This year was supposed to be a big year of racing for me. I had planned on doing the Boston marathon in April, Ironman St. George in May, and add on possibly another Ironman in hopes of a Kona qualification. Plus, I had the 70.3 World Championships in New Zealand which I was super excited about.

But of course, Covid had other ideas. Before I knew it all of my races were cancelled and there looked to be no hope of any triathlons being able to go on at all. I deferred the 70.3 Worlds to next year in St. George, and Boston was completely cancelled. My Ironman in St. George was also cancelled, however we were given options to defer to races later in the year. 

Luckily, I chose to defer to Ironman Florida, the only race on the list that still made it to the start line. 

It was tough trying to train for a race that I was doubtful would ever even happen. I also came down with Covid in June and was sidelined from any meaningful training for about 4-6 weeks. The relentless fever that lasted a week and chest burning cough that lingered for months made running, biking, and swimming a tough prospect.

Fortunately, I slowly recovered and got back into the training mindset, always remaining hopeful that I would be able to compete in some sort of race before the year was over. As summer turned to fall and Ironman Florida still hadn’t been officially cancelled, that hope tuned to excitement. 

Finally, around September or October, I started receiving emails about the race and things got real. Panama City Beach was actually going to host both the full and half Ironman! With Covid protocols in place it was definitely going to be a different race, but I was just grateful to have the opportunity to actually compete this year. 


I arrived at Panama City Beach on Thursday, two days before the race. Ironman had us pick an hour time window to come register and pick up our packets to limit the crowds. Even though registration was outside, everything was set up with flags and markers on the ground to ensure social distancing. 

Volunteers were seated behind plexiglass and everything was pretty much done without any actual contact. Temperature checks were done when you entered different areas, everyone wore masks, and there were hand sanitizer stations set up all over the place. Everyone involved was super helpful and they really pulled out all the stops to make this as safe of an environment as they could during this strange Covid time.

After checking in  I dropped off my bike at the Playtri tent to have some mechanical issues worked on. The guys did an excellent job to get my bike race ready and I will definitely be using them again at future races. I wandered around the Ironman Store as I waited, then picked up my bike and headed to my hotel to get some rest.

I woke up Friday to get in a quick swim, bike, and run. I drove down to the pier only to find that I had forgot my goggles at the hotel. Perfect start to the day! Not wanting to have to deal with parking again I decided to do a quick 30 minute bike, and then run to my hotel to grab my goggles and run back to my car. The 4 mile jog worked out perfectly!

I walked down to the pier and did a quick 10 minute swim in the ocean. The waters weren’t too choppy, but I knew that could quickly change. After my short pre-race day workouts I headed back to the hotel and got my bike and race bags ready for check-in. 

Like registration, everyone had a preset time to check in their bikes to avoid congestion. I racked my bike around 5, dropped off my bike and run bags, and headed home for some rest and carbs.

Race Morning

As usual, I had prerace jitters and woke up at 4 before my alarm even went off. I put on my trisuit, grabbed my First Endurance hydration bottles I had mixed up the night before along with my wetsuit and goggle, and headed out to transition. 

Transition was pretty similar to past races, other than the fact that everyone was wearing masks. I had my tires topped off with air, filled up my aero bottle, and made sure my bike and run bags had all the essential.

Due to Covid, there would be no changing tents with chairs in transition. We had to leave our bags by our bike and did everything on our own during transition. This was actually fine by me. As much as I love how much the volunteers help us out, sometimes it’s easier for me to grab what I need on my own. 

The 2.4 Mile Swim

We waited by our bikes until they called out our projected swim times so that we could start walking down to the swim start. I am a horribly slow swimmer with my best time being around 1:11. I was a bit ambitious and walked down with the one hour to 1:10 group in hopes that I could draft off some faster swimmers. 

We were ushered into the water three swimmers or so at a time every five seconds. About 10 minutes after the official start time I was finally in the water. And boy was it rough! There was about a 10-12 mile per hour wind coming from the northeast and it made the water pretty choppy. Not the worst I have swam in, but definitely made me motion sick and had me swallowing a decent amount of salt water. I was just happy to make it through, even with a slow 1:15:30 time.

It was a long run back up to transition. With no wetsuit strippers I peeled off my suit myself, found my helmet and shoes in my bike bag, and started out on the longest part of the day. 

112 Miles of Biking

The course at Panama City Beach is flat, but the wind can still make it a challenging ride. The first 40 miles or so of the bike was mentally tough as we pedaled into a headwind most of the way. The rest of the ride was a mix of tailwind, headwinds, and crosswinds. 

I felt like I was doing decent with my power and staying well hydrated. However, the big issue I have with a flat course is that I forget to take posture breaks. Obviously you want to stay aero as much as possible, but I had to remind myself to sit up once in a while to stretch out my back and give my gut some space to digest the carbs I was gulping down. 

The last part of the bike was into a headwind, and I was so happy to finally clip out and be done with a bike split of 5:14:20.

Unlike the typical Ironman, there was no one to grab my bike for me and I had to run it back to the rack myself. Kind of a bigger bummer than I thought. Sometimes it’s the little things you take for granted! 

Marathon Time

Once I racked my bike I bent down to grab my run bag and that’s when the first big stomach cramp hit me. All of my abdominal muscles seized up at once and I had to stand up and arch back to try to stretch them out as I massaged my abs. Not good. The pain eased up and I slipped on my socks and shoes, grabbed my visor and sunglasses, and clipped on my race belt. Last leg, here we go!

The beginning of the run I felt great! After training in the humidity of the Florida Keys, the weather actually felt nice. But around mile 2 the stomach cramp hit again. “No, don’t do this!” I actually said out loud to myself as I took some deep breaths and started massaging my abs while I kept running. Again the pain lessened, and I kept going. 

I made it to the 13.1 mark and still felt pretty good when the cramping came on full force again. I tried running through it but had to eventually stop completely to try to stretch out my abs again. This time, I couldn’t get the pain to stop so I tried just running (or rather shuffling) through it. 

Usually, the run will have aid stations every mile. However, because of Covid, they were now every 2-2.5 miles apart. At first, this wasn’t a big deal, but as the race stretched on this was a game changer. Quitting a race has never been an option for me, but with about nine miles left I didn’t know if I could make it. Aerobically, I felt fine. But my stomach cramping was killing me, and my legs were finally starting to feel the impact of 137 miles of racing. 

I had just about used up a flask of First Endurance Gel so I emptied the rest and filled it with Gatorade at the next aid station to carry along with me between aid stops. I just told myself I had to keep moving my legs. I knew my time was suffering, but I just had to make it to the finish line. Ignoring the pace on my watch I just tried to keep my legs going. Finally, after what seemed like forever with a shuffling snails pace of running, I made it to the red Ironman carpet. 

It was great to be done, but sad not to see the usual crowd lining the finish line, giving high fives. Thanks Covid….

But at least there was Mike Reilly, and when I heard him announce my name as an Ironman it was the best feeling I had all day!

My final time was 10:28:54, a couple of minutes faster than my time at Florida in 2019. When I got back to my car I finally looked up my results and realized I had finished first in my age group!! WHAT!?!! I couldn’t believe it! That guaranteed me a Kona spot for next year.

So after a crazy year of Covid and cancelled races, there was a happy race ending at least. And I am so glad I pushed myself to finish the race. I am super pumped to be going to Hawaii next year and will be putting in some serious training in 2021. 

Race Report from Muncie 70.3 July 13, 2019

So, I have been slacking in the race reports. After Ironman Texas back in April I made a last minute decision to run Ironman Gulf Shore 70.3 two weeks later. I surprised even myself with a third place age group finish and a trip to the 70.3 World Championships in Nice in September!

After racing in Panama City Beach in May I didn’t really have any concrete goals other than the race in Nice. But after some changes in my personal life I decided to make July a month of racing and travel. And the first stop was the half Ironman in Muncie.

Road Trip!

I made the ten hour drive up from South Carolina with my new Felt IA2 and my dog Frankie on the Friday before the race. This was my third time racing Muncie, so I was already familiar with the course. Although the swim did race in a different direction, everything else was the same. 

Packet Pick Up and Pre-Race Nutrition

After dropping off Frankie at the hotel, I picked up my race packet and headed to the store for some pre-race snacks. It has taken me awhile to figure out what works best for me before a race, but recently I have figured out that a glazed donut is pretty awesome the morning of the race. It has quick carbs and is easily digested, at least for me. 

Anyways, I’m in the store, unashamedly about to grab my single glazed donut from the pastry rack. I look down at my phone for a second and look up and some random dude is right next to me and is laughing, saying how funny it is that the day before a race I’m standing in the dessert aisle. 

I honestly didn’t know what to say. Was he food shaming me? Yeah, I run Ironmans and occasionally eat a donut. Get over it. I didn’t say anything and just stared him down until he walked away. So yeah, that guy still pisses me off.

Race Prep

Anyways, I eventually got back to the hotel and arranged everything for the morning. Hydration, nutrition, bike, helmet, swimskin, goggles, running shoes, belt, etc. Checked and double checked. Then did the usual lay in bed nervous for a few hours before falling asleep, only to wake up every hour thinking I had overslept.

Finally, my actual alarm went off. I headed out to the Prairie View Resevoir to begin the day. After racking my bike and scoping out the path from transition, I headed over to test out the water. It was warm. I can’t remember the exact temperature, but definitely not wetsuit legal, which is always a bummer for a slow swimmer like me. But I would make due.

The Swim

The race started at 7, but due to the rolling start I didn’t get into the water until about 7:20. As usual there was the obligatory kicking and elbowing the first few hundred meters until everyone spread out.

The water was calm, but for some reason I could just never get into a rhythm. My time coming out of the swim was a few minutes slower than I had hoped and I knew I would need to make up some ground on the bike.

The Bike

The bike course at Muncie takes you out for the first 8-10  miles before you get to the double loop. I started passing people pretty quickly and was feeling good about myself until I hit a huge bump. My hydration bottle on the front nearly popped off. The ring around the straw acutally did, which meant my straw was flopping all over the place for the rest of the race. Plus, all my Medjool dates that I like using for nutrition popped out onto the ground. Luckily I still had some gels, but I was a sad little biker for a minute.

The rest of the first loop went pretty well, but things got really congested on the second loop as I tried to make my way around some cyclers coming on for their first loop. After a little over two and a half hours I made my way back to transition and it was on to the run.

The Run

I had a little hold up in transistion after I forgot a gel and had to run back. I probably only lost a few seconds but it always feels longer in the moment. I got onto the run course and honestly felt like my heart was going to explode. It was pretty hot and it was hard to get my heart rate down.

My Garmin 935 watch beeped showing my Performance Condition. For anyone that has used this watch, this basically shows what performance level you are at compared to baseline and ranges from -20 to +20. I was at a -7. Let me tell you, if that was -7, -20 must be death.

The first half mile was relatively downhill and luckily this helped me slow my breathing. The rest of the run was rolling hills, with a big part in the blazing sun. I managed to keep a decent pace once my heart rate settled down and overall felt pretty good given the conditions.

So Close to Breaking 5 hours…

I crossed the finish line in 5:00:57. It was a pretty strong race, but I was still bummed about not getting under five. All the “if onlys” start popping into my head. A little faster swim, quicker in the transition, a few less water stops…but in the end it was still a great race.

After getting back to my car to grab my phone, I checked the results to see that I had finished third in my age group! Depending on what the girls in front of me decided, that meant I could possibly get a spot for the 2020 World Championships in New Zealand.

New Zealand 2020!

I grabbed some food from the athlete tent and took a quick nap under a tree while I waited for the awards. I got my third place plaque, took some pictures, then waited around for the roll down. When it got to females 35-39, it was revealed that we would get 2 slots. The first name was called and no one responded. Then the second-no one. Finally “Holly Smith” was called. 

New Zealand is far, but how do you turn down that opportunity? So I’m pretty pumped about heading there in November of 2020. But first I am going to try to conquer my second full Ironman of the year in Lake Placid on July 28th. Then there’s the 70.3 World Championships in Nice in September. So never a dull moment! And yes, I will be eating a donut before each of those races!

After a few warm up races (Ellerbe Marathon in February and The Intimidator 70.3 in March), it was time for the first big race of the season…Ironman Texas! I’ve now made it my new goal to do at least one Ironman a year, and by picking an early one this allows me the option of still being fresh for a late season 140.6 if I so choose. I arrived in Houston on Thursday to pick up my packet and bike which I had shipped by TriBike Transport. I know that I could get my own bike box and schlep it with me to the airport…but I just don’t trust airlines. When I traveled to Santa Rosa last year they lost my luggage that had all of my race gear. Sure, it showed up the same night, but still…not worth the risk.

Anyways, after landing and standing in line for an eternity at the rental car line, I made my way from Houston to The Woodlands. I had never heard of the place before signing up for this race, but I’m sure I glad I was introduced. The Woodlands is beautiful and a perfect venue for a race. I made it over to the expo, grabbed my race goodies and bike, then headed back to the hotel to relax for the night. Which, for anyone that has been tapering knows, is easier said than done. But I wanted to get some rest and do a quick bike and run in the morning just to make sure everything was in working order.

Friday morning I did just that then headed over to the transition to drop off my bike and bags and get a quick glimpse of the swim course. Seeing the narrow waterway made me a bit nervous for the mass open water swim the next day but I tried to put this out of my head as I headed back to the expo for a visit with my AltRed teammates and a quick photo op. My nerves were starting to set in a bit as I realized how close race time was getting. After getting back to the hotel I preoccupied myself with making sure I had all the essentials for the morning before another restless pre-race night of sleep.

The narrow waterway near the swim finish


I popped out of bed Saturday morning, threw on my race clothes and timing chip, grabbed my Tailwind water mixes, Medjool dates, and Maurten gels for my bike, and headed over to transition. As always, it was packed with racers and their families. I weaved through the pack to my bike and waited in line to have my tires pumped up. Then after filling up my water bottles and strapping my nutrition to my bike I headed out to the swim start. It was actually nice to have the quarter mile walk over to the start to take a breath and mentally prepare for the long day ahead. The pros went off first, about 20 minutes before the age groupers. I was pretty excited that Daniela Ryf, the reigning Kona champion, was going to be out on the course today-and likely beating me by several hours!

Awaiting the swim start

It was a rolling start and I was hoping to finish the swim under 1:20, which is right around my typical 2.4 mile swim time. After shimmying into my wetsuit I joined the sea of humanity between the 1:10-1:20 sign. As it is before any race of this distance, the anxiety in the air was palpable. The gun went off and our group slowly made our way down the chute. Finally I was sent off with a group of three others into the water. I’m not gonna lie, the water was pretty gross and I couldn’t see anything in front of me. Now I’ve raced in quite a few triathlons, but this swim was probably the most stressful. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried to move to the outside or away from a group I was constantly being pushed, pulled, kicked, and elbowed. But I knew if I started panicking the race would be over for me before it even started. I mentally blocked out my surroundings and imagined myself back in the pool doing an interval workout. The rest of the swim I just concentrated on maintaining my form and racing my own race. Before I knew it I was coming around the turn and heading towards transition. Finally I made it to the steps and was graciously dragged up by a couple of volunteers (seriously whoever those guys were they were awesome-as were all the volunteers that day). I looked down at my Garmin watch and realized that for some reason it must have stopped and restarted because it only recorded about three-quarters of the swim. I had no idea what my time was, but gauging by the real time of day I figured it must have been around 1:15.  With a little help from the wetsuit strippers I was soon making my way to my bike bag and into the changing tent. I slapped on my helmet, sunglasses, and bike shoes, grabbed my bike, and was off onto the bike course.

Looking at the map and elevation of the bike course, one would think this was an easy 112 miles. Really it probably had the least amount of elevation of any course I had done to date, right along with Ironman Florida. But just like Florida, wind was the story of the day. Once we hit the toll road around mile 20 or so, the headwind was there to greet us. Since my legs were still fresh at this point I made it through the next 20-25 miles before the turn around relatively fine. The tailwind on the way back was amazing and I figured if I could just make up my time with the wind at my back, the second loop into the headwind wouldn’t be so bad. Once we made the turn the U-turn around mile 60 I realized this was not going to be the case. The wind had picked up, and for the next 25 miles I felt like I was pedaling as hard as I could and not going anywhere. Add that to the fact that now the sun was blazing down with about 80 degree heat, and the doubts about making it through this race started to pour in. I made it to the last turn around and at least had the tailwind again. However my legs were so fatigued at this point it was hard to take advantage of the push. I was so happy to finally see the transition area coming back into view after that brutal ride that took about 5:45. Only 26.2 miles to go!!!

Running after a 112 mile bike ride is always an experience when you first start. The legs are still Jello, and you aren’t really quite certain how you’re supposed to run a marathon now. But, you do…because damn it you paid a lot of money to finish this race! I grabbed my gels and Base Salt, downed some Gatorade, and headed out for the final leg of the day. It was now at least 85 degrees with no cloud cover in sight. Luckily, the course was flat and the crowd support was amazing. The run was three loops around The Woodlands trails. It was gorgeous and if I didn’t feel like I was dying I definitely would have enjoyed it more. But really, the support from the volunteers, families, and friends was second to none. My highlight of the race came as I was finishing my first lap. There was an announcer by the aid tables announcing names of runners going by. I heard “Holly Smith from Columbia, SC” as I slowed down to grab some water. Then, about five seconds later heard “We have a new race leader…Daniela Ryf looking strong!” I turned around and there was the Kona champ, running like a six minute mile as she was finishing the race, looking like she was out for a jog. It was AWESOME! I scrambled to the side to stay out of her way as she went on to win the race. I, on the other hand, still had about 18 miles to go!

As always, the signs along the route were great. Some of my favorites included:

“Don’t you wish you still had your bike?” (I actually did not-I never wanted to see that bike again after what it just put me through)

“Run like Hillary just found out you’re going to testify” (who doesn’t like some political humor)

One with a picture of Lori Loughlin that said “I can get you into Kona” (If she could I would take it!)

And the one that actually did keep me going-”When you feel like stopping, think about why you started.” I actually kept repeating this one to myself because there were too many times I just wanted to throw in the towel. But pain is only temporary-online race results are forever!

Ironman #6…Done and Done!

After a little over four hours I finally crossed the finish line, sunburnt, sweaty, dehydrated, and happy as hell! I was an Ironman for the sixth time! I ended up finishing sixth in my age group, not quite good enough for Kona, but still my best age group finish yet. After a hectic swim course and a grueling day in the sun I couldn’t have been prouder of my finish. Now time to get ready for the next one!

It’s time for the 2019 race season! Anyone who knows me knows how much I love endurance running and triathlons. It’s hard to believe that my first marathon was 14 years ago!  Over that time I have done 11 marathons, numerous half marathons , 5ks and 10ks, 11 half ironman triathlons, 5 full ironman triathlons, and just last year my first 50K at the Barkley Fall Classic. Suffice it to say, all those races and training takes its toll on the body. For that reason I am always looking for ways to not only improve my performance, but also my recovery. However, I also want to make sure any type of supplement I use is both safe and effective. While doing research on recovery and performance I stumbled across AltRed.

AltRed is a fairly new supplement that is comprised of the phytonutrient betalain. Betalain is a component of beetroot that, in its separated and concentrated form patented to AltRed, has been found in clinical studies to improve oxygen delivery, decrease lactic acid production, and decrease markers of muscle damage. This means higher power on the bike, faster times on the run, stronger swims, and enhanced recovery. Based on my personal experience, I can attest to the fact that it works. I have already seen my FTP on the bike go up by 10 watts, my 100 meter swim time decrease by 15 seconds, and increased VO2 max on my runs. And because of this I have become a brand ambassador for AltRed for the 2019 race season. I will be sporting the AltRed logo and touting its benefits at races because it is truly a brand that I believe in and support.

Check out the studies here and here. I’m not one that likes to shell out money for a placebo, which many miracle supplements out there turn out to be. That is why I was impressed by the research that was undertaken to show the benefits of AltRed. Plus, it is plant based and all natural. It is NSF Certified for Sport™. This ensures that AltRed meets NSF’s stringent independent certification process guidelines for dietary supplements and supplements intended for use by athletes. If you’re interested in learning more check out the website or send me a message. If you’re interested in trying it yourself you can get 15% off using my referral code hsmith-altred which can be used as often as you want. This is not just a supplement for triathletes. Any type of endurance athlete can benefit from AltRed to aid in their training and recovery. Trust me, I’m a doctor 😀

my first bike-run ironman

Oh what a day it was at Ironman Chattanooga. I was already a bit nervous about how I was going to make it through this only being two weeks out from the grueling Barkley Fall Classic. Here’s a quick race recap-from the revamped start due to the swim cancellation, to some first mile bike issues, all the way to my brain’s non-stop commentary throughout the run trying to will myself to the finish line. Let me tell you, just because there was no swim does not mean this was a walk in the park.


The day started with my alarm going off at 7 am. This was the latest I had ever been able to sleep in for a race. Normally, I would be getting in the water right now, but unfortunately the swim was cancelled due to flooding, high water levels, and elevated E.coli readings (gross).  Without this leg, the race wouldn’t start until 8 AM with the pros, then the age group athletes beginning at 8:25. So I got my gear together, parked my car near the finish line, and walked over to the bike start area. As there were close to 2000 athletes, you can imagine they just can’t start everyone off on their bikes at once, so the plan was to send off athletes two at a time every five seconds. We would start based on our bib number. I was 755 so wouldn’t start until closer to 9 AM. 

I stopped by the body marking area and had a stranger draw my number and age on me with a black marker then found my bike and filled up my water bottles. I had my trusty new favorite endurance drink Tailwind in two bottles and would get Gatorade from aid stations when I ran out. I also had my zip lock bag of Medjool dates which I now love so much more than those goopy gels for quick sugar and potassium. I topped off the air in my tires, checked my chain and wheels, then stood with the others awaiting our time to head off. 

We slowly made our way by twos down the chute to the start. I was actually pretty nervous. For some reason, no matter how many races I do I still have issues with clipping in and mounting my bike around people. Its so stupid but I feel like I need my own space and I was afraid I would tumble into the person next to me. Before I knew it though I was up. I heard a beep and was off! I had my right foot clipped in and pushed off effortlessly, swinging my left foot around and into the other pedal. Ha! Take that bike start! I owned you. Or so I thought. 


early bike issues

I made my way up a short incline and then into a gradual downhill. We crossed some railroad tracks that bumped around my bike and water bottles, but luckily nothing flew off the frame. After a few minutes, though, I noticed something felt off. I was pedaling hard and my heart rate was shooting up, but I felt like I wasn’t moving. People were flying past me. Every few second I would here “On your left,” “On your left,” as the riders were letting me know they were going to pass. “What the hell is wrong with me?” I thought. I felt like my legs were pedaling through quicksand. I couldn’t get going at all, and all these negative thoughts started racing through my mind. “I ruined my legs with that 50K two weeks ago” and “I just can’t bike anymore” were a few. Less than ten miles in I was thinking I was going to have to drop out. My Garmin showed my heart rate was in the 170’s, and I was going nowhere. I was already debating what new sport I was going to have to take up, because clearly I was not cut out for triathlons anymore. But then I came to a hill and I knew it wasn’t me. I was in literally the smallest possible gear on my bike and could not get to the top of this tiny incline. Then it hit me.  This had happened to me a year ago, on this same course in Chattanooga when I raced the 70.3 World Championships. I had hit the railroad tracks and my tire had jammed up against my frame. I pulled over and sure enough, my tire was hot from all the friction of rubbing against the frame. I released the back skewer, pulled the wheel back, and secured it into place. I walked my bike up to the top of the hill and hopped back on. The feeling when I started pedaling again was glorious! My legs were churning freely and I felt like I was flying. I was a new person as I started flying by the racers that had passed me. What a relief. I was upset about the time and energy I had wasted for the first ten miles, but I was so happy that it was something that was easily fixed early in the race. I still had 132 miles to make this my race. 

the bike course

The rest of the bike course at Chattanooga overall was pretty nice. Once I fixed my bike issues I was able to start enjoying the ride…as much as anyone can enjoy a 116 mile trek. We went south of town into northern Georgia and had some pretty awesome views around Lookout Mountain. Before I knew it we were turning around to head back for our second loop! I had been rehashing the beginning of the ride in my mind and wasn’t even paying attention to the distance. This was actually pretty awesome. So much of these long endurance races is psychological, and knowing I was close to mile 60 and over halfway done helped push me a little harder. No matter what, its always going to be physically challenging, but being able to overcome the mental aspect is what really keeps me moving in these races. I grabbed a few dates, sipped some Tailwind, and continued on the second loop. By this time I was running low on fluids so I threw one of my water bottles out at an aid station and grabbed a fresh Gatorade. A few miles out from that I hit a major bump and my dates went flying out behind me. I was pretty bummed but wasn’t about to stop and run back for them so I just hoped I could maintain enough calories with the Tailwind and Gatorade.

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. We hit mile 112, the normal end to an Ironman bike, and I was ready to be done. Four bonus miles never seemed so long. Finally we were back to the transition area. I dismounted, handed my bike off, grabbed my run gear bag, and headed to the changing tent. The volunteers at these events are so great. They grabbed me some water and helped me with my run belt and shoes. I took a couple of naproxen for some foot pain I had been dealing with since my 50K at the Barkley Fall Classic two weeks before,  laced up my shoes, and headed out. 



thoughts during a marathon after a 116 mile bike

Starting to run after the bike leg of an Ironman is an odd thing. Your legs are kinda like jelly, but your body is used to moving fast on the bike. Due to this, my first few miles I always go out faster than I should. Also, the bike ride is much more technical  and it requires more focus as you have to watch for other riders, holes, turns, hills, and bumps. You have to be careful of drafting and for people coming up behind you so the time seems to pass more quickly. For me, the run is different. My mind is all over the place during the 26.2 miles to pay dirt. I think the best way to describe my race experience here is to break it down by mile. 


Mile 1: Ahh…my legs are Jell-O. Here we go! Seriously…we’re starting uphill? Okay, slowly but surely. What, my first mile was 8:06…that’s too fast! I need to stay around a 9 minute mile to keep a steady pace the whole way.

Mile 2: Alright, nice downhill. Heart rate coming down a bit. Ok cool, aid station up ahead. Water, gatorade, Base salt, check. Ahh…7:46 mile pace..nooooo I’m gonna die. SLOW DOWN!

Mile 3: There’s a guy at an aid station announcing “Mile 3 or Mile 16 aid station.” Man, wish I was at mile 16. Ugh…this sun is unbearable.

Mile 4: Ok, making a turn towards the park. Finally some shade! Pace is down to 8:30-9:15 minute miles counting my walk through the aid stations. I got this.

Mile 5-6: Nice shaded areas on Tennessee Riverwalk. Just an easy training run, right?

Mile 7is or so: Starting to get a little delirious at this point. We’re back on the main highway and I see someone wrote “shut up legs!” in chalk about halfway up a hill. For some reason all I can think of is “Shut up Drew Brees!” from that memorable Marshawn Lynch YouTube video. (Parental discretion advised.) “Ok, I gotta put the team on my back!” I think as I head up the hill.

Mile 8: Starting to get to the hills in the neighborhoods. Lots of people walking but I know if I stop I won’t be able to get started again. I take a couple licks of Base Salt and drink some water at an aid station and start my way up. 

Picture from The Sports Daily: 


Mile 9-10: Someone is playing “Chariots of Fire” from a truck. Instead of thinking of some monumental run finish I think of this 20 second video of Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia throwing a challenge flag against the Patriots. Man, wonder how the Lions are doing against the Cowboys today? (Spoiler alert: They lost.)

Mile 11: A little downhill, more uphills, some scenic views. I don’t know, I’m tired..

Mile 12: More uphill as we make our way back to the neighborhood hills we had just descended. Now, I understand people want to walk up the hills, I don’t have a problem with that. But when they walk 2 wide and don’t let anyone pass its pretty annoying. I weave through the groups of people walking uphill, head back downhill and hear someone playing “The Final Countdown”. All I can think of is the Detroit Pistons and John Mason introducing Chauncey B-B-Billups.

Mile 13.1: Okay, now we’re at the boardwalk. Almost halfway. I come to the division for a right turn for lap 2 or a left turn towards the finish. Begrudgingly I make my right turn. 13.1 miles to go.

Mile 14: Alright…starting the whole course over again. Just keep this pace for a couple more hours…no big deal. 

Mile 15-16: I don’t know what happened these last two miles…did I black out? Are we done yet?  Gross..10 more miles still.

Mile 17-18: Back to the Riverwalk and some much needed shade. At least I’m not cramping. And my whole body is on fire so I don’t even notice if my foot hurts. Yay!

Mile 19-20: Out on the highway again and up the hill with the “shut up legs” drawn on the cement. Hills are stupid.

Mile 21-23: Second time around up the hills on Barton Avenue and Hixson Pike. Thanks race coordinators for putting a bunch of hills at the end of the course! 

Mile 24: Okay, 2 miles to go. Are my legs still moving? I can’t tell, everything hurts but I seem to be moving forward. Oh crap, the hill on Barton is back. I think of Rat Jaw at the Barkley Fall Classic and I realize this is nothing. It took me an hour and a half to go up that monster. This will only take me a few minutes. 

Mile 25-26: I’m gonna make it!!! Over the bridge/boardwalk  and back towards the finish line. Legs don’t fail me now!

Mile 26.2: This is the longest 0.2 miles in the history of running. They must have measured this wrong. Ugh…it’s downhill and my legs are on fire. I hear cheers and see the carpet and Ironman logos. “Holly Smith, you are an Ironman!” Wow, that was awful….which one should I sign up for next year?


I ended up finishing 7th in my age group, 30th female, and 193rd overall in my fifth Ironman, minus the swim.  Still 142.2 miles is no joke.  And seriously, which one should I sign up for next year?




my first ironman duathlon

“Dear Ironman Chattanooga Athletes-

 Due to significant flooding and record-breaking rains that Chattanooga and the surrounding areas in Tennessee have recently experienced, IRONMAN and local city officials have determined that in the interest of athlete safety, it is necessary to cancel the swim portion of the 2018 Little Debbie IRONMAN Chattanooga triathlon presented by McKee A Family Bakery.”


This was the opening paragraph of the “Important Race Announcement” email that broke my heart.  My mind immediately went into angry, “poor me” mode. The race was in two days and I didn’t even realize this was going to be an issue. I had been spending more time at the pool and had really been looking forward to this fast down current swim, as this leg is my weakest of the three disciplines. And now, it was just over. I wasn’t going to be able to officially have a fifth full Ironman under my belt. Even though the race is still going to be over 140.6 miles due to the bike being 116 miles compared to the normal 112 mile bike distance, it still wasn’t going to be a triathlon. Just a stupid, 142.2 mile duathlon. My immediate reaction was to just not do it anymore, and the excuses started flooding my brain. I mean, I was still not fully recovered from the Barkley Fall Classic just two weeks ago and I was battling with foot pain that was affecting my running. I would have to make a five hour drive to Chattanooga, and miss the Lions play on Sunday (ok maybe that’s a bonus…). Plus, I have already done four other Ironman races, why should I waste my time on something that would have an asterisk by its name? But then I thought of all the training I had done up to this point, and how I wouldn’t be able to stand thinking about everyone out on the course Sunday while I was sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. And even though I am not an overly religious person, I also thought about a prayer. I remember when I was maybe 12 or 13 my dad gave me and my siblings a medallion with the beginning of the Serenity Prayer engraved on the back. He told us it was his dad’s, our Grandpa Smith’s, favorite prayer. It’s a simple prayer, but extremely meaningful. The first three lines read: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” I have included the full prayer at the end of this post, but those beginning words have always stuck with me, and it seemed appropriate that they popped back into my mind at this time. There are so many things that we cannot control in life, and a lot of times we let those moments overwhelm us to the point that we don’t see all of the things that we can control. We let one set-back or disappointment define us, but if we just change our perspective a bit we should see that while many things are beyond our control, these circumstances can open up new opportunities. 


“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”


There are many things I cannot control about this, or any, race. Weather, flooding, other racers, the outline of the course-these are all aspects that I cannot change. But there is so much that I can influence, and really it starts with my attitude about tomorrow. Sure, to put it simply, it sucks that the swim is cancelled. But hey, I have never done an Ironman Duathlon before, so that’s pretty cool. I won’t have to worry about swallowing E.coli (no one likes drinking poop water), or getting kicked in the face during the swim. I get to sleep in a couple extra hours and my body will be fresh at the start of the bike leg and, even though its four miles longer, I could potentially get a great split! And it could really help my hydration and nutrition during the run without having that extra hour plus from the swim early in the day. I realize that it’s okay to be disappointed, but that shouldn’t prevent me from going out and enjoying this race and all it has to offer. Anyone that crosses that finish line tomorrow after 142.2 miles should be pretty darn proud of themselves. That is a distance few can cover, and while it won’t technically be a “triathlon”, I think everyone should still consider themselves an Ironman. Plus, it means that I just have an excuse to sign up for another one soon. And while my legs may still be a bit tired and heavy from the Barkley Fall Classic, I will do everything I can to prepare myself for Sunday. As I sit here in my Tennessee hotel room I am wearing my new favorite recovery tool, my Air Relax compression boots, and finalizing my nutrition and hydration plan for tonight and tomorrow to at least maximize what I can bring to the course tomorrow. I’m controlling what I can control.





FYI: These compression boots are amazing!

This goes far beyond just this race. No matter what your goals are, it’s important not to worry or dwell on the circumstances that you cannot control. You will never be able to control the weather, getting older, or what other people think, do or say. I may not have the endurance that I had ten years ago, and my body doesn’t recover the way it used to, but instead of wishing I was younger I am just going to work harder to push myself to MY limits, and no one else’s. There are always going to be people that are in better shape and much faster than me. Instead of thinking that I can never compete with or be them, I will continue strive to be the best athlete that I can be. I cannot control how other people view me or if they agree or disagree with my beliefs or opinions and that’s okay too.  I will focus on what I can control, because why waste your energy on what you can’t?




the serenity prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. 
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time; 
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; 
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; 
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next. Amen.