After the ITU Chicago Grand Final, I took a mini break, traveled for sponsor and media events, and focused on my swimming and biking to prepare for my favorite race of the year: The Island House Triathlon. The Island House is a beautiful boutique hotel in Nassau, The Bahamas. The actual race took place on a different island, Highbourne Cay; however, thankfully, I was able to spend a few days at The Island House before taking a ferry to the race. The rooms at The Island House were huge and the environment was relaxing. It was perfect after a high-pressure ITU season. In the middle of the hotel, there is a 25m outdoor pool. I would jump in the water multiple times a day, often with Patrick and have races (he would do a 50; I would do a 75), and contests (who could hold their breath the longest, etc.)
The hotel restaurant, Shima, served the best curry I’ve ever had. We were treated to endless sashimi, appetizers, pork, salads, desserts, and wine. I didn’t want to leave; however, after a few days, it was time to take a 90-minute ferry to Highbourne Cay. Highbourne Cay is a small island about four km long. Our cottage offered front row seats to the beach and ocean.
There are no cars on Highbourne Cay; instead, you get around by driving golf carts. Typically on Highbourne Cay, you would drive on the left side of the road, but because we (the athletes, camera crews, etc.) were the only ones on the island, we drove on right side of the road because we were going to be riding in that direction for the race. It’s nice to be in a place so remote that we could change the side of the road we drove on. It was just one of many perks on Highbourne Cay.
The race was a three-day event starting on Friday, November 6th. The first event was the prologue: 300m swim, 7km bike, and 2km run. We were sent off one at a time, one minute apart. In order to determine the order, we drew our start position. I somehow picked #1, so I got to go last in the prologue. I stood on the beach and watched my competitors go off one at a time and soon it was my turn. I ran in the ocean and swam as fast as I could. The 300m swim was over before I knew it and I hopped on my bike for a technical, hilly course. I underestimated the undulation on the island and it definitely took a toll on my body. I entered transition and had no idea if I was ahead or behind the others in front of me. Every second counted because our times from each day were added together for a final time that determined the winner. I pushed as hard as I could on the run, but I was going slowly because we were running on soft sand. When I crossed the finish line, Patrick told me I won. I laughed at him and said “Funny joke, honey.” Considering the format (non-draft, time trial event that is not my specialty) I never, ever imagined that I could win the prologue, but somehow I won the stage and surprised even myself.
The second day was an Olympic distance draft legal triathlon--something I love! However, it wasn’t a normal triathlon. This stage consisted of 3x(500m swim, 13km bike, 3.3km run). All the women started the swim together and I was in the lead pack of about five going into the first transition. We mounted our bikes and immediately had to ride up a hill. It was so hard that I had to start in my 39-19 and I still struggled to make it up. The bike was 3 laps per 13km and at the end of each lap, we had to do a u-turn right into the hill. I got off the bike in the front pack with Flora Duffy and Lisa Norden (who suffered a flat tire) right behind. We began the 3km run and it was by far the hardest run I’ve ever done in a race. There were multiple, steep hills per lap. By the end of the run on the first round, I was ready to run back into the ocean to cool off. I stayed with Flora and Lisa for most of the race and ended up pulling away from them on the last leg of the run.
That evening my body was a wreck. Patrick suggested I go out for an easy spin, so I went out for a bike ride and noticed all my competitors had the same idea. I rode for 30 minutes and Patrick had to literally push me up the hills.
I woke up on the third day and I could barely walk to the bathroom because I was so sore. I’ve never done a stage race before and I have so much respect for Tour riders after realizing the toll a multiple day race takes on your body. I kept telling myself that if I was tired, everyone else must be tired too. We started the third stage one at a time (not a mass start). I went off first, and the other ladies went off behind me at their deficits (so the first person across the line would be crowned the overall winner). This final race was a non-draft sprint distance triathlon. The bike was straight forward, and on the same course as the other two days. The run was completely different than the previous two days and we ran on the beach, sand, and the pavement. Lisa caught me on the bike and we started the run together, but I was able to pull away and come across the finish line in first. With the depth of the competition (in the various styles of triathlon) I didn't know what to expect and was shocked to place first, but I couldn’t have been happier to finish first in the inaugural Island House Triathlon.
The event was my favorite of the year. Mark Holowekso brought in ITU athletes, non-draft athletes, Kona superstars, and Xterra athletes. Being able to hang out with and get to know the non-draft athletes was a highlight. They are some amazing individuals. A special shout out to my roomies for the many laughs and good times: Javier Gomez, Anneke Jenkins, Tim Don, Cam Dye, and, of course, Patrick.
There were a few things that got me through the weekend when I was so tired I could barely walk: the food and drinks provided by Xuma and Shima, the people, the weather, and the beautiful views. If you ever get a chance to go on a vacation, I highly recommend The Bahamas.
I need to give a huge shout out to Luke McKenzie and Beth Gerdes, the race directors. For a first time event, I was so impressed with the professionalism of the race. Luke would set up the course at 5am, hand out water during the women’s 8am race and then he would race himself one hour later. To say he was impressive is an understatement. Every athlete appreciated what he did to make the event a success.
The race will be shown nationwide on TV, but the timeslots vary depending on where you live.