I looked forward to this race for a long time. As this year went on, and especially after the Ironman, I realized that I really like triathlons and I couldn't wait to do another one. I tried to do a few others, but the timing was never right with Zach's travels this year. I had signed up for this one early on, so I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I decided I wanted to place top 5 overall and hopefully win my age group.
As time went on, I focused a lot on training for the Huntsville marathon because I had set the goal to qualify for Boston. As running workouts became my focus, I neglected my swim and bike. So, going into the race, I mentally prepared myself and thought about how I had not trained correctly to expect to be as good as I originally planned. However, I still was hopeful that I could perform well and thought my mentality could play a big part in the race.
The water was pretty warm and I did not think that wetsuits would be allowed. I raced without one, only to find out it had dropped a small amount the morning of. This affected my overall swim, so in addition to not having practiced much and not wearing a wetsuit, my swim time wasn't awesome. But, my plan had been to swim hard and the get out on the bike and push it as hard as I could. I had done so much run training that I figure I could handle that ok on tired legs. So, I pushed. I was flying past a lot of men early on, and never saw any women until about nine miles in. So I started to count because the turn around was just up ahead. I thought I counted five or six, so I was pretty excited to continue pushing and see if I could pass some on the run.
I passed a few women and then after the turnaround a lady caught up to me. We went back and forth until I just let her stay ahead for a bit. My legs were starting to feel the effort I was exerting, but I wanted to hang on to her. I didn't let the space between us get too big. We were heading up the backside of the hill by the lake when I caught her again. At this time, another lady passed us like we weren't even going fast! I thought "if she is that fast, where has she been?!" The first lady and I were pretty close together til the end when I passed her and didn't look back. (She gave me a disclaimer as we were riding: she had raced in the 70.3 World Championships that Sunday, so she was still tired. :))
I figured there were only a few women in front of me, and I was determined to catch the only one who had passed me. I was feeling the jello legs a little bit, but knew that I had a strong run in me. I kept a steady pace the whole way, and passed the speedy bike woman about a mile in...she was 50 and told me that the bike was her strongest part. I kept going, passing men like crazy. I don't think much feels better than that in a race to me because I have always acknowledged that men are, on average, better athletes than women. So when you put two fit people, and man and a woman, and the woman comes out ahead, I think that is a pretty impressive feat. I had a few guys who were already heading back in cheer me on, I think because I was the only girl around. But, I knew there were a few ahead of me. I finally saw them right before the turnaround, they had already passed it! I cheered them on as I counted each one. Still, I wasn't sure if it was five or six...My mind wasn't totally on counting. My legs were feeling pretty tired at this point, but I knew for the sake of the race and the sake of my marathon training, I had to suck it up and push through. I never caught any of the other ladies, but I fought pretty hard at the end of the race and felt proud of my effort.
As we waiting for initial results to come through, I was able to chat with the girl who I assumed took first (I had seen her in the lead) and the lady the passed me on the bike and I passed her on the run. They were extremely humble and down to earth people that I enjoyed talking to.
Initial results had me in 5th! 1st place age group! I was elated. Even without correct training I had achieved my goal! I couldn't stop smiling. I went to get some of my stuff and realized that I didn't even notice my time. So I headed back to check it and I had moved down to 6th. The 50 year old lady had ended up twenty seconds ahead of me, since her wave started after mine! A little bit of a let down, but I was still extremely pleased. As I looked at the results, 5th was 20 seconds behind me, 4th 3rd and 2nd were all about a minute and twenty seconds behind me, and first was I think seven. I was excited it was so close, but then it became a bit of a bummer because if I had worn my wetsuit I was pretty sure I would have saved a few minutes on the swim and could have possibly taken 2nd! Wouldn't that have been awesome?!
I still walked away from that race very happy with the result. Not only had I performed as best as I felt I could have, I just about met all the goals I had for the race. The thoughts about "what-ifs" came after, but all that really does is add fuel to my desire to train harder and perform better next time!