I mentally went into this race treating it as a training day. With both of my bikes going down two weeks before, and my inability to get my full distances done in training due to scheduling factors (and weather), I felt unprepared. This decision was made upon discussing my options with Angie... I have to say, having this mind set going into the race, I didn’t feel as anxious, or as pressured, as I usually do pre-race.
The night before race day I usually like to plan and lay everything out so the next morning is stress-free. I know I had everything prepared so I wouldn’t have to ‘think’ in the morning. The only thing left, was to get some sleep. My husband, Terry, was joining me the night before, as he was going to volunteer for wetsuit stripping the next morning. Generally, I am one who needs sleep. Since I had to be awake very early the next morning (at least 4:30 am to eat), I needed to be asleep early. Unfortunately, Terry arrived at my hotel room at 10:30 pm. Even though he said to go to sleep, in a small hotel room, one can hear everything. I last saw my watch at 12:30 am and was too tired to get my earplugs to avoid any further wake ups.... ugh!
Race morning came fast! I was tired...and my lower back was aching. However, all went smoothly, and as planned. I adopted an odd but fantastic breakfast plan from a TTL’er I roomed with in the Wasa Lake Triathlon (yes Sharon, salmon for breakfast!) It was surprisingly very palatable, and filled the hunger void. I will be keeping this regime for sure in future preps for sure!!
We arrived at the swim start and I went to work setting up T1. My nerves were settled... nothing crazy at all, because it was just a “training day”. I saw lots of TTL’ers at the race start which was SO awesome!! Even members I didn’t know!! The feeling of being a member of such a welcoming and supportive group was, and is, a really great thing!
Then it was announced to get into the water for warm-up. I was in the port-o-potty line but nearly there. I quickly ran to my get my wetsuit on. However, once I reached the water, I was only able to get out maybe 50 meters from shore, and everyone was called back to shore to go through the timing gate. Oh well.. at least I got into the water :)
The Swim: I was confident I could do it as I've done it in practice with no problems. I seeded myself, I thought, very well, and started from a less congested area of the beach. The start was awesome! No one was bumping me, nor trying to swim over me. I felt relaxed and didn’t feel like I was pounding it out. But then, I had a panic attack at ~500 meters out (full-on hyperventilation, claustrophobia, looking for a boat and seriously debating swimming to shore). I turned over and floated on my back to get refocused and to get control of my breathing again. There was a lot of self talk to get me back into the day, and switching my mindset. Finally, I turned over and found some feet and a hip. :) I figured that if I could follow someone (just as THE COACH said), and know there were people close, I would be ok. All was good again... I was only was bumped a few times and knew it wasn’t intentional so put it out of my mind. I even swam right around the buoys, with no one on me, versus having to breast stroke around, and everyone grabbing at eachother. I got through it and was ok-happy with it.
T1: Transition was funny!! I came out of the water (after 2 hand touches in the mud...) and began running to my bike. Then, I remembered, “there are wetsuit strippers... TERRY!) I ran right to Terry to be stripped. My wetsuit wouldn't come off, especially around my watch and timing chip. It took a bit for Terry to pull it off of my, but finally it came off. PHEW ... precious minutes!! haha ;)
The swim out of mind, I went into bike mode.
Bike: It felt good being on the bike! I saw many familiar people out on the ride and cheered and smiled most of the way! I realized that I’d forgotten to put the bike computer on ... oops! So I didn't have any data other than on my watch. Also, the lower back aches came back and stayed with me the whole ride, but I dealt with it and kept going. One competitor and I kept jockeying positions. A man with #500. Angie had said as a generalization only, that ‘some’ men don't like women passing them ( this was one of those men Angie!) He kept blocking me and he would draft off of me. Not once but several times through the ride. Especially going into the head wind! I thought, "where are the race Marshall's?" It was really irritating, but I tried to stay positive and focused on what I needed to do. A race truck did come by finally on the second loop and someone yelled "you're in the zone!"... He dropped off for about 15 mins I think - haha! Bike was done, and I was happy with the time considering the wind and hills. As a side, I was also happy to say that I was able to get all my planned nutrition in!
T2: My legs felt wobbly! Usually I dismount with no bike shoes, but with so much dust, I left my shoes on this time. I also had to SIT and put my socks and shoes on... That hadn't happened before either. But I couldn't bend over to do it. Then I was off!
Run: Felt great, once my running legs woke up. Seeing the TTL'ers at the team tent improved the mood :). I again had no data on my watch for pace (which I usually gauge my run by) so I had to run by feel. Had my race belt on at the beginning to carry my own nutrition, but it felt heavy and was irritating me, so I through it into the trees - haha! I figured there was enough nutrition from aid stations on the course, that I could make due. I was hardly breathing once I got a rhythm, and my legs felt awesome as I was flying past most on the run course!! I even caught up to Leslie-Anne, and ~had to~ give her a little love-slap on her bum... :)
My pace felt steady and strong! It started to rain on my second loop, hard, but I loved it!! I had done a really long run recently with my training Buddy, Phil, in full downpour rain. I mentioned during that run the rain could happen at GWN - and it did! I laughed out loud!!! It was awesome!!
Then a calf cramp showed up at ~15 km. I couldn't walk, it hurt SO much! I had to stop and stretch it out for what seemed like an eternity. The thoughts in my head began again... ‘do I just dnf?’, ‘do I walk it out?’. I started thinking of my brain injured brother who I'm sure, if he could, would love to be able to just walk again, or feed himself again, or I’m sure, participate in an event such as this. Really? I told myself to buck up!! Then as I was stretching, I noticed a piece of Safeway grocery bag was stuck to my calf on my race tattoo - it must have gotten stuck when I was putting my wetsuit on (a little trick I was shown the week prior). Is this like when you walk out of a bathroom with toilet paper on your shoe?? I thought, no wonder strangers were smiling at me..lol!! I laughed again! Too funny!! My mood completely switched and I began to wobble run, forced some gels and coke and water down at the next aid station. The cramp subsided slightly for me to be able to jog again. I eventually got into a pace and gait that felt good and felt strong going back (with no sign of calf pain). The TTLer's at the Team tent for my final meters gave me that extra boost!!! 3 of them were doing this high energy dance and chant which was SO awesome.. I loved it!!! I could hear Angie yell out “Go Chris! You look really good!” (Thanks Angie!!). My pace was super strong and I could feel myself smiling coming down the final chute. I did it!! My arms went up in the air and I even squealed at the finish (and cried a little too) because I didn't give up even though I had many chances to do so! :) I loved this day, even though there were glitches!! It was a redemption of sorts (since my surgeon said I would never be able to swim or bike again) and a challenge to test me around each corner on the course. But I persevered and got through it. Also, definitely a mental game... And tough "training day" :).
I couldn't have gotten through it without all the support, guidance, knowledge, empowerment, love ... (I could keep going here...) of our most amazing coach, Angie!! I feel so grateful toward Shannon for lending me her bike to be able to get some practice rides in, and to use it in GWN!! THANK YOU! Also, my incredible training Buddy, Phil, for preventing me from stopping and influences me to keep going!! My hubby Terry allowing me time to train, and looking after our 3 kids! And all of the team members and team family who have supported and trained through together!!! You’re all so awesome!!!
As a bonus, the day was a 15 min PB for this distance... not bad considering. :)