Monday, October 28, 2013

When All of the Stars Align on Race Day!

It wasn't until my conversation with Orissa on the car ride up to Austin that I realized, I haven't raced a 70.3 in over a year!  Kerrville 2012 was my last 70.3, with a time of 6:02.  I had a few goals in mind which I discussed with Coachie & Orissa & Brian to throw it out there and make it real.  My first goal was to PR, for the course and the distance.  Austin was my first 70.3 in 2011 with a time of 6:39.  I was pretty confident, unless something catastrophic occurred that I could beat that time.  So the real goal was to go under 6:02 for a distance PR.  Next, I set individual swim, bike, run goals. Swim- 33- 34min! I knew that was a stretch, but I felt confident because I had been watching my 100m pace drop since August.  Funny thing is that it took a herniated cervical disk in my neck to correct my form & force me to breathe bilaterally, hence faster times!  Bike- sub 3hrs.  I knew this was going to be a long shot because I was not happy with the course on our pre-ride.  Tons of potholes & chip seal, lots of headwind, & a few hills (not really, maybe slopes!)  Also, I wanted the focus of this race to be my run, so I was willing to hold back on the bike to make this happen.  Coachie killed that idea on our race prep chat!  She said go for it, but break it up into 20min intervals, just like training.  Run- sub 2hrs.  Again, a long shot.  My fastest stand alone 13.1 was 1:51, but add a swim & bike before it & I slowed down to 2:21!  I promised myself & everyone around me that I would force my nutrition down, even if they had to pin me down & squeeze it down my throat! This, I think would be the key to keeping my run alive!
Game day! Rain! Drizzle, but rain none the less! With occasional bolts of lightening!  Aye... we spent the better half of 2hrs. contemplating the possible outcomes. Are they going to cancel this swim?  Are they going to delay the start?  Can we just go home & back to bed?  In retrospect I really think it helped calm my nerves because we all just sat around waiting & talking.  Next thing we knew they were singing the Star Spangled Banner & the start gun went off for the Pros!  Alright, game on! The start was only delayed for 15min, so our swim start got pushed back to 8:25ish.
Kris, Orissa, & I made our way into the water, gave each other a fist pump & said have a great race!  And we're off!!!  Immediately, I was reminded of how much easier a wetsuit makes the swim!  Then I got pummeled in the face & brought back to reality!  One, two, three... Breathe!  OMG, this is MUCH easier in the pool without a million people creating a whirlpool and touching me!  I forced myself to get in my rhythm and swim my OWN race.  I sighted & counted the buoys the best I could, trying to swim the straightest line possible.  By the time I got to the first turn buoy I was feeling good, especially since I had already passed a green cap (the wave in front of us!).  Now it was starting to get a bit crowded.  I tried to not only spot the buoys, but to also spot a clearing to swim towards.  I noticed that the men I were passing were slower swimmers from the wave in front of us and were using a breaststroke kick occasionally to catch their breath. That meant a good chance of getting a strong kick to the face, ribs, or quads... neither of which I wanted!  I made my way to the last turn buoy & turned on the turbo boosters.  Let's bring it home!  I was starting to feel it in my breath, but Coachie always says to swim hard until the very end!  So I did!  One, two, three... Breathe! or Gasp!  I swam up until I only had to take two or three steps to get out of the water.  I ran for the timing mat, hit my Garmin & took a peek... 33:05!!! I internally screamed & may have accidentally let out an external "F, Yeah!"  As my dolphin fast friend, Linda, would say... SUPER STOKED!!!  As I ran up the hill to get my wetsuit stripped with adrenaline pumping, & now out of breath, I thought, Slow it down girl, you still have a race to get through!  I grabbed my wetsuit & took off again towards T1.  On the way I heard my Iron- friends Linda, Brian, Herbito, & Meagan cheering for me!  I gave them a HUGE smile and hand gestured 3-3!!!  Right as I entered T1, there was my ray of light... Allen, Aleina, & Ailani!!!  They made it!!! There is nothing better than seeing their smiling faces and hearing their cheers!  They followed me around the outside of the fence to where I was gearing up for my bike ride.  I was ecstatic telling Allen about my swim, I killed it!  Then Ailani looked at me very seriously (like she does) and says, Where's Orissa???  She's coming sweetheart!  Then we ran together along the fence to bike exit and said, See you in 3hrs... I hope!!! And I was off...
That's me in the orange cap to the right, along with four other color caps! (four wave starts ahead of me!)

I hit the bike mount line and tried to clip in... No go! Again... Nope!  Meanwhile, I was trying to weave & bob around everyone else trying to clip in and falling over!  The mud in T1 was stuck to everyone's cleats!  Ugghhh!!! I rode for the first mile or so with my left cleat unclipped.  As we rode by what would be the run course later they were announcing to pull over and have your cleats cleaned with a hose.  I thought, No way am I stopping... Figure it out!  I had already lost my Cateye (odometer) coming it of T1 and didn't stop for that ($100 down the drain), so I surely wasn't going to stop now.  I kept pedaling and finally settled in.  I didn't have my speed right in front of me, so I was just going by feel.  I knew the first 14mi would be the hardest elevation wise, with two other smaller climbs later on.  By mile 20 my legs were starting to fatigue and I thought, Oh, no... What have I gotten myself into?!?!  I had no idea what my speed was up until now, so all I could think of was that I just hammered it & wasn't going to have enough left to finish strong... Let alone run 13.1miles!  Then came the first decline in elevation... phew!!!  My legs got a much needed rest, but I was able to keep up the pace!  The rest of the ride kind of dragged, but I was able to keep the pressure on! Right before the end of the ride I took my gu that I had been saving for 2wks now... Salted caramel!  DELISH!  It should be called Dulce de Leche! Normally, I HATE gu's and they cause an immediate gag reflex.  This one I almost fell of my bike trying to scrape every last drop out!  Alright, my nutrition is on track, for once!  As I turned the last corner & saw T2 up ahead I decided to take a peek at my Garmin for my average pace... 19.6mph!!!  What the???  I didn't calculate in my head that that was sub 3hrs, but I was floored by the number alone!  I pedaled as hard as I could up until the dismount line, weaving around people who thought the bike was over 0.25mi ago.  I ran my bike into transition & wasn't sure what I had left in my legs for the run,  Yikes!!!

I quickly threw on my run gear & took off... for the port-o-potty,  Luckily it was inside of T2, because I wouldn't have stopped if it would have affected my run time... OCD, I know!  Right out of transition I saw my Iron-friends, this time joined by Shelly & Patrick!!! Yeah!!! I rubbed Shelly's belly for good luck (she's 8mo pregnant w/ baby Liam!), got my high fives from the rest & took off!!!  My goal was for negative splits on 3 laps, so when my first mile split on my Garmin read 8:23, I thought, Whoa, sailor! Slow your roll!!!  I got into a comfortable cruise pace & tried to hold steady.  I saw Coachie around mile 2 and with a huge smile yelled, I had a 33min swim!!! A man in front of me commented he was impressed with my enthusiasm, I told him I hope to have the same enthusiasm about my run!  By mile 4 I saw Orissa & Kris, they both looked great & strong!  The good thing about loop runs is that you know exactly when & where you will see your friends racing and spectating.  So for the last two laps I had something to look forward to & knew where.  Finishing my first lap I saw Lexa & Jamie & their crazy costumed Alamo 180 group, this time joined by 2 new young recruits & Allen!!!  Ailani sprayed me with a squirt gun & Aleina blared an air horn at me! They loved every second of it!!!  The second lap I tried to push a little harder.  I thought a lot about these "hills" we were running and how two years ago I had to walk up each one.  Not this time, I was determined to run the whole 13.1, with exception of a few water stops.  I can't drink & run, it just leads to choking!  Lap 3 came quickly and I was ready to make it hurt!  I saw Orissa & told her the same.  I believe her reply was, It already does!  At mile 11 I glanced at my Garmin which read 1:38.  2.1 miles to go... I can do this in under 22min for a sub 2hr goal!  Get it!!!  Mile 12,  1:47... Make... It... Hurt!!!  As I entered the finishers shoot, a right hand turn as opposed to another left hand turn, finally... I heard Coachie yelling to me to finish strong, pick my head up, pull my shoulders back, open up my rib cage, dig deep... OMG, Coachie!!! That's a lot of info you're throwing at me and I can't really think straight right now, but OK!!!  Then I saw Allen & the girls one more time!!! Then my Iron- friends!!! Then.... finally... The Finish Line!!! 1:54 run!!! Goal... Check!

I walked my way to my Iron-friends, picking up my 10lb medal & a water on the way.  I hit reset on my Garmin for the big reveal... 5:26!!!  Wait, WHAT?!?!?  NO WAY!!!  I had no idea that I was even capable of throwing down those numbers!!!  I was floored!!!
So this is what the perfect race day feels like, the kind that you piece together in your head, but never expect it to be a reality... Perfect weather; wetsuit swim, cool water; little to no wind on the bike & overcast, the potholes from the pre-ride were filled in so the roads were slightly more favorable;  cool temps for the run, still overcast.  Nutrition was spot on, nothing upsetting your stomach; being able to drink & take gu's as planned without nausea or gagging.  No technical issues like a flat tire, of which there were MANY!!!  All in all, I truly can say I had the perfect race and once again I am reminded of why I LOVE triathlon!
Smashing Finish!!!
(I didn't notice that guy until I nearly landed on him!)