Up at 5:00 am (not much sleep, never do before a race) I downed my pre-race breakfast and headed to the race venue.
We arrived at the venue around 6am and immediately set up my gear at transition. Put on my wet suit and did about a 10 minute warm up. Oh, by the way, this was a brand new wet suit that I never used before…so the warm up was more imperative than you know! All good, and seems to work well for me. You could see that sighting on the way out was going to be an issue. Bright sun right in line with the buoys and glare on the water. Even with tinted goggles you couldn’t see much. Around 15 minutes prior to my wave start downed a gel and ½ bottle of water. The 15 minutes prior to start is always the worst part of the race, it tends to ramp up my anxiety. I just tried to enjoy the moment.
I positioned myself 2nd row center in the wave. In the beginning it was the normal fight to get clear of the people around you and find a pace. The sun was much worse than I anticipated even from the practice swim. You could not see any of the buoys. That added frustration and made it difficult to get into an even pace and required multiple corrections to stay on track. Tried to stay focused as much as possible. Exiting the water for my second loop I felt really out of breath. My second loop I tried even harder to work on a strong but even pace to get my breathing back in line. I was definitely relieved to get out of the water and into transition.
Got on the bike and downed another gel. This is where I started to get more comfortable. I have much more confidence in my biking ability. I really worked on steadily increasing my effort level. I would target strong riders and concentrate on passing them and making sure to hold that lead. I was definitely pushing much harder than I would normally ride. I would start to feel a slight burn in my legs and would back off just a bit to recover and then push again. Never an issue though. I didn’t let one person in my age group pass me and tried to hunt the others. This is new for me. I would normally be conservative on the ride to make sure I still had something left for the run. But today was a test for me and pushed beyond my comfort level. Finished my fuel on the bike and hit transition.
In transition I downed another gel. No water in transition or on the way out…need to make sure I have water set up for this next time. As I was putting on my Zoots my lace snapped. Shit! Thankfully the shoe was tight enough that I said screw it and just took off. As I left transition I noticed that a long piece was flapping around and I was toying with stopping to tuck it in my shoe. I didn’t want to trip over it. This is where my coach's voice came through loud and clear in my mind. I looked right in front of me and there was a guy with “50” on the back of his calf. He had a strong pace and I thought, shit, if I stop even to tuck this lace in I might lose sight of him. I said screw this, I positioned myself right in behind him and was determined to pass him. Pass them was my mantra on the run, and pass them I did…not one in my age group passed me. My breathing was heavy but I was determined. I was thinking to myself, if you ever want to podium you will need to suffer. Amazingly I got a second wind around 3.5 miles. I knew I was pushing it but still had a sense that I could keep this up to the end. The last mile was my toughest. It was hard, i t was getting hot, and I was breathing heavy. I hung on however and had nothing left in the tank when I crossed the line with nothing left to give.
I learned that I am stronger than I think I am and that I need to overcome my instinct to hold back and conserve energy. Sunday I tested my abilities. All within reason and most importantly supported by my training. As much as it did hurt to “suffer”, there was a euphoria to it all. I was in the moment, using tactics and pushing harder than I ever had in a race. It was one of the most satisfying races I have experienced in a very long time.