I love to race. Every time I think about how triathlon training can get tedious and feels like it takes up so much time, I remind myself how much fun it is to race. And to end the season with such a great race in a killer competitive environment made the training this summer completely worth it.
Brad and I left early Friday morning to pick up Char and Jesse from the airport, then headed straight to Milwaukee. The short drive flew by while we chatted and caught up. Once we got to Milwaukee, we drove the bike course, checked in to our hotel then headed to the race site.
The logistics for big triathlons can get crazy, but since everything was right in one location, it really helped. We were able to pick up our packets, do a test swim, get lunch, then ride our bikes to the drop-off all within a few hours. There was a bit of sitting and waiting around and not as much relaxing as I would have liked, but we finally headed back to the hotel around 3:00 for naps before dinner.
We ate dinner at Zarlettis in downtown Milwaukee and it was fantastic. We ran into tri friends from Greenville and our Nuun Teammates from Miami there, so clearly everyone got the same recommendation we did. After dinner we walked around the riverfront in the Third Ward for a while, but were back to the hotel by 9 to finish race prep and go to bed early.
The start time for my age group wasn’t until 9:50 a.m. You might think that would provide a glorious opportunity to sleep in on race morning. Unfortunately, transition was only open until 7:30 when the first wave started so we had to get there and set up hours before the start.
Our bikes were already racked and tires pumped so we waited until as late as possible before going down to the race site. Jesse dropped Char and I off just before 7:00 and even after taking our time and quadruple checking our stuff we were easily set up and ready by 7:20.
The rest of the morning we spent just waiting. We found coffee and a nice shady spot to relax and eat breakfast. It would have been brutal alone, but I won’t complain too much about having precious quality time with one of my best friends who lives 4 states away.
Eventually we moved up toward the race area where we were able to see some of the lead bikes come through on their way out and into the bike finish. I am glad we did this because we learned how rough the roads were in that section. There were water bottles flying everywhere and one guy got a flat on his way into transition.
We also found out that the race was running 15 minutes behind and we wouldn’t be starting until after 10! That made for THREE HOURS of waiting around before the start.
FINALLY shortly after Brad and Jesse got there, we headed over to the swim start, put on our wetsuits and joined the rest of our age group in the staging area. We chatted nervously with other girls until they eventually let us down to the water to warm up. I swam around a little, did some pick ups in the water and tried to get adjusted to the cold temps and it wasn’t long before they funneled us over to the start.
We were all nervously treading water and holding on to the dock when all of a sudden the horn sounded and it was time to go. Most of us were a little flustered because we never heard the countdown or realized it was time to start and Char said later her goggles were still on her head!
I knew the first part would be rough so I just put my head in, pulled as hard as I could and braced myself for the thrashing that was to come. It was by far the roughest swim start I have ever experienced. Fortunately it didn’t last long and soon I had open water to myself. I was a little surprised to see SO many silver caps out in front of me so soon though. It crossed my mind to try to catch the big pack out front, but I was already working really hard and I quickly realized that there was no way I could catch them.
The first 400 meters took forever. I felt like my wetsuit was choking me and I couldn’t get enough air. Eventually I settled in a little bit, but never really felt like I got in a great rhythm. I was breathing ALOT and just felt like the whole thing was taking so long. Every time I got to another buoy and thought it was time to turn around, I would look ahead and see more buoys.
I usually love the swim and am just smiling the whole time I am in the water, but in this race, I have never wanted to be done with the swim so bad. Chalk it up to complete lack of swimming base at the beginning of the summer and thus being slightly less trained than in the past, but I was REALLY happy to exit the water and be done.
1500 m Swim: 23:36, 1:26/100 yd, (29/157 AG)
I ran out of the water and immediately saw Brad yelling for me. It gave me a good boost for the short run into transition. But when I got into transition, I couldn’t find my bike ANYWHERE. I ran up and down the aisle, under the rack to the next aisle, back over to my aisle and finally looked at the small numbers on the racks. I finally realized why I couldn’t find my bike…IT WAS LAYING FLAT ON THE GROUND! It was sprawled out with my helmet, water bottles, sunglasses and headband all strewn everywhere. I collected everything, got my stuff on and ran toward the exit. On the way out, as I ran past a girl on my left, I realized that there was someone sitting on the ground on my right. By the time I knew what was happening, it was too late and my pedal hit her SMACK in her lower back. She screamed, I apologized and then she screamed some more. I felt so bad and really hope I didn’t ruin her day.
When I finally got out of transition, Brad was there cheering for me. I yelled to him that my bike was on the ground and then stopped to reattach the velcro on my rear tool pack that also came unfastened when it got knocked down. The whole thing cost me a ton of time.
T1: 3:01, 130/157 (almost freaking LAST!)
As soon as I was on the bike, I tried put T1 out of my mind. My aero bottle got dumped out when it fell but thankfully I had two extra bottles. During the slower section out of transition, I worked on getting my bottle refilled then on the straightaway, I was finally able to settle in. Once I got settled, I immediately focused on my strategy for the bike: BALLS OUT. I wanted to ride as hard and as fast as I could and just see what would happen. My heart rate was high and my legs were burning, but I spent the entire bike trying to keep the heaviest gear I could and still keep the cadence around 90 rpm.
The bridges just about killed me as my legs remembered that they haven’t done any climbing in nearly 9 months. But I spun up them and put it in a heavy gear and pedaled all the way down, trying not to coast at all. I got passed by alot of men, and leapfrogged with a few women in my age group, but I didn’t get passed by near as many women as I thought I would. I kept my eye on my average lap pace and did everything I could to keep it above 21 mph.
It hurt. Alot. I have never gutted out the bike like I did that day, but strangely enough, the time went by pretty fast. And before I knew it I was descending back into transition.
24.8 Mile Bike: 1:08:57, 21.7 mph (my fastest ever!!), (42/157 AG)
I somehow ran right past my spot in transition again. But this time just a short way before I turned around and went back. As I did Char was coming into transition and I was excited to see her, knowing we would get to run together. I got changed quick and yelled, “Let’s go!” to Char as I ran past her.
T2: 1:32 (81/157 AG)
Unfortunately my (new) watch was acting up, so I spent nearly the first 1/2 mile trying to get it so I could at least see my pace. Char was by my side immediately and we were running together again! We didn’t have much energy to talk but we both agreed that the bike was HARD and that we were glad to be done.
My goal was to settle into a pace in the low 7’s for the first 3 miles, then try to negative split. Shortly after the first mile, I had my running legs back and settled in at a comfortably hard pace. Around that time Char dropped back a bit, but I could feel her behind me for the rest of the out portion of the run.
Miles 1 – 4: 7:09, 7:02, 7:12, 7:03 (watch was off on distance a bit because I got it started late, but paces should be close)
Mile 3 was definitely the toughest of the day. I was pushing to keep it below 7:10, but was hurting pretty bad. I thought the turnaround point would be halfway, so when it wasn’t, I struggled mentally. All I wanted was to get to the turnaround and be heading back in.
When we finally turned around at Mile 4, I got a good mental boost and tried to pick it up for the last 2. I was getting passed by tons of fast guys and when one would pass me at a pace that I thought I could keep I would hold his feet for a bit until I couldn’t anymore.
Miles 5 – 6: 7:04, 7:03
The last 0.2 was the longest of my entire life. When I passed the “Mile 6” marker, I felt like I should be done, but the finish chute was still so.far.away. When I finally reached the crowds of the chute, I saw some friends from Greenville cheering for me and smiled huge. Right after them, I saw Brad and gave him a big high five as I ran past, then threw my hands up as I heard them announce my name at the finish.
6.2 Mile Run: 44:30, 7:08 min/mile (38/157 AG)
USAT Nationals Olympic Distance: 2:21:30, 31/157
After the race I got my medal from Chrissie Wellington! I didn’t even realize it was her until I heard her accent say “Congratulations!”, then I looked up and she was staring me right in the eye! Cool moment.
Once we got our stuff collected and showered, we basically ate and drank our way through Milwaukee, hitting up 2 breweries and 3 more restaurants before leaving Sunday morning!