NOLA 70.3 Race Report

Let’s cut to the end of the story…I found the finish line in time and if I had to sum up my first Half Ironman in one word it would be – grateful.  About two days before NOLA I was reflecting on the 18 month journey that created a desire in me to complete an Ironman and realized that the race date was exactly a year and a half from when this picture was taken:

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I had spent so much time worrying what would happen if I didn’t finish and not enough time simply being grateful that I was able to get to the start line.    I am also so grateful for the amazing village of people I have who support and cheer me on.  One of my favorite pre-race messages was:

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NOLA Race Report:

We arrived in NOLA Friday around lunch time and headed straight to the race expo for packet pickup, athlete briefing, and the Iron Chapel prayer service to get each of those 70.3 miles covered.  At this point, I was in full cromit mode and when we crossed the Louisiana state line I checked my watch and it said my heart rate was 102bpm.

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The Swim:

  1. The NOLA swim was cut short due to really choppy conditions thanks to 20-25 mph wind gusts.  The jet skis weren’t able to get to the swim course due to 4-6ft swells in the lake, so for safety reasons the swim had to be shortened.
  2. I was not prepared for swimming in that kind of chop.  I panicked during the swim because every time I tried to breathe I kept getting a big swallow of Lake Pontchartrain.  Thankfully, kayaks line the swim course and you’re allowed to hang on to one of the kayaks as long as needed to catch your breath (as long as no forward progress is made with the assistance of a kayak).  I ended up taking stops at three different kayaks to breathe and try to get my heart rate down.  I saw several swimmers getting pulled out of the water because of the rough conditions and a lot of swimmers like me hanging on to the kayaks wide-eyed with fear staring at how far away the swim finish was.
  3. This swim caused me to eat the words “I’m not worried about the swim” and gave me a big reality check.  I can do 1.2 miles easily in a pool, and in the local lakes around the Triangle – but swimming in choppy water is completely different.

The Bike:

  1. I still really hate cycling to try and help the 56 miles pass by a little easier I wrote “IR4Ellie” on my left hand and my life verse on the other, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  I spent a lot of time staring at my hands so it gave me something positive to think about. img_4865
  2. The soundtrack to my race is hearing, “on your left! on your left!  on your left!” as other racers fly by me.
  3. The wind caused me to have my slowest bike splits…ever.  I only averaged 12.93 mph (in the world of biking average speeds are usually only that slow when a racer has a flat or other similar issue).   I was so excited when I entered T2 (transition 2) that one well meaning volunteered whispered, “You know the race isn’t over yet? You still have go to on a pretty long run.”

The Run:

  1.  I love love love running.  All along, I’ve described myself as “I’m just a runner who decided to run a tri.”  Running is the easy part – all you need is your legs and a desire to keep moving forward.
  2. The NOLA run course was two loops, and other than a few bridges, relatively flat.  It was a lot of fun seeing the same people twice and hearing them cheer for “flamingo girl.”
  3. As crazy as it sounds, I spent most of the run with a big goofy smile on my face.  I knew I had plenty of time to finish and was going to find that beautiful finish line!

 

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I was told before the race that no matter how well I prepared, at least three things would go wrong and I needed to go ahead and prepare mentally to be flexible.  What went wrong:

  1. THE WIND, THE WIND, THE WIND, THE WIND
  2. The morning of the race the water was one teeny weeny degree too high, so the race wasn’t wet suit legal.  If you’ve never worn a wet suit, imagine swimming with a body sized life jacket that provides a nice, snugly buoyant feeling.
  3. The night before the race I was getting everything laid out when I noticed I was missing something almost as important as my bike- the lid to my Camelback!  Most triathletes don’t use a Camelback during the bike, but this newbie hasn’t mastered the art of drinking from a water bottle while riding so I stick to my beloved Camelback.  After texting people in a panic, calling nearby sports stores (all closed) and checking Amazon Prime Now in desperation, this was MacGyvered-up:

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    Thankfully, a Good Samaritan loaned me her hydration pack race morning.

 

All in all, NOLA was a success!  I still want to do a Full next year and I’m leaning towards Maryland.  My goal was to simply finish in the allotted time, and I did.  Shortly after the race a “friend” told me I should wait until 2020 to try and finish a Full because, “you’re just too slow on the bike and you’ll never make it.”  Well…..they may be right, but I went from just a runner to a Half Ironman in 10 months, so I think my track record is pretty good.  I’d rather fail than never try at all – so, bring it on Ironman!

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