Last spring when I (along with my support crew, which includes everyone from my wonderful sponsors – Soas, Hellgate Cyclery, Rudy Project, Osmo Nutrition and Mountain West Track Club – to my amazing family and my coach, Elliot Bassett) set the goal of qualifying for Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Zell Am See, Austria, I wasn’t sure how it would all unfold. Having a goal and working toward something is ideal, but I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself and make racing more stressful than fun. Well, it is with such genuine happiness that I can now announce, it wasn’t too much pressure, racing was fun this past year and on July 13th, I was notified that I had indeed qualified for World Championships and I am now heading to race in Zell Am See at the end of August!
After I suffered the labral tear in my hip in the fall, had surgery in December, and followed that with extensive rehab, I really had no idea what my 2015 season would look like. Instead of changing my goal, I just took a different perspective; if it happens, than great, if it doesn’t, then I was content with just being injury free and able to still do what I love…which is training and racing, of course.
I started thinking about everything that has happened in the past year, and I am just so happy…and I realized it is a perfect time for a mid-season update.
My surgeon gave me clearance to start racing in the middle of May and since then, I have raced four times. It is still so amazing to think that I was able to fit in four races after surgery in December. The first race was a small, local race, the Peak Sprint Triathlon; just so I could get the feel of racing again. I swam slow, which was a disappointment, but I was racing again! My bike was reasonably fast, especially considering it was a typical cold and rainy spring day in Missoula. Being the first race back, I didn’t overexert myself on the run but, in generally, I felt strong and it was a good training session. I won the race but it was a good reminder that I had a lot of work ahead of me….and that I needed to get in some serious practice on my transitions.
Two weeks later I headed to Ironman Raleigh 70.3, I had a lot of emotion heading into this race. A combination of nervousness, fear and excitement. Training had been going well but I still wasn’t pushing my limits like I did in 2014. On numerous occasions, my hip was pretty sore during more difficult training and Elliot, my fantastic physical therapist, Tim Messner and I wanted to avoid that happening again. It helped me mentally that my surgeon advised that this was not unusual. I had no expectations in Raleigh. I just wanted to race and go hard to see how my hip would react to the half-ironman distance.
Raleigh fit with my schedule but I would’ve preferred somewhat of a less competitive race for my first one, there were twenty gals on the starting line, including many very strong accomplished ladies; very accomplished…like the top ranked 70.3 athletes in the country, for starters. To add to my pre-race nerves, it was a non-wetsuit swim, which is definitely an issue for the swimming-disadvantaged, like me. I stayed positive and just reminded myself that I am healthy and that I am doing this because I love it, which is always the best reminder for me to reset my perspectives and try to enjoy this wonderful (and wonderfully unique) life I have!
I came out of the water second to last, had a good first transition, then followed that with a strong bike, in which I was able to pass a handful of ladies. It was a point to point ride on smooth and rolling roads, I felt strong and was having a blast racing again! Onto the run, which consisted of two loops in downtown Raleigh, it had one decent sized hill that we had to tackle twice. One of the most difficult parts of the run was the humidity along with 90 degrees temperature. Montana had barely hit 70 degrees and my body was slightly shocked by the difference. I was pleasantly surprised at how good and strong I felt on the run. I was able to pass a few gals on the second lap and ended up 10th, in a very strong field. I was pleased with the result, given that this was my race back, and even more importantly, my hip handled the volume and intensity very well.
After Raleigh I had 6 weeks until my next race, Ironman 70.3 Muskoka. I put in some big training weeks, and overall, I was handling it very well both physically and mentally. I knew if I had any chance of qualifying for World 70.3 Championships, I would have to race well in this race, as well as my next, which I planned to be Ironman 70.3 Racine.
Ironman 70.3 Muskoka takes place in beautiful cottage country North of Toronto. A bit of a drive but well worth it. I traveled to this race solo and decided to try my first homestay. I had an incredibly accommodating family, who couldn’t have made me feel more welcome. I thank them so much for the wonderful hospitality!
I was super excited to race because I felt like I was much fitter than I was for Raleigh, I had a good taper going into this race and I knew the course since I raced it last year. Furthermore, I knew this was a race where I could compete for the overall top spot. The women’s Pro field consisted of a few very competitive women, but I knew if all went well, I could be up there.
It was a wetsuit swim (yeepee!) and the swim went well; I was third out of the water and swam faster than last year. The first transition requires the athletes to run uphill for about 500 meters to the bikes. This was my first indication that it was going to be a tough day, since my legs hurt in these short 500 meters. The bike course was challenging, 58 miles with over 4000 feet of climbing. It was one of those rides when I kept expecting my legs to come around and start feeling good, but they just never did. I thankfully managed to stay in third through the bike but didn’t make up any time on the leaders. I can usually manage to pick up a little time on the bike, but it just wasn’t my day. It happens to everyone at some point, you just hope it happens during a meaningless training session and not during a race. As I was entering the second transition, Kristy Jahn, a wonderfully talented professional athlete, was heading out on the run. I was relieved she was still somewhat close but I also know that she is a very fast runner. Again, I started with heavy legs and was waiting for them to come around but they just never did. So much so, that by about the seven mile mark, I was all about just trying to hang on to third, which I managed to do. I definitely couldn’t complain about a third place podium finish in just my second race back.
Two weeks later, I was in Wisconsin to race Ironman 70.3 Racine. As I mentioned, I was notified on July 13th that I qualified for Worlds, so this took some pressure off for Racine on July 19th. The goal became to relax and race hard instead of being concerned about my overall placing.
The morning of the race was hot and humid. Before the start, the lake looked relatively calm but during the swim I was actually surprised at how rough the water was. Lake Michigan is a big lake; it is really an ocean in many ways. I was second to last Professional out of the water. We had a long run up from the beach and I was happy to see a few ladies leaving as I entered the first transition.
I had ridden the bike course prior to the race so I knew the roads were rough, but when racing, they were much rougher than expected. We had a headwind or cross wind during most of the bike. There were times on the bike that I felt very strong and other times when I felt like I had no spunk. However, with that said, I managed to pass 7 or 8 other professionals and came into the second transition in 13th place.
The first few miles on the run felt good and I was holding a decent pace, but I did not feel great at first. At about mile 3, my legs came around some and I started to feel better a bit better and passed a few more women. I ended up in 9th place in a very strong field, and I was proud of myself for pushing through some adversity. It was great practice for me to compete in such a deep field of ladies, especially since it is without question that is what I will be up against at Worlds.
From Racine, I flew to Winnipeg. No, not to race! For a little downtime with my family.
I grew up in Winnipeg and my parents still live there, so I flew to meet Thad and the boys, who had arrived in Winnipeg a few days before me. And I am thankful for the support and help, of my entire family and close friend Kristie, with the kids while we were there. It is because of that type of unbelievable support that I was still able to get the training in that I need to prepare for Worlds while visiting.
It is hard to believe that I only have two weeks until World Championships. Training has been coming along nicely, and I am looking forward to really focusing on the final few important days until race time! I am going to Austria with one thought in mind, to put it all on the line and really go for it. I am not just racing the Pro Women Field, I am racing for myself, I want to see where my body and mind can take me. I am confident I can do special things if I stay the course, and really come in focused.
I feel fortunate to have the support of my sponsors. Thank you Soas for providing me with comfortable and stylish gear, I get many compliments, every time I put on any of my Soas gear. Thank you Osmo for keeping me hydrated and Rudy Project for keeping me looking good and safe. Thank you Hellgate Cyclery for your bike expertise and to Mountain West Track Club for the continued years of support. And of course, thanks to Thad and my boys who get to hang out a lot while I’m swimming, biking and running.