USAT Olympic Distance Nationals

Let’s start with this:

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And follow it up with this:

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The race was supposed to start at 7am. My swim wave wasn’t supposed to go off until 8:55am. I tried to figure out what the best fueling strategy would be, knowing I’d basically eat breakfast and have a minimum 3 hour gap before I even started the race. I ate my oatmeal and banana like usual around 5:40, and brought a Cliff bar and two Gu. I had Tailwind for my bike – I figured one gu before the swim, and one gu out on the run. The cliff bar as a bonus. I also tried to figure out the absolute last minute I could leave so I didn’t have to stand around for 3 hours.

Ha.

I was just about done setting my stuff up in transition, when the announced that they were delaying the race start because of the traffic. And people were delayed. Well boo fucking hoo for them. Shuttles started running at 4:30am. Transition opened at 4:30am. At first it was a 10 minute delay. It ended up being 30 minutes. People were PISSED. I was pissed. I was also super worried about my fuel. Because that oatmeal was going to be long gone by my race start. So much for that improved shuttle and traffic system.

We watched my tri season partner-in-crime and amazing friend Anne take off, and saw her come out of the swim and go in to T1. She said to me “Be careful sighting on the way back in” and Kenny looked up and said “By the time you get in the water it will be high noon and the sun position will be totally different!” Ha. We went and sat on the bank of the lake and watched wave after wave of people take off. Then we sat through a 20 minute gap they had between waves because, as they said, they could only have so many bikes on the course and this would keep it more clear. Hmmm. Maybe this wasn’t the best bike course option? I ate the cliff bar, gave Kenny my second Gu, and finally it was time for me to line up.

The swim: I was gun shy after the violence of Muncie, so I decided to hang back a couple of seconds and then start. I got myself fairly close to the outside of the group. The bouys on the way out and back were just guides – it didn’t matter what side they were on, so I had a path mapped in my head. The gun went off, I waited, then pushed off, and it took me about 5 seconds to realize my mistake. I caught my group and had to fight through the mess anyway. Even so, it wasn’t the violent mess Muncie was. I know I lost time there, and was mentally kicking myself for that dumbass decision. Once I got out in front, I settled in and found a really solid groove. I was passing people in my group fairly regularly, and then I caught the wave in front of me. I felt like I was cruising. The water was warmer than I would have liked (80.3, I think?), but whatever. Got to the end, got pulled out by volunteers, and then had one take me by the elbow and walk me up the stairs because “It’s really slippery and you might fall through.” Uhhhhh….

My swim time. I don’t know what to make of it. It was really slow for me. But the course apparently measured long? And I don’t know where the timing mat was. And I screwed up starting my Garmin, so I don’t know my own time or distance. So I think it was still slow for me, but I don’t know.

Got in to T1, threw on my shoes and helmet and headed out.

Bike: So in the “nothing new before race day” mantra, I didn’t really follow that. After a really bad group ride, where about 5 guys on my ride told me my back cassette was doing me no favors, I took my bike to the shop and upgraded. I rode my bike with the new cassette once before I had to ship it. So I was riding and not 100% familiar with how the new gearing was all working.

The first part of the course I pretty much made my bitch. I loved it. Even the hill wasn’t terrible. The new cassette makes such a giant difference for me, it’s amazing. I averaged 19mph on the first half of the course. Every flat and downhill I pushed as hard as I could, and stayed over 20mph on those sections. I was psyched. I hit the turn around and was ready to kill the second half. Then I turned in to the wind and thought “Oh shit.” The wind was no joke. I slowed down on the back half because of the wind. That’s where not really knowing my new gearing bit me a little. I played around more than I should have a couple of times, trying to find where the right gear was. At a couple of points, the headwind was so strong I thought to myself “Am I moving?” I got through the tough parts and pushed the last part. I came in and I think I averaged about 18 for the whole course? I’m very happy with that.

I drank all my Tailwind by mile 20, and thought “Oh. This is probably not awesome.”

T2 unremarkable. Threw my 2nd gu in my jersey pocket, chugged my remaining water and headed out.

The run: Remember above where it said “increased shade”? They said they got so many complaints on the run being in full sun last year they changed the course to make it better. Well. If last year’s was too sunny and not shady, it must have been in the damn Sahara. There was NO shade on the run. Also, it was now about 11:30, thanks to the delayed start and my late swim wave time. So it was warm. And the road was mostly freshly paved blacktop. The course was all flat (yay!) out and back and you did two loops. There were two aid stations. First one, right before mile 1, I grabbed water and took an ice cold towel to put around my neck. Second one, same thing. Looped around at the turn point. My pace was a little slower than I would have liked, but not horrible. I figured I’d take my Gu at the aid station and be good. Got to the aid station – the one I had just come from – and reached for my Gu. Gone. It must have fallen out and I never noticed. Nooooooo. No fuel at the aid station except water and Gatorade. Double nooooooo. Grabbed water, grabbed Gatorade, went to change out my towel…and they were out. No more. Triple nooooooo. This was all before mile 2. Passed the mile 2 marker, got a little bit further and literally felt myself start to crash. Got to the first aid station – no cold towels left there – took a couple cups of Gatorade and figured I’d see Kenny at the turnaround and could grab that Gu from him I gave him hours ago. Never saw him. I knew I was screwed. I hit the turnaround, saw my time and just wanted to cry. I had had such good runs in the week leading up to this that I was just mad and devastated at how I was coming apart. All I really wanted out of the day was to have a strong run, and here I was, coming apart. I made it back to the aid station, stood there and drank about 10 cups of Gatorade to try and get some kind of calories in to me. Ran off. Saw the 4 mile marker and told myself “Two more miles. You can run two miles. That’s less than 30 minutes. Go.” Ran to the next aid station, and drank about 10 more cups of Gatorade. Hit the turnaround. 10 more cups of Gatorade. Run. 10 more at the aid station, then the final push to the end. My friend Tara texted me and said my second half was better than my first half, so maybe the Gatorade did its job? I hope so, because I really hate Gatorade.

Crossed the finish line with a smile, got my medal, got to hug my Kenny and Anne (who I believe said I was a badass for being out in those conditions) and then went to the recovery zone, which was giant inflatable pools of ice baths. That was heaven. It cooled me down, I drank another Gatorade (seriously, if I never drink another one that will be fine with me) and then compared race notes with Anne who is the original badass.

Takeaways:
*Don’t be an asshole and not eat for the two days leading up to a race
*Overpack fuel
*Get a better jersey that stuff doesn’t fall out of
*Work on a better run strategy.

I was really unhappy with the delayed start. I thought that was pretty much BS. Everyone knew what time the race started. Plenty of us got there on time. I was also not thrilled with the venue. I walked 20k steps on Friday, and 28k on Saturday (including the 10k from the race). That’s just insane. The run course was tough with no shade and not having towels, which was a shame because it was so nice and flat.

So that was my race. No PR for me yesterday. I will definitely be back. This will not be my last time competing at Nationals, that’s for damn sure. Running up the finish line shoot with the rows of American flags and flowers? That was pretty damn amazing. I’m glad I had my sunglasses on so no one could see my tears.

The best part? Getting to race with Anne again.  The next time we race it will be at IRONMAN!

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