After I left for Maryland last Friday morning, almost nothing went as planned concerning this race. Some things went horribly wrong, and others surprisingly right. By the end of the weekend I decided to stop trying to predict the future and instead, relied on what had gotten me to this point in the first place – – my heart.
BEFORE THE RACE
My six hour drive turned into eight when I was stuck in traffic going over the George Washington bridge in NYC for 75 minutes. And I had to pee. Badly. I seriously almost just got out of my truck and let loose on I-95. Each time I reached for the door handle, I thought about someone filming it on their phone and putting it and my license plate number on Facebook. I miraculous made it to the first rest area but not before I was doubled over in pain from holding it for so long.
I left my house in Connecticut at 9:15am and reached Amanda’s door in Maryland at 5:00pm. Long.ass.day.
Race update: Since it had been raining in Columbia, MD for two weeks, there was a question of water quality in the lake and if the swim would be cancelled. The predicted temperature for race day also kept dropping with a low of 38 and high of 52. Not ideal. Not even close.
It’s also important to note that I’m shocked the water quality in this lake is ever high enough for people to swim in. Let’s just say there is a massive goose population inhabiting the lake with an even larger infestation of their poop. #IJustThrewUpInMyMouth
Amanda and I coordinated our schedules so she could do her long run and then run part of the race course with me. It was pretty much solid hills but at least I knew what I was getting into and, on fresh legs, it did not seem so bad. After that, we biked a few miles of the course and then drove the whole thing. It was a gorgeous route with lots of ups and downs. A lot more ups than downs, of course.
I met Dana from Kiss My List for lunch and it was so much fun! We have been following each others blogs for a LONG time but have never met. We are an unlikely pair as she doesn’t run, bike or swim but we bond over parenting, reading and drinking. I seriously cannot believe we didn’t get a picture?! Bad bloggers!
After lunch I picked up my race bib and went to rack my bike. It was then that the sky chose to open and release it’s downpour. The wind was howling so badly that I just racked my bike and left as quickly as possible. Once I was back in my car I started feeling sick about what was to come.
Would they cancel the swim and instead have a duathlon (run/bike/run)? All of that swim training for nothing? But, do I really want to swim in freezing cold water and then get on a bike to freeze more?
I called my bestie and bitched to her about the whole thing. She laughed and said she knew, no matter what, I would kill it and to just go for it because what else can you do? Um, I could drive back home right now and forget the whole thing!
Luckily, I had dinner plans with Sue from This Mama Runs for Cupcakes, so I could try and put the whole thing out of my mind. Well, mission accomplished! I loved Sue even more than I thought I would. She is everything I thought she would be and more. I could have talked and laughed with her all night (and would have preferred that!) but instead, we downed a giant slice of cheesecake and said our good-byes. I seriously cannot wait to see her again!
Race update: It rained on and off all night as the temperature steadily dropped. As I drove back to Amanda’s after dinner with Sue I was feeling so scared and anxious, not even knowing if I would be swimming in the morning. The race directors had said they would test the water the morning of the race and make a decision then. Great.
Sunday Morning – 4:30am wake-up
I barely slept thinking all of the “what ifs” and finally just got out of bed at 4:15am.
I choked down my breakfast of greek yogurt, fruit and granola and then grabbed a bagel and banana for later on.
Amanda lives about 10 minutes from the start so it was a quick drive. I parked across the street and then headed to the transition area with all my gear. It was freezing cold (about 40 degrees) and they announced the swim was a go! The water temp was 61 degrees.
After I set everything up, I wrestled my wet suit on and stared at the water, not wanting to believe I would be willingly jumping into it, in about an hour. I just wanted to cry. This was not how any of this was supposed to go!
I started talking to some of the other athletes which is always great. We’re all insane after all, and these are my people. The general consensus was, this is going to suck really, really badly but, what can you do? Funny I had heard that advice from someone else…
THE SWIM – 7:05am wave
Never have I not been able to feel my feet before jumping into the water. I cannot put into words the shock of the cold or the sudden scream of your brain shouting “what in the f*** are you doing????” In those first few strokes my entire body was begging for mercy, for me to stop this nonsense and get the hell out of this water and to somewhere warm. The body’s instincts are so strong in that regard that my first several thoughts were “I’m not going to make this. I can’t do it.” I was looking for kayaks because I thought they were going to need to pull me out of the water. It was that cold.
Another lovely treat was that the sun, mocking as it was in the cold sky, was blinding us from seeing the buoys that marked our .93 mile course. When I popped my head up to sight, all I saw was a giant fireball of light and about 50 swimmers ahead of me. Not good. Not good at all.
For the first several hundred yards I just followed the crowd. Finally, we made the first left turn back toward the swim out, and the sun was behind us. It was then that I got my head on straight, shut out any thought of drowning and just swam as hard and as fast as I could to the finish. I knew I had wasted so much time dealing with the sun and trying to plan my escape, that I had to try and regain some time. At that point I couldn’t feel my hands or feet but I just went by muscle memory.
When I made it out of that water, I have never been so proud of myself. I could have ended the race right then and I would have been happy. I now know I can swim though anything. Anything. I freakin’ did it.
Swim time prediction: Anything near 30 min and I will be happy.
Swim actual: 36 minutes (ok, so that is embarrassing but….whatever, still proud!)
Rank: 22 out of 34 in my 40-44 age group
Since getting on a bike in 50 degree weather is an occasion to bundle up a bit, coming out of freezing cold water and then getting on a 25 mile ride is an occasion for a sauna, change of clothes and then a ride. Since I didn’t have that kind of time, but also wanted to feel my hands and core on the ride, I took some time to put on leggings, a jacket, gloves and hat, after wrestling out of my wet suit. It made for a slow transition but at least I could feel my fingers and, most athletes were doing the same exact thing.
Transition time: 4:40 (this is about 3 min and 40 seconds slower than normal!)
Once I got on the bike, the weight of the freezing cold swim was lifted and replaced with a howling wind. I cannot make this shit up. After only a few miles onto the course, the sky turned black and the wind blew with so much force, at times I had to grip my handle bars for fear of being blown off.
I had to laugh. What else can you do? I mean, when the volunteers on the course have their winter coats on with the hoods up and pulled shut around their faces, you know it’s cold.
I adjusted my time goal, remembered how I just swam through an ice tunnel, and I kept my head. The course was long and winding and hilly but at least I wasn’t swimming.
I still couldn’t feel my feet but I made sure to look down to see if they were still attached every now and then. Mostly I smiled and was happy for what I was doing, how strong I was feeling and how long I have been waiting for this moment.
Bike time prediction: 1 hour 25 minutes
Bike actual: 1 hour 30 minutes (not too shabby with the conditions)
Rank: 6 out of 34 in my 40-44 age group
Oh hell yes! This was the moment I had been waiting for!
Transition time: 1:22 (I still could not feel my feet and was shedding clothes, otherwise this would have been quicker too!)
As soon as I headed out onto the run I was thinking “get out of my way because here I come!” I charged at that course with everything I had, relished in every single person I passed (many!) and thought only of all I had accomplished up to that point and how close the finish finally was!
To say this course is “challenging” is like saying child birth is “uncomfortable.” Oh my hills! Even though I knew it was, when you’re battling them after the swim and bike, it’s a whole different story.
I also did not wear a watch at all. After the mental mess I was in leading up to the race, I decided it was best for all my personalities, to not have anything on my wrist to look at.
However, the run course was not marked until mile 5! But, once I saw that, I put the hammer down and battled to the finish. I started thinking about everyone who has supported and cheered for me, for all my friends and family at home and for all the training I have done and all the sacrifices I have made for the last five months and how it all came down to this finish line.
It was sweet. So very sweet.
Run time prediction: 43 minutes
Run actual: 45 min/7:15 pace
Rank: 1 out of 34 in my 40-44 age group – take that swimmers!
Amanda was at the finish line to cheer me in and snap a picture. I felt so good and strong and I was really happy that I wasn’t totally depleted. Even though I left a lot out on the course, it was a testament to my coaching and training that I felt so good at the finish.
I had no idea what my finish time was, since there are so many waves, you cannot rely on the finish clock but I honestly did not care. I have never been more proud of myself for finishing a ridiculously mentally challenging race. I battled hard with myself, wrestling with my doubts and fears and I obliterated all of them.
And then, about half way though my 7 1/2 hour drive home, I got this text from Sue:
Overall prediction: 2 hours and 40 minutes/Top 20 finish in my age group
Actual: 3 hours exactly and 3rd in my age group out of 34 (obviously the conditions affected everyone!)
Rank: To the freakin’ moon and back!
I almost jumped out of the car when I got that text. I was already so happy and satisfied with my race and then to learn that I placed in my age group? I seriously could not have asked for a better outcome.
[Tweet “I learned to expect the unexpected at my first #Olympic distance #triathlon! #ColumbiaTRI #train4life”]
I’m going to Italy with my family for two weeks.
I planned this particular race so I could train and race hard and then, four days later, fly to Europe for a two week break.
I’m going to eat, drink wine, relax and see and experience everything I possibly can for 14 glorious days! Of course I will run easily and without a plan, through the streets of Italy and will swim any chance I get, in any conditions.
And I’m sure, every now and then, I will get glimpses in my mind, snapshots from my first ever Olympic distance triathlon, and smile so big, people will wonder just how much wine I have had.
THANK YOU to everyone who has supported me though all my training and racing! It means so much to me!
See you in June…
What are the worst race conditions you have experienced?
What is a life event/experience you had where there was an unexpected outcome?
Have you been to Italy and how excited should I be?
I have so so so much love and admiration for you.
Im the blogger who also doesnt run (competitively) bike (except on a beach cruiser) or swim (ok so I do that a lot lot but not competing) —- yet Im still so in awe of your grit as I know how hard ALL of this was.
and on top of that.
I know I cannot even imagine.
Have the best trip ever.
Love up that supportive family of yours.
And I for you my friend!!! Thank you so, so much!!! I will have many a gelato for you while in Italy 🙂
So proud of you! It was a tough day on a tough course and you rocked it. Nationals ain’t got nothing on you!
Have the best time in Italy–it will be amazing!
I’m hoping nationals will seem “easy” in comparison!!! Holy cow! I can’t thank you enough for all that you did for me while I was there.
Huge congratulations to you!! I am so excited for you!! All that training and hard work paid off!! I got really cold just reading your post, cannot even begin to imagine! But you are strong and you kicked it in the face! Way to go!!
Have a fantastic trip in Italy!
Thank you so much! I absolutely kicked it in the face – I love that!! And oh when all the training pays off it’s the best feeling ever. I’m sure you can relate. Thanks again 🙂
you did amazing. So so proud of you. You rocked it in SUCH hard conditions!! Your placement doesnt surprise me at all. Thank you for an excellent recap and enjoy your time in Italy!
Thank YOU Nellie!! xoxoxo
You raise me upppppppppp!!!! YES! YES! YES!!! I’m so proud of you. With nasty conditions (ummm…goose poop infested water – no thanks!) you overcame and ran with it. Literally. Have an amazing time in Italy…take me with you!!
woot woot!!!!! Up, up and UP!!! I so wish I could take you with me Angela. When are we doing a run retreat in Europe?
Allie!!! I’m so stinking happy for you!!! Such a tester to how strong you are, not only physically but mentally. I would’ve been a basket case. If you can battle through those conditions (OMG freezing swim!) you can do anything. And um, do you have room for me in your suitcase?? Have an amazing time in Italy!
I WAS a basket case for sure but, I just sucked it up.
I so wish I could smuggle you with me!! Imagine how much fun our boys would have together?
Thanks so much Christine!
I’m am so seriously amazed by you….. that picture in the water with all of you and your green swimming caps is gorgeous!!! I went to Italy last year….have the best time ever… we had gelato and pasta and wine at every meal last year….. try to eat in the non-touristy areas…. In Rome, every restaurant in the touristy region was terrible… better to sight see and then take a cab a little further out to eat.
Thank you so much Paria!!!
And great tip on Rome. We will be there for three days so good to know! I’m seriously so excited to eat all the pasta and gelato I can handle..in the name of “recovery” of course 🙂
This is SO beyond ridiculous. You are amazing! The sole reason I do not do triathlon is because I can’t even convince myself to get into a warm pool (because I’m cold when I get out) so the fact that you swam (and biked! and ran!) in those conditions is just incredible. I for one had no doubt you would place in your age group because you are superhuman and I have come to expect these things from you. CONGRATULATIONS! Now have a kick ass time in Italy and take lots of pictures.
I’m laughing because I can barely get into the warm pool myself. Trust me, this was over the top torture for me as I loathe being cold!!
Thank you so much for everything you said but I was SHOCKED that I placed 🙂 Cannot wait to revel in it across the pond! Thanks Danielle.
I’ve been waiting for this recap! YAHOOO! Congratulations!! You amaze me. I would seriously die in that water with all those people, and with the water that cold OMG NOOOOOO. You’re way tougher than I am. WAY. Enjoy your trip! Bask in the glory!
I’m really a total wimp but, when it comes to competition, I will do just about anything! #Issues
Thank you so, so much and, I have a feeling you’re a pretty tough chick yourself!
Oh wow… that is so hard core! I have no idea how you got into that water- I think I would have cried! You are one tough mama. And I love how you came from behind after the swim to nail the bike and run!
This reminded me a bit of waiting at Boston last year when it was raining, so windy and bitter cold… I remember looking around and wondering, what are we doing?! We are so crazy!!
As for Italy, enjoy!! We were there once pre-kids and loved it. Perfect timing to get away!
I’m surprised that I didn’t cry. Seriously. Isn’t it funny how, at so many starting lines we think “what am I doing here?” and then, at the finish think “I’m so glad I did it!” I guess that’s why we keep going back for more!!
Thanks again Laura!
3rd in your AG? Congratulations! 100 times, congratulations! It was snowing/sleeting/raining/winding/thunder snowing in Cleveland for the marathon and 1/2 on the same day. I had not planned to race. But to you and all of the CLE finishers, your bad assery just went way up. I just knew you would totally own that run segment. WAY TO GO!
LOL! Thank you so much and, that weather in Cleveland is insane!!!
Allie, you are amazing! Third in your AG and you powered through awful conditions? You’re unstoppable! I don’t know what’s worse, the freezing cold water or the goose poop (ewwwww!), but you mentally and physically overcame everything that this race threw at you – and came out on top! Enjoy your trip to Italy! Such a beautiful country, and enjoy some good wine and gelato while you’re there!
Laura – thank YOU so much! After I read your post on Jesica’s blog I completely let go of any lofty goals and then, with all the weather nonsense, I really let go – – and look what happened!!!! Your body truly knows what to do if you just let it. Thank you!!
Congrats on such a strong race. It sounds like there was a ton that happened and I can’t imagine dealing with it all like you did. You are seriously awesome. Freezing cold water caused me to be hypothermic a few years ago (in my swimming glory days). Congrats on your age group placement too, that is truly awesome.
I was really worried about the hypothermia issue going into the bike but, it all turned out fine. Thank you so much Hollie. I know you know a thing or two about battling tough weather and race conditions 🙂
I am SO proud of you and all of your personalities!!! I don’t think I’d have even gotten in the water. The first Tough Mudder I did, it was like 50 degrees and they were shoveling ice into the water we had swim through. It lasted maybe 2 mins, but seems like forever and I literally froze up for a second and wondered if I’d have a heart attack. Never experienced anything like that before! You are a machine.
ITALY!!! It’s my favorite place int he world. Iv’e been twice and planning a trip for the fall to take Vegas. Where are you going? Let me know if you have any questions!
AHHH!!! Thank you so, so much Laura! I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about with that water – ridiculously freezing!
I may message you about Italy. Everyone I have talked to who has been basically says it’s their most favorite place on the planet. I’m beyond excited. I’m also getting my hair done tomorrow and will see about adding some purple :-)))
Please do… Italy AND the hair. Send pics. 🙂
I was checking the race results like a stalker – I may have squealed a little when I saw you placed third in your age group. Woohoo! What a fun recap, knowing exactly what you are talking about ( the locations, not the actual swimming, biking and running!).
I must correct one thing. We are not an unlikely pair – you are a smart, witty, fun woman and that is why I chose to follow you here. While I don’t aspire to be a competitive athlete, I want to stay fit and healthy, and you inspire me to do that. I’m not sure why you like me, but whatever ;). So happy we met in person…live it up in Italy!
LOL! THIS is exactly why I love you. You are awesome and I’m so glad we were able to do lunch. You’re absolutely right – we’re not an unlikely pair – we’re both amazing 🙂
PS – you know I totally want to beat your gelato count…
I’d expect nothing less! You’ve gotta eat 18, baby.
Wow my head ached just reading about the cold water! If you go to Rome run the mile or so to the Vatican. I did get some interesting looks but how often can you say you ran in 2 countries:) I did take notes when I went in October . If you want I can email you some notes:)
This is exactly the info I need! YES, please send!!! Thanks Jen 🙂
You Rock! Seriously!!! Jealous that you got to meet Sue (we both ran the Paris Marathon but did not get to meet in person). SO proud of you for sticking out the race and congrats on 3rd in your age group! Relax and enjoy your time in Italy!!!
I’m telling you, Sue is even more incredible in person so I hope you get a do-over on that one. Thank you so much Stephanie!!
Those are cringe worthy conditions and you rocked it! Holy amazing race! Bravo to getting into the water in the first place. Honestly minus some hot and humid or super cold races (which are predictable based on time of year) I have been pretty lucky. I ran a half this spring that rained the whole time and was basically my first “bad weather” race. After too many races that I don’t even have a count I consider myself pretty lucky.
You have very much earned a nice break. Enjoy Italy I am looking to plan a Europe trip this year and bouncing around Italy is a dream of mine!
That is a great weather streak woman! Clearly I need to race wherever you are!!
Thank you 🙂
OHHHH MY GOOOOOOODNESSSSSS!!!!! YOU ROCK!!!! congrats Ali!!! you totally rocked it, seriously. how awesome is it that your training paid off! the time is not the point, it’s that you did your absolute BEST despite total shit conditions. that is freakin awesome 🙂 you are going to have the bestest, bangin’ time in Italy. so happy and stoked for you!!!! can’t wait to see some pics.
on a side note, this post totally took me down memory lane. i’ve never been as badass with my times but i’ve certainly raced in some torrential conditions that i will never forget. i remember my 2nd half IM was similar to what you describe, it was so ridiculous that you just had to laugh. luckily my goals were always to just finish. after the baby i might consider taking my training a tad more seriously… but we’ll see 😀
anyhow, this past weekend was also IMTX, and the weather was seriously insane. monsoons, hail, hurricane like storms during 70% of the race. basically the skies opened up after the swim. they stopped the race a few times and overall it was nuts. i’m sorta glad that i didn’t race and the 2 IMTX’s i did were like kittens and lollipop weather in comparison. man, texas is just like that. i don’t even know why they do our IM in May. it really needs to be earlier or later… but who am i?
anywho, congrats again. SOOOOOOO happy for you. wow what a feelin’!
And now I know for sure I will never do a triathlon! The swim sounds brutal, I’m a fair weather cyclist, and the run I could have done. You are a rockstar! And to get 3rd in your AG in those conditions? I’m so proud of you!!!
Enjoy Italy, eat your way around the country and have a glass or two, heck a bottle of wine for me! <3
LOL! Just don’t do one in MAY! Those conditions are highly unusual and I’m sure Chicago has a ton of amazing ones in the lake 🙂
Thanks so much for all your support Wendy and I just may drink an entire bottle of wine in Italy!! Cheers!
Loved reading this! You are beast woman! So gritty.
Thanks so much Sarah! It was grueling but made the finish that much sweeter…I know you know that feeling 🙂
Meeting other bloggers is one of the best things about blogging and we need to meet. You should be very excited about Italy!
Yes we do!! I have to say, without having Amanda, Sue and Dana to lean on it would have been a much rougher trip.
I’m sure we will meet someday Jill and it will be awesome 🙂
First of all congrats!!!! You rocked it in seriously sucky conditions! So proud of you and 3rd in your AG!!! We will definitely need to do an Olympic tri together sometime. That water temp sounds awful but not surprising since this spring has been awful and cold. Enjoy your well deserved trip to Italy! I’ve been to Venice and it was incredible!
I would LOVE to do a TRI with you!!!!
Didn’t I say you were going to be badass??? Who knew Mama Nature would throw you such a curveball though. That must have been the worst feeling just anticipating the start. You are just amazing for not only getting it done but absolutely KILLING it. 3rd in AG in your FIRST Olympic tri!! You’re a beast and an inspiration. Also, so fun that you got to hang with Amanda again and meet Dana and Sue!!!! 🙂
Have a fabulous time in Italy!!!
OMG I did not WANT to be that much of a badass!! LOL. Anticipating the start was the absolute worst…as you know but, I freakin’ did it!!! Thank you so much for always supporting me and encouraging me Carly!!! It means so much!!! xoxoxoxo
Awesome race! Congrats on a great finish despite tough conditions. I’m sorry it was a bit of a mental battle in the days before, but I think we all face that when we are about to start a race that means a lot to us. The race weather reminded me of Beach2Battleship a little. The water temps were in the high 50s or low 60s and even with booties on I was cold. For the bike, I learned a tip from a guy to put a plastic bag under your race kit to protect your skin from your wet top. It really did work (along with arm warmers). I love that you dominated your run and showed those former collegiate swimmers what’s up. LOL! Have so much fun in Italy. xoxo
I saw a guy with booties and I swear I would have given him 1,000 dollars for them!! Good tip about the plastic bag but hopefully I never have to race in conditions like that again. Thanks so much for everything Jesica. I hope you are having the time of your life in the Grand Canyon!!
Congrats!!! And OMG have the best time in Italy! I’m super jealous. The food there is soooo amazing! And the wine. Ahhhh!
Thanks Britt and I absolutely cannot wait to eat and drink the days away!
Allie, you are incredible!!! Such an epic race and those conditions were crazy!!! I have so much respect for you battling and conquering that freaking freezing cold swim. I think swimming in freezing cold open water is one of the HARDEST things ever. So proud of you!!! I love how you dominated the run (of course you did!!)!!
So much to be happy about and your beautiful smile says it all. You totally deserve this Italy trip!! Enjoy every minute. I was there in May years ago and it is a beautiful time of year to go. Eat the incredible food and soak it all in. I hope you get a chance to explore the Amalfi Coast!! Postiano and Capri – gorgeous. I can’t wait to hear all about it. ENJOY IT!!! xooxo
Oh thank you so very much Natalie!!! As in most hard fought races, it was all worth it in the end. However, I think I will stick to racing triathlons in the summer months, no matter the location!!
And YES we are traveling to the Amalfi coast for the majority of the trip. I absolutely cannot wait! Thank you!!! xo
I loved the recap! I knew you would do awesome! Enjoy your vacation, you’ve earned it!