Monday, June 15, 2009

Back To The Beginning

While everyone else will have these exciting race reports about how they raced at faraway destinations against stacked fields on grandiose courses for special slots, I bring to you:

the local women's only sprint race

Going back to the beginning. This race was my first ever triathlon 10 years ago. My entry into the sport is rather humble – and comical. When I learned my hometown had a women’s triathlon I said to myself “that would be a good goal”. I hired a personal trainer, did the training and one week before the race the personal trainer said:

Did you sign up for the race?

Uh…………

NO!

At this point, the race was sold out. Long story short, my beginnings in triathlon were completely illegal as I raced as someone else.

Please don’t tell.

The race went well. It only took me about 650 of the 750 meters to put my face into the water but once I got on land I knew I was golden. I attacked that course on a men’s mountain bike and then did what I always knew how to do – run.

I was hooked. I have no idea why. In my opinion, the biggest problem I encountered all day was how will I hold my hair back? I figured that out and somehow got the itch to do it all again. I still remember how good I felt running down the Riverwalk in the last half mile, smiling at my mom as she took a picture, crossing the line and thinking yes, I must do this again.

Ten years later, here I am. Where have I been in the sport? Where haven’t I been. Mountain bike races, crits, run races, marathons, Ironman, duathlons, world championships, sprint, Olympic, 70.3. I’ve been around.

When I realized the local women’s sprint race was coming up and it was my 10-year anniversary, I realized I couldn’t pass it up. I realized this just last week one of those last minute that sounds like fun ideas.

FUN!

I woke up at 4:30 am and let me just say that the day started off with a win because I beat the sun up. Yes, that is damn early friends. Got into transition and absorbed the women’s only energy.

It’s different than a co-ed race. And it smells like shampoo and froo-froo lotion.

After a quick run it was time to warm up in the water. The race was held at the “beach” where I swim at exclusively in the summer. I have sworn off the pool this summer. Unless it is absolutely an emergency – which only includes a cataclysmic weather event at this point.

My strategy today was to go hard. When that wasn’t working, the alternate plan was to go harder. It’s a sprint. What more can you do?

The entire race just seems to move faster in a sprint. Up to the start line, the gun goes off and let me say this: I have started swims with (key word being “start” not finish…) with S. Lessing, M. Carfrae, A. Potts but I have never felt a swim start this aggressive. CAT FIGHT! Before I knew it the girl to my right was pawing all over me and I had Jenny Garrison's foot in my mouth. I was being pummeled, pulled at and if I wasn’t careful I was going to mount Jenny any minute or get mounted by someone else. I actually stood up, shook them off and then a second later started swimming again.

All of a sudden I had clean water and realized it was just me. For the entire 750 meters. I could see a pack of a few girls. I just kept swimming hard hoping to keep the distance minimal between us. I got out of the water and noticed Jenny about 30 seconds ahead of me. I always judge how I’m doing in this race by the Jenny Factor. If I can see her upon swim exit, I’m having a good day. Too bad the only things between me and her were (1), a run through sand, (2), the world’s longest transition run, (3) an entire parking lot filled with pebbles. If I do this race again I am bringing my own broom. By the time I got on to the pavement, my feet hurt so bad it was like running on glass.

OUCH!

On to the bike – finally! I took it easy for a few minutes to just settle and then went hard. When I felt myself backing off, I threw a gear and pushed harder. Took the corners deep and went hunting. For what? Whatever was in front of me.

I saw the sign for 12 miles and said to myself – 2.2 miles to go. And then, Adrienne passed me. I pushed, she pushed back. We both passed another girl, who then pushed us back. And then it dawned on me – THIS IS RACING! I’m doing it! I remember this!

PUSH! I pushed out of the corner faster (this is like my savant skill, pushing out of corners – it requires training on routes with lots of stoplights and then bolting at the green) but then they pushed past me. We all came into the dismount line together and for the first time ever….I beat people across the line. I ran haphazardly to my rack, threw my bike on, shoved my feet into my shoes and I was off. That was worth the fastest T-2 out of all 1,711 women!

I saw a girl in front of me and started off toward her. I also realized at this point that I was one of the top few girls because I had a bicycle following me. It’s always exciting to have the bicycle escort but at the same time I felt like I was going really slow because the poor guy on the bike had to coast a lot! I started to pretend like I was chasing the bike to also get the girl in front of me. Problem was she was keeping my pace. I kept trying to find that next gear up to pass the girl ahead of me but this was it. I think it’s a symptom of triathlon when you just have that monotone run pace. Great for long course, not so great for a SPRINT!

Behind me was hard charging Adrienne. I was gaining some time on the girl ahead of me but also realized that there were two girls gaining behind me. For such a short race that damn finish line sure took it’s time getting here. Finally I hit the line 9 seconds behind 2nd place and 4th place was only 4 seconds behind me.

That was close!

Of course, I look at the results now and think 9 seconds? Like I couldn’t bridge that or go 3 seconds faster per mile? Why is it that when we are out there racing 9 seconds is like crossing an ocean even thought – count to 9 it’s not that long.

But that’s why we do these races. Not to be on top of our game but to reveal any weaknesses in it. You want to show up to your big races ready for flawless execution of your plan. You show up to smaller races to figure out what needs work in your plan – or how to plan for your plan.


It felt good this weekend to go back to the beginning, to where it all began. To reflect on how far I’ve come, to remember how good it’s been. 10 years and probably over 100 races with many highs and lows. There are many minutes, hours of memories of good racing and good times in those 10 years. And looking ahead 10 years from now, there will be more. I will come back to this race in 10 years and wear a mankini and a bra top just ‘cuz I can.

And I’ll be damned if I don’t pull out the fastest T2 in the race. Watch me put on shoes. See that? SHAZAM! I'm so fast you didn't even catch it.

6 comments:

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Yeah! Elizabeth!! You sound like yourself - happy, spunky, contemplative...like the squirrel chasing the nut :) Way to go out there - I loved this post. You have come full circle, my friend - and you're doing a GREAT job!

And that T2? Wow. Dude. Nice work!

Dawn said...

That IS a stinking LONG run to transition! I saw a guy with a broom before the race, but I'm guessing it was missing its bristles 'cause I sure didn't find any non-pebbly! Yeowzah!

Dave said...

I was wrong! The key to success was not the basement training. It was "T2 vs. the dishwasher". Glad you had a fun race!

BriGaal said...

Great job! I used to do that race when it was in Florida and they always had good swag. The other thing I love about all girl races are the amount of balloons in transition to mark people's racks. Makes it feel like you're at a circus or something.

TriGirl Kate O said...

Can I use SHAZAM! for my transition mantra?

Mommymeepa said...

Was this said race in a town starting with N? I was there and did it too and yes that is the longest transition run ever. Well, I don't know about ever, but it's long. UGH!! Great job!!