And on the 7th day of rest week, she rested.
No, she RACED!
When I planned out my race schedule this year, one that I could not resist was a local sprint. There's nothing better than sleeping in your own bed the night before a race! The Naperville Sprint is a huge race (over 1100 competitors!) with a lot of energy, local support and a beautiful venue along the river.
The day before the race, Kurt sent me a text asking if I was ready. I told him if I wasn’t ready for a 65 minute race then I’m screwed come Ironman! A chuckle back and a direction to change from the long course mindset: no need for patience. I can do that. My usual sprint strategy is simple: if at any point it feels good, you are not going hard enough!
The race starts in the quarry which makes it a popular race for beginners. You’ve got to love the energy of a race filled with beginners. Nervous, frenetic, a naivete that we all had the first time around – I walked to the race site and the place was buzzing. A quick stop at body marking and the high school volunteer said: you look like you’re ready to kick some ass.
OMG! I came here to kick some ass!
Quickly my gear was set up and then I had about….90 minutes to stand around and wait. I actually stood around to make sure my bike – which looked like it was dangling from a 50 story ledge, does anyone else with 650s get really uneasy about hanging their bike by the seat – did not fall off or get knocked off. Meanwhile, I drank myself to 110 percent caffeinated by way of Peaberry, which I had discovered weeks earlier had the power to rend me caffeinated to the point of the shakes.
A light jog, a short swim and before I knew it I was at the start line. Unique start format: they sent off groups of 4 every 3 seconds. Chris did this race last year and advised me to start in one of the top 4 groups. I looked around at the start and knew I was sorely out of place – I was not wearing a high school swim speedo and I was not wearing a collegiate race kit. But behind me stood over 1000 people that were going to swim in a quarry designed not too many more than that. If I waited for a later wave, it would be a mess. So I stood right next to the guy in the speedo and together we took off!
Of course he dropped me before I was even swimming. I was still running INTO the water. I felt like everyone was swimming over me. Ever have one of those days where you just feel like you don’t have any feel for the water? That was today.
Before I had time to fret about that, I began the long run to transition. Chris told me I was the 3rd woman out of the water and 25th overall. Nice counting, husband! I think last year I was so sleep-deprived and shell-shocked while spectating with a 3 week all that I was lucky to even notice him out of the water.
Some fussing around with my shoes (both before and after the bike - which cost me .5 mph, mistakes are costly in a sprint), then I was off. No need for patience - bolt NOW! I won’t lie. For most of the time, the bike effort felt violent. I started chasing the kid in the speedo and a few other men. The course is a few turns and two loops. I looked at NOAA that morning and knew with a northeast wind, I’d be working for half the bike. The first part was with the tailwind so I set out to take advantage of it. I flew through 4 miles in under 10 minutes – fun!
About half the way through the loop, I got out of the saddle and hammered on to 75th Street. The night before at dinner, Chris gave me some strategy. I love when our dinner conversation contains words like “gun it” and “chicane”. I knew I had to gun it through the chicane and, in Chris’ words, “trust the police” to be controlling the turn and intersection. I approached the turn and said to myself trustthepolicetrustthepolice! I turned left so fast and low I thought I was going to lay my bike down!
The second loop was exciting – someone who I swim masters with passed me and I made it my goal to keep him in sight. It was mostly a blur of ON YER LEFT as the course was now scattered with the bulk of the race. As I got close to the end I thought to myself – my legs are going to be wrecked off the bike! As far as rides go, my variability index on this one was out of control. And I have the power file to back up that statement! But as got near the dismount line I reminded myself it’s only a 5K. This entire race will be over before I know it. And, if I have the coherence to think right now I am not going hard enough!
Off the bike and…drumroll please…I had the fastest T2 in the entire race. I WIN! Well, not yet. I still had 5K to go. Despite my highly variable power output, my legs felt amazing! I zipped right on to the run course and got news that I was the first female.
Bad news: the time trial start means that every seconds counts! No backing off – full speed to the finish line!
I hit the first mile in a pace that shocked me. These days with Ironman training, I’m lucky if I break a minute per mile slower than that. On a COLD day. The next mile was a battle of can't we back off - no keep pushing - can't we just ease up a little bit - no they could be right on your tail! As I got on to the path to finish the last mile, I got my own personal bike escort. I have the lead female, he radioed. Sounded daunting. What are they going to do with me!? A hundred yards later, he slowed, turned to me and said “so how is your day going?” In between grunts and huffs, I think I said OK!?
The last ½ mile took approximately forever but it was worth the wait. I got to break the tape and hold it! This was better than doing Pigman a few years ago and holding a MEGACHECK for 3rd place. Immediately cameras were on me and I felt like J.Lo! I’m a celebrity! Except my husband is much better looking. And I’m not divorcing him.
I crossed the line and waited for my friends and family. In the meantime, a camera kept filming which I found a little unsettling. Should I do something? Talk to myself? I found my friend Mary’s dog and started petting and talking to him. I’m sure this was riveting footage but I've decided because of it I would make a terrible reality tv star.
My entourage arrived soon after. It was great to see my friends, husband, mom and Max out on the course today. I got scooped away by a local television station for an interview. Next time would someone please tell me my hair was frizzing all over the place! He asked me a bunch of questions – one being about what it was like to get into racing after having a baby. My reply was something I think about all the time: I forget how fun this sport really is! It’s what I thought to myself in my first race post pregnancy (last September) and every race since then.
Something that I couldn’t stop thinking about today is the goal I set at the beginning of the year. I set goals for every race and my goal for today’s race said: top OA. That means win. When I was walking around transition today, I noticed the back of someone’s t-shirt.
I wanted to rip that t-shirt off the guy’s back!
I was reading a book recently (Go Girl by Natalie Cook – a phenomenal book about one woman’s passionately intricate quest to achieve Olympic gold in beach volleyball) and she said that inspired people don’t wait for it. They are always open to and seeking inspiration. They walk around open to hearing it or reading it in unsuspecting places. In the past two days, I have received a lot of inspiration. I drove down a road that I always drive down and noticed in someone’s front yard that they have a totem pole with this saying carved into it: Don’t ever give up. I was picking up my race packet and noticed on the back of a volunteer’s t-shirt it read: Without struggle there is no satisfaction. Inspiration is everywhere – whether it’s on a t-shirt, from your friends/family, in a book – it’s out there. You just have to be open to finding it and then receiving it.
I thought about that t-shirt for the entire race. At the race it was here, it was now, it was me. I arrive at each race knowing it’s an open opportunity for me to make it what I want. When I got distracted, when it started to hurt, I used that shirt to bring myself back to the race. Here, now, ME. It’s the idea of racing in your box, controlling the controllables (you and your actions). It’s more than putting on the game face. It’s knowing that behind that face is razor-sharp focus and in that mind is a constant assessment of what do I need to do know – hold form, give it a little more, hold that guy off. I love the outcome of a well put-together race but I love the process even more. It’s so much more than going through the motions. And what I’ve also found this year is that the process must first be fueled by passion. You’ve got to want to be out there and feel like if you had the opportunity, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
And now - it's back to the iron grind of training. Given a sprint or Ironman, I choose Ironman pace. Sprints are short, fast, hard, no patience just go. Ironman is long, slow, like patiently tolerating a whining child (I can do that!). All joking aside, the excitement about the end of my season is building, so much that I can hardly contain myself! But I suspect that might be because my veins are still running Peaberry.
Less than 8 weeks to go!