New Orleans 70.3, 3rd Edition

BY THE NUMBERS

Place: 9th Female Pro

Overall Time: 4:46:12

Swim: 33:41

Bike: 2:30:13

Run: 1:38:12

Year in a Row racing NOLA: 3

Sustained Windspeed on Raceday: 22mph

Bonk Breakers packed for the bike: 2

Bonk Breakers consumed: 1

# of smushy Bonk Breakers found in back pocket post-race: 1

Gels on the Run: 3

Total Calories: no clue because I'm bad at "acting pro"

Times I rode my TT bike pre-race in 2016: 1

# Broken Aerobars: 1

Times I thought about throwing my bike (minus wheels) in the lake: 82

Number of Steps: 32,598 (per the Garmin)

Post-race (free) beers: more than Stover's daily limit


Course Description

This should be a fast course—flat, fast out and back on both the bike and the run. On any other day, when it's not reaching peak levels of Louisiana swampiness, it might just be. But Sunday was a whole new level of windy. Hold onto your hats and aerobars, people, because this one was out of control!

Race Objectives

  1. Come out of the water with a good swim pack and have people to ride with.
  2. Ride like the wind (translation: really freakin' fast)
  3. Redeem my run after last year's pitiful melt-down in the heat. 

Observation #1

The more people you know on-course or spectating, the more fun a race! I loved bumping into so many people racing or visiting NOLA: Amanda, Dawn, Katie, Tara, old teachers and plenty of others I'm sure I'm forgetting! 

Observation #2

No matter how grumpy or old I may get, I always enjoy a good lewd joke. Thanks to the several dozen of folks on course in NOLA who gave me (well, my number) a generous shout-out!


Pro-Con-Con-Pro (it's a sorority thing, don't ask)

Pro: Came out of the water, saw the 33 on the clock and thought I had severely tanked the swim. Running with my bike out of T2, heard someone call to the girl ahead that she was in 9th place so I got very excited and fought to hold my place. Looked at the results after and realized I swam a good portion of the course with Sarah Piampiano, got even more excited. Swim progress finally paying off race-day.

Con: My aerobars continue to hate me. Or maybe they just hate this race. But this is the second year in a row they have popped off mid-race. 

Con: The headwind on the run. WOOF. Everyone's pace dropped significantly and people looked ready to curl up on the curb and die after the halfway turn-around as they headed back into the wind. 

Pro: The first race of the season is always a hard one so the band-aid is off and I'm ready to keep charging hard in training for the rest of my 2016 season.


Race Report

As much as I love New Orleans and Premier Event Management, these folks need to figure out parking. I was a little frantic and rushed and the second-to-last pro in the water because I sat in traffic for over 30 minutes trying to get to transition. But over the years, I've perfected the transition set up and my BYO-TP policy won out as I was able to cut in line to use an otherwise empty and paperless porta-potty. It's the little things, people.

The pro field got in a decent warm-up, including many of the professional men who were still warming up as the horn sounded. Something similar happened at Chattanooga, taking them off-guard, making it one of the few times I'm thankful I am a female professional triathlete instead of male (who always start first).

The Swim

Many people described the swim as one of the hardest done. The waves were worse than Kona, in my opinion, mostly because of the unpredictability. Breathe to the right, get hit in the face and swallow a wave of water. Breathe to the left,  get hit in the face and swallow a wave of water. The chop was just a little out of control.

But I swam with a sort-of-pack trailing off the first group to the first buoy and then got dropped. I was solo for a good portion, which was annoying given the awkward sighting on this zig-zagged swim course but then Sarah Piampiano came swimming by and after brief stint on my toes, I hopped on and tried to hitch a ride as long as possible. The last zag got me a little bit and I was spit out the back and passed by one more. 

Pro swimming is a whole different beast than age group. It's a little lonelier, more sighting required—but also a whole lot less violent. I could feel my arms get noticeably fatigued from being in the wetsuit for the first time since Mont Tremblant, kicking myself for not enough paddle work in the weeks leading up the entire time. (The things you think about mid-race, am I right?!) 

I ran through T1, pissed at what I thought was a terrible swim (but would later find out was relatively okay) and nearly ate it on the wet carpets, making for an interesting photo...

The Bike

By the time we were rolling our bikes out of T1, there were steady winds around 22mph with gusts up to 35. The flat bike course was a 56-mile struggle against either headwinds or crazy sidewinds. Even on the way back, when you should have expected a strong push for the return home, you were still dealing with sneaky side-winds whirling up to you. 

I still haven't decided whether I had a good bike or not yet. I forgot to calibrate my power-meter pre-race so I'm praying that my watts were very very wrong and not that they were incredibly, pitifully, give-up-biking-altogether low. My love of group riding also came to bite me a bit in that this was only the second ride outside on my TT bike since Cozumel. This, paired with a new position, meant some of my muscles were very confused and unhappy as the ride went on (my poor hip flexors—waaah!!) 

Right out of the gates I passed the athlete ahead of me, stepping into 9th place. I honestly thought I had a shot at the money at this point—maybe delusional, but maybe also that's what you need to be a great athlete—so I just kept telling myself to keep pushing. It was so windy that in my mind there had to be at least a girl or two who would drop out due to the conditions. Ultimately, this wouldn't be the case but it was my carrot and I kept pushing the pedals hard. 

The headwind was brutal and the sidewinds were incredibly strong, blowing me a bit around the course a few times. I was so thankful I was on my Alto Cycling CT86 wheels because they performed beautifully in the miserable winds. This was probably one of the highlights of the race, knowing how solid my wheels are in some of the worst conditions possible! 

Honestly, to put it in perspective: the only time I have ever experienced stronger winds was out on the Hardangervidda Plateau during Norseman, and that was on exposed road close to the top of one of the tallest peaks in Norway—not below sea level, like in New Orleans. 

The worst thing about the wind was that it was hard getting into a groove: you would settle into a nice gear and rhythm and then the winds/gusts would pick up so you would have to downshift and then they would let up so it was a constant change of cadence and gearing as the wind was anything but steady or predictable! This got old, very fast.

After the turn-around, I was not flying as much as I had hoped due to the remaining strong cross-winds but still headed home at a nice clip. I saw Amanda in 4th and started to get incredibly excited for her! Shortly up the road were others, including Cait Snow, and I got pumped at feeling like even if I wasn't directly in and impacting the race, at least I was getting myself closer to some of the action and "big names". 

I wont go into it too much (hashtag triexcuses) but on the drawbridge coming back a big bump knocked my aerobar loose. I was able to use my spare ponytail to rig it together and didn't lose much time but it was still incredibly annoying since this is year two of aerobar malfunctions on this course.

  Little something @broketridad made for me after last year...!

Little something @broketridad made for me after last year...!

I came in and got ready to run...

The Run

First few miles I kept it very easy and was actually worried I wasn't pushing hard enough. I'm glad I did keep it under control because little did I know what was waiting for me at the turn-around. While I realized I had a bit of a tail-wind for the first 6.5 miles, I didn't realize how strong the wind was blowing out on the Lakefront. 

I hit the halfway point and turned around and hit the wall of wind. It honestly felt a bit like this: 

I had gone into this race with the goal of smiling during the whole thing (triathlon is FUN, y'all!) but can't help but admit that i was a bit of a grump the last six miles, mostly due to running in the headwind. I had a headache from the constant loud wind blowing the last 3 hours (seriously, my helmet was whistling and out running it sounded kind of like a freight train) and I was just ready to be done and sit inside with some noise canceling-headphones for a few hours.

Nothing particularly exciting happened on the run, except no one passed me (yay!) and I was able to cruise in a bit the last three miles with no one in sight. I also got to cheer on Amanda who was far up on the run and very much in the money, ultimately placing 6th on the day—so excited and happy for her!

Looking back, I wish I had dug in and pushed a bit harder with some athletes just ahead of me and just for the overall learning experience. I came into the finish chute, happy, tired and with plenty of take-aways to improve upon as I ramp up my 2016 season!

Thank Yous

Thank you to: 

Alto Cycling: Mentioned this above, but was beyond impressed with how my CT86 wheels performed race day. They also came through in a BIG way during a time of need to help me out, but I'm going to share more about that in a later post!

Cadence Run Company: loved my race day Brook Launches and the Ghosts I train in day to day. These guys hooked me up with the right shoes when we were training in Arizona together last Spring and since then have had ZERO shoe or injury issues—Dan knows what's up!

Lastly, thank you to my brother, his wife and his two kiddos for putting up with me, and not throwing too many tantrums when I was out training or racing instead of playing with Barbie and Elsa. 

I tried really hard to convince Victoria that her Aunt Mags was actually a super hero, but I think she was a little bit skeptical...