I am never coming back here.
I mumbled those words listlessly on May 6th, 2012 driving home from St. George, Utah after participating in 2x back to back St. George Ironman triathlons, 2011 and 2012. Both races were physically and mentally taxing and I’d had enough.
Fast forward a few years to last Fall when I was planning my 2017 race schedule. My training was going well, so I was searching for a tough half-ironman triathlon course to race in May, because it was a close lead up to my fun Summer race, AlaskaMan. There were a few great races to choose from, but if I wanted to test my fitness against high caliber competition, there was really only one option, Ironman St. George 70.3. Only nutty, tough as nails triathletes choose to race St. George, hi, so, after receiving the thumbs up from my coach, I registered for the race.
I was going back to Dixie after all.
The conditions for the race were classic St. George, hot and windy. Thankfully, it gets very windy near my house in the San Fernando Valley, so I had a few challenging rides in the bank and felt ready to handle the wind on race day.
The heat was not a huge concern either because my coach laid out a solid fueling plan that if I followed correctly would keep my energy up the whole day. However, I had to laugh when I was smacked in the face by 80+ degree temps when I walked out the door at 4:30A.
It was going to be another tough day in St. George.
I had a blast in T1 before the race, because there were so many friends from various branches of my triathlon life racing. My friend and former soccer teammate from Claremont, Sahar was racing, my friend Cathy from my old triathlon club, P5, was racing, and Kris, my friend and swim lane buddy from SMASH camp was racing, too. I got to race alongside two of my Smash-Dimond teammates, Jan and Lauren, and TeamSFQ super-star and friend, Bridget. It was definitely a special morning; one where gratitude overcame nervousness.
I was excited and ready to enjoy the day.
A funny thing happened during the swim, I passed people. That’s right, all of the many, many yards I've spent churning in the pool the past six months were paying off. My strokes were strong and consistent, not perfect, but better than ever, and before I knew it, I was running up the ramp and laying down to have my wet suit ripped off of me by a sturdy volunteer. I looked at my watch and knew my time was good, (for me), and smiled wide all the way through transition to meet up with my lovely bike, Simone.
Simone is my Dimond bike that I have gushed about for months, and as expected, she absolutely slayed the course. She carried her nearly 5’11” 150lb. athlete with strength and confidence up and over big climbs, down exhilarating descents, and through stiff head winds. I heard hoots and hollers from fellow racers and fans about how great she looked, and how fast she rode. And just like the gut feeling I had on my third date with Marion when I knew he was the one, I had a feeling Simone and I were a near perfect match. We are quite a quick pair, too, because I went from 15th place in my age group after the swim, to 3rd place after the bike.:)
All that was left was my favorite part of the race, the run.
There are so many adjectives I want to use to describe the run course, but really it comes down to this, it is hard. The first three miles are uphill, with the last half-mile shooting nearly straight up. I was resolved to the fact that this would not be a fast run split. In fact, I wanted to run it smart, which meant a short quick cadence on the uphill’s, and an open, longer stride on the downhill’s.
The hills were relentless. The heat was relentless. But it was the wind that really punched me in the mouth.
I finally allowed myself to open up and actually pick up my pace just after I passed mile nine, but it was too late. Soon I looked over my right shoulder and saw a lady zooming by me at a kick-ass pace. Honestly, I didn’t think anything of it at the time because I thought I’d catch her on the approaching downhill. The fact is I should never let a woman pass me on the run. There is no excuse for it. I finished the race running at a strong, quick pace, even though a fierce head wind at mile eleven knocked me back a bit, but I felt good. Really, I felt too good. I should have been in agony at that point, but I wasn’t. I could have run a dozen more miles if the course allowed it, but it didn’t. I was nearing the finish line and I sprinted down the chute as fast as I could, and then it was over.
There are so many tactics that go into triathlon racing, and even though I executed the swim and bike, I misjudged the run, and it did not go as planned. Nevertheless, I placed 4th in my age group, which is fantastic and a gigantic step in the right direction, but I am haunted by the fact that I could have run faster.
At the moment, I am disappointed and inspired, which is exactly how I want to feel. I will always strive to be better, and faster, because this sport is all about learning and improving. Above all I am happy that I have the desire to keep going every day, and that my body is growing stronger as it's growing older. In fact, I was pleased to discover on Sunday morning that I would have placed 8th in the 40 – 44 age group, which means I have a lot to look forward to.
I will be back.