Two Girls, One Marathon – a Rock’n’Roll Arizona Race Report

Sidenote: there were also two very support dudes running this marathon too, but I couldn’t fit them into the catchy title 🙂

If you haven’t already read Leslie’s account of the race, you can do that first. Leslie and I are good friends and training partners, both coached by Hillary. Separated by about 100 miles (actually, I just confirmed on google maps, it’s more like 102. Sounds like a training ride?), we agreed to run Rock’n’Roll Phoenix together. Though the hard work and the miles were put in on our own schedules, the aches and pains of training eventually lead the both of us to one common point, hand in hand: The Finish Line. (Yes, I’m being dramatic but I feel like it could make a good story line for an ABC Family movie or something? Maybe?) I’m thinking of getting me and Leslie matching shorts for women for our next race, cool? No…? Maybe I’ll just get mine.

But, before I give you too much about the end, let me tell you about the beginning. I had been out in Tucson for a week. That ended up being a nice break from the cold East coast, getting used to the dry air and just enjoying riding in shorts and short sleeves! It also gave me a week to mentally adjust to the fact that I would go out for a time that was 5 minutes faster than I anticipated once Hillary told me my goal pace was actually 3:05. I’m a firm believe that once you start getting into the 3-oh-something times, let alone sub-3s, every minute matters. Instead of running 7:14s I would have to run 7:04s. It just sounds SO much faster, right?!

I wish I could tell you how I was able to get myself into the mindset that I would run a 3:05, but I’m not entirely sure. I had, however, been able to compile a whole slew of reasons why that 3:05 was crazy. Why it was doable? I just had to trust Hillary.

Leslie and I had a lot of funny texts throughout marathon training. Mostly consisting of things like “my legs hurt so bad”, “why do people do this all the time”, “I just pulled over to throw up on my way home from that long run” (true story), the texts of race week slowly evolved into race plans and expectations. It was the first time that Leslie clued me in that she was going for a sub-3, and that she was hoping for a negative split situation. Then she went one step further to say she thought I could do it too. I could barely understand the words I was reading. Negative split? She must have some Kenyan lineage in her blood that was making her think crazy thoughts. I’m pretty much a positive splitting champion. As if to prove that point to myself, the next day I ran a 400s workout with Hillary. As we progressed she was like “ummmm you do realize you go out balls hard and then die off, right?’ Ummm…..yeah. But I hit the right times right? “Right….but, that’s wrong. We’ll work on that.” But clearly we wouldn’t work on that in the next 3 days before the race, so I confirmed my own race plan: go out at exactly 7:04s, and hold on for dear life.

Fast forward to the race. I was super lucky that Ed’s dad was hosting us from Paradise Valley, so we were super close to everything we needed, and the days before the race were really relaxing. Race morning we were dropped off at the convention center, and then…..got to sit in comfy chairs for an hour outside a bathroom with no line. Nope, not making that up! That’s just actually how civilized this race start was. About 30 minutes before the start, we jogged to the start and I did a little warm up, then found Leslie and Nate and walked right into the corral. So calm.

Mile 1 – 7:06. Mile 2 – 6:59. Mile 3 – 7:00. Mile 4 – 6:59.

These splits kept happening. For the first time in a major running race I felt like I was in control. I felt the gradual inclines as we approached the intersections each block, leaning into them and giving slightly more effort, relaxing as I came across the back side of it. My legs felt good. Not effortless, not great. But, good. At about mile 8 it became clear that this wasn’t going to be a “gimme” to keep the pace up. But, I was doing it.

I saw Hillary at mile 13 and gave her the thumbs up that I was nailing the splits and would take her as a pacer around mile 20. Typical of a marathon, mile 13 felt drastically different than 16, and as I started to hurt the blinders went up and I ended up completely missing Leslie at the turnaround. I hit mile 20 and while I was working hard, 6 miles just sounded SO short, compared to the 20 behind me, compared to the hundreds I ran in preparation. I could do this. It’s no surprise that picking Hillary up was crucial for my race. While I felt like my pace was slowly inching towards a full out sprint effort, it was helpful that we began to reel people in. And, we were reeling in some women! 21….22…..23…..enter, the grunting. It was here that I finally lost all verbal control and just grunted at Hillary to which she just kept pushing me back towards the pace. In an attempt to distract me she pointed out that Leslie was in sight up the road. Step step step step. As we approached mile 25 we ran over this huge brick wall in the middle of the road. Okay, not a brick wall, but this freaking overpass felt like 45% grade.

Just after the brick wall, Leslie was quite close. In a last ditch effort to take Hillary’s focus off of making me miserable by not allowing me to slow down, I did what any great training partner and friend would do: I said “you can go up with Leslie.” This may have also come out like something to the tune of “you should probably tell Leslie we’re coming.” Now, truth be told, I really feel like in the moment I meant that she should sprint ahead and run with Leslie to get her going again. Instead she yelled up to Leslie “WE’RE COMING FOR YOU!!!! GET READY!” If I had the energy I would have let myself fall down laughing and at least appreciate how much Leslie hated me at that exact moment 🙂

Hillary let me go as I caught up to Leslie. Now – break for a second. Please tell me the last time in a race you were caught by someone, witnessed someone being caught, or heard about someone being caught…..and then they hung on? You can probably only think of a couple examples (to the tune of epic years at Kona) because it’s BASICALLY IMPOSSIBLE.

After I passed Leslie I realized I could hear something. I saw something in my peripheral vision. LESLIE WAS WITH ME! Holy bajeezus! If this doesn’t speak volumes to the athlete that Leslie is and what she’s capable, I don’t know what will! This move right here is why people should be nervous to race her as a pro this year.

Leslie and I ran stride for stride over the last bridge. I knew she didn’t have the GPS on the distance so I let her know when we had .5 a mile to go, then .25. I told her to go if she had it, to which she replied: yeah, I have nothing. Welp, me either. Haha. With the finish line in sight, I swear we were trying to go faster (to no avail). Approaching the line Leslie reached out, I took her hand, and together we sealed the envelope on a long offseason of training. This was one for character building, that’s for sure. We both finally have a legit marathon PR being under 3:05, and crushed our previous bests.

Now, the finisher picture. In my first round of race photos there was no hand-in-hand pic. However, about a week ago I woke up to the “look! we found more photos of you!” email. YESSSSSS. Here we have it folks, and Les, like I said, you already know your birthday present 🙂

Post race was super fun. After every one ran super fast, there was lots of food, some drinks, and good friends. Nothing gets better than that!

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And finally, one more for dramatic effect! The Queen K kit remains lucky 🙂

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Thank you to SMASH, PowerBar and Dimond Bikes for all the support, even in the offseason!

Marathonspectations

Breathe in, breathe out.

If someone could PLEASE tell me why the marathon distance is so freaking intimidating that would be great!? Perhaps because this is the first time when I’m really attempting to “race” this one does it seem so daunting. But I will admit, I’m nervous!

The good news is that my anxiety is not so overwhelming I’m losing sight of the fun stuff. After all, this:

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is not a bad spot for a few days of keeping my feet up before the big event. I am super appreciative to have had the luxury of spending last week in Tucson and now a few days in Phnoenix, neither of which was cooped up in a hotel room OR surrounded by snow.

I also have not lost sight of the fact that while I am hoping to surprise myself with a nice shiny three-oh-something in the race tomorrow, my ultimate goal of doing this has already been attained. I’ve stayed a bit more focused during off season (don’t worry – I still drank all the egg nog and ate all the cookies, but I just also wasn’t skipping workouts!) than I often found myself. And as a result, the past few months have flown by and I’m now really excited to build into the triathlon season. I’m fitter than I ever have been in January. And, my run confidence is there — just knowing what I was doing in training has me convinced of some big things I can do with 26.2 miles off the bike. And those things were, from a longer term perspective — definitely the more important than what time I finish in tomorrow.

That said, I’ll still be trying my darnedest for a 3:05 tomorrow! WHAT? A 3:05?! Um Alyssa you told me last week 3:10. And yes, that’s because last week I thought I was doing to go for that….until Hillary picked me up from the airport and promptly corrected me 🙂 So, I’ll go for it. Because 1. I think it will be fun in a weird sick way and 2. I’m also pretty certain that based on my training experiences if things get ugly, they really won’t be *that* ugly. Well, knock on wood for that one at least 🙂

Follow along with #SMASHPHX!#smashphx

 

 

 

Sponsor Intro: The Right Stuff

Electrolytes. Salt. By and large – this has always been one of the more challenging aspects of race nutrition for me through the years. Most likely from years of being conditioned with fast food and processed foods, I am the lucky owner of an iron-stomach. I used to eat jelly beans and pizza to get me through ultras — keeping down gels and bars in an Ironman seems like child’s play 🙂

But, if I was SO GOOD at eating while racing, how comes sometimes I still felt like my poor performances were tied to nutrition? Well, because hydration and electrolytes is a whole different beast! When you consider the fact that I sweat like a huge man and also the fact that race by race the amount of hydration and electrolytes that seemed to be ideal was changing leaps and bounds, it’s super hard to dial that in.

So, this was something that Hillary and I began to work on from the start. My other hangup was that I truly despise salt pills. I dislike that they disintegrate if you just keep them in your pocket. I can’t stand that they explode if you keep them in a plastic container where they shake just a tiny bit. They do okay in a plastic baggie. But when I inevitably shove said plastic baggie into my tri top, then proceed to douse myself with water….they disintegrate AND explode. I have been that girl picking up a salt tab off the ground and eating it because I lost all mine or they were exploded on my chest. Never thought I’d say that one in a blog post.

It was Hillary who first recommended I try The Right Stuff as she had a few other athletes using it with great success. Since 2011, I have been regularly using The Right Stuff as part of my race nutrition. The times I haven’t have been pure laziness on my part not to order some in time, or forgetting to pack it when I travel. I am a fan of the all-liquid calorie intake on the bike, so I just mix it right into my 2 bottles that I have with me on the bike. And boom – not only are there no cramps and dizziness – but there’s no tubes or tabs or baggies to worry about. Using the Right Stuff, I have actually been able to rely on the on-course electrolyte drink during the run, and not need anything else. The salt I’m getting during the bike sets me up perfectly for the marathon.

But Alyssa…..didn’t you use another salt product this year? I saw tweets about it and pictures where you said it worked.

Well, yeah. And to be honest, there is another product out there that I was able to make work during my season. I went out on a limb for a company in hopes of some kind of support for my racing in return in 2015. Unfortunately despite them repeatedly asking me to chime in and endorse their product (which I did, each and every time), all of my requests for formal sponsorship (even just some free product!) went unanswered.

I get it – some companies are small and as a start-up you may not be able to support professionals as you would like to. But, if you take a look at some of my other sponsors this year, there is plenty of small-biz action going on and resources to support athletes coming from them. I encourage you, as a consumer, to take a hard look at these types of things when you are deciding between brands and products. After a year, I can tell you, that the sponsorship outlook as a triathlete is grim. Like, really grim. I’ve had conversations with some of the best in the sport and am super discouraged to hear about everyone who is getting dropped and all the money that is being pulled. And yes, perhaps as athletes, we too can “do more.” But we can’t do that until a company gives us a chance, or gives us some expectations. In just a year I’ve seen the marketing contacts at some companies change not once, but twice! That gives no room to build a relationship, and it’s not easy to sleep at night when you feel like your livelihood could be chopped by a stranger at any point. But, there are companies out there that are doing it right. They are building businesses based on good products and supporting good people. Support these companies. Buy these products. If you believe in triathlon and believe in the professionals of this sport, you too need to put your money behind these companies.

The Right Stuff, as a company, has been engaged in my season plans, supportive of my races, and 100% willing to go above and beyond for a partnership. When it comes down to 2 products, I am happy to eliminate one from my shelf in support of the brand which is truly willing to help me get to the next level. I hope you take that into consideration as you consider what companies you support as well!

If you are interested in trying out The Right Stuff, let me know! I will happily have some samples sent your way and offer suggestions on how you can integrate it into your current nutrition plan!

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A Taper in Tucson

It’s a pretty rare for me to be in the Dirty T without a schedule completely full of training on the docket. But with winter temps in Charlottesville nearing the single digits, it seemed an appropriate time to head West and adjust to the temperatures in Arizona before the marathon next weekend.

Just because our training load isn’t it’s usual volume, that doesn’t mean Hillary and I am not busy as ever out here.

Sunset running in some new SMASH gear!
Sunset running in some new SMASH gear!
Keeping track of TeamHPB athletes smashing it, including my athlete Briana who recorded a 16 minute marathon PR at Disney!
Keeping track of TeamHPB athletes smashing it, including my athlete Briana who recorded a 16 minute marathon PR at Disney!
Lots and Lots of puppy time!!!
Lots and Lots of puppy time!!!
Coaching at the University of Arizona TriCats triathlon camp. 5 Schools and about 100 kidlets so eager and excited about triathlon made for a good time!
Coaching at the University of Arizona TriCats triathlon camp. 5 Schools and about 100 kidlets so eager and excited about triathlon made for a good time!
Riding with new TeamHPBer Dan. Note: not an actual picture from our ride, I just haven't gotten my hands on the real one yet!
Riding with new TeamHPBer Dan. Note: not an actual picture from our ride, I just haven’t gotten my hands on the real one yet!

Despite the busy schedule so far, we most certainly do have a few days of feet-up action on the docket for the week coming. It feels SO GOOD to be riding in some short sleeves here, and there really is nothing like a Tucson trip to remind you that the off season is over and it’s just about time to get back to work! More on that this week as I welcome back sponsors, introduce some new ones, and let you know where I’m heading first for multisport racing in 2015!

5k Fun (sort of)!

Seeing as the past 2 races I have done were 5k’s, I don’t want anyone out there thinking I’m a convert to short course. I still only find two things “fun” about a 5k:

1. The first 30 seconds before my brain and cardio system synch up and I realize how hard it’s going to be to run that fast.

2. The fact that it is over in time for you to still do just about anything you want that day: long ride, swim, all day marathon of FRIENDS. Seriously, there’s still plenty of time in the day.

Lucky for me this 5k adventure turned into a TeamHPB event! I convinced Leslie to come out for a good old fashioned run to the death duel, and Steph and Katie both came because who wouldn’t want to run a 5k when they are in the middle of SWIM CAMP?! And Nate came as the official photographer (just kidding…though he was a very useful photog).

The race itself, as anticipated, caused me and Leslie to run our little triathlete legs into the ground. After taking the lead about .5 miles in, I held on until just over 2 miles when Leslie put in a surge up the final (mile long) hill at the end. I have trained with Leslie enough to know that she will hold on to no end at that point, so my only hope was going to be to trick her. I tried to breathe as quietly as possible so she’d think she dropped me. It wasn’t until the last little hump of the hill that I broke, giving some good seconds between us. I was, however, quite impressed with her lack of a look back on the final turn — had I seen that happen I might have felt like a small window opened for me to get that last kick in! But alas, the 6 second span between our finishes felt like an eternity in 5k time.

Despite all of these 5000 meters adventures lately, my next adventure which I am off for this week is 8.45 times that — 26.2 miles to be exact. I have to say I think I’m more anxious about this one than about most iron distance races! There’s just something about the unknown of a marathon that makes each night a little sleepless. But, the workouts are done and the hay is in the barn. More from Tucson later this week!

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This picture does no justice to the amazing water slide at the cub run  pool in Chantilly! This was just the only one I could find on the interwebs.
This picture does no justice to the amazing water slide at the cub run pool in Chantilly where we swam post race! This was just the only one I could find on the interwebs. We did not swim with this particular little girl.

On 5k Fun and Running A Lot

This past weekend, I ran (and won!) a local 5k race here in Crozet, VA. If you are in the area definitely consider the Freedom 5k next year. Supporting a great cause, this was a well done race and a lot of fun (with donuts AND pizza at the end!!) One of my favorite parts of being able to jump into races like this from time to time is:

1. Interacting with the community! I especially love that there were so many girls in their teens out running with their moms and dads as it takes me right back to the days I was running these with my dad!

2. Reality checks! This time it came in the form of two 12 year old boys who beat me handily in the race.

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Stuart and Joseph, keep doing what you’re doing. You’re awesome.

This weekend was a cruel reminder that despite the race actually taking less than 20 minutes, it still can sting as much as anything else if you are trying hard enough (and, I think I was!). But what hurt almost just as much was the 20 hilly miles today.

So, why in the world am I running so much?

Well, in the past few years I have been able to chop away at just about any distance PR that I held before starting to work with Hillary. Except one: the open marathon. And, this was only due to the fact that I simply hadn’t run one! I would always quickly opt for a trail 50k or a half marathon instead of ever putting one on the schedule.

As I began to really set my sights on an Ironman marathon breakthrough this year, it became clear that perhaps if my open PR was a bit more competitive (currently a 3:31), I’d start to believe more in what I can do at the end of the iron distance.

So, I signed up to run the Rock’n’Roll Phoenix Marathon in January with a goal of  3:09:59.

And, I even duped Leslie  (and our significant others!) into doing it with me! Misery does love company…..And, I’m beginning to remember just how miserable marathon training can be 🙂

A Foolproof SMASH Gift Guide!

From now through 12/31 you can get 15% off your SMASH order with the code ALYSSA15.  Yes, this means you can do all your shopping PLUS get yo’self something for saving some money 🙂 Stumped on what to get people? Just use my guide below and you’ll be all set!

1. Is your giftee a male? Yes – go to 2. No – go to 8.

2. Is this male a significant other, or close family member or friend? Yes – go to 3. No – go to 5.

3. Does this male ride bikes? Yes – check out the Fast Cat kit, or the HC kit….unfortunately he won’t turn into Maik Twelsiek by wearing it but pretty darn close 🙂 No – go to 4.

4. If he doesn’t ride bikes, you should probably get him an iRock cycling kit and encourage him to start.

5. Does he wear hats? Yes – go to 6. No – go to 7.

6. Check out the bird trucker hat. One of my personal favorites!

7. No better way than to show his SMASHpport than a tee. My personal fave is the men’s charcoal smash tee, but the aloha tee is a close second.

8. Is this female giftee a best friend or family member? Yes – go to 9. No – go to 14.

9. Does she ride bikes and/or do triathlon? Yes – go to 10. No – go to 13.

10. Does she prefer training in tri kits to cycling kits? Yes – go to 11. No – go to 12.

11. We all know spending money on kits for ourselves is hard. Go ahead and let her know you want her to look cute when she races and trains. Plus – the Queen K is a lucky winners kit after Beach2Battleship! Think she wants a little more coverage? There are new iRock 7” tri shorts!

12. For the girl who loves a good long ride, get her the new Ohana bibs and jersey!

13. You don’t have to ride bikes to appreciate a good sundress. This pink Michele dress turns heads!

14. Not close enough with the giftee to splurge for a kit? Does she wear hats? Yes – Go to 15. No – go to 16.

15. The bird trucker is going to be back in stock in pink just in time for Christmas delivery! But if you’re in a colder climate, consider the beanie!

16.Who doesn’t need another easy cover up for the gym-to-errands days? These two new sweatshirts (one and two) are great options!

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 Still need a stocking stuffer? Smash socks, swim caps, and cinch bags will never disappoint!

 

Follow me as I crew #Ultramanlive!

While I did not have a traditional Thanksgiving there was no complaining on this side of the world — I was incredibly thankful to be spending a few days with this view out on the Big Island.

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For anyone who doesn’t know what Ultraman is, straight from their website:

“The ULTRAMAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS is an athletic odyssey of personal rediscovery; as such, it is the next step in the endurance challenge of being human. Covering a total distance of 320 miles (515 kilometers), on the Big Island of Hawaii, it requires that each participant complete a 6.2 mile (10 K) open ocean swim, a 261.4 mile (421 K) cross-country bike ride, and a 52.4 mile (84 K) ultra-marathon run.”

Basically…..it’s epic.

We are now in the final hours counting down to the start of this journey, and Julie is officially checked in and ready to go! Our bags are all packed and we are ready to follow her as she swims, bikes, and runs her way around the Island with ~38 other crazy people!

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If you want to follow along, follow me on twitter as I will do my best to keep you updated on Team Julie — you can find me at @alyssagodesky or just search (and use!) the hashtag #YOLOHA as the official Team Julie hashtag.

You can also search #Ultramanlive for all race updates, and I believe those will all be pulled together in a feed at this website.

Aloha. Ohana. Kokua.

Goosebumps

Despite having raced a boatload this year it’s always a little bittersweet to sit tight to through the end of the season races and watch all of the final events happen with my feet up and a drink in hand. Bittersweet, but definitely must happen to get me going for 2015 🙂 So many good things have been happening this month too, it’s been a fun few weeks just getting to watch it all unfold:

Haley Chura, SMASH sister extraordinaire WON her first Ironman title. This was awesome to watch because Haley is by far one of the nicest and classiest women in triathlon! But on a more selfish level, I have always used Haley as a barometer for what I can do. Back a few years ago I always seemed to be a year or so behind her in terms of times and races. When she dominated the race down in Brasil to secure the victory, I couldn’t help but feel a little more encouraged that my own win is only a matter of time (and training!) away. Goosebumps.

My athletes have been crushing it. From a 2:41 marathon this fall, to Ironman PRs, to some newcomers coming on board with some big dreams – it’s been a great few months to be on our squad! Given the fact that I’m on the road a lot, and when I’m not there’s a good chance I’m training my life away, opportunities to watch athletes in person unfortunately don’t come as often as you’d think. A few months ago though I had carved out a date in November to travel to the Richmond marathon to make sure I was there for this one. And, it was worth every second! It’s never good to get out to a race only to miss seeing your runner go by — but, when it’s because they are 13 minutes ahead of expected time, I don’t complain! That was what happened with Katie P‘s half, and I am more confident than ever that this woman is in for a solid 2015 of racing! Goosebumps.

I had another athlete out running that day, Miss Stephanie G. Steph and I began working together about a year ago, and while she had some big triathlon goals for the season, there has always been a lingering marathon PR to go after. About mid way through the season when things were going well, we made the decision to add Richmond to the calendar. She was fit, in good spirits, and was crushing the year. She could do it.

Of course, there’s always going to be something! Steph has shared more about what obstacles she had to overcome this fall, but I can assure you that while marathon training is never a cake walk, she definitely had it tougher than ever. It was my job to be able to take out all of the emotions from a lot of this and take a look at the training we did get in – and, the conclusion that I came to, was that she was still more than fit for this race. We were going to do it! After seeing Katie at the finish of her race, I headed out on the full marathon course and found Steph just after the halfway point. She was just as chatty as ever and I knew that was a great sign. For the next 12 miles I got to watch the marathon process unfold. There were good spots and rough patches, chatty miles and silent ones. But Steph kept her head down and nailed it. Every. Single. Mile. She ended up with a 16 minute marathon PR for the day. Goose freaking bumps! Could not be more proud!

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I have a feeling that as I head out to Hawaii for Ultraman crew duties next week, more goosebumps await!

Swim Currents Are the New Black: My Beach2Battleship Race Recap!

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!

Ok so this photo doesn't make us look like much fun but I swear there was a lot of smiles and laughter!
Ok so this photo doesn’t make us look like much fun but I swear there was a lot of smiles and laughter!

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:

B2B1

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!!

With Sue and Leah at the finish line!!!
With Sue and Leah at the finish line!!!