Thursday, July 18, 2013

Taking a Chance---Vineman 2013

When I was heading to transition on Sunday morning I received a text from a friend that said "go fast, take chances." I did not have time to reply to the text before the race but the words resonated with me. After Quassy I went into problem solving mode in an effort to make some headway on the bike. Giving up 19 minutes is not acceptable. There is NO WAY to recover from that against women who can run as well as they bike. So, even before I left Connecticut I had ideas about how to improve the situation. I knew I would not be able to magically start biking as fast as the top women in the sport but I had to find a way to close the gap. My coach and I worked together to make major changes in all aspects of my cycling and Vineman was going to be the first test to see if I was moving in the right direction. It was a bit risky but I knew it was my only shot. Taking a chance started on June 3 for me. The changes seemed to invigorate me and they made me believe I was faster. I was motivated and excited and, not to sound to "after school special," I was really enjoying the process of just trying to get faster. It could blow up in my face but it was a risk I was completely willing to take.

Race morning went quickly due to our insanely early start of 6:32. There was no time to get anxious for the start which is fine with me. I warmed up on land (run and stretch cords for arms) and then got in the water for a 10 minute swim. The start was civilized and there was not too much contact. I laid back just a bit and settled into a good rhythm. I ended up swimming next to one woman and then we eventually caught up with another woman close to the turn around. As we were coming around the buoy I ended up kicking someone pretty hard (sorry!!!). I felt bad about it and in an effort to "flee" the scene of the crime I decided to pick it up a bit. I kept sighting and looking for other woman in our powder blue caps but I saw no one. I figured a group had gotten out in front and were probably well ahead so I kept swimming and focused on my effort. I felt strong and my turnover was solid. I also was not overheating since I decided to wear my sleeveless Roka. As I emerged from the water I saw Meredith was still in transition and thought "that's a good sign, my swim was not too bad." I got my suit off quickly, grabbed my bike and ran out of transition making sure to run up the steep hill versus mount the bike and ride into a ditch like I did in 2010.

Perfect temperature for my sleeveless Roka.
My last two races (Wildflower and Quassy) have both been warm on the bike right from the start. The fog rolled in on Sunday so it was a bit damp and cool at the start of the bike. I had goosebumps and it was a bit tough to find a rhythm the first 20 minutes but I still rode pretty well. Plus, I kept reminding myself that goosebumps and slight chill was NOTHING compared to the hell I endured at Alcatraz this year which meant I was fine! A couple women came by at the beginning of the bike including Heather Jackson at mile 10 which is better than mile 3 which is when she usually passes. I ended up staying with Lisa Mensink for a the first 28 miles or so. The only drama I had was around mile 20 when I heard a weird clunking noise. I waited for one of my tires to go flat and said a few choice curse words in my head but nothing happened. I shrugged my shoulders and grabbed the gatorade I had taken at the first aide station for a swig. There was no sport top on it so I dumped gatorade all over myself! It was quite surprising and I realized the clunk I heard was the top fall off and hitting my wheel or something. Phew---crisis avoided except for a sticky mess.

I continued riding and went around Lisa on a false flat before we got to Geyserville. Just past the aide station in Geyserville Linsey Corbin passed Lisa and I. Lisa came around me and we all rode together for the next few miles. At one point I could see the gap between Lisa and Linsey was growing. I still felt pretty good so I decided I had to go around Lisa and try to stick with Linsey. I knew if the gap kept opening up I would not see her again until after the finish. So, I said "f--- it," put in an effort, went around Lisa and caught back up with Linsey. I felt good on Chalk Hill and although Linsey was a little more daring on the sketchy descent I ended up closing the gap on the flat roads heading to T2. I did not know how the run legs would feel but I gave myself a shot to race with her for 13.1 miles.

Riding amongst the vines.
When I jumped off the bike at T2 I was beyond shocked to hear the announcer say I was 6th off the bike. I still had it in my head that a big "group" had gotten away on the swim and were well ahead. I had not bothered count people or notice who had racked their bikes at T1 in the morning. I just went about the business of executing my race. I will tell you that racking my bike when there were only 4-5 bikes in T2 was AMAZING. It definitely made me smile.

In pain but trying to hide it. Mile 5 or so.
I came out of T2 just behind Linsey and waited for my run legs to come around. They usually feel a little weird for the first mile or so but then they settle in. I hit mile 1 and there was no settling!!! Linsey was pulling away and others were behind me. I was convinced I was running at a snail's pace. I told myself it might take longer to feel better since I had put out a good effort on the bike. Mile 2---NOTHING! At that point I knew I was just going to have to gut it out, hope it would feel better eventually and get the job done no matter how I felt. I focused on my form and kept my turnover going. I took care of myself on the nutrition front and there were points I felt like I found a rhythm but it seemed to be fleeting. I got to see my competition at mile 8.5 and I realized if I maintained a solid pace I could probably hold them off. Light on the feet, turnover, Powergel, count to ten, relax your shoulders, Coke!!!---those were my only thoughts. 

Finish...trying to smile but it came out wrong and I look tortured.
As I came to mile 12 I grunted to a spectator "can you see anyone?" Luckily, the answer was no! I kept the pace as fast as I could for the last mile and finally made the left turn for the finish chute. My parents were there, I saw Andy (Happy 8th Wedding Anniversary!!!) and my friend John. They all seemed excited. I was too but I also needed to sit down....

When Stephanie sent this picture the filename was "ECexhausted." Spot on.
It was a good day. Of course, being a perfectionist I found things I wanted to do better but I think that is what racing is about---there is always something to improve no matter how well you race. A couple days later I recounted the race to the swim coach I work with. He looked at me and said "that is the happiest I have ever heard you talk about a race." So, I guess that means I was pretty pleased with how it went.  I took some chances, made some changes and saw improvement. You can't be unhappy with that....

Thanks to Roka, PowerBar, Rudy Project, Rolf Prima, Smashfest Queen, Focus and Zoot.


  1. Awesome job Emily! Seems like big risks almost always pay off, if not right away, eventually. Glad yours did!!! Congrats! :)

  2. Sometimes you gotta do it even if you don't feel it. Very nice!

  3. YES-I heart everything about this. Love the risks, love the grit, love the results. Congrats!!