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.