I traveled up to Everett, WA for my 4th half ironman of the year last Friday. I had a good weekend planned---after racing on Sunday I was going to drive down to Portland with my mom and visit my 98 year old grandmother---known as "Ama." After some intense recovery following Vineman and a couple weeks of good work I was ready to race. The aches and pains that had nagged me before the July 18 race were gone and I felt like my body was starting to come around. In addition, usual travel and packing stress was non-existent. I got everything together without incident and was ready to go without obligatory running around and last minute errands. We made it up to Seattle on Friday night, checked into the hotel,where they tried to give me a smoking room but I insisted otherwise, and got to bed relatively early. On Saturday morning we slept in, got breakfast at a downtown cafe and checked out a small car show. The 1955 jaguar was the prettiest but I liked the truck pictured below:
It reminds me of something from that movie Cars.
We went out to the race site later on in the morning, attempted to drive the bike course, made a wrong turn, but eventually found our way around the loop. The roads were beautiful. However, they were narrow and since I knew it was a two loop course I wondered how crowded it would be on the 2nd loop for the Pros. I took a quick ride on course and then a swim on course and we headed back to Everett for lunch and the Pro meeting. There was a lot of discussion at the meeting about how crowded it would be on the 2nd loop of the bike course which made me a little concerned. I resigned myself to the fact that I may have to slow down to be safe and figured that we would all be in the same boat. I was not going to make any decisions that would put me in danger (crossing the yellow line, etc.) just to get to T2 faster.
Race morning came quickly and since we had a 6:34am start I was up very early. Everything went smoothly; we got out to the race site easily, parked and I sent up my transition quickly. I was treated to a one transition race which was a luxury. My last 3 races have had separate bike and run transitions so to have access to my run items on race morning was nice. I was also doing the shoes clipped in from the start on the bike and I was happy to see no hills at the very beginning of the bike. It was a perfect start for my first go at the putting the shoes on while riding thing.
We had a non-wetsuit swim and since the water was exactly 72 degrees I opted to not get in before the start because I did not want to stand around and freeze while waiting for our start. I went for a jog, did some arm swings and I was ready to go. We jumped in the water and lined up on the start line which kept creeping forward as we approached the race start. I never understand this---why don't we all just stay lined up behind the line? Needless to say, for whatever reason, we drifted forward until the gun sounded. I lined up on the far right and made a beeline for the inside at the start. Luckily, I had a good start, avoided contact and settled into a good pace swimming behind Sam Warriner and Melanie McQuaid. The swim was relatively uneventful and we hit land in about 29 minutes. I was determined to have a good transition or I would hear it from Andy so I was focused on what I was doing. The skinsuit came off quickly, everything clasped correctly and I was off and ready to mount my bike. I had trouble getting my first foot on the shoe but it was not that bad. I was completely comfortable securing my velcro while rolling and felt good. Of course, the girls that I came out of the swim with were long gone, but eventually I believe they will not disappear so quickly. I settled into my pace and got ready for the beautiful roads and rolling hills. The course was hilly the entire time and I felt stronger riding hilly course than in the past but I was still being passed. At this point, I admit that I do get frustrated and I wonder to myself if I belong, but I refuse to give up. I know that I will become stronger, I just have to be patient. It is hard to come out of the water in the mix and then slide backwards during the bike and come into T2 in 13th place. I am confident that I have improved slightly and the damage done is not as catastrophic as it was in the past.
I was in and out of T2 and hoping that my run legs felt better than they did 4 weeks ago. Luckily, I could tell the difference from the first few steps. The run was hilly the entire time and had virtually no shade. It was definitely warm out and with no wind to speak of, it was a hot one. I do like the heat so I tried to be positive about it. I ran strong, settled into a rhythm and tried to catch a few women in front of me. I started the 2nd loop getting close to another Pro woman and I remained strong and determined to reel her in. I made the pass about mile 8 and when I saw Andy at mile 9 he asked "are you okay?" This made me nervous---at this point I felt pretty good---did I look like death? No matter, less than 4 miles left and nothing left to do but get the finish line as quickly as possible. I passed another woman around mile 10, made one last gradual climb and rounded the corner to the finish line. I finished 11th and happy with how I executed the race. Apparently, Andy asked how I was doing because he thought I looked better the second time he saw me than the first---I guess that is good.
My run out of transition--both feet off the ground and running!!!
There were some things that did not go according to plan. I got caught behind two trailers that were caught behind loads of bikers going 14mph at about mile 50. I had no way to get around as there was oncoming traffic so I just had to sit there. Finally, I got the drivers attention and was able to warn him I was coming up on the right side. That was frustrating. After that I dropped my chain on the very last hill before transition. Ugh! Luckily, I got it back on very quickly and really did not have trouble starting on the hill. It would have been nice to have someone give me a push like in the Tour de France, but there was no one around and that would be considered outside assistance. I will say that while I thought the course was beautiful I was not a fan of the vehicular traffic on the course in addition to the narrow, 2 loop bike course that made for a lot of bikers on the 2nd loop for the Pros. I would probably not choose to do the race again because of the way it is set up. I just don't want to push my luck and with people going 47mph downhill it is just an accident waiting to happen. Plus, I got the feeling some of the drivers out on the course were not very happy with fact we were on their road on a Sunday morning when they were trying to get somewhere. Andy even got yelled at by a guy in Lake Stevens for parking on the street---in a legal space! The guy told him he was going to run over our rental car with his truck if Andy did not move. After that, the guy called the police on himself. Andy asked the cop if he was allowed to park on the street and the cop said "of course" and that he would take care of the homeowner having a fit out in his yard.
After the race we headed back to the hotel to pack and shower in less than 20 minutes and then piled in the car for the drive to Portland. I will say that a 4 hour drive post race makes for a painful few steps out of the car upon arrival at your destination. I was hobbled (and humbled).
I spent the next two days visiting with Ama which was the perfect post race activity. We sat around, caught up and ate well. It was my aunt's birthday so there was a lot of cake consumed. Yummy! I also got a chance to go for a chilly swim in the Willamette river (picture below) and meet one of my former UIC swimmers for lunch and a frozen yogurt treat.
I got home on Tuesday afternoon and have been slowly getting back into some training. The body is feeling pretty good and I am ready for a shorter race at Pacific Grove. There is only 6-8 weeks left in the 2010 season. It is hard to believe. It has certainly flown by. I am excited to tackle a few more races, recover and then start preparing for 2011. Happy Training!
The Willamette River---I am the little speck in the distance.
There were lots of ducks in the river.