Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned. It has been many days since my last
In between now and then I’ve written at least – AT LEAST – a dozen in my
head but never found time to sit down and write them out. Or if I had the time, all I wanted to do was
read a cooking magazine (though I don’t like to cook, I just like to look at
pictures of food) or click through OMG (I like to dull my brain with the latest
in baby bumps and other celebrity happenings).
I’ve been thinking of hiring a ghostwriter but it would be on the
waiting list behind housekeeper, cook, nanny, dog walker, gardener and personal
shopper (top priority: buy my groceries; next priority: buy me one of
everything at Lululemon).
What brings me to this blog today? I raced the local sprint triathlon.
The Naperville Sprint Triathlon is located about 5 minutes away from my house. On the same course as the women’s triathlon I did earlier this year, the same course as my first triathlon many, many years ago. I love this race because it’s local, well-organized, beautiful and competitive.
The race starts early which means an even earlier wake up call (4:15 am – yikes), a lot of Peaberry (my caffeinated weapon of choice), oatmeal (with cranberries and walnuts) and then standing around waiting for the husband. By 5:15 am, Chris declared me “ansty”. Exactly where I wanted to be.
The best part of doing a local race is that I know everyone. The worst part of doing a local race is that I know everyone. Some of my athletes were there, some of the athletes I coach at masters, some that I swim with at masters, kids from my swim conditioning class, people I’ve grown up with, friends, kids from the kids team, acquaintances. Looking around, I think I knew roughly 2000 of the nearly 2100 athletes there. There were a lot of quick stops for socializing, hellos and catching up.
At 6:30 am, they let us into the water for a warm up. After 8 weeks of 90+ degree temperatures, it’s safe to say the quarry has become an 84 degree bath of suburbanite sweat, hair and band-aids. Truly disgusting. And green. I didn’t feel too snappy on the warm up but with a race this short, it didn’t matter how I felt. If I did this right, it would be so short that I wouldn’t even have time to feel.
But afterwards I might recall a little bit of pain.
The race start is unique – time trial start into the quarry in groups of 4. The race director said he would send us off every 5 to 10 seconds depending on what was going on in the water. Which made me think: what exactly would be going on in the water? Looking at over a thousand people behind me, I suspected a lot of backstroking. You lined up according to your swim time which requires a good deal of honesty about your ability which is why I lined myself right under the sub 5:00 sign. We were swimming 400 meters. There is no way – not even with paddles and fins nor Timmy’s draft – that I could go sub 5:00 for 400 meters. But it was either line up in front or get stuck in what Noel called the “sea of humanity” standing on the beach behind me.
I lined up next to Rich who is a phenomenal pool swimmer. He swam the 100 x 100 with me and on normal days at masters practice I have no business being in his lane so I don’t even try to swim there. But more recently, I’ve been running with him on the track. The first time I went to the track, I looked at him and thought – oh, swimmer boy, IT’S ON! You’re on MY GROUND now. Lane one is MY lane. MINE! But the truth is, boy can run. And run quite well. Even told me that the other night I had a “pacing issue” where I went out too fast.
Impossible. I was aiming for consistency.
All set to draft off of Rich, the first group of 4 was being sent off when someone grabbed me by the arm to pull me up into the next group of 4. It was my husband, pulling me up next to him. Five seconds later we were running into the water. So much for my plan! Chris is generally a better open water swimmer than me and immediately I knew if I could draft off of anyone’s feet it would be his. Sadly it lasted about two strokes when he pulled away and I found myself mixed up in the …
Sea of humanity.
Mostly the sea was a bunch of local high school and collegiate swimmers who fizzled after 200 meters.
The run through transition is long, about 400 meters, but unlike the women’s triathlon where they make you run around the perimeter, in this race anything was fair game. I did my best Olympic hurdler impression and found myself running over concrete parking blocks, through grass and pretty sure I hopped another competitor.
My plan for the bike came to me the other day while I was at the quarry. I saw someone wearing a shirt that said: risk everything, fear nothing. I don’t often draw up my race plans from the back of a t-shirt but this one struck me. I find that inspired people walk around looking for inspiration. They are open to it in any form it comes. The uninspired sit back and wait for it. I’m alwayssearching, eyes open, looking for anything that speaks to me. This shirt spoke to me at the right time. Risk everything and fear nothing, no fear of pain, failure, preparation, what ifs. You might, then, call that plan freedom.
The first loop of the bike course was empty with just a few men ahead of me, open roads, some wind. My legs were burning but that’s to be expected. If not, you’re probably playing it too safe. By the second loop, the course became more congested. It was a continuous loop of ON YOUR LEFT. In between shouting, the cadence was high, the effort was violent. In a sprint, you have to go as hard as possible on the bike with no regrets: I kept saying to myself risk everything, fear nothing! The run is so short that even if you over-ride it, you won’t be out there on the run long enough to even notice. And, honestly, I find that most athletes “think” they are going hard enough on the bike in a sprint but when you look back at their power files – it’s not the case. I raced with power and gave myself a range I expected to see but did not race by it. Instead, I occasionally looked down and not surprisingly, more often than not, I needed to go harder! Using power helps you train and race up to your potential and takes the guesswork out of – could I have gone harder – you’re in the moment, taking action.
And that is how I rode my way to the fastest female bike split!
The run out is another long transition, again hopping parking blocks and dodging other competitors until finally you head towards the Riverwalk. I suspected I had a good lead on the rest of the women but this being a time trial start meant every second was important. Every time I wanted to back off I kept asking myself – could you settle for being beat by seconds? I left the transition and quickly found myself running through a group of men. Heading up Jefferson, I dropped a few of them and went to pass a 20-year old who then picked up the pace to match me. We ran together a little until I surged and dropped him. I felt good. I was breathing hard but I was used to this sound and feeling. While weekly visits to the track might not be making me significantly faster, they are getting me more comfortable with the sound and feeling of being uncomfortable. When I go to the track, it’s short segments of hard, heavy work, often in the heat and humidity with an entire gaggle of men on my heels, repeat for up to 3 miles. You get used to the sound of hurting. You get used to running competitively with others. You get used to surging, kicking, playing the game! After all of the solo Ironman training, I felt I really needed to get back on the track and learn HOW to race again.
At mile 2, I noticed a group of guys right behind me. They quickly passed me and I noticed their calves: all were in their 20s. A few of them pulled ahead when it was just me and the guy I had passed earlier. Anyone who’s ever had the joy of running with me knows that I tend to narrate my inner voice. Out loud. Stick with them, don’t let them get away from you, I said to him. I said it more for me than him, talking myself into trying to match their pace. But he responds: I’m fighting a cramp. I want to ask him a dozen coach questions: how was your swim, your electrolytes yesterday, your breathing, your breakfast, your dinner but instead…I said nothing.
We are in the middle of a race here, folks.
Together we make our way down Aurora. We approach the Riverwalk Path for the final part of the run when the lead bicycle pulls in front of us warning people that I was coming, clear the way, lead female here. AND SHE IS LARGE, FAST AND SCARY (embellishment added). About ¼ mile from the finish, the cyclist turns to the 20-year old guy and says,
Give her a clean finish, will ya?
The kid says that he will comply. We near the quarry fence so I pick up the pace, sure enough he sticks with me. We are racing together down the Riverwalk. And at that moment, it hits me – what probably any 37 year old woman has thought when out there racing right next to a 20 year old.
I am old enough to be your mother.
(but how often to you get to race your mother at a 6-something pace!?!)
The kid not only gives me a clean finish but he uses 17 more years of youth to outkick me to the finish line. Just in time, they set up the tape so I could break it. I finished first female, ahead of the next competitor by about 2 minutes. I was pleased with my splits and felt like I had truly gone as hard I as I could out there.
(Back in May, at Galena, I remember something Erin Kersten said. Someone asked her how her race went (she finished 2nd overall) and she said, very matter-of-factly, I went as hard as I could out there. It wasn’t what she said but the way she said it. Completely honest as if she had dug the entire time, laid it out there with no regret. There was no second guessing or doubt in her head. I remember walking away from that and thinking – could I say the same? More often than not, when racing, the answer is no. Today, in this race, when Chris asked me how I felt, I said I went as hard as I could out there. Truthfully.)
It felt good to win this race for the second year in a row. Interviewed by a local paper and television station, I felt like a celebrity. Let me tell you – winning never, ever gets old. Everyone deserves a day of feeling like a superstar, whether it’s at the local 5K or the national championship. There’s a disturbing trend in our sport to minimize anything other than top 70.3 finishes and Kona qualifications. “Small” successes are just as much a part of the sport, in fact – they are what made the sport, the local race, the field that is 99 percent beginners backstroking – that’s what it’s all about. As much as I enjoy the big marquis races, when I go back to a smaller race I remember why I started the sport in the first place – to be outside, to push myself and to have fun. I don’t always need to fly across the country or pay $$$ for a race to do that! Winning makes it even better and why you will rarely hear me say – it was just a sprint, or no one showed up or there were only 3 people in my AG. Confidence building shouldn’t be a series of yeah but’s. Be proud of what you do out there no matter where you do it!
At the awards ceremony, in what can be described as one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever heard at a triathlon, the race director explained the awards, hurricane glasses, and how they hold the ever famous and potent New Orleans drink. Psst….we’re in Naperville. He went on to explain that if you have 3 hurricanes they will put you out of commission for 3 to 4 weeks. His exact words. A look of quiet puzzlement fell over the crowd. Making a drinking joke to a bunch of triathletes go over about as well as making a sex joke to a bunch of nuns. It’s just not going to go anywhere. As as I accepted my hurricane glass, all I could think was:
How soon until my 2 year old breaks this?
The good news is that my glass made it home in one piece. The better news is that my husband also got one for winning his age group. Now we can BOTH drink hurricanes! (how the hell do you even make a Hurricane?) And even better? How about my brother in law! This summer, he signed up for his first triathlon. After the race, Chris ran up to me with his phone and said did you see the splits? I thought he was going to gloat about his 17something 5K split (blahblahblahyeahyou’refastforanoldguy), instead they were the splits of my brother in law. He didn’t just finish his first triathlon, he completely rocked it! We are very excited to welcome another member of the family to our dark side of we can’t go to dinner that weekend because we’re racing.
Congratulations to everyone who raced yesterday. As always, thanks to TriSports.com for the fabulous race kit and even better support. And thanks to all the youngsters who pushed me out there. Nothing was better than Rich telling me afterwards that his 19-year old son told him that he was having a pretty good race until some lady passed me. I was that lady. And though the fast lady inside of me simply shouted ON YOUR LEFT, the mom inside of me wanted to tell him that he really should consider racing in something more concealing than a Speedo.
Ah, to be 19 again….