WARNING: This is really long. I have no apologies for the length or detail of this recap.
The time is finally here for me to write my ‘race report’! Preparation for this race was long, as was the day itself and I’m still soaking it all in that it even happened. Thankfully, it did and I am excited to share all the details of race day (or maybe the whole weekend).
My cousin and I took on this 70.3 challenge since we completed our first triathlon together and were both interested in completing this distance. Since it was close to home, there was no question that we had to do it together.
As soon as about Friday night hit, the weekend seemed very surreal. There was no turning back, no more preparations to complete, everything was packed and I was in Atlantic City. Saturday is check-in day; you get your bib number, timing chip, and check-in your bike to transition so race day morning is just for the essentials.
By 4am Sunday morning, there was no time for nerves, it was just mentally accepting the long day, and I was definitely ready for it because a short day would have meant not finishing, and that was my main goal. The sky slowly brightened as the sun rose over the city, naturally indicating to competitors transition would soon close and the clock was about to start. We took our transition essentials to our bikes, I stocked my bike with gels and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and head over to get ready for the swim start. After leaving transition, I found Chris and was surprised to see some family so early. My parents were also on their way and I was glad that I would see them before the swim start. Pre-race hugs are always the best.
Everyone gathered by swim start for the National Anthem, which to me signifies the beginning to any sporting event. Each swim wave started their race, and I waited for wave 14 to move their way where we were standing and then Chris and I joined along until he was also cut out of line. I met a few Jersey Girls club athletes in line and it was good to talk a little bit during the wait before it was time to dive in the water. We swam over to our buoy to wait for the the starting horn and I made my way to the far right. It was just about this time that I realized we would be heading against the current. I thought we may have been getting the current on our side, but it already turned coming in. Also, someone noticed race officials pulling an athlete out already, which was already a second. Once we were off, I knew freestyle would take a lot of my energy to beat the current. I’ve been swimming in this waterway all summer and already challenged myself swimming against its current, so I switched over to backstroke which felt like a relief. In the beginning it took some time to warm up, which was nerve wracking as I was waiting to pass a buoy and feel like I was making some progress. Facing forward to see what was left hit me mentally and I questioned for a second if I would finish, but I knew I wasn’t quitting unless they had to pull me out. It felt good restarting after a few seconds of rest so I backed off myself and continued on. Once I got closer to the turn around point, I could feel the current turning around me and knew they made the right choice in cutting the .2 off the total distance. However, my zig-zagging swim probably made up for the distance anyway. The turnaround buoy was sweet relief and I never felt more excited to know I was home free. The swim time worried me because I was nervous I might not make the time if the current was against me. I reached the dock and the awesome event staff helped me up the ladder and I was out. I checked my watch to see my time, 40 minutes! I was expecting at least 45 minutes so to swim faster was a pleasant surprised. On my run out to transition all the family was on the sideline and I was ready to take on part 2. (I learned immediately after I crossed the finish line and my attention was directed to my grandmother in a wheelchair – she was walking just fine pre-race – that she fell during the swim portion and broke her ankle badly. Thankfully she had surgery the following week and is recovering!)
Transition was smooth as I dried off a bit, put on my socks, shoes, and helmet and headed out to the bike start. Everyone was still at the sideline gate sending me off for the next 56 miles. I wanted to take a comfortable pace or else the end of the race would get me. The bike was pretty uneventful, it was a beautiful ride on familiar roads for me. I made sure to thank every police officer holding up traffic and keeping us safe and every spectator cheering. I was a bit worried about the aide stations (ie: falling off at the aide stations for crashing into someone) but I got off my bike and took my time. Also, no one was usually that close to me. The biggest worry of the whole race was hitting the aide station by cutoff time. My bike speed was right on average as when I usually ride long, which would allow me to finish but I knew it would be a long ride, and with any unexpected events it could put me really off track. Once I hit the aide stations in the beginning of the race in time, I was much more relaxed because I knew I was on time and as long as I got through the 56 miles I’d be set. When that hit me, I was so excited I would finish in time and it pushed me through the second half of the bike.
However, the last 6 miles were exhausting. I timed my nutrition so that I would have enough time to digest and be ready to run, but that also means I had a lot of water. While no one was close to me, I really didn’t want to have to head into the woods and use my water for anything other than hydration. I decided I’d power through to transition, and have a gel with water as I walked the first section to get my legs back. I should have stopped. I should have reenergized with a gel for those last 6 miles. I ended up being against the wind and had several hills for the bridges and on ramps of the expressway.
Getting back to transition was never such a relief. Actually, seeing Chris and Matt since I had spent so much time alone on the course was a relief. I was so excited he made it back to see him before my last leg. I got super overwhelmed and 13 miles seemed so long.
I took my time in transition, found the bathroom, had a gel and walked until I hit the first aide station. Finally, they had some pretzels and I took a handful since I could tell I was losing salt, and continued with Gatorade and half a banana as I had been doing. I was really glad to see some people also just starting the run, most were walking, and even still coming in. I continued to walk after the aide station but knew this was the leg I had been waiting for, walking actually felt worse than running, it felt better to stretch my legs. I knew the run would be my best part and I just wanted to finish rather than spend any more time walking so off I was with a steady jog. I hit the boardwalk and was excited again to see Matt’s parents, I figured by now Amanda was done if they weren’t at finish.
The run was wonderful. There were plenty of aide stations, and even more spectators. Someone in Ventnor had his garden hose for athletes passing by. Locals were sitting on benches cheering us on. And someone in a hotel had music playing. One cop was even manning a boardwalk shower for runners. I took a few walk breaks to stretch and get nutrition at aide stations. Around mile 9 I couldn’t contain my excitement as I knew it was almost there and then I looked over and my dad was at the side! I wasn’t expecting to see him after the swim. The rest of the run my family was scattered along the course, athletes already finished were cheering us on, and the end was near. I passed my cousin as she had about a mile left and I just wanted to meet her at the end! I got a little ahead of myself thinking the turnaround was close to Caesar’s when I realized I still had to go to the end at Revel. The best part about this run was that I not only have been training on a boardwalk, I can’t count the times I raced on the AC Boardwalk and it felt good to complete the biggest race on what feels like my stomping grounds. I slowed my pace until I got to Revel, turned around, and was ready to get going. I passed Chris and Matt as I got closer and all I had left was the loop around the pier and a straight line about 100 yards to the finish so I picked up the pace. A couple veteran IM racers cheered as I passed them and I was about to explode with excitement. Chris and Matt were at the stretch as I came down the Pier ramp and all I could do was clap with them and sprinted to the finish. Best. Feeling. Ever.
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