Pleasant Prairie Tri

Oy, where to start? I was hesitant to do this race, I’m not sure why.  Perhaps my gut was telling me something…

As usual, I arrived about 75 minutes prior to the race start, which normally provides ample time to get everything set up, to warm-up, and to use the facilities with much time to spare.  I typically warm-up last so it’s close to race start time when my body needs to be ready.  So I got everything laid out and headed for the bathroom. The lines were quite long so thankfully I found Jenny Zapler and Stephanie Michelle who let me join them mi-line, whew!  25 minutes later, we’re still in line, not happy.  (I debated asking people if I could go ahead of them since I was in the first wave, but I didn’t have the guts.  Not smart in retrospect)!  Finally, a few minutes later, it was my turn.  Unfortunately the long wait didn’t allow me to warm-up. Grrr!  So I put on my wetsuit then jogged and jumped in place a little and ended with some arms swings and stretching.

My co-ed elite wave was pretty small in size, but large in contact.  It was quite the physical swim, at least for the first 5 minutes, much longer than normal.  I recall thinking how well I was sighting off the bat as I could see many buoys lined up to my left.  Yes!  But that first stretch was tough as some guy was swimming so close to me on my right that with every stroke he whacked me on the head!  He kept veering a couple of strokes right, then would come crashing back into me, again, again, and again.  I wanted to pick up the pace, yet I didn’t want this guy to dictate my race so I concocted a plan.  A turn buoy was about 50 yards away.  At that point I decided I would accelerate around the buoy and kick a little bit to see if I could pull ahead. It worked, whew!  Off to the next long stretch and again, I could see the buoys most of the time.  Sweet!  Closing in on the last turn buoy, no one was around, at least that I could see.  I made the turn and…where the heck were the buoys???  The sun was directly in my face and I couldn’t find any buoys or swimmers, nor the swim exit with the big building behind it.  Panic started to set in, but after a couple of minutes I felt relieved as I could see a boat coming up on my left.  I assumed it was on the buoy line and that I was swimming right on course.  As I got close, I saw two men aboard waving their hands at me so I lifted my head to see what was going on.  They yelled at me to go towards the nearest buoy, which was about 50 yards away.  So basically after making the last turn, instead of going straight, I went way left.  Grrrrr!  And to top it off, there were about 4 guys drafting off me.  Needless to say, they were not happy.  I won’t take responsibility for that though as I always tell people never to trust the person swimming in front of them, especially if it’s me!  (Ask Jen Harrison, she’s seen me do it several times and has been kind enough to help me out during a race)!  Needless to say, not a good swim and I took at least a minute+ hit on my time.

After a solid transition, I hopped on my bike. I kept the first few minutes on the easier side in order to get my high heart rate down.  It worked, but I also got passed by Lauren Jensen during that time.   (She is a former professional triathlete and is super strong on the bike). I expected her to pass me on the bike, but not that soon.  I knew to stick to my race plan and not bust a gut staying close to her. It was tempting though.  I was able to keep her in sight for the first 25 minutes, but then I quickly lost her.  I was going down a long low-grade hill so my speed was high. With that, I switched into my highest gear when bam, my chain fell off.  Crap!  Typically it’s not a big deal, but my pedals wouldn’t move at all and both cranks were parallel to the ground.  How would I dismount?  For whatever reason, I unclipped my left shoe then only removed my right foot from the shoe. I should have done the latter with both.  After slowing pumping my brakes a few times, I opted to do a flying dismount, which I do successfully at the end of every ride…except this time as I wiped out.  Ouchie!  I was ok, but shaken up and very mad, but I got my chain back on, moved my pedals around to ensure it worked, and off it came again.  Really?  Would this be my first DNF?  I tried again and was successful, but it took my head out of the game momentarily as about 4 riders passed me, one of whom was female.  More time lost, about 80 seconds per my Garmin.

Ok, back in the race Mary, shake it off.  I tried hard, but never found a groove.  My power was lower than usual, my heart rate was lower than usual, yet my effort was there. I opted to focus on what I could control, like hydration.  Really?  Another issue?  I couldn’t get more than a few drops of liquid out of my water bottle at a time, even with squeezing it.  Throughout the ride, I tried a plethora of times to hydrate to little avail.  To put it in perspective, I normally consume one bottle during my race rides.  This time I was only able to get about 20% of the liquid out of it. (And yes, I’ve used this bottle before with no qualms). Not good! Not good for the ride or for the upcoming run.

By the time I made my flying dismount, at the bike exit this time, I was THIRSTY.   At the start of the run I grabbed some water, as I did at every aid station.  I drank half and put half over my head as it was hot and there was no shade.  My legs felt decent and I thought I was going at a solid pace.  I even passed a couple of guys which is rare.  In the end, it wasn’t a good run either. The lack of hydration hurt me big time, so more time lost there.  It just wasn’t my day. It happens.

It’s all about perspective; just looking at the results and seeing I placed 4th, well, it sounds good and yes, that is good.  But looking at all my errors & issues and the time it cost me, well, it simply wasn’t a good race.  On the flip side, I am very fortunate I came away with just a little road rash and bruising on the wipe out and am even more blessed that my body allows me to race at all. I am always thankful for that!

A big shout out to sherpa Scott who loaned a stranger one of my spare wheels right before the race started!  That’s why I love the triathlon community!  They are so nice and helpful!  It was great to see so many friends out there hanging tough too; Amy O, Kim & Mark M, Mike, Jeremy, Mark G, Jenny, Stephanie, Tiffanie, Amy D (whom I hadn’t seen since high school), Brian, Marc, Dave, Christy, Rob, Marsha, Janet, Drew (he was very inspirational buddying up with a para-triathlete), etc. Sorry if I missed anyone!

Congrats to all who raced and to all who supported us! And thank you to my sister-in-law Allie for taking such good care of our girls that morning!

Onward and upward!

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Leon’s Triathlon

Starting our drive to Hammond, IN this morning it was sunny and 65, but we could see clouds looming over Chicago and further south.  Not a shocker as that’s what the forecast called for, only a little cooler.  Perfect!

Upon arriving at the race site, I quickly found my clients, a ton of familiar faces, and my teammates as well. (This race has a few different team challenge races and Element Multisport sponsored our 2 teams, one consisting of 5 males and one of 5 females).  It was fun catching up with everyone, but I was a little distracted as I kept checking out the dark clouds.  I asked Scott several times to check the radar and every time he said it was clear.  A few minutes later, lots of strong winds came blowing through and the temperature quickly decreased at least 10 degrees.  You should have seen the look on everyones faces!  I heard some people talking about leaving, others were worried about riding with their discs, some were complaining about the chop in the water, not many seemed excited to race.  I felt all those things for a few minutes too, then let it pass. Weather is something which can’t be controlled and we were all in the same boat so you just have to deal with it. I quickly put on my wetsuit and cap to stay warm, it didn’t work.

Soon after, we were lined up by wave in front of the stage.  Some announcements were made including forecast info.  They too said the radar was clear.  (Can you see where I’m going with this)?  😉   Then we were led to the water.  Most of us, even those who don’t prefer the swim, were eager to get in as it was much warmer in the water than in the cold air.  After jumping in, we had a few minutes until our wave start.  I used it to swim a little and get a spot away from the chaos.  Mark and Bruce lined up right behind me.  With no warning (that I heard), they started us.  I’m so glad I stayed far right as most of the action was on the left and I was beat up pretty well a couple years ago in that action.

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I didn’t think the chop was bad at all, just enough to have a little fun. I felt relaxed and steady the entire way and was pretty much alone (not that I could see far) until the last 1/4 mile.  I knew there would be another woman around my speed in my wave, so I wasn’t surprised to see her on the last turn. She was really busting her butt with a 6 beat kick and all.  Yikes!  I haven’t kicked like that in a race since my collegiate days doing sprints!  There was no way I was going to join her in that endeavor.  I stuck to my 2 beat kick, kept my stroke long, and came out a few seconds ahead of her. I had a good transition and hopped on my bike. Brrr, my quads, hands, and feet were mighty cold!

Quickly, I forgot about that when I found a TV camera in my face. (It was held by a guy on a motorcycle.  Cameras follow the top 2 men and top 2 women throughout the race).   I was happy to see this as I clearly knew I was in the top 2, but at the same time, it made me a little self-conscious as the winds, cold, and light rain were making my nose act like a leaky faucet.  Ew! And yes, I said rain, which, um, was not on the radar!  Because of my nose, a small part of me was happy when I was passed a few miles later, no more camera. However, I did try to keep that motorcycle close by…to no avail.  At least my hands and legs were no longer cold.  Regardless of the conditions, I felt pretty good.  I just kept chuggin’ and focused on what I could control.  Upon dismounting, I checked my watch and was content, a solid ride, finally.

Mary bike Leon

T2, now that was interesting.  I didn’t realize until I was trying to take off my helmet and put on my shoes that my hands and toes were numb.  I had much difficulty putting my shoes on, and I had on Yankz (elastic laces)!  Out of T2, I wasn’t even sure my left heel was in my shoe.  I tried to look, but I had rain drops all over my shades and I certainly wasn’t about to stop.  I had also grabbed my watch on the way out, but didn’t even bother to attempt to put it on, I just held it, no biggie.  However, for one of the first times ever, I took a peek at my pace after a few minutes. Noooooo!!!  Too slow!  And I actually felt really good!  This is why I don’t like wearing/holding a watch!  It’s too distracting for me.  After that, I vowed not to look at it again, and I didn’t.  Since it was an out and back run, I opted to take off my shades and look at faces instead.  I tried to guess what everyone was thinking, that was a first and was kind of fun.  I also recall thinking that I’d MUCH rather race in this than anything over 80 degrees.  I mean really, the light rain and cool temps kept us from over-heating and getting sunburn. It just felt like a nice misting fan while working out hard, sweet!  I must have liked it as some friends told me I actually smiled when they saw me, a rarity.  I love to smile, but during a race, I just don’t have the energy to change my ‘game’ face.

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Around mile 4 , friend and client, Bruce passed me and cheered me on, thanks Bruce!  I still felt good and just tried to hang on to the end.  I saw many others too, including Kim, Betsy, Anne, Mark, Tom, Jeremy, Marsha, Mike, Drew, Greg, etc so it made the race more fun.  Ah, then I could see the finish line, I tried to pick it up the last few hundred yards, but I didn’t have another gear so I just kept my pace, whatever that was.  I felt good, and even better when Scott gave me my run split.  A personal best!  Yes!  Finally, everything came together pretty well.  I was happy with 4th overall female in this very competitive race.

Honestly, I think what really helped is that I was so positive in the couple weeks beforehand.  Several days before, I remember looking at Scott and telling him I was going to PR my run and I really believed it.  The mental aspect is huge and unfortunately, most people don’t ‘work’ on it until right before the race, if they do at all. Imagery is HUGE, belief in yourself is HUGE, belief in your plan is HUGE so if you are missing any of those components, you just won’t perform up to your potential.  I know all too well that often your biggest opponent is between the ears so ensure you train the brain too.

Back to the team component I mentioned earlier, both of our teams won!  Congrats teammates, you rock! And check out these sweet trophies! Yowza!

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Thanks Element MultiSport for having me as part of your team!  It was a fun race!

Congrats to my clients Betsy, Bruce, Marsha, and Michael, we had some great racing out there! And a big shout out to Scott, our awesome sherpa, photographer, and cheerleader!  Thank you to Coach Brian and masseuse Matt as well!