Mine is a story of both elation and deflation. I’m elated because I had a goal of breaking 5hrs 45 mins, and I hit 5:39 which is a PR for the race overall. But I was a bit “deflated” because I wanted to finish 1st in Age Group since I was racing in honor of a lady from my church, Becky Brady, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. For those who don’t know, I’m one of those people for whom “Murphy’s Law” was invented, and as fate would have it, I had a bizarre bike tire malfunction that cost me 15-17 minutes on the bike that resulted in a 4th place AG finish, just 2 mins off 3rd place, and 10 mins off the 1st place finisher. Minus, the tire mishap, I’m certain I would have finished 1st by 5 mins or so. You’ll see what happened as you read further.
Training leading up to B2B
I have to admit that the swim is my least favorite and the weakest of my 3 events, but I decided back in January that I was going to work really hard to improve on my swim and attend Kristen’s WOL swim sessions whenever I was in town. Man, were those workouts taxing, but next thing I knew, my 100 times were dropping. I even got a little under 1:30s, at least in the pool. I’m not crazy about open water swims, especially in the channel. I am a Jaws era chick after all. But every now and then I’d face my fears and just do it. I felt as prepared for the swim as I was going to get. I knew that if I could hit around 30 minutes on the swim that would be competitive enough to podium place, and I could use my bike/run strengths to compensate.
As many of you know, I’ve been riddled with running injuries and went into this tri season with what I thought was a hip injury. I was making some strides towards healing and then had another freak accident with my dog where I walked him down a kayak ramp, and when he got too far extended on the leash, I stepped down one more rung on the ramp which proved to be slimy, and my feet slipped out from under me, and I crashed down on my right glute with such a force that I could hardly walk after that. It got so bad that I finally got an MRI. To my surprise, there was no fracture, no tear, and not even any inflammation! Turns out, I had a bulging disc that was referring pain in my hip. I went thru every therapy imaginable to try to hobble thru my training and appreciate all that Jon Duplessis and Dr. David Lude (chiropractor) did to make the pain manageable.
However, at one point in July I told Coach Tom that I didn’t think I was going to be able to do the race because of the pain. He worked out an extremely conservative running plan that had me doing the bare minimum mileage per week just to keep some pounding and running fitness going. He told me that with my long history of running, he had no doubt that I could gut my way thru the run and said, “You’ve got this!” So, I took confidence in that because there have been times before when he advised me NOT to do a particular race. I have learned over the years to TRUST what he tells me. We both went into B2B knowing that I was undertrained for the run, and that it would be what it would be, and there was just no helping it.
Now, THIS was the one area where I could really make some head way. Tom had been giving me what I considered bike workouts from HELL to begin with, but given the injury that running aggravated to no end. Tom had to use the bike workouts to compensate for running fitness and to make up for what I already knew was going to be a less than ideal run. But then, Tom had an interesting idea, an experiment of sorts that he wanted to try out on me. He decided to loan me his power beam to see how my performance would improve by using this device. If you’ve never heard of the power beam, just know that it is a piece of equipment designed by Satan himself! LOL! I certainly developed a love/hate relationship with that device. The hate part was enduring countless HOURS of brutal workouts. I sweated profusely, gritted my teeth, grunted, yelled, cussed, nearly had coronary arrests a few times, and nearly puked on just about every workout. The love part, I reminded myself was, “that which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”. Tom reviewed my Training Peaks computer summaries and seemed pleased with the progress. I felt ready and confident, more so than I ever had on the bike. Two weeks before the race, Brooke Park, Steven Kinney, and I rode the 421/210/Blueberry Rd part of the race course, and I felt like a BEAST on the bike. In my head I was telling myself, “I am so going to CRUSH this bike segment. Back in July when I was questioning whether I’d be able to do the race and was starting to get depressed because of the run, I made the decision not to focus on what I couldn’t do (i.e. the run), but instead focus on what I could control and improve (i.e. the BIKE).
To my disbelief, I had to fly to Chicago for work on the Monday before the race. Crap! I thought to myself, this is not a good thing. I was able to negotiate coming back on Thursday night instead of Friday like the rest of my team, so at least I had that. The only positive about being on the trip during that week is that I stayed preoccupied with work instead of driving myself into a nervous frenzy like I usually do.
But on that Monday before flying out to Chicago, I elected to drop my bike off to have it checked out before the race just to make sure everything was functionally sound. Just as I got seated on the plane, the bike shop called me to tell me that I really needed to have my gear cables, brake cables, and tires changed before the race. I said, “Well, I’m not really comfortable making any changes this close to the race because I will have NO window of opportunity to test the bike before the race because I will get in around midnight Thursday and have to check my bike in on Friday”. He told me that it really needed to be done. I had to make a split decision because we had to shut off our phones for take-off. I asked myself, “Do I leave everything like it is and risk a cable snapping or a tire blowing, OR do I risk making a change and trusting that everything will be ok?” I opted for the latter for fear of what might happen if I ignored the potential issues. This proved to be the WORST decision I could have made!
I got in at 1am on Friday from Chicago and intended to take the day off to get all my stuff together and test drive my bike. As it turned out, it was pouring rain Friday morning, and I ended up on the phone all morning for work. I had to run down to the convention center at noon to attend the pre-race orientation. Then I had to stand in line for a while to get my packet. One thing I didn’t realize is that I had to turn in my T2 bag down at the convention center. I could swear I read that it was to be turned it at WB like it was last year. Of course, I didn’t have my T2 bag with me, so I would have to make a 2nd trip back down there. It was 2:00 at that point.
I drove home in a stressed out frenzy thinking, “I have GOT to test ride my bike and go get it checked in”. So, I hop on it and do 10 miles around middlesound loop. Something feels strange about it, almost like I had to pedal too hard for what my Garmin 500 wattage readout was reading (i.e. 40-50W under the perceived effort I was expending). I had my wattage so dialed in, I knew exactly what certain power ranges should feel like, and I knew exactly what kind of time I was going to achieve on the bike course, so something was OFF, majorly OFF! OMG!! How could this be happening? I called the bike shop and there was no answer, I’m sure all the people who shipped their bikes in as well as last minute tweaks and shopping were keeping them on the floor. I called the bike shop owner as well. So, I packed my bike up thinking that the bike techs would be down at WB to check it out. I get down there and run into Coaches Kristen and Tom. I tell them what is going on. Tom takes my bike for a spin and agrees that the wattage is indeed off. He tries to re-calibrate the computer to no avail. It is supposed to auto-calibrate anyway. I was in a PANIC!! I push my bike towards the transition area and it feels like it is dragging, as if the brakes are on. So, I press the brake levers a few times thinking, “is the cable too tight, are the brakes clamped on the wheel, what is going on?” I look at the brakes and they aren’t clamped. So, I’m thinking, “maybe the wheel isn’t seated correctly”, so I pull the wheel off and re-seat it several times, and it isn’t any easier to push”. I was at the point where I HAD to get the bike checked in because I had to get back home to get my son to Laney for the football game (he plays in the band), and I still had to run my T2 bag down to the convention center. I made it to the convention center 2 minutes before they closed the check-in. I was to the point of thinking, “with all this crap, going on, maybe I should just drop out”!
I didn’t sleep well the night before the race, but then again I never do. At least I had slept well most of the week leading in, so I knew I would be alright. I got down to the race site at 6 am in plenty of time to get my tires aired up, T1 set up, shoes staged at swim exit, swallow down some fluids and carbs, and get down to the swim start.
I remember seeing Lindsay Dean at the race start and she commented, “You don’t seem as nervous as last year!” I said, “I’m actually not as nervous as last year. I know the course, I’ve done this race before, and I feel much more well trained for the swim and the bike than last year, so I’m not such a wreck as last year.” I will say that the hardest part is being in the last swim wave to go off because you have to stand there so dang long waiting for everyone else’s wave to go off with the anticipation and anxiety growing by the minute.
Finally, time for the women 45+ to go off. We’re the fun crowd as the announcer kept reminding us. We dance in the water, hoop and holler, and remind ourselves that we “aren’t done yet” as being middle-aged women and just dang happy and proud to be out there at our ages! The horn sounds, and we’re off! I trusted my training, I had talked to Tom and Kristen about the fact that for some reason in open water, I have trouble doing anything but breathing every stroke, and they said that was fine. I had practiced sighting every 4th stroke and that seemed to work well. I was amazed to hit the first turn buoy without too much trouble, but then this nagging issue happened to me, my right calf cramped up that nearly stood me straight up in the water. OUCH!! So, I resorted to just pulling but I couldn’t keep my ankle straight due to the cramping, so I know I had a bit of drag, but I couldn’t help it, I just had to pull as best I could against the drag. I am thankful to Kristen for having me do so much pull work during training because without it, I would have had to have been pulled from the water. I flat couldn’t kick. The cramp subsided, but I was getting slapped in the face with waves from only breathing to my left, so I switched to breathing on my right. Then, GRAB!! My dang right calf cramped worse than the left, and I thought, “Crap, I am literally going to have to go hold onto a surfboard because I can hardly stand this pain.” Nope, I thought, I have worked too hard for this. Just pull! I won’t need my arms for the rest of the events, give it all ya got, girlfriend! To my surprise, I was out of the water in 30 mins! Yes! I was perfectly on track to meet my goal. That was competitive for my age group.
Finally I’m at Sea Path, so thrilled that the swim is over. A man pulls me out, another strips my wetsuit, I put on my shoes to run the 400 yds to the bike! I see Sharon Siebert when I round the corner to run up towards the bike transition! It gave me such a boost to see her and a few of our WOL peeps there cheering. Last year, I was like 10:40 in transition. This year, I cut that down to 4 mins that included that run from the docks. Yes! Much better I thought.
I almost passed the bike exit to launch off, but the guys are yelling at me to turn there. LOL.. I was in a zone I guess. I hop on the bike and as I start, I hear this weird scrubbing sound. WTH??? I’m thinking, “Oh no! What is going on? Is my race number flapping on my water bottle, what is that noise?” Then I realize it is my tire scrubbing. I look down to see if my brakes are clamped but they are not.. I hit my brakes a few times to see if the are stuck, and they aren’t. WTH is going on. I knew my tire was scrubbing but I didn’t know where or on what! I hear it the entire ride. On I-140 against the wind, I am pushing hard and feels like pushing well into the 200s as far as wattage, but my cadence and gears aren’t matching that kind of effort. Again, WTH is going on? At about mile 30 my quads were feeling fatigued from the effort. I kept looking at my computer, and for the effort, there was no way it was reading correctly, so I just stopped looking at the wattage and only kept my cadence in check. I had my wattage so dialed in that I knew I was more than capable of pulling off a 2:45 bike ride or better. As I was coming up the Holmes bridge I was shocked to see that I was closing in on 2:55. I was still puzzled as to what was going on because I had pedaled my rear off! I took in 3 aero bottles full of water, two bottles of EFS mix, and 2 stinger waffles on the bike. My hydration and nutrition should have been really good.
Nice T2, put my gear on while going to the rest room, and was in/out pretty quickly
I see my parents as I exit the convention center and smiled and yelled to them, “I am TIRED!” That bike had really taken something out of me, and I noticed I had a real strain in my left adductor that I hoped would let up as I became mobile on the run. I was surprised to notice that my hip wasn’t bothering me at all on the run. Good, I thought, just keep your legs moving. I enjoyed going thru downtown and hearing people call my name. I made it to the WOL stop and surprised it was early in the race, and man, was it motivational. Ana Zuber ran with her arm around me thru the stop. Val high 5’d me, Kiki and Lindsay Logan were cheering wildly. I was thinking, “I’m so glad this stop is where it is because I am REALLY gonna need this on the way back!” I get thru 6 miles thinking it was going pretty well. I see the signs for the turn-around and for some reason I thought that would be a the halfway part of the half, but it wasn’t. I thought, “where in the heck is the turn around”? Seemed like forever until that point. At mile 7 here comes Lindsay Dean passing me and asked if I wanted company. I was so slow I didn’t want to hold her up. I told her I would just run behind her. Well, she looked like she’d be shot from a cannon, and next thing I know I can’t even see her any more. LOL. At 8 miles I started playing mind games, “ok, this is just your normal weekday run and ran thru that course in my head”. At mile 9 going up that hill on the triangle, I passed a lady in my age group and thought, “how many more of them are ahead of me?” At mile 10, I caught another lady in my age group, and again, “crap, how many more are there?” After I passed her I suddenly heard footsteps coming up fast behind me. She obviously saw my age on my calf and decided to challenge me. She got up beside me and I thought, “OH HELL TO THE NO!” So, I picked up my pace! She was breathing really hard, and within 10 feet, so stopped dead in her tracks and started walking! Good, I thought! But how many more are there up there? Then I passed the aid station where my church was staffing… nice to see more friendly cheering faces. Around t mile 11, I hit the WOL stop again on a downhill! Woo hoo! The cheering and seeing my training buddies gave me quite the boost. As I’m coming up Front Street, I spot Lindsay Dean and Maleia Tumolo. Lindsay was helping her finish. I passed by them and said, “Be strong my girls, you got this!” That last 2 miles I was again playing mind games and said, “this is familiar, treat this like a Tom hill workout downtown, you know this route, think of it as a WOL workout, you’re almost there”. I picked up the pace and when we hit Ann St, I flew down the hill passing people, thinking, THIS IS MY TEAM’s COURSE! Own it!!” Coming up Water St, I didn’t even realize I was that close to the finish. I see Stacey Richardson again cheering for me! I hear many of my friends calling my name. I picked up the pace again. Finally the finish line! I am astonished that I had been under my goal time and was thrilled to have PR’d.
I was disappointed that I ended up 4th in Age Group, just 2 mins off the 3rd place girl and 10 mins off the first place girl. Ugh! I knew I had trained to have pulled off a 2:45 or better bike. The conditions were perfect. Only problem is my bike ended up being 3:02!! WTH? Well, I found out as I was retrieving my bike from the convention center. As I start rolling it, I could still hear that wheel scrubbing. In fact, my front wheel seemed to be catching every half revolution. So, again, I look to see if my brakes are grabbing. That is when I noticed a huge amount of tire rubber dust all over the front of my bike and front derailleur. That is when I noticed that there was NO CLEARANCE between my tire and the derailleur and that I had scraped several layers of rubber off that tire. There was a carved out strip the entire surface of the tire. Wow!!! No wonder I was 17 minutes off the time I knew I could do and fully expected to do! This issue cost me first place. No wonder my quads were ripped to shreds! I literally felt like I had pushed a train on that bike segment. The entire ride I felt like I had done one of those brutal power beam workouts in heavy zone 4 for 3 hrs! But, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I had not done all that power beam work, I never would have been able to push that restricted wheel for 56 miles.
- 1.Never make changes to my bike without having at least a week to test out the changes! Turned out that the tire was defective and expanded on the rim after installation which caused that tire scrubbing issue. Having had a few days to test it, I probably could have found it and corrected it in time.
- 2.Even though I have read the race packet multiple times leading up to the race, re-read it the morning of pre-race day and write down the pre-race day “check-in” procedure to make sure I know what gets checked in where!
- 3.Try to avoid traveling the week of the race to avoid that last day scramble to get everything together!
- 4.Never give up despite adversities you face on race day!
- 5.Learn from my mistakes and bad decisions and don’t make them again.
- 6.As my friend, Sue Wood tells me regarding all my freaky incidents, I need to go ahead and write that book entitled, “Are you F’n Kidding Me?”