In January, I had a grand plan.
I'd finished 70.3 East London, was feeling fit and strong, and decided that a trip to the USA to do two 70.3's back to back may not be a bad adventure to throw into the middle of a visit to my brother who stays in Dallas.
After a few quick phone calls after the race to see if it was possible, I headed off to slot allocation and landed a place at World Champs in Chattanooga (roll-down is a thing of beauty). I then entered 70.3 Atlantic City for the following Sunday.
The plan was to smash Ironman SA (tick), have a holiday (tick) have a little break (tick) and then train hard through winter to smash the two races (not ticked. At all).
After a winter where I spent too much time working and not nearly enough training, I headed off the the USA with a chest infection and no idea if I was going to start the race or not.
The trip itself wasn't smooth either - my race weekend accommodation didn't work quite as planned and I ended up sleeping on a blow up mattress (with a leak) for the two nights before the race.
Feeling quite sorry for myself, I headed down to watch the ladies race on the Saturday and noticed a supporter with a sign that read "Grace, Grit, Gratitude".
This was what I needed to readjust my attitude - I realised that I had an incredible opportunity to do this sport in a beautiful part of the world and just because things weren't going quite as I wanted was no reason to mope around.
With this in mind, I lined up on Sunday morning for my race - and promptly snapped my goggles.
Fortunately, someone from Roka was on hand to get me a new set and I jumped into water right at the end of my wave - just in time.
As soon as I started swimming, I realised I had a bit of a problem. I couldn't keep my head in the water long enough because I kept having to stop to cough. This is vastly suboptimal at the best of times, but when you're swimming into a current that pushes you backwards whenever you aren't swimming as hard as you can it makes for a VERY long swim.
I got out the water, looked at my watch and nearly fainted. It was going to be a long day.
But nevermind - the swim is over and it's time to ride my bike. And I like riding my bike. I'm good at it. Except that day.
Apparently, doing one 20 minute run in the 3 weeks before the race isn't the best preparation for a 70.3 - as the cramps that hit 18 minutes into the bike ride drove home rather forcefully.
At this point, I realised that there was nothing I could do to make this race go better, so I accepted that I was in for a long bike ride and made sure to wave at the fans, high 5 the kids on the side of the road and make sure I got a good view of the spectacular Lookout Mountain.
3 and a bit hours later, I was running. And running well. For the first 1km. Which was flat. Then the hills started. And never ended. To be honest, I have no idea what my run time was. My watch died (yes, I was out there THAT long).
But I can honestly say that it was one of the most enjoyable runs I have done - the support as you ran through the white picket fences of suburban Chattanooga was incredible and I may or may not have proposed marriage to one particularly lovely supporter.
The thing I love about these races is that they never fail to teach you something.
The second last water point on each lap was manned by the local special needs community. There is no way that you can continue to feel sorry for yourself when you're handed a coke by a guy your age in a wheelchair.
It's moments like that that make you realise how incredibly lucky you are and that no amount of chest infections, blow up mattresses, broken goggles and long long long bike rides and never-ending hills should take away the joy we get from being able to Swim, Bike and Run.
It was the worst race I've ever done. It was the best race I've ever done.
Grace, Grit, Gratitude.