IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Monday, July 30, 2007

Stinger of a Ride

After missing my Saturday run due to the shin splint issue, I was dying to get in a nice ride on my bike yesterday. Weather looked perfect, route was said to be pretty flat, and I was planning on riding with some pretty quick folks who were sure to make me work hard.

We arrived, signed in, made a bathroom break, picked up a cue sheet and very quickly started off on the ride. Over the past week, I dropped my handle bars down one spacer just to see if I could be more comfortable riding a bit more aero. Unfortunately, I know there is a point where you're going to lose power when you do this, but since I don't have a power meter, I am not going to be sure if this move is a good thing, but I wanted to see how it would feel. Very quickly, we got into a good pace. And it started to feel like we were hammering. I was uncomfortable, yet holding a solid pace. We passed a group of guys that ended up latching on and it bugged me. I sort of wanted to just slow down so they would pass, but I also wanted to see how long they were actually going to draft off WOMEN. So it went for the first 20 miles, we'd slow down for an intersection, yell "clear", the dudes would fly past us around the corner and as soon as we got our groove back, we'd pass them and they'd jump back on our wheels. It was a bit aggravating.

At the first stop we caught up with the Salt Creekers. This made for a nice little break in the pace. I didn't think I could've kept up the whole ride at the pace we took out the first 20 miles. I'm uncomfortable again. Spent the next section sort of chatting and riding. Pace was still strong, but not crazy. We talked about recent races, upcoming races and how training was going. It was pretty cool, all but one in this group was training for an upcoming Ironman. At the next stop, I raised my seat up a little. When I took the back bottle cages off this morning, I think I might've put the seat back on a little too low and it was taking it's toll.

Our stops were fast - maybe 5-7 minutes. Just enough to give everyone time for a quick pit stop and to refill water bottles. There was definitely no lollygagging around. We were on a mission! I hopped back on my bike and immediately, my position felt better. It's amazing what just a fraction of an inch can do for positioning. There was a section of road on this stretch (I think it was on this stretch) that was rough. Bump, bump, bump....much like that final stretch of Muncie. And they were too frequent to get out of the saddle each time they came by. It was painful. My aerobottle kept bouncing around and making a lot of noise.

We kept running into this dude training for his first Ironman. We'd pull up to him on the bike and then he'd speed up. Just enough so that we couldn't pass him. It became comical after a while. Not sure at what point this happened, but we started cruising along and I was in the biggest gear I could be in. I came up on the guy and started to slow down, I didn't want to be playing any cat and mouse games. But my group just kept going, so I was like, OK, but we'll have to fly by him fast so he doesn't even think about pulling back ahead. It worked. We dropped him like a ton of bricks. I felt a little sorry for him. But if he wouldn't be trying to be all macho, like he has to be in front the whole time, I guess I wouldn't have tried to make it a point to crush him. It was a little fun. He caught up to us at the next stop and tells us that this is his first long ride. His Ironman is in 4 weeks. He's doing Steelhead next week and Pleasant Prairie 2 weeks later. Is this dude crazy?

Speaking of CRAZY - look who just passed by - Sheila! WHAT? What is she doing? She just did Lake Placid last week. Shouldn't she be recovering? Unfortunately, she was on the way out, so we didn't get a chance to talk to her until the next stop, but when we did, she looked and sounded good. She definitely didn't sound like someone who is recovering from an Ironman! Sheila had a great race out there, of course, she will tell you that it wasn't all that great, but I guess we're all our own worst critics.

We dwadle just a little at the last rest stop when Eileen misplaced her gloves and had to go back to find them, but still, I don't think we were there more than 10 minutes. Everyone was feeling a little tired at this point, so we actually started our first paceline of the ride. The macho dude even snuck into the line for a little while, but it was clear he was a loner and he dropped off the back pretty quickly. There were also a lot of little ruts in the road covered by tar. When your tires got caught in those ruts, it was a little scary and you had to make sure you had a good grip on the handle bars because they'd start doing their own thing. In fact, it kinda felt like bumper bowling, your tire would hit one side, then the other, then back to the first side, and it just happens whether you want it to or not. Very frightening when it's happening to the person you're drafting off of!

The pace was good, but the wind was picking up. Then, with maybe 30 more minutes to go, a bee flew into my sunglasses. He got right through the top and flew into my left eye. He then got stuck between my face and the sunglasses and proceeded to sting me! I screamed and yanked off my glasses, but he was still hanging on, stinger stuck in my face. I swatted him off, but the damage was done. Everyone was wondering what the hell was going on, but I was not quite sure myself, it was happening so fast! Was I really stung or did I just get hit with a bug? No, it had to be a sting because it hurt. All the while, we kept the pace strong. After all, there wasn't anything we could do and our ride was near the end.

We kept the pace strong, but lost a couple people in the group. As my face started swelling up, our pace continued, even getting stronger, it seemed. I rode with anger. I could feel the skin under my left eye puffing up, but I could still see just fine. We were still going strong and so engrossed in the ride, we missed a turn. Next thing you know, we're lost. Well, not lost, but no where near the car! Huh? Some friendly riders point us in the direction of where we're supposed to be and we head on back, my face throbbing.

Excellent ride. I felt great the whole time and I think the pace was strong. I didn't even look at the avg mph, but I will check it out the next time I go out on the bike. I looked in the mirror and my face was only just a little swollen. It hurt, but wasn't too bad. I took some Tylenol when we left and as soon as I got home, I took some Benadryl.

Benadryl is awful. Within 30 minutes, I could barely hold my head up. I had to go lay down. It knocked me out for about 2 hours. Face still looked OK, went out to dinner and went to bed.

However, bad things happen overnight and the skin around my left eye is all puffed up. It looks like I was punched in the face. And it hurts terribly. It also itches, but I can't scratch it, because it hurts too much. I took this shot as soon as I woke up. Unfortunately, it's swelling even more as I'm typing this. Ice feels good, but I can't work while I'm holding an ice pack to my face! Guess I won't be swimming because goggles would hurt. So now I can't run and I can't swim. WTF??!?!?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

How much is too much?

In the past several weeks, I've noticed a nagging shin pain. Sort of the pain like you get with shin splints. At least, that's what I think it is. And, being the typical Type A, obsessive compulsive freak that I am, I have not stopped running. Oh no, if I skip a run work out, that will ruin my plans and I will lose all my fitness, right? No, wrong. The telltale sign for me this week was when I stopped during a run to take a quick break. Starting back up, the shin was screaming with pain and I had to sort of hobble/limp to get started. Once I'm running again, the pain is tolerable.

But I know that I'll never be able to do my Ironman if I don't nip this in the bud. Well, the shin has been bothering me for over 4 weeks now, can I still call this "nipping it in the bud?" Anyways, after that horrible run, I've been good to my shin. For the past several days, this ice pack has been my friend. 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off, yadda, yadda, yadda. This is getting boring already and I don't feel like it's any better. How do I know if it's any better? I don't know, I'd have to run on it, but then I fear I will undo all the "good" I've done in the past few days trying to get rid of the little annoyance. But then how much longer do I have to ice and stay off it?

I thoroughly believe that as athletes, our minds play tricks on us. So if we skip a workout or take an unplanned day off, we start to feel guilty or worse...GETTING SLOWER! And, sure, I've read all the stuff about you gotta recover to get stronger and all that stuff, but when I have an unplanned day off, it's like the time creeps by so slowly. That's the same day when you see a dozen different runners throughout the day, out on their workout. Or the same day when you get a call from a friend who says they just had the most amazing, tough, awesome workout. We start thinking, oh man, what am I doing? I'm such a slacker. I haven't worked out in ages (it's been about 14 hours), I'm losing everything I've worked for! It's only AFTER that period of rest or inactivity is over and you're back in the daily grind that you can look back and say, "gee, I only missed a couple days, no big deal." But at the time, it feels like an eternity. Why does the mind work that way?

Time to go get the ice pack. :(

Monday, July 16, 2007

Muncie Endurathon 2007

I did this race in 2005. I remembered just 3 things about this race: There is a section in the swim where you are blinded by the sun, the bike course is flat, fast and has very few turns and the run was tough with it's small, rolling hills. Notice the flag in this picture. This was before the race started and the winds picked up as the day went on. It's a good thing I didn't notice this before the race.

My wave was made up of several age groups of women. I think it was W30-49 or something, so it was a good sized group. At the last minute, they made it wetsuit-legal, which isn't my preference, but if everyone else wears a wetsuit, then I just go with a wetsuit. I don't even think I heard the gun sound, but I took off when everyone around me started swimming. Almost immediately, I saw a girl taking off and she was the ideal speed for me to draft off of....not too fast, not too slow. I had to work a little to jump on her heels and then I started coasting. We pulled away from the pack pretty quickly and I was enjoying my draft. Then she started pulling right. She stopped quickly, I almost crashed into her, she sighted and corrected and went off swimming again. Within seconds, she was back off course and I was bummed. I lost my draft. I watched her pull much too far to the right and she was way inside the buoys at this point, so off I went on my own. The water was pushing everyone to the right and I only noticed it after I left her heels. I had to take much stronger pulls with my left arm to keep straight on the course. I made it around the first buoy pretty easily and settled into a nice rhythym for the next stretch. I started hitting packs of people from the wave before me just around the second turn, so that made the turn a little tricky. See, many people slow down and do breaststroke kick around the turn and if you don't watch carefully, that's when you can easily get kicked in the face. I kept my head up around the turn and tried to navigate through the swimmers.

Then the sun hit. It was, just as I remembered, directly in our faces. Look for the big buoys! Yeah, right, you just cannot see anything. The sun is so bright and it's reflecting off the water, I couldn't see the other swimmers until I was almost touching them. You follow them, hoping they're going in the right direction, but you just can't tell. I tried to just sight from small buoy to small bouy, since they are closer, but even then, you just can't see that far in front of you. I think I sighted every breath for maybe 300 yards. I could sometimes see boats/kayaks trying to point out the course for us, but it was still difficult. Thankfully, that section wasn't too long and we turned again and though the sun was in my face when I breathed to the left, sighting was now a piece of cake and I could easily see the swim finish. However, the waves seemed to have picked up at this point. I was happy I'm a left-side breather as I felt the waves smashing against the right side of me on that whole last leg in. I felt pretty relaxed as I swam until my hand hit the sand. I got up out of the water and started running up to transition. Now I felt sluggish and my legs felt heavy. I stepped to the side, off the mat, to take my wetsuit off, then jumped back on the mat to finish running into T1. Slower swim than I had 2 years ago, but not too bad.

My transition went smoothly and as soon as I got on the bike, I was freezing. I tried not to think about it because I knew I'd warm up soon enough. There was a section on the course where you ride through a bike path, and I remembered that to feel very fast. This year, I wasn't going quite as fast, but I was keeping a good pace. Then we turned out onto the street and it felt windy. My speed dropped considerably and I tried to get as aero as possible. I kept looking down at my odometer and it said 2.00. What? I've been riding for 25 minutes, I know I've gone more than 2 miles. I looked down again a little later and it said 1.99. I had to laugh. What was I doing, going backwards?? OK, stop looking at the odometer and just pay attention to time. I tried to remember to drink and reposition myself on the saddle every 15 minutes. Next turn, wind hit us harder. I cannot believe I'm having another ride with the most ridiculous of wind conditions! I decided 2007 is definitely the year of the wind. In all my riding up until this year, I've never experienced these awful windy conditions. I was passed by lots of men and maybe 2-3 women. I lost count. My shoes were strapped on too tight and were pinching the tops of my feet, but I didn't stop to adjust them. I tried to focus on a strong cadence and this kept me in low gears for most of the ride. The wind was relentless and it seemed to constantly be against us. How come we couldn't catch a break?

At the turn around, I decided that was it...that was where we were going to have a nice, strong tailwind. And we DID! For about 3 minutes I rode at 28mph and was happy. Then the crosswind started back up. You've got to be kidding. This is so much harder than I remember. We must've had tailwind the whole time the year I did it because I remember it feeling effortless. This was NOT effortless and it was so difficult, I thought about quitting. I don't want to be beat up in the wind for 56 miles and then have to turn around and RUN 13 miles. This sucks. Why am I doing this again? My legs were already so tired from fighting the wind. We started through this residential area and we seemed to get a little relief from the wind. Then we were back out in the middle of nowhere on this really rough road. I started standing up over all the little bumps because I was already extremely uncomfortable and those bumps, that came in a solid little rhythym, were just killing me. Another turn and I was losing control of the front wheel. I kept having to pull the handlebars fiercely to the right to keep from falling over. This is ridiculous! Just then, I saw the transition area. Whew!

I got off at the dismount line and the 2 guys in front of me acted like the race was over. They started casually walking and talking as they headed into T2. I had to run around them with my bike. I heard people cheering for me, but I remained focused. OK, 13 miles to go. Man, my legs are tired, but I am so happy to be off that bike!

I grab my Clif Shots, some Aquaphor (in case I start chafing in the long 13 miles) and my visor. A volunteer yells at me that I don't have a bib on. Ah, but I do, it's just tucked under the shirt! I hear the saint tell me "Good bike, man it's really windy out there!" "Yeah" was all I could reply as I thought to myself "No shit, Sherlock." I know he means well, but he has no idea how tough it was nor the negative thoughts I had going on during those grueling 56 miles.

I try to mimick in my head the sound of my metronome. The metronome keeps my cadence high. I could hear lots of feet behind me and I could also hear that my turnover was much quicker than most of these people, which is what I want. More men pass me, left and right, and depressing as it can get, I expect it. This one guy, who started a wave behind me, caught up to me and struck up a conversation. We chatted about the difficulty on the bike, our respective tri clubs, where he was from, what Ironman races we've done, what other races we've planned for this year, and blah, blah, blah. It was nice to have him to run with for a few miles because it kept the pace strong and made the time go by faster. But then I lost this guy at an aid station. I kept thinking he'd catch back up, but he never did, and I didn't stop to wait.

The miles kept going by and the aid stations were plentiful and well-stocked. I rotated grabbing a water with grabbing a cup of ice. I have a tendency to gulp too much water and I remember walking very many miles of this race 2 years ago due to heat and stomach problems. Heat was definitely not a factor this year, so I just needed to control my fluid intake. I was really thirsty, but gulping down water just leaves me with a sloshy stomach, so the ice seems like the next best thing. I did get caught in a Gatorade exchange as the volunteer on my right tried to hand a runner on my left a cup, well, Gatorade all down the side of my leg. The volunteer apologized, but it really didn't bug me. My quads were burning and that little incident just helped me take my mind off the pain I was feeling.

I was passed by an older woman and she was just flying by on the run. I did notice that she slowed her pace once she was a bit ahead of me, but I just didn't have the energy or desire to try and catch her. I was at mile 7 trying to work the clock to figure out what kind of time I would have, but my mind plays games with me and I start to think I only have 4 miles left. Then when I realize I have 5, I quit trying to figure out anything and just try to focus on the run. My breathing is quite controlled, but my legs are screaming. Much like the pain I felt in the Dallas Half Ironman earlier this year. I remembered how bad I felt during that race, and it was for much longer, so I just tried to think about what was feeling GOOD. The temperature (to me, anyway) was good. It wasn't raining. The wind was refreshing, though a little strong, cooled us down a bit. The course was nice. My feet weren't being pinched by those bike shoes any more...though I could feel a blister developing on my right arch.

I kept going and hitting my watch at the mile markers and my splits stayed amazingly consistent. This helped give me a mental boost around mile 9, but it also left pretty quickly, before mile 10! Then I just kept saying to myself, OK, just 3 more miles...and then compare it to 3 miles at Waterfall Glen. OK, just 2 miles...and I thought about how humiliated I was 2 years ago when I walked past a house with a big crowd in front and they cheered for me. And I was walking. It felt horrible. I vowed to myself I would not be walking past that house this year. Then there was a pretty big uphill ahead. There was a volunteer telling the runners - just up the hill, then you'll see the finish. I put my head down and just focused on the few steps in front of me. It seems easier than focusing on the top of the hill. Slowly, but surely, I made it to the top, quads begging me to stop, but I pushed on. I had no "kick", I only had the pace I was going and stop...I chose to keep the pace I was going. I could see the saint and some other friends along the finish line and I tried to smile, but just couldn't do it. I already knew this was going to be a PR for a LOT. I wanted to finish strong, slap hi-5s and dance down the finish chute, but had no energy. I just wanted to be across the finish line so I could stop. And just like that, my new Half Ironman PR was set.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Record-Breaking Ride!

Well, on Wednesday, the Chicago Triathlon Luna Chix broke our own record for the number of riders we had at a weekly ride. We had absolutely perfect riding weather (OK, maybe it was a little windy), but the temperatures were cool and comfortable.

As always, our rides are welcome to everyone and we have a policy that no one gets dropped. Concerned our ride won't be fast enough for you? We have several very quick riders that go a little further distance. And our sprint sections are enough to keep anyone challenged.

This weekly ride is really a great group of people. Everyone is friendly and helpful and egos are left behind. So if you've been thinking about joining us, now is the perfect time. Next Wed, 7/18, we will also be hosting a free bike clinic immmediately following our ride. If you have any questions about how to change a flat tire, general bike maintenance or minor bike adjustments, you'll definitely find value in this clinic. Otherwise, just come out for the ride!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

It Takes Two

As CJB and I drove down to the 2 Man TT (Time Trial) this morning, I think we were both sort of "testing" each other out. What did we expect from one another? He's been riding very strong all year and I wondered how much I would hold him back. We always say things like, "Yeah, we're just in this for fun," and yadda, yadda, yadda. But the truth is that we're both super competitive and neither of us wants to let the other one down, so we end up pushing each other to the limit.

As with the other bike races I've done, there were lots of different team jerseys and a pretty huge bike-geek factor going on. Lots of aero helmets (sorry, CJB!), disc wheels and even those fancy shoe cover things that supposedly make you more aerodynamic. The intimidation factor is high and I start to wonder why I even try to compete at cycling events. I said hi to a few Apache members and CJB and I headed back to our bikes to get in a quick warm up. Even though we were one of the early starts, it was already getting hot out.

We waited nervously in the corral waiting for our turn to start. Neither of us was feeling very spunky today, but I think we both knew we would be laying it all on the line today, no matter how bad it was going to feel. The starter guy gave us a countdown and we shot out of the start quickly. Within seconds, our speeds shot up to 25 and 26mph. WOW, I thought, we're really flying! Even though CJB and I haven't done a ride together in....hmmm...6 months?....a year?....well, no matter, our exchanges, planned every 30 seconds, went very smoothly. We soon caught and passed the team that started just one minute ahead of us. The pace was still very strong, but it was early. And soon we would pay as we made our first right turn and headed into the wind. Crap. It was tough. With each pull, I could feel my legs working much too hard for so early on in the race, so I started cutting my pulls short. And CJB was a trooper and he held to the 30 second rule and sometimes even pulled longer. He knew I was struggling. The sweat was dripping off both of us as I kept trying to focus on keeping my cadence up. I couldn't wait for the next turn.

Around the turn we went, me in front this time (I was dropped fast on the first one), and stronger, more powerful winds smacked us in the face. I wanted this to be over. Dare I tell CJB that I couldn't do this any more? This was so hard, and every time he pulled in front of me, I would drop and have to ask him to slow down. I certainly wasn't having any fun at this point and I couldn't believe we had a whole second loop to do. The team we passed now passed us back and we had nothing more to give at this point. I again tried to focus on my cadence and kept waiting for the next turn.

On the third turn, we were met with a huge relief from the wind. Our speeds picked up again quickly and, once again, we passed that same team. I must admit, it felt good, but I also knew that we had to face those two terrible stretches again, so we shouldn't be hammering just yet. But it felt so good to go fast! We had to slow down considerably around the next turn as the team in front of us deliberately threw down a water bottle, but didn't make it to the side of the road, so it rolled around in the middle. A volunteer jumped out in the street to pick it up, but missed just as another team was passing us with their disc wheels. There was too much going on - the other team, the volunteer, and the rolling water bottle. The best way to get through that turn was to take it slow and make sure we stayed with rubber to the road.

Then we saw another team and I began the chase. CJB kept trying to slow me down, conserve energy. But the eye of the tiger gets the best of me and I pull and keep the pull enough to pass that team. It didn't take long for them to pass us back. UGH! I can't give up that easily, and I go after them again, this time just before that dreaded turn into the wind. Surprisingly, I take it much better this time and it doesn't feel quite as painful. CJB seems to be struggling a little and I realize that I made him do most of the work on the first loop. Oh man, this better not come back to bite us! So now I try to take a little bit longer pulls and our speed seems agonizingly slow. However, a look down at the computer shows 17-18 for most of the stretch and I decide that's not so bad for this ridiculous wind. We make the turn into the second-to-last stretch and once again, the headwind hits us like a ton of bricks and the speed drops considerably. Once again, every time CJB pulls ahead of me, I drop a bit back. But I refuse to ask him to slow down for me anymore, I just start hammering, knowing that once I jump on the wheel, it will feel better.

Now I'm counting down the miles for us. Our conversations are at a minimum as we both struggle for breath. I do feel like we were drawing strength from each other. Deep down, I was wishing he would just slow down so I could catch a break and I have to wonder if he was thinking the same thing. It would be so easy for us to slow down. But of course, neither of us said a thing as we kept pushing on.

I couldn't help but smile as we rounded the last turn. We were greeted with a nice tailwind and, just as in the first loop, our speeds skyrocketed back up to the mid-20s. GO! We have just 2.5 miles left. We went back to our 30 second pulls and with each one, each of us got stronger. I think this was our fastest stretch of the race and it was brutally hard, but neither of us let up. I could now see the finish and I shifted into the highest gear I had. I heard CJB yell "I'm off!" and I yelled "KEEP GOING, WE'RE ALMOST THERE!" I knew he could give a few strong pedals and he'd be right there. And so he caught up fast and we crossed the line with a strong finish and feeling great about the effort.

I know I couldn't have gone as fast without him. I only hope I was able to hold up my end of the bargain. Time trials are a great way for teammates to bring out the best in each other and encourage each other to continue and push on, even when you think you can't. I have no idea how we ranked compared to the other teams yet, but no matter what, we gave it our best effort and that feels good.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Every Second Counts

It was a last-minute decision to enter the Lakeside Triathlon today. On Saturday afternoon, the Saint and I packed up Gus and the dog and headed downstate to packet pick up. Things started out rough. After several stops to take care of business (I really need to not get one of those 42 oz Diet Cokes before a long car ride!), being pulled over, sub-par service for a mediocre pasta dinner and having to go out and sleep in the car in the middle of the night due to a noisy air conditioner, I hadn't much hope for the race.

I arrived in transition with several bikes already on my designated rack. One of the bikes was the fancy QR Lucero. In the space next to it, I saw the aero helmet, shoes attached to the bike and held up with rubber bands like the pros and elites do, and I didn't notice any socks next to the very tiny running shoes. This woman must be fast. If I was going to beat this woman, it was my only hope that she couldn't swim! The race was on the small side and it took me a few minutes to realize that all the women were in just one wave and we were starting last. There were maybe 4-5 different racks and it was impossible to see which ones were in my age group since we were so spread out.

BC and I headed out for a quick warm-up run about a half hour before the race start. Right out of transition was a pretty decent uphill. We were only running for about 90 seconds and I was already sweating and breathing hard. At the top of the hill, the course turned and there was a nice downhill section. We got to the bottom of that hill and immediately turned around and went right back up the hill. Ugh, we'd have to do this on both the bike and the run! It was nice to know that both sections were going to end with a short downhill at the end.

I saw a young girl hop in for a warm up swim and knew immediately she was going to be someone I needed to watch. I made sure I lined up near her at the start in hopes to catch her feet right at the start. The countdown began and our wave was started. And sure as I predicted, this girl took off and I sprinted to tuck in behind her. On my right, I watched another very strong swimmer just shoot on out and I knew there was no way I could even draft off her. She was even faster than the woman at Subaru who took off and left me in the dust! Within 30 seconds, I was breathing heavy and my arms and legs felt heavy with lactic acid. I wished I didn't have a wetsuit on. I kept on behind the young little speedster and tried to settle in. Unfortunately, she was going wide and I decided I didn't need to be taken off course, so I made a straight shot for the buoy and let her swim away off to the right. I was out on my own now and I focused on controlling my breathing.

I got to the 3rd buoy, the orange triangle, and I was ready to turn. But no one was turning! Huh? What's going on? For the first time in a long time, I stopped in the middle of the swim to look around. Is everyone just mistakenly going off course or am I still supposed to be going straight? Well, I couldn't tell if some people were turning, so I decided I'd better just follow and hope the crowd was right. As I got closer to the white buoy that I thought was just to keep boats away from shore, I realized it was a Red Bull buoy and yes, in fact, we were SUPPOSED to go out that far! Jeez! Wish I had known that before I started! I swam out past the buoy and made a smooth turn. The next straight shot went smooth and though my arms still felt heavy and I wasn't kicking at all, I was feeling pretty comfortable. Turn again at another white Red Bull buoy and all of a sudden, it felt like I was in the middle of the swim at the Accenture Chicago Triathlon! There were people everywhere and I must've sighted every other stroke to avoid getting kicked in the face or swimming over people (well, OK, I only swam over 2 people, but it wasn't on purpose...I mean, sometimes when you're caught in the middle of 2 people and one starts swimming crooked, the only way to keep momentum is to swim over the weaker of the 2 swimmers!)

And as I went around one of the swimmers, I saw another girl just about a half a body length behind me on the left. Shoot! Here it happened again, someone had been drafting off me the whole time and now she was about to get out in front of me! I have to admit, I'm pretty easy to draft off of...I'm steady and I don't kick. It makes me an easy target. And she was good because I never knew she was there. Sure enough, though I got out of the water before her, she out sprinted me to the T1 line and ended up clocking a faster swim time than me, just like what happened in Tri-Shark! Ah well, what can you do?

The transition area was quite close to the water, and amazingly enough, the wetsuit came off effortlessly. I did have some rocks stuck to the bottom of my feet that would bother me later, but I was in too much of a hurry to get out of T1 before my drafter, so I quickly got my shoes, helmet and sunglasses on and raced this woman to the exit of transition. She struggled to get on her bike and it was only seconds before I struggled to get on my bike. Apparently, the hill out of transition was a bit steeper than I thought and it seemed everyone around me struggled to get clipped in and moving. The guy in front of me shifted at the wrong time and his chain broke before he even got 100 feet from the mount line.

I took a deep breath and tried again to get clipped in. It was slow going up the hill, but I knew drafter was right behind me, so I needed to put some distance between us in a hurry. I was breathing heavily and my legs felt sluggish. Maybe running 11 miles the day before a race isn't exactly a good idea! The course was hillier than anticipated and we rolled up and down for the first maybe 6-7 miles. I passed the young jack rabbit of a swimmer and she looked to be struggling on the bike. The roads were a bit rough with lots of areas to avoid. Then we hit a long straightaway on a very smooth road that had a very gradual uphill. I looked down at the bike computer and I didn't like the numbers, but I was breathing heavy, it was uphill and it felt like we were fighting a headwind. I couldn't see many people in front of me and I focused on trying to pick off one rider at a time. Then I was passed by a woman, who I referred to as "51" because that was the age written on the back of her calf. I jockeyed with her for a while, then a group of men caught us just as an official came by. The guy started yelling at us that we were drafting and that we needed to back up. But none of the men moved. I wanted to try and go around them, but they were blocking on the right hand side, so I got out of the aerobars, waved my arm in frustration and let 51 ride away. I thought that would be a better alternative to a penalty.

I was slow at the turnaround, as usual, I really suck at that, but then the gradual downhill and the small bit of tailwind felt great and I cranked it up to the biggest gear I had and the miles started flying by. I could still see 51, but she was still riding very solidly and keeping a good distance between us. We were back on the rough roads now and I was counting down the miles. My legs were more fatigued than I wanted them to be as I climbed up those hills I had already ridden on the way out. The course marshalls were plentiful. I was nearly directed off course by a guy waving a flag that made it look like I had to turn, so I yelled out, "Turn here?" He yelled back, "NO - Straight!" Well, dude, then why are you pointing your flag at the street on my right?? UGH!

I saw BC running out as I was riding in and wondered how much he had gained on me in the bike. I struggled up that last hill and started flying down the other side. Unfortunately, transition was right around the corner, so you couldn't build up too much speed before hitting the dismount line. I saw just one bike on my rack and knew it was 51's. But what happened to aero helmet girl? Hmmm. Did I miss her?

Another quick transition, and I was off on the run, once again, up that hill. By the time I got to the top, I was once again, breathing heavier than I'd like to be, especially so early on in the run. I passed the first aid station, but never saw a mile marker. Then a spectator said to me, "Go get her, she's just up ahead of you!" What? Why was she telling me this? Wait a minute, is it possible that 51 was the only woman in front of me? I started looking at the runners on their way back to scope out any other females on their way back from the run. Then I spotted her in front of me. She was pretty far in front of me and though I tried to calculate her lead from the turn around, I couldn't do it, and soon I hit the turn around, more spectators yelling at me that "she" was within my reach. My plan before the race was to "kick it in" at the halfway point anyway, so off I went.

I was breathing hard and started passing other men on the course, something I'm not used to! Several of them encouraged me on and I felt almost like a pro. Game on, I could see 51 and I was reeling her in. But I was hurting and I wasn't sure how much longer I could keep the pace. But I was so close and I had to give it everything I had. As I passed mile 3, the gap was getting smaller and smaller. Then it was up that hill I had done on the warm up and now 51 was just about 20 yards in front of me. I had to push and push hard or I would run out of time to catch her. But I knew I didn't want to catch her on the uphill. I wanted to get her at the crest because I was confident I could run down the hill faster than she could. And just at the top of the hill, I made my move and passed her. It was exhilarating. I flew down the hill so fast, I was almost afraid I was going to fall over my own two feet. The fans were cheering and it wasn't until I saw the final results that I saw I crossed the line just ONE SECOND in front of 51.

A guy with a camera came over to ask me a few questions...I had just won the race!!! Herald Review

I went into the race thinking I could maybe win my age group. Coming away with winning Overall Female was much more than I hoped for. And making it such a dramatic finish, well, don't think I'll ever forget this one!