I have been in my PJs since my arrival back home last night. It is now 2pm! I woke up this morning, cleaned my extremely dirty and sandy bike, did laundry, unpacked, took out the garbage...now I finally have a chance to relax, collect my thoughts and write about this weekend's race. My first race as a Professional.
The adventure started on Thursday afternoon when Rikki and I began our road trip. On usual Indian Standard Time, we embarked on our journey an hour after we had scheduled. This meant we ran into some crazy 401 traffic. Luckily, this also meant that Rikki had some time to complete some work before we crossed the border.
After about 6 hours of driving, mostly through beautiful and quiet upstate New York, we arrived at Ransom Bay B&B and were asleep within minutes. The next morning we were greeted by the super friendly, Rick, the owner/chef. He cooked us up some amazing omelettes and brought us croissants fresh out of the oven (see below)! After our delicious breakfast and a quick walk around we were on the road again, but this time to the race site!
Feeling strong before my race
The next few days were filled with the usual pre-race routine: check-in, eating, sleeping, some light swimming, biking and running...oh, and tons and tons of rain that was expected to last until Tuesday. Not only was it raining, but cold too!
Race morning we woke up at 4:30am after an extremely good sleep in a very cozy bed. This briefly reminded me that I desperately need a new mattress back home and that the $12 Ikea pillows I currently own should be tossed in the garbage. Anyway, following that thought, I jumped out of bed and ran to the window...the rain seemed to have stopped (or at least it was lighter). I checked the weather report online and it confirmed what I had been hoping for: cloudy with some rain and some sun was predicted for the race. I was so happy! And it was going to be 14 degrees Celcius and not 12! Even better. In a rested and somewhat cheery mood I gathered my gear, we loaded up the car and headed to the race site. I enjoyed my usual pre-race meal of a bagel with peanut butter and banana, coffee and an advil :)
My newly cleaned racing machine!
Once on site I prepared my transition area: my Cervelo P3 was racked amongst 3 other P3s! Clearly the bike of choice by most of the other Pro athletes. I tried to find a way to place my arm warmers and windbreaker vest in a way so that they would stay dry if it started to rain again. I practiced putting on my arm warmers quickly, this was no problem - took less than 15s. Once I was satisfied with my transition area I headed over to the swim start. I met Rikki there and we both realized that I wasn't nervous at all. There was no real pressure for this race as I didn't have to worry about qualifying for an event or winning my age group. This was a new experience for me and I had no real expectations. I did have a few goals: top 3 in the swim, under 2:55 bike split, under 1:30 on the run and not to come last of the Pros. These all seemed like things I could achieve and it made me surprisingly calm.
Being tough before the swim start
Before I knew it we were being called to the swim start. I positioned myself close to Magali Tisseyre, because I knew she was a strong swimmer and I was hoping to have a strong swim. The official began to count down and the other Pros started dog paddling forward ahead of the start line...I just did as they did and soon we were off. It wasn't the usual washing machine that I was used to. No one was climbing on top of me or ripping off my goggles. Before long it was just 4 of us in the lead group who I later learned were Magali, Mary Beth, Amber and me. MB took off way ahead and Magali took off after her, leaving Amber and me about 50m behind. Amber backed off a bit and I swam the rest of the course about 50m behind Magali, not close enough for a draft (too bad!), but it made it easier stay on course that's for sure. This is my favourite swim course: there are buoys every 100m and it forms a rectangle with the shore line. It makes it quite easy to navigate and you can easily estimate the distance you have left on the course. The water temperature was perfect this year (last year half my body went numb!). I exited the water in 3rd - goal #1 accomplished! - and ran to T1. T1 was kind of a catastrophe. I had practiced getting my arm warmers on quickly a dozen times in the previous two days - but never with wet arms! They would only go on up to my elbows and as I began to get passed in transition I decided that would have to do. I strapped on my helmet and then was off on the bike (after more than 2 minutes in T1!)
The bike started out well, although it had started to rain again. I was feeling comfortable and wow, was my Cervelo fast, I felt like I flew through the initial rolling section on the bike. Then came the big 5K ascent...I had forgotten how tough this climb was and I was very excited to get to the top. The rain had made the roads pretty slippery and I was extra cautious on the descent. I watched a few of the fast male age-groupers fly past my down the hill, but I refused to let go of the brakes. The rest of the bike race continued and I knew I had not been prepared for such a tough, hilly course. I would catch people on the flat sections, only to have them take off on me on the hills or the descents. Although this may have been detrimental to me on race day, at least I now know what needs work in order for me to take my cycling to the next level: lots and lots of hill repeats...and going fast on the ascents AND descents! I did not meet goal #2, but this has only renewed my drive and desire to train long and hard and do whatever it takes to improve my biking.
My second transition went a lot smoother than my first (even though I couldn't really feel my feet). Within a minute I was out on the run course and in 9th. I had forgotten the run course would be in miles and didn't even think about what my splits should be per mile. I ran a 6'29 for the first mile and spent the next few miles trying to figure out what a sub-1:30 half marathon pace should be (I always joke with Rikki that the more I train, the more brain cells I lose!) In the meantime I passed another Pro and moved into 8th. At mile 4 I realized 1:31 was 7' per mile...I had been averaging 6'30 per km though. I was worried that this was way too fast and I would experience what happened in Vegas all over again. After this thought my pace did end up slowing to about 6'40-6'44 per mile (stupid brain!). I finished in 1'27 which met goal #3 and is the second fastest half marathon I have ever done (my fastest was a 1'26 and was a stand-alone half marathon). I still think I have a faster run time in me for the next race!
Overall, I think that the race went well, I came in 8th woman overall and achieved 3 of 4 of my goals. Most importantly though, I think that I justified my decision to turn Pro.
I would like to thank all of my sponsors for their support in preparing me for this race and my coach, Adam. Without their continued support I would not be able to do what I do. Next up: Mont Tremblant on June 24th.
A few more pictures:
Warming up the arms before getting in the water
Taking in the view of the swim course
Entering T2 (notice the arm warmers turned into forearm warmers)
Heading out on the run, I had just smacked my arm on the iron fence and am laughing at myself!