Hello friends, family, and all the other random people who follow my blog! I'm checking in after racing this past weekend in Sandusky, OH, at REV3 Cedar Point. This was an important race on a variety of levels: 1) Sandusky is a few hours from where I grew up which meant I had a big family/friends contingent in attendance and I always feel that I owe them a good performance when they've made the effort to stand out all day to cheer me on; 2) it was a high points race for the overall REV3 Pro Series and a good opportunity to move up in the standings; and 3) I was coming in as the defending champion of this race and was looking for a repeat. It had been exactly one year since I'd done a full distance triathlon, so there was definitely an element of the unknown going into this race. A full distance triathlon is not something to be taken lightly: it's such a long day with so many factors involved, and it can humble even the most experienced athletes. My training has been strong this year and I felt well prepared going into the event, but I won't lie---I was freaking out a little in the days leading up to Sunday! A lot of this feeling was pressure that I put on myself to perform on the day, but there was certainly external pressure as well. I tried to ignore the external pressure as much as possible but it wasn't until afterwards that I realized how much weight the expectation of a repeat performance can carry. Whew! Glad to have that one over!
And just because I like to live on the edge, I decided a couple of weeks beforehand to send a box of race gear via snail mail so that it would lighten the literal load that I had to carry on my travel day. The box had not arrived by the time I rolled into the Midwest on Wednesday...and when there was still no box by 4pm on Thursday I was getting really worried. It had my helmet, Powergels, glasses, fuel belts, racing flats, and a few other odds & ends essential for racing. I was due to drive from Indiana to Sandusky on Friday morning and I REALLY wanted to have that box with me. There was a safety net because my mom wasn't heading over to Cedar Point until Saturday so if all else failed she could bring it with her (assuming it arrived!), but it made me extremely nervous to think of traveling to a race site without all my gear. Luckily, at 5pm on Thursday the mail truck pulled up into the driveway and my box was delivered! Woohoo! Now I could breathe a little easier.
The second pre-race incident that got me sweating a little bit was that I had a Dells Redux moment: while building up my bike on Thursday morning I noticed yet another crack forming in the newly replaced seatpost clamp when I was tightening the seatpost down. No! Are you kidding me?! Luckily I had a spare with me this time and was able to immediately replace the clamp---and tightened it down very gingerly by hand, no torque wrench allowed! Disaster averted. Sigh of relief.
This is what a cracked seatpost clamp looks like.
Since last year ended up being such a success for me, I tried to keep the same routine this time around in the days leading up to the race. I headed over to Sandusky on Friday morning with the idea of spending the afternoon scoping out the course and fulfilling media obligations. I had the same AWESOME host family (thanks Hope, Roger, Hayden & Hunter!) whose house is conveniently located a few miles from the park along the bike course. My friend Courtney and her daughter Lucy rolled into the area later on Friday and we headed into downtown Sandusky for dinner and happened to walk into the middle of a classic car show. I love classic cars! It was a nice distraction from all the race thoughts that were dashing around in my head.
Pre-race b-day celebration. Photo Betsy Evers
Friday night and Saturday morning ended up being horrendous from a weather standpoint, with huge thunder & lightening storms that brought torrential downpours and even some hail. I felt bad for the REV3 staff because a lot of their hard set-up work was undone in the storms. Both the kids race and the sprint triathlon on Saturday were modified to just runs because the conditions were too dangerous for swimming & cycling. This was a bit of a solace to Lucy, who had been signed up for the kids race but fell and broke her arm earlier in the week while riding her bike to swim practice. She was a real trooper and volunteered instead!
The weather cleared up by Saturday afternoon and looked like we were going to have a pretty nice day on Sunday. I did some light training in the morning, then went to the pro meeting and pro panel in the early afternoon. After that it was time to do final gear organizing, then off to spend the evening with my family and friends. They really surprised me this year by having birthday brownies (including candles!), hats, and party favors when I walked in the door! It's not my birthday for a couple more weeks but they figured we may as well celebrate it while we were all together. It was so sweet! The evening passed with many good belly laughs in good company...a perfect way to wind down before the big day.
Guess who got to wear #1?!
It's funny, for such a long race I don't really feel that I have too much to write about it. I woke up, ate breakfast, cooked my potatoes, put on my tattoos, then loaded up my gear in the car and drove down the street to Cedar Point. I got everything organized in the transition area, did a walk-through to make sure I knew the flow and where the mount/dismount line was, then headed out for a little jogging warm-up. I was feeling fine, just a little full from a large breakfast, then all of a sudden my stomach jumped and I doubled over and puked part of that breakfast back up. Twice. Hmm. I tried not to worry about it, but of course I did---Did I just lose all my pre-race calories? Am I coming down with strep throat after hanging out with my sick niece the other day? Is it just really bad nerves? I actually felt much better after "revisiting" some of my breakfast, so I chalked it up to eating too many calories too quickly, jogged back to transition and put the incident out of my mind. I was greeted by my cheering squad, complete with glow-in-the-dark masks and wands, and that put a smile on my face. Then it was down to the swim start to test out and christen the water before go time!
Aside from having to do more dolphin dives than in any other race (Jesse Thomas, you would have LOVED it!) and a little bit of jostling with one of the other girls in the stretch to the first turn buoy, the swim was pretty uneventful. The water was choppier and warmer than last year (hence no wetsuits), so my time was a couple minutes slower even though the effort was good. I exited in first place with the second girl a few steps behind. T1 went smoothly as all I had to do was pull off my Blueseventy swimskin, buckle on my bright green Rudy Project Wingspan helmet, grab my Fezzari speed machine and go. I led the bike through the first loop, keying off of some of the slower professional men. On the second loop Carrie Lester pulled up beside me and we rode together essentially for the rest of the ride. I felt strong and controlled, never riding outside of myself, and was really pleased afterwards to see how evenly I had split the ride. I hit T2 just a few seconds ahead of Carrie in a new PR bike split of just under 5 hours. Woohoo! I took the time in transition to sit down, pee, put on Bodyglide and socks before sliding into my shoes and heading out onto the run. I told myself it was a long day and a few extra seconds lost in transition were not going to lose the race.
Enjoying the ride. Photo Nils Nilsen
I should have listened more carefully to myself, because once I started running I got caught up in racing Carrie and took off like a bat out of hell! My first two miles were in the 6:30-range which is WAY TOO FAST. I have no idea what I was thinking. Obviously, I wasn't! I tried backing off but my next two miles were still sub-7:00. Around Mile 5 Carrie caught back up and took the lead again. The first half marathon stayed pretty close, hovering between 30 seconds to 2 minutes gap between us. I was still feeling decent, although I knew that I would probably pay for those fast early miles later in the run. It was around Mile 18 that I really started feeling that mistake come back to haunt me. By this point I began to worry about who was behind me and whether I would be able to hold them off. I got my answer in the last two out-and-back sections of the run, when Jess Meyers went from being there but not too threatening to suddenly being way too close for comfort. She caught me with about 4 miles to go, running like it was a 5K! If it weren't me being passed it would have been a beautiful thing to watch---she was absolutely FLYING. And in her first full distance race and first marathon EVER! Wow.
The battle on the run. Photo Nils Nilsen
Overall, I can't complain with my day. I swam strong, biked very well, ran a decent (if not very smart) marathon and landed on the podium with an overall time within minutes of last year's near-perfect race. I'm a little disappointed to have not defended my title, but it was great to be involved in a hot battle all day long and to try out some different strategies. If I had paced a little smarter on the run I think I could have accomplished the repeat, but of course hindsight is 20-20. Hopefully I can learn from this and nail it in the next go round. Carrie and Jess had strong AND smart races, and that's what it took to win last Sunday. Congratulations to them, and to everyone who competed!
Thanks go to: my AWESOME cheering squad in attendance (Mom, Betsy, Zak, Courtney & Lucy) and to everyone else who cheered and sent words of encouragement in the days before and after the race; Hope & Roger Franklin for opening their home to me again this year; the entire REV3 staff for their tireless efforts to put on another world-class event; the Cedar Point staff and town of Sandusky for allowing this event to take place; to the volunteers without whom a race like this could not exist; to my clients/athletes in Utah for forgiving me an extended absence to do this race; to Albert for his unwavering support; and of course to my sponsors REV3, Powerbar, Pearl Izumi, Recovery Pump, BlueSeventy, Fezzari, Rudy Project, and The Bike Shoppe for the everyday contributions you make to help get me to the starting line ready to race. I couldn't do it without you!