If any of you have ever been to New Orleans you know that the heat and humidity can be harsh. Race day was like a kick in the butt saying you need to train and prepare for these things and your hydration, electrolyte intake and nutrition are key elements to the successful completion of a half Ironman. It was a dark and rainy Sunday morning as Luke, my friend Kristin’s husband, drove me to the transition at 5am. He tried to motivate me with a speech as I dosed off for about 10 min and he just let me rest for a while. When I awoke we were pulling up to the race transition for me to prepare for the long grueling day. I felt tired from just traveling and the check in process the day before. However the idea of doing the race still excited me and even more my dad, brothers, boyfriend and best friends would all be watching and cheering. My coach Joanna would also be doing the race which motivated me as well.
3,000 people! Yes, the biggest 1/2 IM in the nation and it was true when Luke dropped me off there were triathletes everywhere. I would have never knew having lived in New Orleans for over seven years prior to moving to MD that there would be such an event in the city. Especially after hurricane Katrina and all the efforts to clean up were still underway.
As I prepared to race I ran with my client Marc who I have high hopes for and know he is very talented. I knew he was ready for a strong day and I was so excited to see his enthusiasm and know he was ready to go. I also saw Bill, my boyfriend David’s client and best friend who was ready to have a strong day. It was exciting to hear Joanna’s name over the loud speakers as the 1/2 IM world champion, I knew she would have a great race because of her mental toughness and hardworking nature.
The water was calm and the swim waves were leaving on time. Mark, Joanna’s husband spotted me as I walked toward the start. He advised me that Joanna was in the lead and we watched her take off ahead of all the pro women. Mark told me to watch out for water bottles on the course because the roads were rough. We decided we would meet up to celebrate after the race. I wished we were already drinking hurricanes in the French quarter because my nerves were creeping up as I glanced at my watch and saw I was about 30 min from my wave start.
I swam, panicked a bit, regained my strength and managed a 34min swim which was okay for me and as I excited the water I heard them, all of them!!! My brother Kurt yelled, “Go Krista”!!! I saw all my girlfriends and heard many different voices scream my name. As the fog cleared and I was on the bike riding I spotted them again, they were all wearing pink stripped shirts that said Team Krista.
My Dad whom had never seen me race before was cheering and I waved to him and smiled as I passed through on the bumpy roads. I was so happy to see my dad out there looking happy and just having a good time. I took some fluid down and a couple gels but realized I forgot my salt sticks and I knew I was gonna be in trouble on the run. My body needs the electrolytes as I discovered from taking 2 salt sticks every 15min in Ironman China.
About 1 hr later I spotted the boys in the 9th ward playing football. How did they get out there, the course was closed off, I still am not sure:) They looked as though they were having fun and that made me happy. The course was flat and fast but there were some sections with a strong head wind that felt like we were climbing hills.
When it was time to run I saw them again and I hugged my brother Alex as I ran by an smiled to cover the pain that I felt every where. I knew my heart rate was high because I was so dehydrated and I needed to just keep the pace easy as I ran through city park. I kept checking my heart rate to make sure it was not staying above my anaerobic threshold too long. This was the only thing that helped me to keep moving. A few girls on the run course yelled, “You go girl, Catch those boys, Girl power” This gave me chills and I knew that they were empowered by seeing a woman run past a strong looking male athlete. I tried to pass more men to make them happy even though it hurt it was fun to hear their responses:)
I saw my brother’s Alex and Ryan one last time on the run course and Alex yelled “go faster”. I replied, “save me.” As we ran the last 4 miles through the garden district in uptown New Orleans I admired to beauty of that area.
Plantation homes and beautiful trees providing some shade for the athletes. Then something so inspirational happened I wanted to cry. There was a girl bringing the athletes ice from her house. She went to hand me some and she ran out before I could get to her. She told me to keep going and she would find me. Sure enough she rode up on her cruiser bike and handed me a pile of ice to cool my body and told me I was amazing and she was inspired by me. She took the time to go get more ice and even though there were 100’s of athletes running by she said she promised me she would get the ice and she did. I don’t know who she was but I will remember her kindness that day because it helped keep my body temp down so I didn’t overheat to badly.
A half mile to go! I could hear the cheers and I saw David, my boyfriend who supported me all weekend and gave up his time to help me get ready for the race and was there every step of the way. It was comforting to see him and give him a hug and kiss because I knew he was happy for me. I speed up running through the finish line chute as every good spectathlete does:) I stopped one last time to hug and kiss my Dad and brother Kurt. They screamed we love you and I saw all the girls in Pink again holding their pick umbrellas and streamers attached to their bags.
I finished and learned that preparation for fitness, humid conditions, electrolyte and fluid intake could make or break your race. Joanna said she couldn’t believe I even finished without taking in electrolytes and I told her it crossed my mind more than once to just give up. Joanna got third and said she pushed her body to a new level that day. We all agreed the day felt like an ironman for all different reasons but we got through it, finished and lived to tell our stories. Marc, my client broke 5 hrs. and we hugged after the race and I was happy to feel his excitement and I know this is just the beginning for him. Look for Marc Malott in the future as an up and coming tri star.
That night we celebrated and had our hurricanes in the French quarter. I said goodbye to family and friends and David and I returned to Baltimore. My friend Kristin and her husband luke really made the trip special for me. It is great to have friends who want to see you succeed and truly care and understand no matter what. I managed to get sick from all the stress and excitement but it was a great trip and I can see another New Orleans 70.3 in my near future.