Pre - Race
When I arrived at the race site it was 4:50am, 10 minutes before transition was set to open. I walked over to the transition area which was clearly uninhabited. I was first in line and nervously eager for the event ahead. It was a cold morning with a biting wind. My teeth chattered as I waited to wheel my bike in for the perfect spot in transition. Promptly at 5am I set up my transition area making sure to place each item in the planned spot. Once that was done I had two hours to kill before the race would begin. I probably went to the bathroom about 10 times between when I arrived at the race course and when the actual race began. I’m not sure if this was due to my adequate level of hydration or more because of nerves. I started to see familiar faces as the sunrise approached, said hello behind anxious eyes and gave hugs to friendly competitors. About 45 minutes before the race was meant to start I did a warm-up run on the run course. It was starting to feel real. With the windchill still a factor I grabbed my roller stick and went to my car to roll out my calves in the warmth. As I willed my muscles to loosen up before the upcoming endeavor and listened to my pump-up playlist through the car speakers I wondered to myself “What am I doing here? How come I’m not in bed right now?”
With 20 minutes till race start it was time to adorn my skin with slick silicone-based spray and squeeze into my wetsuit. I pulled and tugged at every inch of my wetsuit to make sure to give my shoulders as much room as I could. I double checked my timing chip wrapped around my ankle, grabbed my swim cap and goggles and headed to the start. As I walked I heard others laugh and mimic my thoughts, “What are we thinking!?” and “Is this fun?” I smiled to myself as my I tried to ignore the sharp gravel beneath my bare feet. We reached the sandy shore of the bay. I watched as a another racer pointed out at the buoys, describing the proper direction to swim and which colors were sighting versus turning buoys. 6:40am, I took a few nervous deep breaths heading into the water to let my face and feet turn numb and acclimate to the cold. I rarely get into the water long before the start, but today I decided a proper warm-up would be worth it. About 5 minutes before the start they announced that one of the buoys had drifted farther than they expected; the race would be delayed as they reset it. I was treading near a few other women in my age group – we rolled our eyes and shook our heads, but there was nothing we could do about it. A few went back to shore, but many of us decided to stick it out and stay near the starting Buoy’s to do a few more warm up efforts. Someone turned to her friend in an attempt to be comforting and loudly said, “Don’t worry it’ll be fun! If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong!” We were silent. I piped in, “I think I’m doing something wrong…” We laughed together acknowledging the lunacy of treading freezing water and trying to pretend we were enjoying it. Shortly after 7am it was finally time to begin the race. I was somewhat acclimated and lost some energy to the cold, but most of all was ready to just do it.
The racers counted down along with the announcer, “5 – 4 – 3 – 2-, ” then feet kicking, arms swinging, bodies flailing, everyone lurching in the direction of the next buoy. In spite of the extra time in the water I hadn’t fully succumbed to the cold. Now it was inescapable, the freezing water stabbed every inch of my body. My lungs felt tight, my breaths were short as I took big salty gulps of bay water. I coughed and choked repeatedly as choppy water splashed into my mouth every time I lifted my head. My mind screamed at my arms to flail a little faster. I tried to kick harder, but couldn’t feel my legs enough to know if they were moving. Water flowed between my fingers as I tried to squeeze them together, but with each pull I but could barely find the strength to control them. Reaching each buoy was bitter-sweet it was another check-point accomplished and yet still another to go; particularly at the farthest turn which felt inexplicably long (clearly their attempt to reset the buoy at the proper length was futile). As the sun rose I couldn’t determine what was bright sun and what was yellow buoy so I just looked for splashing water nearby. All I could do was swim and pray to get to the shore alond side my age group. Finally, with the feeling of sand at my fingertips a sense of relief washed over me and I popped up onto my feet and ‘high kneed’ out of the water. I ripped my cap and goggles off of my head and forced my arms out of my wetsuit as I sprinted as fast as my numb feet would allow over sand, rocks, gravel and asphalt.
As I stepped out of my wetsuit with my legs I strapped my helmet on. Within seconds I was sprinting alongside my road bike. I jumped onto my bike with ease placing my bare-feet on top of my already-clipped-in tri shoes. I began spinning my legs to get up to speed and to get warm and took a couple gulps of Gu Brew. Once I could comfortably coast at 15 mph I reached down to squeeze my wet feet into my shoes. The right foot slid in easily as I had practiced. The left took more than one try and in wiggling to try to get it to fit I almost unclipped and lost the shoe. Finally, both feet were in- crisis averted. I lost a little speed struggling with my left shoe, but was mentally already focused on passing the women ahead of me. My eyes darted to each racer’s calves looking for my age group. I attempted to gauge where I was and who I needed to catch. I made a few good passes on the short steep climbs and didn’t hold back on the short descents going into sharp turns. I ate a gu and drank a little more gu brew. I enjoying the whirring of Eric’s carbon wheels, urging my bike faster with each pedal stroke. At the turn around point I was riding straight into headwind. The miserable feeling of wind wiping my face, challenging my pace made me sarcastically chortle, “Fun.” I reminded myself that everyone was feeling that same sense of dread when faced with intense wind, but if I pushed a little harder it could make all the difference for a podium finish. A few quick, hard efforts before the final turn made me feel like I was flying. With transition in site it was time to prepare for the dismount. I pulled on the neon tab at the back of my tri shoe, lifting my barefoot out and placing it back on top of my shoe. I dismounted with ease just before the dismount line.
Yes! 2/3 done! A rush of adrenaline filled me as I flew through T2. I racked my bike, pulled on my running shoes, ate a quick gu-chew and grabbed my race-belt/bib. I strapped the bib on as I ran out of transition into the final effort. 10k to go and then done. I found a quick cadence to warm up my feet and get my blood pumping. I ran alongside another woman in the next age group up. We held a solid 7:25min/mi pace and my legs began to open up. She offered encouragement as I slowly pulled ahead, I echoed her sentiment. I felt strong and light on my feet. I took small sips of water at each aid station without slowing my pace. At the turn around I was again faced with that head wind. A guy I was nearby on the bike encouraged my pace and block the wind for me. Our pace dropped to 7min/mile, but with 3 miles to go I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold it. I tacked onto to another girl nearby, closer to my target effort, and focused on getting to the end. I tried to find fast legs as I threw one leg in front of the next. At each turn I took 10 quick strides to quicken my pace. Going into the final 800 meters there were plenty of spectators cheering us on. A few people yelled out “Yeah Cal!” and cheered “Go Bears!” I kicked into my final gear trying to pass anyone who was between me and the finish. A smile crept across my face as I crossed the finish line.
There’s nothing quite like the euphoric relief of crossing the finish line. Feeling accomplished, happy, and complete bliss. I chuckled to myself, “Wow, what a fun race.” After I had a chance to cool down and call my dad and boyfriend to let them know how the race went I moseyed over to the awards area to see if results were posted. I held my breath hoping to see my name next to #1. Alas, I had come in second. Although content with a podium spot, I was disappointed that I hadn’t qualified for Age Group nationals. I had targeted this race as my qualifying race and was disappointed to find I was not in 1st. Low and behold later that evening as I looked over the results online I realized that my #2 spot was still enough to be in the top 10% of my age group and therefore I DID in fact qualify! Two days ago I got the official email from USAT inviting me to compete at Age group nationals this August! With that I am well on my way to accomplishing my goals for 2017. It is an awesome feeling!
- Olympic Distance
- Overall: 110 of 516
- Gender: 17 of 148
- AG: 1 of 22
- Swim: 40:26 (2:41/100m)
- T1: 1:53
- Bike: 1:17:31 (19..27 mph)
- T2: 1:42
- Run: 45:34 (7:20min/mi)
- Elapsed: 2:47:09