Jenna Epifanio: World 70.3 Champs Qualification!

This is a guest blog by coached triathlete Jenna Epifanio, who raced Luxembourg 70.3 and qualified for the 70.3 World Championships in Australia. A great story of patience and discipline on race day really paying off. Next up for Jenna is Norseman in a couple of weeks - can't wait to read the report from that one!

IM 70.3 Luxembourg was my half distance event before my long distance triathlon in August.  It was a great reason to travel to somewhere cooler (southern Italy is hellishly hot right now), and meet up with some friends that have moved away.  One of the girls we were travelling with had done the race before, and loved it so much she wanted to come back.  After doing the event, I would return to race again if the opportunity presented itself.  I had a wonderful time!
Like a lot of Ironman events so far this year, the swim was cancelled.  Unlike a lot of Ironman events this year, the race organizers gave us almost a week heads up that it would be cancelled and turned into a duathlon.  I was extremely thankful for the organization, and early notice.  While some swim start cancellations are fairly unpredictable (my husband experienced a last minute cancellation in Pescara), it was nice to come into the race prepared for the change.  While the cancellation was disappointing, as I gazed out at the very flooded Mosel River we were supposed to swim in, watching ducks struggling to swim upstream, I considered myself lucky.  Also, as was pointed out to me, since I’ve never done a duathlon before, this would be a PB!!
The first run was supposed to be a 5 k, and Rob had warned me not to go out too fast, so I lined up in the 25-30 minute ‘rolling’ run start group.   I took the opportunity as a warm-up and stayed with one of the girls I was travelling with.  I took it VERY easy, had a chat with a friend and a good warm up.  It was tough not to go faster, watching everyone take off!!  It's really very tempting, but since I didn’t really know how it would all go, I forced myself to stay slow.  The run ended up clocking 5.8k on my watch, so my 30 minute projected time ended up being a bit longer, but I felt fresh and energized as I changed to get my bike.  Of course, it’s a quicker transition than stripping off a wetsuit, so I was on my way in a few minutes. 
Onto the bike, where it started to rain, but just a little.  The bike course was flat, smooth, and fast for the first 25 k or so, and then we got to climb a little bit.  Once you make it over that first 1,000 feet of elevation gain, the rest of the ‘climbing’ is really a bunch of rollers, and is quite enjoyable.  The whole ride, even if it was a bit rainy and muddy some of the time (my bike was a horribly dirty at the end...), was beautiful, cool and pleasant. 
The second run was a 5 k loop along the river, 4 laps, with one aid station in the middle.  The aid station was perfectly placed!  During the run, I took off too fast but just decided to see how long I could hold the pace.  Turns out I held it for about 13 miles.  Fantastic. I had planned to walk through the aid station, which I did, and it turned out to be a great plan for me.  The loop was short enough that there was support the entire time, and it kept me motivated and moving fast.  I managed to run the 13.1 miles faster than I’ve ever done a ½ marathon before, in 1:47.
I finished 15th in my age group, which was good enough for a roll-down slow to the 70.3 world championship in Australia!  I really didn’t expect to get a slot, but showed up to the slot allocation anyway, and was completely flabbergasted when I was walking away with a sign up sheet for the race.  I really hadn’t planned on doing any extra races this season, but when the opportunity to travel to Australia presents itself, and you can make it work, you have to take it!!
I never expected to do as well as I did, and can only attribute it to working with Rob this last year.  Even though this wasn’t my big race for the season, it was a huge confidence booster, and it’s nice to see big fitness gains in a very concrete way!  Overall, I had a wonderful experience at IM 70.3 Luxembourg, and would recommend it to anyone.  The race was organized exceptionally well, the support was tremendous, and the course was beautiful.