Before I begin with the details of my race, I can sum the whole race up by saying, "What an experience." I learned so much from this race. I gained a lot of confidence in myself as a competitor. As a racer.
I was very anxious as I prepared myself for the trip earlier in the week. My stomach started to wiggle, and gurgle and hurt! I was anxious to leave the kids. I was anxious about the entire event.
I sacrificed a lot at home for this race. School is in session for the boys. That makes life busier. My mind was distraced with this event much of time. Our home is under construction. Instead of keeping things under control and peaceful at home, I chose to train for 5-6 hours at a time. There was stress. There were tears. But in the end, there was success and satisfaction. And I do believe, I also have children who are proud of their Mommy. That means a lot too.
I put so much work into this race and then SO much money to travel there. My family was helping with the kids, my husband took time off from work. I just felt the need to make it “worthwhile.” That said, a strange calm came over me on Friday. I just knew I was ready. It was finally time to actually race and do what I knew how to do.
Sat a.m. Mary and I headed out of the hotel to the transition area to get body marked and check our bike tires etc. We were allowed to check the bikes but not take them out and we coudlnt’ go to our bags. We had until 6:30 and then transition was closed. It was dark outside but there were HUGE spotlights all over. There were TV cameras. There was awesome music blasting. And the fittest looking athletes you’ve ever seen. No one looked soft. No one looked like a first timer. All the bikes were rockin’ fast. It was a bit intimidating. Remember I'm from Maine. We do have big races that sometimes pull in 500-600 people, but the scene is much different.
We got marked with stamped #s rather than markers. I was enjoying the special treatment. There was a guy running around transition helping everyone pump their tires. There were volunteers all over the place.
After a few trips to the bathrooms (and we are proud to say we avoided porta potties the whole a.m!) we headed to the beach.
We were finally in our corral with 75 other fast and f it looking women. I had no idea how I would hold up against these women but figured I just had to go for it. I positioned myself in the front and on the right so I could hug the buoys. The course went straight out, a short turn right to antoher buoy and then straight back to shore.
Finally….a Gunshot. And it really smelled and sounded and in some ways Felt like I got shot. It was right next to me and I smelled that smoke immensely. It was a running start but the water was quite shallow for a ways out. I scooted down and dove over the water 6-7 times before I could begin swimming. I saw 1 girl head out like a shot. She was gone. Ok ,no problem. Another one was next to me but a few strokes ahead. I could tell she was strong and would probably move ahead. I settled into 3rd and tried to find my groove. I had really hoped to warm up but the format of the morning didn’t allow for it. I was off for a bit but felt ok. After a little while, I had a strange sensation around me and realized I had a draft pack behind me! In what felt like slow motion, 3 or 4 other women surrounded me. Darn. I thought I was safely in 3rd. Guess not. This is Worlds after all and I had to work for it! We hit some big swells as we approached the turn buoy. We made the turn and headed back with the sun directly in our eyes. There were now 4 of us in a straight line across. I sighted off their arms the rest of the way. We were all stroke for stroke. Sometimes I was two or three strokes ahead of them and sometimes they were ahead of me. We caught some of the swimmers who had left ahead of us and dealt with some kicking and thrashing all around.
The swim is my favorite leg but there is a serious thrill for me as I sight and see the crowd on the beach and the huge arch paving the way for us. I get so excited. At the same time, I knew 56 miles of nervous biking were headied my way. I was tired too. I had swallowed a lot of water. I was feeling it already. I was having my first “low” and started to doubt myself and what I could do for the next 69.1 miles. Here’s where the mind games began. I took another look at the crowd and regained my excitement and focus. I wish I had pushed myself to stand up a tad bit faster because all of us came out of the water together but I somehow clicked that mat behind most of them. Darn. It didn’t matter in the big picture of the race though and that’s what was on my mind. I just had to get my bearings as I stood up.
The crowd was huge at swim exit. I heard Mark, Andy, and Marni yelling to me. I was struggling with my wetsuit and unable to give them a big smile but I was thinking, “Hey I hear you! Thanks guys!! Here I go!”
We ran up a long beach and hit the showers. Those things are great. The water was warm and super powerful. It felt so refreshing. And the wetsuit strippers! YES! Finally some strippers who meant it!!! I have used them a few other times and practically had to help the kids (yes I had some 12 year olds once) rip it off. I had 2 girls this time who Yanked that baby so hard. I was psyched and thanked them.
I ran to the rack where my gear bags were. Blue bike blue bike blue bike. I had to keep saying that to myself. I was afraid I’d forget which was which!
There were volunteers Everywehre in the changing tent. They were Amazing. This girl kept offering to dump my bag but I had a system instead. She handed me my glasses and I just went about my thing with my shoes etc. She took over from there. She repacked my bag for me and sent me to my bike. Fun stuff. I loved this. I ran to the bike, prayed for no flats or crashes, and off I went.
This bike course was NUTS!!! At first, I was breathing so hard and my glutes killed. I was a bit worried. After a bit I settled in and felt better. These roads are crazy. It was really flat (although there were actually a few small hills over bridges etc) and very fast. Somehow I managed to be alone on the roads most of the day. But let me tell you, these draft packs are insane!!! I think about 5 packs went by me during the race. I have no idea how many people were in them but let’s say 40. At least. It was scary. I’m sure they were going 30 mph and they were just cheating their asses off. Not only was it super dangerous the way they just took over the whole lane but it’s flat out illegal. And they didn’t care. Oh well. What can you do? There were a few women mixed in there too. That's how some of them got such fast splits.
The miles just flew by on the bike. I was having fun. Each 10 miles that hit were 10 less miles for me to flat on! I was super worried about something technical ruining my day. But, I made it. I got all my nutrition in while I was out there. I took time to slow down for gels, for my bottles, to stretch my legs after not climbing for an hour…I think it paid off.
So I climbed over the bridge to the finish area and the energy was amazing. The music was blasting. The crowds were huge. I love that stuff. When I climbed off the bike, I was swarmed by volunteers again ready to take my bike. I didn’t have to rack it myself! I loved this. I ran over to the gear bags and should have started my red run red run chant but I forgot and grabbed the blue bag! Oh no. But lucky for me the volunteers were there again to tell me and have me drop the blue back and grab the red and all was good.
I had a decent transition except my race # had ripped off my race belt Before the bike so I had to spend time reattaching that. Besides that, I was fine. My stomach killed heading into the tent and I thought I might be doomed but when I ran out, I was fine.
I headed off and made a plan. My quads were Not on fire like my last 70.3 so I wanted to play it smart. I decided to take it “easy” for the first 6 and then to let it go. I would build into this run. I dind’t want to blow up. I wanted to enjoy the day all the way through.
Mile 1 felt smooth and easy. 6:40. Ooops. Ok, so maybe I’m off the pace a bit. I thought it felt easy! Try again. That was too fast. Next mile had a hill (the bridge..big hill actually ) and I was over 7:00. Ok, that’s better but let’s see what I am without the hill. I felt ok. I started running between 7:10-7:26. I was ok with this. But I started having to deal with mental issues along the way. I was just so tired. I wanted to lay down. Really. Just be done. Enough. I had had enough. I wasn’t really miserable, just done. You know that feeling?
So I had to talk myself out of that. Losing focus? Time for a gel. This is something I’ve learned. I took a salt, a gel, lots of sponges down my shirt, water on my head, I drank Gatorade constantly. It was getting hot. The roads there are white b/c they’re concrete and so it’s super bright.
We ran over the big bridge, down the road, off into a neighborhood and then back over the bridge, all the way to the finish line and psych…not done yet….go around again! So like I said, I had a plan. I was just going to get to that turn and then play the game. I was doing ok. Around mile 5 we went through another Ironman arch and they had a message board. I had one! A. Bancroft U are a Winner. I had a moment of feeling important out there in the sea of hard core triathletes so my stride grew longer and I pushed on. It was surprisingly “fun” to go through the finish chute even though I had another loop. The music was still blaring and the screaming crowd is good for a tired soul.
I saw Mark, Andy and Marni as I came in for the turn and back around again. They were awesome!! they screamed and took pictures and yelled great reminders about water and pace. I hope you all know how very much that helps. Your support means everything out there. I could Not do it without you.
My legs felt loose and I decided to try to pick it up. Well, ok, I thought I did but my splits just wouldn’t get faster. But they were dropping too much either so I was ok. I kept them all under 7:30 so that was good for me. New plan. Get to the neighborhood and then when I was back on the bridge with 2-3 miles to go, then I would start to go hard. But my mind kept going places. It kept going to LP’09. How am I going to do that run?? I had to get away from that because it was bringing me down.
I forced myself to stay in the moment. To look around and look at all the people with me. I focused on the runners I went by and the fact that I was hanging on and doing my job that day. I ran by Sister Madonna Buder and told her she Rocked and gave her a thumbs up. THE BRIDGE!! I was almost there. I started to smile. I smiled and smiled and then geez, I got a cramp. Darn. Ok, no big deal. Remember those hard hard hard miles I ran through and pushed myself to exhaustion during training. Why was this different? It’s such a head game I think. I am learning how to get out of these ruts when out there… I think that’s a huge part of these endurance races.
One mile left. I wasn’t pulling out faster splits but my effort was huge and I was hanging on. I was happier than I can explain. The emotion of getting to this race, of hanging on for months and months of hard training when it was the “off season” for others close to me, of fighting pain and fatigue to push on was overwhelming me. I saw my watch as I came into the long finishers chute and was ecstatic. I did it. I started pumping my arms and jumping around. I was one of those crazy finishers jumping all over the place. I loved it!!!
After I crossed the line this huge wave of relief and satisfaction came over me. I just kneeled down on the ground and smiled so big inside. Of course, I was swarmed again with help, “are you ok? Are you ok?”
I’m GREAT!!! I was so great.
I waited for Mary at the finish and we had the biggest happiest hug ever.
It wasn’t quite over. Mark and Andy found us at the end and Mark told me I was 5th in my age group. Cool!!! A neighbor called my father in-law who called Mark to tell us. Funny. There I was At the race and my supporters back in Maine had to let us know this.
What did this mean? I was heading to the podium! Top 5 get awards!
We went to the awards that night. Thousands of chairs lined up on the beach in front of a HUGE stage with video screens on either side. After awarding the pros their prizes, it was time for the age group winners. They called each of the top 5 in the age group up to the stage. We were awarded M-dot trophies. Our names and and times were on one video screen and we were on the other. We held our trophies over our heads while cameras snapped away. My 6 minutes of fame. I did feel like a rock star for a minute. I mean, little me from Paris, Maine. Pretty fun.