Sunday, August 9, 2015

Day 1: National Championships


This was an adventure of EPIC proportions. I admit that I bit off more than I can chew....or I had my goals set too high.....or underestimated how hard it would be.

But that's ok because almost every year (except last year), I find a race or races that sound crazy and do them. I call them my challenge races. A few years back, I did the Tour of the Moon, which climbs the Colorado Monument (which has a 29% incline) and turnaround and did an Olympic race the next day.

Many years ago, I did a double race. I've done it twice, but those were the days where I just *did* the races.

I'm going to try to keep the two races separate, but it's hard since they were back to back.

First of all, my theme song for the weekend, complements of Mark. How can you NOT get PUMPED UP after listening to this?

Pretty much the same goals I always have. I don't have time goals. I didn't want time goals. I wanted to go for a PR. In order to do that, I had some time guidelines. In other words, I knew that if my swim was either x, y and z then my bike needed to be around x,yz which meant my run had to be around x, y and z.

With x y and z being any combination of paces or speeds.

There was one exception. For the run, I wanted to be disciplined enough to get faster each mile. I've practiced and practiced this. Liz had me running miles at a time at speeds faster than my 10k time. Now, I understand why.

Liz was on board with my plan.

She responded with a slightly more specific plan. (As most of you know, Liz requests that we send her race plans before our race. The race plan is incredibly detailed and has everything from paces, speeds, power zones, fueling (race day and leading up to the race), mental strategies.

For the swim, she wanted me to surge to the front of the group, beat the crowd to the bridge (where the course narrows). She also gave me tips such as: Don't chase the buoys, you will swim further. Instead, aim directly for the turn buoys.

These tips proved to be the best advice anyone has ever given me.

She did the same thing on the bike: Turn by turn, hill by hill, this is how you will feel, This is what will happen.THis is what you need to do.

And the run: Again, turn by turn.....mile by mile.

She outlined everything to help me have my most successful day.

The swim:

This year, the course changed and the start changed. The start change was a BIG HUGE mistake. I understand WHY they did it.

My wave was the largest wave of the entire day, with over 200 women in the 45-49 category.

200 women all swimming at the same time in a very small area. The water was 63 degrees. Weaker swimmers or people that don't normally swim in the cold were stressed. Stronger swimmers are trying to figure out HOW hard do we have to swim to get away from the 200 swimmers....

It was like a UFC fight. I'm not kidding. I haven't been in such an aggressive swim since IM CDA when 2000 athletes all hit the water at the same time.

SURGE. SURGE. I SURGED. Taking my straight line. I knew I wasn't the strongest of the swimmers, but I figured I'd be in the back of the lead swimmers.

There was no breaking away. If I slowed down, the 2nd group would catch me. I couldn't keep up with the stronger swimmers (the 20 minute one milers). My one mile speed is around 23 minutes. There was never a clear path for me. I was right smack in the middle of chaos.

Just before the first turn buoy, I saw women starting to chase buoys. Liz had told me to hold my ground and swim right. I couldn't get to the right, but I held my ground. I swam right at the first turn buoy. At the first and second turn buoys, things got violent again. I took a breast stroke kick to the ribs. Hard enough that it took my breath away, I came up for air and got my bearings. I looked up for the finish arches.

DON'T CHASE THE BUOYS. That's when I realized I was all alone. The women were chasing the buoys. Not me. I went directly at the arches.

My swim ended up being almost exactly 1500m. My swim was slower than my normal swim time. I came in at around 27 minutes and part of that was being pulled up and out of the water.

I felt really good about my swim; even though it took me longer. I've been doing triathlon for too long now. I know you can't really compare races. You have to celebrate your wins where you can.

Transition: With the swim changes, the run to transition was considerably longer than it used to be.
I spent 4 minutes going from water to starting the bike.

Yes, I could have gone a little faster, ran out a little faster than I did.

The Bike:

Armed with the info that Liz sent me, I was ready.

The bike was uneventful. There were things I did well. Others not so well. The return offered us a lovely headwind. It was frustrating to see my speed dropping from 22mph to 19mph. I did my best to hold my power where it was supposed to be. But, I found myself grinding and going into survival mode.

I finished the bike in 1:15. My PR is 1:14. I know that I have a 1:11 and better in me. I'm not really disappointed in my bike, but with my x, y and z formulas, I knew that given my swim and bike times.....well, an OLY PR was no longer possible.

BUT, I can still run a 10K PR.

And it was going to be very difficult.

The Run:

Because I need a seemingly abnormal amount of water and salt, I had practiced running a mile, walking for :30 to make sure that I get all the water I need and start running again.

I've practiced this over and over again.

When I hit the first aid station, I walked, I took my one and only gel and started running again. When I got to the second mile, I realized I was going to be racing the clock.

I couldn't walk the aid stations and get my PR. Not only that, but I had to make up what I had lost at the first aid station.

How did this happen? I have my plan. I really have to run, but I can't go too fast and risk blowing up.

Here's the plan, I need to hit these exact paces every single mile.

With a renewed sense of purpose, I took advantage of the subtle downhills and I drove the uphills like I was on a mission.

I checked my my current pace, I should come in right around a PR, but I have to hold the pace or better.

No matter how much my legs hurt, I can't slow down. I can't stop. I have to keep running.

Mile 4 is always a struggle.

I start counting.

I start thinking about mile 5. When I have a half a mile left, I'm going to give it every single thing I have left.

I glanced at my garmin. I am so close. Right now, it could go either way. I could get my PR or not. It's THAT close.

My legs hurt. I make the turn under the bridge, and I see the finish shoot. There are hundreds of people screaming. I mean HUNDREDS. I start running with everything I have left. My legs were screaming at me to stop.

I could feel the emotion building up. I don't know if I'm going to get my PR, but I know a half a mile has NEVER felt so long.

I see Mr. Tea. (I had seen him throughout the entire race. Back then, I was him a thumbs up.) Not now, I felt tears stinging my eyes.

I didn't come this far to miss a PR.

I heard my name announced. I run down the red carpet and cross the finish line.

I crossed and a woman grabbed me, "It's ok. I got you. I got you. We have a towel for you. I'm going to stay with you ok? Are you ok?"

I couldn't hold back the tears anymore. I took the towel, and I cried.

It took me 10 years to get to Nationals. I had no unrealistic expectations. I didn't care if I was the very last to finish. I just raced the National Championship. I just raced with the very best in the country.

And I got a 10K Oly race PR. I don't know what my previous PR was, but I knew that I need a 1:08. I ran exactly 1:08.

When I finally found Mr. Tea. I was completely overwhelmed. I left everything out there, and the emotions were too much. He held me, and I was shaking uncontrollably.

Post race:

Because this race is so HUGE, we had to wait a couple of hours before we could check out.

Liz had a big lunch planned for her athletes racing Nationals. There were about 15 people there. Meeting Liz for the first time was absolutely awesome. She had asked me a couple of questions about my race, but I was still processing everything that had happened that day.

I really hope I wasn't rude, but I needed time to get my wrapped around what I did.

(BTW: Liz came in 2nd in the F40-44 Category, and she had two other athletes who also podiumed.)

Then, it was time for us to walk back to the hotel. Liz had given me a recovery protocol to follow after my Oly race to be ready to race again on Sunday. I got back to the hotel and did everything she said to do.

After the excitement of the day, all I wanted to do was lay around and rest.

But at 5pm, I had to pack up my bike and head back to the race site to drop off my bike and get ready for Sunday.

By the time I got back to the room, I packed up my wet wetsuit, fuel, numbers, had Mr. Tea apply new tri-tats.

And I hit the bed and went out cold.

It seemed like it was only a few minutes, when the 5:00 am wake up call jarred me awake.