Survive, Don’t Crash, Run

While this race is fresh in my mind, I will provide the skinny though this one will be hard to forget!  🙂

The sprint race was first in the morning making my start time after 9am and it was nice not having to be up and out and the butt crack of dawn for once!  After  setting up my transition area, I came back to the hotel gym to stretch out well, spin on the bike and do a quick 5 min run to get the juices flowing.  I felt really really great and loose and giddy with excitement for the adventure ahead!

I arrived at my corral in plenty of time and was anxious to get in the water.  It was very cool to be around 100 girls all my age wearing wet suits that hid the different countries we all represented.  At that moment, we were just 100 girls all feeling the same anxiety of the day ahead and it was one of my favorite moments of the day.

Swim:  The 59 degree temperature of the water that we were so anxious about leading up to the race was the least of my concerns at this point.  Given I’d gotten a good warm up in and we’d been standing in our wet suits for 30 minutes, the cold water actually felt quite nice.

The swim course was like a T in block lettering, if that makes sense.  The vertical part of the T was about 300 meters within a wharf where you were “protected” by the huge docks on either side.  The rest of the swim was out past the wharf in the open seas.  I was with the main pack for the whole first 300 meters and was swimming very good for me!  Wet suits and really salty water seem to bode well for me.

But that didn’t last long.  At about 350 meters, we hung a left at the first buoy and, there’s no other way to say it other than “shit got crazy”.  As I sit here almost 24 hours after the race is over, I’m still rocking in my seat.  With having only ever swam one other time in the ocean in my triathlon “career” at my FIRST triathlon in 2008, and having not done much actual free style swimming in said race, I was literally a fish out of water.  I made it to the right turn buoy with minimal issues but the best was certainly yet to come!

As we rounded the next buoy, shit got really interesting.  A HUGE barge/cruise ship came by us about 500/600/700 meters away, which upped the ante quite a bit on the already 3 foot swells.  I’m not sure how the girls who swam “normal swim times” navigated through these conditions.  I was swimming, but it was ugly.  I remained calm and tried to remind myself that I wasn’t the only one in these conditions, but after seeing the results, clearly they affected me far more than the other girls.  I don’t know how you train for conditions like this, but apparently I need to step that up if I plan to do any more ocean swimming in white cap waves.  The rest of the time out on the open water was horrific and felt like a race of survival.  All I wanted to do was get the hell out of this water.  Little did I know, the next hour or so would be just as interesting.

T1:  The run to T1 must have been at least 1/2 a mile.  On frozen feet, it felt even longer.  As I mounted my bike, my foot slipped getting into my left shoe which resulted in the strap flying open.  I couldn’t get it threaded back through the latch while riding so the first mishap of the ride occurred 1 min later when I stopped, pulled over and latched my shoe.  Ugh.

Bike:  This goes down in the record books as the craziest, scariest ride of my life. I am not a fearful rider but I rode scared, because I was.  I have never hated my very expensive, beautiful Zipp 808 wheels as much as I did for these 25 miles.  The wind here, like most islands, is not steady but rather random gusts of winds from all directions.  And it’s frightening.  Those without race wheels were much better off than us with them and I wished I had my road bike for the entire ride.

The course was a 2 loop “P” shaped course, more or less.  The round part of the P included 3 steep climbs, about 1/2 – 1 km long, with very technical descents on the backside.  I really enjoyed the climbs with all of the spectators lining the streets and it was also the only time of the day thus far that I wasn’t mildly afraid for my life.  I stuck to my normalized power goals, more or less, and felt great while climbing, but was clung to my handlebars pumping my breaks for every descent with my bike flailing all over the road like a leaf.   I passed a lot of girls which felt good, but knowing my swim time, I knew it really didn’t matter.  I also got passed by three or four 35-39 year old girls who presumably went on to win their age group.  I’ll admit, getting passed riding is unusual and was quite humbling.

On the 4th climb of my first loop, my stupid chain fell off.  I have no idea why, honestly.  I don’t think that has ever happened to me on this particular bike but it did.  And I don’t think with Di2, you can just shift to your big ring and pick it back up but I’ll have to look in to that.  So I pulled over yet again to get that taken care of.  Double ugh.

The second loop was much less of a disaster, as a whole, but by then I didn’t feel as if I was actually racing….more damage controlling.  Overall, I wished I could have enjoyed this beautiful ride more than I did, but I did the best I could to take in the scenery and remind myself of this once in a lifetime experience.

I couldn’t wait to run.  Five words you will not hear me say very often.

T2:  I hopped off my bike and made the 1/2 mile long trek into transition feeling a wave of relief wash over me.  It was at this point, I was certain October 22nd wouldn’t be my last day on this earth.  🙂

Run:  it took a few minutes to get my legs under me – thankfully it took no less than 2 minutes to run out of transition so by the time the run course actually started I was good to go.  From that point on it was just run with whatever energy I had left.  The mental exhaustion of the swim and bike certainly took much more of a toll on me than the physical.  My legs felt great, and I ran the first 4 miles strong.  I faded a bit at the end, but I think I somewhat subconsciously slowed down to try to savor the moments.  I was suffering, but I was also enjoying the crowds and the support of everyone out on the streets a ton.  I battled back and forth with an Aussie girl for about 4 miles which made it feel like I was actually racing for the first time during the day.  The wind was also very present on a few parts of the course.  Though it was flat, running hard along the water into 20-25 mph winds made it feel there were actually hills on the course!  Regardless, the run was the most enjoyable part of the day for me.

I met the cameraman who would be compiling all of the age group race video in the gym earlier that morning.  He told me if I did something cool at the finish line he would put me in the video.  So for the last 1-2 miles I contemplated what I could do that would be cool.  I contemplated a cartwheel, but I was feeling a little queasy by that point and was afraid a cartwheel might make me toss my cookies.  Laying down sounded much more appealing.  So I decided to mirror one of my favorite triathlete’s signature move (Chrissie Wellington) and do a Blazeman roll over the finish line.  The man who took my chip said it was the best finish he’d seen all day 🙂

By the end of the race I had come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t actually competing for a place or a prize, but proud of myself for enduring the conditions, the bike mishaps and finishing the race mentally strong.  I didn’t expect to be a top contender by any means, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect to finish slightly higher than 48th out of 98 in my age group.  Sans my transition and chain mishap, I may have finished 40-42nd or so, which is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

What it boils down to is these girls are some of the best in the world – the Kiwi’s brought a very strong team considering the race is local, and the Aussie’s weren’t far behind – and quite frankly, I’m not.  I’m realistic to realize I don’t train in these conditions and I certainly wasn’t prepared for them, but I also realize that I’m simply not as strong or well rounded as they are.  Some people will look at it from the prospective that I was better than 50 other girls in my age group.  The realistic / competitive / pessimistic side of me, however, looks at it from the 47 girls were better than me prospective.  Which is what keeps me training hard I suppose.

As I’ve said many times this week, I was beyond thankful and appreciative to just be out there representing my country.  Hearing “Go USA” time and time again as I passed spectators nearly made me tear up nearly every time. Running down the finishing shoot with an American flag waving and the crowd cheering is truly something I will never forget.   Congrats to Sandy on a great race and for being able to run the full 10k despite a hamstring injury for the last 5 weeks!

Go Team USA!!!

One Response to Survive, Don’t Crash, Run

  1. vichin says:

    you are amazing! now to enjoy your travels! 🙂

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