The 2011 Ironman World Championship 70.3 begins with a 1.2-mile swim in Lake Las Vegas at Lake Las Vegas Resort. Next, athletes will embark on a challenging 56-mile bike through Lake Mead National Recreation Area that includes several steep climbs that total over 5,200 feet. Participants will finish with a 13.1-mile run through Henderson’s scenic residential areas with views of the Las Vegas Strip.
Out of the 60,000 athletes that competed this year in this race circuit, more than 1,800 domestic and international competitors (from over 50 countries) earned their right to compete in the Ironman World Championship 70.3 by qualifying at an Ironman 70.3 event.
This was my third world championship event (2007 Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii; 2008 Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater, Florida), but what made this race so meaningful is the fact that I qualified in my age group to compete.
After racing in the sport for four years, I was both excited and shocked that I would actually qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in my first race of the season and also my first time competing in the 25-29 age group at the Eagleman 70.3 in Cambridge, Maryland.
After Eagleman, and especially in the days leading up to the race, I kept hearing in various conversations about how difficult the course would be, and as soon as I arrived in Henderson their statements were verified. The only thing that I had on my mind was to race strong and safe. From start to finish, the race turned out to be an amazing experience all the way around.
What I liked about the swim course is that we started right below a bridge where all the spectators could watch us from above, which definitely added some extra encouragement to see my parents and friends before the cannon went off for the race start.
My swim wave was the very last to go in, about an hour-and-a-half behind the first wave of professionals. After the initial start that is always aggressive for the first 100-200 yards, I was able to get into a nice rhythm and find a steady groove. I found the water to be pretty calm and smooth, which made it easy to sight where to go. With every arm stroke and breath that I took, I kept reflecting on the progress that had taken place in my triathlon career that helped me get to the world championship, and I also thought about all the incredible support that I’ve received ever since my recovery from 2004. These positive vibes of energy kept flowing and no matter what was going to happen, I was there competing with the best triathletes in the world and it was going to be a great day.
As soon as I exited the water, I had my mind set on all the upcoming factors of what to do in order to make a successful transition. I found my bike, ran it out of T1, and it was time to have some fun. Within the first mile of the bike portion of the race, the hills had already started to creep up, and then it was almost like we were on this rollercoaster of a course that just kept going up and down. Even though the hills were tough, my mind kept focusing in on the scenery. I could see triathletes on the road that were several miles away and it was just a nonstop adventure because you didn’t know what would be around the next bend. One minute you could be descending down a hill close to 50 miles an hour and the next minute you would barely be pedaling 10 up a hill. I raced in Clearwater in 2008, and the course was very flat and I remember seeing a lot of drafting on the course, so this new race location really changed up the pattern a lot. Las Vegas is certainly a world championship bike course and I will proudly shake the hand of any person who made a personal best on the bike that day.
After making it to T2, I was really looking forward to getting off the bike and testing out the running legs. I really worked on improving the bike to run transition over the summer months, and I could tell within the first mile that all the training really made a big difference. My first mile split is usually a way that I gauge how the rhythm and form feels, and I was astonished to see that I was almost able to break a 7 minute mile after such a wild bike course. But, I soon found out that the run course would be very similar to the way the bike was, consisting of a mile up and a mile back down, with four laps of road that was far from flat. It was a such a blast to be out there competing in the inaugural event and to race strong, with my parents and friends cheering me across the finish line.
With all the sincerity in the world, thank you to everyone who has supported me in my triathlon and running career since it began in 2007. We have come a very long way since then and I’m so grateful for all of your support – Teamwork always.