I’m still a bit at a loss for words on this race. None of us, even under the best of circumstances, can plan for the perfect race day. I was full of apprehension about this particular race starting months ago when it was announced it would be moving from Windsor to Santa Rosa along with the swim moving from very shallow Russian River to Lake Sonoma. As triathletes however, we adapt and overcome don’t we? I would make the best of it. However, I might be getting a bit ahead of myself…
Late in 2016 it was announced that I have been accepted as part of the Team TriEqual. It’s an organization that promotes women in the sport of triathlon. As part of the deal I got three months of FREE coaching! How cool is THAT? My coach Sharon and I were connected about three months before Santa Rosa so I thought that would be a good time to start the process. We discussed my weaknesses (Swimming being the biggie) and my strengths. I don’t feel I have many strengths but my ability to GET IT DONE seemed to be enough in my mind. We set off to work on my training. I spent a LOT of time in the pool and felt GREAT about my swim until I started back in open water and was confronted with swim after swim of freezing temps and ocean-like conditions. I even had a couple “close calls” in the open water where I thought it had reached the point of dangerous with temperature or waves. In the back of my mind I kept thinking that early in the morning on race day it wont be choppy and I should be able to handle this. I never really got a chance to swim the lake for the race distance. Luckily I swam it Half Moon Bay last month so I knew it was still possible.
Fast forward to the day before the race and I went to Lake Sonoma for a practice swim and to drop my bike at T1. So. Much. Chop. I swam just over 23 minutes and felt utterly defeated. The whole swim was a fight and the race officials had already switched the direction of the swim to account for the winds. I truly believed I was screwed. After some messaging with my coach back and forth I felt a little better and took the message of “FOCUS on YOUR swim” to heart. I have a bit of ADD on race day. I pay attention to everything else but what I’m doing.
When race day finally arrived, my husband and I drove the 40 minutes from Rohnert Park to Lake Sonoma. I got out of the car and was immediately frozen. The winds were cold. The sun had not yet risen and I had a big day ahead of me…if I could get out of the water on time. I got to transition, set myself up, put on my wetsuit, grabbed my cap and goggles and headed back to where I saw my husband outside of transition. He was near a family that had FOUR rather young and lively puppies that I was immediately drawn to. After about 10 minutes of petting and baby talk with them and some nervous chit-chat with the owners I handed my morning bag to my husband who quipped that it was “nice of them to bring me therapy dogs on race day.” I don’t think he realizes how correct he was. It really calmed my nerves. I deal with an anxiety disorder that seems to manifest itself in funny ways on race day. Those dogs were better than any medication I could take. While he made the trek back to the car to grab his camera I made my way down to the boat dock.
I was immediately greeted by several other triathletes who assumed there would be more carpeting on the ramp or that it would be warmer. I don’t stress about that kind of stuff but I understand those that do. We all have our “thing” that makes us crazy or nervous. I walked down closer to the water as the sun was coming up and talked to some others and watched the sun start to rise and then made one last trip to the bathroom before the race started. Once I met up with my husband again I also was slowly running into familiar faces. My friend Pat even lent me her windbreaker because she saw me shivering. We took pictures and watched the pros take off from way up the ramp and then it was time to get moving.
Santa Rosa 70.3 was a rolling start swim. I had never experienced that before and I wasnt sure what I would think of it, especially since that meant I would be near the back of the pack…again. I did enjoy the camaraderie of it. Lots of nervous energy on the ramp and me watching a constant flow of people into the water. When it finally was time I settled my mind and started the swim.
Let me just get this out-of-the-way now: I was pushed, kicked and swam over more times than I care to remember. I always try not to take it personally. We are all friends on shore right? Well some need to really work on their sighting and settling into a path and staying there…but I digress. I stayed focused. I only looked at my watch a couple of times and before I knew what hit me I was out of the water. 57:44 total swim.
Can we stop and discuss this transition for a minute? The walk up the road, up the boat ramp and around the perimeter was enough to wear this girl out. I had an almost 13 minute T1 time. All I could think about was I need to run more hills. Lots more hills. Once I finally reached my bike, I couldn’t feel anything. I had to sit down and get ready that way to steady myself. It took me a good minute just to put gloves on because my fingers were having trouble bending. Once I got the gloves on I threw on my helmet and windbreaker and was on my way.
This picture may have been the last time I smiled on the bike. I couldn’t get comfortable. I couldnt find any sort of rhythm and worst of all, I started experiencing the worst possible chafing around mile 10 that I could not find relief from the entire bike course. This course was hillier than I anticipated and about mile 20 I was ready to be out of wine country. Frustrated with myself I did my best to keep my mind off the pain and on the race. I chatted with people as I went by. I kept super mindful of my nutrition plan and every bump in the road I silently cursed every life decision I have made the past 3 years. Once I rolled to transition I walked my bike almost a block to my T2 where a woman was racking her bike in my spot. Not in the mood to argue I threw it in what I assumed was her spot (though I made sure to ask her), laced up my Mizuno’s and hit the run. Total time on the bike: 3:49:20 with a T2 of 6:45.
Running is my happy place. It really is. This run was no exception. Still feeling the effects of the bike I walked when I had to and run/shuffled the rest of it. I like grazing at the aid stations. I couldn’t help but think at about mile 7 though that this was not going to be a PR sort of day. Once I was almost to the end of the first loop I started seeing friends going out for the second loop and made sure to high-five or provide any encouragement needed. Then I remembered there was a “first loop” cutoff. WHAT WAS IT?? I couldn’t remember and still don’t know. I was given the option to go back out on my second loop though so I certainly did. Turns out I’m not a big fan of looped courses. the only real benefit is being able to see friends out on the course. Once I hit the final turn around I made a concerted effort to stay focused and finish. Getting off the trail and onto the street I knew I was close to the finish now and was enough under cutoff that even if I walked the rest I would still not DNF. I was really happy about that at that moment. I summoned whatever energy I had left at the turn, tossed my water bottle at the aid station and turned on the engine down the home stretch. The turn around was gone for the first loop so I hadn’t had a lot of time left and was grateful to have made that cut off. Once I turned the last corner I saw the finish line and went guns blazing down the chute. If you have never run the red carpet at an Ironman event, you really should. There is little else to compare it to. I heard my team mates yelling my name as I ran passed them and I heard the announcer call me name and city. Total time on the run was 2:48:48. Total event time? 7:55:07. That stung, but I know what I need to work on to improve.
What has hit me the deepest about this sport three days out from what was not a stellar day by any standard, was how much I truly love this sport because of the people who participate. You get to see EVERY shape, age, size and color out on the course testing the limits of what their bodies can do. People of every level of fitness were out there encouraging others to push a little harder. Give it just a little bit more. There was a time this was not even on my radar as a possibility for me. On Friday I met a woman in her 70’s who was an amputee who didnt complain once. It puts my struggles into perspective. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for THAT Karen. Triathlon has taught me that anything is possible if you want it bad enough and are willing to do the work to get it. My Trimafia sister Maureen said it best. These races are like having a ‘triathlon baby’. You remember the pain but the reward once the pain fades makes up for it. Im ready to go again.
Huge shout out to Women for Tri for giving me the opprotunity to race this event! To TriEqual and coach Sharon Styles Hamm for your guidance and expertise this spring. You truly came into my life when I needed your help the most. To my Trimafia teammates Shelly, Jackie, Courtney W, Loc, Maureen and Alex for the time spent this weekend. I love the memories this team makes when we come together! To my TC3 teammates who are a bit more aware of my ‘crazy’ but still continue to love me and push me to be better anyhow. To my Los Osos Locos Multisport family for letting me be just how crazy I need to be and still supporting me anyways. Yall might be my biggest cheerleaders. To my Sunnyside Bicycles family, “Thank you” doesnt quite cut it but thank you all the same for your continued love, support and encourgement. Thanks also to Honey Stinger, Nuun, Trieverything, and HellaKit for your continued support on my journey.
And last but not least, thank you to my husband Jeremy for putting up with my endless crazy and my endless exhaustion. Thank you for loving me enough to ‘racecation’ with me and for not divorcing me when I told you that not only was I not quitting triathlon after Vineman 70.3 last year but that I was giving thought to maybe doing a full IM in the future. I would have divorced me at that point but you didnt. I love you for that and so many other reasons.
Until next time…..