Yesterday was my last triathlon in the 30-34 age group. It's bittersweet but a good ending to a great 5 years.
Having so many of our iTRI365 group at the same event was almost surreal. There were several moments where I reflected on what the last year and a half has meant and how I've somehow been blessed with such a great crew of athletes and a solid business team.
It's difficult to maintain any type of 'coach' mentality when you're racing. I just become another one of the athletes out there on the course. I'm no longer there concerned with whether my athletes are following race strategy, I'm just happy they're there and happy to watch them finish.
I went into this race knowing that I came off a long season of distance training and haven't had the time or energy to invest in speed work. Lora (my coach) was patient and understanding as I tried to navigate through my post-Ironman blues and throw myself head first back into my career. I made a last minute decision to switch to the Sprint distance after several weeks of hit and miss training. I knew the degree of suffering an Oly brings and I just didn't want to hate life for two and a half hours. So, I opted for the Sprint distance thinking I could just go out and have fun.
The morning started off with some hiccups. I got to transition and found that whoever set up their transition area felt the need to take the space from the front of their wheel all the way to the back of their wheel. This meant zero space for my transition. It also meant I had to hunt down a referee because I don't feel it's good taste to move anyone's things without consent or authority. After about 5 minutes a referee showed up and was able to remove some of the transitional buffet my neighbor had and I was able to get set up.
It wasn't a fair transition set up. T1 and T2 entrance/exits were on the same end. This meant, if your bike was way in the back and someone else was in the front, you were at a disadvantage. For me, I had the advantage. My bike was 2nd rack from the front and all sprinters were at least 50+ feet back.
I had a lot of energy to burn and spent most of my time trying to calm the nerves of my teammates by acting a fool at our swim start. I had nothing to lose, was there for fun, so why not?
Sprinters had a 400m swim (I clocked 349y). I did my usual hop-in-the-front-so-I-could-pee routine. I thought I'd be brave and also start at the front, despite reality, and try my hand with the real swimmers. That was a bad idea. I immediately got sandwiched and caught a few elbows before I thought better and tucked back behind some bubbles in my proper pace. The swim was a quick point to point. While it's a necessary evil, it wasn't quite as bad as I thought it'd be. No alligators to be seen and I think I got out upper to mid pack.
I flashed a few smiles and waves at someone yelling at me... I think it was Lynnette, but wasn't sure. I took off to my advantageous setup and fumbled around a little longer than normal with my shoes because my toes were freezing. I shoved my nutrition down my bra and took off on the bike. I forgot to hit my watch at the correct times so my personal data thinks I took a good 4 minutes in T1. Oh well!
This was the dramatic part of my race. The most unsafe as well.
I took off, not quite sure how hard I wanted to ride but there was another racer a bit in front of me and I just settled in keeping my sights on her. As we neared an intersection within the first couple of miles, we both saw a minivan crossing through, despite an officer's command to stop, and she was within inches of getting hit. I watched as she tried to break and her back tire skidded out in attempt to stop before the minivan got to her, but she managed to hold it together and cycle on. I had to maneuver around the back of the minivan as I listened to cop hit the hood of the van and chew out the driver for as long as I could still hear. I hope he got a ticket. (Apparently this incident upset the officer and he literally put the race on hold for 3-4 minutes to the racers behind us to let traffic go through)
I yelled out in front me, “Are you okay??!!?” She was. We rode on.
I ended up passing her on the bike and led out for most of the bike leg, before she passed me on the tail end, with about 2 miles to go.
I couldn't see her AG on her calf but guessed she had to be close to my age.
I racked my bike, threw on my shoes and took off on numb, heavy legs and look who was right there! Yep... 'that chick' I battled with on the bike.
I settled in behind her on the run, certain she must be my competition. When I say 'settled in behind her' – I'm talking like 3 feet behind her. I decided I'd let her set the pace and I'd just hang in there for dear life. She chose a 7:55-8:00 min pace out the gate. I wasn't so sure I wanted to hang on to that pace for next 3 miles but she seemed to be okay, so why not? And God said... let there be suffering.
I stared at that kit, breathing like a freight train, for the better part of a 5k. I say that because, even with tangents, that run ended up being 3.47 miles for me. She pulled away on the 2nd mile, I caught back up on the 3rd and then she widened the gap in the last quarter.
I was grateful to have someone to chase. I'm not so sure I would have pushed myself so hard on what was supposed to be a goof off race for me. Our pace shows in the 8s, but that's because the distance wasn't correct on the timing. We actually went sub 8 on that '5k' and I'll take it!
The RD had messed up on registrations and hadn't given the timer paper reg, so my 'pace girl' hadn't gotten credit for the work she put into the race. They had me down as the Overall Female winner, but I knew better and so did she. I had hunted her down after the finish line to ask her age and thank her for a good race. She's got some more time in the 30-34, but she sure helped me finish my last race well. I'll take 2nd overall any day.
I spent the next couple of hours cheering and listening to all of our athletes as they finished. There were so many great stories, PRs and crazy moments. The weather was excellent, the beer was good and the company was the best.
Proud to be iTRI365!