As you may remember, I qualified for the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship to be hosted in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 11, 2013. Coming to Milwaukee for the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship was like coming full circle…back to the place where I ran the Lakefront Marathon and qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2008.
I woke up Saturday morning at 4 am, ate my pre-race breakfast (Nature’s Path Qi’a Superfood with fresh blueberries), gathered up my gear and headed down to the race site. I knew I wouldn’t start swimming until about 8:58 am, so I decided to wear comfortable clothes down to the race site, set up my transition area, inflate my bike tires and then walk the short distance back to the car to deposit the bike pump and change into my tri kit. Since I needed to be to transition at about 5:30 am to set up my area, this seemed to make the most sense. I eventually made it down to the water’s edge by about 7:15 am and began the waiting game…
Since I had quite a bit of time to wait, I soon noticed the absolutely BEAUTIFUL DAY…cue U2…
It was a PERFECT day for racing…there were few clouds in the sky, humidity was low, temperatures were in the low 70s and the winds were about 4 mph out of the north. I didn’t think it could get much better, but I was wrong…the weather got much better while I was racing!! 🙂
There was a delay by about 15 minutes to the official start of the race, because there were some problems closing the interstate so we could ride on it…yes, they closed the interstate for a triathlon…that doesn’t happen often!! Because of the delayed start, each swim wave was pushed back about 15 minutes, so I didn’t start until about 9:15 am instead of the planned start time. At about 9:05 am, we jumped off the dock and into the water where we were given about 8 minutes to acclimate to the Lake Michigan water temps…surprisingly Lake Michigan wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be 🙂 We then had to swim back to the dock and hold onto the dock in a floating swim start fashion.
When the air horn went off, it was complete pandemonium in the water. I have NEVER experienced a swim quite like this one…I know I have mentioned swim experiences in previous triathlons that are similar to rugby tournaments in the water, but this was more like a loaded washing machine on the spin cycle where not one piece of clothing has any freedom…it was FULL CONTACT for the whole swim!! “Just Keep Swimming…Just Keep Swimming…” as well as “Relax, Breathe and Swim Straight” kept playing through my head. These women were out for blood!! There was not one moment in my roughly 30 minute swim where I had open water and was not in some kind of contact with another woman in my age group…whether it was getting kicked in the goggles, hit on the arm, swam into by someone who couldn’t swim a straight line, hitting a slower swimmer in front of me or kicking someone behind me who kept swimming on my feet…swimming in this race was a full contact sport!!
As we approached the swim exit, I knew I had to swim up onto a steep ramp and that there would be volunteers there to pull me out of the water. I emerged from the water after having covered 1.5 km in 30:16 and was pulled up out of the water by my husband…I forgot to mention he was volunteering at the swim exit and pulling athletes out of the water all morning, so he got in a good strength training session while I raced. As I emerged I said, “Thanks!! Love you!!” to my husband, then ran up the ramp and down a long sidewalk into transition.
By the time I entered transition, I had my goggles and swim cap off and my wetsuit was nearly completely off…it was a long run to my bike. I quickly finished taking my wetsuit off, put on my bike shoes, helmet and sunglasses, drank some water, loaded my tri top with my spare tube, tire lever and CO2 cartridge, grabbed my bike and headed out on the road. T1 time was 4:00…I chalk that up to the incredibly long run from the swim exit to my bike and out the other side…
As I started out on the bike, I quickly found my rhythm and mentally recapped my swim…I was so pleased with how well I kept my focus and didn’t let all of the contact in the swim negatively affect me. Now I was on the bike, so it was time to do what I came to do…give it my all. As I was cycling, I kept thinking what a BEAUTIFUL DAY it was…cue U2… The sun was still shining, so I was able to warm up a bit from the 69.4 degree Fahrenheit water temperatures of Lake Michigan. At about mile 10 I rode up onto the interstate…it was a decent climb, but I did not get out of my big chain ring at any point during the race, so it wasn’t too steep 🙂 “I am strong. I am tough.” It was between mile 10 and 13 that I noticed the clouds moving in…YES!! That would make the conditions on the run even better…What a BEAUTIFUL DAY…cue U2… I rolled into transition after having covered 40 km on the bike in 1:20:38, which was an average speed of 18.5 mph…WAHOO!!
I was quicker in T2…having to only change my shoes, grab my visor, race number, nutrition and run out onto the course…but still had quite a distance to cover in transition, so my T2 time was 2:19.
As I started the run, I felt like my pace was a bit fast, but I decided to go with it and see just how long I could hold onto it. “Think strong, be strong, finish strong.” I was feeling great!! I was thinking just how lucky I was to be running in the footsteps of some amazing people, when I happened to run up to a very inspirational person at about mile 4, so I stopped and walked with her briefly…Sister Madonna Buder, age 83…I said, “Sister Madonna, you are such an inspiration.” She said, “Thank you, but it gets harder every race.” I said, “But you are out here doing it and inspiring others.” She said, “God bless you child.” Gave me a hug and I ran off re-energized all the way to the finish, where I crossed the finish line with a run split of 51:49 for the 10 km run, which was an average pace of 8:20.
I received my medal from Chrissie Wellington, who also gave me a hug and then I went to the results tent to find out my official finish time…ANOTHER PR!! 2:49:03 was my official finish time…this didn’t qualify me for Team USA at the Worlds Championship, but I pushed my limits, broke my previous PR by almost 4 minutes and had a lot of fun!! 🙂
After crossing the finish line, Dad was waiting for me. It was so nice to have him there cheering me on and supporting me throughout the day in what he refers to as “crazy.”