Tuesday, April 3, 2012

May the Odds Forever be in Your Favor (Vegas Style)

So, you know what the odds are in Vegas? Yep, the house always wins. Even if you count cards you usually lose, or get thrown out of the casino which is probably considered losing as well. In spite of the odds, I decided that doing the Leadman 125 would be in my favor this year. I was stronger on the bike, I am a good swimmer and I am relatively light so an uphill run might be good for me? All sounds good in theory, however, upon execution last Saturday some things went my way and some things did not. That said, it's racing and you take the good with bad and while I came away with some things I need to correct in future races I still had a great time and ultimately, got stronger on Saturday.

Now, first I need to back up the tape. I returned from Costa Rica a bit haggard after a long travel day but I had a couple easy days and then got right back into training since I scheduled a very LONG race 13 days following my 2012 debut in CR. My heart was in it, my body, not so much. I got the inkling I was getting a bit rundown on Friday night when we went to see the Hunger Games. Hence, the title of the blog...I am so clever. I told Andy in the theater, "it's hot in here right?" His answer, "uh, no." Either way, I stripped off my fleece, which I never do since I am eternally cold, and enjoyed the movie. I woke Saturday feeling a bit iffy but had a good run and good swim during the day. In the middle of the night I woke up with a sore throat and wicked congestion in my nose. Long ride canceled and couch time booked. I remained positive. My body was just telling me what it needed (rest) so I figured I'd kick the cold quickly and find myself on the start line in Vegas ready to rock and extra rested. Except for a runny nose I came around quickly after one day off (sunday) but training remained relatively light leading into Saturday's race. Travel was easy, I was feeling good and I was excited to race.

Race morning I woke up leisurely at 6:45 for breakfast in the hotel room before heading to Lake Mead. I looked out the window and saw the flags and palm trees around the resort whipping. Darn it, the wind they forecasted had arrived. I figured maybe it was just the weather people being extra dramatic like usual. I figured while they called for wind I theorized they would be wrong about the MPHs we would have to endure. First roll of the dice, fail on the odds. Luckily, being an ultra prepared over packer I brought my shallower (31mm) aero training wheel just in case the drama queen weathermen got it right. We got out to Lake Mead, I opened the car door, looked at the whitecaps on the water and made my mind up right there; wheels were doing the switcharoo. Bye Bye 66mm carbon clincher. Odds in my favor wind---take that!

The bike was racked, warm up was done and I was lining up for the swim start in no time. I felt calm and excited. The water was insanely CLEAR (like I could see to the bottom beautiful) and COLD but I felt good. The women lined up and I was ready. The gun fired and I hit it! My swim start was no joke...it was the shiznit! I have never had a start like that. I rounded the first buoy and was by myself with someone tickling my feet occasionally. Eventually this person came around me and made a break. I thought it was Hillary from the looks of it and since they got a bit of a gap I found myself swimming 30 meters back all alone. This was okay with me. I felt good. I rounded the buoy and hit the chop. Thankfully I could see the Stand Up Paddleboarder leading the 1st place chick (Hillary in my mind) so I did not have to rely on sighting the buoys. This was a good thing since I could not see them anyway through the chop. I reveled in these conditions. It was a course for the swimmers (odds for Emily again!). I actually enjoyed myself out there in the chop. I rounded the final buoys and was swimming with the chop before making the turn in to the finish chute. I came out to find Kelsey (ie, not Hillary) in the transition area. WTF? Oh well, I figured she was just behind. I grabbed my bike quickly, channeling my short course speed, and got onto my bike first. As I jumped on, I hit my shoe the wrong way and had to restart but whatever, it's 69 miles people, :10 at T1 means nothing.

Then I rode for 20 miles in 1st place. In a professional race I, Emily Cocks, rode in 1st place. Odds seemed to be in my favor, but alas, I would learn later they were not. Angela, the eventual champion, came by and I just let her go. I knew it would be a long day in the winds and the ride back to transition was going to be brutal. The wind was picking up, we had hills, I was riding sideways at some points and my legs were beginning to hurt at the turnaround. However, I was positive since your legs are going to hurt on these hills and in the horrendous conditions. I was passed for 2nd and was riding solidly in 3rd place with 2nd in sight. My low point passed and I began to feel better. Then another low point came around mile 50. I still remained positive but I noticed that I was beginning to battle my Quarq power meter a bit. My avg watts were dropping....Once I got to a left turn that would mean we had 10 more miles to ride I was broken. I was riding up an 8% grade going 4 mph with a 40mph headwind pushing me backwards. It was ugly. I was making weird grunting noises and just staring straight ahead. I drank what I could. I ate. I prayed. I made the left turn and the wind was worse. Those last 10 miles felt like they took three hours. In all seriousness, I think I did average 10mph for a significant period of time with the last 2 miles being the longest I have ever experienced in my life. I was assessed that I had 4 working muscle fibers in my legs. 2 minutes later I realized I was wrong and that I maybe had 2 working muscle fibers. In spite of this rapid downward spiral I remained upbeat--I have come off the bike feeling terrible and run great so perhaps that will happen today. I FINALLY made it to T2 and slipped on my shoes. I again displayed my short course transition skills and headed out on the 8 mile uphill slog to the finish line.

I had pushed my body to the limit. I had gambled during the first part of the bike and I had bet too much. My body was broken. I could hardly pick up my feet. I was shuffling. I got passed for 3rd and 4th. I walked a couple of the aide stations and got some coke and water down. I started to run a bit better. I could see 4th up ahead. Perhaps I could catch her. I tried. It was not happening. I got passed by Charisa who looked like she was running 6 min/mile. In actuality, she was averaging 8:28s. She had the fastest run of the day. It was that tough. The last hill took my shattered self and legs and ripped them off. I was kicked out of the casino. No more gambling for Emily. I lost. I finished one place out of the $. However, I FINISHED. I smiled and knew that I put it all out there. I looked far from the athlete I thought I was on the run but in truth, it was my decision to race and ultimately, I paid the price.

What happened? In my estimation and somewhat overly analytical mind, I biked too hard at the beginning of the race. In my effort to not let my little virus at the start of the week affect me I did not give it the respect it deserved. I should have built into the bike ESPECIALLY because of the conditions. On paper, the bike ride looks to be 13 miles longer than a 1/2 ironman. 40 minutes tops. Just a bit more time and some extra nutrition and I would be fine. On the course, those 13 miles were a game changer and with 40mph headwinds with 70mph gusts it took everything out of me. Did you know your arms and core gets sore from trying to stay upright?

To be fair, everyone suffered out there, everyone was feeling it and we all encountered the same thing. I made some decisions during the race that did not serve me well and I paid for it. I did not want to be "weak" and let a runny nose affect me so I dismissed it since I felt fine on the day of the race. On Saturday I needed a beyond full tank and I did not have it. I rested a bit going into Costa Rica. I raced in challenging conditions there, I traveled home, I got right back into training and my body needed rest. The reserves were not there. I probably folded a bit mentally at the beginning of the run too. I fought back and ran better in the middle but then my energy went down again by mile 6.5. I ran the SLOWEST per mile pace I have ever run IN MY LIFE on Saturday. This includes a marathon with strep throat, my 1st triathlon and my 1st half ironman. I went to Vegas with my chips and I did not have enough. The odds were not in my favor on Saturday.

So, for anybody wondering about whether they should do Leadman my answer would be an resounding...YES! It gets back to the grassroots feel of triathlon. It is stunningly beautiful. The scenery is raw, desolate, stark and overwhelmingly gorgeous. Even in my state of duress I found myself happy to be on the course and honored to be braving the conditions with the other 250 athletes on the start line.

Race Pictures to follow. Thanks for reading. On tap is recovery, training and Wildflower.


  1. So proud of all of you out there. Sound like a full on sufferfest that you came out of stronger than ever.Way to go Emily!


  2. Wow--that is amazing and it must have been a KILLER day out there--70mph gusts?! Your description of the run made ME feel tired reading it! Awesome job--can't wait to see the pics! Talk about what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, huh?!

  3. It is the way that it works. AS one of my professors said. Paper can handle everything and it is true you can suppose but the real challenge happens when you are on it. It happens a lot in price per head