Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Are You Half Full?

This past weekend was such a great one that I hardly know where to begin! After not doing as well points-wise for the REV3 Pro Series at Cedar Point as I'd hoped, and subsequently learning that the Half Full Triathlon was actually part of the series, I made a relatively last-minute decision to throw my hat in the ring and book a trip to Maryland. It ended up being a wonderful weekend for a variety of reasons---four days chock-full of good memories with great people!

I flew in and out of Philadelphia because a) it was cheaper and b) it would put me closer to my east coast relatives and give me an opportunity to visit them while in the area. My Aunt Candy (a.k.a. my #1 Philly Fan) and Uncle Brian were kind enough to let me use their house as home base despite having a wedding and a high school reunion (we won't say which year!) going on that same weekend. I arrived in Philly on Friday afternoon, then on Saturday morning I made the drive down to Maryland and was greeted at Centennial Park by the familiar REV3 logos, along with the Ulman Cancer Fund banners flapping in the breeze. It was a beautiful location and I was excited to tackle the course on Sunday.

Race morning skies---photo by Eric Wynn.

The Half Full Triathlon truly is a special event with an atmosphere unlike any other triathlon I have done. The main purpose of the race is to raise awareness and funds for the Ulman Cancer Fund, an organization dedicated to providing support for young adults battling cancer. The name "Half Full" comes not from the distance of the race but from the Ulman Cancer Fund's philosophy of fighting cancer with hope and a positive attitude. Ninety-two percent of the people participating in the event were racing in honor or memory of someone with cancer, and there was a special Survivors Wave which consisted of 30 people who have successfully beaten cancer--including bib #1, a certain Mr. Lance Armstrong. The energy of the event was unbelievable and I am so glad I got to experience it.

Keeping a "half full" attitude---a smile despite the rain. Photo by Eric Wynn.

Race morning dawned with temperatures close to 30 degrees cooler than the previous day and with a forecast of rain beginning at 7am. Like clockwork, the rain started spitting from the sky just as I was heading out of the transition area down to the swim start. It was cold, but in comparison to the Boise 70.3 race in June it felt relatively balmy so I wasn't overly concerned with the forecast and knew that I'd likely be okay in my usual race kit and just toe-covers on my bike shoes for a little extra warmth. The swim was uneventful---a nice smooth start and clean water the whole way. It wasn't a bad swim but it wasn't a great swim either. There was a lengthy run-up to the transition area that was good for building a little warmth before hopping on the bike. I got out of the water in 4th but was able to transition smoothly and start the bike in 3rd place.

Contemplating the swim and the meaning of the day. Photo by Eric Wynn.

Columbia MD and the surrounding area is absolutely gorgeous and I knew it was going to be a fun ride. The addition of rain on the roads made me a little cautious for the first half of the bike: in Utah we've had maybe 3 days of rain total since about May and I was a little out of practice riding in slick conditions. Midway through the ride I bridged up to the leaders and on one of the hills was able to ride through the group into the lead. It was at this point that I started to notice that my fingers were getting cold and that shifting was really clumsy. It was a good time to remind myself of the "Half Full" philosophy and keep a positive outlook. The remainder of the ride was actually quite enjoyable for me---I liked having open space in front of me and not having to worry about positioning off of the other ladies.

Another "half full" grin. Photo by Eric Wynn.

I expected at least one of the girls to stick with me on the bike so I was surprised to roll into T2 with a bit of a gap over the next rider. The funniest part of the whole race was my second transition; my fingers were so cold that I could not for the life of me get the chinstrap unbuckled! I tried and failed, decided to put my shoes on (successfully, albeit with numb toes), then struggled again with the chinstrap. An image of me running with my bright green Wingspan helmet on flashed through my mind but luckily my fingers started somewhat working again and I was able to finally get the helmet off. That would have been hilarious though---almost as funny as the guys who wore their wetsuits on the bike at Boise this year!

Once on the run I tried to keep as much distance between me and the other ladies as possible. I knew from studying the course that it would be hilly and winding through the first half, then more open and downhill in the second part. My goal was to be "out of sight, out of mind". The plan worked pretty well and I held the lead for about 3.5 miles before Nicole Kelleher came up on my shoulder. I was pretty pleased to have held her off so long, she is a stellar runner! Unfortunately I was not able to match her pace but still kept her in my sights for the remainder of the run. It was a good hard effort and I was absolutely thrilled to land in second place; the only better scenario would have been the W-I-N but I gave it my best shot and am pleased with that.

Happy to see the finish line. Photo by Eric Wynn.

I was greeted at the finish line by my dear friend Monica Bailey whom I've known since 5th grade and who lives just outside of Baltimore. It had been years since we've seen each other so when I realized I would be racing in her backyard I had to track her down. It was so awesome of her to come out and cheer me on in the less-than-ideal conditions, and we had a GREAT visit over a nice hot post-race brunch. Thank you Monica for your part in making my weekend a memorable one!

I headed back up towards Philadelphia in the afternoon and had a very nice dinner with my aunt at Steak 38 in Pennsauken NJ where they served us the biggest steaks I have ever seen. Aunt Candy also baked a scrumptious chocolate cake with an icing that rivaled my all-time favorite cream cheese frosting. Thank you for treating me like royalty Aunt Candy!

Monday was another great day, as we drove over to Pottstown PA to have brunch in a diner along the historic main drag with my Grandma Jane and Uncle Rich. After brunch we had time before I had to catch my flight to visit my Pop-pop who is in an assisted living facility in Pottstown. My last visit with Pop-pop was memorable because he recognized me without any prompting; this one was special because we got to serenade him with singing and guitar music. It was a really wonderful day and a memory that I will always hold close to my heart.

This list of people to thank for this great weekend goes on a on, so I just want to mention a few to whom I am particularly grateful: to Candy & Brian for opening their doors to me; to the Zaccagnini family for hosting me in Columbia; to Brian Satola and the Ulman Cancer Fund for creating a wonderful event and welcoming atmosphere; to Charlie and the REV3 team for doing what you do best; to Kevin and Betsy for being my inspiration to keep fighting on race day; to the AWESOME volunteers, spectators, military personnel, and survivors who lined the course on Sunday; to Drew & Monica for treating me to brunch; and to Albert for holding down the fort while I was gone. Also, a quick shout-out to my sponsors REV3, Powerbar, Pearl Izumi, Recovery Pump, Blueseventy, Rudy Project, Fezzari, Maxxis, and The Bike Shoppe for your support.

Next up: REV3 South Carolina---this weekend!!!

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