This past Sunday I earned 2nd Place at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships! Woooooohoooooo! I am so ecstatic with this result given the depth of the field this year- definitely the deepest, talented field I've ever raced. With such a mix of short-course specialists, 70.3 focused racers, as well as Ironman/Kona competitors bringing strength and endurance, there appeared to be so many ways the race could possibly play out. In the end it was really 2 words: Mel Hauschildt :) Such a huge congrats to her for earning the rainbow stripes with such a dominating performance!!!! Great job Mel!
Race morning was pretty much the opposite of last year: pouring rain and much cooler temperatures. What-up Vegas? We were ready for a scorcher again :) Kidding, but this definitely factored into race approaches/tactics: maybe go a bit harder on the bike while it's still raining and cooler, as well as push those corners (the few there are) and downhills knowing some people might be a little more hesitant there with slick conditions.
Zoot Swimskin, Aquasphere Kayenne Goggle Swim: After a short jog/stretch warm-up, some stretch cords and a few trips to the bathroom, I pulled on my Zoot Swimskin and Aquasphere Kayenne goggles and got in line near the ramp into the water. The guys went off at 6:30, with us 4 minutes later. A quick warm-up and we were lined up across the two start buoys. Pretty much one game plan here- as hard as I could for the entire swim to try and limit the gap the ITU girls were clearly going to get. I lined up next to Mel at the start and was hoping I could use her to pace off of in the water and hopefully get out with onto the bike. The starting gun went off and I managed to stay on her hip for about 300-400 meters or so before we got swallowed up and mixed in with a big pack. Some elbows and hands to the head, mouthfuls of water, and the huge pack started to sort out. I had lost Mel's hip but was only a couple of people behind her (I could see her bright green swim cap), and everyone, at least around me (there were other groups that broke off up ahead), was staying pretty much together in a group so I tried to settle in. This group of 5-6 or so stayed somewhat together until the 2 buoy-turn-around when I sighted a few times and saw that Mel was up ahead and splitting off on her own. Noooooo! I could see her going but there wasn't much I could do. My arms were so heavy by now and I was doing all I could to stay with the 3-4 girls around me. I just tried to stay positive and focus in on my breathing, form, and getting to that final red buoy you make the left around before exiting the swim. I was finally at the exit ramp and pulling off my cap and goggles, I saw Angela Naeth right ahead of me. Okay! That's good... I know she is a strong cyclist and think that we could help push the pace up to the girls who are already up the road. I sprinted around the edge of the lake and into T1. I grabbed my helmet, my Cannondale Slice, and sprinted up the hill out of transition.
Cannondale, SRAM, Zipp, ISM Saddles, Speedfil, Herbalife24, SRM Bike: I gunned it from the start knowing the gap to the lead was going to be something around 3-4 minutes, I was just hoping it was closer to the 3minute mark. Ummmm nope. I heard someone yell, "A little over 4minutes to the lead." UGH. haha. Lot's of work to be done! The game plan had been to push it pretty hard for the first 10-15miles or so to try and close the gap on one of the tougher parts of the course- the hills right out of the water, both the uphills and the downhills. I made my way out of the park, the right turn down a mile or so to where you have to go underneath the highway before popping back out again and heading north towards the park. It was after this (mile 5 or so) that I saw Wattie and Cliff on the side of the road. They screamed about 3:30 to the leaders but :40seconds up to Mel. I thought, Okay, just put an effort in to try and get up to Mel first.
I started pushing a little above my normal half-Ironman pace and made my way up the first pretty big hill in the park. My Cannondale Slice was flawless as always, with my SRAM components, Zipp disc and 808 front, as well as my ISM Breakaway saddle. A huge thank you to Wattie for always cleaning and taking care of my bike and keeping it running perfectly. Back to that first big hill after entering the park, it was around here that Angela Naeth pulled by me. Okay! Perfect, we could start pushing it. Ang is a really strong rider and was really pushing the pace the entire way out to the turn-around. We started picking off girls who had swam quicker, including a few groups riding together at a couple of points. This can be tricky because you only have 25 seconds to pass, and if you have to pass a line of 6 girls, it can take quite an effort to get up past all legally, especially when you have a draft marshall right next to you watching your every move. The last thing I would want is a penalty- that could be the race right there. So a few times the pace got slowed way down as approaching groups of girls caused some jockeying for position in a legal pace line. I just kept thinking, Okay, you have to get away from this.
So we made it to the turn-around and I thought, You have to go now! I had seen the front group and gotten somewhat of a time idea- I think it was around 3minutes and then Mel was still not with them yet, but only about a minute back (so two minutes up on me). Mel was gaining time, which was not good! I started pushing again, occasionally glancing down at my SRM to get an idea of where I was at. I climbed the first big climb after the turn around and looked back, there was no one there now! I knew it was time to just put my head down and go to work. There was about 25miles left and I knew the front girls were up there together riding hard. I also knew from last year that I hadn't had anything left after the climb out of the park- both a lack of food/energy and from having gone too hard too early. So this year was just repeating in my head, Time to go, keep pushing but patience...patience...be patient. Don't load the legs too, TOO much... I made sure to keep taking in my Herbalife24 Hydrate from my OldSchool Speedfil :) A huge thanks to Speedfil for making me a custom Herbalife24 cooling sleeve to keep my Hydrate in my Speedfil super cold:) Drink, hydrate, stay up on your nutrition....
I climbed out of the park, down the Parkway and made the right onto Warm Springs. Every year this is the worst part because you are almost done and you are going downhill so you think you might have somewhat of a relief, but it is always a headwind...and it's always longer to the left onto Gibson than I remember. Finally, onto Gibson and I tried to push it knowing that everyone was hurting at this point. Don't lose time here! I kept turning my legs, although they were feeling heavier and heavier, and trying to get some final Herbalife24 Hydrate into me. I made the left onto Paseo Verde and the final couple of miles to T2. Just as I was pulling out of my bike shoes, I saw Lisa Norden run out of the penalty tent in front of me and hand off her bike. I handed off mine and ran into T2, grabbing my transition bag. I unbuckled my helmet while running, pulled my Zoot Kiawe's and Fuelbelt race belt out, pulled my Zoots on and sprinted out of the transition tent.
Zoot Kiawe, Fuelbelt, Oakley, Run: Out onto the run I just started as hard as I could. I knew I had work to do and I also wanted to get away from Lisa, as I wasn't sure how she would be running. I made it about half a mile before I saw Wattie and Cliff. They were yelling that 5th place was just up ahead only about 20-30seconds. So, the first goal was to get there. This was pretty much the theme the entire run. Just make my way up spot by spot. I knew Mel had made an insurmountable lead on the bike and was continuing to dominate with her amazing running, but there was still the race for "second best" haha :) I just kept pushing as hard as I could.
I completed the first lap and knew there were about 8miles or so left. Time to go to work. I had done 8x1mile repeats up and down a hill just like the Vegas course about 4 weeks in a row. I just kept saying in my head, You've done this so much harder in training. I was taking in water every aid station and trying to remember to keep the engine cool, as it was starting to warm up.
Through 2 of the laps and I had ran my way into 3rd. This just left Annabel Luxford left. I made it past the hot corner and saw Cliff and Wattie again. "YOU HAVE TO GO NOW!" Cliff was shouting. I had about 3 miles left and Annabel was up by about 36 seconds. I started doing the math- I needed to be running about 15sec/mile faster. I wasn't sure if I was doing that or not. I was really hurting at this point and wasn't sure I had anything left to push any harder. I made my way down the downhill part and made the right to the turn-around. Annabel wasn't that far up! You can do this! You've got this! Don't settle! This is just like the final 2 miles of the 8x1mile workout. I pushed my legs, kept them turning over. I made it past the hot corner, past the library and made the final left for the last 3/4mile uphill. Thank you so much to everyone who was on course cheering and screaming so loudly- it kept me going all day! It was awesome, even if I didn't look up:) Especially the Wattie Inkers- AmaZING. haha. So loud:) The final left and Annabel was just ahead of me! I picked up my cadence. Just one final effort!
I picked up my pace and pulled alongside her. She held out her hand, shaking mine and saying great job. Thanks Bella! Great job to you! I kept pushing all the way to the top of the hill and to the turn-around. I flipped around and saw I had made a bit of a gap. All I needed to do was hold on for the downhill. Only about a half-mile to go! Quarter mile...I made the final right-hand turn and could see the finishing chute. I had pulled off silver! I was sooooo happy! I high-fived down the chute and crossed the line- ECSTATIC!!!! This was my fourth time racing the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and I have placed 5th, 4th, 3rd, and now 2nd. Mt. Tremblant 2014 T-360 days! :)
I want to say a huge thank you to Ironman for putting on a great World Championships event. To Frank Lowery (Race Director), his staff and volunteers, as well as the City of Henderson- thank you for hosting us and for such an unbelievable event. I love this course and am a bit sad to see the venue switch next year- it's been awesome! To all of the volunteers- thank you guys so much for being out there, especially in the pouring rain at the start of the day. These races couldn't happen without you! THANK YOU. To all the fans and supporters on course cheering- amazing! To all of my competitors- thanks for pushing the pace all day and great job! Great job Bella for 3rd and again, a huge congrats to Mel! To EVERYONE who raced- congrats! That is a TOUGH course.
To all of my personal sponsors: THANK YOU, THANK YOU over and over again. Thank you for your support all season. You make pursuing the best I can be in this sport possible. Thank you Zoot, Cannondale, Herbalife, Wattie Ink., ISM Saddles, SRAM, Zipp, Speedfil, Fuelbelt, Aquasphere, SRM, Oakley, SpiderTech, ERO Sports, Recovery Pump, 454 Tattoo, Rebound Physical Therapy, Hypoxico, Biotta, and 10 Barrel Brewery :) To the Wattie Ink. Team- you guys rock. Thank you for all your cheering out there, as well as those tweeting, messaging, and more. That and your support all season has been amazing! A special thanks to Chuck for all the behind-the-scenes help. To my sister Biffster...for being as hilarious as you are and always keeping me laughing and smiling and having fun and for being there on Sunday cheering me on. Thank you to my parents for their support in everything I do and especially for flying out from NH and being there Sunday. A huge congrats to my Mom for racing! To my brother Bobby and Ali up in Bend, as well as the rest of my family back in NH for their support and watching/cheering Sunday. Judy Watkins- for always being the first to congratulate me after every event:) Casey at Herbalife- thank you for coming up to Bend during the lead up, your support all season and being there Sunday! Tamas- for the massage work up in Bend, thanks! For the "good luck" texts from the same people before every race all season- you know who you are. Thank you, those get me so pumped the day before.
I can't thank my coach, Cliff , enough....For such amazing coaching, support, and guidance. For sharing your experience and knowledge in the sport. For coming up to Bend for the final few weeks of prep and nailing those final key sessions. Thank you for everything Cliff!!!! And also Mel- thanks for your support!!!
And Wattie- you are my everything! THANK YOU. I love you so much and couldn't do this without you. For all the support, the talks, the early nights to bed, cooking/eating good meals, drives up to the lake, pulling your Froome attacks for me to chase on all those hill repeats, for handing me water bottles during all my runs, for driving us all the way down here while I had my feet up and slept... :) And so much more. Thank you W. xoxo
And, of course, thank you to all of YOU, whoever might be reading :) haha. My friends, family, and fans... I appreciate all of your support!!!! The messages/emails, etc.- THANK YOU so much. To get a note saying you inspire just one person makes the training and racing all worth it. You guys are amazing! Good luck to everyone with the rest of the season- enjoy it! SMILE :) xoxo hj