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I was racing Half Rev Aquabike (1.2mile Swim/56 mile Bike no run!) as part of the Age Group Series. This means that if I race (2) Half Rev Aquabikes they will take my best (2) placements to determine if I get to race in the Age Group Series Championships in Knoxville 2014.
After a complete blast the last two days it was finally showtime. I got up around 4am in order to prepare for the day. The forecast was right on, unfortunately, 50’s and raining… all day. Oh, and some wind. Oh well, I train in this weather so no reason I cannot race in it. However, it DOES completely change the strategy. Wet roads mean slippery and slippery could end your day in a millisecond. So there will be no speed records broken today. I’ve been on this course before and I remember distinctly the blind corners on the 2 lane downhill roads… wet and blind? Yes… it will be slow.
I did my normal routine and was out the door. I love leaving my bike the day before, because all night she was sitting in the parking garage nice and dry. I, however, had almost all my cold/wet weather gear. I had ALMOST gone back into the house before I left and got my bike booties. Decided against it, it can’t be THAT cold. Oh, well, I was wrong about that!
I got to transition and thanks to my clothing was reasonably dry and warm. I knew it would change soon though, as I needed to leave all those comforts and walk about 1/2 mile to the swim start. Before I could get there I saw about half dozen of my teammates so I said hi, gave some words of encouragement and continued on. Saw some of my local peeps as well getting ready. More chit-chat! Ok, time to get moving!
Soon as I hit the cold water on the ground (not even the river!) I knew it was going to be a chilly start. I put my swim booties on and went to the bathroom and headed to the start. Before I got there my feet were wet and cold so I decided to put on the wetsuit, at least half way. That helped a lot.
Once we got near the start we sang the national anthem (with a few short circuits, which the crowd just continued singing when the speaker fizzled out due to water!) and then they told us to line up. In theory we had some time to warm up, but I didn’t need it. Didn’t want it. I knew what to expect from the practice swim and I was prepared for the COLD water. Even though I just put a huge rip in my wetsuit right by my groin. Nice. And yes IT WAS COLD OUT. Just Sayin’
Met up with some friends from Chicago before the start. Wished everyone well!
Finally it was my time and I hopped in about 5 seconds before the horn only to find the water not as bad as I thought. Yesterday was in the mid/low 50s and I think today it was maybe 58? Not bad. I settled quickly into a rhythm after getting pushed and pushing a few people out of my way. Honestly, 4 minutes into a swim in no time for you to be SO off course that you broadside me – you deserve a shove!
After about 10 minutes my left bicep start bugging me. Painfully tight. CRAP. I think I did something to it during the State swim meet last weekend doing the 200 IM. Shoot. I adjusted and adapted but I lost some serious mental inertia and I found myself getting passed. Not cool. So I laid into the swim with a solid effort and started passing a few back. Although I could feel the tightness spreading to the triceps and then the right bicep. I was not swimming correctly but I couldn’t seem to figure out WHY and what to do. So I swam. Thank goodness I have a strong swim base, so I just “toughed it out”.
The first 1/3 is INTO the current and the final 2/3 is with the current (or something like that). Once I made that turn I felt like I was flying. Things moved along well after that but my arms were not happy. Clearly, I was NOT recovered from State swim meet. Not close.
Exit the water by pulling myself out like a beached whale and ran up the ramp and quickly I realized it was a mistake to not bring shoes. It was only .3 miles but that actually is longer than I was thinking… I tried to run a bit – BAD idea – so I fast walked while I peeled my wetsuit off.
Into transition went as smooth as it can when you’re ripping a rubber suit off your body and replacing it with the stickiest clothing known to man. I opted for tights, jacket, gloves because I was cold already and I knew that once a nice 30mph airflow is going across my body it would be REALLY cold. Grabbed my shoes and ran/walked to the mount line and put the shoes on. No sense running in bike shoes and slipping and busting my booty.
Mounted, made it 10 feet and realized CRAP! I forgot my helmet!!! Son-of-a-!@#$ So I turned my bike around and started back. Thinking MAN How did the volunteers let me go by without yelling at me?!? Then I touched my head…. well, I mean my helmet. Really? Who put THAT there? Wow… I must not be in my right mind. The helmet felt so good so comfortable that I couldn’t feel it. I’m guessing my head was just numb. Or I ‘m dumb. No, let’s go with numb.
Turned bike around AGAIN and took off. OMG I am such a dork. And all this screwing around is going to mess with my chances of a decent placement. This really doesn’t bode well for my mental state. Normally I am laser focused during a race. A constant checklist of x, y, z, x, y, z but I’m just “out of it” today. Try to shake it off and focus. Need that focus. I actually yawned. Freakin YAWNED? Crap, I’m tired? I just raced the swim, a yawn is not good.
I took off at a decent clip, trying to settle into a rhythm. That wasn’t happened, so I just rode. The very first incline felt like a mountain, WTF? The first ramp was like 90degrees straight up. Holy crap, heart rate spiking and this isn’t even one of the REAL hills on this course? I’m screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewed.
I just kept at it. Maybe I need to warm up. Something. Focus, where ARE you????
The next 5 miles had some self doubt but also allowed me to realize a few things. Firstly, this wet is really impacting my handling. I haven’t done ANY wet rides this year, actually, this was only my 5th ride outside this year. So I need to cut myself a break. Secondly, wrecking my bike will do me zero good. I have no idea if there are 100 or 1 people in my division. So I need to just focus on ME and MY RIDE and get through this without wrecking and let the cards fall as they may. Welcome back focus. This was smart racing.
A few miles later I made an even bigger decision. Today is a training day. Forget the race mentality. It has no place today. I was trying to race but firstly, I just didn’t have it in me. My legs were not fresh and rested, the course was absurd, my focus wasn’t really there, it would fade in and out, I was pushing MASSIVE wattage relative to my speed and I wasn’t having fun. That’s not good. So, Today is a Training day. With that stress removed, I smiled, and I carried on. Today was an EPIC RIDE DAY and I smile more. These are the days great stories are made of, so ENJOY it and soak up (yuk yuk) every moment. That change in mental perspective was HUGE. Now I was having fun.
We started the REAL hills. Man, I wish I had gotten up to Ironman Madison course this year, it would have prepared me better. These mountains are huge and I struggled. I had a fairly deep bike base, so I can just keep going and going and going – but the problem was I wasn’t going very fast uphill (to be expected) BUT I was also getting nothing on the down hills. That’s normally where I get some serious speed AND use them to start up the next hill. Nope. Nada. Which means I really was climbing MORE because I coasted uphill less. Max speed the entire day was only 32.9mph in 2011 it was 41mph. Looking at the power data it’s just amazing to see the entire chart shifted DOWN by quote a lot…all because of the no-downhills. I’m sure this translated into all the extra minutes on the course.
Several times in the first 20 miles I had to get off my bike to adjust my brakes. I figured out that when I would hit a big bump, it would cause them to shift over and start rubbing. That’s great, I’m riding my brakes, up hill, in the rain. Eventually (maybe 6th time?) I got smart and got out my multi-tool and fixed the thing for good. If I was thinking, I would have done that after the 2nd time. But I wasn’t. Tired? maybe. Cold? Certainly. But the focus wasn’t there.
I said howdy to a couple teammates as they passed me, they looked strong. Of course, them passing me meant that they were doing really well – as they would have had to already gain 5-10-15+ minutes on me… and we weren’t done with the bike! Oh well… training day right? training day!
I slogged through the miles, the mountains, the descents. I passed some folks, got passed by quite a few, but generally I was alone for a large part of the course. I thanked all the volunteers and police standing out in the rain – without them, we couldn’t have done this. Especially for the volunteers it’s truly awesome they stuck it out and kept a great attitude. THAT is course support!
I yelled for SAG for several racers who were standing on the side of the road shivering. Some just looked “done” and others had your typical mechanical problems – broken chains, a busted rim, and so on. Today was not the day to skip extra clothing. Some of them looked pretty cold. At a couple points I saw a pickup with a bunch of bikes in the back. I’m glad they got the racers out of there to warm up and worried about the bikes second.
As I neared the end of the course I was getting really tired. I only brought food for a 3 hour ride. I always bring an extra in case someone else needs it, but today I needed it. I went through all my food and I was still getting a little spacey – which I know means I haven’t gotten in enough calories. Looking over my bottles, I also didn’t drink enough (which they have calories in them). So I was eating about 250 cals/hr and I should be at 300-400cals/hr on this kind of course. Probably closer to 400 and I was accumulating that debt.
There was a REALLY steep hill right before the hospital, very close to the end. My legs were trashed coming up to it and even though I was just taking it slow and steady all day… I started to doubt I could make this climb. About half way in I had to dig VERY deep to finish the climb. My heart rate was off the charts, my quads and hammies were both screaming, my calves complaining – everything was NOT happy about it. But stopping was just not an option. So I kept plugging away. Once we leveled off I was probably only doing 10mph while I tried to recover. It took a long time. And that wasn’t the last hill. I just trudged through it all…
finally, the home stretch back to the finish. Mostly flat, I don’t think I got up over 16mph. I was so utterly and completely done.
Once I dismounted I felt the accumulation of fatigue in my legs. Oh, my, God they were tired. I hobbled back to the bike rack. Put the bike up and immediately went for my recovery drink. Except bending over was a challenge. I was so freaking tight. So I spent some time stretching so I could bend over… then got the drink and wandered around looking for water.
Got to say Hi to teammate Susan who was wrapped in one of those space blankets and she shuffled out for the run. She was moving slow but she’s an absolutely amazing endurance athlete so she knew how to just keep moving! I did not envy her in that she now had a 13.1 mile run ahead of her. Gave her some words of encouragement and I went back and sucked down my recovery drink, ate a gel, and stretched a little.
Looking back, this was, by far, the worst Aquabike time ever. Even when I was 270lbs and just getting into racing, my net time was around 4:20. Today was 4:48.
35 minute swim was fine. I wasn’t feeling my best, but it was solid.
9min t1 was absurd. No shoes = bad idea.
4:04 bike was crazy slow. 44 minutes slower than the list time on this course.
So although I ended with a PW (Personal Worst) time on the course and the race type…
I placed 3rd!
I couldn’t believe it. So apparently the smart people didn’t smart, the weak didn’t finish, and there weren’t many left. Only 4 left in the division. The winner beat my by 1hr 11min. 2nd Place was by 38minutes. And 4th place was 14min behind me. We were pretty spread out. I have no idea how many signed up for the race, but only 4 finished. Crazy. Looking at other Aquabike races I saw that #2 had prior times about 30minutes faster than Knoxville, so clearly, the weather impacted us all.
In the end, I had a blast. This is one of those races which the story will be retold time after time year after year. An EPIC day, not a fast day. And my first hardware (podium) to date? HUGE BONUS!
After I gathered my stuff, I went to the transition (pouring rain now) and dropped off my gear so I could run the finisher chute. I decided to wear my bike helmet (hey, it was an Aquabike!) and a got the crowd going. I love doing that, getting the crowd going – keeping the finish line energy high – it’s the best part of the race.
Afterwards I found friends and hung out in the VIP tent for a while.
Chilled with Mirinda Carfe, who is such a sweet, down to earth person – not to mention one of the top 3 fastest women in the sport.
Afterwards, headed to the hotel and got my stuff cleaned up, me cleaned up, and crashed for a nap! 45min later I was good to go, so I located my Rev3 teammates for some post-race celebrations…
All in all, a fun evening out.
The Chicago crew
Carrie did her first Olympic – again, um, sorry Carrie when I said the water wasn’t THAT cold… yeah… oops!
Great job everyone!
Looking forward to the Rev3 Age Group Championships in Knoxville in 2014! They’re moving the date 2 weeks late, so it will be warmer… right?!?!