I was thinking about this post when I was finishing up the bike leg of the FullRev. I was thinking, around mile 95, of excuses I could make to tell you about why I got off the bike in T2 and never left with my running shoes on. I was construing various stories that left you with the feeling of “Oh, I get it” and “If that were me, I’d do the same damned thing.”
But before I tell you these stories, I should tell you the first one.
I considered not traveling to Cedar Point at all.
I got it in my head that leaving work for five days (weekend included), in the thicket of dissertation writing, and with two campus visits coming up (one in New York City, and the other in St Louis), I just couldn’t go. I needed to work on my slides for a lecture at Hospital for Special Surgery. I needed to go through Chapter One with a fine toothed comb so I could send it to my advisor for editing. I needed to write a manuscript on stuff I did this spring, finish a manuscript for stuff I’ve been working on for nearly two years, and work on the transitions between chapters 3-8 of my dissertation. It just didn’t make sense to leave right now. Not like this.
But Baberaham wondered why I would do that. My friend AJ was going down with me, and if I didn’t go, what would he do? It would be a long drive by himself, not to mention that we were planning on staying at my parents for two nights. And my Trakkers teammates would be there, my parents could watch me race not-so-far-away, and I’d get a break for my brain.
So I went. AJ and I drove down on Thursday afternoon, headed to Cedar Point on Friday, and dinked around Sandusky for less than 48 hours before our race. We did the practice swim, we road our bikes on a crappy road with a strong headwind, and we took naps. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for the race, but I was as ready as I was going to be. Nothing I could do now, just race and see.
Race morning was pretty low key. I set the alarm for 4:15, got out of bed at 4:30, had a cup of coffee and a cup of Panda Puffs and packed up the car. Our bikes were already checked in, thanks to Rev3’s awesome pre-race bike check-in (so convenient!) and I just needed to fill bottles and my nutrition pouch. My stay-with-me bottle had four scoops of Orange EFS and 4oz of Liquid Shot mixed with water, and I affixed a Nathan Sports Propeller carry between my aero bars for a Liquid Shot flask (fits perfect, by the way). I was a little slower than anticipated, mostly because I hadn’t planned on needing to be weighed pre-race (not sure why I didn’t think about that…), but I got it all set up to go and headed to the swim start. I sipped on PreRace and Nuun on the walk over.
Lake Erie looks eerily calm
Swim: I sprayed my ankles and wrists with TriSlide and slipped into my wetsuit. The water was cold, which was amazing. I expected the water temperatures to be high and wetsuits to be illegal because the summer temps had been so high. Before the race, I was getting nervous and excited. The pros were delayed 10 minutes, which only extended the nervousness a little more. I was looking forward to the swim, though, because I’ve been working on it lately. And to be honest, I’ve never felt better, more in control, than I felt on today’s swim. I was smooth and fluid, I found feet, and I felt fast. Granted, my time wasn’t fast, but I think that had a little to do with the chop (especially on the second loop). I am not sure if the in-and-out-and-back-in swim course made times slower, either, but I definitely felt faster than I did last year at IMWI, even though my time was the same. However, Madison was a clusterf* of people, and there were times where I didn’t have to actually swim and I was moving as fast as everyone else. The thinner crowd at the Rev3 race might have made things a little slower in that reason alone. Not that I’m complaining though, I’d rather not get punched in the head or stomach…
2.4 mile swim: 1:14
T1 was fast for me, since I didn’t grab my gear bag and just headed straight for my bike. I actually thought it would be faster, but I think the chip mat to T1 exit was a little of a long run. I ripped off my suit, and it came off like butter thanks to TriSlide. I threw it in the box next to my bike, slipped on my shoes and helmet and Trakker device, and off I went. No armwarmers for me today, because even though the water was cold, the air really was not.
Bike: The bike is what I like to call the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The first ten miles or so were rough, which I expected and didn’t really care about because we had a slight tailwind and, well, I rode it the day before. And, it was the beginning of the ride. Once I got out onto the open roads, I could go a bit faster, and averaged anywhere from 15-26mph.
The good: We cruised through the town of Edison, which was cool and somewhat Tour-de-France-esque, and popped out onto one road that was absolutely amazing. Smooth as glass and a tailwind to boot, and cruising at 26mph was easy with a 54 chainring. But, turn the corner fifteen miles later and the road turns to chipseal. Aid stations were plentiful, miles were marked every 10, which was awesome, and draft marshals were out in full effect. Traffic on the course was minimal as well! My nutrition was spot on, and not having an aero drink bottle was worthwhile. I missed a few bottles of water at the aid stations but they weren’t essential. I always had a bottle of water in one cage and a bottle to sip from that had EFS and Liquid Shot in it. The Nathan Propeller carrier was perfect, too, and the flask and EFS bottle stayed with me the whole way.
I yo-yo’d with a woman on the bike for both laps. She caught me on the rough stuff and barreled ahead of me until she was out of sight. Then, I would I blow by her thanks to my extra toothed chainring on the flat, tail-wind-assisted roads, and not see her in my wake. I have no idea how she could catch me, and she probably had no idea how I could find her again. The last time she passed me, on the chipseal of the second lap, I stopped to turn my wheel around (I got paranoid that running it the other way would propagate the small gash in my tire I got a few weeks before), and I never saw her again in the saddle.
The bad: The chipseal wasn’t so bad, in reality, but the wind was. It was demoralizing. You wanted to go 22mph, you knew you could (the road looked flat, right?), but you couldn’t. Or at least I couldn’t. I sat at 15-17mph and just grumbled my way through it. And to be honest, I don’t know what is worse: hills or headwinds. Obviously, both are awful, and having them together is a death wish, but hills are at least gaugeable. They end when you get to the top and you get a break on the way down. A headwind is just a battle the whole way, until you turn off the road or throw your bike into a cornfield. Which I considered doing.
My left leg started getting sore about twenty miles into the bike, and it stayed sore until about mile fifty. I had a hard time shaking it, and the only thing that would relieve it was adjusting my position in the saddle to stretch out my IT band. However, by doing so hurt my crotch even more.
My stomach hurt, too, and at first it was because I was so hungry when I started riding. I ate a Snickers bar about twenty minutes in and that held off the hunger pangs, but my intestines did not want to move anything through for another hour or so. I should have sat up to let things settle, but I didn’t want to sit up going into the headwinds. Eventually, it settled.
Oh, and from the time I got onto the bike to the time I got off, I had to pee.
The ugly: One sweet part of the race was the choice of doing the FullRev or the HalfRev. I liked having the halfers out there on the course, because it split things up, took my mind off what I was doing, and put more people on the course. Not that I like more people, but there were plenty of times where I was completely by myself. One example of this was not intentional though. I was passing a halfer up a hill around mile 95, so I took to the left of the lane and passed. Only, I passed him at an intersection where people were standing. I was looking for cops, but I didn’t see any, so I continued through. I heard someone yell something about bikers, but just continued on. There was a guy ahead of me before the intersection that I’d keep my sights on, but with the rolling hills I couldn’t see farther than 200yards ahead. Eventually, I could see farther out, but I couldn’t see him. Could he have got so far ahead of me in that short of time? Hmm. Kept going, until I got to an intersection with lots of cars, no police, and no signs. What? The? Heck! I took a wrong turn somewhere. No later did I say this to myself than do I see a minivan pull up behind me to yell “You gotta come back! You’re off course!” I shook my head, tears welled in my eyes, and I wanted to be done. I missed the paint markings on the road, since the halfer I was passing at the time was riding over them. And I didn’t see the turn sign because it was probably in line with the halfer as well. Or it got knocked down from of the wind. Whatever the excuse is that I come up with, I ended up adding 2.5 miles (and 8 minutes) unnecessarily to my bike. And I was soooo over being on the bike.
I wanted to ask the minivan guy if I could put my bike in his car and get a ride back to transition. I wanted to be done. I was done with chip seal, I was done with wind. And when I eventually got to Huron and had to ride through the town, I was done with that, too. A little, fuzzy, football-sized brown and black lump of fur scurried out from a bush and nearly ran between my spokes, and I was thinking that would really make me done for the day. What the eff was that? I said to myself. Out loud. I might have even yelled it. It looked like a porcupine cat. Or a porcupine Pomeranian. For whatever reason, the fuzzy unknown being stopped before running into me, and scurried back into the bush. Eff.
The bumps, the wind, the bumps, ugggh. I told myself on the way back to the park, on the eight miles of road that was bumpy, jarring, and painful in the crotchal region, that if I wasn’t having fun, I shouldn’t be doing it. And I was NOT having fun. I started making excuses to give you, my dear readers, about why I didn’t leave T2 with my chip and running shoes on. I wanted to just rack my bike and stand next to my mom and cheer for the other, more tough, more deserving athletes. The last six miles were knocking me around, the crosswinds made me want to cry some more. Eventually, I saw the turn into the park and knew there was not much left. I could not wait to be done.
I dismounted and ran into T2, handing my bike over to an amazing volunteer.
112 mile bike: 5:49
“Want me to rack it?” I asked.
“Uh, no! Go run!” He said.
And I wanted to run.
I didn’t even notice it. It was almost as if the last twenty miles hadn’t happened. I ran along the black runway without even thinking. Grabbed my transition bag without even thinking. Ran into the changing tent and dumped my bag upside down.
Two women in transition asked me if I needed any help. I told them that I did.
“What shoes should I wear?” I asked. They looked at me puzzled. “Seriously. This is an important decision.”
My Saucony Guide 3s sat next to my Fastwitch 4s. The green of the Fastwitches looked so good with my kit. The Guides felt heavy in my hands. The women wouldn’t answer me.
“It’s up to you!” They’d say.
I put the green shoes on without thinking any more about it, and one of the women asked why I wasn’t wearing socks. “You crazy athletes, not wearing socks. I can’t believe you can run a marathon without socks.” I shrugged. I should have worn socks.
I ran out of transition quickly. My feet were turning over faster than I thought they could. I felt how I feel after riding 56 miles, not 114. I tried to slow them, but they just didn’t want to. They were having a mind of their own, those legs. I swear it had everything to do with my fast shoes. They had been racing fast all season, why would they ever stop now?
I hit mile 1 a little sooner than I expected. 8:02. No way. That seems too fast. I shouldn’t feel so good after biking so long, right? I hit mile 2 soon after. 7:25. Seriously? Slow down. The Go Fast shoes wanted to go, though.
I sipped on EFS and liquid shot from my Nathan handheld flask and moved through aid stations with ease. No stopping, no walking, just moving. I didn’t take any aid, I just moved through. I felt strong, holding steady at sub 8min/mile pace. I saw AJ’s bright kit and his wicked hair as I passed mile 5, taking a mental note of where he was on the course. I held strong, focused on my form, and ticked off the miles. I passed the point where I remembered seeing AJ and realized he was two miles ahead. The math in my brain was still working, maybe I wasn’t running hard enough. If I could run 1min/mile faster than him, I could catch him. That would be hard to do, he looked strong. But there was nothing I could do about his race, I could only focus on mine. So I did.
I came through the first loop on pace for a 3:30 marathon. That just seemed too fast, but I wasn’t worried about it. My legs would take me where they wanted to take me. I shouldn’t even be running, I should be standing by the side, cheering for others, done with my day. But my legs had other plans. They were showing me they weren’t ready to quit just yet. I held steady. Strong.
I couldn’t see any other amateur women ahead of me. I saw the pros, both Kathleen and Jacqui rocking the vibrant green Trakkers kits like me. I saw some of my Trakkers teammates and gave them high fives. I should have been in the pain cave, but I felt like giving high fives.
Around mile 14 I started drinking cola at the aid stations, mixing it half and half with water in my flask so it would go flat. My quads wanted to seize up around mile 15, and I drank a cup of Cerasport. Amazingly, that kept the cramps at bay. I kept drinking it at every aid station. Ice went down my top on purpose. Cola and water filled my flask and was emptied before the next aid station.
The liners on my shoes started to fold under my toes, and I couldn’t tell if it was just that or if my feet were cramping. My toes weren’t cramping. I started a mantra in my head. No cramping, no cramping. Stretch it out. As if I could will myself away from cramping.
The run course had a lot of turns, and it was hard to see who was in front of you more than a half mile ahead. But the amazing thing about a race this long is that you can pass (or get passed) by people you were separated with by miles off the bike. And that’s exactly what happened. I passed people I remembered on the bike. People who blew by me and must have started the run a half hour before me. An hour before me. At mile 20, I told myself that a 60min 10K would get me under 11 hours. And then I was counting down the miles.
It started to hurt, whatever “it” was. I got tired, my legs got tired. My legs lost their pep. My feet hurt, my hips sank, my shoulders scrunched up around my ears. I felt sloppy and slow. But I kept moving. Two miles to go. One mile to go. My smile turned to a grimace and I ached to be done. And then I thought about the finish. My mom. My dad. Amy. Owie. They’re all there. They’re all watching. Owie was getting ready to run with me. I turned the corner and there he stood.
I grabbed his hand and we ran down the chute together. Sure, some dude passed me in the chute, but I didn’t care. I was running holding hands with a 3-yr-old across the finish line of my second ultra-distance triathlon. The volunteers at the finish lowered the tape, I felt everything from the day just float off my shoulders. I looked down at Owen’s smiling face and couldn’t help but feel like we just spent a day playing in the park. As I crossed the line, I didn’t have the emotional crash that I had at my first ultra distance triathlon (last year at IMoo). I didn’t feel like I just did what I actually just did. If that makes any sense. I did have tunnel vision, and I saw the volunteer inching toward me with the medal and I asked them to put it around Owen’s neck instead. They draped him with a foil blanket and he danced around. It was euphoric, watching him. It was almost an out of body experience. 26.2 mile Run: 3:39:20
Soon after, AJ crossed the line, and I convinced one of the volunteers to help me take off my shoes. My shoes were bloody, and I didn’t think I would be capable of taking them off myself. It was like a band-aid, and I encouraged the volunteer to treat it as such. Sure enough, my foot was anhiliated from a popped blister. I realized about three miles into the run that I had forgotten to spray the inside of my shoes with TriSlide. I have no idea how I forgot to do that, but I think my entire pre-race prep that included not thinking about the race influenced that incredibly poor foresight. I’ve raced all season with amazing results, and atmy “A” race I forget one of the most important things related to damage control. That was dumb!
Regardless, I cannot put into words how grateful I am to have continued through T2 with my running shoes on. To see my mom and dad, Owen and Amy, standing there, cheering, taking photos… it made all of the anxiety of the bike disappear. To feel the way I felt on the run is indescribable. My legs just wanted to go. To be honest, I don’t know what happened. I was convinced that, on the bike, I was done with the day. But my legs had other plans, and they ran me to a 2nd place overall finish for amateur women, with a time of 10:46.
I learned a lot about long course racing at Cedar Point that I didn’t learn before. My independent training really paid off, because I rode a lot of the bike without anyone else in sight. My carefree attitude going into (and throughout) the race paid off, too. Perhaps there is something about the long course race that makes it easier for someone a little more easy-going. One bad thing can ruin your day, and in a shorter race, like an Olympic or a half, it does. But in the long, ultradistance races, you can shrug it off and continue, perhaps even pretend like it didn’t happen. There’s not always time to fix things when bad things happen, but the day is usually long enough to work through a problem, or at least stick it out.
And I am so glad that I did stick it out. Seeing the smiling faces of my favorite support crew was the best feeling this girl could have.
I love you, Mom and Dad! I love you Owie and Amy, too. Thank you for sharing this special day with me, and for helping me after the race. Your support means so much to me!
And thank you to my sponsors, especially Team Trakkers and Rev3. Being a part of this team has really opened my horizons in the sport of triathlon and has encouraged me to try new things, push new limits, and reach new heights. Being a part of Team Trakkers has brought so much to my life in the last year! Rev3 puts on the best races, awesome for athletes as well as their families. I have never had a better race experience than what I’ve had with all three Rev3 races I’ve done this season.
And as usual, my nutrition was spot on with First Endurance, Nuun, and Honey Stinger, and awesomely accessible with cool gear from Nathan Performance Sports. My feet were fast in their FastShoes, the Saucony Fastwitch 4s. My bike was a rocketship thanks to the awesome guys at The Bike Shop.