Pre-race, I drove up to Mt. Evans
Goats on Mt. Evans
Anyway, the race. This was an all-women's triathlon, which I knew would make it a little more laid back and almost party-like than the typical triathlon. It was also just a sprint (750 meter swim, 12.4 mile bike, 5K run), which in the midst of Ironman training, should have been just a drop in the bucket. But I'll admit to a huge amount of pre-race anxiety...mostly due to not having any idea how a high intensity effort would feel at altitude.
But a little pre-race workout eliminated some of the nerves, and I spent the rest of the day Saturday getting my bike emergency fixed** (someone needs to stop me, now, from ever trying to do any sort of mechanical things to my bike, even something as little as changing wheels, as it just never seems to end well for me), shopping (someone needs to stop me, now, from shopping), and then hanging out with Melissa, her husband Michael, and their adorable kids, Gabby and Fletcher, who very, very kindly allowed me to stay in their guest room the night before the race to spare me the hour-and-a-half drive in the morning.
** Thanks, Colorado Multisport, for the quick and friendly repair!
We were up and at 'em early on Sunday, and thankfully, I woke up feeling calm, ready, and a million times less anxious than I'd felt the day before. We made the short drive over to Union Reservoir, set up, warmed up, etc., etc.,... and before I knew it, the race had started and my hour+ of intense pain was underway.
After my less-than-stellar swim in the last race I did and two weeks of really sucking air every time I tried to swim at altitude, I had no idea how my swim was going to, but I took off hard and immediately found myself in second place, right behind Eney Jones. My pre-race google-stalking (come on, you do it, too) revealed that Eney was an NCAA champion swimmer, a top pro triathlete in the 80s, and still a record-holding open water swimmer who invented her own pull buoy, so I fully expected to be behind her and was happy to keep it close... for 125 meters or so. She quickly pulled away, and I just kept reminding myself to keep working, faster, faster, faster, this is a race and it's only 750 meters. I exited the water second in my wave (and ended up with the 3rd fastest swim time behind Eney and Melissa, who still rocked despite having to swim over the masses in earlier waves....amazing), and was completely and utterly gassed. As in, I'm ready to be done now and seriously, I still need to bike and run? gassed. I think, however, that was exactly how it was supposed to feel.
Onto the bike, and within a half mile, I moved into the lead. This....was huge. Leading a race was an absolute first for me, I never expected it, and frankly, as I moved to pass the lead woman, I hesitated for a second. I didn't know how to lead a race! I didn't even know the course! (Suddenly, I was haunted by the frequent reminders by my coach, before many races, to scope out and know the course...no excuses, I just didn't do my homework this time.) But I quickly snapped out of my apprehension, realized that if I was going to have an opportunity to lead a race, this one was a pretty cool place to do it, since there were no men and I'd truly be the first one coming through, and threw down the gauntlet.
The rest of the bike was just straight up fun. Don't get me wrong, I rode really, really hard. I was breathing so loudly, partly from the effort, partly from the altitude, and every time I felt like I had another bit of effort I could give, I gave it. My body was screaming at me. BUT, I had a lead motorcycle with me. That cracked me up. He'd chat with me, fall back a little, come back, give me updates on where I stood, then, when the course got crowded on the second and third loops, he'd drive forward and honk his horn to try to clear a passing lane. I loved it. I felt a little like a rock star. Yeah, yeah, it was a womens' sprint race, hardly Kona, but I can't lie, it felt amazing and I was having a blast. You gotta start somewhere, right?
As I entered T2, the fun just increased. Now, instead of a lead motorcycle, I got a narrator. I think the announcer was getting JUST a bit bored at that point, so he decided to narrate my every move through transition. Like, "now she's putting on her running shoes. And now her visor. And....she's off and running!" Except, let's just say that if there's any part of my race that does NOT need to be highlighted, it's my transitions. Particularly that one. Although he did mention that I appeared to be "fumbling" with my race number, I am extremely grateful that he omitted the fact that I completely botched the attempt to get my feet out of my cycling shoes at the end of the ride, and came running into transition all padiddle-like....one shoe on, one shoe off. That's skill right there.
Off on the run, and thanks to my narrator, I knew I had a good-sized lead. But, at first, I ran scared. My legs just didn't really want to be running. I felt uncoordinated and clumsy. But I just tried to turn it over faster and faster without falling on my face. As with the bike and swim, I could feel the altitude and knew it was making me breathe a lot harder, but I had expected it and just ignored that cue and kept moving forward. The course was an out and back on a dirt/ semi-paved road, and the highlight, just at the top of the one hill (which kicked my sea-level-living butt but was no big deal to the Colorado folks) was the aid station, manned by the twelve gentlemen pictured in the 2012 Colorado Firefighter calendar. Awesome.
When I got to the turn around and was able to scope out the competition, I saw I still had a pretty good lead, and from that point forward, it was just a mental game to keep running faster. But mostly, I was just having a lot of fun. In that last mile or so, I admit that I was a little less focused on my race that I usually am, and instead, more observant of what was going on around me. I really appreciated the cheers I got, from people on the sidelines and from other competitors heading out on their run, and I took the effort to respond and smile. A lot. Could I have run a little faster? Definitely. There was another gear there, and I admit that I didn't shift into it. But I was having a ball and I relished every moment of that run. So no regrets, at all.
In the end, I ended up winning the race by 3 and a half minutes, my first real win, and walked away incredibly refreshed and enthused about triathlon. I loved this race. It just didn't have the intense, even cutthroat atmosphere of some other races I've done. Instead, it was more of a celebration of the process...just being there was considered a victory in itself. It was refreshing. I haven't done this sport for that long, but I know that in my short time as a triathlete, I too have been guilty of getting too bogged down in the details, the data, the results, the competition, and forgetting that racing can just be really, really fun. And heading into the last stretch before Ironman, I really needed that reminder.
Some more random pictures from my last week
Every swim I did in CO was in a different pool. Here's Golden.
And Lake Dillon