All the Posts

Race Report: Robyn Does 70.3

As you know, Swim Bike Mom features awesome folks and their race experiences in the form of official guest posts.  The below post is from Robyn, who just finished her first 70.3 (ah-hem – that would be a Half-IRONMAN!)  Go Robyn!!! I hope I can have the same celebration in fifteen weeks!  You are an inspiration.

Here’s her story!

“We each have a few moments in our life that we will always have burned into our memories.  Some stick out more then others.  My kids’ births, 9-11, my kitchen fire, the orange pants I wore when I married Eric, you know, things like that…  So here is the story of my first 70.3.

I arrived in Napa Friday afternoon after a nice drive up the coast with Eric.  The kids flew up with my parents who would later all meet us at the hotel.  We got there before they did so I was able to do a 14 minute swim – which felt great after the long drive.  I hadn’t been in the pool in a week.  Oops.  [I never said I was going to WIN this thing.  Come on people, stick with me here, it gets better.] 

Ok jump to Saturday.  Met up at the race check in with one of my besties, Mary (who I blame for the triathlon thingy).  My dad came with me for support, to get away from the kids and to help navigate the next day.  The expo was top notch.  Great vendors, a bunch of free crap, cool tee shirts that I could have purchased all of, a million porta potties.  That sort of expo.  We had to watch a 20 minute movie about the course for safety in the bleachers of the local gym of the high school that would serve as T2 and our finish line.  

As the movie played I looked around at the herd of people.  All shapes and sized.  THANK YOU GOD!  Maybe its just a San Diego thing that the tri people are all super skinny and fit.  I finally got my hand stamped which meant I was able to pick up my race packet.  They herded us into the wrestling gym for that.  20 tables lines up on each side with your race numbers overhead to tell you what line to stand in.  And in typical fashion the looooongest line.  Yup head on over cuz thats mine.  sigh.  Forshadowing? Perhaps.  

We finally got out of there and drove to the race start.  Miles and miles of grapes on the drive.  Amazing.  Then closer to the river we hit trees.  Looked a bit Michigan like.  So green.  The water was warm.  T1 was not set up yet.  Just a small little beach with beer and chips stand.  That would change the next time I saw that. 

That night was pasta at a local spot.  Our waitress was proposed to by her boyfriend of 7 years right in between the salads and pasta course.  She got sent home early after that but let us know we would be taken care of.  Ahhhh.  Sweet.  I still wasnt nervous yet.  Annoyed at how greasy my pasta was.  Oh well.  [Again, not planning on taking home the gold, people.]  Just want to cross the finish line before they close the course.  We made it back to the hotel in time to run into Rachel Challis.  Adia yells across the pool “MOM!  There is that pro Austrailian that we know!”  We chatted a bit.  She was very sweet.  Asked me how I felt and about Adias name.  Other little chit chat.  Found out she was leaving on a flight the next day around 4:30.  She couldnt stay long.  I was planning on finishing the race between 4-4:30.  Perspective.

Ok go to bed.  Wake up early.  I even slept well.  Never really got crazy nerves.  I was the second to last heat so I didnt need to get there at 4 am.  Parking sucked and I finally got to the start just as the first pros were pulling out on their bikes.  There went Rachel!  GO girl go!!

It was crowded but calm.  Tense but relaxed.  No one was acting all crazy and doing sprints or warming up on trainers.  Made it to the porta potties with Mary (story of our lives) and then calmly set up transition in what was the parking lot from the day prior.  Bikes like you have never seen.  I recognized some of the girls from the line at check in the day prior.  All were in good spirits and nice.  We all commented on how this was an experience and not a race.   Those girls wanting to race must have been racked and in their wetsuits all ready.  I didn’t really need to meet them anyway.  So myself, Mary, blue shirt girl and super tall girl headed down to the water to get ready.  One last kiss to the hubby and it was time for our wave.  So happy Eric finally made it to one of my starts.  Someone had to drive me down there.  I only had to tell him to stop talking to me once while in line for the potties.  Dont worry.  It’s all good.  He took it in stride.  I also had previously consented him and my parents the day before that I usually get anxious, short and bitchy the day of and before a tri so I am sure he was even expecting more.  He sort of already knew that.

The Swim
Time for our start!  The announcer called us in.  The water felt good.  Low 70’s so just right in the full suit.  God bless my full wet suit.  I love that thing.  It makes me so happy and warm even though I feel like the staypuff girl.  But I wasnt the only one so I was in good company.  The announcer said a few more things as we treaded water in the 6 feet deep river.  

5-4-3-2-1 BEEEPPP!! And we were off!! NO sharks to freak me out too!   I didn’t really notice the current which was great.  I had planned on it but not a problem at all.  I settled into a nice stroke.  I did start to feel it in my shoulders and was annoyed at myself that I hadnt swam more.  Shut up, Robyn.  What are you going to do about it now?  Relax and swim.  Stretch out a bit.  Roll.  The herd spread out pretty quickly and we all got into a nice pattern.  Then the fast people in the heat behind us blew by.  

Only one jerk crashed into me.  Seriously man.  Cuz there isnt enought room to go by me?  Whatever.  At one point I saw feet standing. What?  Am I totally off course?  Nope.  Just the river getting super shallow.  I mean super.  By now my hands were dragging on the rocks.  People were getting up and walking.  What?  Walk during the swim?  Nope.  I will pull myself though the rocks.  Sheesh.  Get in the water, people and swim.  It wasnt very long before the bottom was gone again.  By this time I was passed the turn around.  Could it be?  I feel the current now pulling me faster!  Whoo hoo!  That seemed fast to me for halfway so I tired to turn it up a bit.  Ha.  Not much if you saw my time.  But I did it.  Swam the entire way while enjoying the views of the giant trees along the banks as I took my breaths.  Really cool. 

Up the swim ramp I went and was on my way to the bike.  Man, it was a long way.  Waved at some friends, Mary’s hubby and finally got to the bike.  It was on dirt and rocks so I took my time standing and peeling off the suit to try to stay clean.  No rocks in the socks, thank you very much!  Finally got all my crap on, sunscreen applied and the bike off the rack to make my way out of transition.  There is a short hill right when you get out that I was going to walk up.  That is where I finally saw Eric.  Waved.  

The Bike
Got in the bike and was off again!

Within the first 8 minutes, I knew there was something wrong with my bike.  Crap.  Pulled over.  It was my quick fill.  It had lost a screw and was ratteling around like crazy.  VVVIIIBRATIONSSS!!! Oh well.  I got back on and decided it was just the noise and I could live with it.  About 6 minutes later I stopped again.  What the hell is rubbing?  Great (insert eye roll here)….My front break was pushed way over to the side so I was basically riding with the front break on this entire time.  I couldnt fix it all the way but just rigged it.  During the ride I had to reach down and push it over about 17 times.  [Stupid bike girl who doesn’t know how to really fix it. Oh well.] 

I am now about 12 minutes into the ride and hear sirens.  Oh my!  What sort of ride is this going to be???  I havent mentioned that every single person in the universe has now passed me in that 12 minutes.  I have a sliver or worry that I am not going to make the bike cut off at this rate.  I have no odometer, no watch.  I am clueless.  Back to the sirens… Orange flags and volunteers are now telling me to slow down, biker down.  I slowly ride pass the fire truck to see a girl just getting put on a stretcher, neck brace, bloody leg and a bike in the bushes.  [Insert prayer here.] 

Finally got out onto the calm road and was now settled in.  What this?  Am I about to pass someone?  I am!  Thank you, Jesus!  It was a short but steep climb and this sweet little thing was off her bike walking.  She was okay, just a big girl, just couldn’t make it up the hill.  I am guessing she was pushing 250lbs.  [I was thinking:] God bless you sister.  You are rad.  You are a stud.  You are breaking all stereotypes involved in 70.3s.  You gave me such a boost.  So, we ping ponged back and forth a few times.  Told each other “good jobs” and that sort of stuff. 

The course was so amazing and beautiful  Straight out of a movie.  Thick oaks, vineyards, old victorian farm houses.  So cool.  I even saw some baby grapes on the vines just off the road.  By now I have finally caught up to the mega slow people in some of the other waves before me.  

Thank you “on your left”, thank you “on your left”.  Ah those felt good.  One of my passes was 35.  Her right leg was carbon looking.  Maybe titanium and hooked right into her pedal.  Amputee above the knee.  Amazing!!  She and I would ping pong a bit over the next hour or so.  I finally did get ahead on “Chalk Hill”  The big climb of the ride.  Normal by Rancho Bernardo standards but big for the race.  

At the second water refill station I just couldn’t take it.  I had to pee.  Since I had already given up the podium I was happy to pull over.  Said hi to blue shirt girl and tall girl who were just exiting the porta potty.  Reajusted the breaks, again, and then was back on the road.  Honorable mention as well to the 66 year old I passed (who would eventually go flying by me on the run), grape shirt girl, blue shirt boy and all the countless others that said “hi”, “good job”, “nice work”, or “on your left.”  The ride was long, I even made it to 92 bottles of beer on the all at one point, then finally got into town, and saw the high school.

I made it to the dismount line.  At this point I felt great.  But where was my family? 7 years later, or something comparable, I turned the corner to the main bike area in the middle of the high school and saw them.  Yeah!  They were cheering me on!  High fives to everyone.  “I feel good!  This is great!” Sweet.  The only time you see me on my bike I am walking it.  Sigh.   

My dad informed me Mary was only about 20 minutes ahead of me.  It was reasurring to know she was going strong and doing well.  The bike crash earlier had made me worried.  Sigh of releif… Racked my bike and took my time getting my shoes on.  Sunscreen check, hat check, run drink mix check.  I planned on walking through transition until I was all the way of of the corrals and back onto the street.  Did I mention that these were long transitions?  You needed directiona and a map to get out of them.  Thank you volunteers because I would have ended up at the freshman lockers. 

The Run
Time to start the run.  “What the..for the love of God… my legs arent working!”  My cardio was fine. Heart rate totally in check.  No uglies in the brain.  But for some reason my legs were not going to run.  So I began the Vineman shuffle.  It was everywhere.  People just rolling into the finish line, people on their way out.  Noone was passing me at this point.  All those folks had already finished.  We were the few, the proud, the slowest.  An elite group of atheletes that just didnt care but were doing it anyway.  We all shuffled along smiling.  This was not a race.  It was never a race.  This was an experience.  I was experiencing it.  Right here, right now.  8-10 inches at a time.  I made it to mile 4 when my legs decided they were going to keep walking out of the aid station and porta potty.  Yes I went to the bathroom.  Again.  I had overdone it a bit on the hydration but there are worse things that could be overdone.  I didnt want to be a victim of the underhydration and need three days to recover or an IV.   Even though I brought one I didnt want to use it.  An IV.  Not a porta potty.  Following?  I know… Its getting longer then my dissertation.  Sorry.

I struggled through the next 7-8 miles.  Walk, run, trot, pee, shuffle, run, pee, trot.  Not necessarily all in that order.  At the halfway point the race goes through a vineyard.  Amazing.  I could have picked a grape and eaten it but they were just green little babies that needed more time.  How could I rob them of that?  So I trudged.  In the vineyard is where, while I was walking, I passed a runner.  Yes me walking her running.  Her small little crocked frame and grey hair shuffled along with a nice rhythm.  77 was faintly written on her calf.  Most of it was smudged off so at first it was hard to see.  As I got to her we chatted.  This was not her first race.  She laughed at me walking and her running while we chatted.  An amazing smile and spirit.  I told her I would see her at the finish line.  She said yes.

Pat click pat click pat click.  Coming up behind me.  As I walked, she passed me.  Pat click pat click pat click – she was above-the knee amputee I saw on the bike course.  “Nice work!”  She said hi and smiled.  I started running again when she was about 50 yards ahead of me.  I finally caught up to her.  “Thanks for getting me up that hill.”  She said something about me in the vineyard and finally getting to me there.  We stayed together for a bit.  At and aid station I went on ahead.  

She would catch me and then pass me as I would stop.  At one point I asked her if she was allowed help in transitions.  She said just yes, but that she used it for the swim only.  She didn’t need it for the other transitions.  Amazing.  This was her first 70.3,  and she was from Chicago.  Pat click pat click pat click.  I remembered that announcer at the swim saying something about a mother of two, hit by a truck… I later found this was her.  I asked her if she was going to do another one of these.  NO!  We both laughed at that and ran together for a while.  At the last aid station I stopped and she kept going.  She would stay ahead of me the last mile by 100 yards or so.  She was doing it.  So was I.  I just needed to keep her in sight for the last bit.  She finally turned the corner for the last 500 yards and I was alone.  No need to catch up.  That was her race and this was mine.  Go Chicago go!  Thanks for getting me through that last 4 miles.  

I made the last turn just to hear the announcer calling her out over the loud speaker, “mother of two, hit my a truck”.  The crowd roared as she came down the shoot.  Go Chicago.  You are my hero.

There is my family out of nowhere!  Well they were there the entire time.  I just happened to snap out of my Vineman shuffle and zone.  Adia gave me a high five over the orange mesh fence.  She ran about 15 feet with me on the side.  High five to Hudson, Oliver, my mom and dad.  Eric.  My rock.  My reason I was able to be here.  How could I have done this without him.  Helping me get to the gym, the pool, the road.  Never once complaining when I wanted to go for a run.  When I NEEDED to go for a run.  He smiled as he held Oliver. 

The Finish!
Then it was my turn.  The last 25 yards.  Cheers.  Arms up.  The announce calling out,” From San Diego.  ROBYN WELLER!”  I did it.  Oh my GOD!  I just did it.  I did an Ironman.  Did you get that?  I just did an Ironman!  My body didnt hurt.  I felt great!  I did it!  There was Chicago.  Just passed the finish line crying, surrounded by 7 or 8 people.  I got through and said “Great race!  You got me through it!”  She was the first person I hugged.  It was a real one too.  Not a fake cheepy.  We both hugged each other hard.  Maybe just to hold each other up.  So happy to be there and be done.  Well done Chicago, well done.

I made it through the corral (apparently the faster people come in closer together or something).  There was Mary with my family!  YEAH!!  We both made it!  What an experience.  Smiles all around.  All were happy.  Kudos for all. Ask my dad about the camera and the porta potty.  Laughing.

That is the medium version of the story.  My knees are still a bit stiff when I have to squat low but whatever.  I did it.  Chicago is now etched into my brain synapses, along with my kids births and marriage, and life events.  Cool.”


  • Sara

    July 23, 2011 at 5:25 am

    Wahoo, way to go Robyn! I really enjoyed your story, especially where you found inspiration on the loooong run. Plus I feel like I got a course preview for the half-aquabike I'm doing next weekend at Vineman (same swim & bike you did, no run). Congratulations ironwoman!

  • Carrie Hanson

    December 20, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Just now read this. That Australian pro (who is really a New Zealander) is the crazy woman I train with. She's awesome! Great job on your first 70.3. Wonderful race report! Congratulations a few months late!



Leave a Reply