Sunday, June 4, 2017

Hawaii 70.3 ~ I Can Do Hard Things.

Race morning I woke up at 1:30 feeling like I needed to throw up. I’m not a puker. Even when I was in college and had over-consumed alcohol to the point where it would have been best for my body to just purge it, I never did. My body just doesn’t really use that protection mechanism. And yet, there I was laying in bed thinking I needed to puke. Was it race nerves? I didn’t think so. I mean, I’ve been doing this for 20+ years. Yes, I still get nervous, but not that nervous.

The nausea feeling lasted and I couldn’t really sleep very well. I had some weird dream that it was race morning and for whatever reason I was all alone (no friends, no family) so I went to this room the race directors had set up for people who were alone at the race. It was like an orphanage of sorts, but for triathletes. I remember wandering around that room and trying to get some coffee- next to the coffee maker were the finisher shirts and medals. Just take one now so you don’t have to do it later?? In my dream I was also totally disorganized… like I couldn’t find my kit or any of my gear and I was just frantically scrambling around trying to get my shit together.

In reality, I was about as organized and put together as I’ve ever been for a race. Bags were packed. Bottles were prepped and in the fridge. Checklists were made. Kit was laid out on the bathroom counter next to the zinc sunscreen. I had 3 TeamBSC athletes at this race, plus my husband and daughter and probably 50 friends. So I don’t know where that dream came from. It was opposite of my reality.

The nausea didn’t go away though. When my alarm went off at 4:30, the feeling of wanting/needing to puke was consistent. I made my normal morning oatmeal but had zero desire to eat it. For years I’ve harped on my athletes about the importance of race morning breakfast, and when they skimp on it or skip it and then go on to have a crappy low energy race, I point out that they should have just forced down breakfast. I don’t care if you don’t feel like eating. Fueling correctly is a choice. And yet. I was, for the first time ever, having an incredibly hard time choking down my oatmeal. I brought it in the car with me and winced as I made myself swallow a bite every few minutes. I think I ate some bad/contaminated salad the night before. That’s the only explanation I have.

We got to the race site and Scott dropped me off and I made a decision. Mind over matter. I would feel fine. I pumped up my tires and put my bottles on my bike and put my speed suit on and drank my pre-load and stuffed down the Honey Stinger waffle just as planned. The nausea didn't bother me again for the rest of the day.

A few days before the race they announced a new rolling- but by age group- type of start. WTF? I was not happy about that. I mean, it looked better to me than the way they’d done it the last few years where the older women just get relegated to the back #lastwave but in my mind like if you’re gonna do a rolling start then at least make it self- seed so the swimmers can just go to the front and people who don’t want anyone swimming over top of them can start further back… Reality is though, it was a decent way to organize it. Of course I’m a bit biased b/c I happened to be lucky enough to be in the age group that they scheduled to go first for the women. I like being at/near the front of the race. It helps me stay engaged and motivated. So even though we were behind all the men, I was still at the front of the women’s race so personally, I had little reason to complain because that’s exactly where I wanted to be.

The day prior to the race the winds were blowing a good bit harder and the swim course was C.H.O.P.P.Y. I swam the whole course alone on Friday morning (People were like What? You did what? Swam the whole thing? All the way out there? Alone? Are you crazy? Lol. #noproblem) and honestly was just salivating at the thought of having an opportunity to race in those conditions. It’s so rare for swimmers to have a real advantage like that! Race morning turned out to be much calmer. Little bit of a bummer but that likely made a lot of other athletes super relieved so it was probably for the best.

They started the age group ‘waves’ 4 athletes at a time every 10” on a beep. I seeded myself in the front row of my wave and when the beep went, I ran into the water untouched and swam off alone. Water was perfect in every way. Clear, calm, warm, open, beautiful. I swam the whole thing completely alone buoy to buoy (just as I had done the day before!). It was exceptionally easy to avoid the men who had started ahead b/c they were all completely spread out. In years past when they start men in waves, we would run into a ‘wall’ of men that was hard to get around. But with the rolling start, it was a complete non-issue. So. A+. There’s nothing I would change about the swim.

Pre-race one of my bigger decisions was aero top or sleeveless tri top? I’d always raced in a tri top but I really like the look of the aero tops (and the sun protection was a huge bonus!) Some Coeur teammates had reported back that they were great to race in as well. My biggest concern was that I didn’t want sleeves on the swim (under my speed suit). I practiced tucking the aero top into my Roka speed suit and turns out, it was a complete non-issue. Lectie opted to wear the aero top and just swim with the sleeves hanging out so she wouldn’t have to deal with pulling the top up in T1. I opted to have the top rolled around my waist and then pull it up in T1. Both ways worked perfectly fine. Lectie- as always- had the fastest swim of the day even with the sleeves out. I swam as well as I wanted to swim and had no problem pulling the sleeves up/on while running to my bike. And I loved racing in the top for the rest of the morning. It kept me cooler, I think, because I could keep it wet and the material is really nice and thin and perfect. I didn’t get sunburnt back/shoulders. I just can’t say enough good things about the Coeur aero tops. I see no reason to go back to racing sleeveless. 

Apparently, its so common to race with sleeves now that Ironman actually gives instructions about where to tattoo yourself if your upper arms are covered.

Anyway, onto the bike, I was pretty certain that the only women ahead of me on the bike were part of relay teams. I set about doing my thing. I glanced a little at my power data but I wasn’t sure it was giving me accurate wattage numbers, so I mostly ignored it and rode by feel. The wind had picked up some, but I’d call it pretty standard wind- not super scary wicked gusts as it had been the day prior. I don’t think there’s a ton to say about the actual ride itself. I feel like I have learned how to do an excellent job at staying focused on the task at hand (Stay aero! Pedal strong! Eat! Drink!). The ride was as fair as I’ve ever seen it on this course. I saw exactly zero draft packs, which is shocking, really. But therein lies the benefit of the way they split up the rolling wave start I guess.

I felt like I was mostly riding as solidly as I could/should be riding. Legs didn’t feel exceptionally strong and the whole ride I was doing a balancing act of how hard I could push before I would feel a twinge of a cramp. Something about the big island, man, just tends to leave my muscles threatening to completely seize up, so I was really teetering on the edge the whole time. I only got caught/passed by one woman who claims she hasn’t been riding her bike at all in training. She went storming by right before we made the turn at Hawi. I wonder what it would be like to ride a bike like that without any recent training? I sure as hell couldn’t do it. Unapologetically, I train consistently and I work very hard. I don’t have enough talent to do it any other way.

One goal I had for myself for this race was to be brave on the ride. I’d had it worked up in my head that it was going to be scary windy and last time I raced here when it was scary windy (2012), my biggest disappointment in myself was that I felt like I rode like a wimp. I sat up and braked when strong gusts came. That was 5 years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. I looked at the wind forecast this year as an opportunity to make that right! And I’m pretty happy with the confidence I rode with. I do remember having the thought that my Enve wheels were performing beautifully. There were times toward the end when the wind had really picked up where I was just flying and in my aero bars leaning right into a very strong crosswind and passing guys who were whistling at me (it was a complimentary whistle- not a degrading one!) and I was like YASSSSSSSSS I AM DOING IT. Just a personal proud moment for myself. 

Overall I am happy with my execution on that ride. I ate and drank everything I’d planned (1x bottle NBS, 1x bottle Infinit, 3x waters, 2x clif bars, 1x honey stinger gel). I also took 4x e21 tabs and that stuff continues to do a miracle job at holding off full on muscle seizures. I stayed focused, calm, and brave. I rode fairly. There’s nothing I would do differently if I could do it all again. Ok, well maybe I wouldn’t hit lap on my garmin at mile 10, making garmin think I was in T2 for 46 miles… I totally screwed up that data coach wanted. #sorry.

Strava thinks T2 was 46 miles! Lol... No segments. #sadface

I arrived in T2 as the second female on the course and leading my AG, but as I was putting on my shoes, I saw Nell riding in to rack her bike. Nell beats me every year at this race (she can run!) so when I saw her there I figured my shot at the top step of the podium was all but zero. My playbook at these races is quite thin. I’m never going to run as fast as the top gals run so my only chance to win, really, is to swim and ride as hard as I can and hope for a decent enough gap where maybe I don’t get caught. I didn’t have it in me to ride any faster than I did though, so I was just going to get beat by a stronger athlete. No worries. Next goal is always just to hang onto whatever place I’m currently holding. I knew I’d be thrilled with 2nd so that became the goal.

Being at/near the front of the race is fun b/c when you’re one of the first women spectators see, they cheer really loudly for you! Plus, I was dressed just like Lectie so a lot of people thought I was her so they yelled GO LECTIE!! at me. That’s a huge compliment so I wasn’t the least bit annoyed! :)

Onto the run, the game I played was simply to continue to attempt to strike a balance between how quickly I could move along without cramping. This run course is just stupidly hard. I was probably more mentally prepared than physically… I mean, my run is going ok in training and I’ve had some decent training runs, but I don’t know. I don’t think anything can truly prepare me for running that course in those conditions off a ride like that… I like to come up with a pre-race motto and for this race it was I Can Do Hard Things. I told my husband and he laughed. His reply was, You pay money to do hard things! #truestory :)

I knew I was having a decent day so out there on that golf course I was just trying to not screw it up! I did have the thought that I can’t wait to do a “normal” 70.3 course where the run is just like 13 “regular” miles. I mean, I love this race and all, but it’s almost laughable to try to run on that spongy golf course grass. Then you finally get onto a stretch of solid pavement and think maybe you’ll get a little reprieve b/c you’ve got a mile going slightly down, but, Psyche! There’s a 25mph headwind preventing you from relaxing while still moving faster. GAH! I mean, it was almost funny. If you were there you know exactly what I mean! I took short walk breaks up most of the steep little kicker hills. At one point I was walking up a short hill next to a guy who had apparently resigned himself to walking for the foreseeable future and he said to me, We can speedwalk together! And I replied, Oh no! I’m running again as soon as we get to the top! And I did. So that’s how my 13 miles went. Once I was within a mile or so of the finish line I actually started grunting. My friend Jodie was running nearby and she could hear me grunting and she was cheering me on- Go ahead and grunt! Grunting helps! Lol! I think it did help.

Shockingly, I hung on to my 2nd place AG finish all the way to the line. I remembered to make the Coeur heart with my hands at the finish line for the finish photo so it’ll be fun to see how those turned out. I’m sure I had a huge smile on my face! 5:25 isn’t even in the ballpark of my best time at this race but I feel like I did so many things right that I can’t be upset about that. I mean, I did the best I could in just about every regard. I’ve learned a lot of lessons in 20+ years of racing triathlons and I feel like yesterday I managed to pretty much put all of them together, which in and of itself is a big win. Then of course the finish line party is quite possibly my favorite few hours of the whole year… Everyone hanging out on the lawn and drinking beer and swapping war stories and its just super fun. 

I’d had 4 beers and very little food by the time I got to go stand on the podium. That smile was genuine! 7 years in a row on the podium here at Honu, but this was my biggest bowl.
I feel like I want to take a minute and thank my coach, Vince, for believing in me and working with me this year. I think he's the perfect match for me at this stage of my racing... He understands me and he cares. I can tell that he pays attention because I can tell he truly wants to. I just really appreciate that! It's funny though- when you have a coach who really believes in you, I think it easier to believe in yourself. It's a good scenario and its exactly what I need right now. So, without getting mushy, thanks, Vince.