaks on hard treadmill runs when they weren’t built into the plan. I picked running for 2:55 minutes when the plan said to run 3-3:15 hours. I ate an entire loaf of Apple Scrapple bread after one particular tough training day, which probably wasn’t the best nutrition choice (one of many…) I know many people think these things aren’t big, and yes, in itself no one thing is that big. But, week after week, these little shortcuts add up, and I know that. Yet that’s also what excites me about the block — I know there is TONS of room for improvement, and I’m eager to give it another go next season.
But, enough of that and let’s get to the fun stuff! The pre-race day was a bit hectic but super fun because it started out with my first Pro Panel!! Hosted by Base Performance it was super fun to meet some of the athletes coming to race and answer their questions about race prep and triathlon in general. And, I also got to meet Michellie Jones who is super sweet and we had a great quick chat about “the state of triathlon” these days. It’s great to know she’s a supporter for developing long course athletes and is willing to share her opinion on that!
After that it was the usual check in shenanigans before a dinner at my homestay. Jack and Sue were hosting me while in town and were super nice to include me and Chris on their pre-race tradition of dinner with triathlon friends. We had a great time but as usual, bed time came all too soon and it was back to reality!
Race morning came and since this was a point to point race, it meant an early wakeup call. Breakfast was consumed in the car on the way to Wilmington, where I dropped my car at the finish and headed in on a shuttle bus to T1. There I was able to check on my bike and drop my clothes before getting on another shuttle over to the swim start! While it was definitely a lot of moving parts for pre-race, I wouldn’t change it because it was setting us all up for a record swim!! Rumors had been floating around leading up to the event that currents would be favorable, but considering tide charts mean nothing to me I was determined not to get my hopes up *too* high and just be pleasantly surprised if it was.
Well, imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to see 42 MINUTES on my watch when I climbed out of the water! Ha! I’ll be finalizing my paperwork for the 2016 Olympic games in swimming shortly.
But first – I had the rest of the race to run. It was in the 50s as we exited the water so I took the time to put on socks for the ride, though I decided against any other clothing. This ride was definitely a bit out of my comfort zone being that the entire thing could be done in the big ring. It has a similar feel to Eagleman riding but a little bit more elevation changes, and the wind situation is similar as well. Overall a fairly favorable day on the bike with a small headwind on the way out that we got as a little push on the way home. I spent a lot of the day riding alone which made for some lonely miles. It also didn’t help that I wasn’t feeling great….Now, I know, I know. I biked a 5:07 and “wasn’t feeling great” — sureeee Alyssa. But seriously, I think this is the trickiest part of racing. I think everyone wants to go into a race and feel great. Feel fresh. Feel like you’re not working until maybe halfway, right? Well, the fun I’ve realized with the high volume approach is that the “fresh” feeling isn’t really ever going to be there. But, a wise man did once say “Fresh is not the best for success”, so I try to keep that in mind as best I can. I spent a good portion of the bike simply repeating to myself “run legs are different than bike legs” to avoid getting any negative self-talk preemptively going about how the run would feel too.
I rolled into T2 eager to get moving on the run. Into the convention center for the changing area…..but wait – where was my T2 bag?!??! Check my number on my quads: 549. Look at spot 549: bare. O.M.G. At this point I totally admit I pulled a bit of a diva moment and got pretty frazzled. I grabbed the nearest handful of volunteers I could and instructed them to start searching down the nearby racks. After what felt like an eternity, we found it about 2 racks away. No clue how it got there! I threw on my shoes and did the #1 “don’t” for racing – tried something new on race day by wearing my SMASH trucker hat. I figured worst case, I could hand it off to a kid on the course if it wasn’t working out. But I wanted to complete the outfit and with temps in the 70s may never have a marathon cool enough to try again soon!
The run begins with a 1/2 mile out-and back section. I knew that Suzy had outswam me (years of racing against this girl made that clear!!!) and figured she probably put a few minutes into me on the ride too. This was confirmed because I didn’t see her on that first section, so I knew I had at least 7-8 minutes to make up. These first few miles weren’t great. Once again, I was pushing harder than I wanted to have to in order to hit the 7:50s. I just kept telling myself I need to shake the bike off the legs, and that it would get better. This run course is super fun and has a lot of support out there. And, since the half is still going on, there are plenty of people out on the run course to keep you occupied! During this time since I didn’t feel good, I tried to take my mind off of it by telling anyone I caught up to good job! It’s amazing how much some positivity can help push you. When they’d respond with some kind words it helped EVERY time to keep my feet moving down the road.
When I got to the far turnaround, I was able to do a time check on Suzy and gathered she probably had about 6 minutes into me. Head down, keep moving! My stomach began acting up a little bit but I told myself there would be NO bathroom stops until at least the other turnaround where I could once again see the time gap. Before long I forgot altogether that I even wanted to stop at the bathroom – things sorted themselves out I guess! I saw my homestay family out there around this time and their cheers were awesome. Matt Shanks was also on his way back for his 2nd loop and when he saw me he gave me a super accurate “she’s 2 railroad tracks up” description for the time gap – ha! While this may seem pretty useless, I was actually able to peer up the road at that point and time myself for the time to run 1 railroad track — I gathered this meant the gap was down to 3-4 minutes.
Coming back to town for the turnaround is super exciting. When you’re not feeling great during a race, passing the finish line can be brutal, but when you are feeling good, it’s actually just some more energy to feed off of! Thanks to Leblue Photography, this awesome moment was captured right before the halfway point on the run where another Smashfest Queen had stuck around after her finish to give me some speedy vibes for my run:
At the turnaround, I clocked my gap down to about 1.5 minutes! This was all I needed to forget about how heavy and tired my legs felt and just keep moving! Suzy and I exchanged high fives and encouragement around mile 15, when I found myself in the lead. The mental talk at this point is just so crucial for me. I go through my checklists – gel? check. salt? check cadence? check. Over and over I went and before I knew it I was headed home in the last 10k of the day. Matt from BASE Performance had his salt tent out on the course (yes, I used this product on the run and it works great!) and with a high 5 from him I was headed home to the finish.
It was such a surreal moment to run into the finishers chute, knowing that not only had I managed to get the win, but that I had finally nailed 2 of my big goals for the past couple years: to go under 10 hours, and to run under a 3:30. When I came to Hillary years ago, my marathon PR (triathlon and open) was a 3:31, and that was where it had stayed until last weekend. To finally break that barrier was just so validating for all the work, all the hours on the track and treadmill that I’ve logged the past few years. It can get very frustrating to nail workouts time after time which should indicate you should run “xx”, but then continue to fail at getting it done in a race! But, after 14 iron distance races, I can say that this is proof to not give up on that!!!
Thank you SO much to my homestay family Sue, Jack and Leah! You guys were awesome and it was so nice to have your support out there on Saturday. And, thank you to my sponsors, SMASH and Powerbar. I am pretty sure that hearing people yell “I like your outfit” is still my favorite cheer of the year!!
And of course, thank you to coach Hillary! Our progress continues to amaze me and without your steadfast belief in what is possible I probably would have given up long ago. I know that this is only the beginning!!