In the spring of 2018, I signed up for IMNC 70.3, which was cancelled due to severe damage from Hurricane Florence. We were offered free deferrals to the 2019 race, so I signed up, just to ensure I had a spot, not knowing if I would, in fact, participate in the race.
As I’ve talked about, my “endurance trifecta” begins with IMNC 70.3 and ends with the JFK50 miler five weeks later, with the New York City marathon sandwiched between the two. The good thing about triathlon, is that it forced me to cross train to help my overall strength and to prevent overtraining on the run. I figured that if I needed to let a race go, it would be the triathlon. I’m honestly so overjoyed that I didn’t need to do that.
The best thing I could have ever done is to hire a coach. I can coach marathons all day long, but not triathlons or 50 milers, and mostly, not when I’m the athlete nor when all the said events are within five weeks of each other. Coach knew my goals and set the plan accordingly, often checking in on my hamstring injury and in general.
I decided to head to Wilmington on the Thursday before the race (race was Saturday), and Wednesday night, I woke up at 2 am and could not get back to sleep. Ugh. My son and I left after he was out of school, and we got to Wilmington around 8 pm. Let’s say that driving in the dark is not one of my favorite things to do, especially when I’m sleep deprived and need glasses. I figured I would sleep like a baby, but it was one of the worst nights of not sleeping ever. I’ve had insomnia issues before, and this was a pretty bad string of it. I think I possibly dozed for about an hour. Double ugh.
That Friday was packet pick up, run stuff drop off, and bike drop off. I saw a bunch of people I knew and glanced at the finish line being set up. A quick dose of adrenaline surged through me, part excitement, part fear. Could I actually do this race? I’m exhausted and haven’t trained for it like I had in the past. Yes, yes I’ll be fine. I can do it.
My son and me in front of the convention center
I dropped my son with his BFF and headed to dinner with a friend, where I had my traditional chicken sandwich with mushrooms, cheese, and a fried egg. Delicious. It was then that I got my actual race plan together. Nothing like waiting until the last minute, right? Race numbers on bike, nutrition planned, clothes laid out, bag packed and ready to go. I decided not to get up too early, but I knew I had somethings to do before we headed to the race. My poor tired little brain could only muster up a few things, haha. At least it was written down.
My “list” of things to do in the morning
I woke at 4, having only had a few hours of sleep. Probably the second worst string of insomnia, and it was NOT caused by nerves. Not in the slightest. SO FRUSTRATING. I melted down in my sister’s kitchen, and I muttered a few inappropriate things that I can’t believe came out of my mouth, but I was just SO EFFING TIRED. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to make it. The best Sherpa in the world and I took off and headed to the start.
The start area was buzzing, and it was 5:10 am. Crazy. I went to my bike and got my tires pumped up and nutrition laid out. Saw some friends. Oops, forgot to leave my watch in my bike helmet. Did that. Saw more friends, waited in line for the bathroom. I couldn’t believe the activity and how well organized it was. I got my numbers put on my arms and leg. Oops, forgot to put something else in my bike bag. Did that. Saw some more friends. Oops, forgot to put one last thing in my bike bag. Geez, this is what happens when you are exhausted!
Gorgeous sunrise over T1
I said “see ya later” to my sister and headed to the line to get a bus to the start. Wow, there were a lot of people. I found out later there were over 2,200 finishers, so there had to be 2,300-2,400 people there. Crazy. Once I got to the start, I realized it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be. That was good, because standing and freezing your wetsuit tail off wasn’t my way of beginning a long day of racing, as I had literally zero additional energy to spare. The start was delayed for some reason, I could never figure out why, but once they started, things went pretty fast. It used to be a wave start, but this year, it was a self-seeded time trial sort of start. About one person goes per second. Smooth. I ended up finding two friends in the time I was going to start so we ended up walking across the road to the water. OMG OMG OMG OMG I AM GONNA DO THIS HOLY SHIT HOW AM I GONNA DO THIS IT’S OK I WILL BE FINE OMG OMG OMG.
SWIM: The race started for me. The water felt great and it was a clear shade of green. It has been two years since I have been open water swimming, and I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t adjust from solely pool training for the race. Nope. I was fine. I hadn’t done more than 500 meters at one time without stopping (many of my swims were over 2000 meters though), so I was a little concerned I would get out of breath. Nope. I was fine. Current was strong, the salt water didn’t bother at all, and the sunrise was beautiful. Granted, I did stop a few times to get my bearings and figure out where I wanted to sight. I would NEVER EVER EVER suggest doing this race without open water experience, but considering I used to swim a few miles a week in that very waterway three, four, and five years ago, it came back like it was last week. My goggles got kicked off and I felt slightly violated by a few other swimmers, but it was nothing that I wasn’t expecting nor had dealt with during Ironman Florida, four short years ago. Turn, turn, turn, holy crap, I’m almost done. I felt great.
The swim start
If you haven’t had your wetsuit stripped or haven’t actually seen it done, you should. It’s an “interesting” experience, haha.
I made it through the swim!!!!
Transition: It’s quite a run from the swim finish to the bikes, and I had to run right by my bike to go the race route, which added about 200 extra yards for me when it was already a quarter mile. Ugh.
I saw several friends, volunteer extraordinaire Sami, Lena, and sister Sherpa, took my time to get my swim stuff packed in my bag and bike stuff on. My uncrustable would not fit in anything I had, so I left it. Boo.
Off on the bike
T1: 9:30 (that is a LONG transition)
Off I go on the bike. We will just go for a little ride. Just 57.65 miles. The good thing is that I knew the course was a little long, so I didn’t worry, I was just glad I knew. I kept Corey’s words in my head too, “Looks like we will likely have a head wind both ways.” Hmmmm. Ok then.
The route was a little different than before, and I was concerned since we crossed several major roads in Wilmington. Once I actually rode it, I was blown away at how good the route was and how safe I felt as a biker, unlike in year’s past. I glanced at the time when I left Wrightsville Beach behind, 8:30. I did not have anything on measuring pace or anything, only cadence. THAT was the important thing.
Bike training. I didn’t tell anyone this, but I did minimal bike training, and ZERO training on the road. 100% of my bike rides this entire year were indoor on my trainer. The longest ride was 2 ½ hours, which I did once, and two 2-hour rides and many other shorter rides, one per week. I didn’t tell anyone because, just in case something happened on the bike, someone couldn’t tell me, well, what do you THINK would happen? As soon as I got out there, all those thousands of miles I’d done before came back, pretty much like the swim. Ahhh, it was a beautiful day, slight head wind, but it was beautiful out. I was out with so many athletes, and I was doing it.
I had no idea what my MPH was or anything, but I knew I was taking care of my soon-to-be tired legs that would still be required to run a half marathon. NUTRITION was my main focus, and I made sure to drink every few minutes. I filled my bottle with Gatorade at each aid station and grabbed a gu. I had mini potatoes that I brought out just in time for the photographer. I had some chews as well. I felt good and I had a good therapy session with myself along the way.
The miles ticked by and we turned left and were rewarded with a nice tail wind. We turned left yet again, and the tail wind sort of disappeared, but hey, it wasn’t a strong head wind, so I certainly didn’t care. Half way, OMG I am DOING THIS THING! I tried my best to follow the rules, which is not what everyone decided to do, but I was not going to draft and I was not going to pass on the right. I yelled at the moron who did. The road was pretty bumpy and considering my seat hadn’t had as much training as I suspect almost everyone else did, I was careful for the bumps and cracks in the road. Extra careful.
Once we got back on the main highway, I knew I was going to make it just fine. My knee had been bothering me some, and with some head wind, it kept getting a little worse. As the head wind strengthened, I made sure I was eating and drinking enough, something I really messed up the last time I had done this race, and I was careful not to go below 80 cadence, especially to protect my knee. After Ironman it swelled up for a really long time, and I wanted to avoid as much as that as possible. I’m so thankful that Corey mentioned having head wind both ways – I wasn’t expecting it, and knowing it was possible made it so much better to handle when it actually happened.
The last two weekends, I had run 20 and 22 miles, 30 of them being on trails. My legs were not tapered for this race, but I was really happy at how they were responding. The miles started to get hard. I pushed and kept at it, clinging to positivity, knowing I was almost there. Just the run, just the run, oh, after the big bridge, then you run. You know how to run, you do it all the time, you will be good!
We climbed up toward the grated section of the bridge once last time, and I clung to my bike and desperately tried not to fall over, saying some unsavory words along the way. Whew, down hill. And I choked up. OMG. I did it. Minimal bike training, zero outdoor training, I freaking did it. My coach said it best when she was like “I bet your legs were like WTF”. Yes, they certainly were.
I rolled into the bike dismount area and stopped. I tried to lift my right leg over my bike and it wouldn’t move. One of the volunteers asked me if I was ok, and I asked her to come closer to my left arm, so I could use her to balance myself. Last time I did this race, I actually fell down at this part. I did not want to fall down. I held on to the volunteer and still couldn’t lift my leg over my bike. I started laughing and said “I can’t get off my bike”, when a guy came over and politely lifted my leg over my bike for me. I could fall down laughing at this visual, because it’s one of the funniest things that’s happened to me in a race.
The run. Transition didn’t seem as big when I checked my run bag in, but it was big when I had to run in bike shoes. I took them off and walked toward my bike rack and run stuff. I changed my shirt, put my hat on, grabbed some energy chews, gum, and turned my watch on. The bathroom had a line, so I planned to go to the next one and go there. I saw my sister and a few others there, and went on my way.
Just one problem. My legs wouldn’t work. Since my bike was an hour longer than I had trained all season and I had done zero brick workouts, it took a VERY long time for my bike legs to transition to run legs. Like 3-4 miles longer. Oh well, I was doing it. I ran shuffled through downtown Front Street where there were lots of spectators, and I glanced at my pace – 9:30. What? That didn’t seem right considering I was barely moving. I did a bunch of calculations in my head and started to worry. Oh, how long is this going to take? What if I have the walk the entire thing? Worry, worry, worry. A mile clicked by and we were in the unattractive part of the run. I was getting passed by what I felt like was the entire race field. It was frustrating for me since my run is typically my strong part, and that is where I pass everyone else. I saw the leaders coming through, I saw several friends, and my mind clouded up. I looked at my watch again, and I decided to turn the damn thing off. I don’t need it. This is supposed to be fun, not a competition. Remember what Lauren said? You’re partici-racing, not racing this thing, STOP it with the comparing and pressure to perform. That is NOT what this is about, KELLI.
I deleted my run, and decided once and for all to knock it off and just run. I walked through the aid stations and a little bit more, and focused on pushing myself to run when I didn’t feel like it. Practice. This is practice for the 50 miler. Push yourself to run when you don’t want to.
The course is sort of boring for me, but it’s pretty. I didn’t know where the turnaround was, so I just concentrated on going one mile at a time. I saw so many people, and it was fun to go through the aid stations. They were A-MAZING. I drank Gatorade and water at each one, and at one near half way, I took a gu.
The minutes and miles ticked by, and my legs got increasingly smooth. I felt like a runner, finally, and I started passing people. What everyone’s goal should be is to nail nutrition enough to speed up during your run, not slow down. And I was doing that. I was still walking, so my splits show the same pace, but in all honesty, I didn’t care. I was doing it. Race #1 of my endurance trifecta, the one I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do, and I was doing it.
Then I saw this crazy lady holding a sign with my name spelled correctly yelling things that included my name, and as I got closer, I realized it was my friend Lena. OMG, she made a SIGN???!!! She made me give her a sweaty hug, and her enthusiasm absorbed into me, and I couldn’t stop smiling. That was so cool.
Comin’ in for my schweaty hug
Soon, I was headed back to town on Front street. I was almost there. I’m going to do this thing! And I felt GOOD!!! Pick up your feet, don’t trip, pick up the pace, finish strong. And that is what I did.
TOTAL RACE TIME: 6:29:44
I’m so freaking proud of myself, honestly. A good attitude when completely exhausted, PERFECT nutrition, strong legs, and a good attitude. That’s what it took to get this race done. I love this race. I loved the course, the amazing volunteers, and my friends along the way. It was a good day, a very good day.
My sister Sherpa and me!
Endurance Trifecta Race 1, COMPLETE. Next up, New York City Marathon on November 3rd.
I had to add this picture. I had NO idea there was a smiley face under my age until I got back to my sister’s house, AFTER the run. Thanks, Erin!!!!!
My smiley face