“It may be the same course but it’s a different race” my coach Michael Larsen from Larsen Performance Coaching reassured me after I finished the Hits Lake Havasu 70.3 in 6:09:04.  You see, I raced my first 70.3 on this same course in 2013 and finished with an impressive 6:00:18 and hoped to come back stronger and faster this year, breaking the six-hour mark.  Well, I can certainly say with confidence I came back stronger but the 15-20mph wind held me back from being faster.

Swim start of Hits Havasu 70.3 with my girl

Swim Start with My Girl

In 2013 there was no wind and my bike time was 3:07:14, this year it was very windy and my bike time was a disappointing 3:13:39.  That was almost enough to mentally break me and not even finish the race.  As I was well into my second lap of the bike leg watching my power and speed get lower and slower the mental game was taking over and almost got the best of me.  The thought of running for two more hours after this tough bike leg was overwhelming; I was beat up mentally and physically and it was obvious I wasn’t going to meet my goal so one side of my brain was asking why continue.  Of course I had the other side reminding me that there were friends waiting at the finish line to watch me cross, that my Havasu Hustler buddies were at the first run aid station to cheer me on, and of course my baby girl wanting to see mommy’s medal.

As I pulled into T2 my wonderful, supportive husband yelled “good job baby” in which I responded with “I’m done” as I clipped out of my pedals.  Instinctively, however, I continued trotting towards my transition station, racked my bike and sat on my stool to remove my shoes.  During this time about five volunteers ran over to me to ask if I’m ok, why aren’t I finishing, telling me I’m really not far behind, encouraging me to continue and just take it easy (thank you to those volunteers, including Craig Raney from Havasu Bike and Fitness).  I removed my helmet, put on my running shoes, grabbed my belt and trotted out of T2 with Richard running beside me.  I told him, almost in tears, how behind I was and that I just can’t imagine running two more hours.  He told me it was my call; he’d support me either way.

Windy bike leg in the desert

Very windy bike course

This is where I know my training really paid off.  From the moment I ran out of T2 I switched from racing mode to just finishing mode.  I told myself I was just going to run nice and easy and whatever my time was at the end didn’t matter as long as I crossed the finish line.  When I got to the first aid station, three of my former run club gals were there and I stopped to give each one a hug, something I would never had done if I was still in race mode.  As I ran by others or they ran by me, I took the time to say good job or talk about the course.  On the way back I walked through three aid stations to drink water.  I never looked at my watch until mile 10 and that’s when I realized I had turned it off back in T2 so I had no idea what my pace was.  If I had to guess, I would have guessed a 10:30-11:00 pace.

When I crossed the finish line Richard was there to congratulate me.  When I asked what my finish time was I asked, “Is it like a 6:30?” and he said no, more like 6:11 he thought.  That right there shocked me as I thought I was WAY off goal.  So we went to the results table and I was extremely happy to see a 6:09:04 and a 2:04:10 run – a 9:28 pace!  So even though I went nice and easy I still had a very decent half marathon time.  I do believe that all the training I did on the bike the past three months not only made me a stronger cyclist but a stronger runner and overall athlete as well.

3rd Place AG Winner

3rd Place AG Winner

I’m very happy I finished the race and even though I didn’t hit my goal of a sub six hours, 6:09:04 was good enough for a 3rd place age group award – the same I earned in 2013 as well.  Some other highlights were both my transition times were faster – T1 was 02:30 vs 03:41 and T2 was 1:30 vs 1:54.

So yes, it may have been the same course as the previous year but with this years weather, it certainly was not the same race.