I know there are people God has put in my life for specific purposes – to guide me, direct me, and help me on my path. The friends I’ve met though triathlon are some of the best examples of this. There are days I wake up and wonder what I’m doing? Why I’m jumping in an icy cold pool at 6AM or why I’m riding 70 miles in 100 degrees? My mind often wanders to a place where I don’t even think TriLife makes sense anymore? “What am I doing here?” and “What am I trying to prove!” But my teammates are constant reminders of why I’m out here fighting each day. And why hard work, dedication and love for the sport are worth it.
And at Buffalo Springs 70.3 – it was totally worth it.
A rather impromptu decision to race Buffalo Springs Ironman 70.3 (BSL) left me with about 5 weeks to train – and very, very limited base miles. Life and work continued to get in the way, but Coach Soria would not give up on me bailing, and continued on my training schedule with BSL on the books! With a 5-day taper I was looking at BSL as “best effort” and a “training race” – Soria was ok with that but commented, “Still see what you can do!”
Friday morning we loaded up the bikes and headed west to Lubbock – Paul drove me, Zach and Jason Spears and we met the rest of the Frisco Tri Club (FTC) crew to race the toughest 70.3 in the circuit! 😉 Upon arrival, we had packet pick-up, dinner at BJ’s and the next morning was Paul’s sprint race.
It wasn’t Paul’s day but we were very proud of him! The conditions were rough – very rough – and that first hill out of transition was killing all the Sprint and Olympic racers. Watching it was making all of us nervous and anxious. The infamous first hill was the talk at team dinner. “How are we going to climb that sucker with no momentum?”
Race day came early – 4:00AM wake up call. I was up and in my kit right away, downing some early calories and feeling calmer than usual. Paul loaded our bikes in the rain (whatta guy?!) and we were off to transition wondering if the summer storm rolled in overnight would pass?
We had the typical lines at body marking, a busy transition area but overall not a hectic morning. The storm passed and the swim waves were right on time – I was the third wave at 6:42AM with all females 18-35, a large group. With boy smells, dirty jokes and Hamlin’s giant swim mask now off in the distance, I lined up on the beach with all the females. The gun went off and I remembered what Coach Soria said, “Ease into your pace, you’ll be going faster than you think and it’s a long day ahead.” So, I swam very cautiously not kicking – just pulling – trying keep a smooth and easy stroke. I made a conscious effort to not use much energy. Before I knew it we made the final turn towards shore and I was feeling good – refreshed – not tired at all. “Right on point,” I thought to myself.
I exited the swim, got my wetsuit stripped, and ran towards my transition area paying attention this time to where my bike was racked! 😉 I looked down eager to see my time but my watch had stopped – it read 750 meters. “What the hell?” I must have paused while swimming? “Typical Jules fail” I thought to myself. I quickly try to clear and reset for the bike while wobbling into my cycling shoes… My watch continues to find satellite. “Can’t worry about it now. I’ve got a bitch of a hill to climb next.” I murmur few choice words to myself and let it go…
I mount my bike and double check I’m in my small chain ring and lowest gear (Paul reminded me 3X!) Now, time to climb… I turn the corner and “the hill” is right ahead of me. I see other cyclists in the distance up out of the saddle, bobbing, barely moving up – they’re almost standing still. I put my head down and push and pull with all my might. I slowly make progress – about 5/6mph. Damn. At the top I mentally check it off, “That’s one!”- I know there are 4 more like it. Here we go.
The remainder of the bike I have similar battles in my head as we climb in and out of the canyons of Buffalo Springs. We get a strong wind from the south slowing my pace down to 16mph at times, but going north the boost gets me to 21mph, easy. In my head I’m doing quick math hoping it evens out? I lose one of my bottles but am able to take a hand up from the aid station – a big improvement from last year. I take in 2 bottles of Gatorade Endurance, one Bonk Bar and Base Salt periodically – but am feeling almost too full as I approach T2. Ugh.
I approach transition with extremely tired and wobbly legs. Again, my watch stopped a few times on the bike so I have an inaccurate time and no idea of my overall race time? So frustrated! I realize it’s hitting my darn FitBit and pausing! Stupid Fitbit. “Throwing that crap in the trash!” I say in my moment of anger. (Sidenote: I still have my Fitbit)
I take way too long in T2 because I couldn’t get my socks on, couldn’t stand up well, and just had a cloudy head and sloshy stomach. I thought for sure I was in trouble! But eventually, I get it together. Shoving Base Salt and a GU down my jersey, I jog out.
My first mile out of transition was a 9:30 min/mi as I got my legs under me. The sun was high in the sky and it was starting to get HOT – as if it wasn’t already. The run was around the park nestled in the canyon with limited breeze but some shade throughout. It was a two loop course so I was mentally checking off each mile in my head knowing I would be back to the same spot for the second loop. Just after mile 3 was the biggest hill was – but I was ready for it. Coach Soria had warned me not to ‘blow it up’ here but I was feeling good and continued to power up watching my heart rate. This is where I saw many others start to fall apart…
At mile 5 I saw the Base Salt tent booming with our friends and wait, Paul too? This gave me the energy burst I needed and I plugged along with a smile and continued through the turnaround and onto the second loop. At mile 6.5 I found a girl to pace off – yes, a rabbit! She was just a little faster than me and I had to really work to stay on her tail! Over the next four miles she got further and further away but I kept her in my sight – she was hitting 8:00 min/mile flats! By mile 10 my legs were heavy and had that ache where they could start cramping at any second if I stopped or changed cadence – I knew I had to keep moving – or else!
In my head I knew I had to get to 11/11.5 miles and then Coach Soria had me “sprinting” it in – no rules, all out. Just had to hang on till then. And I did. At 11.5 I picked up my pace and no longer looked at my watch, or grabbed any more fuel, just ran it on home… The voices in my head told me to slow, but I didn’t ask their opinion, I just went! I passed Paul with about a half mile to go and he just gave me the nod that said “you’ve got this!”
As I approached the finish chute I couldn’t feel my legs and my breath was fast and labored – probably more so than ever before, whoa! I ran through looking up at clock time thinking, “is that right?” But without another thought I collapsed down and two catcher volunteers caught me before I hit the pavement. I was ok, my legs just cramped and seized immediately! So dehydrated. I was carried to the med tent and after vitals checked I was put on IV and covered with cool towels. I really was fine, really! They’re uber cautious.
Paul was unable to get to me but the med folks were awesome and I was back up in no time. Several of my team members were finishing right after me and in the tent too… What a day!?
Once released to Paul I learned my official time was … 5:31:06. Oh my gosh, that is my PR! And on this course, I was thrilled. At that moment I didn’t feel the pain anymore, everything seemed worth it and I felt such love for those who got me HERE.
We celebrated with burgers from Holly’s in Post, Texas, just outside of Lubbock. “I’ll order for you here, Jules” said Paul with his smile. We were now in his territory. A victory meal indeed. I think I even had a few fries 😉
To all who push me to be more, to want more, and to never give up on this dream, I pray can do the same for you…