Embracing Possibility: Ironman 70.3 Kansas Race Recap

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“You’ve made just enough safe choices to stay alive, but not enough to matter. Is that what you want? You can be more. You want to be more, don’t you? The window of opportunity is closing. This is your chance. This is not about not losing. This is about you finally having the confidence to walk out on the ledge and know that you’re not going to fall.”  Though Joe MacMillan was talking about reverse engineering an IBM PC on the new show Halt and Catch Fire, his insight has me all fired up for the season. I’m still being blown away by God’s plan, He continues to surprise and amaze me. Racing Pro this year has taught me so much and I know I’m right where I need to be. Which is pretty incredible considering I’m lining up next to women whose careers I’ve followed for years – Olympians, World Champions, Olympic Marathon Trialists – this field is full of talent. My resume is only just being written, I’m in the midst of my story, yet I’m sure this is where I should be and I know it all ends well. I’m confident, passionate, and embracing possibility. But it took a lot of work to get here. Mentally. I spent the past four years racing amateur though I was qualified to race Pro. I had to invest in my confidence – the mental side of this sport – before I was ready to take the next step. I had too much to learn, too much to experience before I’d be ready to walk out on that ledge and know that I wasn’t going to fall. And in God’s perfect timing, stepping up to Pro last August has turned into quite a ride.

Though I love racing Olympic distance, and still will, I am beginning to think I’ve discovered a sweet spot in the 70.3 distance. And though it would be darn near impossible to top the overall experience of WINNING my Pro 70.3 debut in New Orleans, I am even more proud of my race in Kansas this past weekend. I didn’t win, but it’s not about not losing. I placed 3rd, on the podium amongst super tough competition, laid down a 1:21:30 run, and wrapped it up with a 4:16:10, a massive personal best for me. I will never be an athlete who will just cruise it on in knowing my position is safe and secure – I want to know how hard and fast and strong I can be each and every opportunity. Embracing possibility all the way down the finish chute.

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This journal was a gift from my mom prior to my 2nd Pro race this season and since it so perfectly sums up this crazy path I’ve found myself on, throughout the race I channeled each of these inspiring thoughts. When you choose to Love Your Life and fill it with people who believe in you, push you to be a better person, and encourage you to go after your dreams, you’re gonna do just fine. But it really is a choice – to love the life you live. If you don’t love it, change it.

Happiness is yours to take. Racing in the land of Oz was a special trip for me. Ironman 70.3 Kansas allowed me a chance to see my Mizzou girls in Kansas City and since it’s a 4 hour drive from my home town, St. Louis, my parents were able to head up for Sherpa duties, cheering and support! I flew into KC Friday evening, swooped by Whole Foods to collect the makings for a delicious meal, and arrived at my “homestay” around 6pm. I had no bike to piece back together since a couple of my friends graciously offered to drive it up for me, what a huge help! I stayed with my friend Cara Hoover who has a 1 year old beautiful baby – so I got to experience first hand all the hard work and “worth-its” that go into parenting. The rest of the girls came over and we cooked dinner together, caught up, and chilled out. I loved my time with them.

Cara was my roommate in college for 3 years, so she knows that I’m quite talented when it comes to sleeping. I told her that I had a great excuse this time though, since sleeping in the morning before a race is key – I never count on much sleep the night of a race. I shoot for 9 hours minimum, even if it means just lounging in bed for a bit before I get up. She was prepared for me to sleep in but I bet she was still surprised that when I finally did decide to embrace the daylight, her baby Burkley had already gone down for a nap! But not before she made a Starbucks run for me with her mom – this truly turned out to be quite the Bed & Breakfast experience! The rest of the day was race-prep: 1 hour drive to Lawrence to meet up with my bike, a short ride/run/swim, scoping out the course, and the Pro meeting. NOLA was really great, but there seemed to be something different about the group of Pros racing here – such good vibes. Intimidatingly muscled-up and tanned bodies aside, everyone there had a smile on their face and seemed genuinely friendly, and happy. Usually I want to be in and out quickly, but the Pro meeting flew by and I actually wanted to linger this time, meet some of the other athletes, and catch up with a few others. It was a great group – and full of talent! Afterwards I checked into my hotel and headed back out to dinner with my parents…I did not sleep well (or much!) that night, but as I mentioned before, I never count on it.

Embrace possibility. At 3:30 am my alarm sounded. It was followed by rice cake with almond butter, honey, and a banana with a side of yogurt, granola, and coffee for breakfast, light stretching, morning prayers and reflection, and putting on my race # tattoos (right side up this time!). An hour later I left for the race site. Going up against some of the best in our sport is still pretty wild to me, and can be intimidating. But on the drive over I reminded myself that I can’t reflect on their resumes and accomplishments, but instead I should think of them as women just like me who are racing for the finish line, challenging each other to be better, and pushing the limits. Just like me they learn something every time they race, they have to make game-time decisions, and in the midst of racing they need to tell those voices to shut up when it hurts and press on. I have learned through all these years of racing that anything can happen and to embrace possibility.

At 4:50 am, I arrived at the site for parking. So glad I got there early because I’ve read quite a few race reports now and it looks like most of the other athletes were in panic mode trying to figure out parking. Transition opened at 5am, I rode my bike up to T2 which made for a good time-saver. The race requires separate transitions (by ½ mile and a big hill) so I dropped off my stuff there (Type A6s, race belt with 1 gel on it, socks, visor) and headed to T1. We were told that the water temp was 75.9 – barely good for the wetsuit cut off. I couldn’t believe it. That water was warm the day before, 78 degrees. But I’ll never complain about getting to wear a wetsuit and I had a brand new one to break in – Blueseventy Helix!

Never give up. 6:49 am – we had a delayed start because of aforementioned parking situation. I always get nervous before the swim because I’ve had trouble translating my pool swim pacing to open water and generally lose too much time on the lead girls in the water. But one thing’s for sure: I won’t give up. I won’t stop working hard at it. I’ve tweaked my stroked since IM 70.3 NOLA and was looking forward to giving it a whirl. The cannon sounded and I went out hard. The water was like glass and this time, the buoys were easy to sight. (I got lost in NOLA, followed someone off course – and we still share laughs about it!)…I’ve never felt so good in a swim, the wetsuit made a huge difference. The body positioning of it allowed me to kick (and I’m a kicker!) and it just glided through the water. Throughout the whole swim I was generally around a few other hot pink caps, though I just couldn’t bridge the gap to the bubbles in front of me! My take away here is that although I was just a body length away, it’s worth it to surge and get super uncomfortable for a minute to catch up – that way I get to draft and save 30% of my energy. Worth it. But I’m still working on getting that extra gear. I used her cap instead for sighting help. 300 meters out I did catch her and was able to draft my way in, ahhhh that felt good!

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Be passionate. I exited in a personal best swim time of 27:40 – I was right in the mix, 7th out of the water, 5th out of transition. My race-mush brain got the best of me and I made a couple of mistakes in transition – nothing major – but it involved what felt like hurdling 20 times to get to my bike. . . I went down the left side of our bike row and there was curb after curb after curb. Arghhh! And yeah those are only a few inches high, but after a hard swim and with an elevated heart rate, dude those felt like hurdles around a track! My goggles also somehow got stuck under my helmet, so I fiddled with that, but soon I was out on the bike course. It was a bit windy and very hilly. I loved it – there were a couple of out-and-back sections when I could spot how far up my competition was, and it was just hill after hill after hill. I geared out a bunch on the downhills, meaning I was left spinning my legs without any power because I’d used up all my gears. So I will need to figure out what to change up so that doesn’t happen again on a hilly course like that. I’m always up for trying something new, and I’m constantly tweaking and toying with different options. My new helmet (Rudy Project Wing57) was so light, stayed cool, and worked out great. As did my new nutrition set up – Xlab Stealth. I can fit 7 gels + some salt tabs in it, and it maintains a very aero profile behind my aerobars. I kept seeing what I thought was another pro female in the distance and then by the time I convinced myself to gun it and catch up, yeahhhh not a girl, definitely an older man with gray hair on a Sunday cruise… Sometimes it’d be a pro male, but either way – such disappointment in the moment! But I rode strong and made my way up to 3rd pretty quickly, and then was passed by Ruth Brennan-Morrey sometime around mile 15. I assumed that if I saw her on the bike I wouldn’t ever see her again, knowing that she can really throw it down on the run, but again – you never know what might happen! I kept her in sight until the turn around at mile 25 and then she took off. Knowing beforehand which athletes were super swimmers, I assumed Rachel Joyce and Amanda Stevens were the other two up ahead. I rode the rest of the way 60-80 seconds off the back of the “podium” – I could see all three girls (little specks, maybe, but I could see ‘em!) and tried hard to bridge the gap while riding solo. Quick pee on the bike on a downhill and cruised in to T2 with a 2:24 bike split, 3rd fastest.

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Your energy is limitless. I charged into T2 with the “podium” about a minute up, and Laura Siddall (a very strong runner) right behind me. The run in Kansas is so fun – two loops – mainly flat with a big hill you hit twice, and very spectator friendly. People camp all along the run route, so athletes are always being cheered on and there’s just so much good energy out there! I was excited to see my parents, I’d feed off of their energy and cheers, and I knew my run had gotten much stronger after having healed up from my injury in February. I was ready for some “race day magic”. I have had a tendency in the past to go out way too hot and fade in the last 5k, so my coach and I have worked on a negative split formula that leaves me with some gas in the tank in case I need it at the end of those 13.1 miles. I started out comfortable and reserved and was able to pass Amanda a mile in and I clocked Ruth and Rachel at about 2:20 and 1:20 up ahead at the first turnaround. I knew Laura could run hard, but I was hitting 6:10 pacing and feeling good, so I focused on what was happening up ahead. My parents were awesome giving me splits, high fives, snapping pics, and cheering hard. What a difference it makes to have an amazing support crew! I was feeling really good the entire run, so happy to be healed and back at it. I still am just overwhelmed in the midst of this experience, racing against these talented women and holding my own. I’ve never had so much fun racing. I chipped away at Rachel the best I could, but she maintained about a 60 second lead on me. All the way through to the finish chute, the energy from the spectators was contagious, and I soaked it all up. My favorite thing (when there isn’t someone on my heels!) is to high-five everyone in the chute –take it a bit slower and eat it up! There is nothing like that finish chute, the feeling of accomplishment and hard work paying off, the overwhelming emotions of gratitude and appreciation, a moment of relief yet a craving for more. Running down that chute taking 3rd with a 4:16:10 at my second Pro 70.3 was incredible. It truly was a huge day for me!

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Live your dream. As I said after IM 70.3 NOLA, it’s not about winning. It’s not about not losing. It’s not about placing. I’m thrilled to have had such a great race come together and to share the day with family and friends. But this is about so much more. This sport brings us to places we wouldn’t otherwise see, brings people into our lives we wouldn’t otherwise know, challenges us to improve, teaches us dedication, patience, and persistence. It’s about following your heart, living your dream, being passionate, never giving up, testing our limits, embracing possibility and loving your life. Embrace the journey and not the results. Onward and upward! I’ve got just a couple weeks before I turn around and hammer it out again in Lubbock at Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake. One of my faves! I got my Kona spot there when I first took on this distance in 2009, very special memories and more to create!

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Huge thanks to Mile High Multisport and especially Matt Smith for getting me in the shape I need to be to compete at this level. And to PCSM for keeping me healed up and injury free. And to all the other amazing companies I work with – Rudy Project, Sunstone Yoga, American Cryotherapy, TriShop, Nuun, Zico, and Champion System. I’m especially appreciative of Innovation360 and my colleagues there, they support me and cheer me on, creating a great work environment where colleagues can be friends. And to my fam and friends, ya’ll rock. Thanks for the endless support, and encouragement.

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