St. Croix 70.3… hot, humid, and hilly!


Finally, the first race of the season! I was really excited and nervous, as the course and weather conditions are a bit tough in St. Croix. Everyone talks about The Beast, which is a 600 ft climb over 7/10 of a mile @ 14-27% grade. Yeah it was tough, but I have to say I was more challenged by the hills on the run throughout The Buccaneer. Overall, this race was by far the hardest 70.3 run and bike course I have completed to date.

The journey to St. Croix was quite the event. For the first time I traveled with my bike in a handy bike bag. Kind of cool, but the thought of having to put it back together scared me. I am very thankful for my buddy Brian at FastSplits for giving me the quick and dirty on packing and reassembling Turbo (yeah my bike has a name). Thanks Brian… you rock! I nearly missed the flight out of Boston along with my other teammates because the security line was a mile long. The good news, we made the flight; the bad news, no time to buy water before boarding. As we all know hydration is key leading up to race. According to the flight attendant, I could not have a bottle of water as each flight had a limited supply. I was not a happy camper. I should have known better as I was in coach and not first class. Oh well. I later went down to the back of the plane and started chatting up the attendants. I figured being nice and making friends would be the way to get at the limited water supply. I was right. In no time I was double fisting water…yay!

We arrived in San Juan where we would have a quick lunch before boarding a VERY small plane to the island. The plane was so mini I almost couldn’t fit through the isle. Crazy! The plane took a nose dive landing and fish tailed before coming to a stop on the runway in St. Croix. I was happy to get off the plane and be on the ground safe and sound. Our bikes were stacked in the corner of the luggage claim, which was a relief. Apparently there were times when bikes arrived several hours later. We were lucky! Transportation to the hotel was not as easy. It was all about wheeling and dealing and really that was the last thing we wanted to do after a long day of traveling. At the end of the day we got ripped off, but it was either that or put my bike together and ride it to the hotel. That was not happening!

I was quite surprised at the host hotel’s location. Why would they have the host hotel 25 minutes from the start?!?! Odd! Lesson learned… look at a map before booking next time. Once unpacked, and my bike was in good order, I went down to the ocean to test out the speed suit. The ocean was VERY salty and infested with sea lice… yuck! Later that night Lauren, Mark and I went to downtown Christiensted for pasta, chicken and bread. We would have eaten at the hotel, however, they only serve pasta on Saturday night. What the heck kind of place does not serve pasta!? We had no choice but to hop in a sketchy cab and head to the well known cute little Italian place on the other side of the island. The food was great, however, getting bread was a struggle. Apparently there is a limited amount of bread at this place. I guess it is like the water on American Airlines. Again, once we made friends with the waitress, we were given all the bread we asked for. Yay!

The day before race is always hectic. A big breakfast in the morning, getting the race packet, organizing, and taking time off your feet was on the agenda. The one good thing about our hotel was there was a kick arse breakfast buffet. All the QT2’ers had a nice social breakfast before heading over to the registration. Now registration was quite sketchy. All you had to do was tell them your name and they wrote your number down on a sticky and sent you on your way. No license, no USAT card and no third degree about the basic rules. The positive side was there was no waiting around. We were all on our merry way within 10 minutes. Then it was a quick lunch, stop at the grocery store for snacks, and back to the hotel to put the feet up. I just want to make one note about the grocery store… not so clean and the fig newtons were 6.29… yowsa!

Back at the hotel I was working on my carb intake and tapering my food throughout the afternoon. I really wanted to go lay by the pool, but I knew that would just suck the life out of me. No need to dehydrate myself the day before race. Before calling it a day, we had our last meal, a small portion of chicken and pasta at the hotel. Yes, it was Saturday so they served pasta. Ahhh… time for bed… earplugs in and alarm set.

It took me a while to fall asleep. I am not sure if it was the afternoon nap or the nerves, or both. Well, 3:30 am came pretty fast. It was time to eat the pre-race meal and get transported over to transition. Breakfast went down pretty easy and the shuttle ride was… yup, you guessed it… totally sketchy. Yeah we were being carted over by the shuttles a little before 4 am. Totally insane, as transition did not open until 5 am. I am usually the person that needs to get to the race super early and be sure I have all my stuff in order, but before 5 am is a bit much.

Once in transition I was able to grab a prime spot on the bike rack, as it was a free for all pretty much. I was ready to go about an hour before the race start. The good thing is I was able to hit the port-o-potty a few times and not have to worry about waiting in the long lines. It was finally time to swim over to the little island where the swim started. I have to say it was great because I got my warm-up in at the same time. Arriving on the mini island there was water and port-o-potties waiting for the athletes. Nice! I had just enough time to grab a drink and go to the bathroom one last time. I took my PowerGel 15 minutes before my wave start and I was good to go. Once they called my age group I gave all the girls good luck hugs and stood in the water waiting for the sound of the horn.

And I was off… or somewhat given I am not that fast of a swimmer. The start was not that bad, but I did manage to get tossed around a bit. Swimming out was against the current, which was no fun. Coach Jesse gave me a goal of 36-38 minutes based on my recent weekly swims and TT times. I was fine with that, however, I wanted to do better. I wasn’t banking on it given the speed suit, which was not really that speedy. By mid swim I wanted out. The salt was getting to me and neck was all cut up from the speed suit. All in all, it was not a pleasant experience. I finally came to the ramp and finished in 35 minutes. Good start to the day for me.

Getting to my bike was a cake walk seeing it was a straight shot and I place my bike on a standalone rack on the end. There were not that many bikes gone, so that was a good sign. I quickly got my bike gear on and started running to the mounting area. I was on the bike and ready to see what this course was all about…especially The BEAST! The first 20 miles wasn’t that bad. There were rolling hills and some climbs, but nothing too challenging. I was supposed to go to the bathroom around this time, but it was not happening. I had taken down two bottles of Powerbar Endurance, per instruction, and I was hoping that would trigger something. Nope. I would have to wait until I drank a bit more.

The Beast, at about mile 21, was really when the race started. The Beast was tough, but Coach Jesse gave me a max watt number I could not go over. Surprising that made it easy and I was up the hill before I knew it. Coming down on the other end was scary with the twists and turns and sharp corner at the bottom. I made it one piece… phew. All the descends had sharp turns/curves at the very bottom, which meant you could not gain much on the downhills. Also, the flat stretches had brutal headwinds. I was trying to keep my watts on target, but it was not happening. Oh, and still no bathroom, which was not a good sign as I must have been pretty dehydrated. Anyway… I managed to average 145 watts, which was 20 watts less than what Coach Jesse gave me. My time was just around 3:03 give or take a few seconds. My goal time was 2:55-2:58, so I was off. However, I was not going to let my bike time ruin my race. I still had the run.

Once I dumped the bike and threw on the sneaks I was happy, but only for a few short moments. The heat and humidity kicked in real fast. I started at 7 right out of transition and eventually backed if off to a 7:15 pace. The first few miles were OK, but when I hit The Buccaneer it got tough. The hills on the golf course were steep as all heck. Not sure how I did not hear about these few miles of hills, grass, and gravel. Everyone was so focused on The Beast. Let’s just say I was glad to exit the golf course and get on the normal road. My pace started to slip right around the end of the first loop. It was a combination of the weather, the course, and having to go to the bathroom. I really had to go to the bathroom and there was no way I could hold it any longer. The only problem was there were no port-o-potties on the run course. There were a few gas stations, but no thanks. Once I hit the second loop and headed back into The Buccaneer I saw two hidden port-o-potties. Time to go… I literally jumped over the bushes and into one of the two. Yeah two on the entire run course and they were hidden behind the bushes! So a minute or two added to my time for the stop, but I gained some time on my run pace. I was back to 7:15’s and feeling good.

After the second run through The Buccaneer I was pretty toasted. The last two miles were tough and I was just ready to be done. I knew I was in a good spot and I just needed to give it all I had to make it to the finish. I was pacing just under 7’s as I had to make-up for lost time and I knew the end was coming. The last mile was tricky. They had you running up to transition thinking you were done, and out of nowhere they tell you to go left and loop around a few more blocks. What? Not a good setup on their part at all. I will be sure to put that in the race survey. I was starting to slide on the pace again…. my own fault for trying to be speedy the last few miles. I finally made it down the treadmill homestretch to finish the run in 1:38 (minus the bathroom stop) an average 7:30 pace. I was pleased.

My first 70.3 of the season was DONE… 5:22:47; 4TH in my age group and 23rd female overall. Not a PR, but I expected that going into the race. No triathlete goes to St. Croix to PR, but do go to get their arses kicked!!! Congrats to all that finished!

Mooseman Half Ironman is next. This will be my last race before IMLP. Now all I have to do is stay focused over the next few weeks… :)

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