IMAZ 70.3 recap: Simply put, it was a wonderful day, and an even better weekend. My swim was solid, the ride was fun, and the run was incredibly hot and exposed. But… that’s not all… you know I never keep anything simple.
I headed into this race with a very clear why— I wanted to end my season experiencing the joys of challenging my body. For me, this did not mean that I expected to feel “happy” through the entire race, nor did I plan to “take it easy.” My goal was to connect deeply to myself to show up fully with gratitude, authenticity, and grit. This likely sounds familiar, as I do sincerely believe this is always the best way to race.
But, over the last few years, I have also intentionally set out to challenge myself in a different way— to set more objective stretch goals. I have aimed for PRs, podiums, and qualifications. I have actualized some of these, and fallen short on others. I have felt fulfilled, and I have felt defeated. I have learned much, including how I interpret my effort through competition. And I am very thankful for this journey (so far).
This time, I felt fully led to return to my pure “love of the sport” roots. I wanted to race with the knowledge and strength of a veteran, yet also full of the easier curiosity, self compassion, and grace of a first-timer.
And the final Arizona 70.3 in Tempe ended up being the perfect place to do so.
I stayed, and raced with, my athlete and friend Anna. When we headed to check-in, I asked her if we could treat this race as our first IM event— even though it was her third and my 27th. Thankfully, she obliged. We snapped all of the obligatory pictures, and conjured up some beginner excitement, knowing that when we got to the start line we could still apply lots of veteran wisdom. **I highly recommend doing this— we really tend to take all of this way too seriously anyway.
Anna and I also gave ourselves ample time and space to relax. We nourished our bodies with good food, but had some treats too. We drank so much water and so many electrolyte solutions. We carbed up. She was supportive of me staying on a schedule that would allow me a seamless transition back to central time, with 7pm bedtimes (which did make our 3:30AM wake-up on race day more palatable). And we saw the Taylor Swift Eras movie, which was a perfect pre-race activity. We fell into so much ease sharing her condo that I joked that we would make a very good married couple. 😉
Ahead of the weekend, I had made the bold decision to race free—without any technology. No watch. No bike computer. Just dialing in self-trust, and my veteran instincts, out on the course.
The race start time was earlier than my last two attempts in 2018 and 2021. The swim course was also different, but both of these changes were very welcomed to avoid the highest temps of the day, as well as avoiding the challenge of swimming into the blinding sun as it rose. We were also surprised with a wetsuit legal swim, and very comfortable water. The swim was mostly uneventful, after a new-to-me start where we jumped off a floating dock into the water (Jon and Britt would be highly disappointed that I did not cannonball, although I considered it). My time was seconds slower than WI a month ago, likely because we were so spread out that I could not find any feet to draft off of.
Another perk to the swim course change is that we got avoid the previous half a mile run to transition at the exit. There were no wetsuit strippers, and I am always quite glad I am not a sprint racer as I fumble through getting my wetsuit off and prepare for my ride. I had never experienced the dead, dry grass issues that the AZ full participants complain about in the November race, but we did on Sunday. Curly, crunchy grass was literally everywhere. When I tossed my wetsuit on the ground it quickly looked like a wooly mammoth, and I had feet, socks, and shoes full of it. Although I could feel it, and I am guessing I brought plenty of it home as a souvenir, it thankfully did not phase me during the race.
The ride was amazing. I worked hard, I was smart about fueling and hydrating, and I navigated the 75 turns/9 U-turns safely (while also mentally noting that I have some work to do in that department). I prayed, I sang some songs, I smiled at volunteers and my competitors. I remained pain-free, and the miles flew by.
I felt so happy to be reacquainted with my sincere love for racing on my bike. I felt so alive.
I maintained a good attitude about running, even though I could feel the temps increasing substantially in the final miles of the ride. T2 was uneventful. After a quick bathroom stop I was off for 13.1 miles.
As you have likely heard, the run was hot. The sun is relentless on this mostly exposed course, and the concrete areas you run through are superb reflectors, making you feel like you are roasting. I started the run leaning into the mentality that on this day I had to approach it just as I do our regular Saturday team runs— relaxed and smooth. Today was my day to focus on managing it, rather than racing it. I felt validated in my decision to not wear a watch and be negatively distracted by my slower-than-I’d-like pace, or my higher-than-I’d-like heart rate.
I was able to maintain my strategy of shuffling along, walking through each aid station only, until roughly mile nine. I started to feel some familiar dehydration cues in stomach cramps and nausea. My mental durability also faltered, and I became acutely aware of my overall exhaustion. I walked more than I would like to in the last four miles, but I was not unkind and shameful to myself. Instead, I treated myself with compassion and grace… while also refusing to give up.
I crossed the finish line fully spent, and wholly content. I still have a lot to practice in triathlon run resiliency, but I knew I had made some literal strides in in the right direction.
And, even though this was far from a course PR, I had the surprising experience of winning fifth place in my age group, which means a trip to the podium and a plaque at IM races. Some days are more about who shows up and gets the job done… and I will take it.
I learned many other things about myself and lessons in racing over the weekend and the event itself, but this is already an incredibly long message, so I will save some for the future. But, I do like to leave you with something to take into your moment, your day, or your next race (rather than just another story of me, me, me. ;))
The point of my blog is not to tell you to do what I do. Instead, I want to inspire you to explore and define why you are showing up in all parts of your life. Not only a competition, or an event, but your overall WHY. Do you seek to further understand yourself? How are you living out your values daily? How are you challenged? What do you lean into when things get hard?
Are your decisions made out of fear, or out of love?
Thank you to all for reading this long one, and for all of your loving support. I am heading into my off-season with a full heart, and with the excitement to keep exploring this big life and stretch goals together.