Like mother like daughter I guess. Sometimes a girl just needs to chill out alone in her own space. Especially after a bout of bad luck at a race...
Before I start with the race re-cap I'll just say that I had 2 goals for this race... #1 Race right at the edge of my limit, and #2 Hope that was enough to earn me the state resident slot for Kona for my age group.
So we all know that I was totally ready for the race yesterday. Mentally, physically, emotionally... I was there. Race morning I was fired up but still kept myself in check... All my pre-race preparations went smoothly and finally I was in the deep water ready for the cannon to go off. BOOM! Go. All 1300+ of us at once.
I felt good in the water... it was a bit choppier than I remember last year but I knew my stroke felt long and strong and I've done plenty of swimming in choppy ocean conditions so I really was quite comfortable. It was NOT as choppy as what we train in most of the time. I felt like I was working, but not too hard... just good solid steady swimming. I came out of the water and saw 29:xx on the clock and knew that the swim must have been a bit longer than last year which was absolutely *fine* by me! The longer the better...
Onto the bike and I just focused on following my plan... bring it down... bring it down... this course is uphill right off the bat and you can ruin your whole race by flying up the hills early on. So I settled in, but got moving along steadily and I felt great. It had been super windy all morning so I knew this bike would be slower than last year even with the same effort... it made me even more glad about my plan not to wear a watch because we were all facing the same conditions so no need to worry about how long it was taking and allow myself to get frustrated if the wind was slowing me down. But you know what? I just felt great. I had a super solid climb to Hawi and even felt like maybe we had a tailwind? Then we turned around and my plan involved 'getting aggressive' at this point. I flew down that hill. Felt some side crosswinds that maybe could have been a little scary but I imagined them being tailwinds. In fact, I was laughing at myself and repeating in my head... "Wind? What wind? I got a TAIL-wind!!!" I can crack myself up sometimes. It was super fun.
Close to the end of the ride and I was humming along nicely and actually started singing out loud. I knew I'd had a stellar ride (only 1 woman had passed me all ride and she was still right there in my sight at the end) but also KNEW that I was going to be able to run. I actually said this out loud to myself... "You're going to be able to RUN. You know how I know that? Because you have trained yourself to be a strong and durable athlete. Because every single Saturday for the last 5 months you have gotten off the bike and gone running... Michelle, you're going to be able to RUN today!" I was just so stoked. I kept telling myself how strong and durable I was. There's really no better feeling than that! And then...
What? NO. NO. No.
Are you kidding me? A flat tire? Now? I was so close to the end of the bike. I don't know exactly, but probably less than 5 miles from T2. My first and only thought was that my Kona spot was gone. It was mine to lose and that damn thorn I ran over took it away. Seriously? Ugh.
At this point I supposed I could have sat on the road and thrown myself a little pity party but I just got to work changing the tube. Rachel rode by and asked if I had everything, to which I replied that I did... it didn't take me too long to get the tube out, find the thorn and yank it out, put in the new tube, replace the tire, get the CO2 cartridge ready... but then I ran into problems. The little adapter thingy I have hadn't been used in at least a year (I've been 'lucky' in not getting many flats this year...) and it was one of those little spring loaded ones and the spring was metal and all corroded and would NOT work properly. ARGH again... I don't know how long I sat there trying to squeeze than damn corroded spring but it felt like eternity and my Kona spot rode by and I just just so freakin' frustrated but I did NOT give up and I just squeezed and squeezed and squeezed and then finally I felt that sweet sweet sensation of the air inflating my tire... oh phew. I struggled a bit getting my wheel back on (whoever though that horizontal drops were a good idea should be stoned to death) but finally got back on my bike and rolled the last couple of miles into T2.
(I didn't know at the time how long it took to me get it changed, but after the race finished I looked at some splits and based upon who I knew I was near and what my bike split actually ended up being, I'm guessing it was a 6-7 minute penalty for running over that thorn. Damn.)
So clearly I needed a little attitude adjustment now. I was back on my bike. I thought about it and decided that I could still finish the race in a very respectable time if I had a decent run. But I knew the Kona spot was gone so all the pressure was off. You know, usually the way my races go I am just being hunted the whole time and I feel like prey being chased by a predator so I'm in a frantic rush through T2... but yesterday I just kind of steadily racked my bike and grabbed my hat and water bottle and gel and jogged off to the run course.
I did see a clock on my way out of T2 and it said 3:21:xx. I'm not that good at doing math when I'm racing, but I did figure out that if I ran a 1:55 I could tie my finish time from last year, which would be a huge win given that I had a flat tire and all... so that became my new goal. Of course, I had no idea if I was on track to reach it since I wasn't wearing a watch, but given the way I felt, I deemed it very possible. Not just possible. Probable.
So I was just plugging along at a comfortable pace and eventually end up at the first of 3 u-turns on this little clover-like thing we had to run (there is no hiding on this run course!). We were like 3ish miles into the run and low and behold, I see that I am like less than a minute behind my Kona spot. Seriously? Really? I've still got a chance at this? After that flat tire?? Holy cow. No way...
Next u-turn, I'm only like 20 seconds back now. Holy cow again. I did not anticipate this. It was such a role reversal for me- to be the predator instead of the prey. (I kind of liked it.) Then I saw my prey sitting on the side of the road at an aid station. I ran by thinking I could NOT believe she just gave this race to me! But I should have known better. A few minutes later, I heard her, like an elephant charging me down... now I'm the predator again... but 1/2 mile later she's walking up the hill... and once again I become the prey.
Honestly, it was kind of neat to be having this epic battle out on the run course. It's not a secret to anyone here that (for very good reason) this gal and I do not get along. But even given that ugly history, part of me was thinking that this is how it should be- we should have to work very hard for our Kona spots... but then part of me thought, No. This is NOT how it should be. I should be a mile up the road already and not even involved in this battle at all... But I could not change that damn thorn incident so I was making the best of it now and fighting my way back into this race.
So I don't know... like mile 6ish I think... we head back onto the spongy grass golf course with all it's short steep little ups and downs and I had picked up my pace because I was envisioning writing a check to WTC for $550 and oh how badly I wanted to do that... but my legs were not happy on this grass. And they were not happy with the pace I was holding and they were not happy with those short steep uphills. But I was back in my familiar role of being the prey so I just kept pushing... eventually I was caught again and now we're running together... Now like mile 7ish we are facing a short very steep hill and oh how badly I wanted to just be able to scoot up it and stay in contact so I was taking teeny tiny short little steps and then BAM. My whole left leg seized up on me and I was stopped in my tracks. Damn!!! I couldn't even walk forward at this point because my leg was just completely seized. It's that sartorius muscle that runs down the inside of my quad that always gets me...
Unfortunately for me, the epic battle was over. I stretched and walked off the cramp and eventually started running again but this time a little more cautiously. I was able to make it through the next 6 miles ok but not quite fast enough to be a threat again. I finished the run though in 1:52, which for me, on this course, is pretty good! It's a full 14 minutes faster than last year's run anyway! And looking at the splits after the race, it would have been fast enough to earn me the state resident kona spot had I not flatted. Wouldda couldda shouldda... didn't. GRRRRR.
I hope somebody got a picture of me crossing the finish line though because I followed my plan which instructed me (no matter what) to throw my hands in the air and smile... and boy did I smile... Kona spot or not, I saw 5:14 on the finish clock as I rounded the corner and what a pleasant surprise THAT was! It was 2+ minutes faster than last year with a flat tire. There was no not being proud of that! I am also proud of how I kept myself mentally composed and collected and calm under the pressure of changing the flat and then making the best of it and salvaging my race. The day turned out to be such an emotional roller coaster... I had the slot, then I flatted and didn't have the slot, then I claimed it back, but then I lost it, and then I had the slot once more, and then I cramped and lost the slot for good... but then I finished with my best ever Honu time even after all that...
I finished with my integrity and my head held high. And then 15 seconds later it hit me- what had just happened- my bad luck- and I cried.