I like shopping. Do you like shopping? The other day I went bra shopping (don’t worry this isn’t about bras) and that didn’t go so well. Found out that I am not built like the average woman. Needed a sales clerk and a measuring tape to tell me that.
But shopping for hurt? Count me in. I’m waiting in line and not waiting for it to go on sale.
I’ll pay full price.
I visited the hurt shop this weekend. I paid full price. It hurt. I hurt. We headed down to Missouri for a great race – Tri Mizzou part of Ultramax Events. Long ago in another century, I did a lot of racing with Ultramax Events. Excellent venues, superb race organization and tough competition – always. Going back to Missouri to race felt like going home again.
Tri Mizzou is a sprint distance race. Why do I do this to myself? The plan is to use shorter races to push at my threshold. In theory, a very simple plan. In practice, a very painful plan.
Race morning started at 4 am. That is when I woke up. Of course I was in bed by 7:40 pm. Fell asleep by 9:40 pm and woke up when I couldn’t see the point of laying there anymore. I wasn’t nervous so much as I was just so darn excited that I got to race today.
Let me just thank the makers of Starbucks Via. Instant coffee sounds like a bad idea but when you are in a hotel room it is brilliant. The cup of coffee was so good I held it under Chris’ nose and insisted he take a sip. All of this at 4:20 am. His response:
Liz, you said 4:40, it’s only 4:20.
When I wouldn’t relent his next reply was:
(I’m in trouble now)
GET THAT CUP AWAY FROM ME.
Sounds like somebody needs…COFFEE!
At some point he agreed, awoke and we got to the race site. We arrived at transition and I was excited to get things set up. You see, in long course you get kind of lazy with transitions. In sprints, every second counts. Plus you don’t have time to think. Actions need to be automatic and you need a plan. I had a plan today and that was to transition fast. I even considered trying a flying mount. And then remembered trying flying mounts the other day in my basement and…
That didn’t go so well on carpet. I could only imagine the consequences on pavement.
Before I knew it, the race was about to begin. The elite men went off, next up the women. A quick count down and then it was time to swim! I just went as hard as I could go which turned out to be not all that fast but I’ll just blame it on the fact that the course was long.
Get it, long course.....in a measured long course pool.
Come on, it’s been a LONG day (4 am?).
Now, let me just say I nailed the exit out of the pool. I must have practiced it 10 times the day before. You had to pull yourself up and out of the lane (no ladder). I will not reveal the secret to my exit but let me just say if there were points awarded for most creative use of a diving block, I’d win.
Next up was the world’s fastest run through the world’s longest transition. From the pool, across the football field. Barefoot. This was painful and I was making noises from my mouth that shouted REDLINEREDLINEDANGERDANGER! But I had ground to make up and was determined to chase down the lead girl who was about a minute up on me.
Out of transition, another girl was pushing past me and we were back and forth until a big hill when I said to myself it’s now or never MAKE A MOVE. It was a long climb, I was out of the saddle pushing yet again at redline and when I got to the top and sat back down my vision got fuzzy. And then I laughed. Because for the third time ever in racing, I was seeing stars. Clouds, stars, slap my head and pray that I soon see clear.
And soon I could clearly see up ahead was the lead girl, actually 16 years old and so talented from a local kids tri team. Slowly I was reeling her in and figured I would catch her by the second lap then gain some ground. At the start of the second lap I pulled ahead of her and pushed hard up the big hill hoping I would put some time between me and her. Yet, every time I looked back there she was. Again I would attack, looked over my shoulder and – right there.
We ended up riding together to transition. I saw her taking off and barely had my right shoe on before I set out to at least try to chase. And you know a runner is in a hurry when they sacrifice correct placement of their shoe tongue for getting on the course faster.
She took off. I’m chugging along. All right – do I have any speed faster than CHUG this year? I’d like to hope it comes around soon but until then I chug, chug and try to catch her. She is bounding, I am chugging. I then look over my shoulder and see a gaggle of 3, maybe 4 girls breathing down my neck.
And then it hit me – I’m in a race. A real race. Not in noman’s land caught between pros and age groupers, I’m not off the back or having another flat racing day. I am in the thick of the race, in the mix and sound the sirens I am being RUN DOWN!
One mile to go and someone passes me. This is the longest sprint race of my life. Would someone please get me out of this hell box of hurt already? I don’t think Ironman hurt this bad. And then - passed. What will I do? I remember thinking back to my long run on Monday – 6 rounds of some progressive intervals with the last one max and realized I could attack, push it and then be ok. So I attacked. And then she responded. Ok, folks, we have a runner here. So I tried it again – she responded again. Ok, folks, we have a real runner here. And then she pulled away in the last 800 meters and crossed the line 6 seconds ahead of me (I later learned she went to the Olympic trials for the 800 meter track event which humbled and inspired me to learn to kick like her at the end).
I finished 3rd. The next girl was right behind me with another right behind her – it was a really close race. And it has been a long time since I have raced a close race. It felt good to really race in the mix, to push hard and hurt again.
After the race someone came up to me and said what happened?
I actually didn’t answer that. Not because I didn’t have an answer – trust me, after every race I sit down and make a list of what worked and what needs work – I will answer to myself later – but to answer that to anyone else?
What do you say?
When you are pro and show up to a race, you have to deal with the expectations of everyone else – like it or not. It’s part of the game. And honestly it’s one of the hardest parts of the game. As if it wasn’t hard enough to just do the race itself. There is an expectation that pro = win. Is anything as easy as that? When I turned pro, the license did not come with a guarantee that I would win every race I show up at – big or small. I didn’t get some secret manual on how to beat every racer – pro or age group. A pro license is just that – a license to compete against other pros. Nothing more is guaranteed than that.
(other than starting first in a wave with 10 of your not so closest world champion, Olympian, can run a 10K faster than you can bike it friends)
I applied to be a pro because I had the results for it and I was either brave enough or dumb enough (haven’t decided yet) to go for it. I don’t expect to win every race – nor any race. I just love to race. I’m happy to be in the game and always try to give it my best. And any time I do win, it is a feeling I never forget. Winning is a special thing that requires the right smarts, the right fitness, the right tactics and mindset to come together on race day. When you look at everything it takes to put together a win you realize how rare and special it is – whether the race is big or small – no matter who shows up.
I read something this weekend about being a champion.
If you’re going to be a champion, you must be willing to pay a greater price than your opponent. You must pay the price with sacrifice.
What did I sacrifice for this race? Nothing – and that is why I didn’t win. So what happened? Well, clearly I did not sacrifice enough. Whether it was the week of training I did leading up to the race, the next level that I wasn’t willing to push to on the run or the lack of flying mount. I wasn’t willing to pay the price in risks and sacrifices to win this race. I was outsmarted, outraced and outsacrificed.
And I’m ok with that. This is learning. This is racing. It is real. It is always changing and a process. There are no guarantees. That is what makes it good. That is why we sign up again and again – pro or amateur – if not to better ourselves then to better our way of doing the process and bettering our chances of winning – whatever winning means to us on race day.
So what happened? Well, I’d say a race. A tight race, a good race, a race that makes me hungry to go out and do it again. To find out – will the sacrifices be enough this time?
To find out...that is why we keep going back.