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  • Autumn Plourd

Superfrog 70.3 Recap

Updated: Oct 14, 2019

September 15, 2019


Before

Superfrog was never about not finishing. I’d kill myself before quitting, it’s a fault of mine. So instead I spent the time leading up to race day wallowing in negative thoughts that I didn’t know how to get out of. I hate swimming, and this was waves and salt water. My back hurts biking after 15 miles, and this race is known for its crosswinds. And how would I avoid spraining my ankle on sand with so little beach running experience?

Athlete check-in: Donnie, me, and Preston, reporting for duty!

And I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone. Complaining to my inner circle felt like beating up the ones kind enough to watch my kids while I train. And to anyone else I opened up to, all I got back was how “awesome“ and “inspiring“ I am. Except I wasn’t feeling awesome or inspirational. I was exhausted and in a pit.


My doubts peaked when Bari sent me a video of the 8-foot waves at a previous years’ Superfrog. She said she doesn’t wonder anymore how experienced swimmers drown in the ocean. When she did this event in 2016, she literally feared for her life trying to get past the wave break. And I found myself thinking, Honey, I don’t know if I can do this?

A few days before, I started feeling better because weather reports forecasted 2-foot waves and a calm sunny day. I was confident I could handle that water and the sun, but the sand…well that just is what it is.


At athlete check-in, I met Mike Reilly. He’s the voice of Ironman who’s fame in the triathlon world comes from his ability to make each athlete feel like a star. He reads every athlete’s name and bio SIX times before announcing a 140.6 Ironman event and he’s going to say my name one day. He signed my book “You will be an Ironman” and said to come back in Arizona so he can cross off “will be” to write “are” and with that, all my motivation for this sport came back in full force.

He signs in spectator books “People finish because of you” and man, ain’t that the truth!

That afternoon, I tried resting, but couldn’t sleep through the excitement, so instead I dumped all of my gear on the ground and organized my transition area. It was the type-A therapy I needed to calm my nerves.

Here's what I took to the swim start. Whites (sic) wrong about this picture?

And everything in transition (plus a bike).

Before bed, we took Crosley to get frozen yogurt where we ran into someone from back home who asked about Blythe, and I told the flattest joke of my life. “Every kid’s got their thing. Blythe can’t have sugar. And we don’t let Crosley have hard liquor.” No one laughed. This is why I’m not a comedian. But it was nice to think about something that wasn’t swim bike or run.


I got in bed at 10:30pm, a miracle since I’m usually up until two.


Race Morning

Bari was excited to be on the spectating side of an event and asked to be my Sherpa. And what an incredible Sherpa she was! This awesome lady picked me up at 4:45am (with a lidocaine patch), pumped me up, calmed my nerves, stayed positive (but realistic), sprayed me with sunscreen, put my swim cap on, filmed, took pictures, made signs, texted my family that couldn’t be there, and drove me back home. Wow. Way above and beyond all Maid of Honor duties!

Race Sherpa: A dependable friend or family member that helps shape the race experience for the athlete by providing support, guidance, and logistics.

Swim

My race-morning nerves were intense. Thank goodness I was able to find a bathroom (with toilet paper, another race miracle) before putting on my wetsuit! I herded near the start and looked for anyone I knew, and as luck would have it, Preston and Donnie were standing about two feet behind me. There’s something about seeing someone you know that lifts your spirits and starting together meant the world to me.

Insane to find these guys in a sea of over 800 black wetsuits and green and pink caps!

As we inched closer to the starting line, I put my hands on their shoulders and said, “You guys. It’s just a half.” Seconds later we were running into the water.


I was wary about sighting in rolling ocean swells, but having a huge pier parallel to the course removed all guesswork and in no time I was at the first buoy turning North. A very short distance later and I turned another corner to head back to land where the current was practically carrying me to the beach. It felt fast, but each time I looked up, the beach seemed far away, so I’d put my head back down and keep swimming. Me and two others were racing over each other when out of nowhere, a huge swell picked us up, curled us into a ball and slammed us into each other. I was a little panicked since I’d let half my air out for a breath when the wave caught me by surprise. I frantically felt for the ground and pushed myself up into the air and was shocked to find I could stand! The beach had a long flat entry that mislead us into thinking we were farther from shore than we thought. I looked at the other two and we started laughing then awkwardly waded back to the beach in waist deep water.


But that was just lap one.


Bari told me not to jog the 0.1 miles from the beach exit to swim start, but I felt so good that I chose to ignore her. I reentered the water for lap two, dove through the first wave, and regret set in. As she’d predicted, I ran faster than I perceived and my breath was short.


Despite that, the second lap felt faster than the first because half way through I remembered I was racing (how stupid) so I picked up my speed. Plus, I was more mindful to sight my way back, so instead of being tumbled in the ocean, I actually body surfed a few waves to shore, and it was fun!


As I jogged to transition with a smile on my face I thought, yeah, I could double that.


But the smile was short lived because while pulling down my wetsuit zipper, it dawned on me that I was wearing a white sports bra. So while everyone else had their wetsuits down to their waists to get help from the wetsuit strippers (yeah, that’s a thing), I had to run past to avoid turning this event into a wet t-shirt contest.

Wetsuit stripping. Sexy stuff.

Bike

I successfully cut my transition time in half compared to the La Quinta 70.3 since there weren’t any outlets to plug in my hairdryer (ha) but I still have room for improvement. I got all my gear on, fired up the bike computer, pulled my bike off the rack, looked down at the screen, and it’s foreign. Crap. This is not my bike computer.


For a split second I actually thought I’d grabbed the wrong bike, but that’s ridiculous. Everyone else’s bikes are worth thousands of dollars, no way I confused mine with one of those. There was nothing I could do, so I started the sensor and sulked in the bummness that once again I’m having sensor issues on race day. But then I realized I can reprogram the computer mid-ride! So I spent the next mile syncing my cadence sensor and heart rate monitor. I added grade and average speed to the screen and by mile two, it looked just like mine (minus the red heart sticker on the back that clearly deciphers mine from Blake’s).


The bike was a 4-loop course and fortunately the wind was almost non-existent. Unfortunately, right at the end of the first lap, my right lower back started to hurt. I spent the next 7 miles contemplating whether I’d break the cardinal rule of never trying something new on race day. I had that lidocaine patch in my back pocket, but I’d never used one before and was worried about unknown side effects. The pain was getting unbearable and I had nearly 40 miles to go! No brainer; I pulled over and put it on. Within 5 seconds ALL of the pain went away. It was magic. And no side effects either!

Let’s not talk about my terrible form, but instead about how happy I look, because I can’t feel pain in my lower back (caused by my terrible form).

Shortly after, a man passed me and yells “Hey, Honey Stinger! Do you train at Fiesta Island? I’ve seen you there twice!” The funny thing is that I’ve only trained there twice, but I love how much this jersey stands out.


Half way through my third lap I saw Preston heading the opposite direction. He was about a mile behind me, but a full lap ahead. A short distance behind him I saw Donnie and they both looked confident. I yelled to each, “try to pass me!” then spent the rest of that lap motivated to hold my lead. I was riding 18-20 mph and felt amazing.

It is so motivating to see a familiar face on course. Friends, Family, someone I met in transition area that morning. This sport is more mental than it's given credit and it's because of these people, I will be an Ironman!

Started my final lap and neither had passed me, which felt like a small victory. But unfortunately, an angled cross-wind had picked up and my pace dropped. I was annoyed at myself because if I’d just ridden faster, then I would have avoided the wind altogether.


That last lap was weird. Way less people around and they generally looked miserable. I passed a few ladies and said “you got this, honey.” It seemed appropriate. I was wearing Honey Stinger!


And then I heard sirens coming. I could see a rider off the bike in the distance, and when I got close, I saw it was a woman with a nasty looking knee and her face covered in dirt. There were two others with her and I asked if she was alright. With a huge smile, she looked up and said “I’m ok!” so I yelled back “well you look great, honey!” I heard her laughing, and it made me smile because what a great attitude in such a bummer situation.


Blake spotted me while I was parading through the last stretch of the bike. I pointed at his bike computer and congratulated him on his 56-mile bike ride.


Back at transition, I dismounted and still felt great! I tap danced to my spot and thought, with a little more training, I can definitely double that.


Run

I gave Bari a big smile on my way out of transition, applied sunscreen, and took off. Within a few yards, me and another runner rounded a corner where we could see the pavement abruptly turn to soft sand. I looked at him and said “here we go” and never looked back. I was so excited to finally be running that I knew in my gut that, absent water stations, there was no way I’d let myself walk this.

Anyone want to photoshop that guy out of this picture for me? Thanks in advance!

The first aid station was at the top of a steep, soft-sand incline. It sucked the air out of your lungs and made your calves feel like it was leg day at the gym, but at the top you were rewarded with a little Mexican woman holding a water hose. The thought of soaked socks and blisters worried me so I waved her off. She looked at me like I was crazy but dropped her weapon. I chugged a cup of Gatorade Endurance and ice water, rounded the corner, and was back to sand.


Eventually I found myself in the trail portion of the lap that led through a stale, hot corner of the YMCA. I came to an old man with a steady pace and asked him how many laps we were running (how did I not research this before race day?). There were four laps total, and he already had one under his belt. We ran together chatting for a few minutes, I wished him luck and ran on. Really nice guy.


Lap two and back on the softest section of sand. I heard Bari call my name and it made me a bit emotional. I started feeling choked up right as I approached the tough hill to the first aid station. My lungs weren’t holding air and it scared me. Knowing I was practically at the top, I let myself walk. It was the only time I walked in a section without water in my hand and I regretted it. Promised myself I wouldn’t let it happen again.


Soon as I’d reached the top and got a sip of water, my ability to breathe came back. Just in time for me to stop the Mexican volunteer from squirting me with her garden hose. She dropped it and barked at me “ooookay, I remember you Honey Bee.” I pulled off at the porta-potty and finally relieved myself of four water bottles. But don’t think this was a break. It was quite the workout trying to hover over that nasty seat!


With my bladder now empty, I hit the downhill sand with speed and excitement shared by no one around me. Then I saw the old man and his slow but steady pace again. He must have passed me during my potty break. I told him we had quite the tortoise and the hare thing going on…except he was a lap ahead of me. He got the last laugh because he ultimately finished one second slower than Donnie, and seventeen minutes ahead of me.

Lauren keeping Preston company and motivating me as I passed by. I cherished every high five from friends, family and strangers alike!

Third lap and back at my favorite aid station, garden hose lady spotted me, pulled the hose back and said “I know, I know, honey bees don’t like water!” I felt like I’d made a friend on the course and her humor was giving me the kind of motivation I needed to keep going.


A few miles later I saw Blake before he saw me. The last two times I’d seen my family, I connected a high five with Crosley and Blythe but always missed him, so I paused to give him a big sweaty hug and kiss. Then I overheard an exhausted looking woman say under her breath “I wish I had a hug…” and I think she was surprised when I wrapped my arm around her. Sweaty hugs sound pretty gross, but out there, I’d accept any kind of affection.

The start of lap 4 was mentally rough. Finishers go left, but I had to go right. Back to the soft sand. Waved at Bari. And pushed up the hill to the last stop at my favorite aid station. She saw me coming. She had a smirk on her face. She picked up the garden hose and SPRAYED DOWN THE HONEY BEE! She knew it was my last lap and while I’ll never know her name, she’ll always be my happiest Superfrog memory.


With about 2 miles to go I saw Donnie. I congratulated him. He was so close! Meanwhile I was entering the hot YMCA corner, fighting every body signal to walk. My mind overpowered my legs to keep going and I doubled down by telling every woman from either direction to “keep pushing, honey” because subconsciously, I needed to hear it myself.


One particular girl picked up her speed for a bit to chat with me. She was from Chicago, going to school in Arizona. This was her first 70.3 and the bike took everything out of her. I wished her luck and pushed on. Then I passed a guy struggling to hold his pace and yelled “let’s go, gotta get that chocolate milk!” (which sadly wasn’t at the finish line) and he said “don’t you want Honey Stinger instead?” “NO! I’ve had nine!!”


At the fork in the sand, I proudly turned left with the finishers, rounded the corner and boom. With less than a quarter mile to go, the mental and physical seams started unraveling. I don’t know what happened, maybe it was from the picked-up pace, physical exhaustion of a long day, or the posters lining the fence with faces and stories of fallen soldiers, but I hit the red carpet and once again was struggling to breathe.


I crossed the line gasping for air, legitimately concerned I'd developed asthma. My father-in-law was there to congratulate me, but I couldn’t speak. He asked how I felt and I took as deep a breath as I could manage to say, “I can double that.”

Finishing didn’t feel like the reward, just a stepping stone, because Mike Reilly is going to say my name after 140.6 miles in Arizona.

After

I hugged family and friends, took some pictures, and thanked every volunteer I saw then walked back into the transition area to get my things. I was alone and everything from the day came pouring out as tears. I did this thing. Not just the race, but everything that led up to it. Another experience that no one can ever take away from me.

Before leaving, Bari and I cheered for some of the final finishers when a woman tapped on my shoulder. She said, “I was struggling on the bike and you told me I could do it and called me honey and I started crying. It pushed me and I wanted to say thank you”. It was a sweet moment that I'm glad she shared. And then Chicago came running down the red carpet, looking strong. I waited to give her a hug, and then we left.


But that was just a half Ironman. Two days later I was back to full Ironman training, with renewed self-confidence that:


Honey, I can do this.



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