Check out this fabulous race report! It is a powerful reminder of why this sport is SO much more than finishing times!
After coming off the Barcelona Marathon I wasn't sure that I was exactly prepared for Galveston. I had missed workouts, had to work through jet leg, and trying to meet my work obligations. Nevertheless I figured this race would be a way to get me mentally focused on my long term goal for the season: Ironman Louisville.
My teammate Kevin and I spent the day prior to the race getting everything in order and staying on top of our nutrition. Nerves seem to hit people at different times. Personally it's not until the morning of when I am standing in line to start the swim. Swimming is not my strong suit and I had never swam in salt water before, so I was anxious. After jumping in the water and getting acclimated I realized my goggles were leaking on the left. I tried to adjust it several times but realized I was going to have to stick it out and swim with the left eye shut and get through it. I focused on counting my strokes and making it from one buoy to the next. I would say the women in this swim were a little more physical than I had experienced. If I wasn't getting swam over or grabbed, I was getting smacked in the mouth with salt water. I was relieved when it was over!
On to the bike! One of the things Galveston is known for is the wind! The unpredictability of the wind was heavily talked about prior to the race. My coach, Lenny had prepared me for the fact that the wind may change during the race. I train a lot in the wind of Saint Louis and anyone who has ridden at New Town, MO dreads that headwind, so you can imagine my excitement for the possibility of having to battle it both out and back. I made it out of transition and on the bike. I spent the first couple miles getting myself settled and finding my groove. I was feeling strong on the bike with average speed for 1 st lap(5 miles) 17.5, 2nd lap (10) 19.8, 3rd lap 18.6, 4th lap 18.0, I was on my way to one of my best 70.3 bikes, and then….it happened! I had just passed mile 20 and was picking up speed. Last time I looked down at my watch I was going 19.6 mph. I was approaching another rider and decided to pass. I yelled out “on your left” (like you should) and started to pass. I was parallel with the rider when I saw a male rider comeup on the right to pass between us. It took me off guard and as he went to pull forward his rear tire hit my front tire and I took on the forth sport of the race: FLIGHT! It happened so quickly that I'm not sure I even had time to process it. I felt myself hit the road and slide and my bike landed next to me in a ditch. I laid there and was anticipating someone running over me…I think I even held my breath waiting for impact. Luckily the girl behind me saw it happen and got off the bike and sat next to me until someone came, unlike the jerk who hit me and took off.
A race official came along with the police and ambulance. Side note it's weird how triathletes' brains work. I looked up at the girl who was waiting with me and said “keep going, don’t mess up your race!” She made the choice to stay, for which I am very thankful. Once I was able to stand up, my brain shifted and all I could think about was how fast is this ambulance going to take, I need to go! I hadn't even checked to see if my bike was rideable. I just wanted to get back on the bike and go. I have never dropped out of a race and this race was important to finish for me for personal reasons. My dad had driven down to see me race and I had not seen him in five years and just started talking to him again in the past year. I wanted him to see me finish and knew for myself I didn’t want to “fail.” So back on the bike! My bike took a beating, it was no longer able to shift on the left and my aero bars were bent…but “rideable.” I was able to pick back up some speed and was back in the race. All I wanted to do was get through the next 36 miles. My hands were cut up and my elbow bleeding so being in aero and shifting was torture. It was helpful to have the encouragement of fellow racers who had seen me down.
56 miles complete. I lost it in transition to the run. It all hit me and I wasn't sure that I was going to make it through the run. My ankle hurt, my skin was burning, and mentally wasn't sure that I could be in my head for 13.1 miles. Coach Sam and Nicole found me and encouraged me forward! I just started running and mentally checking in with each part of my body. Everything was working, sore, but working! (It turns out that I have a concussion and nerve damage in my elbow - this is testament to what the body can do even if your mind is strong). I got to mile one and hit a mental dark place. I was like, “what am I doing? This is stupid.” It was then that I heard a girl's voice behind me asking if I wanted some Tylenol. I turned around and a lovely girl, Bib 119, was there to aid me. She started to talk to me and said she was going to stay with me, and she did, all 13.1 miles. She told me all about her life and reminded me to eat and drink. She let me walk when I needed and kept telling me we were going to finish. Pretty soon I forgot that I hurt and I started enjoying the run. People would come up and applaud me for continuing. In my mind though I knew quitting wasn't a choice. It was extra special to cross the finish line. I hadn't PR’ed but I had made a new friend and earned every mile. I gave the girl a big sweaty hug and thanked her, I knew I wouldn't have done as well without her. Come to find she had actually missed the swim cut off by three minutes, but decided that she wanted to help me through. She said there are those people who will tell you, “you can do it” and there are those who will “help you do it”….and she couldn't have been more right.
The first race of the season is under the belt. Not ideal, however I learned a lot about myself and about the way I want to race. Have you ever stopped to think what you would do if you saw a fellow racer down? Would you be able to sacrifice minutes on a bike or run to assist? Honestly, I would say before this I don’t know that I would have done. I guess the mentality of “someone else will help them” is how I would have approached it. Right or wrong that was probably more accurate to my attitude while racing. This race for me helped me grow as an athlete both physically and mentally. It also reinforced the importance of selflessness and compassion. I'm never going to be a pro so what's a few extra minutes on a race right? You never know how strong you can be until you have no other choice and the impact you can have on someone you just met.
Fingers crossed this speed bump will only lend its self to an amazing season and performance at Louisville!