SOMA Triathlon Race Report – My 1st Half Iron Distance Race

HOLY *%#@!!!

I am standing there looking at the computer screen under the results tent at my very first half iron distance triathlon, SOMA Triathlon.  My time was 4:46:31, which is a stellar time for a first timer, and I am totally stoked.  I then see I placed first in my Age Group, which honestly I was hoping for and expecting. I then see I placed 2nd OVERALL Female.  Holy *%#@! I look at it again in disbelief.  I look around for some help and ask the guy monitoring the tent to help me make sure I am reading the screen correctly, as I am still a newbie to this sport.  He comes around, looks at the screen and confirms what I am seeing. He congratulates me and walks off. My emotions were bubbling over and I could not stop grinning from ear to ear.  I wanted to shout from the rooftops, “I just placed 2ndOVERALL!!!”  The feeling was unbelievable.

Feeling REALLY good!


Super Stoked with a 2nd Place Finish!











On October 21, 2012 when I toed the line at SOMA Triathlon, I had three objectives for the day.  One, stay within myself and pace appropriately.  Patience.  Two, break 5 hours.  Why 5 hours?  Because based on my training I knew that was achievable and a challenge at the same time.  Three, smile and have a good time.

Race week leading into SOMA was a challenge for me. My workouts were truncated and I could feel myself yearning to race.  Sunday could not come fast enough.  The anticipation to race was growing inside me, I felt like a caged lion.  Yet, I wondered if I had what it takes to do as well as I wanted, and whether I would be satisfied with the outcome.  I have been so diligent with my training and nutrition and was ready to see how I stacked up at my biggest race yet. The morning of SOMA I was relaxed and laser focused.  Having an uncanny ability to compartmentalize my emotions and thoughts aided me in staying calm and focused. I dissected the race out into the three disciplines and then dissected it further and focused on what I needed to for each of those sections.  A half iron distance race is very daunting to some because they look at the 70.3 miles as a whole.  I even witnessed a good friend having a slight panic attack at the start and it really put into perspective what I was about to accomplish.  A 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike, and a 13.1 mile run. That is no joke.

Focusing before the swim start at SOMA Triathlon


I looked at my swim as a 30 minute training swim to practice starting in a group and sighting in open water. Thanks to Triple Sports I swam in a Orca 3.8 full sleeve wetsuit and I loved it.  I focused on keeping it a low effort level so that I would feel strong coming out to get on my bike.  I definitely stayed within myself and never felt like I was working hard. My swim time ended up being 34:23; a little slower than I wanted but definitely a strong swim for my first time.



Transition 1 was a breeze. There were wetsuit strippers upon exiting the water.  As I ran up, I pointed to two of them and they quickly assisted me. I sprinted to my bike, put on my helmet and was out very quickly.

Running to get out on my bike ASAP!

As I started biking my heart rate was extremely elevated from sprinting as well as going from a horizontal position in the water to a vertical position on the bike.  The first 10 minutes of the bike I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I felt great and relaxed but my heart rate was saying otherwise.  I focused what my coach, Toby Baum with Camelback Coaching, told me, “be patient, and watch your pace”.  Finally, my heart calmed down and my body settled into a nice rhythm.

My goal for the first of three loops on the bike was to keep a low effort level and pace appropriately.  At the end of the first loop I patted myself on the back as it felt easy.  I was mainly passing people but there were a few cyclists that passed me and it was SO HARD to not want to go with them. But I knew if I stayed patient and paced appropriately I would see them again before the race was over. For the remaining two loops I slightly increased my effort but still focused on staying patient and doling out my effort wisely.  My goal was to get off my bike ready to run.  And I was!  I could not wait to see what I could do on my run.  My bike split was 2:37:26, a very competitive time. I had a strong feeling I was on my mark to have a sub 5 hour race.

Transition 2 was fast and well executed. I sprinted in with my bike, racked it, exchanged my helmet for my hat, grabbed my Asics DS trainers (thanks to Sole Sports Running), grabbed a PowerBar gel and I was out very quickly.

Ahhh…running; what I love to do.  I took off like a bolt of lightning. It felt good to be off my bike, and I had been dreaming about this run. About 400 yards out of T2 I look at my watch and realize I am running a 6:30 pace. I quickly evaluate if this is a good pace. Yes, I feel awesome but I have 13.1 miles to go and my goal is to negative split the second loop of the run.  One of my competitors is running slightly faster right in front of me.  I struggle with do I stay on her heels or do I stick to my race plan? In a matter of seconds I have a full blown conversation with myself in my head. It went something like this:

Me: You can hang with her, you feel great. Go!

My head: That is not a good idea. That is not executing your race plan.

Me: But I feel great and I am sure I can hold this pace for 13 miles.

My head: This is your first time racing this distance. Your objective is to finish feeling good, to build racing confidence and experience.

Me: I want to RUN!

My head: You can, just pace appropriately. Goal is to finish strong.

TR-IAG Photography: Roll_R_02 &emdash; DSC_4317


When you are faced with decisions during a race it is a fine balance of listening to your head versus your heart.  Your heart will help you dig deep when it is necessary, but your head will get you there safely and strong.  Remember my first goal:  Stay within myself and pace appropriately. This was my first half iron distance race and I certainly did not want to blow up before I finished.  My goal was not only negative split the second loop but to run conservatively enough to get to mile 10 and then lay it all on the line to run the last 3 miles hard.   Better to feel great finishing a race rather than to feel like you want to die.  The first loop felt easy and I knew I was executing my plan perfectly.  Being patient is not a virtue of mine and I was very pleased with myself. My whole run I was constantly evaluating my effort, heart rate, and pace, and making sure I kept at least 2 of the 3 in alignment.  I could not believe how great I felt and time was flying by. At the start of the second loop my coach gave me an update on where I stood as far as placement.  It is a bit of a guessing game because the race has a wave start as well as relay teams.  Nonetheless, I began to run down girls and close the gap between me and first place.  Throughout the second loop my coach gave me four updates and would instigate me to go harder.  He informed me I was 3 minutes back from the lead girl and asked me, “Can you catch her?”  Of course, I responded, “YES.”  When I got to mile 10 I knew I had enough gas in the tank to push it to the end and I did.  When I crossed the finish line I felt so incredibly awesome. Even though I did not catch her I knew I achieved ALL three of my objectives for the day.  And she better count her lucky stars, because that is the last time she will come in before me. My run split was 1:32, not too shabby for a half marathon.

Having a race plan to execute is how I stayed so focused.  Without a plan I would not have been able to pace appropriately and stay within myself and race MY race. I do struggle with wondering if I gave it my all. Could I have gone faster? Sure, but then would I have finished feeling as good as I did?  Don’t know.  All I know is I followed a plan and succeeded, all the while having a great time.

I visited with other racers on the course, thanked volunteers and smiled for the camera.  Next time I will be a little more experienced and ready to play a little harder.

Racing SOMA was such a great experience and I learned so much that I will apply to racing Ironman Arizona next month. Whether you are going out to race your first triathlon or your twenty-first, having a plan is critical to your success as well as your enjoyment of the day.  At the same time it is critical to be flexible within that plan if there are things that happen out of your control.  Having a Coach has been so instrumental in my growth as a new triathlete.  Had it not been for Toby, Bill, and Anne at Camelback Coaching, I am sure I would not have been as prepared as I was to race SOMA.

I want to thank my family for being so incredibly supportive; I could not train and race like I do if I did not have them behind me.  I love you guys!  I also want to thank my sponsors, Camelback Coaching, Rolf’s, Triple Sports, Sole Sports Running, My Fit Foods, and Mercado Chiropractic; your support makes it possible for me to enjoy this sport and show other people it can be done. It is a matter of setting goals, putting a plan of action together, and taking action.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for my Ironman Arizona race report in about a month.

Until then train hard and have fun.

About sherianne

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is SheriAnne Nelson and I am happily married to my husband Mike. I’m a mother of three beautiful children ages 9, almost 6, and 3, am a passionate fitness professional, and a Star Diamond Level fitness coach within the Team Beachbody program in Scottsdale, Arizona.