Race Organizer: CGI Racing
Location: Lehighton, PA
Beltzville State Park
Well as most of you know I struggled with a running injury since the middle of February. I trained for the Rock and Roll DC Marathon all winter and ended up sidelined going into taper. Once the injury happened, I put all my energy into swimming and biking. A few weeks out of Black Bear, I managed to suffer through a few 2-3 mile runs. I was originally signed up for the Black Bear Olympic distance, but figured that with minimal run training, I would switch to the sprint distance. I knew a 5k was easier to gut out than a 10k, especially after the BB bike course! So I emailed the race director and switched to the sprint distance. I still didn’t have much confidence going into this race. After all, I didn’t have one single brick workout under my belt since Fall 2012!
The week before, I met a great friend and training partner for a brick workout at the race site. We did the sprint bike course and ran a 3 mile run after. I completed it. My confidence started to come back and of course I started to make goals of what I wanted to accomplish on race day. I knew that my swim and bike were strong so I came up with these goals and also created the chart provided below with the help of a good friend.
1.) I wanted to be the first female out of the water.
2.) I wanted to have a better bike time than I did the year before
3.) I wanted to just survive the run.
4.) I wanted to place first in my age group.
So, race morning came and I realized I never checked the weather. The drive up there was misty rain. I love getting to the race site early and getting a good spot on the bike rack. I hustled everything to transition and by the time I got there, everything was soaked! I remember the race announcer saying that by 7am the rain was expected to stop. Well it didn’t. I was able to chat with a lot of my triathlete friends in and around transition before I made my way back to the car to try to stay warm/dry.
I met up with my parents and sister before the swim start. I put on my wetsuit, gave my belongings to my family and headed towards the water. 60 degree water on race morning holds the record for my coldest swim yet. Even as a swimmer, I have to admit I was a little nervous as to how my body would react. This was probably the only time I have ever been happy to own a full wetsuit. I absolutely hate them and always feel like my arms are restricted and I was being choked, but with water temps that low I was happy. I slowly walked my way into the water and calmly inched my body further into it. I told myself I would use the swim out to the start buoys as my warm-up. Once I was wet up to my shoulders I got out and went to the start.
I swam out to the swim start feeling smooth and ready to rock. I positioned myself in the front next to a girl who I have competed against the past 2 years at this race. Those past 2 years she beat me out of the water both times. This year I looked at her and thought to myself, “that’s not happening this year!”
The gun went off and she took off! I managed to stay on her heels. We were the two lead swimmers. I know from the past 2 years that she starts off strong but eventually fades. I told myself to just relax, stay on her heels and blow by her at the end. We spent a lot of time passing men in the wave before us. I was still on her heels at the turn for home. As I made that turn, I kicked it into high gear. I put my head down, increased my arm speed, stronger pull, a strong kick and blew by her. I exited FIRST out of the water. Goal one, accomplished.
The first thing I heard coming out of the water was people cheering my name. Talk about adrenaline rush! Little did I know I had some great friends and family there cheering me on. I heard the race official radio “first female out of the water,” and then asked me my number and radioed that too. Once again the weather sucked. I tried to get my wet suit off as quick as possible, throw on my bike shoes, helmet and sunglasses. I didn’t care about drying myself off or putting on warmer clothes. I knew that if I was to succeed at winning my age group I had to be as quick as possible. I saw out of the corner of my eye the girl that I beat out of the water. Her bike was racked directly across from mine. I took my bike off the rack and out of transition I went.
I hustled up to the mount line. One of the volunteers cheered me on telling me that I was the lead female. I knew that it was time to take on some hills. I am very familiar with this bike course, I have done the race twice in the past and have biked the course in training quite a few times. I knew where “the hills” were and where the rollers were. But let me tell you, it’s a very different feeling being one of the first out on the bike course. I was practically riding solo the entire time. I was passed a few times by guys on the course, but I found that I kept waiting for a female to pass me. I looked behind a few times to see if I could see any female approaching. Anytime I heard a chain shift or heavy breathing behind me, I waited to be passed by a female. It never happened. I did a lot of self-talk to relax, because I knew that I would need to relax if I wanted to bike quicker than I did the year before. I felt that I have gotten a lot stronger on the bike and was capable of doing so. But at the same time, I didn’t want to completely blow my legs out because I knew I had to attempt a run afterwards. The race announcer kept saying during warm ups to use caution on the course, to slow down, take turns easy, etc. I said the heck with that! I was on a mission.
At the first good climb on the course I rode side by side with a male age grouper, 30-34. He told me to keep pushing it, that I was the first female, to give it all I got, and that he would try to stay out of my way. We rallied back and forth throughout the course. He would get ahead of me and then I would catch up to him. We went back and forth for a good portion of the ride. But it was on the second climb that he said something that really hit home. I thought I was powering up the hill, when he came blowing by to my left. He looked at me and said, “I told you to push it! Let’s go! You’re in the lead! I have cancer and I’m beating you! How does that make you feel?” Wow. I felt a lot of respect for him and the sudden urge to really pick it up. I stayed close behind him the rest of the course. I believe that, thanks to him, I was able to beat my time from last year. Goal two, accomplished.
I have never led a race before. I have only been doing triathlons for 2 years now and never thought I would ever lead a race. But I am happy that I gave myself that opportunity. Leading a race is extremely mental. It’s like a mouse being chased by cats. I was constantly wondering who was behind me, how far back the second female was, etc. etc.
I will never forget the feeling of running out of transition and onto the run course while hearing the race announcer say, “And our first female is headed out onto the run course!” I got choked up!! Hold it together I kept telling myself. Just run.
Not even a quarter of a mile out onto the run I heard pounding footsteps and a female talking behind me. Those of you that know me and have followed my past race reports know that the run is my weakness. As terrible as it is to say, I was not surprised to be passed shortly out of the gate. Off she went and I kept shuffling along. And shortly after that another female passed me.
I had no idea that the run course changed until I approached a not so nice hill leading up to mile 1. I remember looking at it and thinking “GREAT!” I managed to grind my way up it and by that point my legs started to feel better. I just kept telling myself, “one foot in front of the other, just keep moving forward.” At the halfway point I was able to see that a fourth girl was behind me. I told myself not to panic, stay relaxed and keep the pace. About a quarter of a mile from the finish that fourth female passed me. I knew at the point that I would finish fourth overall. I kept my head up and finished strong. Here is the best part. Guess who was the first person ready to congratulate me at the finish line? It was the male age grouper that pushed me through the bike. I gave him a huge hug and thanked him for pushing me. Goal 3, “survive the run,” check!
This race taught me a lot of things. Even on our worst days we are capable of so much. Did I feel 100%? No way. My knee still hurt. I considered not doing the race at all. The conditions were terrible. But I thought, you know what, if Chrissie Wellington can compete in and win Kona three weeks after a terrible bike crash, I can gut out a sprint triathlon!!! And that is exactly what I did. Even though my swim, T and run times were all slower than the year before, this race has proved one thing to me….
“Even when you think you are having the worst day, it could actually end up being your best. It is up to you how you choose to let it end.”
Keep on, keepin’ on!
Syracuse 70.3, June 23rd, 2013