Well, another race is in the books! It did not end up being a great day for me but I enjoyed racing anyway, reuniting with the REV3 crew after a few months away, and getting to spend some time in an area I would not otherwise visit. Branson, Missouri, is smack-dab in the middle of the Ozarks and is all about "God and Country" and a "Thousand Hills". It's known as the "live music show capitol of the world" and the main drag through town is lined with all sorts of glitzy theaters for miles and miles. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration but since everyone drives at least 5 miles per hour UNDER the speed limit (probably because they're gawking at all the tourist attractions) it SEEMS like HWY 76 through town is endless. It's an odd place but one that I've become fond of over the past several days.
A sampling of wonders along HWY 76.
The newer retail area on the waterfront at Branson Landing is absolutely gorgeous, and this was the setting for the REV3 expo, run course, and finish line area. With the run meandering through the heart of the shopping center on the Promenade, along the river, through a couple of parks and back along the boardwalk it offered a varied and engaging course. The bike route was the crown jewel of the race, featuring a closed-course looped section along a scenic four-lane highway with challenging climbs and sweeping descents. The swim presented its own challenge, namely the morning fog lifting off the 80-degree water into the chilly autumn air which made navigating around the buoys something of a trick. Overall it was a great course that will go down in my memory as one of the toughest yet fun bike rides I've ever tackled.
This is where we got to ride. Photo by Eric Wynn.
My day began with falling asleep during the swim. I'm not sure if it was the warm water that lulled me to sleep or what, but I certainly was not out there racing anybody in the water. I had a little difficulty seeing the far red turn buoys in the fog so I may have swum a little further than I needed to, but I think everyone had some trouble with it so hearing that I was three-and-a-half minutes down from the leaders coming out of the water was an unpleasant shock. I knew there were some fast swimmers in the field and I expected to be a little behind after the swim but not THAT far back!
Warm water, cool air = gorgeous morning fog. Photo by Eric Wynn.
Time to buckle down and get to work on the bike then. I kept telling myself that I thrive in adverse conditions and this presented a perfect opportunity to make some magic happen. Except there was one problem: my legs didn't show up for work today! I simply felt BAD and hurt all over as soon as I started turning the pedals. My power numbers weren't horrible but I was just not going anywhere and it felt like I was riding through mud. Jessica Meyers and Rachel McBride came rolling up early in the ride and I tried to stay with them but once we got onto the Ozark Mountain Highroad where the loops began they eventually pulled away and I ended up riding in no-man's land for the majority of the bike. It was really frustrating because with the wide-open views I could see the action up the road but was never able to make any headway at closing down the gap. I rolled into T2 in a discouraging 7th place well out of touch with the leaders. But ever the optimist I told myself that it's not over 'til it's over and maybe the girls up front rode a little too hard and would blow up and start coming back to me during the run.
I ended up riding about as well as this guy during the race.
I hit the run course and my legs FINALLY decided to cooperate. It's been a very challenging year for me in the running department, with a couple of injuries inhibiting my ability to train effectively. While my run volume and speed training have been laughable this season, I've had a couple of "aha" moments with regards to running technique and have focused on improving my form instead. While I'm still well shy of my best running form, and even further from where I aspire to be, it has helped me hold things together enough to post respectable enough run splits. My goal on the day was to keep driving my hips forward and turning my legs over quickly, and to see if I could track down any of the girls in front of me. In the end I got close, but was also passed by two other girls, so landed in 9th place when it was all said and done. Not a great performance by any means but one I can be proud of from the standpoint that I never gave up and kept pushing all the way through the finish line. It sounds cliche but it's really true: you often learn more from the bad races than the good ones, and sometimes the races you end up being most pleased with are not those that look the best on paper.
Pushing hard on the run. Photo by Eric Wynn.
What a finish line it was! Thanks REV3 Triathlon for yet another stellar event. It's a real shame that more people didn't turn out to experience the epic course, but for those of you who did, PLEASE TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS, FAMILY, NEIGHBORS, TRAINING PARTNERS, and anyone else who will listen just how awesome this event was! I know I'm not the only one who would love to see REV3 back in Branson for many years to come.
A unique and memorable finish line.
Thanks as always to my friends and family for the support and cheers, and to my sponsors for seeing me through thick and thin: Powerbar, REV3, Recovery Pump, Reynolds, Fezzari, Powertap, Maxxis, Rudy Project, Blueseventy, and The Bike Shoppe.