On one of my fun facts that I shared with my friends on Instagram, I expressed that I did complete an Ironman 70.3 - from that fact alone I had a billion (OK, like 50, but who's counting) ask for more details about that day. So, I'm here to share just that. But, mind you - it wasn't just that day, it was 6+ months of training. I did complete this grueling journey a few years back, I'll try to share every detail that I can remember; so you too, can feel like you did it with me...lucky you.
So, lets rewind a bit. I'm very much a goal orientated person. I need something to focus on to stay motivated. I always like new challenges and the fact that most of the time; people say "you're crazy" when I sign up for these types of things...secretly gives me more motivation. At this point in my life, I wanted something legit crazy. The Triathlon scene in ATL is pretty big and I always heard people talking about it and a few of my friends had already completed triathlons and were hooked. At that moment, I was like - "yup, I want that drug". I want to be addicted to it.
I started doing mild research on it; what it was (whoops!), how to do it; ya know, the basics. Well, during that research I found out that there was one in Miami. I thought, perfect! I'll see family and try not to die, seems like a win/win. It'll be a perfect combo. So, what did I do? I signed up for it. I have about 6(ish) months to train and complete it. Luckily for me, I wasn't in horrible shape; but, like most people I could always improve on XYZ. Also, another fun fact: I swam in HS. Other fun fact: open water swimming is a million times different than lane/pool swimming.
Actually, let me back up. I realized that maybe I was going too far into the details about an Ironman 70.3 and you where like..."cool, brah - but like, what is that?" So, an Ironman 70.3 is a 1.2 mile open water swim, 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run. Easy, right?
Either way, I reached out to my friend that had completed a Triathlon and she and her husband swam with the ATL Masters at a HS close to where I was living. I woke up at 5am (yes, I woke up at that hour. Yes, I'm the same girl that can barely speak at 9am without 15 hrs of sleep), met them up at the pool and did the coaches' swim workout. This swim practice was every Tuesday/Thursday at 5:45am. On top of that, I realized that my 3 days a week of 45min spin class wasn't going to cut it. So, on top of that - I would either ride 30-50 miles outside on my sweet new Tri bike or 3/45 min Flywheel classes...back-to-back. Also, these couldn't be leisurely rides...I had to kill it. Every. Damn. Time. Needless to say, my legs didn't really come back until 6 months after the race. Now, let's bring on the running. I would run 2-3 times a week and my mileage would range between a quick 3 miles to a long 10-12 miles a day. Yes, if you're doing the math...there were A LOT of two-a-days. I mean...A LOT. I also had to mix in some strength training in there so my poor muscles didn't collapse and then I'd get injured.
Now the fun part. Brick workouts. Yea, you're supposed to combine them. Well, because I was an inexperienced dummy and didn't really have guidance. I learned this later on in my training. So, these vary - there is different mileage you do, but you should really do a long bike ride and then get off your bike and crush a 2+ mile run. I thought; hey, this is a no brainer...seems easy. I was wrong. You're breathing is so different and the functioning of your leg muscles is so different. I wish I would've learned this earlier on in my training. I think it would've helped me even more on race day. But, you know what they say hindsight is 20/20.
So, this brings me to race day. 6+ months of training (albeit, not perfect) and a practice Sprint Triathlon (.5 mile swim, 12 mile bike and 3.1 mile run). That sprint was terrifying...mainly because that was my first open water swim, in a lake. It was dark and scary. So, come race day, I was most stressed about the swim. 1. It was in the ocean...and sharks, 2. I had flashbacks of that lake swim and had to give myself major pep talks. Honestly, I was the strongest at swimming and the most terrified by it. Race morning, the announcer said: "this bay is covered in jelly fish. You're welcome to opt out of the swim and we will not DQ you" - I thought "Ah-ha!" this is my moment to skip it. But, that's not me. I'm not a quitter and I didn't wake up for 6+ months at 5am to swim for nothing. So, I snapped my cap on and said "let's effin do this".
Well, the announcer was not wrong. The jelly fish were insane. I was stung 4 times pretty badly. One wrapped around my foot and hung on for the entirety of the 1.2 miles. One clung to my face until someone kicked it off of me (both, pleasant experiences). One decided that I needed to have a sweet arm band tattoo and wrapped itself nicely around my bicep. To say, that getting the hell out of that water as fast as possible was my motivation would be an huge understatement. If I could've found a jet pack and blasted out, that would've been too slow. Well, 34(ish) minutes later, I was out. The best part, I could see my entire family cheering me on when I was running to my first transition. Which in the Tri world, is apparently a big freaking deal. Everyone always asks "what was your T1, T2?" If you get those times down, you're a rockstar. Let me tell you something, I'm not a pro by any means...but, that got into my head. I wish I would've taken one extra second to breathe. Because, your breath comes and goes quickly during this race.
Nonetheless, I was on my bike for a fun little 56 mile ride. When looking at the map, I was like - score! Flat road out and back. I've been training in the hilly mountains of ATL; this should be a breeze. Well, a breeze it was. We had 30MPH head winds coming back. The way out was awesome. I was hitting 20MPH and feeling like a badass. I was on pace to crush my goal. Well, here comes the turn to head back...BAM! I went from feeling like a rockstar to thinking, my legs were no way going to make it back to the beach (where T2 was). I spent a good 10 miles trading spots with a fellow racer and it was hilariously awful. Oh! You also remember those lovely Jelly's from the swim? Ya, well, they came back during this part. Apparently a lot of them got so chopped up by swimmers, that they landed in my race kit...I was getting stung in some interesting places and had to pull the tentacles out one-by-one. It felt awesome. However, something switched in my brain, I guess you could call it; adrenaline; I was focused and ready to get to the run. A casual 3(ish) hours later, I finally made it to T2.
Well, ladies and gentlemen...I bring you to the 13.1 mile run. Remember when I was talking briefly about how important brick workouts are? And how I learned about them late into training? Ya, doing those from day 1; would've been crucial. I honestly could not catch my breath for about 3 miles; from peddling my ass off against that wind to rushing through T2 to get to the run, almost killed me. If nothing else, a triathlon is nothing short of a pure mental game. I put one foot in front of the other (slowly) and kept telling myself; "you got this, you are stronger than you think" Ya, I got real real cheesy during this part. I also knew that Miami was pretty flat and that there should be nothing too altering to mess up my stride. I was wrong. You know bridges that go over nice bodies of water? Well, take those bridges and imagine that a mega-yacht has to go through them. I mean, almost like 30,000 feet in the air. That is what I had to run over 4x. FOUR TIMES. That was brutal. When I looked down at my watch I was shocked how on pace I was. That third time over the bridge, my pace went to shit. My body started failing on me. Its like my legs were no longer connected to my brain and wanted to give up. I downed flat soda, ate my Gu and kept trying to power through. When I look back at some of the pictures, I realized that it looked as if I was power walking and not running - but in my mind, I was Usain Bolt. After 2:45; I saw the beautiful site of a finish line. People screaming and cheering. I knew, if I could make it .5 mile more; I would be there, I would complete something I've worked so hard for and ultimately proved all my haters wrong. There it was - boom! I nailed it.
People often ask me, did you hit your time goal? No, why - because I didn't have one. My goal was to finish the race and give it my all. I think if I were a professional and/or if I did it again, I would give myself a time goal, why? Because I know what to expect now, how to train better and some of the obstacles that I could potentially come across. The things I was most worried about, didn't happen. The things I had no idea would happen; made me stronger. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done and one of the most rewarding things I've ever accomplished. If you have a gut instinct to do one, do it. Don't let the fear take over. Its a huge time and physical commitment; but that moment you cross that finish line, makes it all worth it.
Huge THANK YOU to my Friends, Family and my Husband for sticking by my, feeding me, massaging my legs and putting up with me during that insane time of training. I love you all more than you know!
My Race Times recapped below: