Last Saturday I raced in the International Triathlon Union Long Course Triathlon World Championships, as a member of Team USA in Henderson, NV, just outside Las Vegas! This was a race I qualified for last year and included the best athletes from all over the world. It was a 4k swim (2.5 miles), 120k bike (75 miles), and a 30k run (18.6 miles). This was the farthest distance I've ever raced, and to be honest, it's been looming over my head for the last year. I knew I would have to step up my level of swimming and get in some more long runs toward the end of this year.
Well, swimming was still tough to get in although I did get a coach to help my form. As for my training, I was largely relying on some long workouts, but also a lot of intensity to make up for the distance. I also did a lot of racing in order to prepare myself as well. I raced all but a couple of weekends in October, as you know.
Additionally, I didn't realize the magnitude of this course: the 120K bike ride had more than 9,700 feet climbing, and the 30K run boasted an additional 2,000 ft elevation gain. Y'all, I live in Florida... Not a lot of hills! It also was not warm--highs of only about 60 degrees and then the wind chill on top of that.
The whole ITU experience was amazing though. I'll give you guys a quick run down without too much detail. I arrived Wednesday morning, picked up the rental car, then drove to the packet pickup and race finish/expo location to get my packet and pick up my bike. I then loaded up on some food and headed to the host hotel which was also basically where the race began. I was a nice resort, but pretty far from the LV Strip.. (Probably a good thing)
That evening I ran in the gym then headed out for a few hills on the bike. Holy crap, I was thinking, it took me like 35 minutes to go 8 miles? The roads are full of false flats (where you think it's flat, but it's really uphill) and crazy winds that almost blew me off the bike. I was experiencing an incredible amount of mental stress at this point. Even though I was going into this race with an attitude of "I just want to finish", let's be honest, that mentally DOES NOT exist within me. If I'm going, I'm going hard. I then went over to my the house of my Godfather, and had dinner their with their family. I hadn't seen this guy in over 20 years, but it was like we were long time friends. He is my dad's best friend and has a daughter my age.
Thursday I began by heading back to the race expo and swimming at the rec center there. The facility was amazing and I swam in their outdoor 50m pool. After that, I headed back to the hotel and waited until the evening for the Team USA team picture. This was really cool to see all the athletes! There were a lot, considering these were the best age groupers in the country from every age group. There were also a number of pros there, Michael and Amanda Lovato, and the overall winner, Jordan Rapp.
After this, was the pasta dinner and pre-race briefing, as well as the Parade of Nations. I didn't eat any pasta, as I don't eat pasta, but also, at this point, I was going to eat anything I didn't prepare myself. The course briefing didn't console me at all and left me more nervous than ever... It was really cool to watch an athlete from every country in the room walk down the main aisle and hold up their country's flag. It made me realize that this race was big time,
Friday, I did my pre-race workout, picked my dad up from the airport, dropped him at my Godfather's, then went back and just chilled (and fretted) for the rest of the day. I was so incredibly excited to have my dad there. I didn't know he was coming until a few weeks before, but honestly, this meant the world to me.
Saturday morning came early. I had racked my bike the day before so I would take the shuttle to the swim and go from there. But as I was in the lobby in the morning, I heard a lot of people talking and a lot of athletes huddled by country. I asked another USA athlete what was going on and found out... the swim was OFF!! (Can you believe my luck?) The water was about 60 degrees and the air temperature was under 40, then the wind chill on top of that. ITU rules say that the temperature discrepancy was too great and the health of the racers was at risk.
I'll be perfectly honest, I don't know that I would have finished the swim. Not from a fitness standpoint, but that I would have frozen to death. I'm not really kidding.
Thus, the race started in time trial fashion, with a racer leaving in order every 5 seconds. So I bundled up and we were off!
This bike was nuts! I've never seen so much gorgeous scenery, but never ridden such a brutal course. This was harder that Wildflower! There were basically no flats, meaning I was crawling up hills at 10mph or flying down them at over 40mph. What made this hard as well, was how cold it could get in the shade when the wind was blowing. Also, I have trouble opening some of my nutrition due to the gloves I had on and had to rely on the gels on the course. Ugh, Hammer gels are so gross.
After 5 hours on the bike, we came back into town to where the run started. I guess this is how an Ironman works, but the amazing volunteers grabbed my bike from me and racked it while someone ahead grabbed my transition bag for me. I spent like a year in transition, haha. I don't remember when I was doing, but I had to take off a number of layers. I wore my Zensah compression socks for this whole race too, bike and run. I've never exercised in these before, but was wearing them for the warmth. They actually felt pretty good, am I may incorporate this in racing more often.
The run consisted of 4 laps... half downhill and half uphill. I actually loved the fact that it was 4 loops- you knew exactly how far you had left to run, knew where the nutrition stops were, and had the crowds cheering you on the whole way. The course was hard especially for me, someone who mostly runs on treadmills and barely ever runs hills lol.
2 hours and 19 minutes of running later, I crossed the finish line with a total time of 7:28:35
I couldn't believe it when I crossed the line. I wasn't as dead as I was imagining but I was done. Done done done. This was a year of stress just taken and flung from my shoulders. Literally, I ran to my dad and gave him a huge hug as I fought back tears. This was a pretty emotional feeling for me.
I finished 37th of 45 in my age group and in the bottom 2/3 overall. Like I said though, I'm ok with this, considering these were the best athletes in the world. It also gave me a lot of confidence in my training and how much BETTER I could be with better sleep, nutrition, and training. My bike time was at the bottom of the results as well, but my run was in the top 13% which I was pleased with and I was able to average a 7:29 min/mile pace for the entire run.
So after this, I went back to my hotel and crashed right? Ha, that's not how the Feerick men roll. My dad and drove to The Strip and checked in at our new hotel at...
...Caesar's Palace! We changed clothes and headed out!
We started by hitting the buffet at the Bellagio and it was awesome. For once, I let myself relax a little bit and enjoy food. The few drinks I had in me helped too ; ) considering I rarely ever drink so they did a quick number. Among all the other lean meats and fruit, I let myself have a little piece of pizza, some mashed sweet potatoes which I didn't know the ingredients of, and sampled a couple of different desserts! The little carrot cake bite thing I had was amazing!
Then we went to down to New York New York and went to the Coyote Ugly bar. Won't lie, this was fun with my dad. After that, the casino beckoned. We didn't make any money in the slot machines and I was too tired to think straight enough for any of the card tables. We ended up breaking even on Roulette which was a lot of fun.
Back at the hotel, we crashed hard, and 4 hours later, I was back up and on a place back east to Florida.
What a trip! The race was amazing and getting to ball out in Vegas with my dad? Pretty unforgettable. My birthday was on Tuesday, so the whole thing was an early birthday present!
On Monday, my mom actually came to see me in Tampa and finally unpack my apartment and move me in... there's so much room now! It was fun to spend my birthday with her- she made dinner and made me blow out candles on my "cake"
Luckily she didn't make me eat it- it was one of the dryest, flavorless cupcakes ever, and we both agreed on that.
That's all- I'm done, I'm out! I'm going to try and start blogging shorter and more frequently, so look forward to that!
So my coach won't let me run a marathon before the end of this year... but I did find a 30k trail run this weekend that I am stoked for!
- What's the most meaningful, emotional, or longest race you've ever done?
- Have you been to Vegas? Or, do you remember ; )?
- Any races coming up?