So, 70.3 Branson was quite the adventure. I signed up for Branson a day after doing my first Half Ironman (Pigman) in August. I spent a good 5 hours after Pigman telling my dad I was never going to race a half again, and it was the most painful thing I have ever done. About 2 hours into our drive home I said, “Dad, I think I’m going to sign up for Branson.” Sure enough, the next evening I got online and signed up. I had no idea how long it would talk me to recover from the first one, but I knew I would be racing 5 weeks later.
So now we move forward to race week. They tell you not to do anything different on race day, but I must not have gotten that memo. On Tuesday I got a Cervelo P2C from my good friend Susie. (Thanks again, I absolutely love it!) I only rode maybe 40 miles on it before race day! I left for Branson on Friday. It was a nice 8.5 hour drive. I always say that I will only stop for gas one road trips, but this time I also wanted to pick up an aero helmet. I stopped by The Bike Surgeon in O’Fallon, IL to use a gift card and buy a helmet. I figure if I have a fast bike, I might as well buy a helmet to match! Anyway, got to Branson around 9pm and checked into the hotel. There was an outlet mall, Krispy Kreme, and Andy’s Custard within a mile of me…that could have been dangerous! I had heard how good Andy’s was, so I put on my jogging shoes and went for a shakeout jog to Andy’s (even though I gave up sweets until after Branson…close enough, right?) and the ate it on my walk back. Definitely worth it!
Athlete check in on Saturday was relatively uneventful. The lines weren’t too bad, and the expo was small, but still had everything you could need. I think the most exciting part of the day was seeing Tiffany and Grant. It is always nice to seem familiar faces when going to these big races! The fun part was bike check in…there is very limited parking at the beach. With that said, I was able to find a parking spot, and easily dropped my bike off at T1, and went for a swim. The water temp felt perfect. I was beginning to get very excited for the race! After the swim I went to the 2:00pm athlete meeting, and then decided to drive part of the course on my way back to the hotel… Oh boy! The first 6 miles of the course seemed to be one giant uphill climb and I started to think, “What the heck did I get myself into?”
That night I met up with Kraig and Danny for dinner at Old Chicago. I can always go for some deep dish pizza! It was a nice, relaxing night on the landing before an early wakeup call! They drove the course during the afternoon, and were trying to explain to me what I got myself into. I was just hoping the next day wouldn’t be as bad as everybody was saying it would be! Headed back from dinner at 8:30ish, and was in bed with the lights out by 10:00pm.
3:55 my alarm is going off, and I’m just begging for 5 more minutes of sleep! I have my cup of coffee, bowl of oatmeal, and some CarboPro. Take a shower, put on my uniform, and get ready to go. I checked out of the hotel at 4:35am and was on my way over to T2.
Got to T2 and it is still pitch black at 5am. I knew I was forgetting something…a head lamp! How am I supposed to set up transition without a light? Oh well, I put my shoes, Thermolytes, and water down get ready to get on the bus that takes us to T1. Oh boy, they only had maybe 3 buses running, but there were many more people than buses! Good thing I got there relatively early. I had to wait a good 40 minutes to finally get on the bus, and then it is still a 15 minute ride over to T1. Got to T1 with plenty of time to set everything up…in the dark! (From now on, the first thing I pack is a head lamp!) I go to load my bento box with everything, and I realized I put my package of 16 Thermolytes in T2 and the package of 4 in here…oops! If it would have been a hot day, this would have been a major problem! T1 closed at 6:45am and I wasn’t supposed to get in the water til 7:33, so I went looking for Tiffany and Grant. I had to give Tiffany my book bag so I would have it at the end of the day.
The air temp was only upper 40s or low 50s, so the wait on the beach seemed like forever, but I think I was only out there waiting for maybe 10 minutes before they let us get in the water. It actually felt good to get in the water. They lined us up and then the race began. I was maybe 300m into the race when I could already tell that I was really bad at sighting and was off course…along with about 15 other people. Somewhere in the middle of trying to find my line and draft off people in front of me, somebody swam over the top of me kicking me in the nose, and knocking my goggles half off. I stopped for a minute to try and reposition my goggles, but I could already feel my nose getting hot, and my eyes watering. I had a bloody nose. Awesome. It’s not the first time this has happened to me this year (Rockford). I just told myself to keep calm and get through the swim; unfortunately we still had much more to go. The rest of the swim was did not get any easier. We were the last wave to start, so we were swimming in and out of other people falling behind from other waves. It was a pretty physical swim, and by the time I got out of the water I was thinking, “Why am I doing this. I could just quit now and be fine with it.” But anybody that knows me knows I definitely would not be fine with that—and I know that too. I was a good 4 minutes slower than I wanted to be, but I was just happy to exit the water alive.
T1 was uneventful. I was so cold that I was having trouble getting my wetsuit off (as usual), putting my compression socks on, and putting my arm warmers on. It was a super slow transition, but I didn’t mind. No rush, it was still early in the game.
The bike. Oh, what to say about the bike. I was freezing after exiting the water, and I was not looking forward to being soaking wet and cold while riding my bike. Well we had a nice half mile downhill, followed by a wonderful six mile uphill climb before entering the high road. The first 6 miles happened to be the part of the course I drove the previous day. I remember people telling me to “build the bike” and “don’t go too hard too early” so I kept that in mind for this first section. Once we got onto the high road it was a lot more fun. I loved that it was a 3 loop course. The first loop set the tone for the day. The second loop was about building into it. The third loop was fun because you knew after 6 miles you got to exit the high road and head back into town. The last 6 miles or so into town were mostly downhill, and fun. The one bad part was on the “no passing zone” about a mile from the finish. If you get stuck behind somebody slower than you, it really stinks. All in all, the bike course wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be, but it definitely was not easy. I grabbed water every time I got to the turnaround point at the high school. I used a mixture of 1000 calories of CarboPro on the bike with a scoop of Blue Raspberry Accelerade for flavor. I had 3 Cranberry PowerBar Chews on the bike as well. I nailed my nutrition much better at Branson than I did at Pigman. I had some cramping issues around mile 40-45, but that was because I didn’t take my normal amount of Thermolytes.
T2 was as frantic as ever. I can never remember where my spot is, and sure enough, I couldn’t remember this time. The racks were numbered, but I think I was just so excited about being done with the bike that I couldn’t find it. I probably spent a good 20 seconds looking for my number before I remembered it was right in front of the “run out” sign. Duh! Oh well, racked my bike, slipped on my Brooks t7’s and I was on my way!
The run--my favorite part! I got off the bike and was feeling surprisingly good for just completing that bike course, so I just went with how I felt. I came through the first mile in 5:48 and just thought to myself, “WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING?!?!” I had planned on staying conservative though the early part of the run to make sure I didn’t blow up the last 5k like I did at Pigman. I came through 2 miles in 11:35. At this point I was still feeling really good, but with 11 miles to go I was getting nervous. There comes a point in every race where you have to make the decision to go for it, or stay the same. The HIM is a waiting game, but that day I decided to just go for it 2 miles into the run. It was a 3 loop course, and I don’t remember much about the course, except I was passing people like crazy, and I really didn’t start to hurt until mile 11. At mile 11 I knew I was in 2nd place in my age group, so I just had to hold on, and I would be going to worlds. I was hurting, but nothing like Pigman, so I knew I would be able to hang on. I just remember getting to the 13 mile marker and thinking “I am .1 mile away from a worlds spot, all I have to do is get across the line.” I started to get teary eyed as I finished, because I went from being pretty far back coming out of the water, to putting together a great run to secure 2nd in my age group. It really is crazy how the triathlon works out sometimes!
Once again, I would just like to say thank you to anyone that has played a part in my journey. Although I love to race, Branson was my last triathlon of 2012. I still have a biathlon, a couple 10k’s and a 3 miler planned for 2012. This was my last major race, and I couldn’t have asked for a better day. I am excited to be going to 70.3 Worlds next year, and I am excited to see what happens until then. Congrats to all of the finishers, it was a tough course, and you definitely earned the finisher medal.