Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz Race Report

Santa Cruz was my “A” race for the season. The one I was building up to for months and months. It turned out to be everything I was hoping for and more. It was also my anniversary weekend. Before the race K told me it would be a great race because it was our anniversary. He was right! We originally planned to make the trip to Santa Cruz just the two of us. Those plans didn’t work out when our childcare fell through, so we decided to make it a fun family race-cation instead!

Our hotel was right across the street from the boardwalk about 1/4 mile to the swim start. Being within walking distance to everything and having plenty of entertainment for the boys was key to making it a smoother trip with two toddlers. I rolled out of bed Saturday morning and walked down to the pier to get in a little open water swim practice. There were a bunch of other people there too. The water was cold, but not too bad like I had been warned. Many people advised I wear booties and a thermal swim cap…but I’m from California and used to cold water so decided not to get them. The water ended up being 68 degrees and it was announced booties would not be legal. Glad I didn’t waste the money!

After a short swim I headed over to transition to check-in and listen to the athlete briefing. There was talk that the swim course would be altered due to bacteria in the water from the recent heat wave. They confirmed this at the meeting. We would be starting about 100 yards south of the pier from the original swim start and swimming in a triangular course rather than rectangular.  After the talk I found a few of my Betty teammates and did a little shopping in the Ironman store 🙂

When I racked my bike in transition later that day I met Cathy, an amazing woman wearing the same Betty Designs Fuck Cancer jersey I had on. She was diagnosed with breast cancer just five weeks prior, but didn’t let that stop her from doing this race. She was so positive and upbeat. It was very inspiring. I ran into her again at the swim start the next day and seeing her smile helped calm my nerves. She truly is a special lady and meeting people like this is one of the many reasons I love this sport and being on Team Betty so much!

Race morning I woke up at 4:15am and called Uber to take me to transition. It wasn’t a far walk, but didn’t think it was a great idea to walk alone in the dark. After I got to transition, I realized I forgot my timing chip! I tried not to stress about it and was told I could get a new one down at the swim start. They closed transition around 6:30 and we headed down to the beach for the swim.

Swim

There was an extremely thick layer of fog and it was impossible to make out even the first buoy, but people were already out warming up in the water. I thought I was the only one worried that we couldn’t see ANYTHING out there.  Shortly after an announcement was made that the swim start would be delayed due to the fog. I felt a little relieved they were giving it time to clear, but it also gave me more time to get in my head which is never a good thing.

They kept pushing the start back until they no longer could because of permit limitations. Finally they announced they were shortening the swim and moving the start down to the other side of the pier. I was disappointed since I had been working hard on improving my swim and really wanted a shot at a true 1.2 mile swim PR. At the same time, I was just happy they let us swim at all. I know they could have easily cancelled the swim like several other races have this year.

I never heard an official announcement on what the new distance was, but a few people said it was half a mile. The pros finally went off around 8am. I was still in the water warming up. I wasn’t in a hurry since I thought it was still a rolling start with athletes self-seeding by expected finish time. WRONG. Everyone just gathered together in a herd and since I was taking my time in the water, I ended up in the back of the pack for the start. I was literally one of the last people in the water and didn’t start the race until 8:45am!

It was crowded in the water and I’m still working on getting over my fear of being hit and swam over so I stayed to the outside near the kayaks. It felt like I got to that first turn buoy fast! It was a pretty uneventful swim for me. I have a bad habit of stopping when I sight which I did way too much. Need to work on that. Other than that, it was a quick swim and I made it out of the water in less than 18 minutes according to my watch. A lot faster than I was expecting obviously, but I had no idea what my true pace or distance was. My Suunto watch clocked it at 1150 meters in 17:50 for a 1:33 avg pace, which I know is off.

Official swim time: 18:23 ( I still don’t know what the actual distance was)

T1: 6:10

We ran a half mile up the beach and on asphalt to depot field. A lot of people brought old shoes or flip flops to run in. I went barefoot and was just fine.  Ended up 2 minutes faster than Oceanside with a much longer run so I was happy with that.

Bike

I’ve been making the most gains in cycling recently, so I was excited to see what I could do. It was also my first race with my new Irwin Cycling race wheels. It was the perfect course for me to fly and gun for that PR. It had just the right amount of challenge. Lots of rolling hills for about 2,500 ft of gain. My favorite! The course is literally all along the ocean…beautiful views the entire ride. The first 3 miles were a little technical with some wide turns to get out to Hwy 1. Once we were out on the 1 though it was straight out and back for the next 50 miles.

My watch was set to triathlon mode, but when switched to the bike they display was stuck on time elapsed. I couldn’t get it to switch over to display speed and HR so I did the bike completely on feel. I decided I would just go hard, but not all out so I could save a little energy for the run.  At the mile 28 turnaround I felt great so tried to push it even more. Still no idea how fast I was going, but I was passing a lot of people. It was an open course and super crowded since the swim was cut short. There were a few sketchy moments when I had to pass groups of riders who were not moving closer to the shoulder even when I yelled “on your left.”  Just after the turnaround traffic was at a standstill and I saw a bike completely crushed under a car. A man was laying on ground not moving on the shoulder with a group of people around him. It looked pretty bad and really shook me up. I said a silent prayer for him. I later found out he escaped with only minor injuries. Such a scary moment and reminder to appreciate every moment.

Around mile 35 I passed a girl in my age group wearing a Team Coeur kit. She re-passed me on a downhill and then it was on! We played a fun game of cat and mouse most of the ride back on Hwy 1. She would kill it on the downhills and pass me (I’m getting better at laying off the brakes when descending, but not 100% there yet with hammering the pedals all the way down). I would re-pass her on the climbs. This went on for about 15 miles until I passed her for the last time with 3 miles to go and never saw her again. At the last aid station I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade Endurance from a volunteer and made a (weak) attempt to empty it into my aero bottle. I decided it was better to play it safe and pulled over to fill it. A goal for next race is to do this without stopping.

My goal time for the bike was 3:15 which was my predicted time according to TriDot’s RaceX. I ended up beating this by over 10 minutes and beat my Oceanside 70.3 bike split by over 30 minutes!!!

Bike time: 3:04:27

T2: 3:08

I took too much time applying sunscreen in T2. Not sure what I was thinking? I had already applied it before the race, but a girl offered it to me and I was too nice to say “no, thanks.” Good strategy on her part. Total inner race bitch fail on mine. haha

Run

The run used to be my favorite event, but the bike has recently replaced it. That said, I still love to run and felt strong coming off the bike. I nailed my nutrition on the bike and took Osmo hyper hydration the night before, which helped set me up for a strong, steady 13.1 miles. Similar to Oceanside, the majority of the run is along the coast, but there was less spectator support. Seeing all the Betty’s on the course and getting high fives really helped push me, especially up through the trail portion of the race in Wilder Ranch. My Oceanside time was 2:16. I was determined to beat that and end with a negative split. I stopped for coke the last 2 aid stations and gave those last couple miles everything I had. Rounding the last turn onto the beach to the finish I felt chills knowing I had crushed my Oceanside time by over an hour! Crossed that line with fists in the air feeling better than I ever have at the end of race.

Run Time: 2:12:41

Total Time: 5:44:49

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I couldn’t have asked for a better race to end the season. Seeing my boys’ faces and getting huge hugs from them at the finish was the cherry to top a season of hard work and determination. I plan on doing one more sprint race for fun in November, but I’m most excited for the possibilities of what lies ahead next season and beyond. I’m really starting to believe the big epic goals I once thought were distant dreams are much closer than I thought possible.

I have already signed up for two 70.3 races in 2018 and I’m considering one or two more. This is without a doubt my new favorite distance. I’ve come a long way from my DNF at Superfrog 70.3 a year ago which I did not let derail me. Looking forward to continuing the journey and seeing where it takes me in another year!

Special thanks to the sponsors that helped me get here. So grateful for the support!

Betty Designs, Badass racing kit

Irwin Cycling, Smokin’ fast wheels

Rudy Project NA, Super comfortable and stylish AF aero helmet

Jaybird Sport, Headphones to keep me pumped while running and those loooong trainer sessions.

COOLA Suncare, Keeping my skin safe and flawless during those long hours sweating in the sun.

TriTats, #looklikeapro while racing

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USAT Age Group National Championships Race Report

I qualified for the USA Triathlon Nationals about a year ago by placing 1st in my age group at a local sprint. I haven’t raced many Olympic distance triathlons…I prefer sprints for going fast and now the endurance challenge of 70.3’s…however since this was a national championship race and I qualified to race the Olympic, I was stoked for this opportunity. It was only my third Olympic distance race.

The top athletes around the country compete at Nationals for a chance to make Team USA and compete at ITU Worlds. I had no expectations of qualifying for Worlds, but I did have some personal goals: (1) PR the Olympic distance ✔️ (2) PR the swim ✔️ (3) PR the bike (didn’t happen) (4) PR the run (didn’t happen, but close) (5) sub 3 hours (6) don’t come in last ✔️ 3 out of 6 goals achieved isn’t bad. Although I knew the competition would be stiff, I was in no way prepared for just how fast these ladies would be!

I flew in on Thursday and met up with two of my Team Betty teammates, Jennifer and Jill at the airport. Jill drove in so was playing chauffeur all weekend…she’s awesome! We headed to the Betty House shared by 6 of my teammates for the weekend. I had only met one of them previously, but they were all so amazing and I felt instantly at home.

Friday we checked in, picked up my bike from TriBike Transport and did a little shake out swim / run. There was some talk leading up to the race that the lake temps were dropping, but by race day the lake temps were still 80, so any hopes for a wetsuit legal swim were dashed. Glad I was able to get a practice swim in the lake. It felt like bath water and took away any nerves I had about my first non wetsuit swim.

Saturday morning I woke up at 4:00am and had my usual pre-race peanut butter toast with banana. We got to transition right when it opened at 5:00am. I was in wave #2 which went off at about 7:37 after a 30 minute delay to the start of the race.

The swim start was off a dock with all the girls in my wave lined up in a row in the water holding onto the dock. It was the first time I did this kind of start and it wasn’t bad. I didn’t get kicked or punched like I usually do in a beach running start and there were over 100 girls in my AG. It felt like a REALLY long swim. A few of my teammates mentioned they thought the course seemed longer as well. It was a pretty uneventful swim. I felt like I was swimming really slow, but managed to take 6 minutes off the time of my last Oly swim a few months ago without the buoyancy of a wetsuit and salt water.

Swim Time: 40:50

T1 was pretty long. A guy yelled at me I when I was running out with my bike that I still had my swimskin on. Oops 🙊 Lost too much time taking it off and running back to leave it by my rack.

Once I was on the bike I felt like I was flying, hitting 22+ mph no problem until I got to the hill I was warned about on Mile 7. I slowed dramatically. There was a sign that said “Welcome to the Nebraska alps.” Haha. It wasn’t the largest hill I’ve encountered in a race, but tougher than I was anticipating. Once I got over it my pace was right back up, but that didn’t last long. After the turnaround we were hit with strong headwinds. I fought to hold a 16-17mph pace and my legs were screaming the whole 12 miles back. I ended up with a 17.2mph avg which was super disappointing considering I felt so strong in my training on the bike going into this race having raced a sprint 2 weeks prior with a much faster avg. I had also dramatically increased my FTP since my last Oly race. Need to think about riding more hills before Santa Cruz.

Bike time: 1:26:20

T2 took too long at 3+ minutes. Not sure what I was doing? I popped 2 Clif energy gels and off to the run.

The run was on black asphalt with very little shade, but I felt strong. All of my Betty teammates started in later waves that went off hours after mine, so I didn’t experience the energy of seeing them and the cheering I did at Oceanside. I did spot my TriTats teammate Nate during the first loop and got a high-five which was awesome and gave me a huge boost! It’s a two loop course. After the first loop turnaround I was able to push the pace and held an 8:45 pace to the finish.

Although I didn’t PR the run (3 minutes off) I was happy it was a faster split than my last Oly AND I ran negative splits which is something I’ve been working hard on.

Run time: 55:26

Overall time: 3:09:37

I beat my previous best for the Olympic distance by 2 minutes which is great, but I couldn’t help feel disappointed that I didn’t reach my sub 3 goal. I finished 117/129 in my AG which was a blow to the ego, but it was a super fast field and I gave it what I had that day.

The next day I raced the sprint and it was HARD! I’ve never done back-to-back races. My legs felt so heavy and I just didn’t have it in me to push the way I wanted to. Definitely wasn’t a PR day, but the experience was awesome!

The best part of the weekend for sure was hanging with my teammates, especially since my family didn’t travel with me for this one. It reminded me of why I love this sport so much and how being a part of a team is beyond awesome!

Special thanks to the sponsors who make this possible @bettydesigns @rudyprojectna @tritats @irwincycling @jaybirdsport.

Up next: Santa Cruz 70.3 in just over 3 weeks!

Oceanside 70.3 Race Report

Race season has officially begun and Oceanside couldn’t have been a better race to kick it off!

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I woke up at 4:20 am prior to my alarm going off. I rarely sleep well the night before a race and this was no exception. I ate my usual peanut butter toast with banana, kissed my sleeping boys and headed out to walk to transition around 5:30am.

We were at the host hotel which is a good 2 miles from the transition area with no shuttle service. Ironman requires you to check your bike in the day before the race, so I had no bike to ride over either. I didn’t want to wake the boys and K obviously couldn’t leave them in the room alone to drive me so I just started walking. I saw buses picking people up in a nearby parking lot which I assumed were for athletes, so hopped on one. I chatted with the driver and turns out they were for volunteers, but he was super sweet and drove me to the transition drop off point anyway.

Most of the races I’ve done had much smaller transition areas. This one was massive which was a little intimidating, but it was awesome to have the buzz in the air from such a large and stacked field of competitors! I quickly set up my area, tried to stay warm (it was freezing), ate a couple Gatorade energy chews, then found two of my amazing Betty Squad teammates, Jilliene and Misty. We headed down to the swim chute together. I read a tip from Katie Hart Morse’s 2014 Oceanside 70.3 report about wearing flip flops to discard before entering the water and wish I hadn’t forgot them. The ground was pretty rough. The swim chute was packed. I heard the gun go off, but couldn’t see the pros who were off and swimming. We made our way to the back of the 40 minute pace group. My target was 50 minutes, but my coach advised me to start with a faster group so I could try to draft. I’m so grateful Misty and Jilliene were there with me in that group. We joked, laughed and gave each other pep talks which really helped to calm my nerves.

Swim:

The swim was a rolling start with athletes self-seeding. The idea is this should help spread out the field and keep the faster swimmers together and slower swimmers out of their way. It’s a good idea in theory, but there were so many people in the water it was still a fight to find open space. I kept lifting my head after a few strokes, treading water until I got my bearings. I could feel my heart-rate rising and I knew I had to get it under control quickly or I was going to burn out fast. After about 800 meters or so I finally started to calm down and got in a decent rhythm, but I was still getting hit left and right. I picked up momentum after the turnaround buoy and started getting more aggressive with my swimming, not stopping if I got whacked. Overall it was a decent swim and if I had started out swimming in the beginning instead of mostly treading water, I know my time would have been a lot faster. Lessons learned. I feel less anxiety about swimming now and got the huge Superfrog swim monkey off my back.

Official Time: 51:45

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T1: 8:34 

There is a long run out of the water back to your bike, so it’s not a fast transition. Even so I was way slow. Need to figure out how to get out of there onto the bike faster for the next one.

Bike:

It felt great to be out of the swim and on the road. The first 15-20 miles were rolling hills. In fact it was a pretty hilly course the whole way with the exception of the last 10 miles back into Oceanside. I love rolling hills, but I also don’t have a lot of practice getting into aero on rollers, so I ended up staying up on my handlebars for most of the 56 miles. I also didn’t have much practice grabbing hydration from volunteers and refilling my bottles while riding prior to this race, so I pulled over to stop and refuel at the first aid station which cost me a few minutes. The second aid station came right after entering Camp Pendleton. I decided to try to roll through without stopping and managed to grab a banana and water! Success! The first big hill (which many people warned me about) came around mile 30. It loomed large in the distance. I’m a decent climber and wasn’t phased. Many people got off their bikes to walk up, but I powered up and over passing a ton of people here.  I was re-passed by a few going down the hill. I’m scared of descending and like to hug the brakes, but didn’t ride the brakes as hard as usual, so that was a win.

After this hill there were a couple more decent sized hills and a no passing zone / speed trap where you would be DQ’d for going over 25 mph. No issues there. The last 10 miles back to Oceanside was mostly flat, but there were pretty brutal headwinds. I had left enough in the tank and was able to power through the wind, again passing a lot of people. It was a fun, beautiful bike course, but I was ready to be done and onto the run.

Official Time: 3:37:02

Nutrition –  Gatorade Endurance, Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool dates, 2 GU Roctane Energy Gels , BASE salt 

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T2: 4:54 – Much faster than T1!

Run:

The run is my favorite and this course did not disappoint. My watch froze on T2 mode. It was my first time using the triathlon mode. Note: make sure to practice everything in training. I was able to see elapsed time, but not pace or heart rate, so I had to do it all on feel. The first couple miles felt great! Maybe too great because when I was able to retrieve the data later (turns out it was still recording pace and hr info, just wasn’t displaying) discovered I was running in the low 9’s for those first few miles. The game plan from my coach was to run 10:00 min/miles for the first three miles, then pick it up to 9:30’s and hold that pace the rest of the run. I ended up doing the opposite and ran 9-9:30 the first 3 miles and averaged 10:30’s the last 10. I started out in this sport as a runner first and I usually finish strong on the run, but I failed badly on my nutrition and it totally blew up my run. I was mindful enough to take a few licks of salt every mile or two which is definitely what got me through, but I didn’t take in nearly enough water or Gatorade and forgot to pop energy gels until around mile 9. I’m usually good about keeping up with my nutrition while running. I didn’t do more than 5-6 mile run bricks in training, so I think I just didn’t realize how much fuel I would need to finish strong for a half marathon after a long swim and bike. All good lessons to take with me to the next one. Even though I didn’t finish in my goal time, I had so much fun on the run. The energy from the spectators and other participants was amazing! There was a Betty teammate there to give a high five and shouts of encouragement all along the course. I seriously have never had so much fun at a race. I will definitely be back to Oceanside next year!

Official time: 2:16:50

Overall: 6:59:05

Division Rank: 63, Gender Rank: 438, Overall Rank: 1801IMG_6040

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Thank you to Betty Designs and all our amazing Betty Squad sponsors! Couldn’t do it without your support!

Next up are a couple local sprint and Olympic distance races. My next “A” race is USAT Olympic Age Group Nationals in August and then it’s onto Ironman Santa Cruz 70.3 in September for a chance to put everything I learned from this race into a 70.3 PR! 🙂

Happy racing!

XO

Christina

The Legends Triathlon Race Report

I wasn’t planning to do any fall triathlons after Superfrog 70.3 this season, but after that race ended in a disappointing DNF, I HAD to do one more. After riding such a high in my triathlon comeback season landing on the podium in each of my races leading up to Superfrog, I didn’t want to end the year on such a sour note and let months of training go down the drain. I needed a redemption race.

I searched online and there wasn’t another 70.3 distance race on the west coast (that I could find), so an Olympic distance was the next best thing. I almost settled on Morro Bay Triathon until a fellow triathlete and mama I met through Instagram, Diana, suggested I do the Legends Triathlon with her. Calm lake swim. I was in!

I honestly didn’t pay much attention to the bike and run course terrain, I was just happy there would be no threat of large swells in the swim. The race took place at Bonelli Park in San Dimas, just outside Los Angeles.

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K and I drove down from Santa Barbara at 5am and arrived with plenty of time to spare. The race started at 8:00am. My wave was 3rd with all women racing the Olympic distance (around 20 total). It was a pretty small group and the start was smooth sailing. After the swim start I had just experienced at Superfrog, it was such a relief. I got in a nice rhythm and just swam, no panic at all, in my zone. I might have zoned out too much because I slacked on the sighting and ended up drifting too far to the right after passing the first turn Buoy. I felt totally calm the whole time though. I didn’t go too fast. I wanted to save my energy. I was actually enjoying this swim and for once wasn’t just wishing for it to be over. It wasn’t my fastest swim and the course was a little longer than 1500 meters, but I consider it a victory.

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There was a small, but steep hill up to T1. I forgot to pack my body glide and struggled with geting my wet suit off around my ankles. I usually never sit down, but it was the only way I could get it off.

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I guzzled water and on to the bike. Just before the start Diana informed me that what we had thought was a flat course was actually hilly with two very steep descents. Since Superfrog was a flat course, I hadn’t done much training on hills. I’m a scared descender. I’m that girl  barely hitting 20 mph while everyone else flies by at 40-50 mph.  The first hill was right out of the gate and the decent was long. I hugged the brakes most of the way down. It’s a three loop course, so I had to do this descent two more times. Great. After the initial deep descent it’s all rolling hills. There was very little flat straightway. I never got into a good groove. I went a little faster the second loop down the hills, but I was still getting passed a lot. It was getting hot and by the last loop there were a lot less people on the course. I thought I was for sure dead last. I was never so happy to finish the bike. My legs just didn’t have the strength.

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I tried to keep up with my nutrition on the bike, but I was seriously suffering as I entered T2.

The run was a cross country style course with terrain consisting of trails, asphalt and dirt. I haven’t done a lot of trail running this year and there were a couple sneaky hills mixed in. It wasn’t my best run by a long shot. I had to walk portions of the hills and water stations. The heat was getting to me with temps pushing 90 and my legs were shot from all the climbs on the bike. I just kept shuffling forward telling myself quitting was not an option. Around mile 4 I realized I had seriously missed staying on top of my nutrition and although my stomach didn’t want it, I forced down a GU. It gave me just the little boost I needed to take it home those last couple miles to the finish line. I was so relieved and so happy to cross that line.

I passed one girl in my AG on the run, but I definitely wasn’t thinking there was any chance of a podium spot let alone 1st place.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one suffering and the course was challenging enough to others (in my age group at least) that even with my less than speedy time, I managed to snag 1st in my AG. Turns out there were only 3 of us and 1 was a DNF, so that girl I passed on the run was the only one I had to beat out. 🙂

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Although it wasn’t my best race, I’m so glad I did it and ended the season on a high. My mind is already thinking about 2017, but my body needs a break. I’m looking forward to lots of yoga, working on building strength and  improving my swim technique during the off-season. Then 2017 look out, I’m coming for you!

XO

Christina

My First D.N.F.

D.N.F.

Those three letters every triathlete dreads. Did not finish. Not going to lie, it stings, A LOT. I knew it was bound to happen, but for it to be my first Half Ironman makes it all the more painful.

Ironman 70.3 Superfrog just wasn’t my race. Race week started off with a bad cold/flu. I spent Monday and Tuesday in bed. I took my bike out for a test ride on Wednesday and still felt lousy, so at the advice of a fellow triathlete friend, I called my doctor and begged for a z-pack. I started it Thursday before the race and within 24 hours started feeling much better. My spirits and excitement for the race really kicked in by the time we packed up and headed down to San Diego on Friday. I was so ready to DO THIS. Mother Nature had other plans for me.

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Our hotel was 2 blocks from transition and the start/finish. Nice! I picked up my packet and race bib Friday afternoon. Saturday was a fun family day at the new Children’s Museum in downtown San Diego (I highly recommend it if you have kids and are ever in the San Diego area). After we got back and put the boys down for a nap, I headed down to the beach for a quick practice swim. There were warning signs posted everywhere to stay out of the water because it was contaminated. Yuck! Just as I was about to turn around and leave the lifeguards told me the water quality was OK, the advisory was being lifted and it was safe to go in the water. The waves were big and the swim is not my strongest event, so I was definitely beginning to regret that I had not done more open water swimming before the race. I got in a quick 10 minute swim, but didn’t go out very far. Followed it up with a 15 minute shake out run on the sand.

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Afterwards I checked in my bike and despite my extreme nerves about the swim and what conditions would be like the next morning, I felt pretty relaxed and ready to do this. I had my traditional pasta dinner with family, including my mom and grandma, then it was back to the hotel and lights out early. Thankfully the boys went to bed right away and I was asleep soon after.

 

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The next morning my nerves really set in, but it was more a nervous excitement.  I was up at 4am, took my time double checking I had everything and headed out for the short walk  to the transition area around 6:20. Shortly after I got there they announced transition would be closing at 6:45am and everyone needed to be out and at the start. They don’t mess around at Ironman. I quickly set everything out, popped a GU and true to word they had everyone out by 6:45 sharp.

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I headed down to the beach and once I saw how fast and furious the swells were coming, I said a silent prayer. I usually pray that I won’t get eaten by a shark, but that never crossed my mind. The ocean never looked so scary to me. It was a rolling start with athletes seeding themselves based on expected finish time. I lined up with the 45-60 minute group and watched as the people in front of me battled the huge swells. When it was my turn to go I said another prayer and ran into the water ready to do battle.

Imperial Beach is very different from what I’m used to in Santa Barbara. The beach is long, shallow and takes a while to get to deeper water. I tried to dive under the first wave and was violently pushed back. I stood back up and charged towards the next wave and instead of diving under this time I stayed standing and again was knocked back. I repeated this over and over and after 15 minutes hardly made any forward progress. I was using so much energy just fighting the surf and hadn’t even really started swimming yet!

Others around me were having similar trouble. When I saw people getting rescued and brought back in to shore by the lifeguards on jet ski’s I went from scared to petrified. I stood and waited in the water for what seemed like forever hoping there would be a long enough break in the swells for me to make a go for it, but they just kept coming fast and furious, getting bigger and bigger.

I knew time was not on my side at that point so made another attempt to dive under the next wave and got thrashed HARD swallowing tons of water in the process. I asked a lifeguard for advise on what to do. People were getting through the surf, but I was struggling BIG TIME. He told me to swim into the rip current that was near the pier as it would help push me out past the surf to calmer waters quickly. Only in an Ironman event does a lifeguard tell you to swim INTO A RIP CURRENT. I swam toward the pier and got hammered again. At this point it was over 30 minutes in and I was becoming seriously deflated. Even if I made it through the surf, it was a 2 loop course, so I would have to fight the surf again to get back out a second time. There was a group of people in the same boat. At least I wasn’t the only one struggling. Another girl and I made a pact to try a couple more times together, we both continued to struggle and saw more people getting rescued. We both finally decided to through in the towel. We made our way back to shore and with another group of people who were struggling to get out as well, asked the race director if we could continue on the bike/run knowing we would receive a DNF. She gave us a flat no.

Devastated, I picked up my broken heart and bruised ego and made my way to find my family who was in the crowd at the swim finish waiting to cheer me on. As soon as I saw them the tears came and came. I was in serious shock and couldn’t comprehend that it was over and this was how my first 70.3 was going to end. In hindsight, I wish I had continued on to the bike and run despite being stripped of my timing chip and being told I couldn’t by the race director, but at the time I was too distraught to think about that. All I wanted to do was shut the blinds and crawl back into bed.

Bad days happen to every one. Sunday was my turn. It’s easy to say I wish I had fought those waves harder, but I gave it what I had on that day, in that moment. There were more than 250 DNF/DNS’s and for one of the smaller Ironman 70.3 races on the circuit, that’s A LOT. Several veteran Ironmen and Ironwomen later told me it was the toughest swim they have ever experienced. Knowing this softens the blow, just a little. Since becoming a mother my mindset has changed some. I love this sport and thrive on challenging situations, but I discovered when faced with those kind of extreme conditions I’m not as willing to take on the risk anymore. There will be other races. I will bounce back and have another shot at a 70.3 in Oceanside next year. I learned a lot from this experience and although it’s not how I ever envisioned this race would go down, I don’t regret the decisions I made that day.

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On to the next!

XO

Christina

2016 Santa Barbara Triathlon Race Report

On Sunday I competed in the Santa Barbara Triathlon for the first time and got my first age group win! Although Santa Barbara has been my home for the past five years, I always had other things going on (like giving birth!) in August that prevented me from doing this race. Last year I was the runner in a three person long course relay team and had so much fun I knew I had to do the full tri this year. I initially registered for the sprint women only race, but after switching my first half ironman distance race plans from Tempe to Superfrog late last month, I thought it would be a good idea to do the long course instead.

For the past few weeks I have been preparing both physically and mentally to do the long distance course, but those plans got derailed when I came down with the worst flu bug I’ve had in years last week. I got hit so hard I literally thought something very serious was wrong with me and almost had K take me to the ER on Wednesday. Thankfully things started to turn around and I felt better by Friday.

Since the SB Long Course was supposed to just be a training race for Superfrog and not my goal A race, in the end I felt it would be best not to do it. I’ve heard it’s a pretty challenging course and I was worried if I attempted to do it not feeling 100% ready both mentally and physically, I might set myself back in my training for Superfrog. I had already lost almost an entire week of workouts during peak half Ironman training and didn’t want to chance setting my recovery back just as I was starting to feel better, so I opted to do the short course instead. I think I made the right choice and in the process scored my first ever WIN!

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imageRace morning I didn’t get up much earlier than my usual 6:00am wake-up time. I still wasn’t feeling totally back to myself, but since it was a short sprint I thought “What the heck, let’s just do this!” I must have been one of the last to arrive to the transition and some really nice ladies had to move their bikes to open the tiniest spot for me.

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SWIM

I didn’t have enough time to get a warm-up swim in, but I did at least take a quick dip in the ocean so I could adjust to the cold water for a few seconds. I started the swim towards the front all the way to the right like I usually do and entered the water much more aggressively than usual. I did a dolphin dive and started swimming confidently in a good rhythm out to the first buoy. When I made my turn around the buoy from the far inside, my foot got tangled in the buoy rope which put me in a mild panic. It was hard to get my rhythm back after that. I couldn’t seem to calm my racing heart.  I ended up stopping every couple strokes or so to catch my breath. Needless to say it was not my strongest swim, but I still managed to get out of the water ahead of a lot of the other girls in my wave.

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Swim time = 13:41

T2 – 2:34 – need to work on a quicker transition although it was the fastest in my AG.

BIKE

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On the bike I can really make up time and catch people. It was a short 6 mile bike course, but I quickly caught and passed three girls in my age group and finished with the fastest bike split in my age group.

Bike time: 21:04

RUN

I felt good coming out of T2 and with only a 2 mile run I knew I could crush it even though I didn’t start the race with the full energy I usually have. Once again I neglected to drink any water on the bike and so I was pretty thirsty on the run. I stopped at the aid station to guzzle some water and totally missed the turnaround that was just beyond it. I made it to the wharf and noticed there wasn’t anyone really in front or behind me. I looked down at my Garmin watch which showed I had already run over a mile. Oops! I knew I missed the turnaround, so I started sprinting back. I was so mad at myself for not paying attention. I have no idea what I was thinking about that caused me to miss it. I guess I rely too much on volunteers to direct me. Haha. Lesson learned. I had no idea how many girls in my age group were ahead of me, but realized all I could do at this point was finish strong. I caught and passed one girl in my AG in the last half mile, but still thought the mistake had probably cost me a podium spot. I was completely shocked and totally elated when they posted the results and I was in the #1 spot! After a tough week where I missed most all of my training and seriously had doubts about racing, it was beyond sweet and a huge confidence boost to take home that tile!

Run time: 19:07

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Total time 58:37 – 1st Age Group

Win or not, I think I made the right decision switching to the sprint course. In the past I would push myself even if I wasn’t feeling well, but now I try to pay attention to when body signals I need to slow down or back off. I’m not getting any younger and I have two boys who depend on me, so I can’t be as reckless in the way I treat my body as I once was!

Thankfully I’m feeling back to myself and ready to get back into full throttle Ironman 70.3 Superfrog training this week. 25 days and counting!

XO

Christina

2016 Mountains 2 Beach Marathon Race Report

You guys I’m a MARATHONER!! It’s three days post marathon and I’m still on a major endorphin high. It all feels like a dream and the pain is already starting to fade (with the help of Advil).

The weekend started out with a joint 1st birthday party for two friend’s boys. T & C had a blast and being out around friends helped ease the pre-race jitters that had been building all week.

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Later that day we headed down to Ventura, a 30 minute drive from Santa Barbara, to the race expo. Parking was fairly easy and collecting my bib was even easier which was majorly nice with two toddlers in tow.

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After the expo, we headed to Ventura Spaghetti Company for dinner. We arrived at 5:30pm and the place was already jammed packed, mostly with what looked like groups of runners. It took over 45 minutes for our food to arrive. I don’t think they got the memo that a sold out marathon was happening in their town the next day. After quickly scarfing our pasta down, we headed home and put the boys right to bed. I set out everything I needed for the race and it was lights out around 10:00pm. I was surprised by how calm I felt and feel asleep really easily. So easily, I forgot to set my alarm! Thankfully K had the mind to set his. I was up at 4:00am feeling fresh and ready to race!

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My MIL arrived at 4:30am to watch the boys while K dropped me off at the start. The race provided shuttles, but K insisted on driving me so he could be there to send me off on my first marathon. We arrived at the runner drop off which was one block from the start line at 5:30am. That’s when it really hit me that I was doing this thing. I’m so glad K was there to talk me out of the car!

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I rarely ever hit the porta-potties before a race (I usually take care of business at home) but I felt a grumble in my stomach and knew I was in for trouble (or at least one non-planned stop during the race) if I didn’t. The line was long (no surprise), but thankfully I got in and was out right as the national anthem was playing. Less than two minutes later I was off and running!

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There was never any doubt at any point during the race that I would finish. That’s not to say I ran a pain free, perfect race.

I started out in the vicinity of the 3:58 pacer. My main goal was obviously to finish the marathon since it was my first and I did not know what to expect, but I had a loose goal time of 3:59 in mind. I don’t usually like running with pacers, so did my best not to focus on where he was on the course.

The first three miles were uphill which I expected after reviewing the course map. I passed the mile 3 marker feeling great with my pace right on target.

After mile 3 it was downhill back to the start. I picked up the pace a bit to an 8:30/avg. At around mile 6 a nasty side stitch came on. I tried not to panic, backed off the pace a bit, walked through the next water station and took my first gel. This did the trick and within minutes the stitch was gone and I was back on pace.

I crossed the halfway point (13.1 miles) at 1:56:00 according to my Garmin (1:57 officially) which put me right on track. I thought I had a good shot at finishing with a sub 4 at that point since I was feeling great and *thought* the entire rest of the course would be all downhill.

Between miles 14 and 18 there were several rolling hills that I was not expecting (guess I didn’t pay close enough attention to that section of the course map) and my pace slowed significantly. Apparently there was a new course this year and although still net downhill, these rollers surprised a lot of people. I put Eminem’s Lose Yourself on repeat and powered though those baby hills. I started to develop a pain in my upper right hamstring up to my sit bones, but did my best to ignore it. It was also at this point that I saw the 3:58 pacer pass me and that was the last time I would see him.

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Marathon Start and Road shots

Tears welled up in my eyes as I passed the mile 20 marker and realized I was doing this. I was running a MARATHON and felt good while doing it. I couldn’t get my pace back down to a 9:00/min avg, but I didn’t care because I WAS REALLY DOING IT.

The last 10k was hard, like really, really hard, but I kept pushing forward. I passed a ton of people walking at this point and repeated to myself “keep on keeping on.” I knew if I stopped to walk (other than at water stations, I walked through all those) it would be way more difficult to start up again than it was to just keep on running to the end no matter how slow.

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When I hit the 25 mile marker after turning a corner to the final mile stretch along the waterfront to the finish all the emotions bubbled up and I couldn’t hold back the tears. There were so many spectators and people cheering along that final stretch, it gave me all the strength I needed to finish strong. When I rounded the last corner to the home stretch, I was so overcome with emotion the finish line was a total blur.

I found my family after crossing the finish line and collapsed in K’s arms. I bawled for a good couple minutes. A mixture of happiness, pain and relief to be done flooded out.

Official chip time: 4:07:49

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The top question people have been asking since the race is “Will you do another one?” Without hesitation my answer is always “Heck yes!”

XO

Christina

Chardonnay 10-Miler Race Report

Saturday was a beautiful day for the Chardonnay 10-miler, a scenic race along the Santa Barbara waterfront. This race fit perfectly into my marathon training schedule since I had a shorter long run/test race scheduled. I ran this race once before back in 2012. 2012 was a year of breakthroughs and PR’s. There were many highs for me that year (qualifying for the USAT Nationals), but also some lows (struggles with getting pregnant). In 2013, I tapered back from the heavy training and put all my energy into my dreams of starting a family. Since that dream came true in 2014, I have been working hard to get back to the level of fitness I had reached in 2012.

This year, in addition to the new goals I’m chasing of completing my first marathon and 70.3 Ironman, I thought it would be fun to do a few races I ran previously. The first was the Santa Barbara Half Marathon, followed by Superseal Triathlon.  I beat my previous course PR in both races. Next up was this race.

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I started the morning with a Clif bar rather than my usual peanut butter banana toast. I woke up late and didn’t want to eat much so close to race time. The boys being, well, boys don’t sit still for long periods of time in the stroller anymore, so K dropped me off at the start, went home to get T&C and was back in time to watch me cross the finish line.

I was able to get in a quick 1.5 mile warmup which was nice since I usually don’t get to a race early enough to do much of a warmup these days. The race started at 8:00am with the 10 milers and 5k runners starting at the same time. The plan was to start out conservatively, but I hate running in crowds and lets face it, still get overly caught up in the excitement of the start and ended up going out faster than I should have. The first mile was uphill which I didn’t mind. It’s a hill I run weekly with the boys on our stroller run. Easy peasy.

Mile 2 was all downhill after the turnaround. It crossed my mind that I was probably going faster than I should at under 8 min/mile pace, so I eased up a notch and stopped at the mile 3 water station, but no water or volunteers in sight! Okay no big deal I thought, there’s another one at mile 5. It was a warm morning and I don’t carry fluids for most races if it is advertised that there will be water stations and an electrolyte drink of some kind. Mile 5 arrived and all the cups of water at that station were empty! There were two volunteers putting water into the big empty containers, but a lot of people just kept going. I stopped to wait because I was already so thirsty. I must have lost close to a minute waiting for them to fill the water!

Hill #2 was just around the corner and as I started up my beats wireless headphones started blasting a super loud static noise. Nice. I stopped again to fiddle with them, but decided it was best to just take them off and run without music. The funny thing is I was contemplating not wearing them for this race. I have been doing most of my training runs (with the exception of long runs) without them. Although music can really help motivate me, especially a power song in the last mile, I have found I enjoy running without music more and more lately.

At this point I was starting to lose steam. I took the one GU gel I had on me and powered up the hill. Around mile 6 my pace slowed and I was feeling the pain, but I dug deep up the last hill after the turnaround point. It was a huge relief knowing it was downhill and pretty flat from there.

I managed to keep a steady pace from mile 7 to the finish, but not without a hefty amount of pain. I was hot, thirsty and all I could think about was guzzling water at the finish. I crossed the line in 1:27:28 which was 2 minutes off my 2012 time. Although it would have been nice to beat that old time, I’m happy with the result. It was a faster time than the 10 miler I ran back in August and according to the McMillian Running marathon pace predictor I’m within reach of a sub 4 hour marathon.

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Thankfully there was plenty of water (and wine!) at the finish. After I guzzled about a gallon, we headed out for a fun afternoon at the beach. It was the best kind of day!

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6 weeks and counting until Mountains 2 Beach!

Happy training!

XO

Christina

Superseal Triathlon 2016 Race Report

This was my comeback race to triathlon after a 2 1/2 year hiatus to bring my twins into the world. Superseal was my first triathlon back in 2011, so it was the perfect setting for a truly triumphant return to this sport I love so much!

The week leading up to the race was anything but perfect. Another cold blasted through our household and this time I fell victim too.  We planned to leave for San Diego on Friday morning, but after yet another trip to urgent care on Thursday night we almost cancelled the trip. T & C went on another round of antibiotics and we decided to sleep on it and see how they were in the morning. Both improved after just one dose so we decided it was save to travel to San Diego. We left Santa Barbara around 4:00pm on Friday, arrived at the hotel in San Diego at 9:30pm, checked in and immediately went to bed.

Saturday morning everyone was up early and the boys were doing much better. We headed out to race check-in/packet pickup arriving just as it opened at 10:00am.

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My mom and John met up with us. Aside from K, my mom is my biggest cheerleader. She has never missed any of my races in San Diego. I can never get her to look at the camera for pictures and this time was no different (haha). After collecting my bib we headed over to the San Diego Zoo to meet up with my brother, cousin and their families for a fun filled day.

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Watching the ducks

I was hoping to get in a quick shake out run or ride later that afternoon, but it wasn’t in the cards. I had my usual pre-race pasta dinner and prepared my transition bag with all my race day essentials including: Foher Multisport kit, Nuun Energy and Altra running shoes to name a few.

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Race Day!

Woke up at 4:30am. I ate a bagel with peanut butter and finished up last minute prep. K had the car packed and ready to go, so all we had to do was carry our sleepy boys to the car and set out for the quick drive over to Coronado. We literally got one of the last spots in the parking lot. I quickly set up my transition area and then headed out to the swim start to get a little warm up.

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SWIM:

The swim is my weakest of the three events. I have been diligently working on my technique in the pool and I’m committed to improving my swim times, but since my last open water swim was over two years ago, I wasn’t expecting to set any new PR’s in the swim. I started on the far right in an effort to avoid being kicked in the face at the start. The first 200 meters or so I lifted my head up WAY too many times, like every couple strokes. Like I said it had been over two years since my last open water swim and of course the line on the bottom of the pool was not there. It took a few minutes to get my bearings, but after the turn around the second red buoy I finally started to really swim and passed at least five women and even a couple guys in the wave ahead of mine. I finished in the middle of the pack. Nothing to write home about, but happy I got through it okay.

According to my Garmin the course was longer than expected at 750 meters.

Swim time: (according to my Garmin – official results not posted on ironman.com at the time of this post): 16:02 – 2:01/100yds.

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T1 was pretty smooth and there were still plenty of bikes on the rack. Yay for not having too many girls to chase down on the bike and run!

BIKE:

I only managed to get in a few rides on the road (rather than trainer) during this training cycle, so I was more nervous for the bike than usual. The second I got out of transition and onto my bike all those nerves disappeared. All I thought about was crushing it. The course was one flat loop. Again longer than expected at about 13 miles according to my Garmin. I passed a lot of girls and guys and felt fantastic the whole time! It wasn’t my fastest bike split,  but I managed a 3+ minute improvement over my previous bike split on this course. I probably could have pushed it harder, but I was concerned with not overdoing it and leaving enough in the tank for the run.

Bike time: 43:55

Avg speed: 17.6 mph

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T2 took a little longer than it should have. I didn’t drink enough on the bike (actually I drank nothing), so stopped long enough to make sure I hydrated properly prior to the run.

RUN:

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Spotted my boys. Can you tell I was happy to see them. 🙂

The run is my strongest event, so probably not surprising it’s my favorite part of the race. I spotted my family just after I exited transition up a mini hill to start the run. They had gathered a whole cheering squad for me and it was just the boost I needed to get going. The course is relatively flat, starting on a dirt trail that turns into the silver strand bike path. I was passing runners left and right and felt freaking fantastic. At around mile 2.5 I spotted a girl in my age group and picked up the pace easily passing her. I lost count of the number of people I passed and I was only passed by one other girl ( turns out she was doing the Olympic). When I was close to the finish line someone yelled out “she’s gaining on you” which was the last bit of motivation I needed to kick it into high gear and sprint to the finish. I ran negative splits which is something I’ve been working hard on.

Run time: 27:15

Distance: 3.4 miles

Avg pace: 7:59min/mile

Total time: 1:33:28 – 3rd place AG

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It was a fantastic day and I couldn’t have asked for a better race for my comeback. Placing third in my age group was icing on the cake! It feels amazing to be back in the game. There were times I questioned whether it was possible to be as fit or fast as I was before getting pregnant and giving birth. And while my body has changed in many ways, becoming a mom has only made me stronger. I really hope to set a good example for my boys in this sport by showing them that dedication and putting in the work really does pay off (right here they were just ready to take a nap) :). I’m already looking forward to more triathlon races this summer and going for my first 70.3 in October, but first I have a marathon to crush!

Happy racing!

XO

Christina

USA Half Marathon Race Report

It was a fun and quick trip to San Diego for half marathon #5 (#3 post pregnancy) the USA Half Marathon Invitational.

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This race was the first half marathon that you had to have a qualifying time for, although the standards were not nearly as tough as Boston. The race director for Boston was one of the organizers of this race, so I thought it would for sure be a well organized, fun race. I was not disappointed

When Friday morning rolled around the usual scramble was on to get all our stuff packed and ready to go.

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We made it out the door around 9:00am (later than planned) and in our haste forgot our phone chargers and the iPad. Yikes! No Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to entertain the boys on the 4 hour drive. Someone please tell me what parents did to keep kids quiet on road trips before all this technology was available?? 🙂

It was pretty smooth sailing (with the exception of the usual 405 backup in LA) down to SD. We arrived around 2pm and stopped by the expo to pick up my race bib first.

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I was expecting it to be bigger, but we got right in and out, then headed to the hotel a few block away to check-in.

We met up with my mom and Papa John (that’s what we all her longtime boyfriend) for my traditional pre-race pasta dinner, then took the boys down the street to Chuck E. Cheese for the first time. What a mad house! The boys loved it though and were not happy when it was time to leave.

Back at the hotel I prepared all my race day essentials: Lululemon Speed Shorts, Nuun Energy for hydration, Garmin Vivoactive, Momentum Motivate Wrap, CEP Compression Socks. Then it was lights off at 8pm.

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With a race start of 6:00 am, it was extra nice that the start line was just a few blocks from the hotel we were staying at, the Westin Gaslamp.

I headed out at 5:40 am careful not to wake any of the boys (K included). It was a quick 5 minute walk, so I had plenty of time to warm-up and stretch before the gun went off.

Everyone was supposed to get into the corral marked with their estimated finish time. There were no real “corrals” so I squeezed in with the group near the 1:45 pacer. Unrealistic (I knew that) but there is power in wishful thinking right? It’s a goal I’m (hopefully) not too far off from achieving, plus it didn’t seem like anyone was really too concerned about being in the correct corral (except of course the super speedy at the very front). There were a modest amount of runners… around 2,500.

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With Adele’s “Hello” blaring through my earbuds I crossed the start line just a couple minutes after 6.

The first mile was easy peasy. Mile 2. Bam! Hit with a monster hill. Actually I was happy that most of the hills on this course were early on in the race. I always go out too fast. Having a few hills to contend with helped to keep my pace in check, and there were plenty of hills on this course.

My splits for the first four hilly miles:

1 – 8:00 (too fast) my watch was acting up so I was running by feel and adrenaline, but I set a new 400m PR!

2 – 9:15

3 – 9:04

4 – 8:59

I checked the elevation map before the race so knew the course would be flattening out soon which helped me mentally get through those tough hills.

I felt really strong the next four miles so picked up the pace. Splits:

5 – 8:32

6- 8:24

7 – 8:25

8 – 8:58

At around the 10k point I noticed Meb Keflezighi was on the sidelines giving runners in front of me high-fives so I scooted over to get one too — definitely the highlight of the day!

Around mile 9 my engine started to falter, but was determined to finish strong. I was gunning for a PR, so told myself to keep pushing.

Splits to the end:

9 – 9:25

10 – 9:22

11 – 9:08

12 – 9:34

13 – 9:46 (this last mile was a real struggle. I had to stop and walk to regroup)

.2 – 9.13  (the course was .1 mile extra, according to my Garmin anyway).

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My official finish time was 1:59:29. Not the PR I was hoping for, but I ran strong and felt like I gave it my all, so I was happy with that.

All three of my half’s this year were 1:59 something. Not sure why the speed work I’ve been incorporating in my training didn’t reflect in my times for these last couple races.Food for thought.

I spotted my mom and grandma immediately, handed them my phone and collapsed to the ground. Okay maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but I did sit down for a good 10 minutes before making my way out of the finishers shoot to find my family.

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I’ve decided my body deserves a little off-season rest from serious training before ramping it up again in January for my triathlon in March and full marathon in May.

I’m going to try to just enjoy my runs  without too much emphasis on pace and focus on building strength for the next few weeks.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Gobble! Gobble!

XOXO

Christina