I wanted this race to be different. I wanted to finish the race and feel like I left it all out there. I wanted to know what it felt like to set a goal and really go after it - give it everything I had to achieve it, failure be damned! I did NOT want any shoulda, woulda, coulda's in my rearview mirror. So, in addition to eating right, going to bed early, doing all workouts, etc, I focused on the mental preparation side of things. I have NEVER been so mentally focused on a race in my life. I wrote down quotes from Jen's scary e-mail and posted them on my computer at work, so I could read them 20x a day. I wrote the quotes down in a notebook I carry with me and I'd pull them out to read while I waited for the bus or the metro. I visualized EXACTLY how I wanted the race to go down. How I wanted my pull to feel during the swim, how often I would sight the buoys, how quickly I would get the wetsuit off in T1, how I wanted my pedal stroke to feel on the bike, what I would do for nutrition, how quickly I would get my running shoes on in T2, and how I wanted my legs and arms to feel during the run, how I wanted to feel out there on the course. I listened to "The Cave" by Mumford and Sons probably about 1,000 times during the days leading up to the race (nothing like frenetic banjos to get you jacked up - but actually some of the lyrics were quite appropriate). I thought about my race strategy - SUFFER. I thought about my goals and told myself over and over again that I was fit enough to achieve them - that I should be confident and just believe in myself. By the time race day arrived, I was nervous, scared, excited, and - most importantly - ready.
Pre-Race: Some of the race-day jitters were eased by seeing some good friends I hadn't seen in awhile - I caught up with Melody, saw Tricia from college and her husband Sean and met their adorable son Kieran. Kate and I took some pictures of our miserable, wet selves and sent them to Jen.
Thanks to Mother Nature, I was already soaking wet by the time I got into the water. It was chilly enough that it almost took my breath away and gave me an ice cream headache when I did some practice strokes. But, it's amazing how your body adapts when it's go time. By the time the horn sounded, I wasn't cold anymore - I was ready to swim. The swim out to the first turn buoy was uneventful; however, as we made the turn, we were fighting the waves and the wind for the rest of the swim. When I initially got out of the water and saw the dismal time on my watch, I was really disappointed - I've been working so hard on my swim and seen progress over the past year. But looking at the results later that night, alot of people had dismal swims, so I feel less like a slowpoke. Unfortunately, I didn't fully meet my goal of making the swim a 1500m time trial - I found my focus wandering and I know I could've swum harder. So, in the future, along with my swim stroke, I need to work on mental focus during the swim.
A muddy mess. By the time I got on my bike, I think I looked like I had rolled around in mud. Lovely. I didn't put my shoes on in T1 because it was so muddy. I put them on when I got to the bike mount line, so my bike time is a little skewed.
I've never biked so hard during a race in my life. Honestly. The course was decent - a few rollers, a lovely false flat with a headwind for about two miles, no terribly sharp turns, and some fun downhills. I stayed in aero most of the time, kept my chain in the big ring, and pedaled hard. I had my Garmin set on multi-sport mode and, being the non-techy person that I am, had no idea how to get it to display heart rate, current pace, etc. It only showed me overall time and total distance. This actually turned out to be a blessing because it didn't allow me to focus on pace or heart rate - my head wasn't able to get in the way of my racing. It was a liberating way to race - I listened to my body and trusted it to tell me where my limits were. It worked - I didn't blow up, and I biked faster than I've ever biked before in a race. I felt good - not in an "oh-this-is-such-a-pleasant-bike-ride" type of way, but in a "I'm-working-my-face-off-and-I-like-it" type of way. I managed to take in two Hammer gels on the bike - normally I have no problems eating on the bike, but I was working hard enough where I had to force the gels down. I pedaled hard up the hills, I pedaled hard down the hills. No girls passed me, but if one did, I planned to go with her and not let her get too far ahead. Periodically I'd ask myself if I could go harder, if I was suffering enough or if I could eek out a little more. I didn't hold back at all during the second loop, no regrets, right? My pedal stroke felt just as I had visualized it would. I didn't question whether or not I could keep my pace - I had visualized it so many times, I felt like I was just doing something I'd already successfully done before.
Also a muddy mess and it was great fun getting run shoes onto my frozen feet.
I didn't think about the run at all while I was on the bike. I was focused on the here and now and doing what I could to go as fast as possible. As I headed out of T2, I was passed by two girls - both of whom kept a good pace. I struggled that first mile - there was a hill and I was trying to settle into a pace. I wasn't really thinking at this point in the run - nor any other time during the run. I was just running as hard as I could. I had no idea what my pace or heart rate was - I only saw my mile splits when they popped up after each mile. For me, they were good splits, and I challenged myself to stay consistent. I fully believed I could do it and I knew I could reel in the two girls who had initially passed me at the beginning of the run. By the end of the first loop, I did pass them both. There's not much more to say about the run other than I didn't crack, didn't have a meltdown, and didn't think. My friend Tricia took some pictures near the finish line and you can see it on my face that there was nothing left. No smiling and waving like I've done in previous races.
In the end, I got a 6 minute PR - on a day with windy and wet conditions. I was 2nd in my age group and 11th overall (just missing my reach goal of being top ten - I missed that by 22 seconds). I took a look at the USAT website and I believe my placing at this race qualifies me for Age Group Nationals (held in my college hometown of Burlington, VT!). Alas, it's the same weekend as Timberman - I race I signed up for about 5 days before Rumpus.
I'm thrilled with how I held it together during the race - Jen's advice to "don't think, just race" worked perfectly. I think I may want to race more often without HR or pace data - it really freed me to go hard while listening to my body. I raced with the big kids and didn't get completely dropped. I believed in myself and my capabilities. There aren't any nagging "shoulda, woulda, coulda's" - instead, there is just excitement for the rest of the season!