Where to start – normally I’d say the start line, but for this blog let’s go back a bit further. Kennett and I had the best airport experience in years. Even though we took the larger bike bag (Pika Pack), the Southwest baggage guy let us go without paying the bike fee. $150 saved combined with my smaller stealth case. Then when we went through security we didn’t have to take out our laptops and we didn’t get searched in the groin. Basically we won the lottery.
Our luck (my luck) changed when we started putting together our bikes at the Hampton Inn where we always stay for this race. In the process of packing the bikes in Boulder I seemed to forget a crucial part of the bike. The seat post binder, which is proprietary to our bikes. After Kennett spent an hour and a half panicking (trip to the bike shop included), we came up with a solution of using a half roll of packing tape to fix the problem. He wrapped strip after strip around the seat post, gradually increasing the amount of tape as he went up towards the seat, and slammed it down with his fist to the desired height. Surprisingly, it worked. And to keep the seat post from moving back and forth near the top (where there’s a cut out for the integrated seat post binder, he cut up a pair of his underwear (the only pair he brought on the trip) and stuffed it down as padding so as not to damage the carbon. The seat post binder that I’d left behind was zipped up in my top tube food box, so I was also without a handy place to put my gels and chews. That problem was also solved with, guess what? More tape.
Okay, now to the start line. I’m going to give you an inside look into what a pro thinks about throughout a race. This most likely is NOT how a pro who plans to win, or even place, attacks a race. Quite frankly, I did not really attack this race at all, which was a failure on my part. I meant to – I really did. When the gun went off I ran with the rest, dove in the water, tried not to get too beat up by other arms, and attempted to find someone’s feet to swim on. Unfortunately, I don’t swim well in the ocean. With the swells I quickly lost the feet of the girls’ ahead of me and swam the rest of it alone, hoping I wasn’t going to be last out of the water. I wasn’t last out of the water, but I was close. However, I’ve made major improvements since racing here in 2015. In the middle of the 2.4 mile swim in the full that year I threw up mid-stroke. I can proudly tell you that I did not puke today, although I felt a little queasy leaving T1.
The bike. Oh wow – it was sad. Early on I got passed by one of the girls who was behind me on the swim. Then I was pretty much on my own. My legs didn’t feel up to the challenge and my brain quickly accepted it wasn’t my day to shine on the bike. My motivation just went downhill from there. I sat up more and more and was only determined to finish the bike so that I didn’t have to sit around waiting for Kennett to finish his race. I was excited though – I had seen Kennett on an out-and-back so I knew he was doing really well. Seeing him finish would actually make my DNFing okay. That’s what I told myself. About six-ish miles from the end of the bike the final female pro came up from behind me. She asked if I was doing okay. I said yes. And then she passed me and I realized, “What the fuck did I just say? NO, I’m not doing alright. I’m having a shitty day. I’m not even going to finish the chews I have because I don’t need to top off before a run. I’m not running.” Instead of saying the typical niceties I should have asked if she was still intending to race or if she was just finishing the bike and stopping. I didn’t want to be alone in giving up.
Nope, I saw her in transition and she ran out in front of me. Damn. I thought it was a good time to do a brick run. Even if I didn’t finish the race I could run a few miles and see Kennett on his final miles. I eased into it and slowly found a rhythm. Right before mile two I saw Kennett on the other side of a round-a-bout. “He must be somewhere between 6-8. I may have missed counting a few pros while I was dumping a full large dixie cup of Pepsi all over my body in attempts to get a few drops in my mouth.” I was going to wait for Kennett to get around the round-a-bout before cheering. The course didn’t do that, so Kennett made a right-hander and I missed cheering all together. “Okay, I guess….I’ll keep running? Maybe do one loop. Oh shit, then I might as well finish.” I came up with my list of reasons I should finish:
- I went for a run with my sister last week. She and I have the same exact build. We were talking about how if she trained like I did, she would be the same speed. She agreed with the caveat that I may have more mental toughness than her. I decided I was going to finish the run because my big sister is proud I have mental toughness. I didn’t have it on the bike – but I was going to redeem myself.
- The run is actually my favorite part of a triathlon right now.
- I was already 2-miles in and it is always embarrassing to be in a race kit walking slowly back to the start with your bib number in hand.
- I absolutely love the finisher’s t-shirts at this race. I DNFed the full in 2015 due to bike mechanical issues, so Kennett got the shirt but I didn’t. Every time I wear his shirt from 2015 he says it is too big on me. DAMN it – I am getting my women’s small t-shirt!
- Nobody wants to end the season on a DNF.
- I really like hearing Michael Lovato cheering people into the finish line.
It was decided – I wasn’t giving in. Shortly after that I lost a gel on the ground. Now I only had two gels. This was problematic because I normally have 4 gels on the run. At this race they have gels I am not familiar with. “Not to worry – I’ll fuel on Pepsi and the two gels I have left.” I realized at this point that I probably should have eaten that last package of chews on the bike.
Cruising through the lap 1 area I saw Kennett, who told me he came in sixth. Actually he put his fingers up and I had to focus hard to count them before smiling and giving a little shout. I also passed another female pro who was struggling on the run. YES! I wasn’t going to be last. I realize someone always has to be last, and I’m sure I’ll have my day. However, one of my goals when I made it pro this year was to give myself time to get used to the field and not put pressure on myself. The second goal was to not be last in any race. About this time I realized I also had a chance to beat last year’s time. I had a bad race last year too and ended up walking part of the run.
“Hmm, three years, three sub-par races.” I considered why I look forward to Los Cabos every year. It is because I like the beach vacation, I love eating nachos and drinking Pina Coladas at Zippers, and I like trying (and failing) to speak Spanish. NONE of these have any relation to the race itself. The race I realized is not at all suited to me. I don’t do well in choppy ocean swims and I melt in the heat. Good to note for next season.
Yes – I was considering all of this mid-run, between asking for agua and Pepsi. At one aid station I tried the provided gels. It had the consistency of a Chia seed mixture. I spit it out and noted I would have to get more Pepsi at every aid station. I came to my senses just after mile 10 – with less than 3 miles to go – when it occurred to me I had a two-shot gel in my back pocket. YES – I wasn’t going to completely blow up at the finish. It was the first caffeine I had taken in during the race. Normally I have at least 4-5 shots worth. Chalk it up to another thing I could have done better.
Kennett was waiting for me across the finish line. I’m really glad I finished – I like the T-shirt this year.
I’m really proud I finished but I obviously have to keep my confidence up throughout the race in the future. Even if I hadn’t biked faster I could have prepared for the run with fueling more. If I had kept my head on level I might have remember a 2-shot gel sitting in my bag at transition 2, or even the one in my back pocket sooner. Oh my goodness I have so much work to do for next year. For now though – time for those pina coladas.