Monday, July 14, 2014

The Challenge Atlantic City! 2nd Place Female!

Lead up to Challenge AC
From the day they announced that Challenge would be making its debut in the USA with the added bonus of coming to Atlantic City I knew I was going to race the full distance!

There is nothing more I love than a high pressure hometown race. I say high pressure as I always feel pressure to perform when I know I have so many friends and family and fellow athletes from the Jersey Shore following my performance.  It makes me want to push even harder sometimes to my detriment. We all know that a 140.6 mile race is a long day and anything can happen.

After Brasil I had a quick 5 weeks between races.  One week was spent on travel and recover. The following week I went back to training and actually felt pretty good. Having some great swims and bikes. The 3rd and 4th week I started to feel really tired as I had heavy training days and kids schedules were busy as they were both graduating 5th and 8th grade.   Burning the candle on both ends often leads to fatigue and poor performance.  My dad's cancer is also weighing heavily on me and this seems to zap my energy causing a lot of sleepless nights.
By the week before the race I was feeling so tired and chose to skip or make every workout a recovery workout as I had no power and energy. I was really concerned about my performance in AC and had expressed several times to Coach Jesse that I was feeling lousy.
Luckily I arrived in AC on Thursday to a room full of energy. I had been invited as the "Jersey Girl" to the press conference.  I saw Rob Vigo and know how hard he, Stephen and his team have worked to make this race a success.  Friday was busy with press conferences, Interviews with Bob Babbit and  Peter Henning from NBC and Comcast and a great photo shoot for Rudy Project thanks to Krista and Andres from Race Quest Travel. 

I was so busy during the day and it was so fun seeing so many friends in Atlantic City gearing up to race.  By the evening I was exhausted and I would be kept up the two nights before the race by people having a good time in the Showboat casino halls.  I thought of a great idea...They should consider putting all the athletes on the same floor away from those who are there to party.

On Saturday I checked in my bike and although feeling extremely fatigued,  Coach Jesse reminded me that my fitness is still there although I may be tired. I also know that unless I am injured I am mentally very tough and have a no quit attitude so I knew I would be ok!

Come race morning I put all concerns aside. I showed up ready to race know matter how I felt.  

Race Day Report

Big thanks to Coach Jesse Kropelnicki, ( QT2 Systems) who always has my best interest at heart and so wants me to race well!  He has such a calm approach to training and racing and just controlling the things you can control.
Race morning arrived and there was so much excitement and energy filling the air. Everything went so smooth!  It was great to see so many friends all getting ready for the long day and others getting ready for their segment of the relay! 
I was not nervous at all and stood watching the Navy seals jumping out of the plane with the American flag flying high and I was so happy to be there and a part of the inaugural event.

My Swim 
Big thanks to Blue Seventy for my speedy speed suit.
I did not mind that it was a non wetsuit swim as I have not done too many open water wetsuit swims this year and I am always very comfortable without a wetsuit especially in warm water.
I had not seen the course or even previewed it so I was a little concerned that the sun would make it hard to sight and there was a good possibility that I might be swimming alone.  Luckily one of the other pros swam pretty even with me and I chose to let her lead the way. I opted to go a little easier and rather have the company of someone else with me. I was suprised to see us catch and pass a large group of pro guys right around the same time as we hit the marsh land. I laughed at how crazy it was that we were walking but then decided it was just like a two loop course where you would have to do a beach run anyway. It also gave me a chance to site where the next buoys were. When I hit the bridge I got pushed by the current and really had to work hard to get back around the second bouy. This was the first time that I had worked hard on the swim and I did have a moment of panic where I realized  that I was not moving. I can see where alot of people ran into some trouble here.  Next year I will be sure to turn wide and push hard right from that buoy knowing the possible current.  The other pro girl managed to make a big gap ahead of me and I spent the next 10 minutes or so trying to catch back up to her. This allowed me to see where she was having issues navigating.  The rest of the swim went really quickly and before I knew it we were making the final turn into the finish.  I only found out at the end that I swam a 1.05 swim which is quite slow for me but considering the walking/currents/ extra yards and no wetsuit  I was ok with it.  

The BIKE! Big thanks to Quintana Roo, Rudy Project Bike 5.10 Fastest women's bike split!

Onto the bike I knew I was in second place! I was told that I was 6 minutes behind first place. That was a first for me to already be in second place so I was thrilled. I was riding totally solo except for the occasional pro guy that passed me.  I had been concerned with traffic heading out of AC but the bike course was so enjoyable. No traffic, quiet shady roads. I was loving it. I settled into a very comfortable bike pace. Once onto the expressway I happened to notice my family pass by and got a boost out of them yelling and screaming for me.  The expressway felt fast but the wind had not really picked up yet so we did not have that huge tailwind pushing us. Before I knew it I was in Hammonton. I knew what to expect here as I had done this in a training ride a few weeks prior.  I was told there that I was now 5 minutes back so I had made up a minute only in 30 miles. I started to push a little harder only to drop my bottle right before an aid station. I thought it was ok but when I checked with the official riding beside me  he told me to go back, so there went up all the time I had made up.

Second time through the town of Hammonton , the crowd of fans had grown and I was having such a good time. I was pushing a little harder on the bike while still staying very controlled. I told the media guys that my goal was to try be in the lead by transition but without putting burning too many matches.  I also knew that it would be alot easier for me to make up time here than on the expressway as there was meant to be a tailwind heading home. Sure enough that did not happen. There was a strong headwind on the way back which really made me have to work hard. I might have put out a little too much on this section even though I tried to be patient. I could see the lead bikes about a minute up but it took forever to catch them. Finally at mile 100 I made the pass.  I thought that would be it but Laurel decided she was not going to give up so easily. We went back a forth a few times but then a pro guy got into the mix of it and with the stagger rule it was getting tricky. I decide to sit back and avoid getting any kind of penalty.  We arrived 20 seconds apart into T2.

The RUN! Thank you Pearl Izumi for my awesome light weight race shoes!!!

I entered transition less than 30 seconds behind 1st place. I felt pretty comfortable running out of Bader Field but Laurel looked really great. My goal would be to try stay cool, try keep the pace up and try PR my run.  Once onto the boards I quickly realized how hot it was.  It was a lot hotter than expected. I heard later from someone that it hit upper 80's!
There were sections were the dunes blocked the breeze from hitting the boardwalk which made it super hot.  I loved the feel of running on the bouncy boards though and there were so many people out there cheering.   The first 20 miles went super fast! I love this kind of run. There was so much entertainment on the boardwalk. people watching. other racers, friends and family. Showers you could dunk under. The aid stations were unbelievable. They had everything there and plenty of it.  As hectic as it was with the crowds it was up there with one of my favorite most energetic runs for sure!! I knew I was not going to win as Laurel was just running so well so I just settled in to a pace that secured second.
Congrats to Natasha for her 3rd place finish too!  This race ended up being a lot more Challenging than it looked on paper. But thats what made it even more enjoyable! Wind, heat, currents, navigating the boards made Atlantic City memorable for sure! A second place finish, my 28th Ironman race and a nice pay check was the icing on the cake!

A big thanks goes out to Rob Vigorita and Stephen for putting such heart and soul into this race and to Felix for bringing Challenge to the USA! There are a few kinks to be worked out but I really believe this race could be very succesful. Atlantic City is a good venue as it has many choices of hotels to stay in with many good food options. There is plenty for families to do. Its a fun world class event close to home!

So awesome meeting Challenge Owner  Felix!

Awards ceremony

Post rides on the board walk.  
Hanging at Revel with my family!

I hope this race is even bigger and better in 2015!


John said...

Great post Jacqui!

Kim said...

So so good to see you back and running happy and content! You had a fabulous day and you deserve it my friend! Way to work hard and never give up!

Bre said...

So happy for you on your second place finish- total rockstar especially with everything leading up to it. Sounds like a great venue & race. I think every time you race I end up with another race on my bucket list! ;)Congrats!