Lake Stevens was out there, waiting, just six weeks after Boise. I was relatively in shape, but another 70.3 so soon? I’d only raced in two other half-ironman distance races, and I struggled through each of them. I didn’t want to torture myself again and put myself through all of that when they weren’t turning out very well. The short races are so fun and I know what I’m doing there. But the 70.3 is, if anything, a compelling riddle and I knew I couldn’t let the challenge go. Besides, there was that Worlds spot….
The town of Lake Stevens is somewhat in my back yard. It used to be a resort community, I have read, and now is kind of an Everett suburb. It’s still a drive of over an hour for me, so a friend and I got a hotel room in Everett, which is pretty much the closest place that you can stay to the race venue. The race day weather was perfect with a marine layer of clouds, and temps in the high fifties, a huge contrast from Boise in June. My nerves were less than before, because my previous race was only a few weeks ago, and I’d had some very good training in-between.
My pre-swim warmup consisted of ten minutes of jogging followed by a swim-cord workout. Athletes were allowed to swim before their wave, so I jumped in to the swirling muddy water by the shore and swam back and forth a few times. When it was time, I lined up on the dock with my wave of 40-44 year olds. The gun went off. I’m always a bundle of various kinds of nerves up to this point, but once I’m swimming, all the nerves get redirected into action. I love starting! The weeks and months of preparation come together, the jitters leave me, and there is truly no turning back when I push myself forward in the first few strokes of a triathlon. I feel right at home, no matter the distance of the race in front of me.
At the Lake Stevens 70.3, there’s a bright yellow buoy line a few feet under the water, and if you can swim near it, you barely have to lift your head to sight. I started the swim in the front of the pack and positioned myself just to the outside of the buoy line. There were two or three girls swimming near me, and after ¼ mile, I found myself pushed to the inside and struggled to find the best place to swim. A few times I worked myself back to the outside, but crowds swarmed as I caught waves in front of me. Staying just to the inside seemed easier, aside from having to pass the buoys themselves, which I ended up hitting with my arm each time. I finished the swim feeling strong.
Swim time: 27:35
Division place: 2
My bike was racked right next to the swim exit, so that was nice. Once I was on my bike, my plan was to concentrate. I needed to try to get my heart rate down into the 140s during the first ten minutes of the ride. Once I was out of transition, I breathed calmly and spun my legs lightly. I’m doing it, this feels good! Too good, actually. I glance at my watch – heart rate is 171! Ugh. More light spinning, calm breathing and then it finally began to drop. I felt like I was out on a social cruise, but again, I was determined to be relaxed, even if my ride was way slower than last time. I was elated when my HR hit 158.
I continued with the relaxed strategy the entire time, keeping my HR in the 150s. One of my teammates passed me, moving fast, early on. It was great to see her and many others I knew out there, an awesome benefit of a home race. The course was crowded and there were a few close calls with people forgetting to glance over their shoulder before swerving around someone. I pedaled on, continuing to remind myself that I “wanted” a slower bike time to feel good on the upcoming run. Thankfully, the hilly course didn’t seem as challenging as I’d imagined it to be. Maybe this was my kind of course: a lot of steep hills, but none too long. I could take advantage of descending, something I like to do, and sometimes cruise all the way back up the next hill.
Coming into mile 45, then 50, I had energy to spare. This was going to work! I saw others I knew and yo-yo’d with them a bit. The sky remained cloudy and cool, and I drank plenty of water and downed my nutrition according to my plan.
Bike time: 2:53:11
Pace: 19.4 mph
Division place: 7
After transition, I took inventory of myself and realized I felt … awesome! No sideaches, no funny stomach issues. So far, so good. Kept my pace to 8:30s for a mile or two. Dashed into a porta-potty (okay, good, I drank enough this time, but I should learn how to do this on the bike in order to not lose time). I resumed my run and picked up the pace, holding my teammate in my sights about fifty yards ahead and keeping my heart rate above 160 as planned. We cruised along. Although I was pushing hard, there was never a time that I felt actually tortured and in some ways it even felt like a standalone half-marathon. I love the Lake Stevens run course. It’s two loops, but you get to pass through town and screaming spectators four times, and head out along the lake twice. There’s a steady hill along the lake just steep enough to take concentration, but then you get to turn and come back down. I waved to my family and friends and each time I passed them, and it gave me more energy. During the second loop I caught up to my teammate but couldn’t overtake her. When we passed my husband, he told us both that there was another girl in our age group just 20 seconds ahead and we could catch her. She sped up and I sped up, latching onto her shoulder by an invisible string. We passed the girl in our age group, and then one more. Once, while we rounded a corner, she waved me forward, but it was taking everything I had just to stay with her, and I couldn’t get closer or actually pass. By the last loop I could tell my smile was fading and my concentration was picking up, but my pace didn’t slow. We passed one more person in our age group before we sprinted into the finish, me just a few seconds behind her.
Run time: 1:45:04
Run pace: 8:00 min/mile
Overall time: 5:09:33
Overall division place: 5
It was a PR, and a course PR, and by the time the rolldowns were over, I held in my hands my entry for 70.3 World Champs in Las Vegas.
Bike: 60 oz water/nuun on the bike. One bottle exchange. Three gels, two of which were caffeinated. One Powerbar.
Run: Water at each stop and three gels, one caffeinated.
No stomach issues during or after the race.