We woke up at ridiculous o’clock and headed to the beach for a sprint triathlon on ironman legs.  It could have been a bit nerve wrecking trying to do a high intensity triathlon in the midst of long course training but I went in focused and determined to have a great race.   I was there to lay it all out and see what I could do and truly race the event.  My bike shop crew had told me I had to stop saying it was “Just” a sprint and to “race it right.”   I told my coach the day before the race, “Don’t be surprised if I go out and win the whole thing!”   I’ve never thrown out such an outcome goal but I really felt like with all that solid ironman training behind me I was super fit and certainly in contention.  This was a huge shift in mindset for me as normally, I play it safe and stick to power goals or pace goals and “race my own race,” yet a combination is needed for me to make it to the “next level”.  You never know who might show up on the day, but it is, after all, a competition!  : )
Setting up was actually fun with Nick and Joe sideline heckling me and offering pointers from behind the makeshift transition fence as I sipped my Osmo drink and set up my bike and race items.  I ran around trying to find a power meter battery but no one seemed to have one.  Now, I know what must have happened at MT70.3..the battery was running low and my power meter battery died the night before this race.  This was like a message from the universe pushing me to just go out and “RACE” the event!  A sprint tri, power data is useful after but much during as you just need to go hard so I was disappointed but OK with it.

I caught up with Bernie and her super cool daughter, M a little after the swim warm up and we talked about the course and got psyched up for the start.  There were two waves with women and our was first.  The swim was brutal because of the chop and very hard to get a draft with all the chop and if I ever breathed left I was swallowing water.  Bilateral breathing skills are key for days like this as I had to only breath right but I swam strong and was out of the water 12th female in my wave.  I actually love the ocean swims as it reminds me of surfing with my dad when I was young.  As the swim ended,  I pulled myself out of the waves and yanked off my wetsuit right away.  When I ran back to T1 I got ahead of a few girls and saw some cones along the way, veering towards them only to be ushered back by panicked volunteers and my husband.  Oh, I had been running into the finish chute rather than T1…haha!  I lost at least one place there but quickly made it up with a speedy transition.

I got up to speed and slipped my shoes into my feet.  It was a windy day with two loops and I just focused on staying aero, and chasing down some competition.  I really wanted to win this race or at least make it to the overall podium.   I had no “data” to measure process type goals so I just wanted to get out there and tear it up on the course.  I was feeling extremely competitive and determined.  I noticed the HR read was not working which happens with ocean swims sometimes as it was reading 80bpm and I was definitely not in zone one out there.   I could barely yell out, “Left” as I passed riders from earlier waves as I was just going “all out” and not even really looking at my HR or speed.  I knew the right “feel” for sprint racing.
By the time I came to the halfway point, I was 4th female according to my race day photographer/supporter and loving husband!  He was like, “You’re 4th, keep chasing them!”
So, I continued to drive the effort hard.  In the 2nd loop it was much more congested on the flat/fast course and difficult to pass.  The wind had picked up as well, but I was steady even with the Rolf disc wheel.  I was able to make my way to the front of all the women, coming off the bike at the same time as another female in a red and black kit as well.    Nick yelled to me that we were 1st and 2nd and I motioned that I’d go get her!  

Here is my teammate, Andy Moser!  Nick took photos of everyone he knew from RVA!

My transiiton was quick and although I had to deal with someone’s bike on my spot (AGAIN!!), this time I just moved it over enought to put my bike up on the rack, fumble with my shoes a little, throw on my race belt and bust out onto the run.  The run, was my favorite part.  I came out of T1 in the lead, but only be a few seconds.   Check out the photo below.   This woman was right on my heels, but I had no idea at the time just how close she came out of T1 behind me.  I noticed my race number was backwards, but decided not to loose time switching it and to fix it later in the race. 
I went out hard.  So hard it hurt and I somehow just held it there trying to be OK with the pain.   The first turn around point,, a volunteer who had helped me “turn around” when I had been lost trying to get to T1 after the swim, said, “You’re leading the race!  I was worried about you earlier!”   

I turned off my mind and just ticked off the time for the first mile trying to run outside of the pain of running hard and fast.  When I felt myself slip back, I remembered my bold announcements to my coach and a few others that I was going for a win.   I thought about my EF teammate’s support and how proud I am to be part of this group, and all the friends I have in and out of triathlon world and of course I thought of my family.  I thought of my tough Coeur teammates and how proud I am to represent this clothing company (their fleet fox kit is in all these race pics) with values and let the Coeur Sport’s “Heart and Courage” mantra just repeat over in my mind as it is meaningful to me.   If I slipped back even with all of that emotional fuel… and there were times I still almost “gave in”, I just focused on my run form, maintaining pace and foot turnover and a loose upper body.   I knew inside myself that if I didn’t give my BEST I would be disappointed later.  I admit, I’ve never been on the “overall” podium in a triathlon so there were times when I thought, “Hey, its OK if I slip back and place 2nd or 3rd.  That is still a milestone.  This really hurts.  Drop back…it would be OK.”   Yet, each time that thought creeped in I was able to remind myself “Its NOT OK” and to continued to drive the effort.   I fixed my race number belt mid race.  

I saw Coach Nick, heading in to his win and COURSE RECORD during one stretch and gave him a thumbs up.   I noticed at each turn that the woman on my heels had slipped back quite a bit and I felt as long as I just held onto the effort through the end, I could actually race to my first triathlon win!  I truly wanted it.  I thought of nothing else…just sheer focus and determination in the last mile.   With a few hundred yards to go, I saw Bernie and M just cheering me on, and a few teammates too and gasping, I asked, “How far back is she?” which meant I wasn’t going HARD enough if I could talk so I picked it up and sprinted…as if I were trying to pass someone ahead.   Bernie says, “You’re fine keep going!” and so I brought it in to the finish completely shutting off my mind went after it hard and crossed as the first female finisher!  I was elated!
This was a big milestone for me.   My first overall placement and first win.   I have been a last finisher in my AG in the past and been thrilled to complete the event.  I remember my first 3rd place age group podium and my first age group win.  Or the first time I broke 6 hours in a half, or broker 5:10 in a half.  I can say, all of it…over the past few years, in those moments of success and completion the thrill feels the same.  Its the victory of setting a big goal, and pushing to higher levels outside what you thought could could do that makes this sport awesome.  I love the progress.  It truly feels amazing!  This is a huge milestone for me and comes at a time when I’m heading into a big A race, so it sure was a confidence boost as well, regarding my ability to push hard when I need to.
Once I crossed, I ran to my husband, Nick and he picked me up and he spun me all around.  He had been truly supporting and looking out for me the entire day and I won because of his help.   
My teammates came over to congratulate me, but I could not believe I won the race.  I reminded them there was another woman’s wave so we had to wait and see those times.   My teammate, Joe was confident I had won and posted about it on Facebook even though I told him we weren’t “sure” yet.  Until I saw the race results posted, I really couldn’t BELIEVE it had actually happened!  
So, we spent that time before results and awards relaxing, catching up and soaking up the social/party vibe of the tri community in the relaxing environment Set Up always creates post race (yard games etc).  The 2nd place finisher was Emily who I had swam with in open water in the past and she came over to congratulate me & is now become a new tri buddy!  We thanked each other for pushing the other as we both had great race.  That is always one of my favorite parts of racing…getting to know the other athletes and making connections over our shared passion for the sport and understanding of what we endure on the course. 
I’ll say one of the best parts of this race was seeing an 89 year old amazing athlete cross the finish line.  I had my picture taken with her as she truly represents grit and what this sport is all about.  It was so inspiring!
We stayed for awards and watched Peluso open water coach show off his stroke on the podium!

Later, when whining in Training Peaks about my lack of data results to evaluate with no HR or power meter, Coach Michael said, “This is probably the first time you TRULY raced as in nothing was going to stop you from winning….you learned to be a champion today and it paid off big.  I can discuss your results but the truth is they are a product of RACING.  Your mind drove these results.”
I’d say this was a great race.   On this day, I did not know the “storm” I was about to be heading into…so that makes this day of bliss and happiness and celebration so meaninful.  It was a precariously weightless happy and peaceful day where “all was right in the world.”
In the span of one week…things really came a bit derailed in my life.  Superficially, I’ll touch on a few things… that very next week, my sister’s health took a serious downward spiral and she’s been in the hospital, my baby niece was going to need to head into kidney surgery (it went OK), I never found the wedding rings that slipped off my fingers the day before the race (exhausting/sad search), and I discovered I won’t be working with awesome coach Michael next year due to some big changes for him (I found as I’m hyper sensitive/intuitive about people and picked up on a “shift” in our work interactions together)… all as I tackled the biggest training block of my life and adjusted to a new work position…both emotional and physical fatigue adding up.  It has been a lot over the past training block to endure and I’ve been a bit…heartbroken at times but I’ve overcome a lot and managed to be just fine.   I forged ahead with training to overcome my “worry” after MT70.3 on the hills.  I rode in the mountains and despite a 4 day period of missed sessions and a bit of a messed up taper..I still managed to hit all the true key sessions with help and support from a lot of people who care about me and my race success…many who had no idea what I was enduring…and at this point in time… one week away from IMMT and….somehow…with a lot of support behind me… I am ready.