Challenge Daytona

Photo Credit: Kortuem Inc.

Earlier this season I would have never dreamed I would be extending my race season into December.  Usually, I end my season mid fall, but December was first for me.  How I ended up racing this far into the year was a matter of chance, some bad luck and weather issues earlier in the fall.  My last race I completed before Sunday was Steelhead 70.3, at the beginning of August.  After that race I had planned to compete in the Escape Series DC (but that race was cancelled due to weather).  My race in October ended in a crash (explained in a previous post) so after that I figured I had to race since I had completed all this training without finishing a race.  I decided to race IM Cozumel, but then I got sick race week and we listened to that gut feeling not to go.  A few days after I made the decision not to travel to Cozumel, I thought my season was over.  However, I saw something about Challenge Daytona and thought to myself that this would be an awesome race to do.  A couple days later I registered, booked travel and switched gears to more short course/speed training.  I have spent the majority of the last couple of months doing longer high end aerobic training and I really enjoyed switching gears in training leading up to this race.  Although it’s never my wish to crash in a race, but looking back, if all of those unforeseen factors wouldn’t have happened in my races last fall, I would have never gotten to experience this awesome race in Daytona.  I also thought my daughter’s show choir performance was the weekend of the 15th (the same as the year before), but a few days after I booked travel I realized it was the same weekend as the race.  If I would have known her performance was the same weekend, I don’t think I would have considered going, but since I already had everything booked, I wasn’t going to back out.  The stars were just aligned that I would be at Daytona and I would get to complete an eighth race before the 2018 season ended.

Challenge Daytona was great about providing the athletes everything they needed for travel (pick up from the airport to hotel/shuttle to race site, etc.)  These little things really make a huge difference in taking out some of the stressors that come along with travel.  Once we arrived on Friday, we headed to the race course for a swim, attended a press conference, pre race meeting, and followed up with a lovely dinner with some of the Daytona Speedway executives.


Upon arriving at Daytona, it was incredible just looking at the track and stadium.  I have never seen such an enormous stadium in my life (it holds 250,00 people!).  The swim was going to take place inside the stadium. There was a large lake in the middle of the race track that was created so that the excess dirt would be used to bank the track.  The bike was scheduled to take place mostly on the A1A along the Atlantic Ocean and the half marathon run was going to be run inside the stadium.

Race morning, I woke up at 4AM, catching at 4:40 shuttle to race site.  A storm was predicted to roll in mid-morning, so everyone was on their toes with what was going to happen.  When I arrived at race site, I learned that an announcement was going to be made about the race.  I had a feeling something was going to be changed, I just didn’t know what.  I suspected the race would be changed to an Olympic distance race or shortened in some way to finish before the storm.  As a surprise to all the athletes, the age group athletes were to begin at 7AM on a shortened course and the pros were to begin sometime between 11am-1pm on an altered course (not really shortened with the exception of the swim by 300 meters).  Shortly after the announcement was made, several of the pros convened and made a proposal to keep the entire race inside the stadium.  This way we wouldn’t have to make many, many turns on the wet roads (making the race safer and roads would not have to be shut down at all, plus the fans could watch the entire event).

I was going to stick around until 10:30 until the next announcement was made and I watched the age group athletes for a bit and realized I still had over two hours until the announcement.  I decided to go back to the hotel for a few hours just to give my mind a mental break and give my body a little rest and recharge.  I had a breakfast sandwich around 9:00AM as I figured I would need to eat something substantial before the race.  At 10:30 it was announced we would race the proposed distance and race as the course as suggested by the pros:  1 mile swim (2x 800meter laps), 37.5 mile bike (included 15 laps around the track) and 8.2 mile run.  We were told to rack our bikes at 11:45 and the race would begin at 12:00pm.  I completed a 10 min run warm-up on the treadmills in the Green Room (a room they had for us to eat, warm-up and rest…already set up without knowing about the delay).  At 11:40AM, if was announced that the race would be postponed until 12:45PM and we would rack our bikes at 12:30PM.  This was due to the rain and wind pounding the ground outside still at noon.  At 12:15PM, the weather still looked horrible and it was intimidating.  Most all of the other pro women were worried about cycling on the track and talked about switching to a swim/run or just a run.  However, it was decided that we should keep a triathlon.  Looking at the torrential ran pouring the ground 30 min prior to our scheduled start, the worry about the slick track, and the stress of the morning, I had about a 2 min little cry.  My husband reminded me that track would be just fine.  I quickly regrouped, got my mind and body in check and I was excited to race.  I knew that once I got my body moving I would feel so much better.  One of the reasons I love swim warmups is that it helps calm my body and mind before race start.  Once I got in the water for a five minute swim warm-up I felt so much better and ready to go.  I think the hardest part of the morning was getting the adrenaline rushes up multiple times that morning without a start.  I was so happy to finally get going!

Photo Credit: José Luis Hourcade


The swim course was a 2x 800 meter loop with a little run out.  This swim brought me back to my ITU days.  I always remember running out of the water to be so hard.  Running out of the water spikes your heart rate and then when you go back in for your second lap, it takes some time to recover and get back into a groove (maybe 50-100meters or so).  The swim was no joke. The water was choppy, but not completely throwing you out of your rhythm.  After 150 meters or so I was in the lead of the swim and lead the remainder of the way.  Lauren Goss exited right behind me and Alicia Kaye and Meredith Kessler were about 90 seconds back from us. My swim gear for the day I had on my. I had my Blue Seventy Helix to keep me warm. For goggles on the day I used the BlueSeventy Elements in Orange Tint .

I felt pretty strong running into T2, but definitely feeling a heart rate spike I have not felt for a long time.  I have been training this fall for IM and recently switched to 1/2 IM training, but have not been doing much OLY distance training (which is the intensity I went for in this race on the swim and the bike).  I got a little stuck getting out of my wetsuit and ended up getting on the bike just behind Lauren.

Photo Credit Kortuem Inc

Once onto the track, I was a little unsure if I was supposed to be on the bank or on the flatter part (the apron).  After half a lap, I realized I needed to move down.  Racing on the track was awesome. It was not slippery at all (although it was very windy).  We had a strong tailwind one direction and a massive headwind on the other side.  15 laps was just about the perfect distance for the track .  I started out with 40k effort and managed to hold close to that for 1:05-1:10 on the bike.  The last 20 min, I noticed my power dropped and I was not able to push as hard as I could the first hour (Not really a surprise!).  The last 20 min, I just tried to hold onto somewhat near half ironman wattage.  At least this is what it felt like, but looking at my power wattage I held on fairly consistently throughout the race.  With passing athletes and athletes passing me, it kept me on my toes.  Keeping legal draft was not difficult at all as we were worried about prior to the start.  We had plenty of room to ride I felt throughout the race and I loved just being able to put my head down so to speak and ride hard!   The only confusion I had was that we were told in the race meeting there would be a counter for the top male and top female rider.  About 1/3 through the race, I saw a lap counter and was curious if it was for me or Andrew Starkowitz.  Every time I went by from lap 9 on I looked at the counter and gave a thumbs up, meaning (this is me, correct?).  I was a little concerned it may be for Andrew and suddenly when the count went from 3 to1 I knew that it was for Andrew.  Previously in the ride, I was timing a lap, so I knew the ride would take roughly around 1:25-1:27, but couldn’t be sure.  I asked Nate with a couple to go where I was at just to be sure, so he was trying to figure it out when it was down the wire!  When I exited the track, I scrolled through my Power Meter and it read 37.1, so I knew I had completed the 15.  I suppose I was confused because I was told I was going to have a lap counter and then didn’t.   I think if I was told I would not of had a counter from the start, I would have known for sure it was Andrew’s count and would have focused more on my math.  In the end, it all worked out and it was awesome to race on the track! For the race gear I used  Fuji Norcom Straight 1.1 out fitted with SRAM e-Tap wireless shifting, SRAM Red Dzero Quarq Powermeter, ISM PN 3.0 saddle, Zipp Vuka Aero bars, Zipp 454 NSW Carbon Clincher, 30th Anniversary Super-9 Carbon Clincher Disc, both with Tangent Speed Tires’ , Sampson Stratics Carbon Ti Pedals, Rudy Project Wing57 in my favorite color, Rudy Project Tralyx Slim in my Favorite color!  Also a huge shout-out to Performance Bike Shops for getting my rig ready to race!! Here is my Quarq power-file presented by Training Peaks

Photo Credit: Kortuem Inc.

Once I got on the run, I realized how fatigued my shoulder were.  I think this was partly due to gripping my aerobars so tight into the wind on the track.  After a mile or so my shoulders relaxed a bit, but for the next mile or so I had a horrible side stitch.  It had been awhile since I had been outside riding, so may have been tough on the stomach muscles going from that position to running.  I knew I had to just stick out the pain for a short while and then it would ease up.  By mile two I felt much better and glad my legs felt great.  After pushing hard on the bike, the bike muscles enjoyed the break on the run.  The 8.2 miles went by pretty fast.  One of my favorite parts about the run was hearing the audio around the entire run course.  I could hear how the men’s race was unfolding and how the women were doing behind me. My run gear for the day  Mission HydroActice Multi-Cool,  Rudy Project Tralyx Slim in my Favorite color,  Triflare Custom Lace Sarah Haskins line, T1 Pro Race belt, with Altra Escalante’s on my feet, and I was able to race in my Groove Life ring

Photo Credit: Kortuem Inc.

I was thrilled to break the tape and honored to be part of such an iconic event.  I hope to be back again!  It was such an amazing feeling to put together a solid performance after some unforeseen circumstances not only just prior to the race, but also in the months leading up to this race.  The NASCAR helmet that was signed by all the winners of the 2018 Monster Cup was icing on the cake.  I would have never dreamed of such a cool award.

Photo Credit: Kortuem Inc.

Thank to everyone for all the support this 2018 season.  This was my first full season back to racing after my son’s birth and I couldn’t be more thrilled with my six wins this season.  Happy Holiday to all and I wish everyone the very best for 2019 and beyond.


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