Has it really been a YEAR!?!?

Hello, hola, bonjour! It's been a whole YEAR since my last 1/2 ironman. WHAT!?!? After racing 5 last year (which I loved), I decided (was forced to) to take some time off. That time sent me into a tailspin that lead me to nearly a year off of training and racing all together. I spent my days doing anything but swim, bike, run. I slept, learned how to eat like a human, cried a lot, started lifting weights (putting on 10 lbs - what!?) and learned that letting go is not the same as giving up. 

My 3 months off, turned into 6...then 9. My structured training probably started (loosely) in June(ish), and even with a 1 week "training camp" in Bend about a month ago, never reached more than 1/2 of the weekly volume I was used to last year. 

Going into Santa Cruz 70.3, I had little to no expectations of performance and/or placement. I talked myself into being OK with whatever the outcome was, turning my focus onto the process, enjoying being out there with my peeps, having fun, staying present and executing my nutrition plan. 

We arrived a few days before the race, did a little sight seeing, spent too much time on my feet and eating way more than my nerves would have ever allowed in the past. Race morning, I was calm and not over thinking...leaving me with a lot of extra time and energy. I made it to transition around 5:30, and found myself wandering around aimlessly by 5:45. Too easy. What are all these people doing? Fussing with? It's not that hard. My wave started at 7:10, so I had plenty of time to do nothing before getting my wetsuit on and run around a bit.

pre-swim with Dorris.

pre-swim with Dorris.

Sharks!

Sharks!

I was really looking forward to the ocean swim because I, yet again, had no expectation. Just like with everything else, I had taken the pressure off my swim this year and the added element of the ocean made it much easier for me to stay focused on the moment/survival and not much concern with my time/pace.  I had no idea where I was when I got out of the water, but I was REALLY looking forward to getting on my bike. I LOVE my Diamondback Serios, seriously. 

I might have been a little too excited to get on my bike, I mean the last time I raced was at the world championships, that pace was habitual - oops. The course was hilly, but with the cool ocean air, the effort never felt too hard or uncomfortable, and those views. Before I could think much about anything else, it was over and I was off and running.

I felt GREAT! This race was shaping up to be alright! I stuck with my nutrition and felt pretty amazing (despite a quick potty stop). until about 1/2 way. My effort was noticeable and my knees were killing me from tight IT bands. At mile 9, the pain was too much and I took a walk break through the aide station before continuing the run. This pattern continued for the next 2 aid stations. Finally at mile 11 I came to realize that I had plenty of energy and there was no reason I couldn't run through my discomfort, after all, that's what we're supposed to do. And HOLY SHIT BALLS, I did! YAY - that's a WIN! You see, in years past, by the time I arrived at a race I was so depleted that adversity would completely break me. Not because I was weak, in fact, I was well trained in mental skills and being tough. But I used it all up in training. By the time I got to races I was empty, malnourished, irritable and broken. My race nutrition would keep me going, but my mind would crumble if anything difficult was thrown my way. Not this time. This time I had the energy - and it felt amazing. I felt amazing. 

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to race in Santa Cruz. I'm grateful for my amazing body - every day! I'm amazed at my physical resiliency and strength all the time. How did I get so lucky!?

This year has not been easy, I wouldn't have made it without ALL of you! My family, friends, teammates, sponsors and fans. I love you all with my whole heart! I felt all of you out there. THANK YOU!

Thank you to: Wattie Ink, Diamondback, Blueseventy, Rudy Project, ISM, Speedfil, Powerbar, Herbalife 24, Adventure Wenatchee, Brooks, Swiftwick, The Inner Circle Gym, Arlberg Sports, Ovenell Chiro, Nikki, my Mom Jerri Barkley, my boyfriend Jason Hosking, my coach Robert Flanigan, support crew Marni Sumbal, Roxanne, Cathy Covey and Adam Vognild, and all my Wattie Ink teammates and friends all over the world.

XOXO

Sarah