Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rev3 Quassy

Race weekend in Connecticut was an absolute blast, a girls weekend with PIC and Kathleen.  Hanging out at the aid station with my Team Trakkers peeps.  And the most awesome of homestays.  What about the race you ask?  Well, that wasn’t as much fun.  For me.  

Going into the race I had heard reports that it was difficult.  That the bike was even tougher than Rev3 Knoxville (which at the time I questioned the legitimacy of these reports because I though that bike course was tough!).  That the run was brutally hilly too.  On Saturday, Anthony, Sonja, Kathleen and I rode some of the run course and what I saw looked pretty tough.  MIle 4 of the run just went up.  And up. And up.  We only rode a couple of minutes on the dirt road before turning around and as we were making our way back to transition for packet pick-up, I was wondering why I was being left in the dust on my bike and then I realized my back tire was flat.  Well, good thing it happened today right??  Ha.  With a little help from my peeps, we were on our way again in no time.  And that’s when Anthony got a sympathy flat for me.  I told him he didn’t need to do that but that’s just the kind of guy he is!!  Anyway, we didn’t drive any of the bike course and I’m glad we didn’t.  I’m not sure I would’ve left the house if I’d seen the bike course!  Clearly the race director (yes Charlie....YOU!) has a sick-o sense of humor.  
Even knowing this though, I was incredibly relaxed before the race.  This may have been due to our amazing homestay with Sonja’s family friends, Vahid and Shalla.  They hosted us in their beautiful home on Long Island Sound.  It was almost an hour away from the race site but it was absolutely worth NOT staying in a hotel.  They had some friends over on Saturday night and they brought fresh clams and clam chowder!  We had a wonderful meal and even better conversation.  I slept great that night and woke up still relaxed.  I did get a bit nervous on the drive in, especially because we managed to hit every single red light on the way there, but I still managed to get down a bagel and a mix1. 

Since we checked in our bikes the day before, there wasn’t much to do in transition.  I took care of business and got out of there as soon as possible.  The weather looked good at the start and it was warm and humid.  There was a strong possibility of thunderstorms during the morning but I just hoped it would hold off until the run.  I really didn’t want to bike a wet and slippery technical course.  
Swim (The Good)
The “old lady” swim wave was the last in the water.  It was a run-in start and I lined up in my usual outside position.  We started off and I was surprised at how clear the water was!  There were a couple of gals off the front immediately and I hoped that they were either in a relay or doing the aquabike.  But I didn’t chase.  I just got in my groove and concentrated on my breathing.  Pretty much from the get-go I was swimming stroke for stroke with a gal in a blueseventy wetsuit.  So that’s what I will call her.  We bumped into each other a couple of times but she kind of went towards the buoy line and I tried to stay outside and avoid the slower swimmers from the earlier waves.  We’d always come back towards each other though, and I even tried drafting off of her for awhile.  But then I’d run into a slower swimmer so that didn’t really work.  I didn’t see her for a bit and I figured she was ahead of me but I was doing my own thing and didn’t worry about it.  As I was making my way into the beach I noticed a couple of things.  First, I was warm - the water was probably about 72 degrees and I had on a full sleeve wetsuit.  Boy I wish I had a sleeveless - that would’ve been perfect for this water.  The other thing I noticed was that blueseventy was behind me, not drafting just behind me.  I misjudged, or rather, didn’t see the diving platform and rope as I was swimming wide but I almost hit the darn platform and had to swim under the ropes to get to the beach.  I don’t think it cost me much time.  
blueseventy passed me on the sidewalk to transition but hey, this is a half right?  I don’t need to sprint to T1 right?  
Swim:  27:58 1st out of the water (this gets confusing, read about transition below)
T1:  As I came into transition, all the bikes were in my rack (not unusual) and as I was struggling to get out of my wetsuit, some race guy/dude came over to me and was telling me incredible detail about my positioning:
Race dude:  You’re fourth out of the water 
Me: really??? Crap, the swimmers showed up today (what I said was in my head of course, what he said was out loud.  I think.)
Race dude:  1st one out of the water is about 4 1/2 minutes ahead of you
Me:  (in my head) OK
Race dude: 2nd is a couple of minutes ahead of you and 3rd just left transition
Me: (in my head) 4th really?  must have had a slow swim!
Race dude:  1st one out of the water didn’t really look like she was strong on the bike, you can catch her
Me: (in my head) are you saying my quads look big?
Race dude:  You have a real race bike
Me: (in my head) what does that mean?
This guy literally was talking to me my entire transition!  He even ran out with me and was cheering me on as I hopped on my bike!!!  
Bike (The Bad)
Well, this is where it gets interesting.  I leave T1 in pretty good fashion except that I dropped that darn powertap computer.  Again.  And, yes, I said I wouldn’t race with it again but Coach CV asked for the data and whatever Coach wants well, who am I to argue?  But I get on my bike uneventfully and get going.  Relax, you have 56 miles ahead of you on a hilly course.  I notice that my heart rate leaving transition is 152....let’s bring that sucker down.  As I was working on that in the first couple of miles, I passed the “third” place girl/blueseventy.  Cool.  The hills started and I felt like I was being a bit too aggressive with them.  There were lots more coming so I took the effort back a notch.  Then blueseventy passed me back a couple of miles later.  Well, OK.  I’m up for a good game of cat and mouse....bring it!!!  
And then the tell-tale signs of a flat.  phummmp ph-ph phummpp.  NOOOOOOOOO!!!! I’m only at mile 8 and I have never flatted in a race before.  It can’t be.  I just flatted that same f-ing tire yesterday.  It’s not flat I say to myself.....crap.  Yes, it is.  And I watch blueseventy pull away.  Crap.  Stop the bike.  I’m shaking.  Fix the darn thing.  No idea how long this took.  Back on the bike.  No sooner am I back on the bike and guess who comes up on me??  Sonja!!!  I tell her I flatted, she tells me not to worry I am back on my bike.  And then she pedals off.  Hmmmm.  Why is she pedaling off from me?  No worries, I vow to keep her in my sights.  
At this point I start thinking about eating and/or drinking something every 20 minutes and I was pretty diligent with this.  I had my bottles filled with my favorite First Endurance EFS Fruit Punch and a picnic set up in my bento box.  The hills keep coming.  Up, down, turn.  Rinse and repeat.  The course never really allowed you to fly on a downhill and let you keep your momentum up the next hill.  Maybe just a couple of times.  Typically you would have to hit the brakes, turn and start climbing again.  You needed to be master of your big ring/little ring and each and every gear.  You needed to be comfortable with your turning.  And, you needed to pay attention to any and all caution signs.  There were riders all over the course changing flats!  I can say truthfully that I have never seen that much flat carnage on the road.  There were also many riders that didn’t pay attention to those caution signs and ended up in the bushes at the side of the road because they didn’t use......caution!  
Rev3 did a fantastic job with the police presence on the course and blocking intersections.  I was very impressed, it seemed to go very smoothly.  In addition, the volunteers rocked the house - a huge shout out and thanks to all that were out there!
At about mile 33, I could hear my back wheel again.  Really?  Were the triathlon gods upset with me?  OMG and a big WTF?!  I was hoping against all hope that I was just hearing things until a guy rode up next to me and asked me what my current wattage was.  I had the computer set to average so I didn’t know and it's not like I would actually give him this, we talked for a bit up a hill and then I pulled ahead of him and asked him to look at my back tire.  He said it looked soft but for me to go for it and see if I can make it to transition without stopping plus what was i going to fix it with??  I rode off and hoped and hoped it would hold even if it was squishy.  (the rest of the ride I thought of Dora in Finding Nemo and the fish she named squishy.  And that is what i called the tire the rest of the ride.....Squishy)  And I was now completely taken by the back tire.  So much so that it was all I could think about.  Please Squishy, just 20 more miles....just 15 more miles.....please Squishy......another hill another downhill.  More wind.  A bit of rain.  Please Squishy.....And I “forgot” about eating and drinking as much as I needed.  
Since I asked Squishy to get me to 56 miles, as soon as my computer read 56 miles the tire seemed to go even flatter.  But I wasn’t at transition yet.  I was almost there.  SQUISHY PLEASE.  And it held.  I pulled into transition.  Got off my bike and my body was quite stiff.  But I was there.  
Bike:  2:58 with flat and Squishy and 87 hills
T2:  Somehow, one of the lady’s next to me managed to place her wetsuit right in my racking spot.  So I just put my bike right on top of it.  Except that Newt (bike) didn’t want to share the space with the wetsuit.  I wrestled with them both and finally got out of there.  Once again, the volunteers were amazing getting me going in the right direction and handing me water on my way out.  
Run (The Ugly)
The first mile was downhill.  It was hot.  And then I saw Craig Alexander, Terrenzo Bozzone, and Matty Reed finishing the race.  And it got hotter (hehehe ba da bum).  Anywho, I went out at a great pace.  But it was downhill.  Second mile was flat for half a mile and then turned up.  And it went up and up and up.  And my pace got slower and slower and slower.  The uphills were relentless.  Just like the bike.  And I just wanted to go home and cry to my mommy.  I wanted to be done.  I stopped at each aid station and walked through taking every water I could get my hands on - down the hatch, over the head, in the shirt, on the face.  I took a gu (by the way, roctane well, rocks) or 2.  
Even as slow as I was and walking up those darn hills, I passed men, I passed women, and I got passed by a woman who told me not to worry she wasn’t in my age group she just loved to run.  Trakkers teamie Megan slapped me on the butt as she passed telling me something about get moving hot mama.....it’s unclear what exactly she said.  I do know that as I reached mile 9 I approached a 51 year old guy that seemed to be holding an OK pace.  So I caught him and got on his shoulder hoping he’d block some of the wind gusts that were now starting.  This guy was great.  After a minute he said, “usually when I hear a woman breathing heavy next to me the lights are off” and my reply???  Well that would be a lot more fun wouldn’t it??  We talked for the next mile and picked up the pace.  He stopped at the aid station and fell behind and I didn’t see him again.  That was my third fastest mile.  Was this going to ever end???  I saw blueseventy again and still thought I was in fourth.  I was pretty sure I hadn’t been passed again by anyone in my age group.   I even tried warm flat pepsi at the last aid station.  Tasted great.  Didn’t settle well.  Duly noted.  
Robert, our favorite Terrier Tri guy pulled up next to me with a mile to go.  He was concerned....does anything hurt??  Yes.  EVERYTHING HURTS!  But I’m not injured.  I’m just having a bad day.  He said, let’s get this done and ran with me for a while.  Did I mention that the race designer/director is just cruel (Charlie!!!!)??  The last mile of the run was uphill.  The entire friggin’ mile uphill.  Absolutely mean.  But then you came over the top, down a little ways, and there was the finish line.  Thank god.  I.AM.DONE.  I crossed the finish line and just crumbled.  The absolute hardest race of my life on what has to be the hardest course I have ever been on.  Wow.  Son was there and hugged me and let me have a cry.  And then told me to calm down and we moved on.  
Run:  1:55 (approx. 20 hills on this one!!)
Megan, Anthony, PIC and I went back down to the lake for a quick swim to cool down.  We played around in the water and had a great time.  Then off to transition to get our bikes and a quick clothing change.  As we headed back to the finish line I hear the announcer say.....and second place in female 40-44 age group Michelle Ford from Aurora, CO.  What?  Did he just say my name?  Really?  But I was fourth?  Confused, I went to the stage and confirmed I was in fact 2nd in my age group.  Unbelievable.  Race dude had given me the positioning of everyone in my wave, not my age group.  blueseventy was actually 1st place woman and not 3rd.  So on a bad day, I managed a bit of hardware.  A new fuel belt.  And some $$ to spend at Cannondale.  I’ll take it!  And, it did make me feel a bit better:)  

Team Trakkers had an amazing presence at Quassy and there were podium finishes all over the place!  Anthony was 3rd in his age group, Kathleen nabbed 2nd overall, Kelly won her division, Megan was 2nd in her age group.  Sonja knocked it out of the park on race day!  She won her age group and was 4th overall.  But more importantly, she now knows that she is ready for her race in 3 weeks....... Go Sonja!!  

The lingering question right now is will I return to Quassy next year?  Yesterday the answer was no way.  Today the answer is no.  Ask me again in 2 days.    


Megan L. Killian said...

Girl, you are awesome. I am so proud to have a tough chick like you representing the same team I am on.

Ange said...

Oh my gosh!! I am cracking up. I am Blue Seventy!!! :) A friend of mine from blog world posted on my blog that she thought the girl I was referring to on my swim leg was you..and she gave my your link. How fun! Great swim and great race! It was Horrendous for me as well. We did have a very well matched swim didn't we! I swam into that dock at the end! I crashed right into it! That stinks about your flat...so so frustrating. And yes, I saw tons of flats out there too. The run---insane. Hardest race of my life too. I can't imagine I'll go back either. Congrats!! Hope to see you out there again! (www.angesdrivetotri.blogspot.com)

Ben S said...

You rock Michelle! That hard of a course, getting a flat, having a soft tire, not hitting your hydration and fuel intake - and still pulling off a 2nd place! I'd say that's a great day.
Think of it this way; when you go back next year, you'll know what to expect and will hit it even harder.

Unknown said...

I loved this race report!! I can only hope that one day my bike and run look like your bad and ugly!!

Congrats on a great race and awesome mental toughness to hold it together out there!! I'm proud to be a Trakkers teammie with the likes of you!!

jessithompson said...

Great (and very authentic) race report. I enjoyed reading it and look forward to the chance to meet everyone.