New Orleans 70.3 is a great race for several reasons… the incredible southern hospitality, ability to get great seafood, the fact that they give you things like this (photo below) in your goody bag… warm weather and oh yes, the fact that the swim tends to get cancelled due to extreme weather. Not that I don’t love a good swim, but it’s exciting to race and not have to work my way up from the back of the pack once in awhile!
I headed down to New Orleans on Thursday night directly from work to catch the 2-hour flight to New Orleans. Thanks to Tri-Bike Transport’s gracious support of Ironman pros, I was able to fly sans-bike for the first time in awhile, which was SO NICE. Plus, they take amazing care of your bike- I’ve used them for several events now as an amateur and now as a pro- they are awesome. Unfortunately, my flight was delayed, the shuttle and rental car fetching took forever, and so I ended up getting to my homestay at 1 am. The family I stayed with, the Chimentos, were SO gracious and wonderful, I’m so blessed to have gotten to stay with them for the weekend- they truly made me feel at home, and even left me a bowl of snacks in my room!
The days leading up to the race were not too eventful… much of my time was spent doing work (busy time at my full-time job) interspersed with a good amount of sleep, some solid taper workouts, the usual pre-race committments, a great dinner with friends on Friday night where we had some really authentic New Orleans fare, and an awesome sushi dinner (which happens to be my favorite pre-race meal!) with the Chimentos on Saturday night before the race.
The race day forecast was for a storm front to move through with very strong winds, so was talk of cancelling the swim. Sure enough, Saturday around 2pm, we received the official word that the swim would be cancelled, to be replaced with a 2 mile run prior to the bike. This was exciting as I feel like I’ve made some progress with running in the last month and was more than happy to have the 1.2 mile swim replaced with a 2 mile run. At the same time, the super windy conditions (30mph winds) that were in the forecast made me a bit nervous for the bike since I was planning on riding a disc, more nervous after they told us at the pro meeting that they would really not recommend riding a disc for the race (though pretty much every pro showed up on race day with a disc). Sure enough, the winds really picked up on Saturday evening. By Saturday night, large trees were swaying, I could hear really strong gusts outside all night.
I like picking out a Bible verse before each race and thinking about it prior to the race and during the race when things get tough, as they do in every race whether it’s a “good” kind of tough or a “bad” kind of tough. This time I picked out a verse from Isaiah 41:
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my righteous right hand.”
On race morning I got up at 4:30am and I was pretty wide awake. Had my usual pre-race coffee, and some liquid calories (I find it extremely hard to eat solid foods before a race… probably one of the only times I find eating difficult!) including half of a Naked tropical protein smoothie and a Boathouse Farms strawberry banana smoothie. I had planned to eat a Powerbar too, but this was just not going to be happening today. Stomach was not feeling like it could stomach any food.
I got to the race site about 5:15 and pulled out the trainer in the parking lot to do my bike warmup (thanks also to my homestay host for lending me his trainer… yet another thing I did not have to travel with this time around!!) Did a good 15-minute warmup with some 30 second pickups, then went to transition to get situated. Setting up trasition for a run-bike-run is different from setting up for a swim-bike-run, and required some thought to make sure key pieces were not missing. I then headed out for a 12-minute warm-up run, spent some time loosening up my legs on the foal roller (buoy),hydrated and took some First Endurance Pre-Race, and before I knew it, they were kicking us out of transition.
It was COLD waiting for the start. I was glad we were the first to start, and did not envy the people who had to wait around for close to an hour without warm clothing as there was seemingly no morning clothes drop at this race. Pretty soon it was time for the national anthem and pre-race prayer, which expressed thankfulness for being healthy and able to compete here today. I truly feel blessed to be healthy, injury-free, and the means and support to race as a pro, but in the hours leading up to a race, it’s sooo easy to take this for granted when all you can focus on is the pain that lies ahead!
RUN 1- 2.2 miles, 12:20
Pretty soon the pro women were lining up… felt like a track race! I chose the inside part of the lane. Then the gun and we were off! The plan was to run at no harder than a 10k effort per coach Eric, which is about a 5:50/mile pace for me. I felt like we were going about this pace or maybe even a bit slower, though I wasn’t looking at my Garmin too much since the group was tightly bunched and I didn’t want to trip over anyone. First mile was a 5:37 (a little fast!) but the second mile settled down to a 5:50 pace. This pace felt fine and not out of control… I came into transition with the first group of about 9 women, and once we got into transition it turned into a sprint for the bikes! I was definitely not the quickest one out- had trouble with my helmet, and lost about 10 seconds there- transitions are definitely something to work on.
BIKE- 52 miles, 2:13:45 (5th fastest)
I tried to get on the bike quickly and catch up to the group of women who had beat me out of transition. I gradually worked my way up to 4th place in the first 10 miles of the bike. It was definitely windy, especially with some mean crosswinds when descending off the bridges, but overall not too bad at all in terms of bike handling. My Rudy Project wingspan helmet was awesome in the wind- even though it was so windy, I felt like it was slicing through the air with little disturbance. Things were going pretty well for the first half of the bike and I was able to hold my goal power output, but this started to drop in the latter half especially in sections with a tailwind- I couldn’t find the proper gear to really put out a good wattage – kind of odd, since I felt like my effort was pretty high. After the race, I also realized I only comsumed half my bottle of calories- which would probably play a factor later on during the run. I came into T2 in 4th place, with the 5th fastest bike split of the day despite my issues, which I was fairly happy with though I need to work on being able to sustain my power throughout the bike in different conditions.
RUN- 13.1 miles, 1:27:06 (70.3 PR)
Into T2 and a quick change into my shoes, and I was off running… in the wrong direction. Quickly turned around but by this time Mirinda Carfrae and Magali Tissere, who came into T2 right behind me, had caught up passed me as we exited T2. It was clear that I was NOT going to be keeping up with them- they ended up running a 1:19 and a 1:22- My first mile was a 6:15 and they had already gained over 100 meters on me by that point- so I tried to settle into my goal pace of 6:30, which I was able to hold for the first 7 miles. Around the 5 mile mark, Caitlin Snow came clipping by (she would run a 1:18 half) and I just tried to focus on my form and effort level- and on keeping cool and hydrated- it was starting to feel pretty warm out there! Around mile 9 I was passed again and my pace was slipping to 6:40 or so. The last 4 miles were not so fun… I think my lack of calories on the bike was starting to affect my legs… around mile 10 I started to get foot cramps/ charlie horse in one foot…. I prayed that this would stay at bay for the next few miles since it was really uncomfortable and messing with my form, making it hard to push off and making me feel like I was going to trip. Getting in some sports drink at each aid station definitely helped, but then the foot cramp would slowly resurface during the next mile. Not something I've ever experienced before during a run- only during swims! Finally, I could hear the announcer in transition and there was the finish! Came across in 8th with a 1:27:06 run (a 6:38 pace, and though I definitely think I’m capable of going quite a bit faster, is actually a 70.3 PR for me). Definitely happy with the way this race went, but also motivated to improve some things with my biking, running, and racing, not to mention swimming.
I didn’t have time to do too much exploring after the race but did make it to a Bikram Yoga class in an incredibly cute part of New Orleans on Sunday evening, which really helped me loosen up and feel better after the race.
Many thanks to Coach Eric for such a solid training plan and great guidance on training and racing, and to all of the fantastic great sponsors that have supported myself and the Fast Forward Triathlon Pro Development Team and helped us achieve our goals: Inside Out Sports, Rudy Project, Cervelo, Computrainer, First Endurance, Skin Sake,CEP Compression, Training Peaks, Prevail Conditioning, SPaRC, and FSSeries.
Thanks also to Will Jones of 4D Fitness for lending me a shallower front race wheel which made my bike handle much better in the wind, TriBike Transport for supporting pros this year with bike transport and doing such a stellar job at it, Lee Ann Leblanc for the great dinner at Mandina’s, and to my incredible homestay hosts, the Chimentos!
Next race: Columbia Triathlon on May 20th.