Yes, even the title has exclamation points today – my day was THAT! GOOD! But that’s all the spoiler you’re going to get…here’s the report:
I slept about as well as I ever do before a race where I have big expectations, which is to say, barely at all. I had set my alarm for 5 am, but I was up at 4. No matter, I had plenty of nerves and adrenaline going for me, so I didn’t feel tired. I had some coffee, read some blogs, hit up the bathroom 37 times and got my Gatorade and bike ready. I had frozen a bottle of Gatorade for the bike leg – this would turn out somewhat poorly for me, I’ll have to rethink this strategy before my next race.
IronHubs and I had decided a few days ago that because of his crazy work schedule this month and the boys both racing tomorrow that the three of them would stay home while I raced. On the one hand, I was a little sad not to have my cheering squad there for me, but on the other hand, with them still asleep when I left the house, my morning was pretty smooth. My wonderful mom came along as Chief Sherpa and Official Photographer and she was excellent company!
The drive was uneventful, but the venue was packed! They said it was a record crowd today, which was pretty cool. I like it when the race course is full enough to be exciting, but open enough to speed on through. Plus there were a ton of spectators.
Since I was wearing my team jersey today, I got to use the team’s reserved rack and scored a sweet rack spot just off of the bike dismount, right near the run start – w00t! I got body-marked, set up my transition, visited the port-a-pots 37 times and then I was ready to rock and roll!
RUN LEG #1 – 3 miles
When I went to line up at the start, I noticed that the field was just about the same size as last month, maybe 40 – 50 people. I recognized quite a few people from last month’s race and chatted with a really nice girl who recognized me from last month. The funny thing is that nobody wanted to come all the way up to the starting line. I’m not sure why everybody was hanging back, but I wasn’t shy, so I ended up being the very first person out of the gate!
My strategy for this race was to go all out and give it everything I had to give for as long as I had it to give. Don’t be afraid! I let my legs fly and didn’t worry about the consequences. I’m pretty sure this worked in my favor…I’ll get to this topic more in a little bit.
I felt fantastic on this run! Of course I got passed – the fast people were all behind me and they swarmed over me in the first quarter mile. I was unconcerned about them and focused on running hard. I got passed by one girl and then another, but no more. Heck yeah, I was happy to be third female – I’ve never been that high in the ranking before!
The three miles passed in a speedy blur. I powered up the hills, I flew down the hills, I honestly barely even noticed the hills. I was intent on running my hardest and giving my best. Mission accomplished!
3 miles – 22:38, T1 – 1:52 (didn’t quite meet my goal of shaving time in both transitions, even though I totally thought I was hustling here)
BIKE LEG – 16 miles
I love the bike leg so much I want to marry it! Today was my sixth race on this course and definitely my best showing to date. As soon as I got on Mr. Bike I felt awesome! It helps of course that the first 2.5 miles are pretty much all downhill – I hit a max speed of 27 mph in Mile 3! – so I was able to get in the big ring and aero position right away and just opened up a can of whoop-ass on that course.
I passed the girl who was second place female in the first few miles. Holy crap – me? Second Female?? This is better than a dream! I got passed (by guys) a few times, too, but I didn’t let it bother me. I was way up near the front of the mid-pack, which is very unusual for me, so I was just enjoying everything about my ride. This is an out-and-back course and I frequently either don’t see the lead cyclist at all (because he got to T2 before I got out of the water) or see him within the first mile or two. Today I didn’t see the lead cyclist coming toward me until I was at Mile 6! Boo-ya!
Something that I did differently today was wear my Garmin on my wrist the whole race rather than transfer it to the bike mount. I looked at it once or twice during the first run leg, but it was basically inaccessible to me during the bike leg. This worked out well for me – I got the mental benefit of racing “naked,” but still got to savor all the data crunching when I got home. I rode totally by feel, and man, did I feel good! I felt like I was cruising up even the toughest hills and I completely hammered the downhills. I didn’t worry that I would bonk on the final run – in fact, I really didn’t even think about the final run until the last mile or so of the bike leg.
The toughest part of the course came at the turnaround, when I realized that the “out” portion had indeed been a tailwind. UGH! Coming back wasn’t a terrible headwind, more of a cross-headwind, but it started to wear me out. The final 2.5 miles are a long, steady uphill. It’s not steep, but it takes a toll. I am much better at short, steep hills than those endless gradual inclines. I kept it in an easy gear and just spun my way through.
The frozen Gatorade bottle didn’t work quite as well as I had hoped. I knew it was going to be a warm day (60 degrees at the start and well over 70 degrees when I finished – not terrible, but definitely warmer than I prefer), so I was hoping the Gatorade would defrost and be a nice refreshing cold drink while I was riding. Umm, not so much. It was still frozen in the middle while I was riding, which made it really hard to drink. I finished the bike leg way under on my planned hydration, and that definitely affected my final run.
16 miles – 51:05, T2 – 55 seconds (YAY!! I’m super happy with this!)
RUN LEG #2 – 3 miles
Maybe you already know that I don’t do well in the heat. This morning wasn’t exactly sweltering, but it got to be too much for me. I could feel it as soon as I started to run – my heartrate wouldn’t come down and my stomach said, “No thank you.” I took my Gatorade bottle along with me, hoping to make up some of the drinking I had missed on the bike, but it did that weird thing where it went from being frozen to suddenly being warm. Yuck!
Thankfully, the run didn’t end up being a total death march, but it sure wasn’t the speedfest I’d had on the first leg. There was a LOT of “C’mon P, you can do this!” self-talk going on in my head. I wanted to PR so badly I could taste it, and I wasn’t going down without a fight! I promised myself that I could run slow if I would just keep running. I walked through the aid station and poured a cup of water on myself to cool down. I picked off a couple of people who were running slower than I was. At Mile 1, I started chanting, “Almost done, almost done…” even though it was a lie.
At the turnaround, the girl I had passed on the bike caught back up to me. Boo. She was super nice and complimented my bike split, but being passed took a little wind out of my sails. I struggled to keep up with her, but I didn’t have it in me to take back second place.
When I got to Mile 2 and I really was “almost done,” I knew I could push through. I tried to do the mental math on my finish time, but I had absolutely no idea where my total time stood. I knew the first run had gone exceptionally well. I knew the bike had gone well, but I didn’t know my split. I knew the final run was sucking nuts, but I wasn’t sure how much time I was losing. I estimated that I was going to come in at 1:46:00 or 1:47:00, 3 or 4 minutes better than my previous best, and I was thrilled!! A new PR was waiting right around that corner if I could just keep my feet moving!
I sprinted (but not really) down the finisher’s chute and COULD NOT find the clock! What was my time? What was my time? I heard the announcer call out my name and I cruised under the inflatable arch and – finally, there it was! – saw that I was way off on my estimation.
I had set a new PR by SEVEN MINUTES!!!
3 miles – 26:47
My mom and I stuck around for the awards ceremony. I know I have had a really amazing racing season this year (four races, four PRs, four AG awards – 3 of them AG wins), but I promise you that I am still giddy and disbelieving when they call my name for a podium spot! I will never be blasé about this!!
Before you start snickering about my “big win,” let me say that they called a third place name, she just wasn’t there to pick up her award! There might have been even more than three of us in the AG, official results aren’t posted yet.
I am ridiculously happy with the way today’s race went – this was a “stars aligned and angels sang” sort of day. I felt fantastic for almost all of it, and even the tough parts never made me feel defeated or unhappy. I don’t think the final run was slow because I bonked, I think it was slow because I was hot. So, in order to improve my time at next month’s race, I’ll be doing some heat acclimation in the next few weeks.
I hope you are having an amazing weekend, too!