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EVERYTHING New on Race Day – St. Anthony’s Triathlon Race Report 2017

A friend of a friend asked me a few months ago, “Do you have any interest in racing St. Anthony’s Triathlon?”

It was late February, I think, and I really did not have any interest in driving to Florida, doing an Olympic, in the heat, especially before Chattanooga 70.3.

BUT.

I started thinking. I loved that race. It was my first “real” triathlon in 2011 (with open water swim), and it was fantastic.  And nothing like going back to the “scene of the crime,” six years later.

[For recaps on the journey in 2011, here is a slew of posts! Swim Tipover Run (yes, I fell over before the race on my bike), the water was crazy,  the random posts…]

Suddenly, St. Anthony’s was super intriguing.  Then I had the podcast interview with the Pease Brothers a few weeks ago – and this was THEIR first triathlon.  And I realized, yes, I have to go back.

My business partner, Ansley, and I hit the road on Thursday.

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We had a car full of tables and Tri*Fe triathlon gear.

I thought it was a good idea to work the expo for two days before I raced. 🙂

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And it was. I met so many great people and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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I will say, however, that not resting (like, at all) before the race was tough, mentally and physically.

I was thinking ….likely NOT going to have a very good race. Just like the facts, Jack.

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And when I think that I am falling apart, I do what I always do: I call my coach and tell him that I am quitting the sport entirely.

“I can’t do this. I am not ready. This is going to be a disaster. What if, just what if, I do NOT improve on my time–from my FIRST RACE, Gerry???  What a cluster THAT will be in my head!”

I can hear him breathing on the other end a little bit.

“I want you to focus on two things. And TWO THINGS ONLY,” he says.

“Okay,” I listened.

“During the race, I want you to focus on this question:
‘Am I doing the best I can, right now?’ and then this question:
‘What am I grateful for?'”

I listened. I nodded. “Oh. That’s it?” I asked.

“That’s it,” he said. “Nothing else.”

“I can do that,” I said.

(I did NOT know if I could, in fact, do that.)

We closed down the expo on Friday night, and went to eat.

I was back in the room and wandering around packing my stuff until 10:00pm.

This was seriously the most un-rested I had EVER gone into a race.

I told Ansley the night before, “My feet HURT. I am glad I have a triathlon tomorrow.”

What a mess.

But. I had Two Things.  I kept thinking about it.  It was all I had to do.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn near South Straub Park, which was a great hotel and super close. I walked to transition in the AM, and it took me about 20-25 minutes.  I headed down to the swim start, where they had changed the course due to the water conditions.

Lots of chop, just like 2011.  And the course was shortened down to 900 meters (it was 1000 meters in 2011, also shortened). I was actually glad about the shortened course, because then I could actually compare my time from 2011 without doing much math.

The Swim

We were off at 7:33, and I went with the 35-39 Female and Athena group.

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This swim wave happened to be my age group and Athena. I usually race Athena division (women 165+ pounds) when it is offered.  I understand there is “great controversy” about this division, though I don’t see why.   My personal reasons for racing Athena:  1) There is a class offered, and I am over 165 pounds; 2) I would rather compete against other women who are “like” me (aka, level playing field), and 3) I am proud to be the size I am and doing these crazy things.  I mean, I am never going to beat someone who weighs 112 pounds.  I am also never going to BE someone who weighs 112 pounds. Or 165 pounds, for that matter.   3) I support those who choose to race the class.  If I choose to race age group, I am saying, “No, it’s not for me.”  When, in fact, Athenas are my people.  So, anyway – I am Athena proud, and that’s how I tend to race.  (Moving on from this topic. Feel free to read more about my choice to race Athena here.)

The swim was awesome.  SO choppy. SO messy and gross.  I loved it.

I have been having neck issues (bone spur, bulging disc) that has had me breathing only to one side in the swim–to the left. When I breathe to the left, I don’t have the issues… when I breathe to the right, it’s a mess. Pain, numbness in arms and hands… the works.

I spent so much time breathing to the right on this swim, and I thought I would pay for it later.  As I type this, my hand is numb…. so yes, it’s true.  #WorthIt

But out of the water fairly quickly – around 18 minutes (1:52 pace), and then the long run to transition.

I didn’t think about the Two Things I was supposed to think about during the swim.

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Mostly was just thinking: “Yuck salty water and don’t choke.”

T1

Took my sweet time in T1.

Put on socks, which I know isn’t really that necessary in an Oly. At the same time, blisters are my worst enemy.  The 15 seconds saved wasn’t worth it to me.  Maybe there will come a time when it is worth it. For now? No.

The Bike

This is SUCH a great bike course.

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Sure, there are some cobblestones, some weird patches of rough road here and there, and of course, the speed humps that you have to watch out for, plus a bunch of turns (none of them overly technical, though)… but super flat and fast.  And just like the first time, I really enjoyed it.

Wait.  Fast. Except for the wind. It was windy. Still fast.

I distinctly remember being so scared the first time. I noticed that lack of handlebar gripping, nightmarish fear this year. That was nice.

Even still, I wasn’t watching my pace.  I could see my watts, and I was pushing about 60 more watts than I have been pushing in training (which, frankly, isn’t saying much!), and I thought, I am not going to be able to keep this up. 

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I had know idea how fast I was going.  I had turned off that screen on my Garmin.

With 10 miles to go, I thought, “I’ll check out my pace.”  I flicked the Garmin screen and saw 19.7 MPH. Holy cow!  I had not expected anything in the 19 range. Maybe 18 if I was lucky. More likely 17. But I also knew that I couldn’t likely keep it up.  I kept pushing, though, and I more or less did, finishing out the bike at 19.3 MPH and 1:16.

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I got a little teary on the bike.

Am I doing the best I can right now? 

YES.

What am I grateful for?  

I just miss my grandmother.

That was hard for a minute.

I just started thinking about her, and it made me cry a little on the bike. But it was definitely a place of gratitude.  I just missed her today, and it was unexpected in the way it hit me… on the bike.

T2

Nothing to report about T2.  Except I ripped my race number, and said, “Crap.”

But that’s typical of me.

The Run

One of these days, I am going to bust out of T2, run for my life, and think: I am so fast and a great runner!

One of these days.

I found it so interesting the change of tide that occurred mentally for me the instant I went out on the run. I was positive. I felt great. BUT, I knew I could lose that. In an instant.

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I didn’t have to ask myself the Two Things very much on the bike, and not at all on the swim.

But on the run?

My ENTIRE run went like this, almost every few steps:

Am I doing the best I can right now?
YES.
What am I grateful for?
Oranges.

Am I doing the best I can right now?
YES.
What am I grateful for?
This breeze.

Am I doing the best I can right now?
YES.
What am I grateful for?
I don’t have back hair.

Am I doing the best I can right now?
No. CRAP! Pick it up.
What am I grateful for?
Picking it up.

Am I doing the best I can right now?
YES.
What am I grateful for?
My family.

Am I doing the best I can right now?
YES.
What am I grateful for?
The end of things. The beginning of things.

And on and on.

I kept repeating that. Over and over. Making myself laugh sometimes. Getting choked up a few times. ut this frame of mind carried me.

And I did it. I didn’t walk. I slowed down a little, but not that much. It was hot, so I slowed. I wanted to walk, but I just kept repeating the Two Things.

And it carried me to the 1 mile left point, which I always know I can do.

So I enjoyed it.

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Everything New On Race Day!

Anyone in the sport likes to preach “nothing new on race day” which I don’t know if I really agree with it totally. At the same time, I get the sentiment.

This race goes down as “everything new on race day” – from head to toe, I wear wearing, doing and eating new things. It just was the first race of the season, and I knew that I didn’t have my act together.

I also tried a new mind set… which was amazing.

Turns out, everything NEW on race day can be okay too.

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The Key

The key to racing was revealed to me in this race.

These TWO THINGS (or some derivation of them) are essentially everything in racing.

Maybe you don’t have to ask yourself these questions repeatedly.  But when I thought, “This hurts,” then I would ask the TWO THINGS, and it wouldn’t hurt anymore.

I learned that asking only the BEST of myself at each moment, and then following it up with gratitude worked.

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I was able to finish tired, but with a 29 minute PR from my 2011 St. Anthony’s… and a 1st place Athena division and overall Athena finish.

(I posted on social media it was a 31 minute PR…. it was 29.  I had mine and the Expert’s times from 2011 confused. The first and last race where I beat him was 2011. ;))

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It was a great day.

#Grateful #ValueableAF #BeReal

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29 Comments

  • Wendy Gorman

    May 1, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    I love reading all of your posts!! Just started in the tri world and it is amazing in ways I never expected! One of them, because I have never been much of an endirance athlete, was the mental fortitude it requires. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  • Kathy Bruinooge

    May 2, 2017 at 7:27 am

    I have no back hair???? LMAO!!! I am going to use this in my sprint tri on Cape Cod. Love you congrats on a great ride…. 🙂

    Reply
  • Victoria

    May 2, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Awesome race! You’ve really come a long way.

    I take exception to one thing here: “I mean, I am never going to beat someone who weighs 112 pounds.”

    Nonsense. In fact, I would bet you already HAVE beaten people who are 112 pounds, or lighter. There’s a clock at the finish line, not a scale. You’re pretty fast, and plenty faster than a lot of skinnier people. I know that I, too, struggle looking around the start line and seeing all the tiny, lean people, but then many of them are finishing 30+ minutes behind me, so, I may lose the beauty contest, but I win the race.

    Reply
  • Wendy Villa

    May 2, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    Very inspiring. I wanted so badly to do the St. Anthonys OLY this year, but my training was derailed by an unsupportive spouse for the meantime, so back to the beginning I go… But that’s def. a goal of mine! Your race report and inspiring story gives me hope. Thanks for sharing <3

    Reply
  • Melissa Daly

    May 2, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    OMG…No back hair!!! LOVE IT!! Meredith…it was such a pleasure to race with you…to chat with you…you calmed me down so much. I had not trained for this distance but I smiled the whole way…I had tons of “Hey…Swim Bike Mom…or Tri Fe” cheers in my gear…and that made me happy. Thank you for sharing your story…racing Athena is sometimes misunderstood…and I love every moment of it!!! Hope to see you at an Ironman (because I will try again) soon!!.

    Reply
  • Karla

    May 2, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Love it! I also race this weekend the Sprint in St Anthony’s . Got 2 nd place In Athenas. And a 20 min pr from last year. Thank you for posting I have been struggling my self if I should race AG or Athenas .
    Congratulations on your race and I love I got to meet you this weekend at the expo .

    Reply
  • Courtney C

    May 3, 2017 at 6:46 am

    Woooo Hoo! Great race! I love it ? You had fun and kicked butt even though tired from the events. Shows tremendous spirit. I’m sorry about your neck though. I’m battling left hamstring issues and some sciatica right now. The Choo should be an adventure but I am damn well going to have fun! I love the pic in the middle where #1058? Looks like he’s coming in for a snuggle ?

    Reply
  • Kat

    May 3, 2017 at 10:39 am

    Congratulations on an awesome race! I LOVE the mental part of this story and how once you let go of what you “should” be doing you got it done. As always, thank you for being you.

    Reply
  • Jen McSherry

    May 5, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    I SO enjoy your race reports! I love the two questions and I love your pictures from 2011 and today! What a transformation; heart, body and soul! You rock!

    Reply
  • Karen

    May 7, 2017 at 7:12 am

    Awesome!! I’ve got my first race of the season one week from today (eeek!) but I’m going to use your coach’s questions to get me through. Great job – looks like you killed that race!!

    Reply
  • Andie

    March 31, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    Dear Meredith, I stumbled on your website via Active. I was conducting a search about triathlon for newbies…although I have not made The Decision yet, I am definetely considering it… ; ) I love obstacle mud races and just got back home from one of those – just awesome!!! Mud from head to toe (Georgia mud, mind you) and that feeling that I can conquer anything!!!!
    Last night, I read this posting and I just loved it! Guess what took me from beginning to end today? “Am I doing the best I can right now? YES (well, sometimes not, but happy anyways!). What am I grateful for? LIFE (and sooo many other things!).
    I want to thank you for inspiring me and others to achieve their potential!!!
    I will let you know about my “tri” once it happens…I am on the planning stage at this point.
    Take care, Andie

    Reply

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