IM Austin 70.3 Race Report and Reflection

The only pre-race ritual I have is saying a prayer that all the athletes, my husband and myself, make it to the race, through the race, and leave the race safely and in good health. That prayer I would hold until I hit the finish line…

I encouraged Ken to sign up for this race because I did it back in 2008 and loved the energy, course, and temps. I loved the thought of ending the season in warm, maybe hot, sunny weather. Well that was NOT the case this year. An unexpected cold front left race day temps in the 40’s to mid 60’s. I wasn’t really fazed only in that I would have to remind myself to mentally practice my T1 to account for putting on gloves and my wind jacket. I started my season at Oceanside 70.3 and it was unexpectedly cold, rainy, and overcast so I was mindful not to get caught up in something I could not control. Like Marni (TriMarni) always says, “control the controllables.”

Because of the lack of sunlight and start times the race director informed all athletes that no pre-race warm up in the water was permitted.  Most athletes that I saw that morning started cold from the water.

 Swim: Ahhh the water was a warm 71 degrees and felt so good! More recently I have been starting the swim more upfront. I did that today. I know myself and I can handle girls passing me or even a little body contact. Luckily, my AG was not as aggressive as we took off and that was that. I drafted for the first part of the race until we started running into the two prior age groups that when I had to really navigate around an obstacle course of swimmers. I am usually good at sighting but for a good amount of the time I was more focused on not running into other swimmers, this took me a bit off of my normal straight line that I visually keep in my head. Made my way out of the water and noticed the shot of cold air as I exited. Time: 37. 18 (I’ll take it. Felt good most of the way through the swim.)

T1: Cold. Fingers kind of stiff.  Mindful that I was moving slowly. Tricky to get my wet self into my Castelli wind jacket that is paper-thin. I managed and I was off. Time: 4:14

Bike: Burr but here we go! For the first couple of miles my bike computer was not working. I stopped once to adjust it. That did not work. Continued to asses the “dink” noise coming from my wheel. Slowed down, took my left foot out of my cleat, and then knocked it in place a bit. That worked and then I was off. Felt really good after that point. My legs were strong and my cadence was steady. I felt I was really handling the wind well and race wheels were doing their job too. While I was on the bike I thought to myself “You’re committed. You chose. You have it, so use it.” I had several Jay-Z songs playing on my mental playlist and my mantras were “Race Smart. Dig deep.” Thanks again Marni for your pre-race text. I also kept telling myself,  “Keep your head. Focus on you. Do you. Stay here. Stay now.” My nutrition was okay. I had two H20 bottles with Hammer electrolytes powder (3 scoops each bottle) and one bottle with four scoops of Heed. Finished off the Heed bottle and one H20 bottle. At each aid station I took in Ironman Perform. It was cold and I had to be more mindful to consistently take in nutrition or water so as not get dehydrated. The course was rollers, mixture of winds, but overall great. I did notice EMS twice, two crashes, many athletes fixing flats and stopping along course. I said a little prayer in hopes to see Ken safe on the run course. Time: 2:53 (19.36 mph avg) (hoping for a better time but I’m good with it, considering the temps and winds. It is the process not the outcome)

T2:  Came in focused. Quick change and I was off.  Time: 2:08

Run: I started off feeling good but at the turn of my second loop I saw Ken and he yelled to me “Good job baby! I might be in the med tent.” I started to worry. I was aware that I was worrying and I was mindful to not catastrophize what was happening.  Now, I know I preach mental toughness but the most important thing to me in life with racing is safety and my hubby. I continued to say prayers. I was also playing several different scenarios in my head. I was preparing myself for each one of them. The two biggies were: one, if I do not see Ken around the next loop I’m heading straight to the med tent and will possibly DNF my race OR, two, if he is walking I will check on him and assess if we should continue to walk and finish together. I really did not want to DNF or walk but I was worried about Ken, and we are a team. (SN: He had been nursing his foot for the last couple of weeks but we did not think it was that bad.) Aside from Ken I started to have issues of my own. My hamstrings, glutes, and lower back all started to tighten up. (SN: That’s where my iliopsoas issues came into play. Since December 2011 I started having issues with my hip/back. I was being treated for it during the winter season before Oceanside 70.3. However, our long race season made for a difficult full recovery and my body was back to tell me that.)  This was difficult for me to bear and accept. I have always seen my run as my “wildcard” to depend on. Not today. I was fighting. With my head, my body, the situation with Ken, and just to finish. I continued to say prayers, and my mantra “God is my strength, God is me peace.” This allowed my mind to settle a bit and focus on each foot strike. I did see Ken as he was finishing his last loop and I was half way through my second. He appeared to look great and I asked him if he needed to walk. He said “no!” and told me to keep going. From then on I was on a mission to finish. I stopped a few times to stretch my hamstrings, that helped. I made sure to take in Ironman Perform, coke, and H2O. With two miles left I found a second wind and headed for home, looking forward to seeing Ken. Time: 1:46 (8:09 mile avg)

AG Female 30-34 Rank: 12

Swim: 37:18
Bike: 2:53:33
Run: 1:46:54
Overall: 5:24:07

My goal for this race was to have a strong performance. I was not attached to outcome or time but just wanted to end the season with a  “feel great race” or as great as you could for 70.3 miles. I felt like I met more than 2/3 of that goal. But as you can tell managing the unexpected on the run leg became my biggest challenge. Initially, the reaction that I shared with Marni was “I fell apart on the run!” I felt somewhat disappointed because I was thinking about how much I had banked and trusted that part of my training. However, after a little time I was able to put it in perspective and recognize that a “1:46” half-marathon is not “falling apart” it’s “holding it together,” and I feel like I did that the best I could for that day. During my run thoughts that came to my mind like small whispers that said “Just make it to the finish. You never know where you are. Just make it there. Don’t worry. Just get there.” I trusted those thoughts and kept going and hard as my body would let me. In the end, I was surprised when saw my final AG placing and 13.1 split.

Ken did not fair so well. After the ER and doctor visits when we returned to Cali he was diagnosed with a fracture in his foot. I was extremely proud of him being so brave and focused to finish. He finished and was tough the whole way through. He said that it didn’t really start hurting after he finished and stopped. My, the amazing wonders of the body and mind! The mind always wants to protect the body and will diminish pain perception that so that it can continue to function in the manner that it needs. Needs, however, is subjective because we triathletes choose to put our bodies under such stress. At the same time we live and learn, and then move on to try to be a better version of ourselves each day, each race, and hopefully each living moment. Sometimes we don’t know how far we are willing to go until we are pushed to our limits…

Come to the edge, He said.

They said: We are afraid.

Come to the edge, He said.

They came. He pushed them,

And they flew…

-Guillaume Apollinaire (French poet)

Races, like this one, provide so much opportunity so get to know more about myself. If I choose, use them as experiences in life’s classroom to gain more wisdom and knowledge of myself. That’s what I know truly gives my life meaning. To deeply know, and become more aware of myself in moments of risk, pain, fear, triumph, victory, peace, and joy. The more I am aware the more I am able to change my experience to match my desire. However, if I do not choose to learn then I know that life will persist with similar outcomes (good or bad), and to me that defines failure. Failure to be aware. Failure to take advantage of the opportunity. Failure to change. Failure to gain the empowerment needed to take control of your life, or the moment.  Failure can pull us into an illusion of thinking we are a victim. If we have the power to choose we are never victims.  “What is applied to sport can also be applied to life.”

Thank you for reading and sharing in my journey. Thank you for the FB likes and messages of support from great friends and admired athletes. You all were not far from my mind and heart. Thank you!

 “Do you want to be safe and good, or do you want to take a chance and be great?”            -Jimmy Johnson, former Dallas Cowboys coach 1992, 1993

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Dr. Gloria Petruzzelli

Dr. Petruzzelli is a clinical sport psychologist, triathlete, and certified mindfulness meditation teacher located in Sacramento, California. She works with elite athletes and sports teams across the country. She is a competitive athlete and enjoys practicing yoga, spending time with her family, and traveling.

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