Sunday, May 04, 2008

Baptism By Beast

I am sitting here with an empty bottle of vanilla milk and my homestay mom has put a bowl of chocolate next to me. After 8 nutter butters the chocolate tastes....great.

You might say but Liz you didn't earn this! You finished 10th out of 10 at the race.

To you I politely say "pipe down."

The race was hard. Harder than Kona I would say. I knew this race would be epic - I could feel the energy in the island these past few days. But I was calm and knew it was a bit outside my league to stand at that start line this morning for my first pro race but...you will never know until you risk everything and try. And, why not?

The water was choppy. But it's the ocean. I expected that too. The gun went off and BOOM! The group bolted and for about 30 seconds I can proudly say I was right there with them....and then....I'm alone. Like all alone. Like have you ever been in the ocean swimming by yourself...kind of freaky stuff. In an age group race you are surrounded by people. I look left, right, even a bit behind me - NO ONE. Just me! Every time I look up - a swell. Then sometimes there they are distant - the buoys. I think about freaking out as an option but then I say to myself - you're doing it Liz. You're out here DOING IT. Just swim. So I did.

Finally I make the turn and the current is with me! But unfortunately I swam myself to the wrong buoy. I kept wondering why I saw so many people.....they were coming towards me! Got back on track to the right buoy and I notice a yellow cap. Another pro woman! So I try to keep her in sight.

Getting close to the exit I know this will be a slow swim. But that's ok. I got through it now it's time for the fun part of the race.....

I was in transition with two other pro's. GOOD! I'm not the last one! I hear someone tell us that the lead women are 7 minutes ahead. Yikes! But that's what you get for racing world champions, right?

I keep the other women in my sight for a bit on the bike but then..I am alone. AGAIN! Welcome to racing pro. It's definitely lonely. The age group men start passing fast and hard to get to that beast. At 50 minutes into the ride I don't know what happened but I went off the side of the road and crashed! It was kind of a twilight zone moment - the bike is in the grass and I'm trying to slow it down but eventually the hill (I think it was a hill) and a fall slow me completely.

OW! Knee and quad are hurting but the bike seems to be ok. That's all that counts! The chain was dropped but I got it back on and pedaled away. I am approaching the beast - still mostly alone. So alone no one even noticed me crash! But I get to the beast, make the left turn and....there are all the guys.

I am going to stay seated, I am going to stay seated.....that lasts about .1 miles and then I have to stand. I am spinning at 41 rpms. I am breathing heavy but this is only .7 miles it's not that bad. Then the guy next to me has a bit of a squirrely moment which means I am about to go off the road and almost lose it on the beast. If I fall off I am going to have to walk at this point so I have give the pedals a nervous push and get away from him. At .4 miles it starts pouring rain. You have got to be kidding me. My hands are slipping on the bars and I just want to be over this hill. But then the guy next to me says "going down will be fun."

Scratch that "I'd like to go down the hill" request.

Down the hill - not so fun. Fear of death and injury as I pump the brakes thinking this might help slow me down and prevent rear wheel lockout. Rain continues for a bit then we are on the sunny side of the island. And into the wind. Now here is where I start passing all those guys that hauled ass to the beast. Good plan guys. And going into the wind - I'm actually doing well! It feels like riding at home. The wind continues, long hills, squirrely turns. Finally at mile 45 there is tailwind. Finally I am about off my bike.

That took long enough! I knew it would - I knew it would be silly to go into this race shooting for a time. Rather I just wanted to hang on and last it out today.

The run - the best part! The other women are quite a bit in front of me but anything can happen. So I just chug away at it. The run up to the Bucaneer is not bad with headwind but it's a hill so it's slow. Into the golf course it is hot but fun to run on the path. And it's on grass and up two big hills too. Coming back from the Bucaneer should have felt easy going downhill. But the tailwind made it very hot. And I swear the town never got closer!

So let's do it again! Another loop, I pass a pro but she is walking and eventually DNF's. I finally get to the finish line - seriously, it has not taken me that long to do a half IM since I did my first in 2001 but I did it - my first pro race and now it's done! I'm safe, I'm filled with chocolate, my feet are bloody with blisters and the chickens are going crazy outside.

This morning, I got an e-mail from one of my athletes that said "Liz, I hope you learn something new about yourself today." I thought about that all day and I'm proud to report about learning something new - I did. I learned that when I'm out there alone in last place on a tough course that there has to be something bigger to the race. You can't be out there to win money, to finish in a certain time, to beat so and so - you have to be out there for something bigger than that. Because when you crash or it starts pouring rain or you find yourself by yourself - it takes something more to keep pushing through. I realized I do it to see what I'm made of. To find my character in those moments where all signs point to - quit and just give up. No way! I worked really hard to get here and I'm going to embrace every minute of it and learn everything I can. I may not come out on top - like I said last week, I might be in the top 10 or cross the finish line in last place (both of which I did today!) but I learned something bigger than that. I can do this. I will get better. Each time will feel easier from here. I don't give up. I won't give up. I will keep plugging away. Every world champion, national champion, pro, amateur starts somewhere.

This was my somewhere today.

Wee looked great out there. TOO GREAT! She was waving at me and I kept telling her - she is right there GO AFTER IT! My new friend Christy had a great race. Laura Sopheia is always a pleasure to see. Tom Demerly looked tough. Trisports.com teammate Craig Howie - too darn fast. And, Stacey Richardson killed it out there today to get her slot to Kona - YEAH!

I didn't update last night but I wanted to share what a fabulous day and night it was. I went to a dinner at this very nice home. It was beyond nice. It was like something out of a magazine. And I got to sit at the same table as the top male and female at the race today....THAT was exciting I'd say. And for the record - they both ate dessert.

I also went to my very first pro meeting yesterday. For a split second I wondered if I would be out of place. Then looking around I realized - no way! These are all athletes just like me. They all started at the bottom just like me. We all earned our way here. We all had success along the way. We all took a risk at some point and it has paid off in different ways but we all said "why not try."

Sometimes I think to myself WHAT am I doing this year? What was wrong with racing age group, finishing really well, getting recognition, feeling good in that way....but then I have experiences like last night and today and think that no medal, title or award right now will replace that. It's very exciting in a whole different way.

31 comments:

rr said...

Liz, you are incredible. I can't imagine that swim - I do not swim alone, ever, and I would have cried. And then the crash? Yikes. That would have been more crying by me. You made it. You did the hardest thing by toeing the line with the best of the best and finished top 10. Congratulations! Be happy, be proud of yourself, you deserve it!!

Train-This said...

Way to go Liz..... our best lessons are never learned on the very best days, and they are lessons we never forget. I am so proud of you! A much lesser person.... would never have started or they would have quit. And some did!

Beth said...

GREAT race Liz - I am so amazed at your attitude and perspective and so inspired!! When I was listening to the coverage this morning I was thinking - this race sounds EVIL!! And you did it. YOU DID IT!! You put yourself out there and did it. And just like you said, every one after this is going to get a little easier. Congrats!! Enjoy the rest of your stay!

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Elizabeth - you are one of my heros. Congratulations on living your dream, meeting your challenges head on, and challenging yourself. If only more athletes could be as brave as you. But that's also what sets you apart - you are special.

Stef said...

Liz you are the best example I can think of for setting that bar high and hanging tough with it!

There is a bigger reason why I do this and I could not define it last year through all the struggles and am still working on defining it. It is a tough sport and you have elevated yourself to the toughest level of all.

What you did out there today and what you wrote here is incredible. You are unstoppable!!

YAY COACH!

Cat said...

yeah!!!

i picked the WRONG weekend to not have internet access. i was thinking about you the whole time.

you inspire me more than you can imagine. thanks for your honesty and giving us all the gift of learning along side of you.

cat.

moonpie said...

Rock on Coach Liz!!!

Way to put yourself out there, when I'm sure it was VERY comfortable being a badass age grouper!

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth,
This post is why you are a phenom athlete. Really. If you recall, you swam this pace for an OLY distance race back in the day and look how far you have come. On the start line at STC with the best Pro women in the country. Now, that, Elizabeth is full circle. You learn from these races, where you are not winning (like you are used to) and take all those details with you to conquer the next one. Let's GO! :) You know, I am always proud of you. You are a true champion. Jen H.

TriGirl Kate O said...

Way to go, and in my book you won first place for successfully battling those mental demons which are much tougher to overcome than hills, rain, crashes, and racing alone! So what was for dessert?

Andrea said...

I was thinking of you all day - while I was riding my own 70.3 course. You motivate and inspire me.

Even with all that happened today, you are living a dream that some of us will never know - that we will only experience through your stories.

You are an amazing athlete and coach. You can only go up from here.

Mira Lelovic said...

Congratulations, Liz!!! You are a WINNER no matter what place or finish time. Not to mention how brave and tough you are for getting through a rough swim and a bike crash! You're my hero!

Pedergraham said...

OK, Wow, I can't add anything new to what's already been said... I really enjoyed reading your report. Now, onto a speedy recovery.
-Danielle

Pam said...

Great job! I loved this post. My eyes are a little wet now, I admit. Can't wait to see how your season unfolds!!!

Laura B. said...

Wow. You've left me speechless!

Okay, not completely. :)

A whole lot of "ditto"... you're really an inspiration out there. Thanks for the reminder that you don't have to have a great race to have a great race.

Way to go!

BreeWee said...

Liz, I so love you! I love the comment about the pro meeting because I felt like a loner if it weren't for you I would have been! So, from now on at those stinkin' things I will remeber I earned my way to them! You are so good at finding some light in a tunnel.

NEXT up... one of the greatest things I learned about you and from you this weekend is that you are so humble. Honestly... I always think staying age grouper would be easier but you are right... we do this sport to be our best and if you are at the next step TAKE it! You taught me that...thank you! I am so glad I took the step with you.

Now, seriously, you had a hell of a lot of situtaions that would have caused the "average" woman to quit... BUT you kept going despite them... WAY to go! I hope we can race more together because you are the coolest pro I know :)

Danni said...

Liz, thanks for this post.
Congratulations on the finish. Like I have said many times, you inspire me.
You should be so proud of yourself. Going after your dreams, always learning something from each experience. Rock on.
D.

~Robyn~ said...

You rock girl. Many people would be so disappointed with that race and finish, but you took every single positive thing out of it you could. And that's what will make you such a great competitor and WINNER of races in the future. Take it all in and learn learn learn!!!

Sally said...

Congratulations Liz! You did great. You did what you set out to do - start a great pro career! You gained new knowledge and strength. You won a lot today. Congratulations my friend.

Sally

Leah said...

You are always an inspiration, no matter what happens. Great post, great lessons, great race.

CAMI said...

Good job, Liz! I'm so proud of you taking those scary steps to get out of your comfort zone and go to the next level. It's so refreshing to work with someone who practices what they preach. You're always telling us that the tough days are the days we learn from and that the mental part is the hardest. You overcame some really tough mental things out there on that course and you stick with it. I'm proud to be one of your athletes!
Candace

Erin said...

Amazing race, amazing attitude. You're definitely an inspiration. Way to go!

Anonymous said...

You placed 10th in your first pro-race. That's awesome.

Wes said...

Your perspective on things beyond endurance is one of the reasons I want you to teach me. There are good reasons you are a pro now. Very good reasons...

Well done, Liz.

Brenda O said...

congrats on the finish! Enjoy that chocolate!
B

Bob Mitera said...

Liz - StX is a tough course and you showed it your tough right back. Way to go! Remember, a few years back nobody really knew about Chrissie Wellington or a few other great pros.

Jen in Budapest said...

"I learned that when I'm out there alone in last place on a tough course that there has to be something bigger to the race. .....Because when you crash or it starts pouring rain or you find yourself by yourself - it takes something more to keep pushing through. I realized I do it to see what I'm made of. To find my character in those moments where all signs point to - quit and just give up. No way!"

Thank you so much for the inspiration and the play by play of the race. I'm most impressed with overcoming those lonely moments and the crash......Eat those Nutter Butters!!! You deserve every bite!

tri-bobolicious said...

Congrats on the finish....I am a beginner triathlete who is a superclydesdale(320lbs). I do spend a lot of time on the course alone...but i do it for myself. At the end of the day, you are racing yourself.

Bob

Marni said...

wow! great race report! Looks like you are still growing as a great athlete :) Enjoy your recovery :)

IronMatron said...

You are incredible--both as an athlete and as a writer. Congrats on keeping with it and finishing strong. I admire you.

tri.bassett said...

You did yourself proud out there. I've had several friends and more than one pro tell me that St. Croix is more like Kona than any 70.3.

It's a tough, tough race and it took a lot of guts to toe the line there as your first pro race! What a wonderful inspiration to your athletes and fans!

stacey said...

Hey little fast pro girl,

I loved your race report and your insights into growing as a person and finding out what you are made of. I know you're made of steel but you also have such a nice, soft, covering. Congrats on toughing it out! : )))

stacey ; )))))