I have never been more excited, ready, geeked, prepared.....to race than I was today.
For weeks, I have felt like I was on the brink of a breakthrough.
I had a race plan unlike any I've written before.
I was so ready for this.
The weather was absolutely perfect racing weather.
Luck of the draw gave me the very first spot on the very first rack near the bike exit.
I felt great.
When I got to the race venue, I thought to myself, "the stars are aligning for a great day".
Then, I realized that based on the way they did the bib numbers, I was the only person in my age group on the rack.
I took this as a sign. This will force me to focus on my race and not pay attention to how many bikes are racked after the swim.
Normally, I don't worry about what other women are doing, but I do take note of who's out of the water or who has already started running.
I thought about it. This is really good for me.
My wave started at 7:30. I thought, for sure, the sun would be up and well out of our way before we started swimming.
I was wrong. No one could see anything. This was across the board. Small groups of athletes were checking with each other to see if anyone could see the buoys.
The RD repeatedly told us, "You can't see the 2nd green buoy. It's out there. Trust me. That's where you turn".
Staring out on the water, for a split second, I thought I could see a buoy.....wayyyyyy out there......I had to come up with a strategy.
The buoys didn't really line up. Three were in line. One was out of line. I looked out.
I thought, "everyone is going to attempt to go from buoy to buoy. That's going to add distance".
I opted for what was behind door number 2.
I wasn't going to chase buoys. I was going to beeline straight to the dam wall. (Oh. The sun also made it impossible to see swimmers off in the distance. So, trying to follow them was impossible).
The olympic distance group started before the sprinters. My plan called for trying to stay focused. I was shooting for a focus rate of about 90%.
As soon as I ran into the sprinters, I would go after a fast one and draft off of him.
We took off running into the water. Immediately, everyone veered to the right, except me and another woman. Throughout the entire race, I didn't know if I was following her....or if she was following me....or a mix of both.
We stayed neck in neck the entire time. Twice I pulled into the lead. Twice I stopped swimming to try to get a visual of the buoy. I should have trusted my internal gps instead of stopping.
....because all of a sudden I look up, and the 2nd green buoy is directly in front of me.
Me and the other woman had already caught the slowest swimmers of all previous waves. As we made the final turn, I see the sprinters merging with the olympic racers.
Find your guy. Find the guy you can draft off of. Unfortunately, this plan didn't really go as expected. I had started to pick up speed and was passing guys like crazy.
I caught the other woman in my sights. She was picking up speed. DRAFT HER. GO NOW.
As a side note: my open water swim speed (in races) has been lacking.
Although I was first out of the water, I did not hit my training paces. Granted some of that had to do with stopping three times.
Still, I got to shore and I thought, "Best effort this year. Let's go crush the bike".
Swim result: MIXED: not as fast as I can swim; first out of the water; best effort this year.
OH LAWDY was I ever ready for that bike.
The minute I jumped on my bike, I knew I had a problem. I'm trying to change gears, and I got nothing.
Well now. Isn't that sucky.
I look down at my gearing. I'm in the big chain ring (in front) and about the middle cog in back. I decide to stay in the race.
I think, "Use what you have. Do what you can".
I know I will not be able to hit top speeds. (There is an awesome, super fast, steep, with no curves descent on the course. I was going to tear it up).
BUT, I could push it on the uphills.
I'm catching and passing sprinters.
I'm catching and passing people from the oly race.
I'm too focused on the job at hand to notice that I hadn't seen any women, any women +40 since...well, since we were talking at the racks.
When I get to the top of the big descent, I notice that the road was all chip seal. Well dammit. I'm still going to go as hard as I can, at least until I get to "spinout". Then, I'll have to coast the rest of the way.
For the entire bike, I averaged almost 21mph, which is a huge PR for the course. My previous best was 18.5 mph. My top speed was 33.7 mph. That was disappointing. I could have easily hit +45mph. I love going fast.
Bike result: MIXED. I'm happy that I PR'd, but dammit, I could have really blown away my previous time. Best Bike Split said I could do 1:12. I finished in 1:16. Four minutes doesn't seem like much, but when the swim and bike are your strength, it's kinda a lot.
When I pulled into transition, the thing that struck me was HOW MANY BIKES were already racked.
WOW. Am I in last place?
I committed to this race. I might be in last place, but I am going to run like I'm in first.
I have an opportunity to PR this run. I'm not going to give up on that.
I won't drag you through step by step of the run. Except to say that I was running and didn't see any women, again. Oh, I saw a few young'uns, but that was it. I thought about all the bikes that were already racked when I pulled into T2. I kept thinking, "Holy cow. Am I THAT far behind"?
It was awesome seeing Coach Amanda from MSM out there. (Amanda is a coach and pro-triathlete).
She was saying stuff to me.....no idea what....but all that came out of my mouth was: EVERYTHING HURTS.
She said (at this point, I might be making up what she said), "You're in the last mile. You'll be hitting the downhill. Everything you have right now"......or some kind of coachy-motivational-talk.
Oh, and she took this picture of me.
When I crossed the finish line, I met Tara (another MSM) athlete. She and I met up with Coach Amanda. I went over to the results table.
I came in 2nd.
I don't even know how it happened.
The entire race ended up being a +7 minute PR for this specific course and tied with my all time fastest oly. (NOTE: This bike was a longer than normal bike course).
RUN RESULTS: MIXED. I tied my all time 10k off the bike run. Could I have run better? Yeah. I think so.
So, what was up with all those bikes in transition?
For some reason, this race had a very high DNF rate. It was very strange. I had 3 friends DNF on the swim. The woman who was next to me in transition took a DNF. And I saw an old coach of mine (from years ago) walking his bike back on the side of the road; I can only assume, with a mechanical issue.
As I was waiting for the awards ceremony, I was talking to a guy. He'd never done a triathlon before. He asked to see my results, and I handed him my sheet. He said, "You guys are the toughest athletes I know. It just seems so hard".
Triathlon is hard. And it can be frustrating at times. And progress can feel slow. Then, to have a day like today that was set up to be one of my best races.....only to end up with a mixed bag of emotions.....it can be hard.
I'm not disappointed. It's kind of hard to explain what I'm feeling. On the other hand, I learned quite a bit about my weaknesses and strengths in each of the events. Things that I would have never noticed before if:
1.) I hadn't been chasing sprinters on the swim.
2.) I hadn't had the bike failure.
3.) I hadn't thought I was in last place on the run.
The pursuit of my best race; the one that I know I have in me, continues.