I signed up for this race months ago. It's a training race the team does. In January I realized that I was probably not going to make it to this training weekend. I had to make a decision, either Desert Tri or Wildflower training weekend (which is in just about 2 weeks - yikes!). I couldn't afford to do both. I talked to Coach Dave and he said I absolutely needed to go to Wildflower Training Weekend (WFTW). I resigned myself to just swallowing the cost of the race registration (under $100). I didn't really tell anyone on the team. I didn't want to make a big deal out of it. At our first open water swim I told my good friend Lisa (I'm also her mentor on the team this season) that I wouldn't be there. The next day she helped me figure out a way to get myself out to the Desert. So, plans changed.
I woke up at the gross hour of 5 am on Saturday, still unsure if I would be racing on Sunday. I have been having some dehydration/overheating issues, as well as breathing issues after the last case of bronchitis, the past couple of weeks and was planning on playing the whole weekend by ear. If Saturday's training in the (sweltering) heat didn't go well I was going to duck out of the race. I just know that once I get dehydrated/ overheated it takes several days for me to feel normal again. And, after being sick for nearly a month with the zombie plague, I didn't want to chance being taken out for several more days just to race.
Saturday was like the face of the sun in the Desert. I was stupid hot the whole time (we did the entire bike and the entire run the day before, plus a partial swim - crazy to do the race the day before, I know, but its what we do). I dialed it back a bit on the bike, but still managed to average nearly 2mph faster than I did last year the day before the race. And, the run? Well, that was a disaster. I was properly hydrated, and had to stop to use the bathroom, but I was overheating. I wound up really just walking mostly. I was rapidly falling apart. I knew that if I wanted to race the next day I had to stop after just one loop. And, I was suddenly wanting to race. I told the coaches, they were agreeable, and Coach Jason suggested I try cool wings the next day to help stay cool (they look really stupid, but I figured it was worth a shot, anything to not melt in the sun). After lunch and packet pick up we headed down for a swim in the lake. The staff showed the participants a mass start and then we all practiced together a few times and did a short swim (the cool water felt amazing after the hot day - putting on the wetsuit did not feel amazing). I was finally kind of getting excited for the next day. I wasn't sure I'd do the whole course - if it was too hot I thought I might just do the swim/bike.
Pre race talk from Coach Jason in the billion degree sun.
You can't see me because I was melting.
Then, I got lucky. Really lucky.
Race morning brought another wake up call at an ungodly hour. My roommates were nervous, as this was their first ever tri and their alarms went off at 4am. I stayed in bed until like 4:45 as they got ready for the day. We headed to the park and got a really good parking spot by getting there early. It was overcast, but you could see the sun starting to break through a bit.
Race morning in the desert... no filters.
Pre race prep was done, transition set up, body marked with age and number, wetsuit on, quick warm up swim, and I was ready to go. I decided to play the whole day by ear and just set little goals for myself for the day. First goal - finish the swim faster this year than I did last year. The swim was good. It was chilly, but once I settled in, I was feeling okay. I never felt like I was going very fast, but I felt okay with how I was doing. I thought maybe I'd best my swim time by 2-3 minutes. Because it was overcast, and the course was changed ever so slightly, we weren't swimming directly in to the rising sun for the first bit -awesome. I got out of the water and looked at my watch, 26:xx minutes (with the run up to the transition mat I was clocked at 27:50)! Last year's time? Over 34 (I thought it had been 38, looking back it was 34). Rad! Huge improvement. (I have no idea what my pace/100 was)
My swim wave
Ignore my twelve chins
Next goal - out of transition faster. That should be easy. Last year was nearly 9 minutes. I peeled off my wetsuit, got myself together and got the heck out of there in just over 5 minutes. Still not as fast as I'd like, but WAY better.
Next goal - finish the bike faster than last year and faster than the day before. I worked on intervals on the bike course and pushed the pace. Its great being out there and seeing so many teammates. I was wearing my Mari bib on my back and got comments from teammates and strangers a like (mostly from TNT, LA Tri Club and SoCal Collective). Every time someone said something it pushed me a little harder. I felt good on the bike the whole time, and it was still overcast. Amazing. I also had my nutrition/hydration down - Fluid, Endurloytes & Carbo Pro combo for the win! I was blessed with good weather to this point, and I knew I'd be able to get out and do the run, even if I had to walk most or the whole thing. I got off the bike in 1:26, averaging 16.7mph. Last year it took me 1:41, averaging 14.1. More than 2.5mph faster! And faster than the day before. I didn't know what my overall time was, but I was stoked with the improvements.
wearing the cool wing - doesn't look as
stupid from this angle
Next goal, get out of transition fast. Not only to beat my time from last year, but to beat my race nemesis (long story for another post - but what it boils down to is someone who thinks they are always faster than me, and I disagree). I was out in lightning fast, for me, time - 2:25 (last year - nearly 6 minutes). The sun was starting to come out and now I knew the cool wings would be put to the test.
There's an aid station right out of transition, I grabbed two cups of water, poured them over my arms and head and took off. I knew I just needed to stick to my interval the whole time and I'd be good to go. It was getting warmer, but I was doing a good job of hydrating and staying cool. At each aid station I'd grab two cups of water and pour them over my arms and a bit over my head. It was working. My pace wasn't blazingly fast, but I also wasn't falling apart in the sun - like I usually do. At the end of the first loop Coach Emily gave me a Power Up coin, ala Super Mario Brothers (she was dressed as Mario and the cheer squad theme was Super Mario Brothers), gave me a little boost to pick up the pace.
At one point, during the second loop I turned and looked to the side, as you can see part of the course, sort of behind you, and saw my race nemesis. They were pretty far behind me, at least a half mile, maybe more, but I knew that if I didn't stick to my interval that they might catch up. Just keep going. Just keep going. Several people mentioned my Mari bib on the run as well, and it gave me the same boost that it did during the bike. I got to the last turn, and I saw Coach Holly (dressed as Luigi from Super Mario Brothers). I clicked over to my multi time and saw 3:05. Less than a half a mile to the finish. Holy crap! I knew this would be a HUGE pr. I told her and she gave me a high five and off I ran. Riz ran with me for a minute and I told her, she laughed at me, because less than 24 hours before I was saying I didn't want to even do this race. Crazy!
Me and Riz, race photos I don't hate.
I ran for the finish line, let the crazy people who wanted to sprint in front of me do their thing and had my moment of excitement. I finished in a total time of 3:09:22, almost exactly 43 minutes faster than last year, which was 3:52:36. Holy eff! I realize neither of these times is crazy fast, but considering where I started and where I was a year ago - AMAZING.
Mari bib and medal. Thought of her a lot last week and
weekend. She helped me a lot through this race weekend
last year and this year. Miss you friend.
So, that luck? Totally all about the weather. I'm not discounting my development as an athlete over the past year, but the weather on Sunday really played to my advantage. The sun and I are not friends, and it staying tucked away behind the clouds for much of the morning saved my day. Lucky.
I'm not a big fan of the desert in general, you know with hating the heat and all, and I may have been talking about how the desert should be blown up because its dumb, but... now I am already thinking about next year. I want to go back to Desert and finish in under 3 hours. Maybe if I had been sticking to the training schedule a little more closely I would have done that this year. Regardless, I'm still stoked about how this day went.
Desert helped me find the motivation I've been so sorely lacking since I got sick at the beginning of this year. Good thing too, since Wildflower is less than 60 days away! I still think we could do without the desert, but... Thank you Desert Tri, I'll be seeing you again next year.
Oh, and I totally beat my race nemesis. Icing on the cake.
And last... a couple of pictures of Ironteam 2013 - all rockstars.