Silverman 70.3 and Challenge Ixtapa
Before diving into my 2016 season opening race, I want to reflect on the closing of my 2015 season.
Having raced only leisurely in 2015, olympic distance races, taking a break from an intense 2014 season when I raced as a professional for the first time while working 40-50 hours a week in the corporate world, I decided to end the 2015 season with a 70.3 (half ironman).
I picked Silverman, located just outside of Las Vegas, a fairly tough, hilly and typically very hot race, part of which used to be the 70.3 World Championship that I raced twice before. Having done the last 70.3 more than a year prior to Silverman, I did not have the same confidence one would expect from a former pro.
Yet I had the support of a big family crew, my New Mexican family and friends, and that tends to put even more pressure on me than a World Championship full of unknown people would. I wanted their trip to Vegas to be a show, not just on the Strip!
Prior to the race I had the chance to train in the hills of San Francisco, which was great, but perhaps just not enough.
Silverman was pretty straightforward. I felt very comforted by the support of my loving boyfriend and our friend Janet at the swim start. I am always so appreciative of anyone who makes the sacrifice to get up at the crack of dawn like that! Triathlon is not a spectator friendly sport with lots of logistical difficulties leaving the spectators more exhausted than the athletes!
The swim was in Lake Mead and unfortunately non-wetsuit legal. I did manage to draft off feet of one girl in my age group, saving energy for the rest of the race. It was choppy and not as easy as a lake swim should.
I loved the bike course. Rolling hills with good, wide roads. Right after T1, one girl passed me. I tried to stay close to her but knew she was pushing harder than what I could sustain. She is either really good, or she will blow up, I thought, not being able to keep up. ((She ended up being the top female amateur, me placing right behind her. Bravo to her, I thought.))
I focused on keeping up a consistent pace and using the downhills. Before exiting the national park, I saw Enrique, my boyfriend, as he was driving to get out too. It definitely spiced up my race to hear him cheer for me and I passed a bunch of guys along the way.
I made it into T2 in decent time and now it was time for the brutally hilly run. I was hoping to see my support crew twice on each lap, but after lap two I still did not see them. I was just focusing on form and trying to keep up a good pace. Not having done another 70.3 all season, I did not feel like l was flying exactly. I saw my coach on the run, who was also racing, and he cheered me on, which was fun. Finally going into lap three, there was my entire support crew. How many laps to go? They asked. My last one… Oh well, one does not become an expert triathlon spectator overnight. I am still so grateful they made it at all when there is so much more other stuff to do in Vegas!
I passed a couple of ladies on the run. I was just determined not to get passed by anyone. I finished cheered on by my crew and now I knew we could really enjoy Vegas. We had tickets for the Rock of Ages! Our friend Janet who was tracking let me know I had won my age group and came in second amateur female. (Right after the girl who passed me on the bike. I was inspired.) And that meant, I qualified to go to the World Championship in Australia, as did the second lady in my category. Only less than the top 3% of athletes qualify. I hadn’t really thought about it before then, but then, should we go? I asked Enrique. I always wanted to go to Australia and now I would have a good excuse, I thought. I took the slot, and paid the exorbitant AUD 450.
We were able to briefly celebrate my victory, but had to get up super early the next day, for me to fly to Ixtapa Mexico, to start my yoga teacher training.
After a full day of travel I made it to Ixtapa and had to get up just as early the following day to make it to 6.30am meditation, our daily opening ritual.
After meditation and a 2-hour yoga class on an empty stomach, I was also told we were doing a gut cleanse. Just veggies, herbs, psyllium husk. This would be followed by a liver cleanse the following week (as well as some fasts), and various spiritual, chakra aligning cleanses the week after. Yikes, what did I sign up for?
For my own health benefit, I knew I needed to skip the gut cleanse to recover from the race, but would follow a vegetarian, yogi diet, with, of course, no alcohol, gluten, or sugar. It was not easy, but it definitely brought us into a spiritual realm. I was jumping from one type of disciplined life to another… But soon enough I realized I was ecstatically happy following my yoga master development path, regardless of all the things I could not have or indulge in.
My yoga training was three weeks long, and was almost immediately followed by an Olympic distance race in Ixtapa.
During my yoga training I had close to no time to swim, bike or run. Starting at 6.30am and finishing with an evening shamanic ceremony at 9.30pm or so, I was wiped out. Much energy was burnt when thinking, spending time in silence, journaling and studying. The only time I could squeeze in some training was during lunch time. And that’s when I was able to go for a short run on the beach. It will be, whatever it’s meant to be, I thought. The most important thing is to maximize my yoga training.
So the day of the Ixtapa race finally came and with it arrived my boyfriend’s family again. As it was only an Olympic distance, it would be easier on the spectators. I should be done in around 2 hours 30 minutes.
As I did not receive an Athlete Guide in my inbox, I started searching the Challenge Ixtapa website to find out when and where packet pick up was, to find there was no such information. I emailed the race organizers, no response. Well, I suppose that since this is a beach resort, the information should be with the hotels. I called one of the host hotels and they were able to tell me where and when to go. Ok, this was different. This race has been around for years and participants just knew the drill.
On the day of the race start, I felt a kind of nervousness of really not knowing how much shape I may have lost in those three weeks of purely yoga, a tiny bit of running.
On shore, the race official explained where to swim, as there were three races – Olympic, Half and a Sprint. Make a turn at the orange buoy for the Olympic distance, he said. So as the gun goes off, here we go swimming. I managed to follow the feet of one girl. We were in the lead when we came to the orange buoy, where I started to turn. At that point I hear a kayaker screaming, telling me not to turn, but keep swimming. Startled, I explained to him I was doing the Olympic race requiring us to turn at this orange buoy. No, things changed, he said, you need to keep swimming. I was seriously torn as to what to do. I did not want to swim any extra distance and I listened to my race briefing! In the meantime I see others following the kayaker’ advice, swimming past the orange buoy rather than turning. At this point I have of course lost my lead and the feet I was following and tried to catch up. I was not happy. It is hard to make up time in a short race like the Olympic distance, and losing time treading water arguing with the kayaker was messing up my concentration. As always, I just had to make the best out of it. I did my best to focus on form and somehow I managed to get out of the water after the girl I was following earlier.
I got on the bike and really tried to push, seeing my competition at the turnaround points. My boyfriend cheered me at the halfway point, which made me super happy.
I thought I may have been in the lead when starting the run, but it was a matter of time till I ran out of energy, I thought. It was brutally hot and humid and I had a mild pain in my foot, something that has been nagging me for a few weeks now. A little injury like that tends to occur at the end of the season and it’s just the end of season recovery that typically makes it go away.
Although uncomfortable on all levels, I just pushed, hoping not to get passed and was able to put a smile on my face at the first turnaround point where Enrique’s family was cheering on.
I saw Enrique on his bike on loop two. He was not able to ride next to me. At this point I had the lead bicycle in front of me and we had to play by the rules.
What I did not know was that he was allowed to run into the finish line with me, something that Challenge Ixtapa promotes and which made me nervous as Ironman does not allow it and would even disqualify me for that. Not after all that effort, please!
So here I am, running nervously with my boyfriend, I see the finishing winners tape in front of me and I break it, with a smile on my face. A happy end of the season and a fun closing awards ceremony, albeit the results not being published online for another two weeks.
I was ready to start my off season and teaching yoga to friends and family, anyone I could practice on!