I raced in boots and a scarf. It was that cold.
Not going to lie, this whole idea of turning 30 was a bit traumatizing. So, to prove to myself that I'm still young, I can still have fun, I'm still cool - I decided I needed to do something really special. And when I saw that Ireland was hosting an inaugural 70.3 the SAME DAY I was turning 30, well, that sealed the deal. Didn't hurt that we were also celebrating our 5 year wedding anniversary a few days later and would make an extended vacation out of it.
We arrived in Ireland on the morning of September 1st, so about 3 days before the race. Within hours, Mark was practically an expert at driving on the left. And navigating the Irish roads. We somehow managed to found our B&B with no help from the GPS and without getting lost ONCE. I was super impressed with the B&B - we were staying in Salthill and not only did we have a view of the ocean, but we could also see Transition from our bedroom window. Score! This proved to be especially great on race morning when it was freezing cold and windy and the last thing you felt like doing was getting to transition early.
The ocean - and Transition!
We shook out the travel cobwebs with a short run on Thursday afternoon, scoping out the transition area along the way, and trying to figure out the swim start and finish. I'm terrible with T1 and T2, and the fact that this transition area was super long and narrow probably wasn't going to help me much on race day. Thank goodness for jetlag - by the time 5pm rolled around, we were starving and tired. We strolled out to the Latin Quarter for an early dinner at the Kings Head Pub, and walked back to the B&B through the park along the water, previewing most of the run course along the way (I'm all about multi-tasking). And we were in bed, asleep before 8:30pm. I think I was 10 years old the last time I fell asleep that early :)
They like triathletes here!
The poor B&B owner, I think we may have slightly offended her by NEVER being around for breakfast. The first morning we overslept (I slept 12 hours - TWELVE HOURS!), the second morning we ran out to the beach for a swim, and the third morning was race day and they don't serve breakfast at 4:30am in most B&Bs. Friday was a stay-off-your-feet day. So we drove the bike course and simultaneously went sightseeing around Connemara (see-multi-tasking). The bike course was an out-and-back from Galway, out the N56 to Maam's Cross, and then back to Galway. It was during our drive along the bike course that it dawned on me "I have to bike on the left and pass on the right." Thank goodness the course was NOT technical and instead was very straightforward; otherwise I could see myself making a few mistakes. I also carried enough water with me so I wouldn't have to do bottle handoffs with my left hand. Connemara was beautiful, even though it poured almost the whole time. We (well, Mark) had a Guinness in an Irish pub in one of the towns along the way, we took some photos of a castle from afar (too cheap to pay the entrance fee), and that was about it. And we drove on the left most of the time. I don't have any photos of how narrow the roads were, but let's put it this way - there was no way I could even have my window open, because half of the shrubs alongside the road would've ended up in my lap.
Bikes! In the sky!
We went to packet pickup on Friday, before heading out to Connemara. They had the usual stalls selling stuff: IM gear, wetsuits, toy rifles - you know, why use your words to encourage racers to go faster when you can shoot them instead?
Saturday we met up with Angelina and Charisa at the practice swim. They had both already been in the water and said it actually wasn't all that bad. HAHAHAAAA, FUNNY! Well, at first, the water was bad. Like ice cream headache bad. And even though it looked calm from shore, there were some waves. But then I got into a rhythm and my head got used to the water, and it really wasn't all that bad. Nothing that I couldn't deal with on race day. After dropping off our gear bags and bikes, we had a long, 2+ hour lunch that afternoon at a local pasta place and then dinner at the pasta place next door to the first pasta place. I had a Magnum bar for good luck before heading back to the B&B for sleep. I didn't sleep all that great that night, but what can you do? I kept waking up and hearing the wind howling all around us - maybe the wind will die down race morning. Fat chance.
We love to race! We love to race! (we also like to match)
Race morning - woken up by wind, not the alarm clock. Lovely. It was also my 30th birthday. Even more lovely. Thankfully, I was more focused on the race than my gray hairs that morning. According to the locals, the remnants of Hurricane Irene were drifting by. Could things get any more lovely? We waited until the last possible second to head over the the race site. I put on every warm article of clothing I owned. Including my wetsuit. At least it wasn't raining - yet. The winds were ridiculous. And at first it was too dark to see the water, but when it became lighter, you could see the whitecaps and the boats getting jostled about. They made an announcement that they had pushed the race start to a little later and shortened the swim to 1000m. I was relieved they hadn't canceled the swim outright. No, it wasn't going to be fun to get soaking wet before biking in the 50 degree temperatures and wind, but I'd rather have that than a cancelled swim and a pretend triathlon. Angelina and I were in the second to last wave. It gave us lots of time to stare at the water and realize just how choppy it was. By the time it was our turn to make our way down to the water, there were girls in our wave who were in tears looking at the water.
Don't be fooled by this photo - it was REALLY choppy! Honest!
The gun went off and in we went! Within moments, it was obvious that this was NOT going to be a PR swim of any sort. I was only about 12 minutes faster than my usual 1.2 mile time. We had to fight the current on the way out, all while getting slapped in the face by waves if you sighted at the wrong moment. More chop and current after the first turn, but then with the second turn on the way back in, it sort of felt like flying. The whole swim felt like some sort of warped carnival ride. But, it wasn't as cold as I thought it would be - not a single ice cream headache! I passed a number of guys in the waves ahead of me, and when I got out of the water, I saw a few girls in front of and around me, so I was in the mix.
Bike on the left. Pass on the right. And don't fall.
I ran forever to get to the transition area. Then I tried to get armwarmers over my wet arms using hands that were blocks of ice. I didn't bother with sunglasses (it had started raining at this point), remembered my helmet and my race number belt, and then ran forever to get to my bike. I put my bike shoes on at some point too, don't remember when. Got on the bike and spent the first few miles reminding myself to stay on the left. I had no idea where I was in terms of my age group. There wasn't any body marking (booo), but I had sort of an idea of what race numbers were distributed to girls in my AG. I loved the first few miles of the bike course - - there wasn't any rain, I was passing people, and spectators were shouting things like "Brilliant job!" I made the left turn onto N56 and felt like I was flying - no idea what my mph were, but when the splits popped up every mile, I was pretty happy with them. We had been told that there would be a headwind going out and tailwind coming back in - so when I was seeing those splits, despite the "headwind," I figured I must've developed some crazy bike skills overnight; the alternative - that there was a tailwind - just wasn't an idea I was willing to entertain. Around mile 10 or so, it started to rain. And by mile 20, it was raining hard. Around the halfway point, I started to hit a low point where this suddenly wasn't all that fun anymore. I was wet and cold and the wind and rain were showing no signs of giving up. And I discovered that there WAS a headwind on the way back to town. But there was a bright side - I was doing OK in the girls race - I'd seen a few girls go flying back from the turnaround when I was a mile or two away from it - and the out-and-back really gave me a chance to see where I was and things were OK. And when we were about 6 miles from town, the clouds started clearing and the sun came out - amazing! We went from dreary, disgusting weather, to beautiful weather - just in time for the run!
Ohhh Emmm Geeee - the sun!
I saw Mark right when I headed out of T2 and he told me that he'd found carrot cake for my birthday (Carrot cake is my favorite birthday treat). If that isn't motivation to run fast, I don't know what is! The run course was three loops through Salthill and into town, with an extra 1000m tagged onto the last loop as you made your way to the finish line. The first 2.5 miles were zippy - all due to a tailwind. Which meant the last 1.5 mile of each loop was a bit more of a struggle - we were running straight into the wind through a park along the water - absolutely NO shelter from the wind. Again, the spectators and volunteers were awesome during this leg - lots of cheering and lots of Irish accents and lots of use of the word "brilliant." Can all races have cheering spectators from Ireland? I kept a relatively consistent pace on each loop, but it was never quite as fast as I had hoped. But I had no GI issues and I didn't spend any time during the race dreaming of food or water or fruit smoothies - this is always a sure sign that I nailed my nutrition. The last 1000m were a struggle - lots of headwind and general lack of desire to still be running. I was beyond thrilled to see the finish line.
First loop - feeling good.
In the end, I don't really count this race as a PR because it wasn't a true 70.3 with the swim being shortened. But this was DEFINITELY the worst weather I have ever raced in. However, it also had one of the best post-race buffets. Hot stew anyone? Back at the B&B after the race, I gorged on my carrot cake and put on layers of warm clothes. We headed over to the host hotel under the guise of checking the results since they weren't posted online. My visit also coincided with the 70.3 Championships rolldown. I told myself that if I came in the top 10 in my AG, I would stick around for the rolldown. I came in 8th. Stuck around for the rolldown. AND GOT A SLOT (and not even the last slot!).
Vegas. 2012. 70.3. Be there or be square.
This was an awesome race and I would do it again - even without making Mother Nature sign a contract guaranteeing better weather. Angelina and Charisa did great - and Charisa got 3rd overall - rockstar! I loved having the chance to catch up with Angelina - she is one of the nicest people ever. I am hoping we will both be at Jen's tri camp again next March. Mark was a trooper for cheering in the terrible weather AND for finding me carrot cake for my birthday.
And while I'm still getting over the shock of turning 30 (humor me, one of these days I will stop talking about 30), if my birthday was any indication, it's going to be a great year.