Holy Cow! This just happened!!
It’s hard to believe, but the post-race soreness tells me it’s real. I won Ironman 70.3 New Orleans!
The win was so wonderfully unexpected, happening on the heels of some pretty emotional life changes. And more than anything, I wanted this to be an opportunity to say thank you to all of the absolutely amazing people who have helped me on my athletic journey. From my family, friends, teammates, coaches, co-workers, sponsors, fellow athletes, spectators, volunteers, twitter, facebook and blog followers; my support crew is the GREATEST and I want to make sure everyone knows it!
So first things first, THANK YOU!
Now, on to the race report!
Swim – 1.2 miles, 23:50
This was my third trip to New Orleans and despite being somewhat familiar with the Crescent City, I still manage to get lost pretty much every single time I visit. Once I enter the city limits my sense of direction disappears like a cell signal in an elevator. It’s horrible! This year I was specifically worried about my navigation skills on the new swim course:
SO many turns!! Overshoot one buoy and I’d likely run head on into the Men’s 35-39 Age Group. This swim course called for EXTRA careful sighting!
So sight I did. And it honestly wasn’t as bad as I expected. The water was chilly, but my wetsuit kept me warm and there was only one moderately choppy section. Who knew I would actually enjoy swimming zig-zags in a harbor connected to Lake Pontchartrain?!
I kept the pressure on and tried to keep my pace fast, but controlled. And twenty-three minutes later my friend Nicole caught me coming out of the water with a smile on my face! No wrong turns! I’d made it!
Bike - 56 miles, 2:26:33
Once on the bike I headed east, into the Bayou Wildlife Refuge. I was riding solo, into the wind, happy that I couldn’t possibly get lost on the out-and-back course! About 20 miles in, Amy Marsh came by me like a freight train. At the turn around I got another glimpse of her, as well as all of the women chasing me, and they all looked strong! I just kept my head down and kept pushing, telling myself I was still having a great race!
A couple miles down the road I spotted a cop car protecting a rider fixing a flat. A second look told me that rider was Amy. I felt for her, as I’ve only ever wished bike mechanical issues on my Coach. But I also know Amy’s a veteran with one of the most impressive resumes in the sport. There’s no way a flat was going to keep her out of the race!
I enjoyed the tailwind as I headed back toward transition. My legs still felt good and I wasn’t fading, even in the final miles. As I got closer to transition, it seemed like there were a lot of local cyclists out cheering, and I really appreciated their support. I was pretty excited that for the first time ever, I was coming in first off the bike!
Run – 13.1 miles, 1:24:39
I took off on the run course at what felt like a very steady, maintainable pace. Despite blowing up in Galveston, that run had actually given me a lot of confidence. I’d managed 7 steady miles at 6:30-ish pace in Galveston, so why not a full 13 in NOLA?
The point-to-point run course ran along the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, before heading South through City Park and finishing in Louis Armstrong Park, a few blocks from the French Quarter. There was one short out-and-back section where I got to check out the ladies behind me. No surprise, Amy had already worked her way into second. And a killer bike split had landed Kristen Andrews not far behind in third. I had my work cut out for me!
But then something amazing happened. Just when I was starting to doubt myself, a spectator on a bike gave me a few words of encouragement that just happened to be the EXACT SAME THING my coach had texted me that morning. And the phrases kept coming, things that both Coach, and my other favorite on-course wiseman, Chance Regina, have said to me in previous races:
“Relax your shoulders”
“Pick up your cadence”
My mind was blown. What kind of voodoo magic had Coach Diablo and Chance learned, to possess this innocent bystander and make him deliver these words of encouragement in that “low volume but loud in my soul” tone of voice that some coaches just have?
Or could it be? Is it possible that the triathlon community is full of such amazing people, spectators who can recognize an athlete in need of some encouragement, people who will offer that kind of help to people they don’t even know?
No voodoo this time, I think this was a win for triathlon!
When I ran down that finish chute to a huge PR and my first pro win with a giant smile on my face, I was thinking about the guy on the bike, my coaches at home, my family, my teammates, my friends who’ve supported me, and the ENTIRE triathlon and endurance sports community who’ve helped me over the years.
It’s also why I wore my Boston Marathon shirt on the podium. Because I am so unbelievably proud to be a member of this community! We are so STRONG!
Huge congratulations to all of the other women in the race, especially Amy, Kristen, Jo, Kim, Leslie, Heather, and Beth; you ladies are first-class competitors and I’m so proud to race with you!
I may have traveled to New Orleans solo, but I’ve learned at every race I’m bound to find some friends. In NOLA I was lucky enough to catch up with Mike and Nicole Tarabay from the Middle Georgia Tri Club (thanks for all the pics Nicole!)
I also got to celebrate and swap post-race war stories with fellow Dynamo Masters swimmer Chris, and Athens legends Julie, Harvey, and Gin:
Thank you to everyone in New Orleans, in Atlanta, all over the place, that sent good thoughts and prayers my way on race day. It really worked!
Want more? Check out these links!
Slowtwitch Article - somebody pinch me, I have a quote on Slowtwitch!
NOLA.com Article – complete with a video clip of my post-race interview!
Endurance Hour Podcast – Matt Lieto learns how many words I can fit into a 30 minute interview.