Saturday I woke up at 4:45 AM, which is 15 minutes earlier than I usually do. I ate my usual race morning breakfast of apple sauce, a banana, and a pancake. I usually put a scoop of F2C protein powder in the applesauce but I couldn’t find my protein powder and I was certainly not going to risk contamination by buying anything off the shelf. F2C is extremely meticulous about testing EVERYTHING that comes into their factory so athletes can be confident their products are clean. In lieu of my protein powder, I had 3 egg whites instead.
We got to transition a little before it opened at 5:30, which is one of the only times I have ever been to a transition that early! I pumped my tires, got my bike computer ready, put my shoes on the bike, and did a final check to make sure everything was good. I dropped my morning clothes bag off and later realized I had left my prerace gel in the bag! I drank a Beet Performer juice about 30 minutes before the start but missing out on that gel put my behind schedule on nutrition.
The water temp was 22.5 C and our cut off is 22, however, because the air temp was below 50, it was wetsuit legal. I was very glad because the air was brisk. Finding the swim start was a challenge, especially since people kept pointing us in the wrong direction. I finally found a WTC worker and she got me to the right place. We were only allowed to get in the water 5 minutes before the start, but we all were standing on the dock trying to see where we were supposed to swim. They told us we had to jump in so we all started swimming to the start line. The men were lined up to the left of a buoy so we fell in line behind them. The blast went off and half the men started but the other half didn’t realize it had started. The confusion continued when ten seconds before our start, we were told we were on the wrong side of the buoy. After we moved to the other side, we weren’t sure which buoy line to take. They blasted the horn again and we all went off and picked one of the two buoy lines. It was so confusing and I unfortunately picked the wrong line and lost feet. I am very happy with my swim considering I did it all on my own and was very dizzy in the water (likely due to cold water getting in my ears).
I usually kick hard at the end of the swim but decided to try not doing that and felt much better getting through transition. I was told I was one minute down from the lead. Woot! I can make that up on the bike! I grabbed my transition bag, ran to the change area, dumped out my bag, and saw my running shoes! I had grabbed the wrong bag! I had to stuff everything back in the bag then run all the way back to get the correct bag. I got my bike gear on and ran to my bike, but when I went to unrack my Quintana Roo, I saw I had my cap and goggles in my hand! One thing after another! I apparently left my brain at home that morning.
It took me a bit to get my arm warmers pulled up, gloves on, and shoes tightened down, so a couple women passed me. Leaving transition I got a split that I was 3 minutes down from the lead so I had lost 2 minutes in transition! The first 10km of the bike had a lot of turns and technical areas that slowed me down even further until I ended up in 8th place. I kept trying to feed myself positive thoughts and energy, but in that situation it’s hard not to get a little down on yourself. To take the pressure off I thought to myself, “If nothing else, I’ll put everything out there for a great training day and build fitness for Kona.”
Over the next several kilometers, I worked myself to the front of that group of women only to hear “pffffff…” WHAT!?! You’ve got to be kidding me! I pulled off to the side mentally prepared to change a flat then fight back into the mix. When stopped I realized that my aero bottle straw had gotten lodged between my wheel and fork. The sound had been all the nutrition draining out of the bottle. I was able to get the straw dislodged and back on my way, but I had lost even more time and ¾ of a bottle of nutrition. I finally got caught up to the other women and pushed right past them. At the first aid station I thought I was grabbing a sports drink, but it was sparkling water. I tossed it immediately since it didn’t have any carbohydrates. At the second aid station I tried for another sports drink but got a half filled bottle of very carbonated Coke. I didn’t want it but at that point I needed to get more carbohydrates in me so I drank it and ended up regretting it as I burped for the remainder of the race. I caught up to a small pack of pro men and passed them only to get passed right back by a group that just a couple minutes ago was going much slower. We traded places for 5 miles until I could drop all of them up a climb. The last aid station only had 3 people holding bottles and I missed each of them so I had to ration my remaining bottle of F2C through the final miles.
During the last 10-15 miles, my right lower back started locking up. It got to the point that I was worried I wouldn’t be able to stand when I got into T2. The final descent into Vichy is down a very rough, steep hill that I only survived through the liberal use of my brakes. The descent probably helped save my back though as I was able to stretch it out and let it relax.
I came into T2 in 3rd place, 2 minutes down from the lead with my back feeling ok. I started the run feeling ok knowing that I usually feel better and better throughout the run. About 7-8km into the run I heard splits that brought me closer and closer to Lisa until I finally saw her. It was also right about this time that I started getting a side stitch like no other! I have never experienced a side stitch in a race and I don’t know what caused it. Maybe it was caused by my back tightening up earlier or by the carbonation from the Coke, but I kept taking in fluid and nutrition and tried to stretch it out. I gave it one last good stretch before passing Lisa so I wouldn’t have to stretch after I passed her. I’m not going to lie, passing an Olympic silver medalist (almost Gold) was pretty awesome. She didn’t respond at all so I knew she was struggling. We had about 7km left and I just wanted to keep pushing to have a good run time. I struggled with the side stitch the rest of the race, but it calmed down a bit for the last couple kilometers. I have prided myself on never looking back while racing. I don’t think we should ever look back but always forward to the next person. It also helps because if I don’t know if someone is back there, I have to keep pressing and pushing myself.
The finish line in Vichy is the loudest finish line I have ever experienced! They know how to cheer and encourage! It’s always amazing, fun, and an accomplishment to cross that finish line no matter what. This time was pretty special to me and gave me a great sense of accomplishment because there were so many times I could have thrown in the towel for the day, but I kept pressing on to the best of my abilities on that day. There is ALWAYS part of me that is sad about not winning, but every race has if-only’s and but’s. If we dwell on what could have been we don’t get to appreciate what is. On to KONA!
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