Note: This is LONG!
Let me go on record, I love Tuscaloosa. I know, I know, before heading to Alabama for the first time in my life, I could say I wasn't enthusiastic. At all. Hot and humid was pretty much all I could think about. How could USAT hold a race in such horrid conditions. (OK, well horrid conditions for moi) What does Tuscaloosa have to offer??? So I planned my trip with as little time in 'Bama as I could get away with. In to town late Thursday night (although that was due to United and miles), race Saturday, and out early Sunday morning.
Too bad for me. Tuscaloosa is a pretty cool place. The folks in Alabama are incredibly friendly and nice, everyone knew about the triathletes that were invading their beautiful city and we were welcomed with open arms. And the race venue? It was beautiful! Mind you, the water in the river was a tad bit warm, and as a local said...dingy. But it was tree-lined, hilly, good road conditions, and there was some shade on the run. And it was right next to the University of Alabama!
Anywho, I arrived Thursday night and PIC Sonja was waiting for me and we drove the hour to Tuscaloosa. It was late but as always we entertained ourselves with music and fun chatter. Tyler and Beth were our roomies for the weekend and they were waiting up for us. It was late and I'm sure we could have stayed up much longer but we needed to calm down, quit laughing and get some sleep. We are, after all, very serious athletes.
Like I said, serious athletes. Very. Serious.
I missed the "C"
Friday morning we got up and went for a nice warm-up jog on the campus. School is in so we were weaving in and out of students but had a ball checking out the campus. It was definitely humid so we were all soaked after just a few minutes. Oh well. No whining. Everyone is going to have to race in the same conditions. Breakfast at IHop and then off to a meeting with TriBoomer and Athletes4aCure. We volunteered (rather, Son and I volunteered and hooked Beth and Tyler to join us) to do a live twitter cast of the elite race after our race on Saturday. We were planning on watching the race anyway (friend Amy D was racing her first ITU race as a pro!!!) and knew that this would be a fun way for us to give back to the triathlon community and this cause.
Then it was time for packet pick-up, bike pick-up, racking our bikes in transition, and checking out the race course.
Tyler was driving so we thought we should wear our helmets....
Paul Mitchell was raising money for its foundation so Priscilla, Son, Beth and I had red extensions put in our hair!
Swim finish with the dingy water
Going into this race I felt pretty calm. I had a recovery week and by Wednesday I felt like I needed a workout. I was already packed. Thursday I was jittery....think me on 18 cups of coffee (and I only had 1 cup!). Zowie I needed to get on the plane and get to the business of racing. But I wasn't nervous. I knew the conditions could be tough but there was not alot I could do about it and I had no idea how it would effect me. So I just went with the flow. Maybe I was too focused on what I would wear during the race (the race was not wetsuit legal and my current tri shorts are too big to swim in). But maybe that was good because it didn't give me any time to focus on the race and the possibilities.
The course looked tough! Decent sized hills on the 2-loop bike course and a couple really big hills on the run. Not flat at all except for the run finish. But that is good....
I slept great and woke up right before the alarm.....RACE MORNING! The four of us went about our business of getting ready and we were off to transition. I was able to drink a mix1 (my all time favorite pre-race meal/drink) and ate half an almond butter sammie. Other than that I felt good. I was still worried about what my sciatica might do on the run and, of course, that pesky stomach muscle pull that only shows up when I'm redlining. And I was about to redline for 2+ hours.
The crazy atmosphere in transition
Steve, Tyler, Anthony, Sonja and I went for a little warm-up jog next to the river. We stopped and looked at some of the swimmers already in the water and realized that there was a current in the river. Which was strange because the guy who told us the water was dingy also said that there was no current because they control the flow of the water from the dam.....but there was absolutely a current. And it was strong. We watched some swimmers go nowhere in the water and may have actually gone backwards. Uh oh. When we returned to the start area, the first swimmer was just getting out of the water. In 30 minutes. We heard he normally swam 22 minutes. Huh. There clearly were people in the water that were struggling. And, the long part of the swim course was directly into the current. This will be interesting.....Coach Steve-O had a couple of last minute instructions for me based on the current and a last minute goal (which I just kind of chuckled at) and I was in the water trying to warm-up in less than 6 minutes before my wave start. Not likely.
I lined up in my usual position for the swim and we were off!!! I was totally calm and relaxed at the start and just started swimming but not pushing because I knew the big push of the swim wasn't at the start. I let a couple of girls go.......that was kinda hard but I knew there was some work coming up. First buoy everything was going well, my stroke felt great and my breathing was under control. Second buoy was where we saw the stationary swimmers and I positioned myself right where I thought I needed to be for the current. I was swimming straight for the buoy and I thought....this isn't so bad.....and then I took another 6 strokes and sighted again. And I was completely off course!!! Unbelievable. And there was a kayak there trying to point me and another girl back on course. Some corrections in my line and I made it around the buoy but I was pretty surprised at how off course I was in such a short amount of time. Now the hard part. I picked up my effort at this point but I can tell you that the middle red buoy did not seem to get any closer. And I couldn't even see the yellow turn buoy. And that damned red buoy just didn't get any closer. I made a conscious effort to increase my stroke cadence and tried to stay relaxed. But I just didn't feel like I was making any headway. Phew. Finally made it to the red buoy and saw the yellow buoy on the horizon. Are you f****g kidding me???? OMG. My swimming stud friend Cory was in the wave 3 minutes behind me and about this point I saw him cruising along right next to me.....YEAH FEET!!! I did my best to stay in his bubbles but it was probably only for about a minute. I finally made the yellow buoy and now just had to get to shore. I felt like I had been in the water forever. I got out and looked at my watch.....are you kidding me??? I can normally swim a race in 21 - 23 minutes. Today's time??? 29:33. I just kind of laughed and noticed that a girl had been on my feet for at least half the swim. BEOTCH! She beat me into transition.
(Note: because of flooding earlier in the week due to hurricane ???, the dam was opened which caused the current)
Not much to report here except I could tell I had expended a bit more effort than usual in the swim. I got my speedsuit off (thank you Syd!!!) and got the heck outta there.
Finally on the bike I knew I was supposed to take the first lap of the 2 lap course "easy". Whatever. The girl on my feet in the swim passed me right away as I was getting my feet in my shoes and it was all I could do not to go after her. Relax and do your own race I kept reminding myself. My heart rate was all jacked up due to the hard swim and I hit a hill before I even had a chance to relax and get it under control. I think the first part of the ride was uphill. I finally relaxed and felt in control at the first dog leg. I saw a bit of drafting and kept out of it. And I felt great every time I passed a rider with a disc wheel. Haha!!! And I really started to feel OK. And I passed the girl on my feet on the second lap. My legs ached but it was all manageable. I felt like I was pushing but in control. I did however feel my silly stomach pull-thingy. For some reason, when I'm redlining in TT position it locks up and becomes almost painful. But I tried to relax and breathe through it. I knew it would be a problem so now I was in manage mode. I stood up out of the saddle each hill and it was all good. I only got passed by a couple of people and I had expected to be passed by many more during the ride. But it never happened. It was kind of surreal! And then it was time for T2....the bike seemed to go by fast!!
Bike 1:06:48 (ave. 22.3mph)
Damn stomach thing really roared to life as I hit transition. But I racked my bike, put on my shoes, grabbed my number and hat and moved on out.
My main goal for the run was to be consistent and not have a total meltdown like I had at Boulder Peak (not that I may or may not have had control of that). Start out strong but conservative. I had 3 good hills to get through before the flat section to the finish. I grabbed water at the aid station and put ice down my sports bra. So far, so good. But I was in manage mode....the stomach thingy was there in the background. Grrrrrrr. Up the big hill and to the turnaround. And then I saw the strangest thing. I saw PIC. And my race brain couldn't figure out what had happened. I started behind PIC. Why was she behind me now? CRAP, I thought. Was it a 3 lap bike course???? WTF? And it dawned on me that I had passed her on the swim. And then it slowly occured to me that for the first time EVER in my triathlon career that the swim was going to have a major impact on results. I was pretty sure I was top 5. OMG now I just need to hang on and I'm going to have a pretty good result. Steve-O passed me on the third hill and pointed behind him for me to follow.....I tried. But I was breathing pretty hard so I hung with him for a minute and he went on his merry way and told me to relax my breathing. And then a minute later Son was there. I knew it was her, I know her breathing, I have trained with her day in and day out for the last 7 months. Go Sonja...I said to her.....and she told me to stay with her on the downhill.....Oh I wanted to but I was on the edge of blowing up. I relaxed my shoulders and tried to ride the downhill. And away she went. But I was determined. I was on the flat stretch and I figured I only had about 20 minutes left. Can I hold this pace for 20? Sure I can. And my breathing completely relaxed and I felt great. I picked it up a little. And then I saw Tyler's finish line. And I knew I only had a quarter mile to go. This is it. Make it good and don't let anyone else catch you. I finished strong with a bit of kick. Yee Haw!
Run: 44:30 (personal best)
Overall time: 2:23:48
5th place age group
39th female (not bad for an old lady)
Qualified for 2010 Team USA in Budapest, Hungary
I looked down at my watch and saw my time as I was gasping for air. Really?? Even with the slow swim time? Even before looking at my watch I felt good about the race. But I was surprised at the time, I didn't think I had broken 2:30. I left it out there, managed my discomforts and finished strong.
And the best part? Not only did I have a good race, but so did my Practical Coaching teamies. Steve, Sonja, Beth, Lori and I qualified for Worlds next year. Tyler, Anthony and Barry had fabulous races. What a cool day. I love racing with my teamies around, supporting them and vice versa. And just knowing that they are all out on the course.....it is an awesome feeling. I am so lucky to know and train with these wonderful peeps.
Team 1 (me and Beth) at our lookout point for the Elite race
Volunteering for the twittercast was an absolute blast. Sure we were tired. Sure we didn't get the recovery we needed. So we needed to sit down. What overcame all that was the fact that we were out there supporting a great cause and having a great time doing it. I look forward to helping TriBoomer and Athletes4aCure again in the future!!
Me, Sonja, Beth
5th place podium finish (I got a bottle of fish oil!!)