It’s been couple of weeks since Felipe and I finished our second 140.6 distance triathlon at Challenge Atlantic City at the Jersey Shore. We’ve been back to reality and our regular routines, but I find myself always thinking back to our experience in Atlantic City, especially when I need a mental vacation from stress. So Rather than keep thinking about it, here is my recap. (for Felipe’s recap click here)
The days before the race had been great. We had the chance to have a different experience to Ironman races and for It being an inaugural Challenge event in the US, I must say I enjoyed it and it had a different feel, more laid back and family oriented than Ironman. Felipe, my family, and our awesome friends who came to support us at the race enjoyed spending time on the shore, people watching the many special characters on the boardwalk, and being true triathletes as we met pros including the power ironcouple, Rinny and T.O. It was an amazing feeling to be surrounded by so many triathletes overlooking the jersey shore.
Race day came quicker than expected. We went by our regular early “getting ready for a race” routine, gathered up most of the troops, and headed to transition. The morning weather was great, the water looked calm, and the normal race jitters could be felt, but Felipe and I were so excited and enjoying the moment….until panic hit me for a sec as it was announced that water temps were in the 80s and “no wetsuits.” Ahhhhh I’ve trained with my lava pants and wetsuit in OWSwims, but not sure how I felt about NO security blanket! Time to breathe, stay positive, and engage in mindfulness! Felipe gives me reassurance it will be ok and says, “I’ll do wetsuit with you!!” Love him to pieces! Within minutes, the Announcer comes back and says they will have a later wave for wetsuits! Sigh of relief! Maybe a European thing since Challenge races are in Europe, but my humble suggestion would be to say “wetsuit optional” instead of “no wetsuits.” The race was off to an amazing start by three Navy seal military officers, two of whom were participating in the race, parachuted into the transition area. What a rush of emotions watching that and pride everywhere!! Bid our farewells to my parents and headed over to the start with our friends. Have I mentioned how amazing they were and so glad they were there to be our IronSherpas!!!
Felipe and I make it through the crowd of fancy wetsuits and by the time we hit the dock, the gun goes off. No time to stall, but just jump in and swim with the crowd. Going out to the first bridge. about .5 mile, seemed fast, no current, and for the first time enjoyed drafting off people. We hit the second buoy and make a turn, and that’s where the fun started. I was in a rhythm, but when I sighted, it felt I wasn’t moving far. Well that’s because we all had a strong head current for the next 2 miles. I used other swimmers to sight off of since there weren’t that many buoys and we had sun glare the entire time. Half way through my swim, I hit a turnaround and because the current was so strong, I couldn’t manage to get around one of the buoys. I swam and it seemed to keep moving away from me. Later found out that the buoy was moving because it was loose due to the current. I freaked out a bit as I noticed I started getting tangled in the cords and fought to get out of there. Another swimmer had stopped to make sure I got out as she had the same issue. Now all I could think about was where is the finish and I so ready to get out. I look at my Garmin and I’m at 1.8 miles. I felt so disoriented in the water due to the many turns we had to make and the current. Breathe, focus, and swim Res! I remembered wise words from our coach, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” Finally saw the dock and headed for it. Gathered myself to get on some fancy floating decks, which volunteers helped with and went to transition. Our friend yells at me as I go to transition that Puli is ahead of me by 2 min. I thought he was kidding at first, but as I run out to get my bike, I see our team bike jersey and got super excited. I yell at my love and we are both relieved to see each other. We bike out together and start our 112 mile journey together. At about mile 10, Felipe goes off and tell him I’ll see him on the run. I felt strong and realized we had a tailwind while riding on the AC Expressway and the weather was great.
Enjoyed the first half of the ride and rode through some scenic blueberry fields in Hammonton. On my second loop, at about mile 70, pulled into special needs and again saw our Irontex jersey at a distance and couldn’t believe Felipe was there. But quickly I realized something must be wrong as Felipe is strong and me catching up to him isn’t typical. As I get closer, I worry as his jersey was torn and his compression sleeves were bloody from his knee. What happened???? I’m so amazed at his strength, focus, dedication, and endurance as he has ridden like this since having had the bike spill at mile 28. That’s my bad ass hubby! He was determined to continue and finish! Off we go again and keep a comfy pace with him behind me. It wasn’t the best feeling to know he was hurt and in pain, but knowing we were together helped and I knew I had to stay strong to get us back safely to T2. Easier said than done. We hit the AC Expressway back and smack in our face is a ridiculous head wind…for about 30 miles. Talk about mental strength needed! I felt I was barely moving and the heat wasn’t helping, but knew I couldn’t give in. We finally make it back to bike transition and we are so happy to see our friends at bike in! We head to the medical tent to get Felipe checked out and I’m hopeful that they can tell him he can continue on the run. The volunteers were awesome, clean his wounds, and bandage him up. I knew our run was going to be more of a walk, but I was going to stay with Felipe and finish this together. He wasn’t giving up!!! We figured out what we needed to do to make it to the finish and I knew my speed walking would get us in, but wasn’t sure how Felipe would do. Nothing else to do, but to move forward.
We were off to the boardwalk and on a mission to finish. Being on the boardwalk was different than most of our previous races as there were so many people to watch, but also became a bit stressful. It was amazing to see the ignorance of some people as they were clueless about the race, gave us weird looks when they found out what the athletes were doing, and felt like an obstacle course as at times it felt as we had to weave through people. Nonetheless I stayed focused and kept Felipe going. I could feel him fading as it got later and did anything I could to pump him up and give him energy. I thought about ways to distract him from the pain and seeing our family and friends on the boardwalk helped! On our last loop, we talked about life, our plans, travels, and our craziness in doing Tris together!! Wouldn’t change it for anything. We knew we were close to the finish and pushed together! We crossed holding our Colombian flag and relieved to have made it! I am so proud of Felipe for his mental and physical strength! This was definitely an experience and a memorable race for us, but soooo blessed and happy we finished together. So thankful and glad to have had our family and IronSherpas – Becky, Jenny, and Brian there for support! The night wasn’t over as I knew we had to most likely go to the hospital to get Felipe checked out. It was all good though as we accomplished our goal together and are proud to call ourselves 2 x Ironman distance finishers! Ironcouples rock!