This was my first real 70.3 since my severe back injury in May 2019 that almost ended my athletic career that had really just begun (I am not a natural athlete, at all.. I have to work hard to stay fit and was overweight for a long time). My big race this year is IRONMAN Arizona which will be my first full ever, and is next month… so I was not completely optimized for this race - training for a 70.3 and a 140.6 are different especially since this is my first 140.6.
Anyway, this is the first 70.3 I have gone into where I was 100% not scared of the swim. I was confident and not nervous at all about the open water — thanks to Sidney Russell and my open water swim community in San Diego. This was not La Jolla . I saw a dead duck in the river as we walked to start the swim .
My good friend Sidney came with me for the trip and I am SO grateful. She didn’t have to. But, she did. We talked the entire 5.5 hour drive to and from and we got to know each other even better. I don’t have the words to express what this woman has grown to mean to me .
We had dinner the night before with my dear friend and athlete I coached for this race - Fernando - and his beautiful wife and daughter. I am still working on my Spanish . But - His wife agreed we are friends Because we both love to talk .
Race morning I woke up at 4am, choked down a bagel with peanut butter and a cup of coffee. Was able to use the restroom (wooohoo!) . Sid French braided my hair which was perfect and then the 3 of us drove to the race.
It was already over 70 degrees without the sun. It was a very quick set up at transition, then walk about a mile down to the swim start. I seeded myself with the 40-43 min group and chatted with the guys around me. at 6:45 I got in. I was calm and did what Sid recommended which was don’t go out too fast .. yet I think I still did . Water was about 68 degrees which was very comfortable. We turned into the sunrise for the majority of the swim which was hard to see the buoys but I was just happy the nasty water didn’t smell . I got out of the water, looked at my watch and was at almost 40 minutes flat! I was so happy. This was TEN minutes off my 70.3 swim PR. No current assist. 1:55/100y pace.
I jogged into transition, and on the bike I went. The bike course was like a Mario cart game. Soooo many turns. 5U-turns we did 3 times, plus about 15 other turns. I felt good on my bike and Kept a consistent pace. I was able to drink my concentrated UCAN bottle in thirds as planned, which I had all added electrolytes too while riding, and also plain water in aero bottle. I grabbed one bottle to refill my aero from a
volunteer without stopping at an aide station and successfully chucked the bottle and landed it in the net of the last trash bucket. The guy behind me yelled “2 points!” .
I did get clipped on a turn by a guy taking a turn too fast, and it split my finger open. I yelled at him but kept riding, never even stopped pedaling . I got a drink of water, spit it on my hand and wiped the blood on my kit . Bike time: 2:49.Bike PR for a 70.3. Pace 19.7. 6th in age group off bike! I ran my bike into transition, changed shoes, helmet off, visor on, race belt and go.
Somehow, I missed the part in the athlete guide that told us that the run would be teleported to the surface of the sun . Oh boy. Hot. I walked through half of each aide station and still was maintaining a 9ish min pace so my run pace was faster…ice down kit, one cup of water on head, sip in mouth. First loop was ok. Second loop… I faded. Legs were losing power. I pep talked myself and stayed out of a dark place but I knew I was slowing way down. Wayyyy down for me/. But I got there. 2:15 half off the bike -- my slowest 70.3 run ever. But it is okay. I learned a lot.
When I crossed the finish line, I got my medal and hat and the guy who was there asked me if I wanted a photo and I said “nope I want shade ”. Haha. I found Sid and Fernando. I was shaking from adrenaline, a bit unsteady on my feet and dry but salt down my arms and legs (I’m the saltiest sweater ever ).
I quickly recovered though. Shed some tears which is Normal for me after a hard race but then I hugged my friends and when Sidney said… “Mandy, Cyndi (my coach) says congrats top 10!” I was like … what??? Normally I’m 20-25th. I came in 9th in my age group. Couldn’t believe it. so exciting!! The hardest part was that had I had a normal run for me off the bike, I likely would have been on podium. I have a goal to qualify for 70.3 worlds and so that was exciting yet gutting at once to bet that close....
Things that went well: PR Swim 10 minutes! PR Bike by 6 minutes! No GI distress at all. Bike handling skills have improved IMMENSELY. The Mandy in 2017 at her first triathlon would have never made it on this course, probably would have pulled over on a u-turn and had a panic attack. Also, at my first 70.3 I had to come to a complete stop to refill my water bottle, grab anything from the aide stations, and I struggled to even reach down and grab my bottle from the down tube. NONE of that is even a second thought anymore.
Things I learned.. a lot. I likely overbooked a bit. Looking at my data, my heart rate was higher on the bike than it really should have been to be able to have a fast half marathon off the bike. It is challenging to pace the bike perfectly - especially when you are a runner first. I have gotten so much faster on the bike over the years so it was fun to just go go go. I will take what I learned from this race to apply it to the 140.6 next month.
Thank you thank you Sidney for being the best friend and swim coach a girl could ask for. Thank you Cyndi for being my triathlon and run coach and guiding me through this journey so far. Thank you to my husband for holding down the fort each weekend without complaints and being nothing but supportive. Thank you to my parents for nothing but support even From Indiana and when you think I’m nuts. I love you can’t wait to see you next month!!! Thank you to my amazing friends in Tri Club San Diego, RIDE tri team, Fitness Lab Indy, and my old running friends in Fishers Running Club for cheering and nothing but positive energy. Last but not last, thank you to Dr. Drew and team at Allisonville Integrative Health in Fishers IN who told me to ignore those who said I wouldn't race again when I was hurt.
This is the prelude. Big stuff coming in a month.
So so grateful. Remember when they said I wouldn’t run again?