Due to the terrible weather systems moving through the south, our flight out of DC on Thursday sat on the runway for about 2 hours before taking off, so we missed our connecting flight to St. Croix. We had to wait around the St. Thomas airport for about 4 hours standby for a spot to open up on a Cape Air flight. Food on the flight from DC and in the St. Thomas airport food was scarce, not great quality and EXPEN$$IVE ($12 for a turkey sandwich?) and all food vending shut down at 5pm. By 6, I was STARVING. Usually I am well prepared when it comes to bringing food on trips but that day had really dropped the ball. I found a small bag of Southwest airlines peanuts in my backpack leftover from my flight from NOLA 2 weeks back, and it was as if I’d discovered a gourmet dinner!
When we finally made it onto our flight, which turned out to be a 10-seater Cessna propeller plane that looked like it was built in the 80s, with no co-pilot. Hmm… thankfully we made it is all I can say.
When we finally got to St. Croix, the island was truly beautiful. Maureen kindly picked us up from the airport and had already ordered sushi for us, talk about awesome!! It was as if we’d never eaten before! After the sushi, making an omelet and a smoothie, and eating a bunch of White House m&ms from Maureen, it was time for bed.
Friday AM we went to do the organized practice swim on the race course. It was the choppiest swim I’ve ever done, with large waves and swimming against the current on the way out. The course also seemed extremely long! I was probably out there for 45 minutes. We then found the most awesome organic food café right in Christiansted, that served a lot of great smoothies and raw/ vegan foods- a little on the pricy side but extremely good and the chef there was so kind and wonderful! Definitely one of the many highlights of the trip!
Later we went on an adventure run through Christiansted and saw an abundance of chickens running around with baby chicks, a mongoose, and some other wildlife, including a bird that had been hit by a car but was still alive that we tried to help!
Saturday we got up, had a great breakfast and drove the course, which was absolutely gorgeous! Along our route, we saw a lookout point, Point Udol, which is the easternmost point in the US. We figured we might as well stop, since we’re here! There were about 5 other cars parked at the lookout point also appearing to be tourists. After parking the car and walking about 50 feet to take photos, one of the tourists came up to Maureen and told her that someone had just gone into our car and taken something, and then driven off in a blue Honda Accord. I saw her sprinting toward the car and knew something was wrong. They had stolen her backpack (with wallet/IDs/Cash and prescription swim goggles in it) but for whatever reason had NOT taken my bag with wallet/cash/ids, goggles, Chris’s running shoes and orthotics, or my phone which was sitting on the back seat. With Chris driving, we attempted to chase down the thieves and he did pretty well along the winding cliff roads, but at a fork in the road, weren’t sure which way to go so headed back toward Christiansted. We called 911 to report the theft and filed a police report once back in town, and it sounded like the police actually caught and stopped the guy who stole our backpack, but later we were told that he didn’t have any cash or anything else of value with him in the car. Whether true or not, Maureen never did get her stuff back.
Race day came with a 4am wakeup, as the female pro swim wave went off at 6:33am. Since this was such a small race, it was easy to park, set up transition and get ready- nice for a change!
The swim start was choppy as expected. I attempted to stay with the swimmers ahead of me but got separated from the pack. Toward the end of the swim I saw Chris pass by my (his swim wave started 5 mins after mine) and I was able to get on the feet of the guy drafting off him for the last 200m or so of the swim.
In T1, I was trying to move so quickly that I slapped my helmet on my head only to realize it was on backwards- quickly corrected it-- hope no one got photos of that! :-) The bike started off well but I immediately felt like my legs felt fatigued. I hadn't gotten in a bike warmup due to logistics, which would have probably helped. I ignored the feeling and expected them to get warmed up after 30 minutes or so per usual, but they never really felt good and felt like my effort level was high for the pace I was going. I drank all the water in my aero bottle and spent the first 20 miles of the ride just waiting in a state of thirst for the next aid station (which was at the top of the "beast"). The beast came up about 20 miles into the ride, and I was definitely wishing I had even easier gearing than my 11-26- it really felt like a very challenging climb, though probably in part due to my legs not feeling great to begin with. Throughout the ride I saw many packs of age group males pass by and it seemed as if the draft marshalls were constantly circling, but never doing anything. Overall, the course was filled with technical descents, many 10% grade or higher climbs, gusting winds, heat, and bad pavement. Overall, it’s the kind of course that makes you want to quit at times if you’re not prepared for it. I saw one pro female crash and another flatted, and apparently the swim waves behind mine got hit with rain on the bike and people were crashing left and right. The bad pavement took a dime-sized chunk out of Chris’s tubular tire, but thankfully the tire stayed intact otherwise. Especially since I am cautious on technical descents, my bike time showed it! However, I knew this would be a tough course for me and I wanted to be safe and finish the race rather than take risks, and was thankful to get through without anything happening to me on the bike.
After finnnally finishing the ride and starting to run, I could feel that this run would not be fast, but aimed to start out at a moderate pace and pick up the pace in loop 2. The run course was similarly hilly, hot, and humid with a few very steep hills that I could have probably walked faster than I was running (and on one particularly steep hill, reportedly most of the pros did walk up it). I took ice at every aid station and put some in my jersey and held ice cubes in each hand and even rubbed it on my face when I felt overheated, two things that really help keep my body temp down during hot races. I also took a salt tab every now and then as well as my cliff shot espresso gels, and cola. I managed a fairly consistent pace throughout the run, though not fast (although after reviewing the results, due to the conditions my run time was right in the middle of the women’s pro field even though I felt like I was going at a snails pace and my time was not fast at all!) I was happy to finally cross the finish line, finishing 9th female pro. Since the prize money went 10 deep at this race, I went home with cash despite not having the best day out there.
The St. Croix race staff also put on a cool awards dinner BBQ/ kona rolldown at a resort on the ocean the night of the race which was great- more races should do this! At the rolldown, Maureen just barely missed getting a Vegas spot by one place.
The day after the race we thoroughly enjoyed the island by going snorkeling a Cane Bay which was AWESOME, eating lunch outside overlooking the ocean, going hiking to see some tidal pools, and visiting a really interesting sustainable farm (Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute- I could write a whole blog post on the farm, it was really cool!)
Despite the challenges, it was a fun trip, great time with friends, and great experience!