The Battle At Midway
June 14, 2008
1500 meter swim, 23 mile bike, 5.92 mile run
It is hard to believe I am sitting here, ready to write this race report. I signed up for this race last fall, after being drawn in by the pictures and writing on the website. I talked with Glenn, asked him if we could make BAM a destination race and birthday weekend (his birthday was June 13) and he was all for it. At the time I signed up my confidence was pretty low – I had decided not to do the Half Silverman, and was floundering around wondering if I had what it takes to succeed in this sport. But somehow, underneath all that, I believed I could do it. I believed that ultimately I could put together a successful triathlon, and eventually learn to race. And this weekend showed me that I am well on my way. This was an "A" race for me. And a breakthrough in so many ways.
It's about a six hour drive up to Midway and we arrived at our hotel a little after 11pm Utah time on Thursday. The next morning we got up early and scoped things out. I did not sleep well Thursday night and was actively stressed. I tried to hide it but it was totally there and I was worried it would affect my race. We drove the bike course first. It was absolutely gorgeous. The scenery up there is nothing short of remarkable; snow capped mountains and greenery. Small town feel with very little traffic. The course was flat. The couple of "hills" that it did have could only be described as "easy rollers." The course wound around the outskirts and through the town of Midway, ending up at Soldier Hollow, a stadium that was built for the 2002 Olympic Games. Cross country Olympic athletes finished in that stadium. There is a long line of American flags that line the finish chute. It is one of the coolest race venues I have ever seen.
After driving the bike course we went to Deer Creek Reservoir so I could do my short pre race swim. By this time it was really windy and the water was a bit choppy. It was also pretty cool out. I did not want to get in the water (the stress was really doing a number on me and I was annoyed – I wanted to have a good time damn it!). Glenn told me I should get in and I said I just wanted to skip it. Then we saw another athlete arrive and get out of his car carrying a wetsuit. His wife/girlfriend was with him, carrying his gear bag. So I bit the bullet, suited up and went in. The water felt like Lake Mead in April! Forget 56 degrees – we're talking low 60s! I was so delighted that I swam straight out into the chop, relaxed and let the small waves wash over me, getting my breathing into a rhythm with the water. After a few minutes of this I turned around and sighted on Glenn to swim a straight line back.
Since Deer Creek is very near a highway there was no practical space to get my short ride in, so we packed up and drove to a spot on the bike course where I rode a quick couple of miles. Amazing how quickly the miles click by on a flat clean course. I got into the aero position. It seemed to work. Who knew?? After the ride I did a quick run and my mood had done a complete 180. I still felt the nerves but they were more manageable now. We ate lunch and then went to packet pick up and then went to T1 next to Deer Creek Reservoir to turn my bike in. I have never left my bike overnight before – I wasn't worried. On the contrary, I figured it would be one less thing to schlep in the morning.
Right after checking in my bike I got a text from Bobbi:
Our good friends Bobbi and Jerry had flown up in their Seawind and landed at neighboring Heber airport. They came up to help us celebrate my "A" race and Glenn's birthday. Little did I know what a great time was to shortly follow!
I slept badly again Friday night and had to really force myself to eat my pre race breakfast. We picked up Bobbi and Jerry in the lobby at 5:30 am and were on our way to Soldier Hollow. I was basically on auto pilot while the nerves were doing a number on me. It sucked. Once at Soldier Hollow I dropped my run gear in T2 and then we had to board a bus which would take us to T1 and the swim start.
Standing in line with Glenn, Bobbi, Jerry and the other athletes I started to feel a little better. I allowed myself to finally be thrilled that Bobbi and Jerry were there to share this race with us and that Jerry was going to be taking photos! Bobbi had brought three AIRHORNS for them to use on the course. Holy cow I was never going to have to wonder where they were!
Standing in line with the other athletes and spectators I also remembered what Coach had said to me after Rage:
You have done the same training as everyone else. Be proud of who you are.
Damn straight! I have a great coach!
We could quickly see that the transportation was a cluster. I was getting nervous about getting to T1 in time to get set up and pump my tires. Where were those damn busses?? Finally two busses pulled up and volunteers asked the spectators to let athletes on only so that all the athletes could get to T1 on time. So I took my gear bag from Glenn and boarded the bus. Got to T1 with just enough time to set up my gear, put on my wetsuit, get body marked, and NOT find a pump for my tires. They had told us repeatedly to not bring a pump to T1 that there would be plenty on hand! These two issues, the busses and the lack of pumps, is the only complaint I have about this race. I felt there should have been one more bus and they could have run them a bit faster. As for the pump, well next time I will bring mine. Worst case scenario if I lost it I only paid $14.99!
The thermometer on Glenn's truck said 38 degrees as we left the hotel. Thankfully, the air was still and calm, as was the water. As I made my way down the steep ramp to the beach, the coldest part of me was my feet; they were freezing!! Standing on the half frozen mud/sand was very uncomfortable! As we stood there waiting for the pros to start I heard the AIRHORNS. As I looked over to the spectator area, Jerry pulled out the camera and took a picture of me waiting to start. The three of them were cheering and calling my name. WOOT! Great energy, great confidence, I was ready!
After the pros went off I got in the water briefly for a very short warm up. Five minutes later they were counting down for our start. All of the women started together, along with the Elites. The cannon went off, I took a breath, and started.
The conditions of this swim were very similar to those at Rage, but I did not feel as focused. I was moving well and saying my keywords, but something felt not quite there. I can't put my finger on it exactly. The course was well marked, and after I was warmed up I had no problems sighting. Just before reaching the turnaround buoy, the water began moving pretty rapidly. Thinking the wind had probably whipped up, I looked up to assess the situation. It was totally NOT the wind but a whole pack of men from the waves that started after me! Cool! I felt a hand in the middle of my back, then the guy immediately changed course and swam around me. I thought that was cool – I didn't get swum over!
I seemed to stop and start a bit more than at Rage – had trouble sighting on one buoy due to the sun. For the second half of the swim I was surrounded mostly by men, which did not surprise me. I figured most of the girls would be ahead. Reached the second turn buoy (of this triangular course) and thought WHEW, almost DONE. When my head popped up again, I was next to two girls who were conversing about how this was a cold swim.
Cold??? I call low 60s refreshing, not cold. With that, I put my head down and made the final push to the finish. I could hear the announcer, the music, see the big swim finish inflatable and reiterated in my head that I was nearly done!
This felt like a fifty minute swim. Sometimes though, what we feel and what the clock says are very different. I was not wearing my watch and only when the official results came out on Sunday would I learn my true time:
Yes folks, read it and weep. I sure did. My best open water 1500 meter swim time to date shattering my previous times by 7-9 minutes!
(my Rage swim time was combined with my T1 time for a total of 56:xx – I figured probably 50 or so of that was actual swimming. Before that my best and only time was 51:xx at the Lake Las Vegas Triathlon)!
Bobbi told me later in the day that when she saw me enter T1 I looked flustered. I told her this was for two reasons: 1) I was concerned about having a smooth transition and 2) I was concerned about my tires being potentially under inflated. Once I was out of my wetsuit, time seemed to slow down while I got myself together. Transition was smooth, but a bit long. Coach said next time we will poke me in the butt to get moving! I was pleased to see there were at least two women also in transition. I beat them out of there!
T1 time: 4:46!
Something changed the moment I got on the bike. Some mojo and focus that I thought was missing in the swim showed up and hitched a ride. This was the best ride I have ever had anywhere, any time EVER. EVER! Everything went right and the moment I got on the bike and started peddling I forgot that I had been worried about my tires.
Coach had told me to ride aero in the flats. I had discussed with her the fact that aero is uncomfortable for me, particularly in the crotch area and I told her more than once that I did not ride aero at all because of that and because of all the hills that I ride on. I will get another fitting after BAM and blah blah blah . . . . .
Coach, however, would not let the aero issue lie. She said, "I would like you to stay aero on the flats."
Um, what part of what I explained to her does she not understand??? To her credit, she also said, "If this hurts your crotch obviously don't do it but picture yourself not seated in a chair but almost rolling forward on your crotch and sitting that way on the seat."
I tried it.
I remained aero the whole time with minimal discomfort. I sat up for the turns, the couple of wimpy hills, and the times I would drink. Otherwise I was aero and spinning 85+. I could feel what a huge difference it made. My confidence grew with every pedal stroke.
Three or four women passed me but I didn't care. I thought "yay I beat them on the swim and I AM AERO!"
I saw the truck parked on the side of the road a split second before I heard the AIRHORNS and wild cheering! First person I saw was Jerry snapping a picture! I think I grinned from ear to ear I was so happy! Happy they had found me on the course and happy I was doing so well.
For the first time I was riding my bike as it is meant to be ridden. It is amazing what can happen if we just stop getting in our own way. In talking with Coach after the race we agreed that this is HUGE for my Silverman training. I know I can ride faster now. And my legs will get stronger. I am PUMPED! I also had to acknowledge that my "problems" with aero were likely all in my head. I mean, what else would explain this huge breakthrough? I didn't change my saddle or get a new fitting! Coach said the head can be a very dangerous thing. Then I said it can also be very POWERFUL and that I think there is much I can do yet in this sport. She agreed. Like I said she's a great coach! J
Guess I had to go up to Midway to learn this.
TOTALLY WORTH IT.
Bike time: 1:38:55
(the course was 23 miles so this averages just under 14mph. Prior to this my best average that I am aware of was around 12.5mph)
I could hardly believe it was time to run already. Riding up the "hill" that led into T2 my legs had never felt fresher after a ride. The AIRHORNS and wild cheering welcomed me into T2. Glenn asked me how I was feeling. I said GREAT!
While I was changing my shoes I overheard Bobbi telling Jerry to take a picture of my butt! The jury is still out on that one as I haven't received the photos yet! Can't wait though – I think he took almost 40 photos!
When I left T2 I actually had to hold back because I felt I was in danger of going out too fast.
Yeah. I know. Read it and weep!!!
I sure am.
The run course was gorgeous. It was tougher than the graph on the BAM site makes it out to be. There are several short, but very steep hills. From the beginning I was breathing pretty hard but kept steadily pushing it. My goal for the run was to push out of my comfort zone and negative split the course. I achieved both of those goals. The run course (mostly trail with some asphalt) weaves among the trees, grass and bushes around the stadium and the athletes are actually visible to the spectators throughout much of the course. Bobbi and Jerry brought binoculars and Glenn told me later they were able to keep tabs on me. I concentrated on running strong, with good form, and pacing consistently, walking only through the aid stations.
Just after the mile five marker I heard an AIRHORN and saw Jerry standing on a bridge that was just off the course, snapping a picture and giving me lots of encouragement. It was here that I was starting to really struggle. That last mile was tough. I walked a few paces up the last steep hill. Glenn saw me walking and they sounded the AIRHORNS. I don't remember hearing them at that point but I'll take his word for it. J
Running down the finish chute with the line of American flags on my left and spectators on my right was the best I have ever felt finishing a race. To top it off the volunteers were holding up a race tape. I got to bust through the tape!! WOOT! I think I put my arms up but I don't really remember. The pictures will tell that story.
Run time: 1:14:53
Immediately after I crossed the line I heard an AIRHORN and Jerry snapped a photo. I found Glenn and gave him a big hug and started to cry and laugh at the same time. It was emotional for me, to race in such idyllic conditions, in such beautiful scenery, and finish in an actual Olympic stadium, with my husband and two best friends there to cheer me on, knowing that I was having my best race. It reminds me that I could not do this sport without all of the support I have, especially from Glenn, and that I have come such a long way in my training and with my mental game. I have Coach also to thank for this. She will say I did the work, which is true, but it takes a great Coach to help bring out someone's potential.
I am grateful.
I'll do a follow up post later with more thoughts and pictures. Thanks so much for reading.