Race morning was very cold and sunny. My teeth chattered as I warmed up along the banks of the Cherry Hill reservoir. [Hey, May? It’s been over a week now. I’ve been waiting for you, just so you know.] I had brought my neoprene booties just in case but I did not want to have to waste time in transition, messing with getting them on and off. I had not trained my ass off for the past four months just to waste a minute or two making sure I’d be able to feel my feet. I had a plan, I was ready to execute it and it did not involve booties.
I lined up with all the other 34 and under women and before I knew it we were off. For maybe the first time ever, or at least the first time I can remember, I was racing naked. As in watchless. I had my heart rate monitor, but that was for the sole purpose of just keeping things in check on the bike. Moving the display to elapsed time is a pain and the numbers are so small its hard to see them when you are jostling around. So essentially I had no watch. My coach‘s advice was that it could distract me and Dan agreed that to get a different result I should think about doing something different and that is how I ended up watchless. It would turn out to be a liberating decision.
I was shocked at first to see all the girls clustered together up in the front as we started out- everyone from the intimidatingly fit looking “I’m here to win” girls to the wide bottomed thick-thighed types, all of them were clumped together in the front. I wanted to sprint up there and hang with everyone else but I had a plan damnit and it did not involve going out too hard. This race would take me an hour and 50 minutes, (I hoped), which is quite a long time to be all out sprinting. I’ve done that before and it always ends in a death shuffle. Not fun. I would take it nice and easy, at a moderately hard pace but not all out, and I would not worry about the other girls. Slowly but surely I reeled in a bunch of girls over the three mile run, noting that most of them were breathing really hard as I passed them. Goody. I finished the first three miles feeling good, not having any idea what my time was. I later found out my split was 22:40, a 7:34 pace, which was right on track with my goal pace of 7:40. Yeah!
I wasted no time in transition and was out of there in less than a minute (why does it take me so long to get out of the house, then???) and onto my bike. I was quickly re-acquainted with the seams in the road, which I had originally noticed when I drove the course earlier in the week. Every 2-3 seconds there was another one- CA-JUNK! I have never been ca-junked so many times within such a short period. My crotch was getting beat up pretty bad but that wasn’t the worst part. I was so mad at myself for taking my aerodrink. I knew there were seams in the road yet I failed to make the connection- bumps in road = aerodrink contents on face, handlebars, shifters, hands, not in mouth. Every time a splash of drink would start to evaporate from my chin another would soak the lower portion of my now electrolyte and maltodextrin rich face. Maybe it was an exfoliant? Mainly it was severely annoying. I was growing a Heed beard. At least it was clear. Thank you Hammer for not adding artificial colors to your drinks. I guessed at least a quarter of my drink got on my face and not in my mouth. Dang it. The first loop went along well except when a few girls passed me. Again I figured it was early in the race and I would catch up to them later. I never did. The first loop was not as fast as I would have liked, and I set out on the second loop a little disappointed. The wind had turned and now where there had been a tailwind there was a head wind. Double dangit! Meanwhile some girl in a light blue top had passed me on one of the hills earlier. I had her in my sights now. I’m coming for you blue girl… We played that leap frog game throughout most of the bike, which gave me something to focus on beside how much my quads were burning, that my heart rate was rarely under 150 (the plan was to keep it under 150), and how I was nowhere near my goal of knocking this ride out in just over an hour. At the turnaround I looked down at my computer and the number 34:00 glared back at me. Shit Shit Shit Shit Shit. This day was not going how I wanted. I wasn’t going to look but I couldn’t help it. I’m learning that little gadgets like watches and timers and stuff are really useful for taking me out of the present. I tried to focus on getting back into the game. At some point I got a second wind, my mood lifted a little and I kept trying to drink the Heed that was left in my aerodrink. I entered the transition area and was shocked to find I had no idea where my bike rack was. I had even memorized my spot (or so I thought!). I stood there like an idiot just looking around for my bright pink towel and my sneakers. I couldn’t fathom someone had stolen my towel and shoes but then again where the hell were they!? I was going crazy, pacing around with my bike for what seemed like forever, until I finally found my spot. It wasn’t forever but I wasted 2:21 in there. Argh.
Ok just 3 miles left to run. You have this. It hurts, I can’t breathe, my feet are numb, my legs are like two tree trunks, but I can do this. Its three miles. Its supposed to hurt. I passed light blue girl for what would be the last time and continued to pick off several other girls who I think were in my age group. As I got to the 2 mile mark I focused on running as fast as I could and tried to ignore that fact that I couldn’t get enough air. I tried to make my legs go faster but I felt like I had run out of gears. Finally I crossed the line. Done. I peeked at my watch and moved the setting from heart rate to time. Total time was about 2 hours. Yikes. My goal had been 1:50. So not what I wanted. I found out I had gotten the 34k bike done at an average speed of 17.4 mph. Huh!? I have not gone that slow in a race since like 2004 and that didn’t even count because I was a beginner then and I had not trained at all. I was beside myself. How could this be? Yeah it was windy but all the other girls had wind too and there were plenty of MUCH faster times posted that day. Usually my bike split is good! In 2008 I placed 2nd in my AG at this race with the fastest AG bike split!? What was going on here??? Maybe my goal of 20 mph was a little ambitious but seriously. Less than 18? I was disappointed. I was happy with my run- I ran a 23:20 for the second 3 miles, so between the two runs I had slowed less than a minute and my time averaged out to a 7:40 pace which was my goal. I tried to focus on the positives but I couldn’t help but be bummed that this race did not go as planned. I was really hoping for a result to finally validate the fact that I don’t suck and that my mojo is indeed back but I guess this wasn’t the race for that. This race was good for letting me know my running is progressing nicely but my bike needs some serious work. At least it is early in the season. I know I have time to get my bike fitness back. Stay tuned…