IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

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!


John from Grand Haven, MI said...


The Running Girl said...

Congrats on winning the race! I'd be happy just to place in my age group one of these days. And such a spectacular finish, too.

Kristin said...

Nice job, MJ! That's awesome! Great interview - well spoken :)

Aliy Rahn said...

MJ, you are the shit!!!

What an amazing accomplishment to win the race, congratulations!

To sayt he least, you are an abssolute inspiration!

Anonymous said...
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WD said...

Great job, first place, AWESOME! and then you put in those times on our Monday run for the last 2 miles? Damn you go girl!!!!

Kickstand Pam said...

You ROCK!!! Great job, great day, great cause. Hope to join you next year for this race :)

MJ said...
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MJ said...
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RunBubbaRun said...

Great race..

Your such a TRI studette.. Way to go...Great job out there..

Sheila said...

Nice, grrrrrl!

sdh said...

Congratulations! What an awesome accomplishment. I think my accomplishment that day was finishing two burgers, a brat, and a couple of Miller Lites. (Hey, somebody had to celebrate our country's independence.) Cool that the news camera was there. Too bad they had to get that grade school kid to interview you.

Tracy McDermott said...

Oh my gosh, I love your blog, you have me smiling from ear to ear, I am "aero helmet girl". I am so blessed right now, reading your story, I am so proud of you. So completely proud of you. Yes, I went to the HyVee Triathlon in DesMoines, and when I watced the Pro's in transition, I was inspired when I saw the 10 second transition the Pros did. So when you saw my rubber bands on my shoes, The Lakeside Triathlon was my first try at reducing my transition time. We only went there with the goal of shaving my transition time down to nothing before I got to the big race in Chicago. I was so proud that day, I got first place in "transition time". I'm so proud of you for winning the race, that brought me to tears. And yes, when I saw the list that I got first place in Transition time in T1, I too, was in tears. I had accomplished my goal that day. The rubberbands on the shoes really did work. It was so cute reading your account of me, I just was smiling so much, I got that Quintana Roo Lucero off of Ebay from a man who rode it one time in the Arizona Ironman. He was getting married and needed the money for the wedding. I had never done a triathlon before and was looking for a cheap used bike. He lived in California and in the box of the bike he also shipped me his Arizona Ironman finisher hat. How neat. His name was Bo Phelan. And the aero helmet, well, it makes me feel fast, and if you feel fast, you ride fast and if you ride fast you feel good. And the pros at the HyVee triathlon in DesMoines, they did not wear socks, so I copied off of them there too. I'm just a mother of 6 children, living in a small farm town riding my bike every day on country back roads. I have a treadmill smack dab in the middle of my living room facing looking out the big picture window at the bird feeders and a picture of Hunter Kemper running in a triathlon taped to my living room window for inspiration during my daily runs while the babies are napping. My kids think I'm insane. Lucky for them, I am. Your blog made my day, you are a rockstar for winning that race, i am honored to be talked about in your blog. Thanks for making contact with me, I feel so blessed. All my love, Tracy McDermott "aero helmet girl"