What better way to end the triathlon season than doing a 70.3 race as a relay right in your own backyard! For the inaugural IM Washington 70.3 I was fortunate enough to be the captain of Tri Girls Rock relay team with my soul sister Rachel and Lisa Wilson, a triathlete I coach for running that is an AMAZING swimmer. Our original swimmer was the fantastic Debbie Cedarwall, whose idea it was at the event kick off the year before to do this race as a relay. Unfortunately Debbie broke her arm in the summer and was not able to swim and get ready for the race. Lisa saved the day and stepped in as our swimmer, how lucky we were to be able to have her on the team! Rachel and I were 1 week off our Santa Cruz 70.3 race, so our crystal clear goal for this race was to do it for FUN. And we did! A HUGE thank you to the amazing Laura Philpot, my local friend and tri club teammate, for working so hard the the past few years to bring Ironman to Maple Valley.
Storms, Power Outages & Check In “Party”
The days leading up to the race were nerve wracking with a fantastic storm forecast for race weekend. We met up to check in on Friday and it was not bad, so that was a relief. It was so cool to see Lake Wilderness park where I’ve done countless hours of swimming, biking/running workouts transformed into IM village. Pretty much everyone I know in the local triathlon community was racing or volunteering, and seeing everyone at check in was really fun.
Saturday I was back to check in my bike, since I was the bike leg of our relay team. I parked and rode in to the village. The sun was out and then there were clouds, but nothing very serious weather wise was going on. I met up with Joy and was excited to meet our local PNW Zoot team captain Caroline and other local Zooters for a team picture. Caroline was on another Zoot relay team, so it was fun to know we were all racked together on the relay rack. My friend Brittany from AP camp who had just been cheering for me in Santa Cruz was racing, so I saw her and Diane too. It really seemed more like a big party than a triathlon with all my friends from near and far racing. I new over 30 people racing!
Saturday night was a different story. That storm rolled in. The wind and rain caused power outages (right there in Maple Valley), downed trees and a lot of stress for everyone who was racing the next day. Luckily, by Sunday morning things had calmed down, and the power was on. IM and local agencies did a fantastic job of clearing up the roads, run course and venue. Whew!
3:45 Wake Up
As with all races, the alarm goes off early. Rachel and I were carpooling to the race, so that was an extra little bit of fun in the wee hours of the morning. We joked about this being a recovery race, and didn’t we just do this 7 days ago? As a relay, the anxiety was a little less even with a crazy weather pattern looming over the day. With Lake Wilderness being a small park, there were outside lots assigned for parking and a shuttle to take racers to the park. Our lot was not the closer lot, so we made the decision to park at the QFC lot and walk 1.5 miles to the park versus the extra time to get to the assigned lot, wait for a shuttle, etc. This turned out to be a great decision at the end of the day when the shuttle line was over an hour long to get back to the assigned lot! We met Lisa in transition and the fun began. Transition in the relay area really was like a party. The always fun Ann Sloan was there, in addition to our team and all the Zoot teams that were racing. Everyone was chatting and having a good time. Setting up for just one leg of a race is so much simpler. With just one discipline for the day it eliminates 2/3 of the planning!
Speedy Swim, 1.2 mi, 31:29
Lisa was ready to swim and is used to early morning swims so she was ready to go. There seemed to be a bit of confusion on where the swim seeds lined up, but she made it to the front of the pack where all the speedy swimmers were. It was so exciting to see them take off. I knew Lisa was going to be one of the first females out of the water, so I didn’t have much time to get ready to roll out on the bike. As predicted, Lisa had a fantastic swim, and came running into transition with a smile. It was so great to have her doing the swim, something she loves and calls her happy place. She hadn’t swam in open water in quite awhile, but she rocked it! The relay rack was excited, and I grabbed the timing chip strap and started the run out to the bike start. As a relay rider, I had the luxury of dry clothes, shoe covers and gloves! Things I never have when doing the entire race.
Hail, Rain, Foggy Bike, 56 mi, 3:00:42
The run from transition to bike mount was a bit long as the relay rack was the farthest rack away from the Bike Out. A bit of running on the wet pavement to the mount line slowed me down a bit, because I did not want to be that lady on the ground who fell trying to get to the mount line. Once I got on and started riding, it felt different than any triathlon ride leg I’d done. I couldn’t put my finger on it for a few minutes, but then I realized I was in the front with all the leaders! Lisa’s fast swim put me out on the bike much earlier than I had ever been before and it was exciting. Diane, Ray, Ryan and others who are always up in front came up behind me and I thought how cool is it to be one of the first people out on the bike? With such a quick relay transition time I was out with the big boys and girls. Of course, after about 5 miles the bikers started passing me more often than not, but it was fun while it lasted!
Settling in on the bike, I reminded myself of my strategy. Stay upright on the slick roads, be mindful of my race legs from Santa Cruz and have fun. Having ridden this course and these roads more times than I could count, the familiarity of the route was a confidence boost even in the weather. There was rain, a little hail, and some fog. I tried to wipe what I thought was mist from my glasses, only to discover it was road mud from people who had been riding near me. I knew all the hills well, and when to expect a downhill reprieve. I saw so many people I knew on the course in addition to Zooters I hadn’t met, so it was a non-stop give and receive support ride, how cool is that? Climbing out of the Gorge it was easy to see who knew the course and who didn’t. I took my normal approach and threw Sassy into easy gears and kept my cadence up as I climbed up and out. At that slower climbing pace I had the chance to look around a bit more. And what did I see? A decapitated Elk head to my right off the shoulder! What?! Never have I ever seen anything like that on my countless rides through here. Eew, just eew.
Right after Nolte State Park there was an aid station on the way to Enumclaw. A highlight of the ride was the volunteer who shouted “14th woman!” at me as I rode by. I had to chuckle. She had no idea I was relay! I’d never heard anything like that before so I took it in and enjoyed my brief moment as a star in her eyes.
I was stunned at how clean the roads were given the crazy storm the night before. I had been so worried about tree branches, trees, pine needles, pine cones making the road treacherous. Again, big kudos to Ironman and all the local agencies that made the road safe and clear for riding.
Coming in to the final miles of the bike, my 1 week old race legs were feeling the rollers on Issaquah Hobart road. I was anxiously awaiting the left turn down 216th, where I knew an amazing straight downhill was waiting for me. I enjoyed that stretch quite a bit! The last climb up Witte Rd didn’t feel too bad, and I checked my time. Ideally I had hoped to do under 3:00 on the bike. I was at 2:58 when I made it to the light to before the final stretch to the park. I thought, maybe… but once in the roundabout I knew it wasn’t meant to be. But I got as close as I could to under 3:00 and I was happy with that. I rolled into the bike dismount area and started the run into transition. As soon as I got into the rack area, I could see Rachel waiting for me, waving her arms and smiling, ready to run. Nothing like running toward someone you love with a giant smile on her face! She had been there since 5:30am waiting to run, and I knew she was ready. She took the timing chip from me and she was off.
Right on Run, 13.1 mi, 2:06:02
It was a short run out of transition and our relay rack had the perfect location to see all the runners going out onto the course. It was so fun to send Rachel off with cheering as she made her way to the run course. After that we got to cheer on all our friends as they came through, and it was a very long list – in my Ironman tracker app I was tracking 40 people! Needless to say, my phone battery was struggling to stay charged. The relay rack was hopping with people in and out and everyone was excited as the team members came and went. It was so fun to bounce back and forth between the finish line and people heading out on the run. My local Tri team Raise the Bar had a huge presence at the race and a fantastic tent set up near the finish line where people were gathered post race. Rachel, like most of us locals, is really familiar with the run course and she ran a smart race and had a great run. She was happy on the run and her finish line photos are proof with her signature dazzling smile that it was a great day.
5:44:39, 13th/47 Relay
Our goal was to have fun and that we did! It was a nice surprise to take 13th place in the relay division on top of that. Once again, truly a perfect ending to the triathlon season, doing a relay with 2 fantastic women in our own backyard. Super proud of all my local triathlon friends who won their age groups, placed in their age groups, and so many others who smashed their goal times or completed their first 70.3 race. Special shout out to my training buddy Joy, who at 62 did her first 70.3 race and crushed her goal time with a 6:57 finish. Sure, the weather could have been better. But the energy and camaraderie of everyone at the inaugural Washington 70.3 more than made up for it. Looking forward to supporting the race in 2022!