ILLINOIS: I travelled to my rural hometown of Benld, Illinois as well as Litchfield, Gillespie and Carlinville for a week to do a variety of events. First was a SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) event at Litchfield High School where I talked with about 100 students and faculty. I told them how I got into triathlon (describing what triathlon is then giving a minute for them to process just HOW FAR a full Ironman race is!) and stressed to the kids that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. I also told them just because they are from a rural, small town doesn't mean they can't get out there and see the world.
Afterward, I heard from some parents that their daughters said they now want to be triathletes!
Next up was a talk at Blackburn College, a local college not far from my hometown. Members of the track & field, soccer and basketball teams were there, as well as old friends, the Athletic Director and other members of the community. I spoke to them about my training, racing, nutrition and did some show & tell with my Trek Speed Concept bike and Kask Bambino helmet.
I wasn't finished there! Next up I went to my alma mater and spoke to the Gillespie High School track & field team and thanks to Timex Sports, Skratch Labs and Zipfizz I was able to provide some water bottles and hydration mixes to the group. Knowing the team is carrying around Timex bottles like mine makes me feel like I am still part of the team.
Lastly, I spoke at registration for the Litchfield Spring Duathlon and then participated in the race the next morning. 2 mile run/12 mile bike/ 2 mile run - short, hard and fast! I BARELY, and I mean barely, finished first, passing the leader with only 100m to go. Then I almost celebrated too early at the finish line. Close call. :)
Once again, Timex came through and provided a watch for the top male and female (not including me, darn it!) overall. I got to meet many MMM Multisport members and help with one of their best attended races to date - all proceeds went to Litchfield Cross Country team.
One of the highlights of this Illinois trip was meeting 3-year old Grace, who has a rare genetic disorder called INAD (infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy). They considered meeting me as one of their daily highlights. I am so incredibly humbled by that. Here's what they had to say about it on her blog.
Spending time with family, watching my nephew's track meet and being there for Easter were great bonuses of the week. Takeaway message: being from a small town shouldn't hold you back; you can do anything if you commit, work consistently and ask for help when you need it.
MIAMI: Onward to Miami for a week to acclimate to the humidity, hang with one of my best friends AND luckily fill in as a cyclist for the SOBE triathlon celebrity relay team to benefit St. Jude's Hospital - with none other than Scott Eastwood (yes, Clint Eastwood's son!). Thanks to Jenny and Leanda for making me part of that event - what a wild day and fun times in Miami Beach! We got some ocean swimming in with a friend Diego, who found and swam with a bunch of balloons the whole way. Lead balloon swimmer - I like this idea. Luckily, no jellyfish stings while I was there, but they were definitely looking for me. Seriously.
Check out the CNN headline of "Thousands of Jellyfish invade South Florida beach"
BRAZIL: Whew, finally onto the race in Brazil. There was a lot of travel involved and of course speaking Portuguese is hard - wait, impossible - for me. But the people in Palmas are genuine and helpful. Well-organized and punctual too. And without Jon with me on this trip, thankfully Linsey and Chris let me tag along with them all week.
Rain showers were off and on most days, so we kept an eye to the sky and dodged them to get the last bit of prep in for the race.
I've watched enough episodes of River Monsters to know that there is some big, weird, wild stuff swimming around Brazilian waters, but lucky for me I didn't get to meet any of them first-hand. The roads in Palmas are wide and in good condition and race day was looking to be hot and humid. With an early race start of 6:05am, we were looking to avoid the worst of the midday heat, but the sun came out enough to blind many of us toward the end of the swim, veering us off course and costing me quite a bit of time. I needed Diego and his balloons! Note that the water here is warm. Very warm. Wetsuits not allowed at all.
Onto the bike in 10th place (i.e. last) and managed to catch/pass 3 women before the start of the run. The bike course is two laps, fairly flat and fast, technical parts are navigating roundabouts. I considered my bike split as "ho hum" and am certainly looking forward to a faster time, showcasing my new Trek Speed Concept at Ironman Texas in a few weeks.
The run is two laps, flat and fast and 100% exposed to the sun - no shade. I would suggest to the race organizers to put one more aid station on the bridge portion of the run course. I ended up carrying water with me so I could have another drink between aid stations. The sun came out for part of the run, but by my standards didn't get overly hot. Passing 3 more women landed me 4th place and clocking the 4th fastest run split of everyone (males included)! I'll take it!
Overall, I'm chalking this race up to another big step to Kona Qualification.
I'll do a separate post about my time in Brazil with More Than Sport and Projecto Reviver - this report is long enough.
Thanks for reading and as always, I love to hear your feedback and ask if you have questions!