New Orleans was my first 70.3 as a pro and was excited to race! I got down to New Orleans on Wednesday the week before the race and it was definitely nice to have some time to find my way around and do some workouts on the course. Since I had brought work with me, I didn’t get to explore New Orleans too much but a friend/ training partner, Sam, showed me (and several other pros who were racing) great places to swim, run, eat, and took us on rides. He even set me up to stay with his Mom which was one of the highlights of my trip! She made an awesome dinner for us all on Friday night before the race and was an incredible hostess! She even prayed with me before the race and during the event, and had a lot of wisdom to share.
The rides we did on the course in the days leading up to the race were a bit scary—between trying to keep my bike upright, in the strong winds, avoid potholes, and cars, the rides were a little stressful. The swim course looked pretty challenging as well with waves at least 3-4 feet high the day before the race. At the pro meeting the day before the race it was suggested that if the water conditions didn’t improve, there was a chance the swim could be cancelled and the race changed to a bike – run. Sure enough, on race morning they announced that there would be no swim, and for pros this meant a time-trial start sending athletes out on the bike 30 seconds apart, in order of bib number. Since I had the second-to-last bib, I knew I’d be starting almost last and therefore have to work at the beginning of the bike to catch up to others to feel like I was really in the race.
In the first mile it became evident that this would be a WINDY ride! The winds were not gusty though, so I was glad I was racing with a disc wheel. In the first few miles of the ride I passed one woman and in the next 10 miles passed several more. I kept focusing on trying to maintain a hard tempo effort. I had decided to try racing with heartrate for the first time but for some reason my new Garmin decided not to record my heartrate today so I couldn’t use that as a guide. Since I’d raced many times without HR or any bike computer for that matter, I didn’t worry too much and decided to to err on the side of going a little too hard vs. not going hard enough, a mistake I’d made in my last race.
The winds made it challenging to hydrate and drink my nutrition, and I discovered later that I probably had about 300 calories left in my bottle that I should have consumed on the bike. My inner thigh muscle started to cramp and tighten from pedaling into a headwind for so long, so I tried to stretch it out and change positions, and after about 20 minutes it felt a bit better. The out and back nature of the course made it easy to gauge where I was relative to others, but the time-trial start made it hard to figure out how close I really was to the other pros in terms of race time. Overall the ride went by relatively quickly and I came into transition in 2:22:59.
The run started out pretty uneventfully- one other female pro started the run right ahead of me so that made it more motivating and made me feel more like I was in the race. Around mile 7 my legs were feeling a lot heavier and though I was sticking to my nutrition for the run, the 300 calories I left in my bike bottle probably cost me a bit. I tried to stay focused on keeping a good cadence and good form, rather than how many miles were left or how I was feeling, and keep racing to the next mile. It took a lot of mental focus to keep from slowing down too much, as my legs felt entirely different at mile 2 compared with mile 7- having not done many runs over 10 miles at this point in the season, this is probably to be expected. The last 3 miles seemed to take forever, but finally I saw the turn to the finish and crossed the line in 1:28 for the run. I knew I would probably be close to top 10, but there was no way of knowing until the results came out. As it turns out, I was about 30 seconds away from 10th, finishing 11th out of 21 pros. Even though the second half of the run felt tough, it was actually my fastest-ever run in an accurately-measured 70.3, so that was encouraging. I finished feeling pretty exhausted, as if all I could do was lay down, so thankfully the massage/ART tent was right by the finish and they took me in right away, so I got to relax on the massage table for a bit!