It's been awhile!!!!
Since 2019 I've done virtual triathlons through 2020 pandemic summer, and spend race season 2021 competing at the Age Group Nationals in Milwaukee, and the Chicago Triathlon Relay....all while pregnant!!
IM Michigan 2022 was my come-back race. I did complete a sprint this past summer, the Wisconsin Women's Triathlon, at 6 months postpartum. Michigan was my first long course post-partum, and my first 70.3 in several years(I had been signed up for Wisconsin 70.3 back in 2018 when I broke my foot, and then decided a full was my goal instead).
My only goal for Michigan was to finish. Training with a newborn after a long labor(46 hours, completely natural)was NOT easy. I found the biggest challenge was time versus my athletic ability(though I had to be very patient with myself, rebuilding my pelvic floor health and mobility before engaging in running). I didn't officially start training for this race until about 5 months before it started. I only got 3 long outdoor rides in. I never made it past 11 miles, and my runs were either with a jogging stroller or while coaching others at CAC TriClub or CES marathon training. My long run paces at CES were never faster than 10:30 min/mile.
Frankfort, MI is a quaint lakeside town nestled on Lake Michigan. We swam in Betsie Bay, which was a perfect 69 degrees the morning of the race. The course confused myself and other athletes as the kayakers meant to direct us kept telling us the wrong side to swim on regarding the buoys(they should have been on our left, but some kayakers told us to swim with them to our right). As a result I often found myself swimming straight at the buoys as a compromise. My goal here was to finish, and I do so in about 40 minutes, averaging a decent 2:06 pace. Had I wanted to put a little spice on it I knew I could have beat that time, but after a very long drive(5 hours made 7 due to multiple stops with the baby), a long night of getting up with the baby and not being able to sleep with terrible pre-race anxiety, and depleting myself with extra pumping the day before and the morning of the race, I was just happy to get out of the water!
Hills and wind. This was the theme of the bike course. Headwind bore down on us the first half, and gave no relief on the second. The hills were fun: rolling and moderate climbs, with a few longer/steeper grades thrown in(which made for some white knuckle downhills, as I barely had time to do hills in practice and it had been awhile!). I rode the course with my friend/training partner, so it made for a fun ride. I found myself encouraging her and keeping pace for us along the way, which was a great distraction(it was her first race at this distance). We stopped once for a re-set at an aide station due to her back hurting, and kept on going, averaging just under 17 for the whole ride.
T2: the first transition from swim to bike was fairly quick minus waiting a couple minutes for my friend but T2 was my longest ever, even more so than Ironman. Why? My sweet baby, of course:) I planned to either nurse or pump in T2 as it would be time for a little relief before the run. Nursing was faster, so my family waited for me by an official tent and we passed my daughter back and forth. It was SO good to see her and give her some cuddles before the run. I think that break, while it took time off my official finish, gave me a mental boost for the run.
Run course: ugh! It was a tight loop course(so it felt crowded)out and back along the bay, then through neighborhoods, and back to the bay. It was mentally brutal because first you went up toward the lake and saw the split between loop and finish. Took the loop split, went back out, came up and did the loop split AGAIN, and then were back out before heading back to finally take the finish split. Basically passed the finish 2 times before you actually finished. Rough!!!! The weather was perfect this entire day, though, overcast in the mid 60s, so the run felt fairly comfortable. I kept up with my hydration and gels and found a pace I felt comfortable with holding. I had planned to run/walk(8-1s), but after the first walk break came up I felt good, so I decided to save walking for the second half. I never needed it! I just felt so good on that run, better than I've felt on most triathlon runs. I felt strong, like I re-discovered my athlete self. I was no longer only momma, wife, sister, daughter...I was Kelly, Ironman athlete, and I was gonna enjoy this run. I never looked at my pace, and just kept going. I was so happy to see an average of 9 min/miles for this run once I completed. I even hit 8:30 toward the end, paces I hadn't seen since pre-pregnancy.
Crossing that finish line was glorious. All that sacrifice of early mornings after sleepless nights, time away from my family to train, and so much mental energy when I felt I had nothing left. I wouldn't have gotten there without my wife, who supported me even to her own detriment, giving up her own sleep early mornings so I could train. When I saw my wife and baby after crossing I burst into tears of joy and gratitude. It takes a lot for me to be proud of myself, but I absolutely was after this race.