Challenge Accepted.

I did it.

We did it.

P1000235

Crossing the 70.3 finish line for the first time

This weekend was a memorable one. Not only was it race weekend, something I have been counting down to for close to a year, but with Hurricane Arthur landing on Saturday, there was a threat to take our race away!

HTC ST andrews

What a team! Friday night pre-race gathering.

I kept surprisingly cool leading up to the race. I thought the anxiety would set in as we arrived in St. Andrews….or the night before….surely as I got dressed that morning…or treading water before the horn sounded.

But I didn’t. I knew I trained to the best of my ability, and I was going to give it my all. Funnily enough, I experienced more anxiety with my first sprint race in June, than Challenge St. Andrew’s.

My family and friends made all the difference in the world. They reassured me, they were there to have lunch with me, and play bingo the night before. We didn’t start dissecting the race or freaking each other out. Not even once. I had the best support there and I hope I was helpful to the people around me.

race eve

Race eve.

On race day, the alarm went off at 4AM and Karen and I rolled over to eat our “race cake” from Ironman/Hero Sam Gyde. We thought we may be able to grab an extra 20 minutes of sleep (fat chance!) and we were up and getting ready to move out shortly thereafter.

We racked our bikes and set up transition at 5:30. Karen and I were setting up next to each other, when we heard that dread “POP” of a tire. It was so close to us my eardrums hurt. I was ready…if it was me, I could do this. (Thank you Shane for your lessons.) But it wasn’t me, or Karen or Shannon (huge sigh of relief!), and I did a final check before leaving the transition area for the last time before the race.

dressing

This looks like some kind of bizarre sleepover. Oh, wait….

I didn’t expect to enjoy the pre-race/pre-swim time, but my fellow HTC’ers united and we had fun. A few photos, well wishes, and smiles. Andrea Hachey, you have no idea how much your smile calmed me as I entered the water and swam to the start line, you are an inspiration.

As we treaded water and started at each other, I broke the tension with “What’s everyone drinking tonight!?” Val, Laura, Shannon and Devon, you made it fun.

swim girl

Girls (and Tony) just want to have fun

And when the horn sounded, I took a deep breath, went wide (no head kicking, please) and swam. The water was chilly (from 27C on Thursday, to 18C on race day) but calm and the staggered start time made it the best open water start l’ve ever experienced.

womens start

The women’s age group start. I’m in there!

Leg 1 would take me ~40 minutes and I focused on my breathing, sighting, reaching, sighting, and brining my body over my arm. And sighting.

About half way through the swim I took just a few seconds to take it all in. I’d caught up with a few men (!!!!) and a few aqua bikers had caught up with me. I looked at the beach and smiled knowing my support team was there, waiting for me to climb out of the water.

This is actually happening. This isn’t practice on Lake Banook, this isn’t the Navy Sprint warm up race. This is THE race, I thought. Now swim, finish it strong!

I came out of the water at 39:10, knowing that I kept it at my one of two speeds, “Steady as she goes”. The other being “Leave me laying for dead after 500M”.

exit water

Outta the way fellas, coming through.

I had mild fear of race brain. Fear of not being able to locate my sneakers, fear of forgetting the plan to take off the wetsuit and then run up the hill. Fear of forgetting fuel, sunscreen or not putting my helmet on before touching my bike.  T1 went seamlessly – if you saw my time (7:34) you may think differently, but the 400M+ climb up from Katy’s Cove to the Algonquin would clear up that confusion.

I could hear mom as soon as I got out of the water. Mike B. walked/ran up the hill with me, encouraging words all the way. I saw Tim taking photos and coaching me on. And I heard my friends cheer. Jenn & Mark had the biggest voices I’ve ever heard. And they were calling my name. I had no choice to be a grinning goof as I ran with my bike to the mount line. I’ve got this.

Amazing support. Amazing people.

P1000149

The mom’s cheering the athletes on!

And the bike. I had ridden the bike course just three weeks earlier, but I wouldn’t go as far to say that it was familiar. Fuel, fuel, fuel. I dug out my sandwich in the first 5K and had a picnic, loosened my legs, and get focused on the next 3.5-4 hours on my bike.

bike start

Amazing cheers from friends kept me smiling

My first thought as I neared the 10K point was: Ok, it’s time to get serious.  Do I want to finish this racing wondering if I could have done better, or knowing that I gave it my all? Let’s go.

mind

One of the highlights of the race course, was the partially closed course and Highway 1. Flawless pavement, lots of support and no traffic make for a cyclists dream. The fact that there were 2 loops made it so I always had someone near me on the course. I’ve done plenty lonely races, let me tell you. It’s true that some of those people whizzed by me in seconds, making me question if I was moving at all, but hey, they were there. I didn’t let their race interfere with mine.

I was feeling strong until kilometer forty, when I felt my first pain. My IT band was shooting pain from my hip, through my glute, and past my knee.

I couldn’t believe that my injury was coming back to haunt me so soon into my race. My IT band has never bothered me on the bike before. I was expecting some soreness in the run (which I got) but not on the bike. F*#@. I attempted to stretch on the bike and found that getting out of my saddle to pedal helped. At 60K I had to get off and stretch. Someone from a nearby aid station came to my rescue and offered salt tablets. I was skeptical that they would solve my problem (Do you have any dry needles?), but with no other choice I downed the four tablets he gave me (thank you, kind stranger) gave my legs one last stretch and hopped back on.

The final 30K were decent. I had no more pain, and despite the (up) hilly return, I stayed positive. Leave nothing on the road. The cyclists were fewer and further between, but I kept focus. I was averaging 25KM/hr and needed to remember that this is where I wanted to be – where I planned to be.  For a brief second I thought about some of the athletes that were likely minutes from the finish line. I commended them, and then crushed those thoughts. This is my race.

Seeing Coach Jeff and his wife Ashley at the turn off was like icing on the cake, for training with them in the cold winter months is where it started.

I reminded myself to eat more as I returned. Listening to more seasoned athletes, I knew that I may have trouble taking on calories for the final trek, so now was the time. Fuel, fuel, fuel. Gels, banana, Hammer.

I saw my mom first as I retuned from the bike leg. I heard Tim, his family and my friends. I saw Gus and Dawson dogs. I made it in and out of T2 much quicker. Again, I heard Jenn & Mark cheering me through…when I went beyond the regular T2 activities (having a drink, stretching my legs, perhaps thinking of grabbing a little nap) I could have bet my allowance that I would hear Mark say “Get outta there Becky!”. I heard it before I actually heard it. It made me smile and most definitely got my ass in gear. Thank you.

I couldn’t believe I’d already made it through the swim and the bike portion. I knew I’d been out for over fours hours already, but in an inexplicable way time was flying. I was feeling high as I headed out to the run course and received a high-five from Shane.

A saving grace of getting off the bike at the Algonquin was the gentle decline for the first three kilometers. True, I would have to climb back up (twice!) but to loosen my legs and to feel strong at the start was ideal.

I have yet to talk about the volunteers and race crew of this race. It could be a separate blog post. They are amazing, they were up all night to clear the streets after the hurricane. The roads were spotless, all the aid stations were present, they cheered us on. The people of St. Andrews went above and beyond throughout the run. The water, the sponges and the hoses were my saving grace under that blazing sun. And when I ran through town with Kenny Loggin’s “Footloose” blaring through the speakers, I knew I’d died and gone to triathlon heaven.

The run was challenging, but I managed to keep my pace between 6:10 – 6:40 min/KM. I walked only when at the aid stations drinking. I knew if I stopped for a walk break, I’d be done for. High fives from some ironmen kept me positive as I rounded for my second loop. Even up that final slope to the finish line where I thought about letting myself take a little walk break, I powered through and kept on running.

P1000229

Blurry, but captures the moment of friends cheering me to the finish

And then I heard it.

My team. 🙂

“GO Becky”

“You MADE it”

“100 meters left!”

“Amazing, Girl”

“Becky!”

Then, and now when I write this, I tear up.

The support I’ve had every step of the way – from people that may not even realize it – has made this experience more than I could have ever hoped for.

Crossing the finish line was surreal. I wish I could slow it down, or possibly relive it. I kept running an extra 20M to ensure that I was actually over the mat.

A medal. A Finisher T-shirt. A huge hug from my mom.

P1000241

In September I set up a goal time of 6:35:00, not knowing many factors (T1, surprise vacation/eating binge, and a 2 month long injury that prevented me from running, etc.). I’m not making excuses; I’m saying that my completion time of 6:45:20 sat really, really well with me, all things considered. Two years ago I ran the Bluenose half marathon for a time of 2:18:10, which was only 20 seconds faster then this half marathon and I had a few other activities beforehand!

htc finish line

And the fun post-race events that I loved every minute of:

  • The soak in Katy’s Cove with mom’s company.
  • Eating that Mars bar I had tucked away (in transition) for the occasion.
  • That shower. Oh, that shower.
  • The lie in the sun, with Tim, Karen and Gus with an ice-cold cider. Tim you’re the man for me.
  • The awards banquette.
  • The post Halifax Triathlon Club photo shoot/hang out/ice cream. You guys are amazing.

P1000274

Loved. Every. Minute.

P1000251

I love the people that were there to share this experience and their support I felt from home. To all the people that trained with me, early in the morning, mid-day, early evening; thank you, I know some workouts were better than others (Scott, I’m especially sorry about that bike ride in mid-May). To the people that lent me advice, on everything; thank you. And finally, to the people that have been so patient with me over the past six months (or more) as I put parts of my life on hold to train; thank you and I’ll be reaching out to you for a proper catch up (likely over wine).

Thank you Mom for your continued support and joining me to St. Andrew’s. It was amazing to have you there!

And thank you Tim, for knowing that I could do it. For pushing me out of bed at 5:30am, for walking the dog. Every morning. For making me dinner when I was too exhausted and cleaning up. For picking up spare tire tubes, gels, and other tri gear. For giving up your time to cheer me on always. You’re the best.

In the two hours I returned home from Challenge St. Andrews I had ventured to the hardware store, removed my broken screen door, primed the trim, scrubbed the bathroom and all my triathlon gear. Those chores that could wait until “after the race.” I’m looking forward to some down time…..but of course my head and heart can’t help thinking:

Now, when’s the next one?

Advertisements

One thought on “Challenge Accepted.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s