I knew this race was going to be tough with World Champions, Olympians, repeat 70.3 champions and past St. Anthony’s champions on the start line. Oddly, I never really got too nervous in the week or even days leading into the race. I was feeling much more confident heading into this race just knowing I was healthy throughout my training and not fighting an extended illness like my last training block. It also helps that it was the second time I’d be racing on the course and I’ve now raced many of the athletes on the start list, so I had a good idea of what to expect.
Sunday morning was beautiful, calm and a fairly cool 75 degrees (for St. Petersburg). After a quick swim warmup the pros were lined up on the beach. As soon as the men took off at 6:50 the women waded out to the start buoys in about waist deep water. At 6:53 the gun sounded and we were off.
- The swim start was rough, I had people on either side of me battling for position. It was hard to take a full swim stroke and I almost felt like drowning with people pushing my hips down. With seven strong swimmers in the field we all knew it was going to be messy.
- I finally made it to clean water but Sarah Haskins and Lauren Goss had formed a line a meter over so I decided to not work solo and got on Lauren’s feet. Soon after someone jumped on my feet as well.
- There was one left hand turn on course after about 650 meters. After the turn I picked my head up to re-gauge where the buoys were at and I noticed Sarah was headed towards the wrong set of buoys and we needed to take a sharper left. When I cut over Jen Spieldenner continued to follow along with the rest of the group. I stopped to yell back to them saying I think we have to go this way. Jen cut back over a few strokes later and a kayak caught Sarah and Lauren to get them back on course. I was glad I chose to wear my clear lens goggles because it would have been much harder to spot the buoys with the dark lenses!
- Knowing we still had half the course left I took the lead hoping for an opportunity to be out front on the bike.
- The last 300 meters swimming into shore, I could see athletes on either side of me ready to take the lead if they had the chance. I made sure to put in an extra kick to hold my lead for the swim prime.
- I sprinted hard to the timing mat at the entrance to transition with 6 athletes rushing behind me.
- I ripped my cap and goggles off running through transition and started to take my swim skin off.
- My helmet lens was all fogged up so I quickly wiped it of before putting in on. (Thanks Lazer for the new Florescent Yellow Camo Wasp Air, you can’t miss me!)
- Unfortunately I didn’t wipe the lens enough and couldn’t see well as I was running out. It seemed all seven athletes were in the chute leaving transition at the same time. I almost crashed with Jen on my right so I moved slightly left but Lauren was right there, we both half dropped our bikes and stumbled out of transition.
- The mount line was also eventful. Someone mounted right in front of me and then left of me so I was stuck in a dead stop getting on my bike and almost dropped a shoe.
- When I finally got moving I was at the back of the seven leading athletes. My feet were burning from scraping them on the ground in my run stumbles out of T1. (Post race I also found a large bruise on my hip so it wasn’t just a little bump!)
- I waited for the brick street to end before I tried to get into my shoes. Once in my shoes I immediately went to work hoping to get back to the front of the group.
- After about a mile I had passed Lauren, Jen and Kaitlin Donner and we were headed out on our first long straight away, it was only Sarah and Alicia Kaye up the road.
- I put my head down and worked hard to get within striking distance of them but they were still a little out of touch at the first 180.
- I took in nutrition and water and continued hammering away the next two long straight-aways.
- Finally, about 10 miles in, I felt I was in a good position. My hamstring was aching pretty badly so I just tried to maintain my distance.
- On the last 180 I accidentally clicked into the little chain ring and was too slow out of the turn so I had to work hard to catch back up.
- After that I maintained my distance well. I was thrilled to be able to ride right there with the two best non-draft Olympic distance racers (and really two of the best triathletes all around).
- Heading into T2 Alicia passed Sarah within the last mile and rode into T2 first.
- Sarah stopped hard at the dismount line and fumbled a bit getting off her bike so I was able to run past her into T2. With the uneven ground and a mix of sand and grass my shoes were spinning like crazy and I almost dropped my bike when a shoe finally came off. I had to stop and run back to grab a shoe. Apologies to Sarah as she had to run around me.
- I quick got my shoes on and ran out with all my gear in hand.
- Just like last year I took a hard left when I was supposed to run right. I quickly turned around and headed out for the run.
- After a hard swim and bike I was nervous for how painful the run would be. I didn’t feel great but the pain wasn’t as bad as I expected.
- I settled into my pace and tried to maintain a good cadence as I headed out.
- When I hit the turn around I was still in third but Lauren passed me a few seconds later, Jen, Mirinda Carfrae, and Kaitlin weren’t too far behind.
- Jen passed me about a half mile later, then Mirinda another half mile later.
- I tried hard to hold on but I just didn’t have another gear to kick into. Kaitlin passed me in the last .75 miles or so and I was able to hold on for a seventh place finish.
Overall it was a good day, I knew I wanted to swim and bike at the front of the race and I was able to do that. Unfortunately, I fell apart more on the run than I expected but I can’t be disappointed finishing where I did in a field of world class athletes. There’s still a long season ahead with plenty of room for improvement. Awesome adventures to come; stay tuned.
Thanks for reading and following! Thanks to Gear West Bike and Tri, Blueseventy, Zipp and Lazer for all they do for me. I couldn’t do this without great sponsors like them.
p.s. Minnesota or Midwest friends, don’t forget to check out Gear West Bike and Tri’s Spring Tri Expo May 14-15. Tons of product reps, race directors and athletes will be around to answer questions. Also great deals on race entries, gear, free food and coffee!
p.p.s. If you’re in the Florida area OR want to join me for a little race get away consider racing in Sarasota June 17th as part of the Major League Tri race series. You can use my discount code “Lendway” for a deal on registration which includes entry to the festival, pro race, concert and more. Feel free to contact me with questions.