First and foremost, I need to thank my ‘village.’ It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to race and travel without one. So huge shouts out to Scott (my amazing sherpa, coach, and husband), my parents, Sandy, Dick, Kathy, Augsburgers, Filipics, and Sangers. They were a tremendous help and I can’t thank them enough! And a big round of applause to my sponsors; Janet Smith-Leet at Sub-5, Runner’s High n Tri, and Village Cyclesport. I also had a huge amount of support from extended family and friends, thank you thank you thank you!!!
At the beginning of the season, my main goal was to place top 5 in my age group at the World Triathlon Championships in Auckland, NZ. (This is a race you have to qualify for by placing in the top 18 in your age group at the USAT National Championships). I knew it would be difficult, but feasible, as I placed 8th in 2009. But, you never know who your competition will be from all the other countries as it can change from year to year depending on if people age up and/or if they improve.
Come mid-season, my goals changed as I’d been having issues with my hip since spring and it wasn’t getting any better. It never hurt during my workouts, but after a few minutes of sitting down, it was not fun. First thing in the morning coming down our stairs was no picnic either. Another issue was my bike. It had been much slower than last year in every race and every workout. We still can’t figure out why, but all signs point to my hip. I’m not for excuses, but I’m realistic. With the way things were going, my goal for top 5 would be quite a stretch. So, I just made the best of everything and did the best I could with really no set goals.
Fast forward to New Zealand. We arrived Thursday evening after a LONG trip via Tokyo with a 6-hour layover, then to Sydney with a 5-hour layover, and finally to Auckland. Our flight was delayed, but we arrived just in time for the pre-race dinner. The food was mediocre, but it’s always fun to see athletes from all the other countries.
The next couple days entailed a all-teams swim on the course and a couple of Team USA rides on the course, the first of which was in the rain and with wind gusts of up to 60mph! There were some big hills and some steep descents with curves and one with a 180 degree turn. I figured if I could survive this, one of the scariest rides I’ve ever done, I’d be fine in the race.
Finally it was Monday, race day and the weather was good, upper 50’s, partly cloudy, and less wind than the other day. I found teammate and Facebook friend Chris Wickard from IN in the transition area and we didn’t stop chatting until a few hours later when our wave started. I normally don’t talk that much prior to a race, but she was a good distraction from my nerves and our long wait.
After we lined up for the swim start on the dock, we sat down and had a couple minutes to wait. During this time we mainly splashed our faces to acclimate to the 58-degree water. Chris cracked a couple funny comments too. We were then told to enter the water keeping one hand on the dock… a few seconds later they started us. I took off feeling pretty good and quickly found I was in the lead, but not by much. The wave was 81 people wide and I was about in the middle with fast girls on either side of me. Soon one pulled ahead so I quickly moved over and drafted off her waist. I felt great and remember thinking how nice it was to draft! 😉 Unfortunately, that didn’t last long as she just kept getting faster and I couldn’t stick with her. So the other girl and I were neck and neck, but about 20 feet apart, for about 1/3 of the race when I simply lost sight of her. We had come upon the wave in front of us so we took different routes passing those athletes, plus the waves were getting pretty big, which made it difficult to see much of anything, let alone the buoys. I couldn’t find a rhythm at this point as the waves would push me some, but just as quickly, the undercurrent would pull me back a little. I finally felt good again on the home stretch. Scott and I both thought I exited the water in 2nd, but the results say 3rd. I was passed running to T1 so maybe the timing mat was after that. It doesn’t matter though.
It was a loooooong run to T1, but I had a decent transition and a good mount onto my bike. Ok, Mare, this is it, let’s get this bike going! My quads were on fire on the first hill and I didn’t even push it that hard as I knew I had to do 5 more! Luckily, I felt better a few minutes later and just stuck to my race plan. Chris passed me during the first 1/3 of the ride, NOT a good sign as she normally doesn’t pass me until right after T2! I knew she either had a great swim or my bike was really suffering. I talked myself into the former. (You can’t always base performance on speed, especially on hilly and/or technical courses). After the turnaround, I was ready to get my groove on since it was pretty flat. But no, the wind had picked up and was in my face! Grrr! I just did the best I could like everyone else. I felt better on the 2nd loop, but girls in my age group kept passing me. Those Kiwi’s and Aussies got me on the hills!
Coming off the bike, I was ready to run. I knew it would feel easier than biking those hills. Off I went with a HUGE crowd the first ½ mile or so. There is no better feeling! Spectators can really make a difference even if they are rooting for other athletes. This was also a 2-loop course and although my legs felt ok, my voices began to chatter. In brutal honesty, here are some of the thoughts that crossed my mind: 1) This is awesome, I’m at the World Championships! 2) This sucks! Why am I putting myself through all this pain! 3) Retirement sounds really good! Maybe I’ll just have a ‘normal’ life. 4) Stop it! Race girl, you feel good, you can do it! 5) Yep, this is definitely my last race, ever! 6) Shut up! HTFU! (Harden the f up)! (Sorry mom). 7) Why are there so many turns? 8) You’re representing the USA, don’t disappoint! 9) You’re lucky you’re physically able to do this, savor it! 10) At the finish line; I’m done!!! That was freaking hard! Thank goodness that’s over! 11) When is my next race???
Yep, it’s all true!
Results: 3rd out of the water, 20th in my age group with a very slow time (for me). But in talking to many athletes afterwards, most were 15-20 minutes off their ‘usual’ times so that made me feel better as I was that much off too. It just reiterates that you can’t always base results on times. Sometimes you can do everything right and it still won’t be your day. That’s the hardest part about being an athlete, especially when you know throughout the season you followed your training plan 99.9%, you ate well, you rested well, you never tweaked a workout, you only missed 3 workouts since March, you believed in your coach’s plan, etc. You can’t control everything, but you focus on what you can control and make the best of that and I did. Although I am not happy with my race, I am content knowing I can look back and not have changed a thing, no regrets. In the end, I had great experience, I met some great people, I have my health and a wonderful family, and I was fortunate enough to race at the World Championships! How can I not be grateful!?!
Here you can find some race pics: World Championships