by Jess Zaiss
It takes teamwork to make the dream work
I always say no one crosses the finish line alone, but because this recap is all about me telling my story, it is going to be inherently a bit selfish. So before I dig into all the juicy details of the weekend, I really want to take a second and acknowledge the entire crew. There were four athletes, Brad Glotzbach (back row, far left), Jason Szcypien (front row, second from right), myself, and Julian Summers (front row, third from right) who, as my friend and Smashfest Queen teammate Bridget pointed out, should probably spell his name as Julian Summerz so that he could also have a z in his last name. Most importantly though we had an amazing crew behind us. If it weren’t for these four people this weekend could not have gone off and I don’t mean that in the proverbial, “Couldn’t have done it without you.” I mean it in the, I physically and emotionally relied on you and you are the only reason we can do this, kind of way. Lauren Dahlin (bottom left), and Eric Burns (back middle), were our Chatt based crew. Brett Buehner (back right), and Juan Davila (bottom right), were part of our roving crew. Nearly all the pictures I will be sharing came from Juan. Thank you so much, Juan, for documenting this weekend. These four fine folks sacrificed a lot, mostly sleep, to help us get to where we needed to go, anticipated our needs, had things ready for us to go at the drop of a hat, AND cheered us on all over the courses all weekend. Lauren, Eric, and Brett were also part of the inaugural Chattanooga 144.6 relay as team, Diabetic Sherpas.
You see, all three of them are Type 1 diabetics and still absolutely dominate the triathlon scene. These folks are incredibly fast and fit all while managing this demanding disease. I was in awe all weekend at how much extra work they have to put in to be triathletes and they all just take it in stride. If I said thank you a million times to our crew, it still wouldn’t be enough.
The three things
Wednesday morning, after a mere four hours of sleep, Julian and I fly out of LAX to Nashville. Back in April, I woke up to find out the flight to IMTX had been cancelled, so I was happy that
this one was ready to go as scheduled. Upon landing, I find that I received a text inflight that the bike transport company got my bikes mixed up and sent the bike I was planning to use for Chatt to MD and vice versa. I texted my coach, Mary Knott:
Me: Landed in Nashville to a message that TBT got my bikes mixed up. Ultimately, it doesn’t really affect anything, but let this be the only mishap.
MK: That’s one of three! Out of the way just like that. :)
Three things?! What is she talking about?? Why do I have to go through three things? I just let it slide, thinking that this was probably just a superstition/ritual that she has as I frantically flashed back to all my other races, counting confidently that never have I had three mishaps before a race.
Thursday morning, all eight of us meet up for breakfast in Chattanooga and it’s the first time many of us have met in person. Many laughs and biscuits were had and then we went to check in for the race as soon as the Expo opened. We got our wristbands, backpacks, and then took over the parking lot to sort all our stuff before handing it off to our Chatt based crew. As I’m getting my bike gear ready, I realize that I don’t have a bike mount for my extra bike computer.
Me: Thing two of three: bike computer didn’t make it to Chatt. Crew has an extra though, so crisis averted again, haha. We’re making our way through the three!
MK: Yesss!!! Good!!
Surely there won’t actually be a third thing, but this is a fun way to look at setbacks. After dropping off our gear, we hop in our vans, (two vans for the six of us traveling), and take off towards Strasburg, VA. Our stop for the night which is about an 8 hour drive.
Friday morning we wake up early to head to a diner to grab a quick breakfast and head to MD so we can check in and get ready to race. One problem, my eye seems to be having some kind of infection. Crap.
Me: Thing three: Eye infection. Going to track down an Urgent Care in Cambridge.
MK: Good! Now we can race!!
Why couldn’t Mary have said two things?! Or one thing! Why couldn’t the fact that my watch strap broke this week and that I’m going to be racing with it twisty-tied, be a thing??
Luckily, I have a lot of great friends in the medical field. Brett is a nurse in the Army, (and just got a huge promotion!) and said, looks like a sty, warm compress would be good. My friend Jess is an ER doctor and she said, looks like a sty, use a warm compress. I have another friend in the Philippines who has a friend who is an ophthalmologist who, after sending a bunch of pictures on facebook messenger, diagnosed me as having a sty and that I need a warm compress. Lastly, my friend Bridget also confirmed that she was going to say I have a sty. I hear a warm compress helps these things. However, where does one get a warm compress when you’re sitting in a van driving halfway across the country? We get to MD, get all of our stuff checked in for the race, and I head off to find an Urgent Care, because even though I know I should be “warm compressing,” I also just want to make sure there isn’t an infection that I need to deal with. While waiting for some antibiotic ointment for the eye, (in case you’re wondering, the Urgent Care doctor walked in and immediately said, “Nice sty!” Safe to assume it was, in fact, a sty. You’ll never guess what she recommended I do...) Next, I ran into some other LA based friends/training partners who were also doing MD. They went on to absolutely crush it. At about 4pm we finally arrive at our AirBnB in MD and I can FINALLY put a warm compress on this puppy. I had some compressing to make up for, so I had that thing on my eye all night and was not shy about putting in the antibiotic ointment. I needed this eye better so that I could race with my contacts in, you know, it’s probably safer to be able to see. (Note: I did not bring my glasses, lesson learned). I finally fall asleep around 9pm, with a warm compress on my eye. I wake up race morning, and my eye is even more swollen than the day before.
This was all a great exercise in remaining calm and adapting to what is given to you. I woke up and did another warm compress. All of these wonderful medical folks also advised me that while it’s not ideal, I could wear my contacts, it just probably would be a little more uncomfortable. Had it just been one race I would have just gone for it, and if I wake up the next day, and it’s worse, so be it. As this was not the case, I had some contingency plans. I was going to race in my contacts, but if at any point during the race it was going downhill, I was going to take out that single contact, and just race blind in that eye. My eyesight isn’t terrible enough that I couldn’t have done it. So I stuff all my contact stuff into my bike bag race morning, get nutrition prepped, and start mentally preparing for the jellyfish I’m about to swim through. Yes, the IMMD swim was set to be loaded with our stingy friends. I had bought some Sea Safe on Amazon a couple weeks before the race and started slathering it on as I watched the gorgeous sunrise over the swim start.
My goal for this race was to go about 12:30hours, but ultimately what was most important was that I was done by 8:30pm, so we could be on the road to make it to the Chattanooga swim start in time. I believe the water temp was low 70’s, so thankfully I was able to wear my full wetsuit for additional jellyfish protection. The high was somewhere near the mid-80’s, and the humidity had to have been just as high, (though probably a bit lower). My heart was never super into IMMD. In the months, weeks, days, leading up to this double, I always just said, if I can get to the Chatt swim start, I’ll be fine. This race was mentally very much just going through the motions for me and trying to find a balance between pushing effort to make the cut off I needed, while also holding back, because it’s a long weekend, and Chatt is going to be HOT.
The swim goes off, and I get in the water fairly early. I was one of those folks who lined up way too far ahead in the self-seeded swim start, knowing full well I cannot swim a 1:05 Ironman swim. I needed the time of day. However, I stayed as close to the kayakers as they would let me, so as to not be in the way of the swimmers who are actually that fast. The water felt great, and I believe that the Choptank River lived up to its name, there was definitely a bit of chop to swim through. The
IMMD swim course, if you’re not familiar, is a two-loop triangle swim course. I had read that the course was designed so that you’re swimming with the current on the longest part of the triangle. I could certainly tell there was a current. What I couldn’t tell, was which direction it was going. As I was coming through to start of my second loop, I saw out of the corner of my eye something white floating beneath me. “Wonder what that plastic bag is doing there?” About 10 seconds later, it dawned on me that it was actually a jelly. Not another minute later it felt like I had a hair wrapped around my wrist. Knowing what it likely was, I wiped my wrist along my hip as I came through with my stroke to try to get it off my wrist without having to stop swimming. The rest of the second lap I must have gotten hit another 10 times, luckily just all on my wrist. The pain was not unbearable, just annoying. If you’ve ever put Peroxide on an open wound, the sting was kind of similar to that. I cannot confirm if the Sea Safe helped or not, because I’ve never been stung by these jellies without it, but I do know that if I ever do this swim again, I will definitely be wearing it, because at least this was manageable. I get out of the water, surprised to see that I swam a 1:20. On the second loop I started pulling a little harder to, 1.) get out of the water, (it is my least favorite leg), and 2.) get out of the jellies before I get hit in the face. But, it is what it is. I took my time in transition, which was AWESOME. Usually I just run through because it is a race, after all. This time I casually walked, took in the crowd, stopped to get my wrists sprayed with vinegar, and into the change tent I went.
I asked the wonderful volunteer who rushed to help me how my eye looked. She looked a bit confused, and said, “Fine, but that it was maybe a little red from my goggles.” I explained that yesterday and this morning it was swollen and red, and she re-confirmed that, “It was totally fine.” Let it be known that the Choptank River has magical healing powers. So I left my contacts in, but shoved my solution and case into my jersey pocket just in case. After a leisurely T1, I made it out to my bike where I saw SFQ teammate and wonderful human, Shannon. I had seen her at check in the day before, and tried to take a quick picture with her, but unfortunately it turned out blurry.
The bike was much harder than anticipated. I’m still not sure if it was the seemingly strong winds which I swear were always a headwind despite it being a loop course, the high humidity, which turned to rain for a portion of the bike, or the fact that I wasn’t able to get proper sleep and rest the week leading into the race. About a quarter of the way through the bike I did some math and I was on schedule for a 7 hour bike, a full hour longer than I had anticipated, which meant I was going to have to book it more on the run than I was planning to. So I started pushing more on the bike to try to make up time. My mantra became, “work hard on the bike so you can take the run easy.” Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I was coming back into town to start the run. I always get emotional during Ironman races. I think it’s my body’s way of handling the stress that it’s going under. In hindsight, it’s always funny to look back and see where it happened. On this day, it was the end of the bike. I just wanted off the bike so badly. I needed to be on the run. I was mad/disappointed at how hard that bike felt to me, after swimming a hard swim. This course was taking way more out of me than I had planned for, and I was fearing that I wasn’t going to make my 8:30 cut off. I had 5 hours to do the marathon which is something that I had been routinely beating in my journey of 12 marathons in 12 months this year. But on this day, I was tired. I was stressy. I needed to cry. As I was walking into T2, the tears started welling up. If today was this hard, how was I ever going to make it tomorrow? On the walk to the tent, I saw my friend Christine. I was so happy to see a familiar face, I gave her a hug, and immediately broke down. I sobbed and said, “I don’t know if I can do this?” Which I’ll admit, felt weird when I was saying it. Of course I could finish this race. I knew that. But it was like my brain knew something was off, but didn’t know how to express it. While I was chatting with Christine, this woman who had walked past me, turned around and came back to tell me that I absolutely could do this, and encouraged me to come with her to the tent. Man I love this community. It turned out crying with Christine was exactly what I needed, because once I got that out of my system, I was ready to get this marathon started. I knew that my SFQ teammate Cris was volunteering in T2.
When I walked into the tent, Cris was helping another racer, but I sat down next to her and said, “I call dibs next!” Suddenly, Cris looked up, and we screamed and giggled like teenagers reuniting after a long summer. But the cool thing is, this was my first time meeting her in person. She helped me get ready for the run, confirmed my eye still looked “totally fine,” and we snapped a quick picture before I set off to start the final 26.2 miles of day one.
I told myself I could walk the aid stations. That was the only way I could get through the run, knowing that I only had to get to the next aid station. So aid station by aid station I took on the run, which was largely uneventful. I did unfortunately see quite a few folks that were struggling with the heat/humidity combo. I just kept crossing my fingers that these hot, (but dry...) Southern California training days I had were enough heat acclimation, still I forced myself to stay on top of my nutrition, even when I really didn’t want to. The miles are a blur to me on this 2.5 loop course, so I am not exactly sure at which mile it was that I saw my SFQ teammate Taryn, but it was exactly what I needed at that moment. I fed off her excited energy and told her how I was feeling, and that I was cutting it close-ish. I’m not sure what happened, but after I saw her, I just felt on top of the world. These SFQ ladies are awesome. I suddenly felt great and decided I needed to take advantage of that and took off. I don’t know how many miles this energy burst lasted, but banking those minutes was a huge help. On the other side of the loop I saw Stephanie and Jess, two more ladies that I had also never met, but they were in my corner SO HARD! Each loop they checked in on me, relayed messages from others following along from afar, and thought about delivering virtual butt slaps, but felt awkward because they didn’t know me, haha. (For the record, would have been totally cool with it, but everything hurt and I just wanted to be done. No worries, Jan, I still felt loved hahah). All of these incredible women boosted me to get me through this race. Aside from our crew of six, I did not know anyone at this race. My partner Rob, friends coming to support, and a solid chunk of my LA-based training crew were all waiting for me in Chatt. These wonderful women made me feel so loved and supported all day at IMMD, and it truly would have been so much harder without them.
I don’t know my official time. What I do know is that I crossed the finish line just before 8:00pm, which gave me 30 minutes to get to the van and on the road. I learned during the run that unfortunately Brad had to pull out of the race due to an injury that he thought he could get through, but his body said otherwise. Julian was running a bit behind schedule, and Jason was scheduled to come across the finish line within 10 minutes of me. So Jason and I would be in the first van, and Juan would take us to Chattanooga. We rinse off with water jugs at the car, change clothes, order pizza, and head out of town. The race was hard. Much harder than I thought it would be, and I was not feeling great about what lay ahead of me. Maryland took a lot out of me. I had to try to force down some pizza and fluids, and also try to get some sleep. ETA into Chatt was 7:30am, the exact time the swim starts. It’ll be close, but we should make it.
After eating about two pieces of pizza and forcing down a Muscle Milk. I took a Benadryl to give myself the best shot at sleeping in a van, after an Ironman, on my way to another Ironman. Those three or four hours that forced sleepiness on me would come to be the only good sleep I would get. I think I restlessly dozed for a couple additional hours. I woke up around 5:15 AM and Juan told me that we had made up some time despite having to slow way down for about an hour due to heavy fog. I also learned that unfortunately the other van would not make it in time, and it was just going to be Jason and I out on the course that day.
With two hours until we arrive, I knew I needed to try to eat more and drink more. All the time spent sleeping came at the cost of not being able to eat or drink. I forced down three more pieces of pizza and chugged a couple bottles of Nuun Endurance. The Chattanooga race weather report was dire at best. High of 98 degrees with a heat index of 106, and I was already starting the day behind.
Juan was a freaking champ. He had us to the Chatt swim start at 7:10am, after driving through the whole night, and only stopping when either Jason or I needed to. AND he got all our gear bags for us, parked the van in a convenient spot so we could leave quickly, and picked up any supplies we needed. ALL while also being on the course and taking these pictures. I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am for him.
This was it. This was the moment I had been daydreaming about for months. Getting to the Chattanooga swim start. I would daydream about seeing my friends, who were also racing, at the swim start and I’d get a little teary eyed. I was here. This was happening, and I was scared. First I saw my friend, Brook. I was so excited to see her. She recently moved away from LA and her and other half Mickey are missed terribly. I managed to hold it together when I saw her and thought I was in the clear until my friend Natalie came running over, and I broke down again. I was exhausted. I was intimidated by the looming 144.6 miles ahead of me.
I was dehydrated and underfed. I was scared of how hard I knew it was going to be. Natalie didn’t tell me at the time, because she knew it would freak me out, but apparently my body was just radiating heat. I didn’t know how I was going to get through this, but I had to try. Before falling asleep in the van, I reached out to my friend Taryn Spates, and told her I was scared for what the day brought. She told me to take it moment by moment, and not to look at the whole. She saved my race.
The Chattanooga swim was wetsuit optional with temperatures in the low-80s. I opted for my swim skin which was the perfect call. Usually this swim has a pretty great current, but due to low rainfall late in the summer we didn’t get as much of a boost as I had hoped. I knew I couldn’t swim 2.4 miles, but I could swim to the next buoy, so that’s what I did,18 times. I came out of the swim in an exhausted daze, but my body went through the motions. I had no intention of running any part of the long transition. I saw Juan and said hi to him and then I heard another voice call my name. I turned and looked, and it was my boyfriend, Rob. He wasn’t supposed to be there until after the bike! “Oh my god, come here!” My voice cracked as my eyes welled with tears. The crowd let out a heart warming “Awwww”’ and parted so he could come hug me. He asked how I was, and I tearfully said I was exhausted and scared. He told me to persevere, and that I can do it. I needed to keep moving, so I had to let go. A little further down, I saw my friend, Tyler, who high-fived me and told me I was a rockstar. I certainly didn’t feel like it, but he gave his support and shooed me off into transition. I changed into my cycling gear, put my stuff into my pockets and headed off to try to find my bike.
I got to my bike and as Lauren had warned me, the new bike mount situation wasn’t great. I learned from Julian at Ultraman Florida that even the slightest difference in how your hands sit in aero can become really painful late in the game on a long bike ride, so even though my internal clock was telling me that I’d been in transition way too long, I stopped before the mount line to take off my bike computer. There was a wonderful volunteer who took a couple minutes to help me try to figure out if I could zip tie the computer to my bike, but we ultimately gave up, and I stuffed it into my pocket and decided to just use my watch. I hopped on my bike and started onto the course and immediately dropped my spare tube. Knowing I had another in my pocket, I decided to just continue on. It was going to be a long hot day.
I knew I couldn’t bike 116 miles, so instead I biked 30 minutes at a time, 15 times, and stopped at every aid station. The course had a lot of rollers and some that were longer than others, which felt more like climbing. I also knew that I had absolutely zero matches to burn, and that I had to stay on top of my nutrition. I took all the hills as easy as possible, and when I got to the top, hammered the downhills to get momentum into the next hill. This plan worked out really well for me from an energy perspective. As the day got later, I also started pouring water all over myself before the downhills so that, even though the water was warm, the downhill wind still had an overall cooling effect. Each aid station I doused myself with water and took one for the road. I put ice in my nutrition when available, but understood that late in the game ice was not an option. I felt like the bike course aid stations were definitely sufficient, and while I could tell it was warm outside, my plan was working. Finally, about 4 hours into the ride, I started to feel like a human again. I think all my hydrating and nutrition was catching up to me, and I was surprised at how good I felt, just like Mary kept promising me would happen. This is where I had to REALLY remind myself that, despite how I felt, I actually still had nothing in the tank. Now is not the time to power up the hills. Now is not the time to get motivated by the pros passing me on their second loop. In fact, I reminded myself, being on the bike in the early afternoon is actually better than being on the run, because at least on the bike I can generate a wind for myself that the poor runners don’t have. I stuck to my plan of using the downhills and taking it easy on the up. One of the other bargains I made with myself is that I can walk the first mile of the run. I was very much looking forward to getting off my bike and taking an easy stroll.
I saw the crew all waiting for me near the dismount line, and told them to meet me on the run course. After another leisurely stroll through T2, I grabbed my bag of Cheetos that I picked up during bike special needs, (Thanks, Jeff for the inspiration!) and started power walking the course. Everyone except the two racing were there, and it was such a happy moment. Even one of my very best friends, Samantha, and her boyfriend made the drive up from Huntsville to come cheer me on. I confirmed with Julian that I needed to average about 15:00/mi to make the 16.5 hour cut off, got some tips about how to handle the course, and set off walking and eating my Cheetos, (which were a big hit with the spectators too, haha). If I thought bike nutrition and cooling strategies were important, I KNEW run strategies were even more vital. From the get go I walked every aid station. I definitely didn’t want to eat my gross, hot nutrition every 30 minutes, but I knew I had to. I drank 5 bottles of Nuun Endurance and would have had more if I had more packets. Each aid station I put ice in my hat, ice down my sports bra, and ice water over my shoulders. The thing with humidity, even though it was lower than at MD, it prevents the water/sweat from evaporating which cools you. So I knew I had to manually cool myself with the ice and water. After my allotted one mile walk, I had to go, but I didn’t want to. I couldn’t run another 25 miles, but I could run one, so that’s what I did, 25 times. I told myself for the first hour I had to run each mile easy and walk the aid stations. After an hour, if I felt good, I could pick it up for another 5 miles, still walking aid stations, and that’s exactly what happened, and then some. Each mile I ticked off, I said, “OK, run another mile.” I was able to keep ticking off the miles while staying in fairly decent spirits by just convincing myself that I was only running one mile. Before long I caught myself saying, “OK great, now just get to mile 12. WHOA 12?! You’re already almost halfway, baby!” I kept seeing all of my support crew popping up all over the course. Between the three different groups of people I knew spectating, there were well-timed intervals of reassuring them that I’m fine, just tired and trying to take advantage of currently feeling OK. Somewhere near mile 16, as I was nearing the end of an aid station, trying to force down more nutrition, I looked at another athlete next to me and said, “I’m so sick of my nutrition.” He immediately offered me some of his canned, Chef Boyardee raviolis, and I gladly took them. I tell you what, that was the best thing I had tasted all freaking day. It was AMAZING! And he told me that at bike special needs he had Spaghetti-Os!
I’m definitely taking note of this for Ultraman. The last 10 miles were a hard fought battle. I think as the sun went down I had convinced myself it was cooler, and so I wasn’t as diligent with the icing. It turns out, it was still 86 degrees outside, so I scolded myself for getting too relaxed, and picked it back up again. I was sick of my nutrition. I couldn’t do it anymore. The aid stations no longer lined up with the mile markers, so it was becoming mentally tougher to keep going too. Each familiar milestone I passed I kept trying to remind myself that this is the last time you have to see that tree, smell that smell, feel the added humidity next to the river. This is the last lap. I was walking up one of the steep hills, before the really bad hill, and I just felt horrible. I needed this race to be over. My vision was getting blurry. Doing mental math was getting harder, (a game I play with myself to keep entertained), and the tenths of miles were ticking by at a snail's pace. I got to the top and saw Rob, Alex, and Tyler which helped, but only because they let me vent to them about how terrible I felt and how I wanted all of this to be over. After a few high fives and encouraging smiles from them, I was off towards the infamous Barton Hill, which I was actually looking forward to because it meant I was starting the short loop, and I was nearly done. I saw Jason heading back into town for his last few miles right as I was starting the back part of the hilly loop. “This is it!’ he smiled, ‘You’re almost there, let’s go!” For miles 22-24 I tried so hard to will myself to run, but running uphill was a waste of energy, and running downhill hurt too much. When I reached the top of Barton for the last time, I knew that finish line was waiting. I told my legs I didn’t care what they had to say, I wanted that finish line, dammit. So I ran down the hill, eventually my legs caved to my brain and carried me through. I didn’t stop at anymore aid stations, I didn’t high five anymore spectators, I just needed off the course. I rounded the bridge and saw Rob, Alex, and Sam who sent me off to the finish line a mere three-quarters of a mile away. As I was nearing the red carpet, I saw Julian and Juan to bring me home. I was coming in HOT! Perhaps a little too hot? Or, maybe the guy ahead of me was not coming in hot enough? I tried to slow down so I could have my red carpet moment, but my legs were like “Excuse me, no. You made us run downhill to get this over with, we are not slowing down now!” So, unfortunately, all my finish line videos, and pictures, and triumphant double fist pumps are blocked by a rather tall man, but you know what, I’ll take it.
I’m not the type of person who does much reflecting. If I look back on a race it’s to figure out how I can be better next time. So when Monday rolled around, that’s what I started to do.
MK: Do you feel like a rockstar this morning??
Me: I’m frustrated I didn’t do it better, especially Maryland.
After stuffing my face with food and downing enough water that I’m pretty sure the Tennessee River is now dry, everyone in the house was off packing and doing their own thing and I finally had a moment to sit. Suddenly it hit me just how crazy this was. Each race was a hard fought battle just to get the medal. The exhaustion, the stress, the I can’t believe I did it, all manifested as, yup, tears again. Months of prep. Months of planning. Race day execution on days where both races saw lots of heat related medicals, and one race which had the third highest DNF rate since 2012. Four hundred athletes didn’t make it off the Chatt bike alone. I couldn’t believe what I had just done, and needed to just take it all in for a day before I was ready to face the world and all the outpouring support I had the entire weekend. I appreciate each and every one of yall who messaged and followed along. I am sorry that I STILL haven’t returned any of those messages, but I hope you understand. There are about a million more things I could probably add, but if you’ve made it this far, you also deserve a medal, so I think I’ll just leave it here for now.
Thank you’s There are about a million people I need to thank for making this possible, but I’ll cut that list down a bit. Outside of our crew, which I cannot even begin to express gratitude for, I would like to foremost recognize my coach, Mary Knott, for getting me to and through this weekend, injury free and for dealing with all my freaking out. I’m not sure who was more excited about this weekend, me or her, but I am so damn happy we were able to do this together. Secondly, I’d like to thank Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica for getting both the rides working beautifully before take off. TriLab in Redondo Beach for calming me down when I was freaking out while dropping off my bikes for pick up. They even taped, “GO DODGERS” to my top tube for one bike and wrote a good luck note hidden in a water bottle on my bike. Get you a bike shop like this. I’d like to thank Paul and LA Tri Club for helping get me outfitted and for providing such a supportive community. Jeff Gust (and the rest of the LA Tri Club, IMMD folks) for organizing epic training rides and the Cheetos life hack. All the ladies of Smashfest Queen who cheered me on, whether it was on course or via the Facebook page. Sorry if you were at the race and I didn’t get you mentioned above. There were a lot of moving parts and I wasn’t able to catch everyone’s names but just know that I appreciate each and every one of you. I’d also be completely lost if it weren’t for my LA based training crew, Sexy Dragon Tri Babes, who scrambled to help put me together when I needed two of everything, stuck with me during my grumpy burnout stages, and just for loving me with all their might. And of course, Rob and Cricket for keeping my life on track outside of tri.
Jess Zaiss is a TeamSFQ member whose next big thing is her first Ultraman at Ultraman Florida in February. In her day job, she is an Earth Science PhD Candidate in the Levine Lab at the University of Southern California. She utilizes a super computing cluster to model the effect of sea surface temperature variability on phytoplankton growth rates which plays a vital role in atmospheric CO2 concentrations.