"There are many limits in life, but the only limit in achieving greatness is telling yourself no"
Sometimes you have to dig deep. Sometimes you have to screw your head on right and remember why you do something. This past weekend I competed in Toughman NM 70.3. Long course triathlon has been absent in New Mexico for quite a few years, so I jumped at the opportunity to be an ambassador the race to help promote it. However, the closer the race came, the more I dreaded it. This race seemed like the biggest hurdle of my season, even with a full IM coming up in October. Why? Well let's just say this race lives up to its name. It's at altitude. The bike course was 2500 feet of climbing and the run had 796 ft (869 ft by my garmin). The swim was also ~300 meters longer than 1.2 miles. Elevation profiles are shown below:
The week leading up to Toughman, I was seriously panicking about it. I kept telling myself I couldn't do it. This was going (and was) to be my hardest triathlon to date. AND, it would be the first time I trained through a half. This is not a race you come to do a PR, it is a race you come to survive. I knew this was not going to be fast, so I set some pretty conservative goals for it. I hoped to be under 6:30, but honestly didn't think I could.
So basically I came into this race with shitacular attitude. Race morning I was up at 4, ate some breakfast and was out the door by 435, until I realized I had forgotten my front water bottle. So I turned around and went home to get it with my mood souring further. I was going to be late by my standards (I like to be in transition when it opens). Great. Should be a spectacular day.
Grumps all around! Anyway, I got to transition and started setting up my area and saw Liz and Jessica and my mood definitely improved. By the way, Jessica chose THIS RACE as her first 70.3. That is hardcore. Having friends that are about to go through the same hell you are going to go through makes things better.
And suddenly it was almost race start. I got in the water and warmed up a bit and then positioned myself in the front of the women's wave to avoid having to run anyone over. Oh god. This is going to hurt, but its just a half right? Thinking that way really gave me a mental boost. Only 6 hours versus 12 hours. Ok I can do this. The water was a lukewarm 75.6 degrees and therefore, much to my chagrin, wetsuit legal. I hate wetsuits - they are so restricting, but they have an advantage and I need everything I can get on the swim. The swim was two loops and the men went 10 min prior than the women and teams. I motored out on the start and got into some nice clean water. THIS IS AWESOME. Unfortunately, by the time I turned the second bouy, I had already caught up to the men's wave. I spent the remainder of the swim chicking the men, which felt really good! When I came out of the water, I noticed my time was 30 min and thought that wasn't right. When I looked at my data later, I confirmed that the swim was longer than 1.2. Whatever, I was still first female out of the water AND I had the 2nd fastest swim time out of men and women. BOOM. High five for swimming.
Per usual, I felt disoriented coming out of the water. I had to walk a bit to get it together, but somehow managed to get myself out of transition and on the bike. 1:19 T1 split on a half! It really felt like slow motion, but I was stoked to see that. Anyway, lucky for us, as soon as you come out of transition you get to climb "the wall." It is everything like it sounds. It is slow and painful. The trick is to managed your heart rate and make sure you down blow your ride in the first few miles. I stuck to my race plan and kept my power as low as I could on that hill. My plan was to build the bike. It was really hard to ignore those that passed me coming out of T1, BUT this is a long race. Reign it in and focus on YOUR race. In most long course races, there are going to be dark moments and for the first 15ish miles or so, I was not in a good place. I wanted to quit. I wanted to just stop. At one point, I even hoped I would have a mechanical issue so I could be done. When I started to wish for a mechanical, I realized what a little bitch I was being. Really Lani? This isn't you, turn it around. Ok how can I turn this around? I like riding my bike. I get to ride my bike today. I like racing. I GET to race today. I can do this. I love racing, I love triathlon, I love riding my bike, I love this challenge. And just like that, everything clicked. Once we got to miles 23-38, we had a wicked headwind and a crosswind heading up a long gradual climb. And I started to pass people that had passed me earlier. So the confidence started to build. I was actually going to smash the split I had in my head for the bike (3:30) and I ended up with a 3:12. That is friggin solid for this course.
And finally, the make or break of the race, the run. As of late, I have been running strong and not fading. I knew if I kept my shit together, I would have a good race. Knowing that the first 8 miles was pretty much just climbing, I figured that 2:30 would be a good split. Yes that sounds slow, but you would understand if you were on this course. I decided prior to the race that I was going to walk up "the wall" and it was a good decision. I managed to salvage my legs for the rest of the 8 mile climb. Not going to lie though, there were some points I was just frustrated and over it. It is humbling holding that slow of a pace. At around mile 6, I was passed by my friend Scott and he gave me some encouragement. Man did that help. People, never be afraid to cheer on somebody. IT HELPS. Ok 2 miles to the turn around and DOWNHILL. Miles 8-11 were amazing! BUT, once again Toughman had a trick up its sleeve. The last two miles are on an adventurous trail. So now that your legs are about to give out, you get to run on SOFT sand and trip over a lot rocks. BALLS. I should point out that I have been dealing with tendonitis in my right knee, so at this point it was starting to swell and good god it hurt. I knew there were two women closing on me, so I basically said eff it and went for it. I had come to far to be passed again. With my swollen knee I did my best to get through the rocks and the sand by basically dragging my leg lol. Pretty tragic, but at this point I knew I was having a seriously solid race. And finally, you get to go down "the wall" into the finish. Guys. I was emotional. I mean seriously, I was tearing up. I did not expect that, but I really went through a lot mentally and dammit, my knee hurt. I just finished the hardest race I had ever done, including IM Texas. I also hit 2:30 on the nose, for an overall time of 6:15. Much better than I expected. I also had hopes of top 10 (I was 6th) and hopes for 1st in AG (since I knew Liz would be overall podium :) ). So check. Goals accomplished.
I just want to say thanks to all of you for supporting me and believing in me. All the well wishes and congrats mean the world to me. So now we go for last one fast one. On to the final training push for IM MD!