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Ironman 70.3 World Championships: Vegas, Baby! (…or Henderson)

Mike and I qualified for Worlds at 70.3 Austin last October. It was a tough day—late season race, 42 degrees race morning, chip seal the whole bike route—but we managed to grab our slots. More than ten months and endless hours of training later we arrived in Vegas, psyched to race with four Ignite teammates and some local training partners.

“Vegas” actually starts in Henderson, NV, about 25 minutes’ drive from the Strip. Our rental house was right next to the host hotel, walkable to T1 on race morning, the practice swim Saturday, and the athlete dinner. We’ve grown to prefer rental houses to hotels because it’s quieter and allows us to cook familiar foods. It was a lovely house and a decent location, though we had to drive back and forth to T2 each day to do check-in and bag drops. Everything went smoothly and efficiently, the expo was huge, and we ran into a ton of pros (Crowie even held the door for us!). We got in some practice runs and rides, missing the nail that our teammate’s tire found—ouch, and had an awesome swim at the community center’s outdoor pool. We were definitely in fast company: everyone on the roads, in the water and at Whole Foods looked tanned and super fit. While there was a strong field at Austin and Mike has raced ITU Worlds with a deep field, this was my first Worlds experience. It would be a tough day!

Race morning arrived with the disorienting sound of rain. We’d only seen brief rain in the afternoons since arriving and none in the forecast. We’ve had plenty of practice racing in rain, so while it changed the game we were ready—and it least it would keep things cooler. We walked down with teammate and housemate Brian, set up T1, and headed for the covered bridge to stay warmer and drier for the hours until our waves went off. Finding most of our teammates helped the time pass.

Swim: 36:03
We knew from the practice swim that the water was impossibly murky, so I wasn’t counting on following any feet but rather swimming my own race on the straightest course I could take. In a competitive field like this you didn’t see the weak swimmers; everyone was pretty clustered and willing to be aggressive.

Bike: 3:07:27
What a humbling ride! I knew this was a rolling course, which I thought I was prepared for from riding in VA, but those rollers got to me especially in the last 10 miles. We had a considerable run both into and out of transition, including a switchbacked climb out, and then of course it was still raining. I was glad to have my glasses to keep the rain out of my eyes and didn’t have fogging issues. The first 10 miles or so were familiar from tune-up rides the few days before and manageable except for the roads being crowded and rain-soaked descents a little nerve-racking. The temperature was pretty comfortable and it was good to get inside Lake Mead State Park with little wind, watching the pros who started way before me already on the return. The desert is a different kind of beautiful in the rain; focusing on the scenery and my pedal stroke helped me focus. It was tough to get passed again and again, but I knew about what effort I could sustain for a hilly ride and I’d have plenty of time to kick it up a notch if I could. The sun came out a few miles after the turnaround, around mile 35, but it wasn’t scorching. After leaving the park the course heads into downtown on a flat straightaway and then winds around on a seemingly endless false flat with a little climb or two. I just didn’t feel strong the last 15 miles or so, frustrated at my slow pace while I still felt the burn in my legs (didn’t even break an hour? Ouch!). Lesson for next year: more strength training and hill repeats, like Mike does so well!

Run: 1:43:35
You never know if your run legs will show up until your feet hit the pavement. While I didn’t have the bike split I wanted, it still took a lot out of me, and I knew the three-loop run course was essentially three two-mile repeats. Luckily we started on a downhill and my legs came around pretty quickly. It helps me to focus on reeling people in on the run, once I’m off the bike and in my strong suit and can afford to take risks. The BEST Vegas advice I got was to grab ice diligently at every aid station—ice water to drink, ice in the sports bra—because with the sun in full force now, core temperature control was crucial. With this strategy I stayed remarkably comfortable, allowing me to power up the hills and take downhills aggressively. The volunteers and crowd support were helpful, and it was neat hearing the announcers on each loop when the course passes near the finish. The miles ticked by and I kicked by women one by one—about 100 on the run leg, it turned out, and XX in my age group. That last downhill mile I was almost falling forward, using the momentum to carry me to a strong finish—almost an hour ahead of

Overall: 5:35:49, 29th age group

29th is not where I wanted to come in, but it had turned out to be a much faster field than even last year. We were in Vegas to savor the experience and put together strong races we were proud of, and all in all it was a good day for Ignite. Tough competition brings out our best on race day and inspires us to train harder and smarter for the next race. This was the last triathlon for me and Mike in 2013 and a nice climactic note to end on. We’re switching gears for the Marine Corps Marathon October 27, then enjoying a much-needed offseason!

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About Dawn

Dawn is a top tier Age Group triathlete, long-time swim instructor, and soon to be a USAT Level I Certified Triathlon Coach. Dawn has raced 16 triathlons, including four half Ironmans; more than 35 road and trail races; open water swims and endurance ride events. She is a member of Ignite Endurance.

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