This weekend, I drove over 600 miles in what can only be described as a Midwestern odyssey.
But the title is ODD SC because anyone who knows us knows that my husband’s dream machine mini-van, which we had before our child, is a Honda Odyssey with a vanity plate – his idea – that says ODD SC.
It’s ok to laugh with me and at him. It helps making the pain of driving around a mini van with vanity plates a little better.
A Friday departure for a sprint race in Indiana. Van loaded up with triathlon gear, all of my fast toys and one of my athletes, Lori. We drove into Indiana for The Mighty Mississinewa Triathlon.
Go ahead and say that three times fast.
Somewhere off of I-65, the road stretches out beyond faded fields of corn to some of the most beautiful Midwestern scenery deep within Indiana. If not for the GPS, we had no idea where we were, it was like being blindfolded, spun around, driving a few miles past the bar that has jello wrestling on Friday then told to make a turn on County Road 625 Southeast when you’re really going west.
And, yes, it took everything we had to resist the idea of jello wrestling instead of triathloning. It's like being able to eat the lake you're swimming through!
The race was organized by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in a gorgeous recreation area surrounding Mississinewa Lake. We picked up our packet in the main office, which included a variety of taxodermic creatures you might find in the area. We really should have camped, it would have been more convenient, cheaper and we could have gotten up close and personal with those animals we saw in the office.
That evening, a fierce storm moved through the area. I haven’t seen a weather radar that lit up in red and yellow since I did Powerman Alabama a few years ago and Tory’s dad told me where the basement shelter was in his house.
But in the morning, we awoke to clear and dry conditions. It was a 30 minute drive to the race site in which we got to watch the sun wake up over the landscape. It was beautiful. Temperatures were absolutely perfect – low 50s. I told Lori if she couldn’t go fast on a day like this, she couldn’t go fast. All summer we’ve been training through a blanket of 90 degrees. This felt glorious.
Race morning went by quickly. The lake was calm and the water was perfect. I did a long warm up and watched the first two waves go off. For my wave, I lined up close to the buoys – not my preferred start position but with the swim being only 500 yards, I didn’t want to overswim it and knew that it would be at least until the first buoy before I might catch the next wave and at that point, I could swim wide if needed.
Lori, who was in a later wave, said I bolted at the start. This is true. I’ve been focusing more on getting a strong, clean start. In a short race, every second counts. I took off as hard as I could and noticed a women to my left but quickly dropped her. At that point, I was at the first buoy and knew I was in the lead.
I caught the wave in front of me and then a lot of the next wave. How I outswam some of these men by 4 minutes in less than 500 yards is beyond me. I was flying by swimmers and felt superb. I ended up having the second fastest swim time of the day, men and women! Jennifer Harrison just SQUEALED!
The run to transition included a run up the beach then up a grass hill. It was long! I’ve also been working on transitions, tired of wasting time there! I sprinted up the hill. It was hard, as it should be. I’ve been doing more running before the bike and it really helps in situations like this. I transitioned quick and was on the road.
We previewed the bike course the night before and knew it was a mix of flat and rolling. Wind would be an issue on the way back. Until then, it felt like a lot of tailwind so I put my head down and pedaled. I was passing a lot of men and figured I was gaining a nice lead on any women. I just kept going after another man then another until I found myself riding into the wind in the last few miles. Before I knew it, I was running my bike into transition.
I thought I had a lead, until I saw the other woman entering transition. I had spotted her earlier in the morning, actually Lori pointed her out. You don’t show up to the local sprint tri with a custom disc wheel not looking to win! Sure enough, she was right there. RIGHT THERE! 47 seconds later, I was out of transition running.
The first part of the run was a straight stretch along a rolling broken asphalt road. I suspected the woman was not a strong runner but still wanted to start at a pace so fast that if she tried to go with it, it would hurt her more than me. I TOOK OFF. About a ½ mile into it, a group of spectators said I was the first woman and they cheered loudly. I listened for them to cheer on the next woman – and noticed it was about 30 seconds later. I was putting a sizeable distance between us, I just had to maintain it. By the time I hit the mile mark, I wanted to stop and throw up.
Right at that moment, it was time to take a right turn into a section of single track through the woods. It was wet, bumpy, twisty, hard to maintain momentum and my legs were starting to hurt. I stayed light on my feet and kept the pressure on myself to keep pushing.
The trail dumped us out on a road that ran alongside the bikers and went straight into what was now a pretty stiff wind. At this moment, my legs started hurting even worse. Every step ached. At moments like this, the best thing you can do is stay the path. Keep running! In another ½ mile you could feel amazing or feel the same – in either case, you are still ½ mile closer to the finish line!
Running into the wind was, well, annoying. I thought about my long run last weekend when the last 7 miles were directly into the wind and told myself that’s exactly why you do that in training. One mile into the wind right now was nothing like 7 miles into the wind at the end of 15 miles. With the pace at tempo descend.
The last part of the run went back into the woods – more trails, a 20 foot wide deep puddle, and then a sign that said stairs. Stairs? Yes, stairs that descended to a bridge that I nearly slide out over, mud, grass and finally – FINALLY – what felt like the longest 3/4 mile stretch of road that went across another bridge, down the road and into the finish line.
I finished 1st woman and including men – 6th overall! When 2nd place crossed the finish line, I thanked her for keeping the pressure on me. She informed me that I took her record down (she had won the race 3 times in the past!), I broke the course record by over 2 minutes! When I walked away, she said to someone that little girl took my record down! Now that I’m over 35, I greatly appreciate any time anyone wants to call me a little girl!
It was a well-run, fair, fun and challenging race where I got to experience tri rockstar for the day. They even had prizes for the top 3 overall and AG winners (you got to "shop" on a table of prizes). The DNR staff were very professional, showing me yet again that you don’t need a lot of glitz and glam to do a race RIGHT. I love the feel of the smaller races, no nonsense, done by 11 am and the best part? Free showers after the race. They weren’t glamorous but after doing enough Ragbrais, I could shower in a spigot and walk away feeling totally refreshed.
We drove back home, shopping (garden art) and drinking (coffee) our way back across Indiana so I could spend some time with Max before meeting up again in the late evening to drive up to Madison for Ironman Wisconsin for Part 2 of our Midwestern ODD SC. Stay tuned...