The day before the race was busy! I met many of my athletes and friends that I haven't seen in awhile. Before I knew it the day was over. But I felt ok. Workouts went fine, legs felt fine. Went to my second pro meeting. Who walks in - Sherpa Thomas! Ironically, I was #32 and he was #33. For the time trial start that meant he was starting 10 seconds behind me.
At the meeting, I learned about the stagger rule. As a pro you can never ride behind someone - even if that someone is up the road but within sight a half mile away. If you can see them, you cannot ride "behind" them. You have to be staggered to the right or left. I was so scared of biking in the wrong place. I also looked at the visual they had set up to show up was 7 bike lengths looked like (the draft zone for pro's is 7 meters) - that's a really long way! If I could make it through the bike on the right side of the road at the right distance - I'd call it a success.
Race morning - felt good! Not that nervous. It was a time trial start so that takes away some of the pressure of a mass start. I was #32 of 35 pro's - not exactly an ideal position considering my swimming is slower but I thought I could hang on to Thomas for awhile. I get in the water - I had a great start and felt ok. My arms have been really sore lately but I just ignored it and swam. I love this swim - there is a rope that you can follow the entire time which makes sighting and staying on course easier. In the first 300 yards I see Thomas right behind me and I think FEET! Too bad the feet hauled ass right past me. Come on! I tried to grab another set of feet but then it was just me. They put quite a bit of time between pro's and age groupers so I ended up swimming alone. But like I said it's an easier swim - the sun was nasty to sight into but once I turned the buoy and felt fine.
I ran to my transition spot and Chris was there telling me that another woman just left. Of course my bike was the last one the racks - makes it very easy to find - I got stuck in the left leg of my wetsuit but then I was off!
My legs felt not so good. I knew this would happen for a 40K and told myelf to give it 20 minutes and the pain would go away. I was working hard. There were 3 women ahead of me and I was going to catch them. I was staggering myself all of the road - it was quite windy so the other women were shifting positions a lot which meant I was shifting positions a lot.
I caught all 3 women within a few minutes. One was in a relay so that makes for 2 pro's - yes! That was a great feeling to just get ahead and "race". When you are alone in a race it's not even like a race at times - you feel kind of lost and thoughts of "what the hell am I doing here" inevitably start. It was good to see other people and catch them.
But then, I was alone. Hey, what the hell am I doing here?! No really it was fine. I just pedaled away. This was one of the windiest years at this race that I've ever done. My legs kept hurting. I know 40K is hard but at some point I thought - come on, legs - I get it, you're sore. Quit telling me!
I was excited to get on the run because it's a good course for me with the heat and hills. The first mile and my breathing was loud. I can ignore that. Then I got hot. I can ignore that too. Then I made the turn on to the hills and start running up them and then the legs hurt. They felt flat. I never have flat legs. Like I was pushing and pushing....and nothing in return. Got to the top of the hill and the outside of my left shin started cramping. I was pushing and trying to stay positive but it kept hurting me and I actually thought to myself I just want to stop. I never want to stop! That was a very hard thing to have pop into my head. I almost broke out in tears. My legs were just done and I just wanted to be done with the day.
I saw Lauren at the finish line and she asked what was wrong. After competing as a pro for over 15 years, she put it all in perspective for me - we've all been there, some days you have it, some days you don't, you have to have really low lows to appreciate the highs when they happen. And they will.
As I gathered my stuff after the race, one of the top women asked me how it went. It just wasn't my day, I said. She didn't have to say anything - and as I've learned already there is a quiet intensity to most pro's that keeps them, well, pretty quiet - but then she said to me "We've all been there in our first year, it's just growing pains."
I liked that - growing pains. Right now, I'm like an awkward 14 year old tripping all over themselves that just needs to get it all figured out. I will. It will take time and who knows what will happen along the way but I'll get there. I'll grow into this new body and head and together we will go some place.
BIG CONGRATULATIONS to my athletes and friends at this race and other races this weekend! I am so proud of all of you!