70.3 World Championships in Nice, France

The 2019 70.3 World Championships in Nice, France was an experience I will never forget. From the pebble beaches of the Mediterranean to the historic villages nestled in the mountains, this venue did not disappoint. It was by far one of the most challenging races I have ever done, but that only made the trip more worthwhile.

For those wanting the short version, here it is: The swim was just barely wetsuit legal, so I wore my sleeveless wetsuit and felt great. The only bad part of the swim was a bit of chop heading back in and the blinding sun. I zig-zagged my way back to shore, swimming a few hundred extra yards according to my watch. Overall my time was not fast, but not my worst. The bike course lived up to the hype with about 5,000 feet of climbing in the first half of the course. I put in a steady, conservative effort and made it up with no issues. At the top, I was most surprised by how sore my arms and shoulders were – never had I used my upper body so much while cycling! The descent was technical and chilly. Knowing how dangerous this part of the ride would be and not having a ton of experience on descents like this one, I played it safe and was just happy to make it back down in one piece. The run was long and painful, but I tried to keep my spirits up, enjoy the views, and keep moving forward. My watch died about 8 miles in, so I was happily surprised that I finished the run just under two hours. Again, certainly not fast, but not terrible for how my legs felt after all that climbing!

All in all, I was proud of myself for completing my first World’s and overcoming several obstacles along the way. It was incredible and inspiring to race alongside so many other amazingly talented athletes and professionals from around the globe. I am already looking forward to my next 70.3 – Mont Tremblant on June 21, 2020, and will try my hardest to qualify for the 2020 World’s in New Zealand!

If you’re up for it, here is the long version with the good, the bad and the ugly:

Two weeks before race day, I woke up with a sore throat. My initial reaction was, “at least this is happening this week and not race week!” I had two weeks to recover and anything I did this week as far a training didn’t matter that much anyway. The congestion immediately set into my chest, and I decided to play it safe and took several days off. During the day I did not feel terrible, but at night the post-nasal drip was so bad I couldn’t sleep. The third day of being sick my throat was so sore I decided to go to the doctor to make sure it wasn’t strep. Fortunately, it wasn’t, but that also meant there wasn’t much I could do. I completely lost my voice for about five days, and even a week later, I still sounded awful. We left on a Saturday, one week until race day, and landed the next day in Nice. My spirits were high, even after a sleepless night of flying and still dealing with a scratchy throat.

To my dismay, these feelings were quickly squashed when my bag was no where to be found. Because the customs line took so long, our bags had already been dispensed before we got to baggage claim… everyone’s, except mine. I went to the baggage services office, handed then my claim tag and they informed me that the bag had indeed made it on the plane and been placed on the carrousel. They filed a claim and said they would try their best to deliver the bag the next day. But if the bag was indeed put on the carrousel, how could it be lost? I could only imagine one thing: my bag was stolen. Of course, my suitcase had EVERYTHING in. All of my race gear except my bike. I had no idea what to do. My Mom tried to get me not to worry, but how could I not? Lesson Learned: TAKE ALL YOUR RACE GEAR ON THE PLANE WITH YOU!

24 hours past, and we still couldn’t find out anything. The WiFi in our apartment hardly worked, and only my Dad had service. We tried to call the baggage claim number, but nobody answered. We tried to call Delta directly, but they were of no help. I bought one change of clothes to get me through and borrowed some things from my sister. We did some touristy things and tried to enjoy the city, but I couldn’t shake the feelings of worry and doubt.

FINALLY, my Dad got through to someone at Delta who was very helpful. As it turns out, my baggage claim number was switched with my husband’s, so my claim was filed on the wrong bag – my bag was not lost! Unfortunately, it was still in New York. Because the claim was filed on the wrong bag, Delta just left my bag in the wrong city. This makes absolutely no sense to me, but I was ecstatic to find out my bag was not stolen. The next day, we were able to pick up my bag from the airport, and all was well! It was a darn good thing we had arrive in Nice a week early. Phew!

With one less thing to stress about, I could relax and enjoy the beautiful city of Nice and prepare for the race of a lifetime. It was so cool to be in a city with so much history and surrounded by top triathletes from around the world. I quickly realized that everything in Nice took a lot longer and was a little more difficult than at home. For example, our apartment had terrible WiFi, no AC, only two keys between 8 people, you weren’t supposed to flush the toilet paper, there was only one towel per person, it took us three loads to figure out how to properly run the washing machine, and there was no dryer. Everything closes in the afternoon, most restaurants don’t open for dinner until 7 pm, everyone smokes everywhere, you never know what you are ordering, you should expect the meal to take 2 hours minimum, and free public toilets are just not a thing.

All of this just added to how memorable this adventure was. We walked so much my feet hurt everyday (I think 25,000 steps/day was the minimum), but we got to eat delicious food, drink fabulous wine, and enjoy the beautiful views of the Mediterranean. One day, we even went over to Monte Carlo, Monaco. We walked the harbor, toured the famous casino, saw the changing of the guards at the Palace, and had coffee with the Prince (my dad is convinced he saw him). I enjoyed every minute of exploration and just hanging out with my family.

THE RACE:

The evening before the race, a massive storm blew through. It poured, soaking the bikes and all of the bags that had been checked in earlier. It cooled the air and the water enough that race morning, it was announced the swim would be wetsuit legal. I was fine either way, but happy to put my wetsuit on simply because it was a chilly morning! In the 60’s with a strong breeze, it felt cold after the week of heat and no AC! Race morning, I was tired, but unexpectedly so. It is hard to sleep with the windows open to the noisy streets of Nice, especially on a Friday night! I also was STILL congested after two weeks of being sick – it was the cold that would never end. My rib cage was sore, I assume from coughing, and I couldn’t even take any cold medicine because they are pretty much all band by WADA. But there was nothing I could do about that, so I tried to only focus on what I could control. I needed to keep a positive mindset and focus on enjoying the race, controlling my effort and getting to the finish line safely. I had no time goals; I simply wanted to enjoy the race and have a day I could be proud of.

The Swim: 36:59

Each age group went off in separate waves, but with a rolling start sending off 10 athletes at a time. This was a much better start than a mass start, but the swim was still pretty congested throughout with 2,100 or so females racing. The swim was a clockwise triangle, and the first side was quite pleasant. The water was clear, seemed calm, and it was easy to see. Upon turning the first buoy, I realized that was short lived as the chop was now splashing me in the face with each breath. Around the second buoy, things only got worse. Now the waves were head on, as was the sun. I was blinded and even if I tried to sight, I could only the see next wave hitting my face. This was the longest part, but I put my head down and tried to follow the crowd. As I exited the water, I was a little disappointed in my time. According to my watch, however, my total distance was 2,400 making my swim pace like what I would have expected. I got my bag, tried to dry off a little so I could spray on sunscreen, and continued on to the bike.

The Bike: 3:27:56

The start of the bike was flat but not without its challenges — the lane was narrow, there were lots of bumps, long “no aero” sections, weird turns, and no passing zones. Once I turned away from the beach, it was straight into a chilly head wind. My nose began run, and I knew this would be a problem. About 7K into the bike, we made a sharp turn and the climb began. It was immediately into 10% and 15%, just to burn the quads before the real climb began. The next 6 miles of climbing was not as bad after the initial steep sections. There was a good amount of variation. The first water stop was at mile 12, which seemed more like mile 20. After this, we got some relief with a fast, false flat section with gorgeous views. I had a lot fun through there but knew the real work was still to come. Next, we hit the town of Vence, meaning the famous climb was coming: the Col de Vence. About 6 miles with an average grade of 6.5%. Each kilometer had a sign denoting the total climb of the next kilometer and the average percent grade. It was always either 6 or 7%, but it all felt the same. It was relentless. We climbed above the treeline and were completely exposed to the wind and sun. My runny nose and cough made it hard to breathe. But I pushed on. I kept my legs moving and my effort consistent. When I reached the aid station at the top, I knew the hardest part was over. There were small climbs yet to come, but nothing like what I had just done. There was another false flat next, and I tried to go to aero and realized just how much my arms had been working. My shoulder thrived in pain. The descent started out slow, and it was hard to push the pace because my body was so sore from the climb. After one more short climb, we started the real descent.

This was the part I knew I was going to really bad at, but I only wanted to make it down safely. Though I had my brake pads changed and adjusted before the race, they were still screeching anytime I braked. I didn’t trust them, and I chose to take the corners with caution. For others, that was not the case. Though I had passed more people than passed me on the climb, racers blew my doors off on the decent. I couldn’t believe how fast they were going! Early on, however, coming into a sharp turn, an official was off his motorcycle having everyone slow way down. In the turn, there was a woman on the ground, unresponsive with a neck brace on and an ambulance waiting. This was gut wrenching to see, and I still had 15 miles to descend. Though the descent was easier than the climb, my body still ached the whole time, and it was FREEZING. At the both of the last two water stops, I dropped the first bottles I tried to grab because my hands were so cold. Getting to the bottom was such a relief! The sun warmed my body quickly, and I tried to push the pace a little more towards home. One last unexpected test was a tight U-turn to the right. I literally almost ate it, and would have been so embarrassed! They also had a tight confusing path into transition which was over cobblestones, and apparently several other did crash there. Fortunately for me, I made it safe and sound back to transition, ready to face the 13.1 miles ahead.

The Run: 1:57:39

In most races I think, “If I can just get to the run, the hard part is over and I will feel a lot better.” And then I get to the run and hate every minute of it, realizing how much more fun the swim and the bike were. This time, I was prepared for that. I knew just how hard the run would feel after such a challenging bike, and based on my training (or lack there-of) leading into the race. It’s not that I didn’t train, but about 6 weeks before the race, I started having shin pain. Out of fear of shin splints or a stress fracture, I chose to cut back on the run, and never did some of my key long runs. While I seem to have dodged a bullet with the shin splints, the severe cold and time on my feet race week certainly did not help. I knew the run would be painful, and it was! From the start, everything hurt. I kept thinking I would warm up into it, but it only got more painful. I got of the bike with a bit of a headache, so I tried to drink a lot at the first few stops, then I got an abdominal cramp. I think it was mostly because I am not used to the electrolyte drink they served, Enervit. It also got hot with hardly any shade, so I kept pouring water on myself. I overdid it and soaked my shoes so much they felt 10 pounds heavier. I ran water stop to water stop, and kept thinking, “I’ll run faster at the next one,” but I just kept feeling slower and slower. I tried my hardest to enjoy the atmosphere and the views, but sometimes that is hard when you can see where you have to get to, but it is still 3 miles away! Even when I finally got to mile 12, I couldn’t even make it the last mile without walking at the final water stop. I felt accomplished by what I had done, but it is so hard to not feel disappointed when you know you can do better and when so many other athletes are doing so much better around you.

In the end, I was 181st in my age group out of 246 finishers – not even in the top 50%. While that is nothing to brag about, it is inspiring to see just what is possible and I am driven to train more, push harder and see just what I am capable of. I am proud of what I accomplished on the toughest course I have ever done. I am proud I held it together and pushed through the pain. It wasn’t pretty it, but I am so happy I did it and learned so much from the race. Thank you, Nice for making me stronger! Also, thank you to my loving and supportive family who helped me get to the start line and cheered me on through the race. I love you all and would not have been able to do it without you <3

AG Nationals Report

After deciding in early June to pull the plug on Ironman training for 2019, I began training for the Olympic distance and targeted Age Group Nationals as my new “A race” for the summer. This race is qualification only and luckily I had qualified last fall and there wasn’t a time limit to accept the entry. As it turns out, Olympic distance is my jam! I’ve never specifically trained for that distance. In the past, I would complete local events in the middle of my long distance training merely as a way to change things up and keep training spicy. I always find doing short and fast races difficult (and frustrating) in the middle of Ironman training because my legs have zero 5k/10k speed.


AG Nationals were in Cleveland for the second year and the reviews for last year were less than stellar. This was my first time visiting the city and I found it to be very enjoyable. Their parks and rec system is amazing. The venue was located at Edgewater Park, a few miles outside of Downtown Cleveland and it was easily accessible. Race logistics were easy and hassle free, which is always a plus on race morning.

I was excited about this race. I was really excited to see what I could do with two months of specific training for the Olympic distance. My main goal was to have fun and try to blast the run. Training had been going really well and I was confident. Unfortunately, Thursday morning before my flight, I woke up with a fever and muscle aches. I sucked it up with a lot of complaining to my husband and decided “it is what is” and got on the plane (making sure to sanitize everything I touched).  I spent most of Thursday feeling bad and Friday sick in the hotel only doing what I had to do to get ready for the race. Also, cheering for my husband to crush a 5k race Friday night at the race site. Way to show the silly triathletes how to run!! LOL. I couldn’t eat much for dinner and decided obviously this race was no longer an “A” goal, but I was going to hopefully finish and have some fun along the way. 

I woke up fever free on Saturday, race morning, (hooray!) but my stomach was still not happy. Oh well.

The swim: Apparently, Lake Erie is usually rough and has a current, which resulted in issues last year. This was surprising to me. This year the swim was cut short, 750 meters, after several days of high winds and rain and also a sewage issue the week before the race lead to water quality warnings and closed beaches..eww. Good news – I didn’t get e coli!! Even with the shortened distance, I had a hard time on the swim. Not really due to the conditions of the water, but mostly due to internal issues of my own. Rough water and jostling for position doesn’t usually affect me at all. However, once the race started, I was kicked in the throat and my legs were pulled down. It was crazy. I started to freak out and felt like my wetsuit was choking me. I stopped and regrouped. I almost quit, but I figured it was stupid to come all the way to Cleveland and quit. I just had to swim 750 meters, which was nothing compared to my normal workout. The result was the slowest swim ever for me. 

The bike: the course was closed to traffic which is amazing!!! It’s sad most triathlon’s don’t close the road to traffic, which is resulting in many accidents and cyclists being hit by cars during the race. It’s actually quite ridiculous because we pay a gizillon $ to do the race. This course was mostly flat with a few rollers and highway on/off ramps. I couldn’t find my legs and spent this portion of the race just trying to not get passed and hopefully pass someone. As I approached the turn around point, I started seeing women I knew were in my age group going the other way as they were minutes in front of me. This was very frustrating. I passed one girl at the end, who I was chasing the entire time. Yay I guess. However, my power output was equal to my 70.3 effort, so boo. 

The run: I had no idea what to expect given my health and how I spent the days before the race. I decided just to run how I felt and not even look at my watch for a pace. I transitioned from bike to run easily and started running. The first mile was downhill with a turn around and uphill back towards the start. I looked at my watch at the mile turn around and thought “oh no” when I saw it was a 6:45 pace. That pace was my goal pace for the run overall, if I was feeling fantastic, which I was not. I know better than to start out guns blazing, but for some reason I do it every time. Oh well, I was feeling good and just went with it. I started picking people off in front of me. I would tell myself “just get to the next person and pass them”. I managed to keep that pace until mile 4 where there was a longer, steeper hill heading into the park area. That hill kicked my butt and I slowed down slightly. I started seeing the faster women in my age group and I decided I was going to catch them. I passed 15 women in my age group and it felt amazing to chase them down! I ended up with a run time of 42:38 which is a new 10k PR.   

I had few secret goals for this event. Yeah, I always say my main goal is to have fun, which is true…but of course I have time specific goals. My first secret goal was to qualify for the ITU World Championship. For that to happen, I needed to finish in the top 18 of my age group. My top secret goal was to finish in the top 10. I ended up in 15th place, which given my health issue, I was super happy about. I don’t know why I keep my goals a secret. I guess because it’s scary to say out loud and if it doesn’t happen, I will feel like a failure. Which is so lame, I know. 

I also came away with many lessons learned, which I think is important to digest and improve for next time. First, don’t give up before the race even begins or on the swim. I had the world’s worst swim for me, and I was able to pull it together and run a PR. Second, don’t let the days leading into a race dictate the race you will have. Circumstances are never perfect and I think I’ve finally learned that there will rarely or never be the perfect race you think you should have. Finally, a good support system is critical. I could have very easily stayed in bed Saturday morning. My husband was a constant in reminding me to just try my best and it’s not the end of the world. He kept me moving forward, thinking about the race logistics, and helping me prepare, which I was very thankful for. It was also super motivating to watch him race Friday and get my mindset in race mode.