The week before the race, I was exhausted. I hadn't slept in over a week. This is all cycle related. Normally, the insomnia lasts a couple of days. This time, it just wouldn't end. I tried to take naps to no avail. I thought that once I got to Henderson, NV, I'd get to sleep. I didn't realize that many people who stay in Henderson are there to party in Vegas. The 2 nights leading up to the race were worthless in regards to sleep. Drunk people running around above me. Others banging on doors trying to find their rooms.
In the past, I stayed at the Wynn on the Vegas strip (for those of you outside the US). The Wynn is the quietest hotel I have ever stayed at. I have never had any problems. I just assumed that being in Henderson wouldn't be different. It was closer to the race site. The hotel is a nice hotel. But the Wynn? You'll pay for the luxury, but it is worth it.
Besides the sleep issue, I have to say that Henderson is beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, Mr. Tea and I are thinking of buying a winter home there. It is THAT amazing.
The morning of race, I was able to sleep from about 10pm to 2pm when the drunks starting arriving back at their rooms. Was I mad? No. It's Vegas. Those people are there to have a good time. I didn't really plan it very well.
I brought breakfast with me and turned on the coffee maker. My head is foggy. I went back to read emails between Liz and I from the week. I gave it a lot of thought. I said, "Your body is ready for this. Your head might not be ready. Your head can't think straight. Let your body take over today. RULE YOURSELF."
I'm sensitive to caffeine. I started drinking more coffee than any person should be able to (3 cups....a whole lot for me). I needed all the help I could get.
Because I was up, I head to transition (which opens at 5:30). My wave didn't start until 7:40. I was the last wave (except for the beginner wave).
Have I mentioned that I was nervous AF?!?
When I arrived, I realized that my transition area was going to be near the top of the hill. THIS IS PERFECT. I won't have to run far with my bike either UP or DOWN the hill.
From the second you step out of the water, to about a half a mile into the bike, you are on a steep hill. The run from the water is on rough, rocky terrain. Last year, I struggled in flip flops. I was slipping and sliding and could barely make it up the hill.
This year, I was ready with my new/old shoes.
This was my first race of the year. Being from CO, I hadn't had any opportunity to swim in open water. I hadn't even tried on my wetsuit. No practice of getting into and out of it. I hadn't ridden my bike outside.
Needless to say, this was going to be a practice run.
I went to the water's edge, praying that I'd be able to fit in my wetsuit after a winter of.....um....well....WINTER.
I got to the water's edge, and people were talking about how cold the water was. I looked out and could see the swells of water and waves coming into shore. Lake Mead is a LAKE, but it is known for it's swells and unpredictable conditions. The previous day, there were wind warnings telling boaters to stay close to shore.
It's cold water and rough conditions.
I've got to get into the water to see what I'm dealing with.
Once I got into the water, I immediately realized that I couldn't see the first turn buoy with the swells.
One of my coaches at masters is a world champion swimmer in the 1 mile open water event. She has been coaching me on pacing. One of the exercises she has me do (Coach Liz also has me do this), is head out of the water swimming. Different coaches call it different things. This is not a doggie paddle (that's a different drill). This is regular swimming with your head up, looking straight ahead. Some coaches refer to it as water polo swimming (click here if you want to see the drill).
I realized that I can't sight because sighting is a split second, and I couldn't get a visual on the buoys in that split second. I thought, "head out of the water swimming." This would allow me to keep up my speed and look for the buoy. As I was swimming into the swells, I had my head out of the water, staring straight ahead until I got a good visual on the buoy.
PERFECT. I put my head down and started swimming and then turned to swim back to shore.
My wave was already lining up. I wiggled my way to the front. My wave is all women over 40, relays and athenas over 40.
I know what you're thinking.
I'm getting there.
Not a lot of people know this, but I LOVE swimming in rough conditions. I love swimming in cold water. I love swimming in less than optimal conditions. It ignites the fight in me. When I'm faced with a challenge, I bear down and go for it.
When the horn went off, everyone took off. I see the crowd ahead of me. Of course, I can't see the buoys. I start swimming "head out of the water". I catch a sight of the buoy, put my head down and go for it. I see on my right the crowd is veering off to the right.
I'm right on course for the buoy.
When I get to the buoy, there are 3-4 other blue caps with me. I know they can't hold on. This isn't being cocky. You can tell when you're out there swimming, who is the confident swimmer. You can tell. I turned the corner and took off. At this point, the swells are coming at me from the right, so I have to only breath on the left.
NOTE to you triathletes: You MUST MUST MUST learn to breath bilaterally.
I turned on the gas and noticed I had left all the other blue caps behind. I turn at the next buoy. My arms and back are really quite uncomfortable at this point from forcing myself through swells and staying on course.
I turn at the next buoy. (The course is rectangle).
And....I see a blue cap in front of me.
Where did she come from?
I had already passed several other waves. I thought, "Make a go at it. Catch her".
As we were coming into shore, I realized that SHE was a HE and was a relay swimmer. He had either slowed down or I had sped up or a combination of both.
SWIM: 1st out of the water
I get to shore, shove my feet into my shoes and run full speed up the hill, passing many people along the way.
I get to my bike. As I mentioned, this race starts on an uphill. I have my bike set in smaller gears. I jump on the bike and go.
I stay in aero and pass people like they are standing still, heading out to the main road. I know that once I get to the main road, it's all hills all day. My absolute favorite bike course.
Here we go.
I was flying. All I kept thinking about was how much I love going fast. I love climbing. I love descending. I love going fast.
As I was about 3 miles from the finish, A guy in a Team Venezuela kit passed me.
He was a BEAST. I was watching him ride. I could keep up with him on the uphills, but he was killing me on the downhills. Now, the guy easily had 40lbs on me. Still, I started watching him descend.
I noticed that his "tuck" was extremely tight and low on the downhills. I decided to copy him. As soon as I tucked more, I was going even faster.
We turned to head into transition. Curves, downhill and an abrupt stop.
My bike was racked very close to the top.
Got my run gear, and I took off.
THE BIKE: 1st on the bike
I wear my garmin for my races. However, for the sprint, I don't look at it.
When I started the run, I had no idea what my time was. I had no idea where I was. This strategy works best for me.
It's one of the ways Liz has coached me over the years. Effort and attitude. Period. I give my best effort.
Case in point: On the swim, I ended up being 1st. Had I looked at my garmin, I would have seen that it was slower than last year's swim. This year, the conditions were such that a PR or even being a little faster weren't realistic. The next closest person to me was 2 minutes behind me.
I took off running. This course is basically 1 mile up hill, 1 mile flat, 1 mile downhill.
One mile into the run, I decide to check my garmin (to keep me honest). I'm not really running my best. Then, I remembered something that Liz said to me when I first started working with her (over 3 years ago). At the time, it made sense, but I wasn't at the point where I could implement it.
One mile into the run, I was ready to implement it. From here on out, my goal was to negative split. Now....look....one mile downhill....I get it....pretty easy to neg split. But, I added a challenge. My heart rate had to start increasing as well.
Mile 1: 10:15
Mile 2: 9:28
Mile 3: 8:40
Toward the finish, I was running all out.
I crossed the finish line and stopped my garmin.
Still having no idea what my finish time was. I knew that I felt really good about my race. It was my first race of the year, a first for many things, and I felt great about it.
I knew that this is a highly competitive race. Out here, in the west, the Rage is the first real race of the year. People travel to this race in hoards to gauge their early Spring fitness.
I never think about getting a podium. I don't think of the other women in my age group. I go out there and give the best that I can give that day. The time will be what it will be.
I decided to look at my garmin to see where I came in.
I blinked. I stared at it. I did a double check. That can't be right. a 1:27 finish time would give me a podium.
I went over to the results table.
Sure enough. I came in first.
Once again, I had messages from people telling me congratulations! (You freaky ass stalkers).
I head over to the awards ceremony, in shock. I never expected to have a HUGE PR. I never expected to podium.
I am confident in my abilities, but every time I step up on the podium, I'm beyond excited. I'm humbled. I'm honored. Mostly, I'm in shock.
I ran into Sarah. Sarah is a MSM Coach and athlete. She was racing the Olympic distance and came in 1st overall. We saw each other on the run course. She runs like a freaking gazelle. This was a "comeback" race for her as she had to take all of last year off.
One race, two winners.
I don't think I stopped smiling all day. This was so unexpected. On my drive home, I kept thinking about my BIG race in May.
I once again learned a lot from this race. I know that I have the physical and mental strength to swim well in rougher conditions.
I learned how to descend even faster.
I learned how to negative split the run and be confident in my run. I learned to trust my body to do what I need to do.
Most importantly, I did WHATEVER IT FUCK IT TAKES.