Pre-race Photo Fun
It’s going to be a Good Morning
The morning came early. I had my usual oatmeal, almond butter and fruit with a piece of bacon for breakfast. It was one of the first times I was hungry and didn’t have to try to stomach a meal before 4 am. We packed the car with my gear and hit play on my “Happy” playlist for the ride from Guerneville to Santa Rosa.
I got to T2 to drop off my bags and hop onto the shuttle. As I’m about to walk away from the car Katy pulled out my water bottles from the back of the car and asked if I needed them. I had an “Oh shit” moment. I gave the girls a quick hug thinking, the next time I’d see them we’d be hugging at the finish line.
Coach Anthony and I hop on to the shuttle. My first concern of the morning was that I hadn’t gotten a bowel movement in yet and my second was whether or not I’d be wearing my Roka wetsuit or swim skin from Nils Nilsen at Roka. (p.s. I love ROKA gear! I also used their goggles.) I was nervous about the swim skin since I rely a lot on the wetsuit to keep me buoyant in the water and my first swim skin practice was only one day prior. It was a race day call and Anthony helped keep me calm and adaptable.
We got to the start with about 40 mins left in transition. I wish Anthony good luck and booked it to my bike for set up. I find out it’s a wetsuit legal race! After the fact it really made me realize I need to not rely on a wetsuit for every race. I wasn’t too worried about overheating, so I went with my gut and wore my wetsuit. I aired up my tires, set up my power meter and put on my wetsuit. I finally was ready for my bowel movement and thought, thank goodness! As I was standing in line I over heard a girl tell someone that her nutrition was eaten by a fox and everything was gone. I offered her a bar, but she had received enough from some other athletes. I made sure to check that my bag was okay before heading down to the water. Everything was in order and I left transition.
I walked down to the boat launch and wiggled my way to the 1:10-1:20 wave. As I’m walking I get socked in the face by an athlete stretching out their shoulders. “Well as long as it doesn’t happen in the race I guess I can handle it” I thought to myself. The national anthem plays and I’m thinking about my support crew that came all the way out there, everyone that I knew was tracking my movement throughout the day and all of the support that I received throughout training.
It’s go time, Mike Reilly is shaking hands as athletes are walking down the ramp to get in the water. As soon as I cross the timing mat I don’t hesitate to lunge forward and start swimming. I’m moving through the water, stroke after stroke settling into a good rhythm. I’m sighting well and moving forward. I’m so happy that I’m generally moving in a straight line and don’t have any major corrections to make. I let water flow into my wetsuit to keep me cool. The water is fairly choppy, but I worked to swim with the water versus through the water. I go through the first lap thinking, “you only have to do this one more time.” As I’m rounding out the first lap I pop up out of the water and run to get back into the water.
Families and friends line the shore cheering everyone on. As I get back into the water I hope that I’ll be able to keep a similar pace for the second lap. Since I have no bearing of time I continue to swim by feel. This lap seems a little tougher to navigate. I can tell I’m passing people that are on their first lap they are kicking and flailing more. Coming on the last long straight away I accidentally take a big stroke over someone’s shoulder, probably pushing them down. He shoves me to the side, but I don’t blame him. This was my first encounter with an upset athlete that I feared I would come across one day. I’m just glad he pushed me away and not down. I pick up speed before the last turn and pop up the ramp for the 1/2 mile run to transition. What was going through my head is the sight that Nils Nilsen described for the USAT photo shoot when he wanted me to look like I’d just popped up out of the water.
I started to run up the ramp, but I couldn’t catch my breath. I take a few steps to walk before starting back up to the wetsuit strippers. As I finished the “long” run it finally hits me that I’m hungry. I struggled to get my gear on over my wet body. T2 was long, but no minute was wasted as I was in there.
I mounted the bike and it’s slightly up hill. My gear is in the big chain ring and one of the hardest gears. I strategically switched it and I’m glad at this point that I have Di2. A man in front of me must have had the same issue because I noticed his chain popped off, luckily that was not my fate. I started down the hill and to my surprise I heard and saw the girls cheering for me! It was a great boost of energy to have them on the bridge. I’m loving flying down the hill, but as I get closer to the bottom I’m sure to be cautious for the 90° turn. Coming out of the turn I find it safe to start eating and drinking. I had some cramping in my lower gut for the first half of the race and I sought some relief at one of the aid stations.
The hills are fun to catch some speed coming down, but many of my frustrations from this course came from the 90° or 180° turns that always slowed that my happy pace. Around mile 30-35 I hear my parents before I see them! I knew I’d see my parents on the bike course first, but I had no idea where. It was really happy to see them; my mom was so happy that she took a great video of the ground. I’m glad she was watching me! As I made my way through town the views of wineries were incredible. I kept thinking how much the girls would love this route. After riding through the hilly wineries, the scenery changes to trees and dense coverage. I loved climbing the hills multiple times throughout the course. I often found myself passing most people here, but being passed on the downhills or the flats. I’m not sure if its because I’m lighter or if I would become unfocused. Around mile 50 I could feel some tightness and pain in my right knee, shortly after that the left knee started to hurt too. I switched to easier gears and a higher cadence to save my knees a little for the run. I was disappointed that I couldn’t push harder downhill.
Once I started making my way downtown I could feel the energy from the spectators and the gripe from the drivers. I’m so thankful for all of the officers that were on the course directing traffic and keeping us safe. Though some of the back roads were a little sketch with angry drivers and I saw too many close calls for other riders than I’d ever care to see. As I’m riding the first loop I meet a guy who was consistently trading places with me, it’s always nice to meet someone on the course. As I came up to the end of the first loop I see bouncing and I hear cheering! It’s Katy, Kaitlin, Tanya and Sarah! Having your friends on the course when you least expect them lifts your spirits and makes you forget about the pain or how much is left of the race. Seeing them and my parents makes me want to work harder and faster so that I can see them sooner. I can hear them chanting my number 2-9-0… followed by something. It’s not until I get right up next to them that I hear, “2-9-0- THAT’S OUR HO!” I died with laughter! Another rider passes and says matter of factly, “They just called you a ho.” “I know!”
I round the final loop and a girl in my age group passes me with energy and speed I wasn’t prepared to kick in around mile 85. I pass the girls one more time and I bring it in for the home stretch the T2.
It’s another longish run from where I leave my bike and pick up my gear. As I start running I stop to take of my bike shoes. I couldn’t remember if we were allowed to leave them on our bike this time so I didn’t leave them on there. I get to transition and was slow to switching everything out, I need to practice this part. I have to stop at the bathroom at this point because of all water I had been taking in.
Once I start the run, the first three miles are just lined with spectators, everyone is saying your name and I take a lot of second looks to see if it’s my parents or friends. My knees are still killing me from the bike so I take an Ibuprofen (thank you John Patterson for that!). I’m felt relief and was able to keep up my pace. Anthony told me to run how I feel, so I hardly checked my watch except when I felt like I had slowed my pace. I am finishing up the first lap and I see my parents! Only two more laps to go. I see Katie T. (another eagle ambassador finishing up her second loop as I’m starting. She’s running so strong and I think she’s top of our age group (she was and got her slot to Kona, Congrats Katie!) Around the short little out and back near mile 11 (?) I see Alyssa and Joy! A couple of my high school girlfriends that were in town post backpacking trip enjoying wine country. We met up the night before and I was so ecstatic to hear that the were going to try to be on the course for the race. If only they could know what that meant for me that they took time out of their vacation to come out for the race.
I’m about to finish up my second loop and I am coming up on some girls in my age group. I can’t tell if they are on their first or second or third loop. I assume they are ahead of me and pass with strength. When I get to the last couple miles of the second loop I can feel my calf starting to twinge. I have a cramp coming on… I took a BASE salts, but I think that made it worse. My parents (Mom yelling, see you at the finish!) are there and as soon as I’m about to hit the timing map, I see the girls and my calf is full on cramp mode. I can’t even move in to give them a high five.
My special needs bag is 200 meters away and I just need to get to it. There is a hot shot in there and BACON! The volunteer holding my bag said I was a genius for having that Bacon in my bag, it was wonderfully salty. I hadn’t ever taken the hotshot before, but I had heard great things about it for cramping. The worst that could happen was that it wouldn’t sit well in my stomach, right? Well at this point I was willing to risk it. So I took it. The hot cinnamon spiced flavor ran down my throat. It was so gross, but it almost instantly stopped my cramping and I was able to start back up again. I will forever have a hotshot in my special needs bag.
It’s the last 6 miles, my last chance for a hotshot. I knew I wanted to put it all out there at mile 20. After all Jerry said with 6 miles to go, “No Mercy.” My friend Paul told me about an article that he read that cramping is now believed to be caused by a change in pace or muscle exertion. Knowing this and knowing my plant, I took a hotshot and went. With three miles left a girl in my age group passes me, I’m so caught off that when I tried to push harder my legs didn’t work to keep her pace. Then another girl passed me with a mile and a half to go. I wouldn’t let this one get away… I stuck with her keeping a quiet distance, then with 800 meters to go, I kicked in my final gear (it wasn’t much). I still knew that even though she was behind me there was still a chance that she would finish ahead of me, based on her start time at the swim. I pushed anyways. I was so focused on staying ahead of her, that I didn’t even see or hear my family and friends. I barely heard Mike Reilly calling my name for the second time in my life, that I am and Ironman. I definitely ruined a guys finisher photo being in the background. I was so happy to be done, my legs were hurting and I was hungry.
I saw Alyssa and Joy first and gave them great big hugs, then Kaitlin, Katy, Tanya and Sarah and then finally my parents. It’s an overwhelming joy crossing that finish line, but having your wolf pack there at the end makes you gush even more. It’s that moment that you realize this isn’t about you. It’s about all of the people that you inspire and the people that inspire you. I knew many people were watching my progress that day.
I fell very short of my A and B goals, but crushed my C goal. Pride is knowing and recognizing your strengths and your weaknesses. Character is defined by how you celebrate those strengths and build upon your weaknesses. Recognizing that there is good and there is bad in all of it and despite that you continue to work on it, well that is LOVE: in life and in triathlon.
Until the next great adventure!
Post race celebration photos
Oh but the Otters!!