Final Time: 4:56:15
1st AG/101 6th amateur woman OA/424
111th overall (men & women) /1900
It was a day to remember. It was fun. It was nerve wracking. It was Hard!! It doesn't matter how fit you are or how fast you are relative to the field, I believe that endurance racing hurts for every one of us out there. It's a long day. When you put yourself out there and leave nothing back on the couch, it's going to hurt. However, dare I say there are few things more satisfying than conquering that pain and getting to the finish line. All the suffering is worth deep sense of satisfaction. It is a remarkable high....
I was nervous last week. But I was able to maintain a clear head. I was feeling reasonable with my nerves. I wanted to do my best. I had specific goals and I felt they were within reach. I do always wonder how taper will work. How will my body react to the nutrition plan I had in mind. Will I be able to push through the pain.
Saturday arrived and I was feeling calm and relaxed. I had a great warm up. It was a fun day with Mark, Mary and Andy. I was able to finally meet my coach in person and that was great.
Before I knew it...that relaxed fun day was over and beep beep beep. My alarm was ringing 4:01 across the hotel room.
I stood in the middle of the room and reality hit. My hands shook as I brushed my teeth. This was it.
After watching Michael Lovato and Simon Lessing go through the same breakfast routine as me in the hotel's pre-dawn continental breakfast, I had a wave of calm again. They are just like us. They may be super fast, but their mornings start just like ours. They are sleepy and staggering around fixing oatmeal and coffee. It was a nice way to start.
We pulled into the park around 5:00. Like last year, I was struck by the flood of athletes making their way into the dark transition area. Lit by flood lights it is a bit surreal. Slow motion. Thousands of people moving through their own ritual.
I found Mary after a short time. We talked quickly and then separated again. It was time to start the non stop porta-potty trips. I swear I spent more time in line for those stinky blue cases then I did getting ready for my event.
After standing on the beach for 45 minutes and yes, waiting in line for the porta potty again, it was finally time to get in line. I wanted a few more hours. I wanted to set my clock back. At the same time, I was ready to hear the gun and go for it. Two thougts battling in my mind at once. That is normal for me on race day.
I edged to the front of the pack and right next to the orange start buoy. The thing flipped towards me a few times and I had bad flashbacks from my near drowning incident at the Portland race.
Ten, nine, eight, seven.....GO!
I felt great. The swim started and I took off comfortably. I didn't get hit by anyone. Smooth sailing. I looked behind me after 15-20 strokes and realized I was alone. I headed off and never looked back again. I felt really strong and smooth for the swim. I didn't have much trouble getting by the people in the waves ahead of us. It went well this time. Finally the orange triangle buoy appeared and we headed to shore. It was really choppy but I love watching the crowd on the beach grow bigger as I sight to shore. It's one of my favorite things about triathlons I think. There's some kind of rush in that for me.
I hit the beach and heard, "First blue cap!" Yeah. That's me! I heard and saw Mark and Andy screaming. Mark yelled my split for me. 29:10. Right on. I wanted to break last year's time of 30:57 and get under the 30" mark. 1st amateur woman in swim.....cool. Goal # 1....Check...
Transition was easy. I skipped the wetsuit strippers. They haven't worked for me. I was calm and methodical and went through the routine that I've grown used to this summer. Off I went. 2:04 not bad.
Bike--This was actuallyFun this race! I dont' usually say that about the bike segment. However, I felt great. Coach had told me to work the hills since I can gain the most there and take it easy on the decents since it's hard to gain much on that. Unfortunately, there were remarkably few downhills! So the first 10 or so miles are up up up. I worked them all and felt amazing. Strong and light. I kept cranking the whole ride. I was cautious of drafting and blocking and all those annoying and hard to avoid bike laws when there are 2000 racers!!! Mark and Andy were on the course in several spots (thanks Guys!!!) and I got great smiles from them, enthusiastic cheers, and quick updates on Mary!!! She and I were nervous about flats so I had to make sure she was doing ok!!
The way back was kind of annoying. There was a headwind. The hills continued to go up up UP even though they did that going out. How is that possible? It sure did feel that way. I was watchign the clock and working hard to get in before 2:45. I Really wanted to break 5 hrs and knew I had to come in around then in order to give myself a bit of a cushion on the run. I was still feelign good but my quads showed signs of fatigue. Just a touch. I took salt. Hammer gels, Heed, water. I kept fueling and hoping I was doing it right. Plus...no flats! No penalties! And NO Blood!!! Woohoo! Mom and Dad will like that last one. :o)
Finally, 1/2 mile to Ellacoya...YEAH! I was at 2;39 or 2:40 and knew I'd make it. Big smiles for this girl. That's about 20+ minutes off last year's time. Final split: 2:43.20 3rd in my AG on bike. Goal #2....Check!
T2 was fine as well. In and out in 1:42. Not bad. I had to change my socks. They were soaked from squirting water all over my legs to wash off sticky Heed. Guess that slowed me a bit. That's ok. Worth it I think.
Well, before the race, Mary and I had agreed that we just wanted to get to the run. We knew we'd be ok once we just got off the bike.
Um........woops. We were Oh SO wrong!!!
I knew almost immediately. I wasn't quite right. I wasn't breathing too hard. My stomach was fine. But my legs. My Quads. OUCH!!! they were on FIRE!!! They felt like they each weighed 50lbs. I was suffering right from the get go. Mile 1 was 7:20 and then the next 2 were under 7. That was great. Good splits. But there was way too much effort involved here. I was a bit stressed. I worked very hard to keep my head in the game. I shuffled. I was barely moving. "Put One foot in front of the other" was goign through my head. I had it in my head that if I made it back to the park, the half way mark, I woudl get a boost from my husband and Andy and then I could fight my way to the end. That turn around at 4+ took Sooooo long to get to. It was hot. It wa in the 80s and while in reality it was a gorgeous day, it wa hot to me. It has been cool and rainy for 3+ weeks in Maine and these temps were hard. I drank so much gatorade, water, squeezed sponges, and took gels. I was trying everything. I knew that I had to try something different. I know...COKE! I never take Coke. But I've heard stories about it really helping some people. I gave it a try. Magic!!! I had a boost and could run again. Not for long and not hard, but I had some relief. I drank so much soda on that run. There are aid stations Everywhere. It's awesome that way. I found myself dreaming of slush puppies the whole way. I couldn't wait to get back to the lake to jump in and to somehow find a slush puppy. I had to make this dream come true. It's all I could think about between painful steps. Slush puppies and staying upright. Either my legs would give out and I'd tip over, or I'd make it allllllllllllllllll the way back to the finish and have my dream meal of icy fruity slush.
Meanwhile, I had not been passed by a single woman all day. That felt good. Until mile 11. There she was. Girl in Red. Damn. Her leg had a 3 on it but not the 2nd digit. I almost asked her point blank, "listen. How old are you? I am really tired and really don't want to race right now. " Instead, I raced. How could I give up? We ran shoulder to shoulder until 12.5. At that point, what seemed like 100 of her teammates ( I learned later...at the time I thought people just picked Her to cheer for!) came out to yell GO RENEE!!! Hey! What about me? :) One guy ran right up to us and said to her...dont' wait! Get her now! Ugh. I was too tired for this! I was in so much pain but my running legs had come back. I did fight. I pulled a 6:55 for my last mile. But...she outkicked me. That's ok. I got it in the end. She started in a wave ahead of me. I beat her anyway! Ha! Take that! :0) I did give her a big congrats at the end and thanked her for saving me from the dead. She forced me to work the end of the race which is what I really wanted to do anyway.
When I crossed the line, I almost hit my watch. But at the last minute I remembered to smile for the camera! My attempt to do that resulted in an expression that I'm sure looked like a dying animal of some sort. I can't wait to see that one !
After hanging on to a fence for a while after crossing the line, I had a nice cold towel thrown on me and get this ...FREEZE POPS!!! CLose enough!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I almost hugged the guy. He gave me 5. I hit the cooling tent and ate my 5 freeze pops and all was good again. I did it.
Run 1:39. 52 (1 min slower than last year) Pace: 7:38 2nd in my AG for run. 11th amateur woman in run. Given how bad it felt, I'll take it. I didn't meet my goal for the run, but I'll take it. I did what I had to do.
Final time: 4:56:15 Goal #4 Big CHECK!! I broke 5 hrs!!! And finally, my last goal was to earn my Clearwater spot. Goal #5... Check!!
After hugging Mark at the finish, I said, "hun, I think I won." He confirmed it. I got my spot. While running out there, I wondered if I'd ever do another tri again! It hurt hurt hurt. But, after a little cool water and frozen fruity slush, I accepted my spot and am psyched for Worlds 2008!!!
That's that. My day on the race course. Now, I rest. I can't walk. I'm exhausted. But I'm So so Happy. It all came together.