Only five days ago I crossed the finish line for my first Ironman 70.3! I felt pretty good about placing in the top 30% out of all women and finishing two hours before the cut-off time at 6:39:09– especially since my watch died after the bike and I had no method of knowing my pace for the run.
When I picked up my bib on pre-race day, however, I was convinced this was it. I was honestly ready to be done with the entire process, but my opinion changed the next morning. I was filled with adrenaline and ready to see how my training would pay off.
All in all, I would 100% do it again!
The morning of the race, I woke up around 4:15am and started drinking water to hydrate my system. From 5:00-6:15am, athletes were granted access to their transition area. The transition area is basically the home spot where you transition after the swim and bike legs. You drop off your bike in a designated area, and the same spot contains you transition gear for the run. It’s a small space, about the width of a bike’s handlebars. There are several rows and racks, all which are sorted by age group and gender. After 6:15am, the transition area is closed until athletes come in after the swim and bike.
As the sun slowly rolled up at 6:20am, I patiently waited and watched all the waves of swimmers go before me. My age group was the last female division to go at 7:56am. I spoke to some other competitors and I found myself to not be the only one new to 70.3, and from the 70.3 veterans I received some great last-minute tips for the swim. My adrenaline began to rise as I approached the water entrance to Tempe Town Lake.
My goals for the swim were simple: don’t swim backstroke and keep a consistent pace. Swimming is by far my weakest leg. When I did the NYC Tri, I had a panic attack in the water and was forced to swim backstroke since I couldn’t get my breathing or strokes right. Although slow, I still met my 70.3 goals for the swim.
The other aspect I enjoyed about this race was the in-water start, as in you swim to the starting line then wait for the signal for your wave to go. The NYC Tri was a jump start, where you jumped off the dock into the Hudson River and immediately swim. I would say after doing both, I prefer the in-water start since it allows you a moment to get used to the water and adjusted to the temperature.
As soon as I completed the swim, I met outstretched arms that were assisting with pulling swimmers up the steps and out of Tempe Town Lake. The swimmers then ran to the “peelers” who were volunteers in charge of peeling the wetsuit off of the athletes. With my wetsuit thrown across my shoulders, I started running back to transition
The bike course was relatively flat with three loops, however, competitors were greeted with countless turns. During the athlete briefing on pre-race day, we were told there were nearly 60 turns in the entire bike route. I was less pleased to hear that since I’m not the best at turning. Last year, I made a sharp turn on a sandy, paved road and quickly found my bike on top of me and my face on the ground. Since my minor crash, I decided to ride with more caution.
During the mid-bike ride on the race, it was already hot but I focused on maintaining a pace and properly hydrating myself. On the three-loop route, there were two aid stations where volunteers
would hand off nutrition and hydration to athletes as they rode by. I
would ride by at 19mph and take water, Gatorade and/or bananas.
I turned into the transition area from my final loop and ran with my bike to re-rack it in my aisle. Then I quickly switched to my running gear.
My watch had unfortunately died somewhere on the bike between 52-56mi, which left me with no way of monitoring my speed. I decided to go a steady pace and I passed several people since most were walking at that point. To cool myself down, I would dump ice into my kit and water on top of my head. I also jumped in front of any sprinklers I came across. Despite not knowing my pace, I was able to finish my run leg at 2:07:45!
I found it hard to not showcase a cheek-to-cheek grin when I ran through the tunnel past the time arch. My speed picked up and I finished strong. After crossing the timer, I stepped aside and just stood there to take in what I had just accomplished. Despite the time that’s displayed, I finished at 6:39:09. The clock just shows the time for the start of the first wave… my age group started about an hour and a half later.
While thanking God for giving me the motivation and strength, I heard one of my best friends, Mo, call out to me. She captured my surprised reaction quite well hahaha.
I met up with Alex and Mo afterwards and could not have been more grateful to have them there to cheer me on in 90-degree weather. Alex was supportive throughout the entire training process; he would push me to swim in the pool on days I didn’t feel like training. He even made sure I didn’t cave into my sweet tooth during race week. I am also incredibly thankful for the kind words and prayers from everyone else who spoke to me prior to the race. I felt uplifted with all of their kindness.
For anyone wanting to test their personal discipline and mental strength, I highly recommend training for an Ironman 70.3. As I said in the beginning, I truly thought this would be my one and only 70.3. Through the process, I was inspired by the incredible athletes and their dedication to an individual sport. After crossing the finish line, I can see now why people continuously do these triathlons in particular. The feeling is exhilarating and unlike any other. There is a desire to compete again and improve. This is #WhyWeTri.