It's been agonizing to keep thinking about writing this post and not having a chance to get it down. I even had trouble deciding what I was going to call it. I've had a zillion thoughts and emotions since Saturday and am just hoping that I can be coherent enough for people to follow.
The quick 'n dirty: My dreams of breaking 5 hours at the Oceanside 70.3 were only that...dreams. Not meant to be - not for this race. The woman who won my age group hit 5 hours on the nose, which shows you what a tough day it was.
My desire to earn a spot for Clearwater wasn't meant to be earned at this race, either. There were only 2 slots as it turned out (historically there have been more, but since they've added so many more 70.3 races to the roster this year, they had to spread the slots out among those races).
My final times were as follows (sigh...):
Swim: 35:19 (a rather slow pace for me of 1:46/100)
T1: 4:41 (long run to T1)
Bike: 2:57:27 (18.9 mph)
T2: 2:32 (again an added time to get into the zone)
Run: 1:56:57 (8:56/mile)
Total time: 5:36:51
Place: 17/82 women in the 25-29 age group
So...not my ideal day by any means. All three were SLOW by my own standards I had set for myself. Slow by what I thought I was going to do. Slow by what I had trained at. Needless to say, I was/am bummed (not as much now as I was on Saturday), and just overall disappointed.
It made me think a LOT about why I do this. More on that later. What happened on Saturday? Let's go for a trip down memory lane...
Saturday, 6:00 a.m.
Sip the last of my Americano coffee (note to self: need a better bag for these rides into the transition zones on race morning so that I can have a place to put my coffee...coffee is a daily ritual for me and 3 sips was NOT enough) and get out of the car. Unload bike, make sure I have stuff. Helmet on. Go.
6:20 a.m.: Arrive in transition area. Forgot iPod to get into my zone while listening to Bolero. Damn. Try to focus and visualize. Get everything set up. By now it's about 7:10 a.m. - time to make my way over to the swim start. Little scared about how cold the water might be, but I'll be okay.
7:20 a.m.: Women's age group 25-29 enters the water. Oh...now that isn't bad AT ALL! SWEET! I can TOTALLY do this (I have a farmer john wetsuit so had bare arms as well).
7:25 a.m.: Gun goes off. Let's GO. Didn't do all those 500s for nothing - time to push and push now. Make my way up toward the front, pass lots of people, feels good. Get toward the turn around right about 15 minutes. By that point the water is really really wavy and I'm losing my rhythm. Damn. Try to focus and get back on track. Still, though, as I begin to catch up to people from 2 waves ahead of me, I can't swim in a straight line because I keep bumping into people. Have to keep picking my head up so I can move around them. Got kicked in the face twice. Ouch.
I never was able to get back into a rhythm for the second half of the swim. I tried to push harder but I kept running into people and it really began to bottleneck as I came in toward the finish. Very frustrating, but I figured I'd make it up on the bike.
Exit the water. Defining moment of the day, right here. As I ran on the green little rug toward the corner where we turned left to enter transition, I felt good. Was ready to go get on the bike and move it! Making my way around the corner, my right foot hit the duct tape that was holding the green rug to the ground. My right foot went out to the right and DOWN I went right onto my LEFT knee. BAM! It hurt but not a lot. My goggles and cap were in front of me and as all the spectators gasped at my fall, I just thought "pick it up. Let's go."
Into T1 and noticed that my fall left a hole in my wetsuit. "Oh well." I ripped it off and noticed that my left knee was slightly bleeding but not bad. Not enough to stop me. Put my shoes on, helmet, no arm warmers because it seemed sunny enough (thank goodness!), cool pink girly sunglasses and off I went.
Began the bike feeling alright. I had been told to stay on the slightly conservative side for the first 30 miles because the last 25 would be hilly and windy and that a lot of people went out too hard initially and lost it at the end. So, for the first 25 or so, I paced around 21 mph. Not quite as fast as I was expecting myself to be, but I thought "well, it's still not a bad speed, especially if I'm saving some energy for those climbs and I can really rip it up." I was still passing women in my age group (though not as many as I was used to) so I thought I'd be okay. By the time I hit the 30 mile point, I thought I was doing alright.
First moderate climb was okay. Still, I didn't feel quite as strong as I thought I might. I live in Sonoma County. I KNOW HILLS. Hills don't scare me, and I have always considered myself a relatively decent climber; could be better if I really worked more on it, but still not bad.
Second climb - the BIG hill. I mean BIG. I didn't realize the grade would be so pitching but there it was...right there for you to see and go "oh." But I still thought "it's okay. Just get some momentum and drop the gears. No problem."
Yet...there was a problem. My legs had no pep. Nothing was 'popping.' I stood up out of the saddle and tried to turn the pedals over quickly and get some juice flowing, but nothing was happening. It was awful. I sat back down and just tried to spin my way up this grind, but my 'spinning' was more like 'cranking.'
In between this hill and the next, I just began to lose my momentum. I felt downright SLOW. I kicked it into my smaller ring and just spun for 3 minutes. I ate a little more. Then I got passed by two, three women who I had already passed.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. That NEVER happens! EVER! Usually it's me who then, toward the end of the ride, passes up a few more women who went out too hard.
This is where I began to lose my mental game. "What happened in my training?" "What did I do wrong?" "What didn't I do enough of?" "Where did I mess up?" "WHAT HAPPENED?"
Then on top of that, the wind began to pick up around mile 40. Brutal, in-your-face wind. Just had to drop some gears and spin it out. I was getting tired of being on the bike. I was upset with myself. I didn't like all of the gray clouds hovering over us. I wanted the sun back. I wasn't as strong as I was used to being and it really frustrated me.
Mile 45. My right ankle is beginning to bother me. WTF? Now what? This has NEVER happened. Oh well, just press on. 11 miles to go. Nothing. Just GO and be DONE with it. The faster you go, Sarah, the faster it's over. Why do I do this again? This hurts. I'm tired. I'm really not having fun. YES YOU ARE. YOU ARE HAVING FUN AND YOU LOVE THIS! BE POSITIVE! STOP BEING SO NEGATIVE! YOU ARE GOING TO KICK SOME BUTT ON THAT RUN! SMILE!
I really tried to get the positive self-talk flowing and win back my mental game, but it was really difficult. Still, I thought "I've still got the run. I'm going to get some time back there. It's all good."
Into T2 I went. Looked down at my left knee and it's about the size of a softball. Wow. Oh well. Put my shoes and hat on and out the door I go.
Ouch. I mean...OUCH. My right ankle was throbbing. My left knee was this dull, blunt pain. I wasn't really sure any longer if I could run 13.1 miles like this. All I could do was try. If it still hurt after 2 miles, I would stop. No point in injuring myself. There was a woman in my age group who was running out of transition at the same time as I was. I helplessly watched her run away from me as I continued to ponder my ability to do this.
I kept going. The interesting thing about this race is that they print your name on your bib...so all of these great spectators are yelling "Go [insert your name here]!" At first you think "who is that? How do they know me?" Then you realize what's going on. It's pretty awesome.
I hit the first aid station still in some pain and looked for Rocketpants. I thought I saw her but was just concentrating on getting my game on and getting back into the race that I just went on my way.
By mile 2 my ankle was doing okay. What I was NOT happy about, however, was the fact that both miles had been 8:30s. I couldn't believe it. I had been training 'easy' long runs at 8:10/mile. What was going on? 17 minutes and counting...I had to pick it up. HAD TO.
I tried. But by mile 3, there I was, at 25:40 or so...another 8:30 later. Wow. I was unbelievably frustrated. Every time I really TRIED to significantly pick it up, my breath got shorter and I just didn't feel like it would be something I could maintain. Fine, back to 8:30 it was.
Mile 6 the ankle was feeling okay. Dull knee pain on the left. Quads beginning to let their presence be known. Whatever. I was going to do this. I was committed now.
Mile 10 I realized "you know...my feet hurt!" The concrete was very hard and after awhile, it begins to hurt as you pound down on it.
Somewhere around miles 8-10 I slowed a little bit. By now it didn't matter. I was resigned to the fact that it just wasn't my day. My goal was to finish as strong as I could and try to remember to have fun. That's what I've been preaching all along. If it's not fun, why do it?
By mile 11 it was game on. 2 miles left and I was ready to finish. I let the inspiration of the ocean to my left, the black hippie/soul dude with the crazy car blasting his music and message of peace, and all of the awesome specatators just bring me home. My quads were screaming and I didn't care. I was going to be done with this!
I think the last two miles ended up pacing around 8:05 or so. At that point I had trouble keeping track and I didn't care anymore. Right before the chute began I lifted my pace, held my head up and ran through. Oh, it felt so good to be done!!
I went to the medical tent and sat with some ice. I was still pretty disappointed but proud of my perseverance.
Will I do this race again? Probably not. I think Paul is smart when he says "it's too early and too cold." I'm not so sure about these early-season races. There were a lot of factors that went into Saturday being as it was. I didn't have a whole summer of century rides at break-neck paces under my belt. I've spent tons of time running on the treadmill because of weather. Too much time, clearly - should've been outside more. I thought I could carry myself swimming-wise without doing master's after I moved from Berkeley. I think it's time to get back to master's where I can be pushed harder.
And of course...if I wouldn't have fallen...who knows what might have happened? The bruise on the left knee is healing. But now the inside of my right knee is in some pain, and the ankle is still a bit sore. We theorized that perhaps when I slipped on my right foot, I stressed the tendon that carries down from the knee to the ankle. Add that to possibly overcompensating with that leg for the left knee...no wonder my ankle was killing me.
People asked me, "well...so how did it go?"
I said "some ups and downs and lots of lessons and things to think about."
Every race is a learning experience and my only regret about this sport is that we don't have more opportunities to perform. Given the expense and simply how taxing each race is, it's not really too plausible to be racing every weekend or even every other. So when it all culminates on one event...it's a bit disappointing when it doesn't go your way. Yes, there will be others, but damn! I wanted this one to go so well!
Photos and more insight to come soon...thank you to EVERYBODY for all of the words of support and encouragement along the way. It really helped carry me through my low points on Saturday. :)