First and foremost thank you to absolutely everybody who worked this event, including the staff of Delmo and Ironman. Thank you from the bottom of my still cold and rain soaked heart to every volunteer – especially all of the women for tri volunteers and organizers and everyone who cheered us on in the rain.

Side note: for people who don’t know me, I was in a really bad bike accident 14 days before the race and mentions of road rash and a concussion is included in the report with no background, wanted to mention it upfront to eliminate confusion.


I don’t know how to explain it, but I truly believe that it was lucky that when Michele and I woke up at 3 am on race morning it was dry out and our apps told us there was a “chance of rain.” I mean they were dead wrong but at least we started the day with hope!

We got to set our gear up and get in the water staying dry. I used Tegaderm to close up my road rash from my crash and I felt confident going into the swim that it would stay on. Basically as soon as I got in the water it flew right off and I felt a slow burning sensation. I got going and the pain went away and as I kept swimming, my shoulder, which was not Working at full capacity, kicked in and I felt OK! I could hear my watch beep and was checking my times, my swim was on target but my sighting was off so I over swam a bit, which is generally not a big deal.

My favorite part of a triathlon is getting out of the water! And this race was special because the first person I saw was Kristen! Her smile and her energy snapped me to LIFE. Then I saw Kelcey – my swim hero! She was cheering and being amazing. I knew at that point – this was my day.

I ran to my mat and wiped my feet with my bandanna, covered them in cvs brand Vaseline, and I had a burning in my arm pits, on my neck, and on my shoulder from the salt water. I covered the shoulder with anti bacterial and covered my arm pits and neck just with a a thick layer of Vaseline. I’m so glad I brought that container – despite using glide in the morning – the salt got the best of me! I reapplied another Tegaderm and put my coeur aero top on and went on my way to the bike out. You actually bike a mile or so while still on the clock in transition – it was somewhat frustrating but I let it go immediately and focused on the fresh air!

Once on the bike course, I think my past life as a punk rock enthusiast came in handy. It was a cycling mosh pit. Between the beginners who couldn’t manage to stay to the right, to the ultra fast people who didn’t call out their passes, to the rumble strips, the sharp turns, the busted up pavement, the 2 huge trucks on the expressway, and the blatant drafting packs – the bike course was truly anarchy! Since my hand had all three layers of skin ripped off in my crash, I was wearing one surgical glove over that hand- Michael Jackson style.

That came in “handy” because the rain started. It started like a dip drop and didn’t stop. As the ride went on it got worse. Debris everywhere, potholes kind of covered in water so you couldn’t see them, everywhere I looked there was a flat and a crash. I got really vocal yelling “slowing” around turns, “on your left” when passing, and I even called out to the newbies “please stay right”. There was a literal stock pile of lost water bottles which served as additional items to maneuver around, and all of my focus was on my bike handling skills, staying present in the moment, and on my toes to be as safe as possible.

Before my crash I had wanted an 18 mph bike average. I had that number in my heart after lake placid, people told me it was an unrealistic number, and then when it was pouring rain and I was looking at my watch, I was thinking, LIA YOU ARE CRAZY, WHY ARE YOU GOING FOR IT. But I couldn’t help myself, I had it in me and I felt it happening. I passed my beautiful buddy Michele around mile 10, I could see her bright colored Coeur Tri top as a shining star to catch up to. Her smile and strength motivated me for most of the ride. I had 500 calories of GU rocktane in my bottles and 3 packs of GU chews – so I knew, in temps like we had, that I would not have to stop for aid as long as I used everything I brought. I did not stop once, though I’m thankful for those amazing kids at the aid station – they cheered with their full hearts and while I went right past them I did appreciate their energy.

Usually the last 5 miles of the bike i chill out, relax, envision the run, and pull back. But this time I broke my rules. I WENT FOR IT. I pushed myself, I wanted to get in at around 3 hours, but once I got off the ramp I knew that was unsafe due to crowds and turns, so I took a deep breath and said thank you to my body. Thank you to the course. Thank you to the cool temps. And thank you to the volunteers directing me to transition.

T2 was another SLOPPY MESS! I was fortunate to have a water proof dry bag that I got for free at IMLP. I sat on the sopping wet ground and took a new shirt out which was a coeur braless tank, I ripped off my aero top. I usually never change in a race but because of the road rash on my shoulder I was worried the sleeves would irritate the broken skin. The Tegaderm came off with the top so I anti bacterial sprayed it again and tried to apply another – everything was so wet it didn’t work so I threw on the tank top, put on my race belt, sneakers, and visor and it was on with the show!

Right out of T2 I see my buddy Bronwen! She stops to run with me for a moment and I say, hey I’m going to aim for an 11:30 and I don’t want to hold you back! Go do your race! She smiles and runs along as I keep very consistent with my own pace.

On the way to ventnor I pass Jane, Christiana, and Mike cheering me on! And then the rush of seeing my good friends faded into pain. It’s no secret I did the race with a concussion. And my wounds started opening on my hands and shoulder due to all the rain. A few people would run up to me and say “Hey, you’re kind of bleeding.”

And while my concussion was not acting up on the bike, the pounding of my legs on the boardwalk awakened it. By the time I hit mile 4.5 I got a sponge and dumped water on my head. It was cold and basically down pouring but my head needed the cool down. I drank water and took a GU gel every 4 miles. Once I hit the turn around in ventnor I felt better mentally and just focused on putting one foot in front of the other and watched the waves crash on the beach. I ran into the bathroom where the Drexel / ETA tent was and peed a little then I literally LOOKED AT MYSELF IN A MIRROR- that is laughable! But I did have sunblock first and then makeup on to cover my face wounds- and I was wondering what they looked like. Thanks to Kat Von D concealer – because this product stayed on during a downpour a swim, a bike ride and a run. What!?!?!

After I got out of the bathroom my legs felt fresh and I picked my pace up. By the time I ran down the steps on the beach to bypass the finish line – I knew I was going to meet my run time goal. All I wanted was to get under 2:30. Despite my throbbing head and tired legs, I just wanted to keep my pace up.

Then you hit the boardwalk. I ran past my friends Jaime, Erin, and Natalie who all looked like actual models despite standing in the rain cheering. Seeing their beautiful faces I said “I’m going to PR”! They are all accomplished athletes themselves so they get it, and cheered me on my way. Next up I hit the women for Tri stop, and by now I was solely on cups of coke. I said hi to some of the volunteers, Drank my flat soda and kept on running. It felt like an eternity to reach that turn around, when in reality it was not far. I saw the man himself, Steve Delmonte, Standing in the rain with a black jacket and encouraging all of us. He had a smile and looked like he didn’t even realize it was pouring buckets of rain. I wizzed right by the women for Tri table again, and passed my very beautiful buddies again, and by this point I had my watch set to total race time. I knew for me to get under 2:30 that I would cross the finish line in 6:45.

my watch said 6:41, you can see the finish line in the distance, I picked my pace up.

6:42 short breaths, pump your arms.

6:43 see the red carpet, touch the red carpet.

6:44 all out war.

Done. Crossed the finish line, turned my watch off – it didn’t even get a chance to click to 6:45. I made it.

Overall I made my bike and run goals that I had pre-crash. I couldn’t control the swim which was slower for me or the transitions which were a lot longer than what I am used to. The rain was a challenge but I think I used it to my advantage in keeping my core temp down, and with all the road rash and facial discoloration – having very little sun out saved my skin and my sanity!

This was most certainly quite the day!!


About the Author:

Lia Belardo
Lia is one of our rockstar Team Philly Captains.