The lead up to the race was a bit different than others as my coach and I wanted to try out a few things in hopes of getting me to the start line feeling strong. This involved a 10 day block of lots and lots of training followed by TWO days completely off. These two days off happened on Thursday and Friday the week BEFORE the race. This allowed me to recover from the intense training block and then have Saturday and Sunday to get rid of the cobwebs and do some good work the weekend before the race. We also felt that a 2 day break would allow me to get rid of some residual fatigue that seems to linger in my legs from time to time. In the week leading into the race I kept moving with a good amount of easy volume while keeping the intensity going so I did not feel flat on race day. I also felt this type of approach allowed me to stay in my "training" mindset of getting the work done day in and day out. Ultimately, this is what I want to do on race day. I don't like to ratchet the pressure on race day by making it into something it is not. It is day where I want to use my training and fitness to go fast but, like everyday, I need to focus on the process and getting done with the course as quickly as possible no matter what challenges may arise.
Race day came quickly and I was up early since we had a 6:32am start. I prepared my bike the night before by putting on numbers, all nutrition, etc. so I all had to do in the morning was roll into transition, put my helmet, sunglass and race number belt out and go warm up. I was in and out of transition in less than 3 minutes, got in a short run, hit the port-a-potty and then got in the water. Before I knew it we were off. There was quite a bit of firepower on the start line but the swim start was relatively tame. I have been working on not freaking out when there is contact during the swim and I have gotten better at not shying away if I get jostled around. I lost the feet of the front group early on in the swim. Apparently, I have a tendency to sight a bit too often during the beginning of the swim instead of keeping my head down. My husband (also assistant coach on race day) noticed that I lost quite a bit of ground at the start of the swim because of my oversighting. Lesson learned---keep head down and follow the bubbles. I ended up swimming on my own for the most of the swim in the middle of the river. I noticed a group of other girls swimming outside of me and towards the shore--maybe there was more current there? I have no idea. Anyway, I made it out of the water in 5th place and felt pretty good about the swim.
I had a good transition and was out onto the bike well. Last year I made the mistake of getting on the bike at the bottom of the big hill IMMEDIATELY out of transition. I got flustered because there was another athlete next to me and I ended up riding into a ditch. It was an awesome move :) This year I ran up the hill and then mounted the bike. For me this plan was definitely the way to go. I started fine but as it seems with this race, something was a little off when I started riding. This year my left shoe decided to misbehave and I had to take my foot out of the shoe a couple of times to get it on correctly. The strap was scrunched up and did not allow me to tighten it. I kept rolling, fixed it and got on with the job at hand. I felt better on the bike and good ability to go hard from the start. I have been focusing in on what race pace feels like in training because I don't want to always be starring at my powertap. I also want to race more on feel and not psych myself out if the power goes up for a bit. I have been training to handle some surges in effort during the bike so I can try to keep people in sight because it is much easier to ride hard when you have people in front of you keeping you honest. I did a bit better with this and rode some of the course with people and some of the time on my own. I focused on the keeping the effort up and not zoning out. It was a bit cool and misty from the fog and I fishtailed on one of the turns, almost going down. Around mile 40 Chalk Hill Road begins. I had grabbed a full bottle of gatorade at the aide station around mile 28. I had been drinking a bit out of it, but mostly drinking the gatorade in my water bottle between my aerobars. At the beginning of Chalk Hill there is a slight downhill. The road is also a bit bumpy. I hit a bump and felt something against my right foot. The mostly full gatorade bottle was teetering between my foot and the frame. In slow motion, it fell onto the road and rolled away. There was no way for me to stop and grab it. I was going too fast and it would have been unsafe. I did not freak out---I mean, how would that have helped the situation? I took a look at how much gatorade I had in my other water bottle (about 6 ounces) and figured I would just have to ration it the last 14 miles or so. Luckily, it was not super hot out and I had stayed on top of my hydration leading up to this point so I hoped it was enough to get me through the race. I also figured I would just try to load up the first few aide stations on the run. Other than that, there was not much I could do. I rode strong the remainder of the ride and did my best to suck every last ounce of gatorade out of the water bottle I had left.
I hopped off my bike and got through T2 quickly. Both my transitions at the race were solid. Within :05 of the fastest transitions among the pro women. Anyway, the legs felt tired but I was ready to run. I knew how I wanted to run and even if I did not feel great I was going to run fast. It would just be more painful if I did not feel good! I focused on relaxing and kept a few age group men in front of me as motivation to stay honest with the effort. While the run is a fast course it is relatively hilly the whole way. It reminds me of exactly the type of terrain I train on in Napa so I knew I was strong enough to handle the hills and maintain my speed. I grabbed a bit of extra fluid at the first few aide stations. I was feeling okay. Maybe I would be able to pull this off after losing my extra fluid on the bike?!?! I ran well through the halfway point, got a gel down and focused on running faster on the way back to the finish. This went well until about mile 10.5. Then I started to really slow down. My legs were feeling rather heavy and I could feel the lack of hydration setting in. At least it was only 2.5 miles from the finish. I was right on target up until that point to run about a 1:27 (my pre-race goal) but I lost a bit of time those last few miles. I had to focus on each step at that time. I was thinking "please get me to the finish line." I made it with my best 70.3 time ever, a PR on the run and 10 minutes faster than last year. I just wish I could have finished it off strong those last couple of miles but I got it done. And, I placed 11th AGAIN. I prefer to not be in the top ten so my name does not appear on triathlon websites! I think that is at least four 11th place finishes in the last 2 years. Guess I am just going to have to do better at Steelhead 70.3 on August 14!