Pocono Mountain 70.3

Enjoying the run down the finishing chute in first is an awesome experience. It is hard to sum up all the emotions that flood your consciousness when you take each of those final steps to the winners tape. It is the joy of putting together a great race built on hard and smart training. It is knowing how many people who love and support you are celebrating the victory too. Mostly though it is the power of belief in oneself and perseverance when you have had to overcome so many challenges.

I was super excited about this race. My friends from Ottawa came down to be sherpas, it was on the east coast in the fall and it was a race that suited me – rolling. On all fronts I was not disappointed. Jamie and Ryan were in constant competition with who was the better sherpa – who could direct the route better, who fetched ice cream to go with the apple pie, who took gear bags at the start or who offered cloths off their backs so I could stay warm. Who wouldn’t love these guys? Ryan (Solefit) gently reminded me of the early days when I went to visit him for running advice and orthodics (which I am still wearing!) when I asked what racing flats were. Yes I was THAT green.

While doing my warm-up on Saturday I swear that I saw the film location for Dirty Dancing – a favorite adolescent movie of mine (Nobody puts Jamie – I mean Baby – in a corner). The fall colours were amazing and the air had that smoky crispness to it. I’ll admit it made me want to curl up with a good book, pumpkin latte and eat apple pie. Although apple pie was the secret weapon of the weekend there was no curling up!

THE RACE

This is a very logistically challenging half ironman. Two transitions and a finishing line/expo. The swim is in a glass like “pond”, the water a mere 64F(i.e., cold). The shape of the swim course was interesting leaving the leads to navigate the best line from buoy to buoy. The women started with the guys which was brilliant for me. I hoped to get in with the front pack but sadly by the time I sorted through the guys, I had slipped back. I ended up leading the chase pack. No drafting in this one.

The bike started with a 4 mile descent. It included a 9% grade down and although cold was super fun. The Shiv is a seriously solid machine that handles really well so there was no braking as I tucked my head down with my jaw almost sitting on my elbow pads to get more aero.  The course mellows out and it is actually hard to really sense whether you are on false flats or descents at times. It rolls gently throughout but is kept interesting with sharp get-out-of-the-saddle ascents,tuck in descents and twisty turns through park lands. The roads in some parts were a little bumpy (actually washed out too) but again the carbon frame just seemed to absorb those and I kept rolling along happily. Coming to T2 I had no idea where I was in the race. I knew I was ahead but did not have a sense of how much. Apparently 8-9 minutes. I never for a moment took it easy which is likely why I got the course record.

The run I thought was supposed to be easy and relatively flat. As I ran up long hills and pounded down others I kept thinking that it was going to be the last. It was supposed to flatten out. It never did. The volunteers were awesome – some in pink tutus and a huge guy in a bright florescent pink wig. My focus was to keep a steady pace until the turn-around when I would finally see where I was at in the race. I did not see the first girl for 3-4ish minutes (i.e., 7-8 minute lead). I figured that this was a pretty good cushion but did not back off too much. I didn’t press hard either because there was no need to dig a deeper hole . I have another race in two weeks and want to get back to training. In those last miles when I actually thought walking would be nice, athletes just starting their run cheered me in yelling ‘first woman’. There was no way that I couldn’t smile and finish strong. This race was unlike any other win. I could savor each of those final steps. The great thing is that I look forward to the first ones back out in training. My job. Best job in the world.

THE DETAILS:

Nutrition:

1 Specialized fuelselage water bottle (water in a bike)

1 GU recovery drink sports drink

4 Gels (peanut butter, mint chocolate and espresso love)

3 Island Nector Roctane gels in flask on run, water every station.

Bike:

My amazing Shiv of course.

Wheels: Tubular 404 and 808

Tire psi: 100 (perfect for the road conditions)

What I wore:

Nineteen Wetsuit

Thanks to Ryan Cain’s suggestion (learnt from Jordan Rapp) -put a polyethylene sheet down my Nike top which broke the wind and kept me a bit warmer. So SMART!

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