I absolutely loved the 200 fly – the challenge, the pain you knew was inevitable, and the absolute exhilaration when everything clicked and you were literally flying. Words could never really do it justice because to truly appreciate what I am talking about you would have had to experience it. Each event is special in its own way, but 200 flyers are a breed of their own, they know going in what the event will take out of them, yet they relish it and can’t wait for another shot at it each and every time. And although you glean something every time you race it, you will never achieve perfection. And that’s okay, because it’s the fire within, the drive that brings you back race after race. Whether you went out too slow, or went out like a bat out of hell, if you are lucky the piano falls that last 50…any sooner and that’s going to be the longest 100 fly of your life. But that’s why we love the event, it’s the hard that makes it great, that inspires us to be the very best we can be each race. Sometimes it’s a PR; sometimes it’s a comeback; sometimes it’s ugly; sometimes it’s damn near close to perfect. I didn’t think I could love a race as much as I loved the 200 fly – I was wrong. Triathlon grabbed hold of me that first race and didn’t let go. But it was beyond just the sport itself – it was the amazing people I would meet, the dedicated coaches who believed in me even when I did not, and the teammates who consistently raised the bar and inspired me. Just like swimming had been, it was the entire package. And I had missed triathlon. Not long after hip surgery I had decided I was going all in, and I’m so glad that I did. Sunday was far from perfection, but the fire burned bright, and my soul fell in love all over again.
To say I was pumped for Longhorn would be a vast understatement, I pretty much did a happy dance the day I signed up, and had not stopped smiling since. After my 3 month clearance from my doctor, I started building a solid swim and bike foundation over the summer. After my 6 month, I began increasing body weight and time on the Alter G, and was antsy to get back out there. Initially I signed up for Kerrville aqua bike because I knew for sure a short Olympic distance swim and bike were no problem, but what I really wanted to do was a half ironman. But would it be enough time? Longhorn was only 8 months post hip surgery – could I do it? I decided right then and there that I could, and immediately signed up, and didn’t look back. I nailed my longer rides on the weekends and hit the Alter G with a renewed drive, increasing my body weight, as well as time, so I could build up to longer runs of 1:15/1:30. My new mantra was “you have to set yourself on fire,” after one of my favorite quotes, and if you have never heard of it, here it is…enjoy.
“Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.” –Reggie Leach
|Yep, wore that flame necklace race day. All about the symbolism.|
My whole body was humming with excitement the morning of Longhorn – it had been four years since I had done one of these, and I here I was ready to give it a go. It felt a little surreal, and I was anxious to get my day started, but unfortunately, there would be quite a bit of waiting this time around. I arrived early, knocked out transition stuff, then got ready for the swim, except that they had to postpone the swim start because there was really thick fog, so thick that you could not even see the buoys out on the lake. So hubs, baby girl, and I sat down and waited – I watched them play and continued to visualize my race for the day. It seemed like we had waited forever, and at about 8:45 they finally called off the swim and said it would be a time trial bike start, beginning with lowest numbers working their way up to the highest. I was pretty disappointed the swim was canceled – not only was it my thing, but I had been having some really great workouts lately, and really wanted to see how far under 30 min I could go. Had to switch gears quickly though, no time to mope about the swim, because I also came to Longhorn to PR the bike, and that’s what I was determined to do. Whether the swim would have warmed me up for the bike or would have made me more tired for the bike I will never know, just had to work with the circumstances I was given that day. My number was #1568 so we had quite a bit of time before my row was up, so in the meantime, I chatted with my competitors around me, finding out that quite a few of them were from out of town - one told us about her first half at Steelhead, the other about her tri adventures in Colorado. I told them about my hip surgery, and come to find out another guy had knee surgery a couple years ago and this was his first half back too. The camaraderie really is next to none in this sport, and one of the things I love so much about it. Soon it was time for us to head up to the bike out, and I felt like my body had been buzzing all morning for this moment –it was finally here…I was really going to get to do this! I hopped on my bike and heard my friends cheering loudly for me and as I went by, I yelled
“…that took forever!” Not sure if I was referring just to the morning, or this journey as a whole. Either way, true on both accounts.
|Me and my sweet girl while we waited for the possible swim start.|
|Right before swim was canceled. Always love watching them play.|
|All smiles heading out. I'm really going to get to do this!|
The bike was a bit of a cluster coming out transition, so initially I was nervous heading out onto the course. Bikes were everywhere and the road was crowded, and suddenly I was afraid on the bike again. We were riding out of the expo center onto 3177 and I was seriously irritated about the swim being canceled. I was behind a bunch of riders, I could not get in my aero bars, and was wondering at this pace how the heck I could possibly PR this course, which apparently was even harder than the one I rode in 2012. As we turned right onto Lindell, I told myself to suck it up, that I wanted to be here in this moment right now so I needed to seize this opportunity. So I did. I went aero and hit the gas, and refused to let up. It was a game, to see how many people I could catch before the next turn. And the next. And the next. I had never said “on your left!” so much before ever in my life in any race up to this point, so it was a nice change of pace. I felt fast in my new aero helmet and race wheels, and that mental edge I know made a difference for me on the bike. The aero helmet hubs had gotten for me as a birthday gift right after our baby girl was born a couple of years ago, but then the hip went out so I couldn’t use it. It was brand new and it was amazing. And the wheels – oh man I should have invested in these long time ago, they rode like a dream. And I was beyond thankful that Bicycle Heaven was able to get them to me in time for race day. Aero helmet + race wheels + fire & drive = hell of a bike split. I yelled “Go Smash!” to my smash teammies, and told fellow competitors “great job!” as we flew down the course. I was having the best time out there, and as always, was enjoying the sufferfest. I looked down at my watch at 28 miles and when it said 1:27 I yelled out “YESSSSSS!” I was on track to go under 3 and I was stoked! When I hit the early 30s some fatigue set in but I pushed through it, determined to hold the pace I was going – I could not let up if I wanted to reach my goal. I stopped quickly at the third aid station for a banana and a water to toss over myself – I was getting hot, and I could feel my legs fading a bit…after the stop I rode strong for the next 10-12 miles knowing the finish would be just around the corner. There were some decent hills in there for us at the end, definitely testing our will. As I charged up each one, I could almost hear the hill ask me “how bad do you want this?” My legs responded, and before I knew it I was down to the last 6 miles…almost home! However, like the piano falling the last 50 in the 200 fly, my legs at this point were absolutely trashed. The 20+ mph that felt easy earlier was long gone, replaced by the struggle to keep myself going at 15 mph. I watched my Garmin carefully, and each mile cleared was another mini victory. I didn’t quite beat my goal of breaking 3 hours, but 3:09 was still a solid split. And a 15 min PR off of my previous best bike time in 2012! As I rolled into transition I smiled big as I heard my friends cheering again, and I saw my hubs and baby girl right as I was getting off the bike so I blew them a kiss. Successful bike done. Now it was time to see what I had for the run.
|Big smiles on the bike. Kept the foot on the gas all day.|
|Determined to crush the bike. Heading for a PR!|
As I put on my shoes I got chills of excitement, could not wait to get out there. As I jogged towards the transition exit I teared up, this was the moment I had really been waiting for all day, and it was here. Just needed to smile and enjoy whatever came my way! Looked down at my Garmin as I ran out and saw the 9:30 – wouldn’t see that again all day, not even close, but it was exciting nevertheless. I was fairly hot so I put some ice in my tri top pretty much straightaway, and continued to do so throughout the race. I thought I would be good to go with my gels and blocks, but I guess after taking them on the bike my body was tired of them and refused to cooperate. So I adapted, and instead took bananas and oranges at quite a few stations, and coke would pretty much be my saving grace for the day - I took it at every station. I ran quite a bit of the first loop, and the hip felt great, but my legs were done. Quads pretty much screamed at me the whole time, and my pace remained pretty slow, but forward momentum was the name of the game, and that I could do. Big high fives to my friends as I was finishing the first lap which gave me a huge boost of energy. And I yelled “I’m doing this!” as I passed by them and it was an incredible feeling to be out there on that course again. Had been hoping to see the hubs and baby girl on that first loop but I would eventually see them on the third and at the finish, long story short baby girl refused to come out of the air conditioned stadium, saying it was too hot. This cracked me up because indeed, it felt like a sauna out there. Out of the mouths of babes. Start of the second loop I got more high fives from my awesome crew and Kris jogged with me for a minute and said I was doing great! I felt strong after that energy from my squad but unfortunately it was short lived, and loop 2 turned into more of a walk/run loop with the run portions becoming more of a shuffle. I was disappointed when I had to walk but reminded myself that the walking was going to be inevitable, not only were the legs trashed but this was my first run outside in gravity since the surgery, and my first half marathon since January 2014. It had been awhile, and I was asking a lot of my body, and so far it was delivering. As I headed in to complete my second loop, I received more high fives from my awesome crew, and Kris relayed the message that the fam were inside the stadium, so I would see them shortly. And as I rounded the loop near the stadium, I looked at my Garmin, and it was 1:56, and I thought to myself that four years ago I would have been close to finishing since I ran a 2:03 half at that race, so again, I was disappointed in myself for a moment. Then I was humbled, and reminded myself it had only been 8 months since my hip surgery and here I was! I wanted to do a half ironman so bad and I was here, and I was doing it! Loop 3 was definitely my slowest lap with the most walking, and it was definitely painful and not always all smiles, but I kept telling myself to stay in the moment, enjoy the sufferfest, and that I was almost there! 3:06 for my official run/walk time but not too shabby for first time back!
|Grateful for my awesome crew out there cheering me on all day! #squad|
|The donuts were back! #squad #willrunfordonuts|
|Getting after it! Pumped for my first run back!|
|High fives give you wings!|
|First one back was a run/walk...but forward momentum was the name of the game!|
|Loved being out there!|
I started jogging as I headed up the hill after mile 12 on into the finish, saw my hubs and sweet girl and gave them both kisses, then kept running for the finish chute. As I entered the shoot, another competitor passed me and said congrats, what a hard day it was out there. I told him congrats too as he ran by, and that the hard is what had made it great. Don’t know if he heard that last part as he was heading into the finish but I couldn’t help it – it was true for the day, it was true for the journey. As I headed into the stadium I almost felt like a newbie again, and smiled big all the way to that finish. Hubs and baby girl were there waiting for me, as were Brian and Orissa, and of course there were some tears. I had been thinking of this day long before I ever registered for it, long before I ever had surgery. I had come full circle. I really did this. 6:21 was my overall time, and factoring in a 30 min swim, I would have finished close to 7 hours, which is what I was shooting for going into the day. 6:30 would have been nice, but that was pretty ambitious, especially since my half ironman PR from 2012 was 6:13. Pretty sure I wasn’t going to be breaking any PRs 8 months post-surgery. Breaking the bike one was icing on the cake.
|What a great day!|
|Grateful for all the cheers and support!|
|Ultimate support crew! #myworld #lovethemtopieces|
I love this sport. The people. The sufferfest. All of it. I could not have made it this far on this journey without the unwavering support from all of my family, friends, coaches, teammates. My mantra may have been “you have to set yourself on fire," but you are only able to do that with the help of others who inspire you, who believe in you, who love you – that is really what sets you ablaze. I do not know as of yet what is next on the docket for me in 2017, but as the fire in my soul continues to burn, you can be sure that I will be ready to “ignite the night like a phoenix.”
“…I say a good love is one that casts you into the wind, sets you ablaze, makes you burn through the skies and ignite the night like a phoenix; the kind that cuts you loose like wildfire and you can’t stop running simply because you keep on burning everything that you touch…” -- C. Joybell C.