News flash: I had the entire weekend to myself. Alone. No, really. Not even the dog was around. Chris took Max up to the family home in Michigan and Boss spent the weekend at Shangri-La. What’s a girl to do with herself? Some women might go shopping, take a trip to the spa, spend the weekend with girlfriends. Not this girl.
This girl’s gonna race!
(I should add that within one hour of getting on the road, Chris had already called me to report that Max had pooped himself up his back, out of the diaper and into his shorts. Is it wrong that I could only laugh?)
On Saturday, there was a race about 2 hours south of here that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s fairly competitive, has an elite wave and a prize purse. I traveled solo to the race with a feeling of freedom that I don’t get too often anymore. Just me, in the car, windows down, driving west on 80, miles of corn with the music turned up loud.
I checked into the race site and found two of my athletes. We had a quick dinner and then I headed out to my luxurious hotel. All that I will say is that when you pay $53 for a room, you get a room that’s worth 53 dollars. But it had a bed (may I add a really REALLY hairy bed) and I was in that bed at 7:30 pm. My rule is that even if you don’t sleep for 8 hours straight before a race, you should give your body a rest in bed for at least 8 hours.
I woke up way too early but ready to go. I arrived so early at the race site that I was able to park right across from transition. After making a very girly stop at the bike mechanic tent to have them put air in my tires (I never pump my own tires on race morning – it’s a superstition), I found my rack amongst the elite/collegiate wave. Once again I could have given birth to my entire rack. I have GOT to stop doing these races that mix me in with collegiate athletes. This sport is not making me feel any younger!
I connected with a few of my athletes then got ready to warm up. The water was 83 degrees – no wetsuit. I had used my brand new TYR Torque at Eagleman – it looked fast and felt fast. Yes, I need a shoe horn and some Body Glide to get into the damn thing but once it gets over my hips it fits very well! (I swear, some sports gear makes me feel like I should be nicknamed Jumbo) I put it on right before my warm up and asked some guy to help me zip it up. He tells me the zipper is caught in the fabric. Knowing that a good tug can fix anything, I give the zipper a good tug. And then in a moment of OH CRAP THAT DID NOT JUST HAPPEN, I am standing knee deep in water with a zipper plus cord in my hand.
File that under things you never want to happen 15 minutes before the swim start.
And now on to plan B. There really was no Plan B. I never anticipate my $250 piece of equipment will completely fall apart at the race start! But the first thing that popped into my mind was something I always tell my athletes: No wet/speedsuit, no problem. I swim open water twice a week at the quarry with nothing but a swimsuit. The tri top and tri shorts which at times can feel like one of Max’s diapers after he wakes up from a good night’s sleep wasn’t ideal but would have to do.
The elite field was pretty small but the collegiate field was big. After each college did a team cheer (which reminds me, I really need to put together my own cheer AND come up with a theme song), we all started together. I expected to be pummeled by a dozen overzealous youth who would fizzle in 100 yards but instead I found myself just swimming along with them. Where is the brutality! Can someone please throw a punch? Rip at my goggles? There was one guy who I couldn’t shake off and then found myself waiting for him to get away from me. Then it hit me – how about YOU get away from him?
So I did – I took off and then found myself swimming from group to group, right up to some feet, riding it for awhile then making a move to the next group. The water was calm and felt just like the quarry. After the last buoy, I ran out of groups to catch, sat behind two other collegiate swimmers and swam into the shore.
The bike course was just like any other course I ride at home – mostly flat with lots of corn. In the background, there were giant windmills spread through the cornfields. Not exactly something you want to see on a race course but today they weren’t moving (kudos to the race director for turning off those giant fans!). There was hardly any wind. But sometimes these days are the hardest to ride – the humid days with no wind. I can’t say that I like headwind but I’ll never turn down tailwind. Humidity doesn’t move though. You just grind your way through it.
I passed a few collegiate athletes but rode the course mostly alone. It was one of those rides where I found myself thinking – is my rear brake on? Is my rear tire flat? I had the feeling that I was moving but felt slow. I was passing no one which made me wonder if I had gone off course. Is there really a race going on here? It was one of those rides where 40K felt like 100 miles.
In a few weeks, I’m hoping my 100 mile rides feel like 40K.
The run course was flat. Historically this race has been a cooker but today it was overcast and tolerable. A few out and backs so I could see how I was doing – I was 2nd elite and held that until the end of the race. My goal was to place top 3 overall (check), took home 500 bucks (the salt tabs are on me!) and 2nd in the Best of the US Illinois ranking.
(interesting side note: the woman who won the race was the pro who also went on to win Racine 70.3 the next day)
The next day I decided to head up to Racine 70.3 to spectate. Between my own athletes, the Well-Fit Ironman group and all of the other people I know/have met/stalk from racing over 10 years, it’s safe to say I could identify 99 percent of those on course by name.
I found a few of the old IronCrew and we walked over to the run course. Racine is actually a beautiful course – it’s set against what is a strangely majestic beach along Lake Michigan. But with beaches come sun and very little shade. I found the one sliver of shade along the course – the shadow of a lamppost, stood by it and shouted for the next 4 hours.
It was hot. Brutally hot. Around 98 degrees. I think the heat index was 115. Yet even in the roughest of conditions, there’s always something inspirational (and yes, easier!) about being on the other side. You can’t stand on the sidelines without getting a little fire in your belly for your next race. You connect to what you’re seeing, what they’re feeling, you see them hurting, sweating, suffering and what is wrong with us….why do I find myself thinking I wish that was me! And the most inspirational – the girl from Dare2Tri with one leg, the man doing the entire bike and run in full firefighter gear (and you thought you were hot in your tri onesie!) or Bob Scott – 81 years young, recently qualified for Kona at Eagleman – yeah, he finished.
(incidentally, I was running at the Arboretum a few weeks ago, 91 degrees in the shade as I ran to the top of a big hill, Bob was out there, picked up the pace to beat me to the top of the hill and then said “come on, Elizabeth.”)
Most of the problems in the heat were remedied by one of three things; slowing down, popping a salt tab or switching to Coke. Remember that, folks! I had more than a few sweaty hugs, wet-handed high fives, cups thrown my direction and even some tears. I wanted to give a big mom-hug to some random guy who was walking up the hill saying to me “but my nutrition plan has never let me down.” This whole spectathlon (and now sunburn) experience made me think: they’ve got to start doing 70.3s in the winter.
The rest of Sunday night – I didn’t feel so well. I think I ate too much kale in the past 24 hours or had too much triathlon. My stomach felt off. Probably should have popped a salt tab. And looking at the forecast for this week – I’m going to need that. Triple digit heat indexes ahead.
Hot stuff? You bet. But I never expect anything less of the midwest in summer (but as I ride two loops in Verona this weekend I have the right to curse the midwest, for at least 4 hours).