Start the morning off listening to my tunes. Though I am usually an “In Search of Sunrise/Tiesto” Gal, I changed the tunes to make a tribute to Oakie. Paul Oakenfold that is. Partly because it is one of the G.U. series…Global Underground series—and well GU is also my energizer during the race. Love my Mint Chocolate GU…and Espresso Love. Stupid I know—but whatevs.
So jamming to Oakie G.U. New York—Disc 2. Perfect for setting my tempo for the bike leg—as too the run.
Transition bag ready to go—and head to transition with my FTE teammates.
Get marked. Get chip. Put around my ankle immediately seeing I lost this in NYC (but later located). Head to my bike—transition area. Flirt with a guy from Columbus to let me use his air pump to pump my tires—line at the bike support was forever long. And finish up setting up my transition area just so. Nerves start getting to me. I mean it is Nationals…but how much different than NYC could it be. I am to understand and believe that NYC pulls pretty solid athletes out…
I should have known when I saw athletes with their names splattered across the top of their bums with USA Team Onesy’s on…and their names on their bikes…that this race would be a doozy…
Head to swim start…
Jump in the water. Warm up for 2 minutes—and then head to position myself. Now I am the last person to say I am a good swimmer (yet). This is my weakest as of now—though I still position myself with probably the top of the swimmers. All of us hold on to the dock waiting for the gun to go off. “2 minutes left Ladies.” I am going off with my age group—even though I race Athena. Beats NYC where we went off with the Clydesdales. Now that was an interesting swim.
“15 seconds, Ladies.”
Trying to stay holding on as the girls now start getting feisty. At this point I am thinking maybe it was better going off with the Clydesdales. Mmm…yea. I think it actually was. Already kicking each other. Lovely!
And the swim starts.
As I get my fair share of kicks in the face…jabs to the side…I start being the giver that I am and give back to the ladies…On the first turn, I start breathing to my dominant side and all I see is the sun. I clobber a girl…and realize it is Ali, one of my teammates. I quickly get away from her seeing that if that was me, I would start kicking faster and possibly kicking the girl who just clobbered me…no need to get in a swim brawl with my teammate. Lord. I clobbered my own teammate. Sweet!
Second turn coming up. Feel pretty good. Been focusing on sighting and gliding so actually feel I am making good time. As I finish my turn and make my first breathe. Sun. All I see is the sun. Damn, Mr. Sunshine. Need to breath from the left—but no buoys to keep me on track.
Note to next year participants, definitely do not wear your clear goggles. On the long straight away, if you are a dominant right side breather, all you will see is sun. Water is murky—even with clear goggles the most you will see is 3 inches in front of you. The River is named Black Warrior for a reason…
All in all, I ended up zigzagging here. Not too many buoys to sight with—and the sun left it hard to even see the upcoming buoys in the distance. My goal was to do my best to stay straight—keep it steady—and glide.
As I said, I am not the best swimmer. On this straight away I feel many “jammed it”…went at “solid effort”. In retrospect, I think I would have started doing spurts of solid and steady efforts on this straight away. Seeing that I did not, I started getting pummeled by the waves behind me. I would like to say it was only one wave behind…I am to believe some three and eventually four waves back literally dragged me under.
Eventually got to the last turn and straight away…and at this point, almost lost a battle to the buoy. Swam to close to the last buoy that the rope almost pulled me back…under. Classic. Classic move.
And it is here where I started doing my solid/steady pushes. A little late, but rather late than never. No Mr. Sunshine in my face—that was nice. Ended up heading in pretty straight so was quite excited. Got out. Checked my watch…
Started at 7:55 roughly…watch read 8:38. I took a double take. And still I did not believe it was a 40+ minute swim. Not until I got my results did I really believe it. Just as an FYI for racers next year. That morning they opened a Dam due to flooding issues…so we had a pretty strong current. Some had commented that they felt they were in an “endless pool”…just not getting anywhere. I just thought I was going steady and gliding quite well. Little did I know that I was actually gliding the opposite way. As I said, I am not a strong swimmer. For another prospective on the swim, my coach usually does the swim in 20 or so minutes…he was in the 30-minute range…and wearing a “speed suit”. So pretty strong current. Moral of the story, training in the pool not the same as training in the open water with currents and waves…shocking I know!
Out of the water—head up a pretty short but steep run up to the transition area. Noticed most bikes gone—all the bikes with the names that is. Definitely a different caliber of athlete here. I with Jacques, my 3+ year old Specialized Allez road bike, racing along with the Cervelo, Jamais, Blue bikes. Poor Jacques!
Note that I must learn the rubber band trick for getting on the bike out of transition…but for now I strap in to my shoes. Goggles on. Helmet on. Head out of transition. If you are the stalker of the race and race better chasing down your prey, this course is a great one for you. Lots of ins and outs to see your prey. If you are one not to like to see your prey, then tough luck.
Bike was two loops with a total of six out and backs—if I remember correctly. Hilly. Sunny. Hardly any shade, if any. Was rather disappointed being that they were shallow, steady climbs with crappy down hills. I tend to like down hills and tucking to give my legs a rest…no hills really gave way to deserving to “tuck”. Into the ride, my legs took a while to loosen up. Most likely the length (time) of the swim coupled with the four glasses of wine on Friday (the day before) probably did not help. Kept hydrating on the bike. Had two bottles in the cages on Jacques. And had one and half GUs on the ride. Took the whole first loop for my legs to loosen—and as for passing folks. Far and few between. I felt like a TNT athlete riding on the right the whole time. Might as well just had a bell on my handle bars and basket for VivVie (my 3.5 lbs Maltese—yes I am “that girl”).
In the last in and out, finally saw Jess—my teammate…my “prey”. Definitely gave me an extra push to catch her. So started jamming on the few straight-aways left. I am still learning the art of efficiency—and again, should have been doing a few more solid/steady efforts a little earlier on. Quite a few straight-aways that lean themselves to pushes. Got to the dismount. And ran in for the last leg…the run.
Of note, fastest bike was 27+ mph. Oy vey!
Into the run, I realized I was most likely 5 minutes away from Jess. I would imagine that she had 5 minutes on me on the swim—and as for the bike we typically are pretty much in line with one another. Just need to maintain an 8-min mile. Jess is typically just shy of 9-min miles. For me, an 8-min mile is pretty much my RP (Race Pace). Heading out on the run, I was exhausted. Had frozen a bottle of water that morning to carry with me at the start of the run to poor over my head. (After the swim and bike, all the ice had melted leaving ice cold water.) I am happy I had this. Right away I took it and poured some on my neck and wrists. Ice cold. Absolutely delish!
A half a mile into the race, I started to get in a mood. Was not into it mentally. Rather over the race. No shade for rather all of the race thus far. No promise of shade to come. Hot. Humid. Done with it. I studied the course and knew the first 3 miles were hills. And training in New York—well just like the pool training—not much of hill training when you run the Westside Highway mostly (completely flat). Tried to stay optimistic and get into the race…so started to think of Oakie tempo here. If I didn’t, I would have probably been curled up on the side of the road with a sign that side, “Toledo or Bust”. I just wanted my mummy at this point. Oakie though saved me—and I finally zoned out. Kept my tempo steady. Kept my head in the game.
First hill. Long and gradual. Almost died. Wanted to walk so bad. Saw Billy, another teammate of mine cruising down the downhill of this in and out—arms going wild. Thought to myself, “so that is how you go downhill”. Ended up making it up with a steady jog…and started to go down the hill—attempted the wailing arm trick. Ten seconds into the wailing arm/pinwheel downhill, decided that was a not for me. (As a side note, Billy qualified for Budapest and is a killer triathlete.)
Second hill. Short but very steep. My least favorite of all of them. Felt I was trying to scale a wall. Nothing more to say, except that it sucked.
Third hill. Gradual. Rather long and windy if I remember correctly…the sun and heat started getting to me where I became dazed. But, but then I saw Jess on her way down. Once I reached the top realized that I was about two minutes behind her. Recharged. Rebooted. Three miles left—and a little rolling but mostly down hill from here.
Entered a little pathway that made you think you were finally getting some shade. Um. Yeah. All two tenths of a mile of shade…maybe. Take it where you can I guess. Spotted Jess a little ahead of me. Water station coming up. See Jess stopped for a quick second. Start picking up my pace. At most, I have 24 minutes left—3 miles left—easy, I got this. On flats/gradual downhills I should at least average 7:40s RP right now. Get to water station.
“No more water. Gatorade?”
You have to be kidding me. Sun beating down on me. No shade basically the whole race and the run out of water. I hear someone complain behind me—which made me empathize with the water station peeps. Ok. So, no water. Races are not meant to be perfect, clearly!
Take a Gatorade. Dowse myself with it to cool off. Swam in murky water—so being a little sticky later will only make a shower feel that much better. And that idea, umm…well, it did not work. Gatorade at this point was rather the same temp as outside which at this point was 90+ degrees Fahrenheit. Sounded like a good idea.
A person is yelling, “one mile coming up.” I do not know if someone was really yelling this or all was a mirage—words I wanted to hear. Regardless, I pick up the pace even more. Breathing pretty heavy at this point. Get up right behind Jess. Not sure if I have to worry about someone else (another “prey”) but highly unlikely. Jess was last year’s National Champ for Athena so I bet no for this year…no other prey. I stay behind her for a short while. Literally behind her. Breathing heavy. Do not think she knows it is me. Get to her speed. Sit on her for a few more seconds to catch my breath. And what I mean by catching my breath, I basically sounded like a freakin’ donkey. Heehaw! Got myself to a calm breath.
Time to move. Need this to be over. Pick up the pace—and pass her.
“Suck it.” She says in a low, tired breath—as though she did not want me to hear.
What? What did she just say to me? Did she just tell me to suck it? Jess? Really? Seriously? (I asked her later that day—she swore that is not what she said…but throwing a few F bombs around may have been the case. Ok. So she said Fuck it…)
Caught her with one mile to go. Again, no shade. Just wanted to be done with this. Picked up the pace to basically all I had left. My body was definitely feeling it—my legs were done. In yoga, a teacher taught me that when the pain became so unbearable to just focus on one thing in front of you—and just focus on this. The pain will dissipate if you truly are focused. I do this. I focus on the various trees I am running to at this point. At the random racer that is in front of me. I focus so hard, I become relaxed in this state. It worked. I am at full force with only a few more steps. 5. 4. 3. 2…and I cross the line. Kneel down. Head below heart. And a lady begins to pour water over me. Loving this! Absolutely, loving this! First season. At Nationals. Competing with the top of the top in the U.S. And I have crossed the finish line!
Overall, I would say the course was extremely challenging mentally and physically…and the experience, quite humbling.
Results of the race. I believe 53rd in my age division (25-29)…But as for my division, Athena, I am National Champ baby! On the road to build up Team Athena. Goal for next year, race Athena but be in the top 10 of my age group. As for now, on to the next…Team Nationals—Oklahoma City or bust!