Race morning began with me pulling into the parking lot a quarter mile from the transition area. Not wanting to have to wake Gracie up and drag her out in the cold that early, Richard stayed home with her and was planning on meeting me a half hour before the race start.

HITS Transition Area

Great personalized transition area

I made my way down to the transition area. HITS series triathlons are first class all the way. There is no fighting to find a spot in the transition area – HITS already has it marked for you. They have your name on a stool which is in front of an open box area to put your gear. This “box” has slots in it to hold your bike – no racks – and there is plenty of room to get your wet suit on and off and set everything out. It’s amazing. After finding and saying hello to my friends who were doing the relay, I went back to my stool to decompress. I took deep breaths, thought about my plan and practiced what I tell others – “trust your training”. I knew I could do this. I wasn’t 100% sure how long it would take me but I knew I would be able to finish.

I had three goals in mind for this particular event. One, it being my first 70.3 distance triathlon, was of course just to finish which I figure I could do, even with a flat or having to walk during the run portion, in seven hours. However, halfway through training and starting to dial in my times, and with the urging of one of my run club buddies, he convinced me I could do a 6:05. If I could do a 6:05 I was going to be ecstatic. Then while riding with another triathlete a few weeks before the event and telling her my goal of 6:05 she had faith that I would do a 5:59. So I reasoned that 5:59 is, after all, only six minutes faster than my 6:05 goal so why not? And that became my “OMG, if I do a sub 6 hours I’ll be super ecstatic” goal.

Another acquaintance of mine was right behind me in transition. This was her first 70.3 distance triathlon as well and she was very nervous. She asked how I could be so calm. I told her I had 100% confidence in my training and that I knew I’d finish. We chatted a bit then I went back to focusing on the race, visualizing each transition, taking deep breaths. Then I realized it was ten minutes to race start and I hadn’t seen Richard yet. He texted he was on his way so I trusted I’d see him before the start of the swim.


Swim Start with my Baby Girl

It was now time to make my way down to the water. The Race Director was giving final instructions and I was looking all around for Richard and Gracie. As much as I would be okay starting without them, I REALLY wanted them to be there. Giving kisses and having Richard wish me good luck just makes me feel good. And then finally I saw him, Gracie in his arms, he looking through the sea of swim caps trying to pick me out so I ran up to him and gave hugs. By the time I made my way back to the beach the men had already started and we were up in three minutes. My swim training partner, Wendy, and I scooted to the right of the crowd with more of a straight line to the first turn buoy as opposed going at an angle. We were shivering both from cold and nerves when the horn went off.

At this point I knew I had 45 minutes in the water. I started out mid-pack with quick turn-over to warm up and find my groove. Being so used to training with Wendy and always knowing where she was at I literally had to tell myself not to look back for her as this was a race and there are plenty of people around if something goes wrong. After about five minutes I calmed down and got into a good grove. I turned the first buoy and found myself right in stride with a gal beside me that I really wanted to shake but couldn’t seem to. We turned the second buoy together and started making our way back to shore. I don’t know who got off track but we were no longer together. The shore looked a lot closer than it was and at one point the water was so shallow my hand was hitting the bottom and I stepped down thinking we were done only to see I still had a couple hundred meters to go. Once I started swimming again I got a pretty good cramp in my leg which I was not expecting at all (that was never part of training!). I pushed through and managed to finish the swim portion in 45:29 – right on target.

Swim Start

With my swim partner Wendy at swim start

Running to and in transition was much colder than I anticipated. I had little dexterity in my fingers and easily got cramps in my calves trying to take my wet suit off. Richard was right there telling me to calm down, take deep breaths and reminded me to drink. Everything seemed to take much longer than planned but I just couldn’t get my fingers to move any faster. I managed to get out of there in a respectable 3:56 – a minute and four seconds faster than my five minute goal time.

If I thought the transition was cold, then the first few miles on the bike were FREEZING! I did mentally plan for this, however, so oddly it seemed more tolerable. I had to continue managing the cramps in my calves and force myself to hydrate and eat even though I didn’t feel like it being so cold. The first major hill climb was between 13 and 14 miles and I almost cramped up when standing I was still that cold. After about 20 miles I finally seemed to warm up and get into a groove. It was now around 9am and the sun was out which helped tremendously. I was in such great spirits on the bike, whoohooing everyone I knew and telling every rider I past “good job”. The road through Lake Havasu State Park was under much needed repair and had a lot of sand and ruts we had to ride through which I was not prepared for. (We were not able to ride through the park during training unless we paid the park entrance fee.) The bike portion of this event is two loops of 23 miles. Coming out of the park on the first loop, my gear came loose behind my seat and I ended up losing my entire spare tire kit. Knowing I had to go back through the park a second time had me concerned about getting a flat and nothing to fix it with so I tried calling Richard a couple times to have him get some to put in the car in case I needed it. Yes, I actually tried to call on my cell phone during a race – silly me. For some reason the calls wouldn’t go through so I finally gave up on that and continued on. Richard was at the exit of the park holding up his phone and asking if everything was okay. Apparently he could see I was trying to call and was worried something had happened. I was able to give him a thumbs up and hollered that I lost my spare tire kit and continued on my way. I still had to come back through the park one final time but at this point there was nothing I could do about it.

HITS Lake Havasu Bike Course

Felt great on the bike

Now climbing the big hill closer to 40 miles and much warmer seemed a little easier and I flew down the descending hill. Doing the calculations in my head I needed to ride the final ten miles in less than 3 minutes each in order to make my three hour goal time. Unfortunately I was not able to maintain that and ended up with a disappointing 3:07:14. Disappointing for me because I did a 3:05 training ride two weeks earlier and I thought for sure I’d be able to shave five minutes off during the race. A few things I have factored in that have helped me mentally deal with this: one, I never road after a 45 minute swim and did not realize the effect that would have on me; two, it took a lot more energy to warm up my body during the race and I had not practiced that in training; three, I did not fuel enough (I did better eating and drinking during the 3:05 training ride than I did the race); four, the 1.3 mile long road through the park four times slowed my average (again, I did not ride through there during training); five, just general fatigue from almost an hour, being cold and riding 56 miles knowing I still had a half marathon to go.

Bike to Run Transition

Bike to Run Transition

Although disappointed with my time, I was not at all disappointed with the ride. I was having such a great time out there on the course. I felt the best I’ve ever felt, passed a ton of people – both men and women – and only a handful passed me. I had a smile on my face the entire time. All this tells me is that I probably could have pushed a little harder and made my three hour goal time.

Running my bike through transition I saw my training partner’s brother sitting there. Not only was this his first 70.3 but his first triathlon EVER. Nothing like jumping right into it! Because we were keeping up on all our training through Daily Mile I knew he was definitely a faster swimmer and a little faster cyclist and runner. So seeing him sitting there I knew this was my opportunity to get a head start on the run and if I could get a decent enough lead maybe hold him off. So I did not say anything as I ran by and he did not see me.

Richard ran the first tenth of a mile with me and I was chatting away with him, telling him how fun the bike was, that I saw Bruce sitting there in transition, etc., and Richard told me to stop talking and have a good run. I felt so good the start of the run, averaging an 8:28 pace the second mile, I starting having high hopes of maybe even setting a half marathon PR during a 70.3 triathlon and how cool that would be. Those hopes started to soon fade going around mile when I average a 9:15 and it was just getting harder. Running up the slight hill after the turnaround I saw Bruce and another girl I knew was a better runner than me heading down so my goal was to stay ahead of them. It was this and this alone that pushed me through the tough final miles of the race. Although my pace slowed to a sub 10 minute mile I still managed to finish before them and in a time of 2:01:41 – a 9:17 average after all of that and finished my triathlon in 5:59:15!!! Video of Finish.

HITS Lake Havasu Finish

Hugging my sister at the finish.

3rd Place Age Group Winner

3rd Place Age Group Winner!

There were so many friends at the finish line cheering me on and pushing me through, including my sister! When I saw my finish time and my sister there I just fell into her arms and started crying, trying to catch my breath. It was THE most exhilarating finish of any race I have ever done (and I’ve done a lot). All the training, the effort, the mental push through, my friends, family and Richard there at the finish line – it was an incredible feeling. And then as icing on the cake, I won third place in my age division! Not too shabby for a first 70.3!

Sub 6 Hour 70.3

Chip Time 6:00:18 / Garmin 5:59:15

Somewhere along the way my Garmin and HITS timing are off. They have me finishing at 6:00:18 – a minute and three seconds difference. Because I have a picture of my Garmin showing 70.32 at 5:59 I’m sticking with that one. Heck, a sub six hours versus missing it by 19 seconds…which one would you choose?!


Overall Race Review:

Although I have never participated in an Ironman sanctioned event, those that I spoke with at HITS that have said that Ironman’s transition area does not compare to the quality of HITS. And I have participated in several triathlons put on by other event companies and none of them came close to the quality of what HITS does either. You can tell they care about what they do and Race Director Mark Wilson takes the time to shake hands and welcome every athlete adding a very personal touch to the occasion.

From their branding, start/finish line, vendor set-up, and yes, transition area, it’s all first class all the way. In Lake Havasu, you couldn’t ask for better weather. While it can get cool and windy in the morning, it’s usually sunny and 70-80 during the day (which can get pretty toasty so be sure to apply sunscreen).

The course is fantastic. It’s relatively flat with a few slight grades for the Sprint and Olympic distance and three short but gnarly climbs which you have to do twice for the Half and four times for the Full – ouch!

Whether you’re looking to try your hand at your first triathlon or are a seasoned triathlete, HITS won’t disappoint. After all, they brand themselves “a distance for everyone!” Register for HITS