The day was just like any other. Wake up early, try to eat any of the four meals you prepared; because you knew you’d be picky and nauseous, check and double-check that you have everything you need, and make your way to the village. Without much sleep, or much nutrition, it’s time to embark on your journey. Half Ironman Raleigh - 70.3.
Having registered just two days prior, and not having swam or trained on my bike since my first triathlon (ever) back in November, Ironman Arizona 140.6, I was justly nervous for this race. The process felt familiar; head to the expo, find the athlete village, register and sign your waivers. Pick up your RedBulls, suntan lotion, and competitor bags, sync your timing bracelet, and ask ANY final questions about race day.
At this point, there aren’t too many things that rock me in the athletic world. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel particular, familiar, twinge of terrified when the officials told me this race wasn’t wetsuit legal. Bye, “comfort” zone. Nice knowing you. I can’t even recognize you way back there… The swim is already my weakest event, and something that I struggle with both mentally and physically – and also my main motivation for ever taking to the triathlon world in the first place. Knowing that I couldn’t don my wetsuit in the morning, and would be stepping even further outside my comfort zone, I was second-guessing my decision to jump into the race.
Luckily, and simultaneously unfortunately, for me, my payment had already gone through, my bracelet was synced, and there was no choice but to show up on race day. I always tell people that I solidly live in Type Two fun zone – the fun that’s only really fun when you’re looking back at it, but not necessarily fun in the moment. The kind of fun where your comfort zone is so far behind you, you don’t want to even look back to see if it’s still there. Thing is, I don’t just say that – I mean it.
Fast forward through the athlete briefing, packing my transition bags, dropping off my bike, and calling my parents for some calming motivation on Saturday, and before I knew it I was in the car on my way to the lake to start my first ever Half Ironman.
Thankful to have great friends like Cassie to drive me to the race and calm my nerves before the start line, we watched the elite men and women take off. One hour until my start time – let’s get ready and warmed-up.
Before I knew it, they were calling my age group for the swim. Was I ready for my first non-wetsuit legal triathlon? Guess we’re about to find out. In a group of about thirty women – I started near the outside at the back of the pack, trying not to get kicked (or drown), and make it to the first turn. I usually forget what I think about during exercise, specifically during races, but not this time. “Why do I do this?” “How much further?” “Have I really not made it to the next buoy yet?!” “Why are my glasses foggy?” “Why the f*ck am I not swimming in a straight line?” “Who’s foot am I grabbing!? OMG WHY ARE THEY KICKING MY FACE?” “Is this how I die? I just drown out here in an 80* lake?” “Oh thank god, we’re almost there…”
And then we’re on to the bike. The Ironman Arizona course was three loops of the same course – pretty boring to be honest. This time, however, we were biking through several different towns on our way from one city to the heart of downtown Raleigh. I knew I placed poorly in the swim and needed to make up time. Even though my toe was bleeding from scraping it on the dock coming out of the water, I didn’t want to waste time with first-aid. Off to the first couple turns on the bike, ready to get some nutrition in my system, and focus on catching up so I didn’t miss any cut-offs.
North Carolina isn’t flat. At all. I swear we went uphill way more than we saw any downhills, but I guess that’s what makes this course worthwhile. If it wasn’t challenging, it wouldn’t change you.. and isn’t that the whole point of these races? Passing one competitor at a time, I was making my way back to the middle/front of my age group pack, feeling stronger instead of weaker, and getting excited to get my feet on the ground for the last and final event – the run.
Down the last hill, around the last corner, time to dismount, rack your bike, and get ready for the hottest half marathon I’ve ever run. Chugging some water, scarfing down some nutrition, applying sunscreen liberally, and waving to my friends, it was time to finish this race. Aid station to aid station, that’s what they’ve told me. Just keep pushing. “Giving up” isn’t in our vocabulary. The cold sponges, the ice from volunteers – nothing was cooling down my core. There was no shade on half the course and the sun combined with the heat and humidity was really weighing on my performance. Let me take a brief segue-way to thank all of the volunteers (and supporters!) out on the course that day - it's a long, hot, hard day but know all of us athletes really appreciate you!
Step after step, RedBull after RedBull, flat coke after flat coke (and with a lot of BASEsalt), I was catching up and passing more of my competitors. The best part of the run, hands down, is that you finally get to talk to other people on the course. Compare stories. Compare training. It’s nice to chat and motivate each other. Push each other. I met two phenomenal athletes who helped me through my last five miles, and I can’t wait to train with them in the future.
Coming around the last couple turns, seeing my friends helped give me that last boost of energy I needed to sprint across the finish line. It felt good to be done, to be strong, and to be only a little bit sunburned. After the pictures, the chat with the medics, and waiting for my newfound triathlete friends to finish, it was time for a beer.
Little did I know that a couple hours later, I would be making one of the biggest decisions in my athletic career. After age group winners were awarded, they started announcing World Championship Qualifiers. Having talked myself in and out of staying several times, I owe my patience to a couple of other triathletes who were also anxiously awaiting their names to be called. We stood there, carefully listening, anxiously laughing, fingers crossed… until it happened. Confirming that we complied with qualifying standards and that we wanted these bids… here it was. The opportunity to compete on the World stage of Half Ironman, in South Africa later this year.
Having always been one for living through experiences and not for things, I couldn’t turn this down. All the early morning and late night training, the hustle at work, the struggle of staying on diet, a dream of mine was finally coming to fruition. It was mine to seize or mine to squander. I’ve solidly chosen to seize, but the struggle now becomes paying for the adventure, and finding some sponsors. If you believe in me and my journey, I would love your support to travel to South Africa to compete on the world stage! Thank you!