Monday, June 8, 2015

Exceeding Expectations

I promised in my last post that I would give it everything I had this weekend. And I did just that.

I had been very unexcited for Leon's Triathlon as the Olympic distance triathlons really just don't suit me well with my slow swim/mediocre bike/good run combination. I just kept reminding myself that it would be nice to get back onto the triathlon scene without any real expectations, and really just see how my knee would hold up with a swim and bike before my run.

All week Ryan, last year's champ, had been watching the weather. Crazy thunderstorms and 30+ mph winds were predicted for Sunday ever since he started looking at the 10-day forecast. Yeah, tell this to the girl who still gets scared of crashing on her bike. Ryan has incredible good bike-handling skills, so he wasn't worried, but I was kind of terrified that it could be down-pouring during our race.

If I'm being honest, I was pretty exhausted going into this race. Coach Bill had been increasing distances and intensities over the past few weeks after my knee was responding so well, so my body was feeling that fatigue. PLUS, the last week of school had just concluded. Let's just say that the energy levels of the kids during this week are through.the.roof. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love that these few days are a little more laid back and really cherished the time with my students, but boy did I crash HARD on Friday night.

Race morning came and we were up at 4:45 to make the drive from Ryan's parents house to Hammond, IN. The real nice part about this race being two days after school got out for summer was that 4:45 felt like sleeping in to me! After a quick stop at Dunkin Donuts for some coffee, we were on our get there early and then just sit around for a few hours before our wave would begin.

As we were getting our transition area ready, Ryan was interviewed just like last year. We were about ready to leave transition when the reporters came back to interview me too, which was pretty cool (also super awkward since I wasn't really in the "runnings" to be a top finisher!). The only question I had a hard time answering was, "What is the best part of the race?" because I honestly wanted to say "the second I get out of the water"....but went with "the moment you cross the finish line and celebrate" instead. Hey, some people like swimming, so my actual answer seemed like a better response at the time.

Bikes in transition.
 Pretty much a celebrity.

Leon's Triathlon would be focusing mostly on the Military Race as it was the Military Triathlon National Championship race. The Military Race began at 7:30 and our Elite wave was set to take off at 8:45am.

And then the severe weather showed up. Ryan's dad made the trip to Hammond, IN, with us for the triathlon and told us that Ryan's youngest brother informed him that his baseball games were canceled due to the fields being under water. That storm was heading our direction.

Will they change it to a duathlon? Will they just do a bike/run race? Will they just do a running race? Will they cancel the race altogether?

My EGO p/b Sammy's teammates and I were huddled under the Sammy's team tent discussing those options. I told them I didn't really care what decision was made.... as long as we could all go out for breakfast after. I mean, that's part of why I get up for these early morning races/training days after all.

 "But we will get brunch after no matter what, right??"
All smiles when the new distances are announced!

At about 9:50am, over an hour after we were supposed to start our race, we were informed that we would be doing a modified sprint triathlon not only for safety reasons (in the water) but also due to flooding (on both the bike and run courses).

400m swim, 10mile bike, 5k run.

I quickly did the math in my head and realized that this actually bettered my chances of doing well in this pretty stacked female field. Local studs Jen Garrison, Jen Harrison, and Amanda Wendorff plus 2014 champ Megan James were all toeing the line, and I was honestly just hoping to not get smoked by this talented group.

Being that running is my strongest discipline, I knew that I would actually have a shot at being competitive with the change in distances of this race. I tried not to let myself get too excited by this realization, as anything can happen in a triathlon, no matter the distance.

THE SWIM--7:52, almost last place
There was mass confusion regarding the actual swim course, but most people seemed to get it figured out just before we took off. I hadn't worn a wetsuit probably since August (oops), but I was glad to have had it on since the water was cold (for me, who hadn't been in anything but ocean or pool water since August).

I like to pride myself in always finding the most direct route for the swim (mainly because I want to get out of the water as soon as possible), and Strava data showed I could claim that distinction with my swim from this race. I was able to sight pretty well despite the buoys being on the left (I breathe only to my right...something I need to work on) and kept noticing people drifting off course. This was likely the only reason I was not the last one out of the water from the "Elite" wave ;)

Transition 1--1:34
I quickly tore off my wetsuit as I ran toward transition, trying not to fall on the wet sidewalk and grass. I almost missed my bike as I was SO used to my old P5 and not my very distinct new red P5. I quickly threw on my helmet and rushed out of transition. As I hopped on my bike, I noticed big puddles of water in my right shoe and couldn't get my foot in right away. Ugh. Ryan's dad found a friend while spectating, who yelled out, "Not exactly a flying mount!" regarding my slow start on the bike. At least I can provide some laughs.

THE BIKE--28:01, 22ish mph
My bike Garmin wouldn't start, so I am glad I had my 920 on my wrist to at least gather some sort of data for me since I knew I would be pushing myself hard. The modified course was now just three loops with two hairpin turns down Calumet Avenue. At the first turnaround, I noted where my teammate Katie was and made it a goal to keep our gap the same each time as I know she's a good rider, so if I could maintain our gap, that would mean I was riding well.

With a sprint tri, there's really no point in even looking at your power since you just have to GO the whole time. 10ish miles isn't enough time to slack at any point. Ryan had warned me prior to the race distance change that the bike would be tough for me since I'm not very good at hairpin turns, so I tried to take them harder than usual while also being cautious of other riders.

Each loop got more challenging as more riders entered the course. Since I didn't have any data from my Garmin to look at anyway, I made it a goal to simply not crash with all of the mobs of people entering the course as the race went on.

I was only passed once... by my teammate Katie at the very end. I was beginning to pass a guy who was also nearing the end of our third (final) loop, and he freaked out and started pushing saying that we were close to the end... so I started to get my feet out of my shoes, only to realize I was doing it all too soon. Katie flew by me, so I told myself to make a quick transition out of my mistake.

Transition 2--
I quickly racked my bike, removed my helmet, took my shoes out of my garbage bag, decided not to use socks, slipped my shoes on, grabbed my race belt/bib, and was off.

THE RUN!!! 17:35 "5k"
FINALLY! I knew I had my work cut out for me as I thought I was sitting in 6th place. My top 5 goal would be pretty doable as I could see 5th place right in front of me. My teammate Alicia was biking in as I was running out and yelled to me, "The leader is only 400 yards ahead," which shocked me. I knew Jen Garrison was leading since she was right behind Ryan/Alex on the bike every time I saw her, which also told me she would be uncatchable. She is a threat in all three disciplines, so to even be close to her is considered a huge accomplishment!

I didn't know the run course, so was excited when I saw Ryan running my way (with Hootie leading him on the bike!). Ryan yelled to me that I could catch all of the girls, which made me literally laugh out loud as I was running. I was almost at the mile mark, so only had two miles to make up the time I lost on the bike and swim. Lucky for me, the run course had somewhat of an out-and-back so I was able to see how far down I was from the other girls.

I passed Jen Harrison just before the turnaround and her encouragement really ignited a spark in me. I split the first mile in 5:45, completely shocked since I felt like I wasn't moving very fast.

As we turned around, we were running into a wicked wind of 15-20mph. I told myself I needed to use this wind to my advantage and really power through it. Everyone I know who didn't start off as a runner prior to triathlon tells me that mentally running is the hardest, so I knew if I could stay tough that I would have a shot at catching up to most of the other girls ahead of me. I went past Amanda at about halfway and she looked strong, so I ran scared the rest of the way in.

When I saw my second mile split was a 5:47 with those crazy winds, I was a little scared that I was in for a whole lot of pain on the third mile.

I love running in the rain.

I thought at this point that I was in 2nd place, but didn't see last year's winner, Megan James, yet as she was pretty far ahead. It wasn't until we were closing in on the 3mile mark that I realized there was another girl ahead of me. The crowd at this point (near the swim exit) was going crazy, and Megan saw me coming.

I split that final mile in 5:56, but knew I had to dig real deep if I was going to get that second place finish.

We both full out sprinted, and I had my mind set on collapsing at the finish line if that's what it was going to take. I made a promise to myself, to anyone who reads my blog, and to my teammates that I was going to give it everything I had, and I honestly did not save anything.

I crossed the line in second place, shocking the heck out of Ryan. To see the shock and excitement on his face made me light up. I was so happy to have given it everything I had, especially after not even wanting to compete in this race at the beginning. The best part was that my knee didn't feel ANY sort of pain after the race, which means I am finally over this patella tendinitis!!!

Right after the race. Huddled under the pavilion for warmth.
1st place Coed Team division!!!

I can't even begin to describe how amazing everyone was before, during and after the race today.

My EGO p/b Sammy's Bikes teammates had the confidence in me that helped me stay tough and push hard the entire 56 minutes;) Really though, knowing that this was a team competition made me stay in this mentally because I wanted to help the team reclaim the Team trophy. Sammy does an incredible job of making sure we are all using top-of-the-line equipment and that we look good while racing;)

We ate as if we raced an Ironman or something....

Life Time Athletic Events and Dave K.: thank you for your excitement for me to be racing, and for your encouragement post-race as well. This crew knows how to have FUN at races and I can't wait to see you all this summer!!

HUGE thanks to all of our friends that were spectating and racing and cheering like crazy. Your excitement and encouragement gave me chills (it wasn't just the rain!) and I am so lucky to have such amazing friends that are as passionate about this sport as I am.

And lastly, thanks to everyone who has sent good vibes my way. Anyone who has gone through any sort of injury knows how hard it is to come back. The moments of doubt were seriously all erased as soon as they came because of all of the support I have had during this comeback :)

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