I fell in love with St. Anthony’s Tri when I first did it two years ago. I’m taking my season one race at a time right now, so when Coach and I decided that St. Anthony’s would be a good fit in terms of distance, format, and schedule, I was thrilled!
I was able to snag a room at Dickens House Bed & Breakfast, where Adam and I stayed in 2013, and it was great to be back! Even though I travelled to Tampa alone, I didn’t feel alone at all thanks to my “Dickens House Family”– several triathletes who have been racing St. Anthony’s for over 10 years, their families, and owner Ed Caldwell. It was also much easier on my student/athlete budget than the other nearby options!
Saturday was hot, humid, and breezy. While I’m used to the wind training in Chicago, the heat and humidity were a bit of a shock to the system (so much sweat!), so it was good to be able to do my shakeout workouts in those conditions. I mentally prepared myself for choppy swim conditions, wind on the bike + run, and a hot/humid run, and just focused on enjoying the enthusiasm and excitement in the air!
It was a balmy 81 degrees when I woke up at 4:30am on race morning! After my standard race morning breakfast – coffee and banana+peeb – I made my way to transition to get set up. It was so nice to be walking distance from transition. I was able to get set up, return to Dickens House to drop my bag/gear, and warm up (swim cords and a short jog with builders) and then make my way to the start.
Time always moves quickly on race morning! Luckily, the non-wetsuit swim provided me with additional time to loosen up and get a few strokes of warm-up in the water. But, before I knew it, the pros were off and we were being called to the start. I focused on getting some short builds in the water on the way out to the starting bouys to get my HR up a bit and found a nice little pocket to position myself.
And then, we were off! I was able to avoid being completely pummeled at the start. Coach and I had talked about focusing on FLOW for the race – no overthinking, just find a rhythm and go. And that’s exactly what I did! A lead group of guys pulled ahead of me at the start (take-away: top-end speed continues to be an area of opportunity!), but I felt I was able to handle the conditions well, and I quickly began picking people off one-by-one. This meant I didn’t have the benefit of drafting off of any one athlete for a stretch of time, but I was definitely able to get in a groove and go. Three phrases on repeat in my head: "keep up the turnover," "get to the next athlete," and "flowww!"
I hit T1 hard and was quickly off on the bike. It looked like there was one woman ahead of me, but it was hard to tell, so I focused on setting a brisk pace while keeping it smooth and controlled. Being surrounded by a bunch of elite amateur men was helpful – they kept me out of my head, particularly since I haven’t done much work on the bike and was a bit insecure re: my ability to perform. I just focused on keeping up my cadence and holding on to handful of guys who passed me. At the end of the bike, I misunderstood a few of the volunteers and dismounted my bike about 100m too early. FUN TIMES running on the cobbles with my bike as people yelled – “you didn’t have to dismount yet!” I thought, “yes I know, thank you!” but just had to laugh ... and of course focus on minimizing any seconds lost because of the misstep!
Going out on the run, all I can say was OUCH! I’ve been focusing on re-aligning my body and we’ve mostly had me doing base run miles in the process, so I was feeling my (a) lack of work on the bike and (b) lack of speedwork on the run. I had a moment of “I don’t think I can do this!” But quickly pushed the voice of doubt out of my head and replaced it with a focus on smooth stride, one step at a time. Seeing Team IE’s Kaleb Van Ort barreling towards the finish a few minutes later, and then Robbie Deckard shortly after, was just the motivation I needed – “if he can do it, I can!” I was pretty sure I had still had at least one amateur woman to find, and I wanted to see how I could stack up with the pro women who had gone off a few minutes ahead of me, so the next 6 miles were a mix of self-talk – “smooth stride,” “turnover, turnover, turnover,” “deep breath and flow!” -- and blankness.
Overall, it was great to see and catch up with friends and teammates, and I was happy with my performance – as well as the overall win for amateur females that came with it (for full results, see the St. Anthony's Results page)! For me, the goal of this race was to gather data, assess my fitness, and see where I stacked up, particularly to the pro women. Nothing gives you honest feedback like a race, for better or for worse! I have MANY areas for improvement, but this was the first race where I felt like my ankle wasn’t the limiting factor, and for any of you who have come back from a nagging injury, you know just how good that feels! From here, I’m focusing on continuing to re-align my body and nip my ankle issues in the bud, continuing to build on the work I’ve done in the water, and adding work on the bike and the run – lots of exciting room for improvement!
Thanks to Coach Mueller and Kim Whitney for getting me to starting line healthy, and to the folks at Mox Multisport for making sure my equipment was ready to rock! Now, back to real life (read: midterms!). As mentioned above, we’re playing my race season by ear right now, so stay tuned for updates on my next race!