This past Saturday I earned 2nd place at one of my favorite half Ironman races- Oceanside 70.3! Having won the event last year, I obviously wanted to defend my title but Heather Wurtele was just too strong on the day. Such a huge congratulations to her for taking the win, and amazing races as well from Mere Kessler for 3rd, Julie Dibens in 4th, and Cait Snow in 5th. Well done to everyone who raced!!!!
So this is incredibly weird for me to write, as I know for a fact that I have NEVER written this after a race, EVER. hahaha. Brace yourselves... the biggest highlight of my race on Saturday was....drum roll... the SWIM!!!!! haha. It feels crazy to write but I felt the best in the race during the swim. And you can see my excitement in this picture below just as I was leaving T1...usually I'm smiling because I'm FINALLY on the bike but this smile is because I was just so excited at how the swim had gone.
So my actual swim time wasn't the fastest I've done in a half but this is the first time I feel like I actually 'raced' the entire 1.2miles. This was a huge breakthrough for me. Progress! Usually I go out as hard as I can at the start and can maybe stay with a group until anywhere from 500meter-1000meters....about the halfway point I crack! My arms fully load up, my stroke starts to fall apart and suddenly I'm alone, wandering aimlessly through the water, totally down on myself and just trying to stay positive for the final half. On Saturday, I went out as hard as I could with my friend and fellow CEC athlete Liz Lyles on my right, and Heather Wurtele to my left a little bit. The goal was to try and stay with Heather, or near her, or get on her feet if possible. After the usual scurry and craziness after the cannon went off, I didn't find myself on Heather's feet but I did find myself in a group and directly on the hip of someone to my right. This was perfect because I always breathe to my right and I could try and keep a good drafting position with this girl (not positive who it was...) who was going about exactly the same pace, maybe a little quicker. I kept my arms turning over and in a good drafting position. I was staying with her! We made it all the way out to the far end where you have to make a left, about 100 meters across and then another left and make your way back in. At the buoy, all I was thinking was: "FIGHT AROUND THE BUOY! HOLD YOUR POSITION!" This is usually where I get dropped and often it's when the pack surges at a corner or turn-around. We make it to the first buoy for our first left-hand turn and I surge a little bit to stay on the inside line. We turn and I still have people around me. We head towards the far buoy for our second left-hand turn to head back towards the swim exit. I fight again around the turn and find myself still around people and in fact feeling great. I sight up ahead and see we are coming closer to a swimmer who is alone. We catch her and keep moving. I can see the lead group or at least girls ahead up in the distance. I sight off their pink caps and the splash of the water around them. I start moving my arms quicker- they are actually moving quicker! What is going on!?!?!?!? I somehow find myself in front with no one around me anymore, although I can feel someone on my feet. I just pick it up even more knowing we are getting closer and closer to the finish. My arms aren't even heavy and I still feel smooth, focusing on every part of my stroke- just like we worked on day after day at camp in Tucson with my coach Cliff. Keep rotating, keep your hands straight on the pull, don't lose anything on the catch... We make it to the final buoy where a kayaker heads you to the right and onto the exit ramp. I stand up and start running up the ramp. As I am, I hear the announcer saying that Heather Wurtele had just entered transition. WHAT?!?!?! I look up and can see her across the transition as I start sprinting to get there myself. I make my way there and there are still tons of bikes on the rack! Usually my poor Cannondale is sitting alone :) I pull off my BlueSeventy Helix, pull on my helmet, grab my Cannondale Slice, and sprint for the exit and to get up to Heather as quickly as I can.
I'll get to the rest of the race recap but have a few HUGE thank you's I'd like to get out. Firstly, to my coach Cliff who spent most days over the past 3 weeks while we were out training in Tucson making some sort of suggestion or tip or tweak to my swim stroke. Wattie filmed my stroke underwater with my GoPro- thank you Wattie for all your filming and help and support! and tried to sort out every little thing going on. I would work on making one small change and then a few days later work on another. It's easier to grab onto one suggestion and then the next one without feeling too overloaded. Cliff was even in the water watching my stroke underwater! haha. Thanks Cliff!!!!
I would also like to thank everyone at Cliff's camp- primarily Liz Lyles who let me chase her during the first week, Jackie Arendt for always being supportive in the lane over:) And Liz and I could see you (Jackie) next to us and chase you! haha. A HUGE thank you to Leanda Cave!!!! After everyone who was around my relative swim speed left after the first week of camp, Leanda let me share a lane with her...more specifically, she put up with my wake, coughing and choking behind her as I chased and chased, gasping for air, coughing up what felt like chunks of my lungs as she ticked off her steady, consistent, well-executed 100s. The swim I'm recalling was a set of 30x100s. Leanda can obviously go on a quicker interval, but she agreed to go on the 1:20. She was ticking off probably 1:10s or under, getting 10seconds or more of rest. I started at about 1:15s...those turned to 1:16s, up to 1:17s...then 1:18s and then a 1:19. I think we were at number 12 or so. I was tasting blood, touching the wall and immediately having to go again. Cliff eventually held me up on one... After one easy, it was back to 6 more essentially an around 1:17, 1:18, back to the 1:19s. This went on and on through 30x100s. It was by far the hardest swim I've done. Anyways, I tell this because the entire swim on Saturday I had one mantra in my head the whole time: "You freaking swam with Leanda! Your next to Leanda- just stay with her!" I was pretending I was on her hip and holding her pace:) haha not possible but I was staying with whoever I was next to. Let's just say that swim at camp made the race feel easy:) Also a thanks to Chris Bagg and Chris Boudreaux who let me chase them the final few days at camp, including a drafting day where Boudreaux let me swim right on his feet to practice. All of these little things were in my head the whole 27:04minutes I was out there, so thank you guys!!!!
And of course, a huge thank you to BlueSeventy for my amazing Helix wetsuit and my Nero Race goggles. I could see clearly the entire swim! And I can't say enough good things about the Helix. The wetsuit literally boosts your legs and butt in the back, allowing for a great body position in the water, especially if your legs tend to sink like mine. The arm sleeves of the wetsuit are extremely thin making it that much easier to keep your arms turning over. There's great flexibility in the shoulders as well, so you never feel like you're fighting your wetsuit. Thank you again BlueSeventy!
I wanted to get this up, as it took me this long to write on just the swim. So stay tuned for the bike and run :) I hope this post, if anything, shows anything is possible! And don't give up! I can't express how long and hard I've been working on my swim...the last 5 years! I've worked with various coaches, athletes, taken in hundreds of different tips or suggestions and worked my butt off in the water. It's tough to express in a single blog post how frustrated I can get not hitting splits on days or doing everything Cliff gives me for training and practice and not seeing faster times or results. Anyways, FINALLY! If you work hard, it WILL pay off! Maybe even when you're not expecting it. I think it's because I've just been fretting and losing sleep over having to swim double that distance in a full Ironman when I know how much I struggle in just a half...but now...well, maybe 3.8k won't be so bad :)