The main takeaway from this race is gratitude. This is my 5th year racing triathlon, my husband Elliot’s 15th year, and if there is one thing I’ve learned from racing year after year it’s that not every day is a great day – especially on the race course. While I am grateful to have the last 2 races result in wins, I am almost prematurely preparing for the day I am bested on the course. The mental shift is now about maintaining confidence with humility in order to both build momentum and prepare for what lies ahead. My favorite quote at this time is: “The good news about failure is that it’s short lived, but the bad news about success is that it’s short lived.” The 48 hours after a win is nothing short of elation, but when the soreness dissipates and the training resumes, the challenge of the next race begins to loom. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t already nervous from my next competition!
Our trip to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho was short. We got in Friday, checked in, did a short swim in the chilly waters of Lake Coeur D’Alene (water temps hovered around 58 degrees the entire weekend) and checked into our Air BnB. We planned to leave right after the race to get home that night, too. After the usual pre-race checklist, it was already time to race! If my ankle was the primary source of anxiety prior to Victoria 70.3 (which I was thankful to have won 4 weeks prior) the cold water was the source here. There’s always something! Thank goodness we were allowed in for a warm up to acclimate, which isn’t always the case. Quick kiss to Elliot, and we were off.
The swim went better than expected, and I felt a bit better than in Victoria. I tried not to be concerned with the usual hard start/washing machine that kicks off every triathlon, and focused on breathing and staying within myself. While I swam alone the first portion, I was able to avoid a lot of contact and save some energy despite not having a draft. I did find a good jet stream the back half of the swim, and felt like I was catching vs getting dropped – which was encouraging. While I swam a few seconds slower than Victoria, I dropped over a minute on my time from 3 years ago in far choppier, colder, and all around tougher conditions with a total time of 32:26. I remember smiling during the last 300 when I saw the shoreline approaching, as I knew after this I could really get going in the race. I briefly thought one of my swim team athletes, as his mom provided me her secret “record-breaking” homemade bone broth the week before the race. Knowing I would make my athletes (and the few people that knew I was racing) proud really brings me positive energy.
I had really only thought as far as the swim, so when I came out of the water I HAD to celebrate. I smiled and yelled to the crowd of spectators and volunteers: “I DID IT! I SURVIVED!” I was very concerned pre-race that I would have a cold water shock and need to stop; my biggest fear of not being able to continue in a race was almost tangible. Obviously, I had done a few cold swims, but now that I have performance goals and expectations, the anticipation changes. I feel more confidence in having done my 2nd swim under 60 degrees without “failing” – I didn’t have a ground breaking swim but I did keep myself in contention without losing too much time to girls in front of me.
The bike course in Coeur D’Alene is DELCIOUS. I have been to this race 4 of its 5 appearances, either to support Elliot or race it myself, so I’m very familiar with the town, conditions, and course. I was happy to dry off and warm up much faster than at Victoria. The sun was out with air temps between 60 and 70 throughout the day. I am always aggressive on the bike – knowing you’re 4-6 minutes down is very motivating if not borderline panic-inducing! With about 3,000 feet of climbing on the bike, I was excited to work so that I could hopefully get to the front of the field.
35-40 miles into the bike, you get your first glance of the field, as there is a U-Turn out and back at that point. I counted 4 women in front of me, all 4 of which I knew from past racing or living nearby them. I knew two of them had probably started the swim in front of me and likely outswam me by about 4 minutes. Two of the four of them could run really well. Once I worked my past each one, I kept my eyes forward and the pedals moving. I believe I had the best female bike split, but according to the results (which could be a mistake, since I have checked the top 10 females bike times and none are faster) I had the second best split at 2 hours and 28 minutes on the 56 mile course.
Coming into T2, I knew the run would be difficult both physically and mentally. I’ve never been first off the bike at an Ironman 70.3. It’s one thing to hunt, it’s another thing to be the hunted, especially with the knowledge of who was behind me. The weight of dictating the pace for 13.12 miles was daunting. Due to the rolling swim starts, you never know how big your lead is. Physically you could be leading by a landslide, but someone could be quite close to you virtually. I’ll never get over my 2021 loss of 8 seconds to a girl who started several minutes behind me in the swim. So despite my massive effort on the bike, I had to keep the gas pedal on for the half marathon. In the end, this is probably a good thing! I really wanted to run around a 1:23 on this course, and I pulled off a 1:23:47. It was hard, and my ankle was really painful in the last 5k – likely from the course being all on pavement and a lot faster than in Victoria. Second and third place ran exceptionally well. We all pushed one another to achieve personal bests of some kind, and that fills me with so much joy.
When I started this sport, there was a fair amount of cattiness, both from myself and women around me, and I’m happy to have grown and matured into a competitor that is able to lift up those around me. The women I raced on this day have nothing but respect from me, true class competitors, and we all embraced while sharing our individual stories of triumph on the course. I was really proud of Kayla and Kylie (2nd and 3rd overall females) and incredibly thankful for how they pushed me to my best and I to theirs.
The finish line was… indescribable. I had the female lead bike with me and the crowds were so loud and supportive. I knew in my heart I had won, which is such rare due to rolling swim starts as mentioned before. I wish I could bottle that once in a lifetime feeling and keep it with me forever. It was a really personal, joyful memory that I’m blessed to have with me for all my days. I will never forget it. As mentioned, big hugs from my fellow female competitors and athletes combined with the sweet relief of finishing keeps me coming back. My girl Hannah was volunteering at the swim start and finish so that she could give me pre-race AND post-race hugs! Another athlete of mine, Erin, raced very well for her second race of the year and first 70.3 with Kawaoka Coaching. Elliot had a good swim, didn’t feel great on the bike, but rallied to finish what he started!
Whatever happens next, I am incredibly thankful to have put together two great races and achieve back to back 70.3 wins on tough courses in strong fields. I am proud to have been the 31st out of over 2100 athletes, meaning only 30 men beat me to the line. Pre-race anxiety and fears are real, and will likely always be there. The finish line, whether your first or 50th, is the greatest reward for overcoming those emotions. Never forget that. (me to my future self, and all others who struggle with the emotions of sport)
On to the next because, like I said last time, the best win is always the next one.