Monday, August 27, 2012

New Orleans and Boulder Peak Tri

After the Dallas race, I was back to the non-drafting format and back in the hunt for points to qualify me for Hy-Vee at the New Orleans 5150 tri.

Although it was a relatively small field, it was still a stacked one and I knew I’d be challenged by these girls out on the course.

In the swim, the most of the group stuck together throughout and we exited within seconds of each other. After about a half mile run to transition, we hopped on our bikes to start the bike portion of the race.

In past years, the New Orleans bike course had been traditionally flat, but this year to change things up a bit, race organizers decided to add in a bridge that the athletes would cross over 4 times on the 2 lap bike course. I feel like I was able to get in a good rhythm on the bike and keep some of the top girls in my sights. Then, when I was about 1.5 miles out from the bike finish, I hit a bump and all of the sudden my chain was jammed and wouldn’t move. Although admittedly mechanically challenged, I knew that I should check my derailleur, try to switch into a different gear, etc. to see if that would help. It turns out a couple of bolts in my chain ring popped off, and I was unable to get my pedals to turn over. Therefore, I had to sit and wait for the sag wagon to come get me and take me back to the finish line. After my DNF, I was pretty bummed since I felt like I had a good race going and knew I wasn’t going to get any points. I decided not to get too down on myself and was able to enjoy a beautiful long run along the coast before I left the venue.

Because of the DNF and no points, I knew that the Boulder Peak race was really my last chance to gather any points for Hy-Vee. I was really looking forward to racing at home because that meant I didn’t have to deal with flying and I got to sleep in own bed. Also, I knew this course like the back of my hand and was eager to see what I could do on it. Furthermore, I knew that a lot of people I train with would be out there racing as well and I was excited to see them race.

The Friday before the Sunday race, I woke up coughing and sneezing and with a sore throat. I decided to take a day off and try to rest up and recover from my bug. On Saturday, I felt a little better and was able to do my usual short pre-race warmups, although they wore me out a bit. I decided I would make a decision when I woke up Sunday as to whether I’d race or not. When I woke up, my sore throat was gone but I was still congested. I decided I’d give it a go and hoped by blowing my nose a gazillion times it would somehow clear up. I started the race feeling ok and was able to have a decent swim, exiting the water as the 3rd pro woman.

Onto the bike, I immediately felt congested and tried to take some deep breaths and keep a rhythm going. By the time I got to the steep hill in the course at Olde Stage, my throat was starting to clog up too and I could barely breathe. So, the cliff’s notes version of the rest of my bike is that it was more like a Sunday stroll than a race as I struggled through to the bike finish. Still hoping to get some points, I also struggled through the run and to the finish. It was very disappointing to have to race sick in front of the hometown crowd. However, I feel very blessed to have had my family, friends, and sponsors at Sklar Exploration out there to support me. Note to self: Racing sick is never a good idea, hometown race or not!!

Dallas ITU Pan Am Cup - Feelin' HOT HOT HOT!

After racing a couple of consecutive non-drafting races, I was excited to switch back to the draft-legal format for the my first Olympic distance draft-legal race of the year.

Because there were multiple races being contested in one day, the pros were given the final 2 time slots of the day, with the women starting right around 11am. The swim started out as it most always does, with an initial sprint to jockey for position followed by a more controlled swim stroke in the pack. I don’t feel like I really was able to wake my body up until about the 2nd lap of the swim (halfway through), when I realized I had some serious ground to make up on the lead pack of swimmers. I exited the waters near the Marriott Las Colinas way further back than I anticipated and definitely a bit discouraged.

Onto the out and back bike course which was located on a road just in front of the Marriott grounds, I tried to dig deep for the first couple laps of the bike and see who I could connect with to form a pack and by the end of the third lap was able to settle in with a group of about 7 other athletes. With about 2.5 laps, some of us decided to use one of the turnarounds to make it a break for it, which split our group in half. Now with only a lap to go, a few of the girls kept pushing harder at which point I felt like my body was shutting down. I don’t think I’d ever felt so hot riding my bike. I knew if I wanted to have any shot of finishing the race I needed to slow it down and save my legs a bit for the run.

So, after letting the other girls go, I entered transition by myself and headed out onto the run, unsure if I’d be able to finish. I started out by jogging for a couple minutes to see how my body would respond. After 1 of 4 laps, I started to feel better so decided to pick up the pace and see how many girls I could pick off. I was able to run lap 2 and half of lap 3 at a somewhat normal pace before I started getting overheated again. At this point, girls were dropping like flies in front of me (passing out or pulling out of the race). This is the part where the mental battle started. I wanted so badly to quit and just lie down (it seems like the easy way out when you see others doing it) but somehow I was able to trudge on even though my body was shutting down and I was getting dizzy. My coach and two of my close friends (Renee and Forrest Lewton) urged me to keep on running and I can’t thank them and the other people out there supporting enough for keeping me going. The last lap was mostly a blur but I do remember closing my eyes for a couple seconds at a time and deep breathing. Oh yeah…and running into a parked car while I had my eyes closed (whoops!). I don’t remember finishing the race and had no idea what place I was in, but I do remember getting carried underneath a shady tree and lying there for quite awhile before sitting up and eating lots of popsicles.

This is definitely up there in the books for “hottest/most humid race I’ve ever done.” The only other race that comes close is one I raced in Rincon, Puerto Rico back in 2007…if you were there, you know what I’m talking about.

I ended up 6th place in the pro women’s field. While I was obviously happy with a top 10 finish, I can’t help but have mixed emotions after having a sub-par swim, bike, and run. But, I guess some days splits don’t matter and it’s more about doing the best you can and surviving under tough conditions.

Thanks so much to my friends Forrest and Renee Lewton for being my homestay for the weekend and making sure I was taken care of after the race. Much love to you guys!