“I think this is still fun…But I’m not totally sure.”
Those were the words I spoke to my husband as I was packing up my bike the week leading up to Raleigh 70.3. It’d been such a roller coaster of a ride already this season and I was questioning where my heart was. I’ve always trained and raced for the fun of it, I find so much joy in our sport. I’ve seen so many amazing places, met incredible people, and have surprised myself with what my body can do over the course of my career in triathlon. But lately, we’ve had so much on our plates that I began to wonder if this balancing act was getting to be too much. We just sold our condo, bought a home, and moved. We spent time traveling back home to St. Louis for my sister’s wedding. I’m being stretched further at work with i360‘s growth and additional locations (most recently in Austin, Texas!). On Easter Sunday, I wrecked pretty bad during a TT effort when a storm blew through. Slick roads and gravel mixed with an effort that hard didn’t mix well. I wish I could say “you should see the other guy” but the pavement looked the same before and after I hit it pretty hard! I took a bad blow to my ribs that day – just 3 weeks before Ironman 70.3 in Galveston. I’d just healed from an injury that left me out of running for 3.5 months! The phrase “you’ve got a lot on your plate” was an understatement.
So Galveston was a bit of a bummer. I stuck to the plan and still raced, hoping and praying for the best. I’ve never been a person to let a setback prevent me from moving forward. I knew I wasn’t hurting the ribs further by racing, and I was itching to get out there (plus I needed some points for the World Champs qualification). I tried my best to let it heal going into the race and was confident that God could do anything with the situation. I promised myself I’d be at peace with whatever the outcome, but in a deep field like that, I really had hoped things would cooperate more-so! The swim was fine, considering I hadn’t done much leading up to the race. The bike was so-so with a headwind both ways (I can never figure out the winds on that island!) but the run was painful! I knew I wouldn’t quit, and I finished 8th in 4:24 with a 1:30 run. The crowds kept me going – the spectators were amazing and it was fun seeing all the other people I knew out there facing the heat and wind too. Our time with our homestay made the weekend so special, I loved them and they took such great care of us. Their family was incredible, but the race itself left me in a bit of a slump.
Over the next month, I had to remind myself that much of life’s stress often comes from the greatest blessings. The move was so stressful, yet WOW, we have this amazing new home that’s just perfect for Brandon and I. Traveling takes me out of my routine, but WOW that was a great time being home with my family seeing my beautiful sister marry the man of her dreams. Injuries suck, but how awesome is it to get to train, race, push ourselves to new levels each day? Injuries are just part of the journey. And I had the best team around me helping me get back on form. Work is busy, but to see this wonderful company expanding to new locations, able to reach more people who are struggling – God’s hand is just all over this company and the people doing such great work. So yes, though there are plenty of things to balance, often stressful, they all stem from the greatest blessings in my life right now. So with that perspective, I continued to push forward setting my sight on Ironman 70.3 Raleigh.
After I spoke those words to Brandon, I reflected. This race – my main goal and focus this time around – the trip to Raleigh was going to be fun. I wasn’t going to worry, to stress, I was going to take it one moment at a time. Enjoy the time with the friends that I was staying with. Take in the sights in this beautiful part of our country. Meet new people – make friends with the other athletes. I just wanted to make sure I had fun. Because that’s why I started in this sport, and why I remain in it. I wanted to approach the race in the same way – one stroke at a time, stay in the moment, one mile at a time, one leg at a time. Don’t worry about what’s to come. And I know that’s when I race at my best. Enjoying the process, making the most of each moment.
I flew in Thursday and stayed with our friends from our Hotel Domestique “Climb with Hincapie” trip – the Rougier-Chapman family was incredible! They cooked for me, hosted a fun party Friday night, and cheered me on on race day. I even had a curbside service drop off that morning (which was SO early)! I recommend going out Thursday because this race is point to point, and logistically there is a lot to fit in. I did my course recon on Friday and dropped off my bike 56 miles outside of town on Saturday. Make sure to leave some air out of your tires, I heard lots of tubes popping in the heat! …Everything fell into place well leading up to the race, and the weather was looking perfect (HOT HOT HOT like I like it!).
Race morning was an early start, dropping off run gear at T2 where the shuttles picked us up at 4:15ish am. It was a quiet ride, I had time to reflect and visualize. The mental prep is just an important to me as is anything else. I arrived and got the tires air’d up, bottles set, did my warm up run, and then got off my feet. Pros warmed up for a few minutes before the men started at 7am and we were off at 7:05.
The water was pretty warm, almost 80 degrees. No wetsuits. Calm. Gun went off and I started out hard but got nudged off the feet I was following and the group pulled away just 300 meters in. I spotted the gap and pushed hard through the first turn and caught another swimmer about 700 meters in and just settled in to pace off of her. Whenever I’d tap her feet to let her know I was there, keep it up, push harder, she’d battle back with a fierce kick. The back-n-forth tap-n-kick helped pass the time. It was a very moderate effort for me, but such is the case often when drafting. I chose to conserve energy when it appeared there wasn’t anyone else to bridge up to, versus pull around and put in a bigger effort solo. I felt pretty good especially considering that my injured rib had kept me out of the water for some time – it’s mostly healed but still does bother me some. By the time we exited, a small pack had formed behind us and I hustled through T1 noticing another strong rider was exiting up ahead. 9th out of the water, 30:32
Love love LOVED this bike route! Lots of turns, hills, rollers, fairly calm wind, beautiful views – the time passed so fast. It was a quite a change coming from Galveston the month prior, where it’s just pancake flat out and back. (Yawn!)…. Right away there is an out and back section – perfect for getting a feel for where you are riding relative to your division when otherwise there isn’t a chance since it’s point to point. I was riding in 8th with some work to do. Throughout the ride I fed myself plenty of BASE salt and stayed hydrated with NUUN and NUUN PLUS in my bottles (BarnettRacing for 20% off online). The key to battling the heat is staying on top of electrolytes and fluid – taking the fluids at every aid station too. I rode my way into 4th pretty quickly and just felt smooth and controlled all day. I was riding with another pro female for a bit but there was an annoying situation with a male pro continuously trying to tuck in between us. It was pretty ridiculous, as when he’d do that I was forced to soft pedal for a bit to ensure proper distance (12 meters) and no drafting penalty. He’d be sure to tuck in just prior to the aid stations and though I’m sure he didn’t to it intentionally – it looked purposeful – he would literally knock out every single water/gatorade bottle from the volunteers’ hands and take the last one and I was left with nothing…I was fuming. He knocked one down and it rolled right into my wheel as I was reaching for water and I thought for sure that was the end of my day – I’m going down. And I said my prayers after I didn’t – grateful to be rubber side down after what could have easily been a bad wreck. So that was all quite annoying – if there a bigger gap between the men’s/women’s race starts, this kind of thing would not happen and we could race our own race. But soon enough he was dropped and I was riding alone, strong and steady, for a good chunk of the route, feeling like I had some reserves to tackle the last 10 hilly miles well, and I pushed it into T2 just in time to see the 3rd place female heading out onto the run course. I knew I’d had a strong day, and in fact, that was a PR bike split for me in 2:18:53. I was finally feeling dialed in on the new bike, and had familiarized myself with racing with power – using it as a tool, but not the end-all-be-all. This is still, at the end of the day, a race.
The run was an awesome two loop out-and-back where you were you able to see your competition frequently. It was rollers – exposed, hot, and lined with spectators. Really awesome. After quickly making my way into third, at the turn-around I saw that second was just steps ahead of me, slowing in the heat, and after about 5k I overtook and was running in 2nd with one lady up ahead – – Meredith Kessler. She was amazingly consistent all day long. As I was running in 2nd, feeling strong – I realized that my Garmin was not cooperating so I really didn’t know how fast I was moving – but my lead biker was encouraging me with every step. He really was the highlight of the run. He was AWESOME. He gave me a full fledged tour of town, told me jokes, and got the crowds cheering every block – “This is your 2nd place female, Lauren Barnett from Dallas, Texas!” He would pull ahead and let the aid stations know what I needed in advance – ice, gels, water, sponges – everything was ready for me to grab and fly by! He was amazing. I didn’t listen to what he was saying half of the time, I was just pushing away, in the zone – but having him talk to me helped pass the time. I’m so grateful – he was incredible. On loop #2, I realized I had quite a tremendous lead on 3rd but still had to work hard to catch 1st. With 5k to go I was about 30 seconds back, I wondered if I could sprint her down. . . Just visualizing myself at the track with just one 800 meter effort. I fought until I rounded the last corner trying to make up time – and as I finally saw her cross the tape, probably not even 100 meters up – I finally let my foot off the gas. I saw my homestay family and the little girl who gave up her princess room for me for the weekend and ran over to give them hugs and take a quick picture. I will cherish that memory forever – they were an amazing family and I’m grateful I had a moment to spend with them before crossing the line! It was a fabulous day, I’m thrilled with 2nd pro female knowing I fought to the end, and hungry for the next one! My only regret is that I couldn’t share the day with Brandon – he was back home helping us settle into our new home in Dallas. I wrapped up the day with a 1:22:58 run and an overall time of 4:14:58 in second place. Really grateful, really pleased. HAD FUN. So much fun. And that’s what it is all about. “Lord, you are my strength.”
Great race recap by Witsup.com found here.
Quarq blog analyzing my power – Fastest bike split on the day.