Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2016 - Sunshine Coast

Alright. World Champs.  I could write SO MUCH about it: World Championships + Australia...  Yeah, I could write a lot.  :)

But, I'll try to keep it at just the race.  That being said, pre-race could be summarized as:


We arrived in Brisbane the Monday before the race.  We walked around and explored the city.  We visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (AND I HELD A KOALA).

(Yes, this is an important moment which must be included)

We ate a lot of avo toast and drank a lot of flat whites.  We visited the Australia Zoo.  We finally made it to Mooloolaba around 2pm on Thursday, and immediately headed to the Athlete village to get checked in.

RIDICULOUS.  Craaazy line, although I hear it had been even longer earlier in the day!  After waiting in line for ages, I finally got all my stuff, then headed to the merchandise tent.  Immediately, I wanted the finisher pullover because let's face it, it was adorable.  Except there were only 3 of them left, and they were all L or XL.  We kept checking the rest of the weekend, and they never got anymore...seriously?!  Did they not think anyone would want the finisher gear?!  It really should NOT be sold out on the VERY FIRST DAY!  Ok, rant over.

Anyway, aside from that, the prevailing thing on everyone's mind was the weather!  The winds were picking up, and Friday and Saturday were downright stormy!  The ocean was a crazy, angry mess with gigantic swells--even once you got through the breakers (intimidating enough), the swells would toss you around so much once you were out there!  Also tried a bike ride on Friday with Mac, and it was seriously so windy, it was basically impossible (not to mention it was our first attempt at being on the road there, and being in a new city + trying to abide by the rules of the road which were all completely opposite of what we are used to.... SCARY).  I'm ok with biking in the wind, but it was seriously scary.

Aside from that, I started getting a cold on Friday.  Awesome.  I loaded up on AS MUCH vitamin C and Australian meds I could find.  Nothing to do but wait and see what would happen.


Allen got up first to shower, and looked out the window.  Happily, he turned and let me know that it looked much nicer--sunshine, and no wind!  WOOHOOOO!

We headed to transition, which was an entire block from where we were staying.  I had to drop bottles off on my bike and check the tires, where I ran into Karin and Dusty--good thing, because I was a doofus with no bike pump, and needed to borrow theirs :)  Transition closed at 6am, so that the pros could start at 6:15, so everything had to be done early.  Of course, my start wave was very last, at 8:15am!

Soooo I wandered to the swim start, and sat around with Allen, Mac and Kyle (and later my parents, who we found).  The sunrise was gorgeous.  There was some awesome didgeridoo playing at the beginning.  A GIGANTIC cruise ship appeared, live-streaming the race on it's enormous TV screen on the top deck.  The pros were off!

It finally started to dawn on me that this was, you know, the world championship race that I had been looking forward to ever since qualifying 10+ months ago.  My entire season was meant to culminate here.  Not Coeur d'Alene, not any other race, but HERE.  This was it, finally, and it was time to start appreciating it!

Went back to our room a couple times to use the bathroom, but those 2 hours flew by a lot faster than I expected.  Soon, it was time to get suited up.  I got everything halfway on, said bye to my parents, and headed to the start area where we were rounded up before each wave--and could not shake the feeling that i really wanted to go to the bathroom, one last time!  GOOD JOB, KELLEY.  I tried to convince myself it was just nerves, and that it was fine.  It didn't work.  I had 15 minutes until my wave actually started, which meant 10 minutes until my group would even get into the water.  The porta-potties were in a little park, right next to the beach.  I knew they wouldn't be crowded anymore.  In a now-or-never moment, I made up my mind, and ran back up the beach and to the porta-potties.

So much for my perfectly put on wetsuit.

Still, I felt much better, and now I didn't have to worry about whether I was just nervous, or if I would be able to pee in my wetsuit (never have been able to, so wasn't convinced I'd be able to now!), and I got back to the start area with plenty of time.  Got the wetsuit all the way on again, and was still one of the last people to congregate.  But, I was there, and certainly not late.

With 5 minutes to go, they let our wave into the water, where we had to swim out to the buoys, for an open-water start.  My first open-water start ever!  Odd.  I went off to the right.  Not sure it was the right/fastest choice, but there were way less people there anyway so it seemed to work out.

The nice thing about wetsuits in the saltwater is that you're soooo buoyant, you don't need to do anything to float!  So we all bobbed around, listening to the announcer on the beach, counting down the time.  30 seconds!  Ok Rosanne, time to concentrate.  Suddenly, paddlers holding us back started moving forward, right before they blew the horn--and we were off!!!

Swim - 00:41:09 (94th AG)

Prior to the race, my biggest concern had been that I would be the last person out of the water.  It's one thing to be last in your age group, but since my age group was also starting last, my concern was now being the VERY LAST PERSON IN THE ENTIRE RACE.  I'll tell you now, I was not last, but I sure was close!

I am not a swimmer.  I think we all know this by now.  I can also confidently say that I do not swim well in the ocean.  Luckily, the swim was very tame, but that's probably just because I was so much slower than everyone, I literally just swam all alone the entire time.  Which was nice, it certainly lowered my stress, but seriously, so slow.

It was pretty cool, once we turned and were heading back towards the race, with the giant cruise ship there next to us (relatively) and you could see the race on their big screen.  Not enough to really see and watch it, but you could tell that's what it was.

Of course, on the way back, the currents changed (even the guys told us later that they had been talking about it on shore over the loudspeaker, saying that the currents were changing and pulling us back out).  I realized I kept swimming way off course, way the heck off towards that darn cruise ship.  I tried switching how I was breathing, etc to keep myself more on course, but man that was tough.

There's not much more to say about the swim.  I hate swimming, and swimming clearly hates me.  Still faster than Cabo last year, but only barely, and much slower than my other 70.3 swims this year, which is kind of a bummer.  As slow as I am, I've definitely improved this year, but this swim sure didn't show it!  Oh well.

I also knew that my dad would be there, stationed at the swim out, waiting to make sure I hadn't drowned (not an exaggeration).  I knew I was being extra-slow, and felt bad knowing he would be worrying unnecessarily (I was told later that, yes, he was quite concerned it took me so long.  Sorry, dad!).

However, a very extraordinary thing happened: I passed a green cap.  I passed a couple of green caps!  They had started 5 minutes ahead of us.  I even passed one white cap, which was 10 minutes ahead of me!  I don't say that to put those girls down; absolutely no judgement from me, and I'm sure there's a story there.  But, it was amazing to me and at least I wasn't dead last out of the water.

Anyway, I finally made it to the shore, and stumbled out onto the beach.  I immediately looked around for my dad, and saw him, standing at the verrrrry edge of the tape, as close as you could get to the race.  I yelled at him and waved, and made sure he saw me and knew it was me, before worrying about peeling off my wetsuit.

T1 - 00:04:46

And thus begins the LONGEST. TRANSITION. EVER.

Ran up the beach.  Ran up a bunch of stairs...and turned left?!  I vaguely remembered seeing that on the map, but took me a minute to remember, since all our stuff was to the right.  So, we turned left, and ran alongside transition, before turning back into transition, and back across again.

Grabbed my bike bag (very easy to find, since there were only like 10 bags left out of the thousands of spots on the racks).  Wasn't really sure where I was supposed to put my shoes on, so kept running and looking around, until suddenly there were some chairs along the side of fences, and I figured that must be the spot.   Dumped the bag, put on my shoes and helmet, and really awkwardly managed to shove my wetsuit into the bag.  Now I was running with bike cleats, not really sure what to do with this bag.  Found bins to drop it in, and the volunteers assured me I could drop it in any bin.  Errrr, ok.  Good luck sorting these...

Kept running to the bike racks, and down my aisle.  Finally got to my bike.  Got stuck behind two girls who were leisurely making their way out of transition, but the aisle wasn't wide enough so I had to settle for a brisk walk.  This was annoying, because I knew I was so behind on the swim, and it seemed silly to slow down here...but, whatever.

Finally made it to the end of the bike racks (I was serious about it being the longest transition ever), and UP A FREAKING HILL and through some more turns.  FINALLY there was the mount line, and I could get on the bike!

Bike - 03:01:31 (71st AG)

And get on the bike, I did.  I knew the winds had started to pick up by now, and was anxious to see what the course would be like.  After a super short, silly out and back, including the weirdest first U-turn where I had to turn right (but I got to see my mom so that was good!), we were really and truly starting.

A short bit to get out of town.  These little rollers are a lot bigger on the bike.  Get on the gas, Kelley!

Onto the motorway, and I finally was able to settle in.  I was flying, holding 24mph pretty easily, which of course meant a tailwind.  That's ok, I went with it ;)  I was looking out for Mac, knowing I should be seeing her on this out and back, and finally saw her!! The best.  Navigated a roundabout, which I later heard some people went all the way around (instead of continuing on), therefore cutting the course (supposedly on accident) and getting disqualified.

The bit on the motorway was nice.  It was kind of boring.  But also kind of nice.  I loved looking around, and taking in the Australian vegetation and scenery, so at least there was that!

As we turned around, I was hoping it would still be a tailwind--errrrr, NOPE.  From that point forward, it was a total windy struggle.

We turned off the motorway and headed into the hinterlands, which are really just pretty hills, I think.  I knew what the course looked like, but it was hard to judge the distances, and when these loops would start.  Suddenly, things got a lot more crowded, as the two laps merged together.  Until now, the course was reasonable empty.  Not empty, but always clear space.  The sudden influx of riders was weird, and definitely had to be a lot more alert!

But then, up ahead, I saw the sign for "LAP 1", and the entrance to the Infamous Hill.

Aside from the weather, The Hill was also the only thing people had been talking about the last few days.  Now that athletes were finally flooding into the area and previewing the course, all it was was "but The Hill!" over and over and over.  We hadn't had a chance to ride it, but I had seen the profile enough times to know it had a couple kicks.

Ok, shifted down--let's do this.

Man, ok, yes, that starts up straight up hill!  But, it was short.  I made it up the first little climb.  I mean, I had worked for it, but I was ok, and HEY LOOK AT THAT, I just went up this 20% climb, I am invincible!

A short reprieve, as the road curved, and--gulp.  There was another wall, positively staring at me, and I really had not yet recovered.

Alright Kelley, let's go.

The babiest flat, and then are you kidding me?!  Straight up, again.  This was the longest stretch.  By now, there were athletes everywhere.  Walking.  Every single one of them was walking their bike up the hill, except one guy I could see up ahead.  Previously, the thought of walking hadn't even crossed my mind--why would you do that?!  But seeing these people made me think about it.  Don't slow down, Kelley!!!!  You are NOT going to walk, you are in the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS and you are here to RIDE A BIKE, don't even THINK about getting off this bike.

So I ground up that hill, passing everyone who was walking.  There were spectators camped out on the sides, yelling and cheering.  I didn't get out of my saddle, just settled down and put in the work.  You love hills, Kelley, time to show them how it's done.  By the time I was near the top, I managed to pass the guy ahead of me, which made me very pleased, and much to the chagrin of everyone watching :)

BOOM.  And there was the top.  There was a giant inflatable arch, which I think was an indicator for a penalty tent, but climbing up to it with people yelling at you up a crazy hill sure made it feel like the Tour de France.  It may have hurt, but MAN that was fun!

Of course, by now I was slow.  I was doing ok, but that climb made my legs start to feel it.  I finally merged down to the bottom again, where some people heading to the finish passed me (I think those were the only people who passed me the whole time).  But I wasn't feeling great by now, and that DARN WIND would just not stop!  I started up the second loop, which was a lot more tame, but instead had long, drawn out grades which I was utterly incapable of climbing by now.

I think I blocked most of this part out.

By the time I was done with the second loop, and finally ready to head back in, I was pretty sick of the bike.  Wind kept picking up, which I know is a lame excuse, but at one point I was legitimately going downhill, pedaling, and still watching my speed go DOWN.

By now, I was also looking at my time.  And I realized that transition was too far away, and suddenly, I might be going over 3 hours?!

Battling the last wind heading back to Mooloolaba, I tried not to focus on my time, and just finish the darn bike.  But there it was, staring at me.  Even by the time we were turning back down the downhill street to transition, I knew it was too late--and I was MAD.

Some people were slowly soft-pedaling down the hill, which was also maddening.  I booked it, came skidding to a stop, and basically threw my bike at someone.  3:01:xx and my slowest 70.3 bike split ever, and I was ready to run this thing and get it DONE.

T2 -  00:03:49

Running to the racks of run bags, I ignored all the volunteers trying to tell me where to go.  Until they tried to keep me at the end of the rack, so they could get my bag for me.  I could SEE my bag, it was RIGHT THERE, why are they running to the other end of the aisle!

They came running back with a bag-- 3711, or some other number.  I groaned.  MY BAG IS RIGHT THERE, THAT ONE RIGHT THERE WITH THE PINK HOKAS AND YELLOW HAT, IT'S RIGHT THERE CAN I JUST GET IT, IT'S RIIIGHT THERE!

I'm sure this took way less time than it felt like, but of course it felt like an eternity at the time.

Finally I just walked over and got my own what?!  Suddenly, all the volunteers disappeared, and I had NO idea what I was supposed to do or where to go.  There was no room to change (put shoes on) here...

Luckily, my mom was also standing right there, on the other side of the fence, and pointed and yelled to me to go down the stairs, on the other side.

Ok, great--wait, what?!  Down...the stairs?!

Who puts stairs in transition?  Who puts stairs in transition, which you have to go down while wearing bike cleats?!?!

Whatever.  I tried to not eat it, and made it down to the little area with chairs.  It was admittedly gorgeous, overlooking the water.  A guy with a video camera came and interviewed the girl sitting across from me-- I bet that clip goes into the broadcast later.

In any case, I got things done relatively quickly, positively threw my bag at some more poor volunteers (again, good luck sorting those??  Sorry :-\), and clipped on my number as I bolted out of there.

Not sure where the line was, again, but I turned a corner, and was suddenly on the run--at last!

Run - 01:44:12 (60th AG)

Luckily, my anger at my bike split was forgotten the second I hit the run, and suddenly only one thing mattered: GO AS FAST AS YOU CAN, KELLEY.

There was a big Oakley stand at the base of the hill we were about to run up, blasting music.  The crowds were phenomenal.  Now THIS is a RACE!

I was flying.  I flew up the hill, and I flew down.  I saw Kyle, standing on the side of the road looking down at his phone, and I yelled to get his attention.  He came bolting after me, and managed to get up ahead, to stop and yell at me some more (and get some photos ;) ).  My mom had told me that Mac was up ahead, and Kyle reiterated-- I had somehow forgotten that she would be up there, and that at the very least, we would be able to see each other on the out and backs!

I somehow managed a 6:55 first mile, even going up the enormous hill.  I was running hard, and suddenly that cold was making itself felt.  I was ok, but my lungs felt like they were on the verge of giving out, and I wasn't sure how long I could keep it up.

But this was the world championships, after all, and after a sub-par swim and bike, I was not going to go down without swinging.  I made up my mind then and there that I was going to keep running as hard as I could as long as I could. I figured I'd have to slow down eventually, and I'd rather be as far as possible when that time hit.

I did slow down a bit after that, but I did still manage a handful of pretty solid miles.  I finally caught Mac, and then saw her each time the paths crossed, which was amazing motivation!

The turnaround came, and it was time to head back.  Somehow, these laps felt super long, even though they were only a little over 3 miles each!  No worries, Kelley, just keep freaking running.  I was kind of amazed that I was still running hard, and that I was maintaining a pretty equal feeling of lungs-about-to-give out.

Allen appeared at one spot, which was a good lift.  There were a couple of odd places, running through parking lots, and this was one of them--although it honestly didn't really register at the time, so I guess I was focused enough on running.

And theeeeere was the dumb hill again-- but on this side, it was a lot longer and more drawn out.  My run slowed to more of a shuffle, not nearly as fast as I had been running up the other side!  This was alarming.  But, keep on moving, Kelley.

One girl went BLAZING past me.  Some spectators were yelling "show them how it's done!" and yes, she was certainly showing us all how it was done.  She must have been on her last lap and I can only hope she was going on to win her age group, because holy cow, I only wished I could run like that (on the flat, much less up a hill...)!

No matter.  I had one more lap to go.  As I ran down, I was more or less running with another girl, who seemed to know half the people spectating.  It was kind of awesome though, because she was getting HUGE cheers and applause, and I kinda soaked it up too :)  I jealously eyed the "finish" arrows, but knew I would be seeing it soon enough.  Time to get this thing done.

The way back up the hill was hard, again, but this shorter, steeper side really was easier.  Again-- the crowds!!  It was so amazing, they really provided so much energy and encouragement!

On the way down, I made sure to take in the amazing view.  The plus side to that hill was the incredible view, with the mountains, beach and ocean curving in front of you.  That was definitely a moment when it sunk in exactly what race this was.  (Another moment was realizing that, aside from a few exceptions, NOBODY was walking.  Usually by the run, you see people walking at times, but--oh champs)

Buuuuut it was also getting tougher, and I still had like 6 miles to go sooooo enough of that, and time to run again.  My slowest miles were up that dumb hill again, but that's ok.  I managed to push the time back down a bit later, although I was also starting to get a stomach ache, and I started stopping for coke at the aid stations, hoping that it would make me burp and feel better.  So, my times were a bit slower from stopping and walking as I knew I needed to sip the coke, but it was ok-- I was still speeding up a bit, and it seemed to help a bit.

The out felt long, again, but at least now I knew exactly where I was, and even better was hitting the turn around and knowing that now I just had to get back!

I saw Mac one last time, and told her I'd see her at the finish!  Last time through the park.  Last time up the hill (which somehow didn't feel as bad, although I'm sure it was about the same...)

..but it didn't matter, because cresting that hill meant a long, downhill to the finish chute.  And THAT was amazing.

I saw Kyle, waiting at the entrance to the red carpet.  I saw my parents (and had to yell at my mom so she could see me, haha), too.

Unfortunately, I was there at about the same time as two other guys ahead of me, and another girl behind me.  And as we hit the finish line, the two guys in front of me slowed down.  WAY down.  But I also didn't have enough time or space to get around them (and couldn't slow down too much because of the girl behind me...) so my finish line run turned into an awkward, slow jog.  But there was Allen, right at the finish line, and it was all ok.

I was done!

Total: 05:35:27

Swim - 00:41:09 (94th AG)
T1 - 00:04:46
Bike - 03:01:31 (71st AG)
T2 -  00:03:49
Run - 01:44:12 (60th AG)

Overall:  1860/2721
Female:  422/933
AG:  60/101

As I crossed the line, I think I was the most emotional I've ever been--even more than after the full!  No, it wasn't quite the race I wanted.  But I truly felt like I gave it everything I had.  I didn't regret anything, I hadn't made any dumb mistakes (by either going too hard, too easy, or anything else), and most importantly, I knew I had had fun and really taken it all it.  It was an amazing experience, I was so thankful and grateful to be there, and it was honestly a race I'll never forget.  I hope to make it to another World Champs, and hopefully race faster (or at least to the ability I know I can), but if not, I know I had an amazing experience here!  :)