So many emotions were rolled up into this weekend. On Thursday, two days before the race, I found out that the top 25 people in each age group would qualify for the World Championships next year in Chicago. This went from a “fun race” to “I want to qualify for the World Championships” in two seconds flat. My stomach was turning, I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep and I was scared of wanting something so much. I hadn’t really prepared for this race specifically. I probably shouldn’t have done hot yoga for the first time ever on Sunday the weekend before, or my long run on Monday, or a hilly run in the pit of doom Tuesday morning. But damn, I was going to try my hardest.
This is one of the most aggressive swim starts I have ever been in. Each age group and male/female was broken down into a swim start. My wave-Female 25-29-went at 9:18 am. Pretty late by most standards. I literally almost got steam rolled and had to fight out from under getting drowned. The whole thing was frenzied and desperate. I was just flailing around trying to get away from the pack. I knew that there were a lot of fast girls and that I was going to have to fight for a good swim.
You first start out and swim about 400 yards and then go under a bridge. It was like being pinched into a key hole. Miraculously after the bridge everyone spread out. I accidentally started heading for the buoys for the way back and added extra time to my swim. I careened back to the main pack and stayed with a girl who had a bright neon green tri suit on for the rest of the swim. The swim was really confusing and the buoys alternated in orange, square shapes to yellow triangles in no apparent order. I came out of the water with the other girl I had been swimming with for most of the time and one of her friends said to her “You’re in the top 10”. I frantically ran for transition to get all the time I could, because I knew people would be passing me on the bike.
After running into transition, I started taking my wet suit off. But then, it got stuck on my ankles. I couldn’t get it off. My hands were shaking and I was frantically trying to rip it off. I looked around for a volunteer. There was no one around and cursed loudly. Finally, I got it off my right foot but it wouldn’t come off my left foot over my timing chip. I sat there, rubbing the numbered tattoo on my leg off in my exertion to wrench the dang wet suit off of me. Finally it came off and I started running for the bike out behind another girl. Then she stopped in the middle of the aisle right in front of me. I almost ran into her and couldn’t go around because the aisles were so narrow and there was so much stuff everywhere. She said sorry and we kept running. Finally, I hopped on D (my bike) and took off for the bike.
My goal on the bike was to go as hard as I could for as long as I could, staying in high zone 3/low zone 4. I knew I could do this because I do hour and a half spin classes at Shift at almost this same effort. And it worked. I conservatively calculated that I was in 10th place coming out of transition and tried to keep track of all the girls in my age group who passed me. The numbers ticked up and I was passing barely anyone. Going up basically the only hill in the entire course (which happens to be an on ramp to the freeway), I was pushing between 220-230 watts. This is TOP of my zone 4 out of 5 and a pretty decent wattage. This girl flew by me like I was standing still. There were some really fast girls here. I passed about 2 or 3 girls overall and was thinking I was now in about 25th place with about 2 miles to go to the end. There were a couple girls I started trading places with but I was determined to be in the best position possible going into the run because I was not confident about how fast I could go. I got down to 23rd and thought that top 25 was within reach.
T2-1:16.90-The longest transition ever.
In order to make up for my much slower T1, I went as fast as I could, ripping my shoes on and grabbing everything else and took off.
My legs felt like lead coming off the bike. I was scared that I had gone too hard and that my legs were going to give out. So I looked down at my watch to see what my pace was. Oh wait, I left my watch on my bike. Shit. Having no idea where I was at, I decided to just go as hard as I could. I didn’t know if my legs were going to be able to agree with that. There was a girl that I came out of transition with that I had been passing back and forth towards the end of the bike. It seemed like we had a similar pace, so I decided that I was going to try and stay with her as long as I possibly could. I fought hard not to ask her what our pace was, thinking this would indicate weakness. As if reading my mind, we hit the first mile and she happily said to me “Only 5 more to go!” like it was nothing. It got to me a little. She was breathing a lot harder than I was but I was going as hard as my legs would possibly take me. They were protesting at the current pace. I tried picking up the pace but she stayed with me, breathing heavily and got on my nerves. She started running faster and I couldn’t go with her but determined to keep her in my sight.
A few girls passed me, I passed a few. It got really hot. My stomach was upset. I hadn’t eaten anything. I forced a gu down. I just kept forcing myself to run, run, run but my body wanted to go faster than my legs could. I was afraid that everything was going to shut down. I just kept reminding myself I run 6 miles all the time, this isn’t a big deal, just a few more and it will all be over. You are in contention for the World Championships, you can do this, you can do this. At the turn around, I had slipped to 26th place by my calculations. The girl was still in my sight and another girl had joined her. With less than a mile to go, there was a water stop, they slowed down to take water and I ran by them, not wasting any time. The girl again tried to come with me but her heavy breathing gradually faded. I was now thinking I was in 22nd place after passing another girl and elated that this was really going to happen. I would not stop running harder and harder and harder. When I saw the 6 mile sign I just let go and ran. Crossing the finish, I had a huge smile on my face.
After I finished, I went over to my mom and Matt and said “I think I did it”. They had thought so to. By their calculations, I came in 25th place. We rushed over to the results table and I impatiently waited in line. They printed out my results. My eyes scanned the scrap of paper, earnestly searching for my place: 30th. My heart sank. I gave a half smile to my mom and Matt, and told them the news. However, I couldn’t be that disappointed. This was not a race that I had trained for, tapered for or planned on doing so well. I took off 6 minutes from my time the year before! I went from 61st place in my age group to 30th, from 353 to 212 overall in the female ranking. My mom and Matt said it was embarrassing that I could do so well for not training for the National Championships when so many others had. I was happy. This just makes me want to come back again next year and do it again and qualify for Worlds. There are no limits to what you can do when you set your mind to them.
Thank you Mom and Matt for coming to support me, taxiing me around, sherpaing, and dealing with my nerves the night before the race. I know I was a wreck. And thank you to everyone who cheered for my from afar! This was such a great race, no matter the results.