Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Thank you Mario Cantu for the photos.
This weekend I raced the Austin 70.3. This was my first half-ironman starting in 2008. I started training for it a few months before. My twins were 18 months old, and I really don't think I totally understood what I was getting myself into. When I got off the bike, all I could think was, "How in the heck do people run a half marathon now??" I've returned each year, mainly it's as close to a "home" race as I'll ever get. I think of Austin as where I grew up in triathlon. When I was stationed at Fort Hood, which is about 45 minutes north, I spent a lot of weekends in Austin learning and training for this sport. I love the people, the energy, the hills, the heat, and on and on! Despite all this, I've never put together a good race in Austin. I've always just missed out of the money, and I've always had some late season issue going into the race. I vowed this year I wouldn't let this happen again!
We loaded and took off Thursday. Lucas had to bury his head in the books, so he was unable to come. I was a bit nervous driving by myself with the kids, but we made it okay with only a few meltdowns. We arrived at my brother's house and Rowan and Gwyn went crazy for their cousins. Times like these makes me really want to move back to Texas. I love Tulsa, but can you beat being with family? My Mom, who is an absolute Saint by the way, arrived that evening. She helped me with the kids and the next day entertained them while I did my short swim/bike/run. Later that day she loaded the kids up to go visit their other grandparents in San Antonio. (Again, thank you to my awesome mother and father in-law for helping me out!!) Leading into the race was relatively stress free. I had one incident at the pool with a head in collision. It left my head a little sore, but thank goodness I'm so hard headed to begin with :)
Okay, let's get to the race. Kevin and I had a specific game plan for this race. We knew I was running well. We also knew that this was a type of race that sneaks up on you. It gets hot and windy. Also, the run course is hard with some rollers that just come back to bite you in the butt. To top it off there isn't an ounce of shade on the run. They changed the course from last year and we would run 3 loops and exclude the off road portion from last year. I got my stuff ready and headed to the swim, hoping the sun would come up soon so we wouldn't be swimming in the dark. When the cannon went off I was really surprised how aggressive the swim was. I moved over to get some clear water and was back from a few girls. I noticed that I was on Caroline's feet. I also noticed we were losing contact with some girls ahead, so I went ahead and caught the next girl, which ended up being Morgan (who I swam with in Branson). I debated going around her and trying to catch the next group, or just chilling where I was. She decided that for me because I realized we picked up the pace while rounding the last buoy and I couldn't have gone around if I wanted to! I exited and was a little surprised there were so many girls out all ready. They must not have been too far ahead because I passed all but a few in transition. Once on the bike I concentrated on keeping my cool, staying focused, and taking my nutrition. Like I said, this race sneaks up on you. The bike was pretty lonely. I passed a few girls and a few pro men passed me. In the later stages a few collegiate guys (Go Army!) passed me in the last 5 miles. I will say that the roads were in bad shape. The drought caused cracks and holes. The organizers did an excellent job marking, but there was noticeably a lot more chip seal then years prior. By mile 45 I was ready to get off. I felt like my whole body was vibrating and I was just kind of getting bored. This is where I really lost my concentration and I undoubtedly gave up most of my time to the leader (Tenille having a great ride) up ahead. I finally got to T2 and I was stoked to get off the bike and get running. When I headed out I heard I was 5 minutes down. I didn't panic at all. Kevin and I fully anticipated I would be at this kind of deficit. I quickly calculated that if I ran 30 sec per mile faster, I should reach her by mile 10. Time to get to work. When I reached mile 2 I was told 4:20. Uh, Jessica that ain't going to cut it. Okay, keep calm and you have 3 miles of wiggle room. When I got to the first loop I was 3:30 down. Okay better, keep it moving. I suddenly felt better and the crowds were amazing! When I got past the far turn-around I got an update that I took back 1 minute in just that section. I got energized and just started to go harder. Through loop 2 and 1:20 down. I could see the lead cyclist ahead and put the hammer down to catch it. Finally I passed Tenille around mile 10, and I was concerned as she looked to be hurting. I offered some encouragement as we had quite some time on 3rd. When I got to the far turn around coming back I saw she was walking and having a hard time. I hoped she was okay as it was getting brutal out there. Once I reached mile 11 I knew I secured the lead and put the race in cruise control in order to "save" my legs a bit for Miami. Really, it was nice to enjoy the crowds who cheered me on all day to keep fighting. As I made the turn to go into the expo center, I saw Rowan sitting on my brother's shoulders going crazy. My brother yelled, "Are you winning??" Ha! High fives to them, ran inside and my father-in-law was holding Gwynnie near the finish. High fives and kisses to her. Finally I crossed the line and suddenly was worried I was going to pass out! I kept on two feet and my good friend Adam (announcing the race) interviewed me and I have no idea what I said. I was totally spent. I got to visit with some friends (even childhood that happen to be there!) and headed out to get cleaned up and get the kids out of the sun. A quick shout out to Kelly and Derik Williamson--each loop I would find them and they were just calm and cheering as if "go get it done already." I didn't even know they'd be there, what a treat! Also, to Richie and Melissa Cunningham. Richie, my Trakkers teammate, is coming back from an injury and passed me on the run and kept me calm. Melissa, thanks for the cheers and twitter updates!
This was a great day. It wasn't an incredible time, but it's one of those races that force you to believe in yourself. I am most proud that I raced my race and never panicked. We had a plan and we stuck to it. Huge thanks to my family, especially my parents, for always supporting me in this triathlon dream. To my incredible sponsors: Trakkers, Rev 3, First Endurance, TYR, Recovery Pump, Kestrel, Louis Garneau, Avia, 918 XC, and Team Red, White, and Blue!! Thanks for sticking with me. This season has been full of downs, and now finally ups!