Its DUE TIME for a Comeback
Updated: Nov 20, 2020
Iron Man Ohio 70.3 was a comeback race for me. Many know I had a severe car accident in December of 2017. I have struggled with back and shoulder pain and weakness on my left side for over year. Finally, after therapy, two minor back/shoulder procedures, a major back/shoulder procedure and chiropractic therapy I was feeling better and able to train consistently. Swimming was FUN again. I was able to stay in aero for more than thirty minutes. I was excited about getting on with my Tri Life!!
I have decided to do something new with my strength training and started working with Kathy Murray. She is a triathlete, amazing cyclist in addition to being a professional trainer and strength coach. In March we mapped out a plan to help increase my functional strength, flexibility and strength. In addition, we both agreed I needed to drop 5-7 pounds and reduce my bodyfat by a few percentage points. It’s working. We meet weekly and I follow her nutrition guidelines….no diet just eat the right type of foods. I feel stronger, lighter but not weak.
I decided to arrive a day earlier than normal recognizing that I rarely get sufficient sleep. Thursday, I arrived in Columbus easily made my way to my hotel, picked up a few snacks and water, got situated and decided to go for an easy run on the course. If the front end was anything like the first 1.5 miles, this was going to be a TOUGH run. I picked up some dinner, unpacked my bike, face-time with Euleen and the kids and watched Netflix on my tablet until I fell asleep.
I was finally able to catch up with Vonn at the bike check in. She looked great and was already in to her Military cadence run.
Friday, I met Oui Brown at the swim venue. We decided to start early and:
Swim on the course for a few hundred yards
Drive the bike course
Go to the “Village”, register and then attend the first Athlete’s Briefing and
Ride the run course
Everything went well. I “alerted” the head race official that I would be racing covered. He was ABSOLUTELY amazing. On race day it was CLEAR that he followed the procedure he stated he would follow, and I had an anxiety free race start. After getting some lunch I decided to go run near the swim venue versus the run course. It had been a LONG day but everything was done and I felt familiar with the course and rested.
Saturday was bike and run bag check in day! I was finally able to catch up with Vonn at the bike check in. She looked great and was already in to her Military cadence run. “Hey Vonn!!!” Hugs and we were off for a pre-race 10-minute jog. We chit chatted about everything and nothing and then went to a pizza spot for Dinner.
Tracey Nauta, my mentee for 2019 arrived later in the afternoon. I was so excited to meet her face to face. She was EXACTLY how she was in our web sessions, genuine, excited about triathlon…..a great person.
An official asked me if I was athlete 114. “Yes.”
Race Day and New Kit Day
I was excited about this race because I felt like myself again. I was also excited because I had been working on a new kit. I felt great and I looked in the mirror an decided I was looking great as well. YES, was feeling myself.
I decided there was no need to access my run bag again, so Tracey and I went straight to the shuttle location. We took one of the first buses to the swim venue. I did my normal bike set-up, put on my swimskin and jumped in the 40-45 wave. That ended up being the perfect placement for me. An official asked me if I was athlete 114. “Yes.” “Welcome to IronMan Ohio.” I was pleasantly surprised and super happy. Natali Villarruel, one of my Team USA Teammates was in line with me we chatted and joked about our swim nightmares in Spain at ITU World Championships. As usual before I knew it, I was approaching the start line. I immediately tried to focus on my swim game plan. The beep for my group, two dolphin dives and I am on my way!!!
I was swimming a nice line and as I approached the buoy EVERYONE seemed to be converging there as well.
I was swimming well and actually grazing each of the buoy’s. My hips were high I had a nice two beat kick going. I tried to just focus form. My first time alert went off right on target with where I wanted to be on the course. There was a bit of congestion around the first buoy but nothing outrageous. The good thing was I found a draft target. The entire back stretch I was able to swim left and slightly behind another swimmer. He was way bigger than me, so it was great. My second time alert was almost one full buoy away from where I wanted to be. I was of course disappointed, but I continued to focus on form and clinging to my draft buddy. The last buoy was tough. I was swimming a nice line and as I approached the buoy EVERYONE seemed to be converging there as well. I was bumped around a bit but stayed calm. I drifted a bit to the inside heading in but was able to keep a decent line to the finish without any pace killing adjustments.
Target: 40:00-45:00 Result: 47:47. I was satisfied….not pleased but satisfied with this because after swimming a VERY nice line the entire course it was still 200m over.
I passed back and forth with three guys who refused to get “chicked”.
I shot out of the water like a cannon. I was so excited to swim a HIM course and not be in pain. My T1 was SLOW and sloppy! I slipped out of my skin, put on socks and hijab being careful to make sure it was neatly tucked in. Everything else including my cleats was already attached to my bike. I tied the bag left it on the ground gingerly jogger to the exit. I accidentally kicked my water bottle off at the mount line, so I had to step aside, pick it up and then get started. All I could hear was Tracey yelling “Go Khadijah Go!!!!”
I decided to take my own water. After seeing the location of the aide stations, I was concerned about crashes. I decided to blow through and stay far left on all of them. This plan worked well. I witnessed three crashes. Two because of wind. The third…..an athlete crashing into another at the aid station.
I was riding well! Pushing but not too hard. The first 25 miles of the course there was zero wind or slight crosswind. I thought I could average @ 22 mph at that point. Then the head wind started. I knew there would be some on the back-end, but the wind ha whipped up to 12-15mph. I tucked in tight and maintained my effort. I passed back and forth with three guys who refused to get “chicked”. I dropped one and passed the other two within a mile on the run LOL!!! Not a single woman passed me on the bike. I felt like I cycled well and smart. I was able to get through the few hills at the end using solid gearing and bike handling and finished up just below my target pace. I entered transition with so many people cheering for me. All I could do was SMILE!
Target: 20 mph – 21 mph Result: 19.88 mph. I was satisfied….not pleased but satisfied. The wind was a tad stronger than I expected and I played it conservative. Next time I won’t be doing that!
As I came out of the tunnel and felt the track under my feet I fixed my shades and sprinted in. I felt AMAZING!
I knew the run would be TOUGH after riding it with Oui. The course starts with a short steep hill just after mile 1 and then constant moderate rolling hills with a 800 meter grind on miles 6 and 11. As run courses go it was a 7-8 out of 10 for me. There some stretches of shade the crowd support was OUTRAGEOUS!!! The aide stations were well done. I just wish the ice was more easily accessible and available at ALL of the stations. I had to STOP and get ice at the two station where it was located.
The run was HOT and uneventful. I ran steady and passed WAY more people than passed me. I focused on staying relaxed, getting some air time, keeping my cadence and staying on top of my nutrition. Mile 8 I lost focus but other than that I was VERY consistent around the entire course. Three people asked me was I hot. "NOPE, but I got ice in my bra.... you want some?" As I cruised down the steep hill I had powered up at the start of the run, I knew my quads were going to HATE me but I didn’t care. I pushed harder and harder as I got to the stadium. As I came out of the tunnel and felt the track under my feet I fixed my shades and sprinted in. I felt hot tired and AMAZING. I felt like Khadijah again. Before they even got my timing chip off of my ankle, I was looking forward to getting back to training and preparing for the next event
Overall Goal: Sub 6:00. Stretch Goal: 5:45. Placement Goal: Top 10. Result: 5:58:11 (I got 5:57:41 on my Garmin) and 12th place. I am excited because I raced well. I executed well. I played everything conservatively; the only thing I would change. I plan to wild out a bit and have fun next race!!!
Respect the water, respect the road, respect how you feel on any given day, look out for your fellow athlete.
Tracey and Terry Hart were waiting for me at the finish line. We chatted, hydrated and had a little snack. Tracey had to go home so I went back and got her off showered and went to watch the award ceremony. It was then I realized an athlete had died on the course.
We entered race weekend with the intent of racing hard and then going home to our families, back to work, back to our lives.....
We cannot be paralyzed by fear but we have to always remember there is a certain amount of danger in the sport of triathlon. Respect the water, respect the road, respect how you feel on any given day, look out for your fellow athlete.
As I sat under the tent hot and pleased with my performance, my heart sank when I heard that a woman had died. Thoughts and prayers are OK, but let’s remind each other about safety, be courteous and give space on the road, take a few extra strokes instead of intentionally swimming over someone.....
Insha'Allah her husband and family can find peace and understanding.