I crossed the finish line after Sunday's race, held my hands high, and cried and cried into my parents arms. Not because I was sad, but because I was happy. I didn't win and I didn't have my best performance, but nonetheless, the race was a huge step forward after a tough winter.
I drove down to Syracuse on Friday with fellow triathlete, and new Pro, Mikael Staar Nathan. We arrived at our homestay just before noon and were welcomed by our hosts. Lindsay, another competitor in the race, and her lovely family opened their home to us for the weekend. To compete well you need to be comfortable and that we were! We had all the bagels, peanut butter, bananas and coffee we could want!
From our arrival to race morning it was the usual pre-race routine: Eat (lots of Perfect Fuel Chocolate!), easy swim/bike/run, sleep, repeat until race day. Unlike previous races it was really nice to have company! And be the vet Pro to give guidance to rookie Pro, Mikael! He didn't even criticize my driving too much :)
Oh, one thing of note that happened prior to the race start was that I was having trouble with my rear brake. It was rubbing against the wheel. I took it to Jamie, the AWESOME mechanic at Bike Loft North and he fixed the issue so that I could ride the bike as it was on race day, and informed me I would have to get the rear brake cable replaced as soon as possible! So, a HUGE thanks to Jamie for helping me with my last minute mechanical issues. (My QR is currently in the caring hands of The Bike Zone.)
THE SWIM: 27:20
The swim started off with the usual craziness of a swim start. Unfortunately, I was feeling quite sluggish at the start, despite getting in a decent warm-up. There was just no "zip" at the start so I didn't get a good position after the gun. The result was that I found myself blocked in behind two slower swimmers and had to actually stop swimming to let them get ahead of me so I could swim around them. Once I was able to do that, I pushed hard to catch up to fellow Canadian triathlete, Jenny Fletcher. We swam side by side for awhile and I thought, "OK, let's be strategic here." So I thought, I'll sit on her feet for awhile and then I'll surge ahead and go fast and drag her along and we could do this and work together to be faster. It's hard to communicate this plan to someone while swimming though, so it ended up that we just swam side by side to the swim finish. I exited the water tied for 3rd.
THE BIKE: 2:38:13
The bike started out really well. I was out of transition in 3rd place and had a smooth mount onto my bike at the start of the ride. I was feeling strong and my power was high. Unfortunately, this feeling lasted only about 10 minutes. Jenny passed me at around Mile 5 and I tried to stay with her, but just couldn't. I was watching my power meter and it I knew I couldn't push it to keep up. The first 15km of the Syracuse course is a grind as it's almost all uphill. I knew this beforehand though, so I was prepared. It's always good to know a course prior to the race. Perhaps not every detail, but whether the course is hilly or flat, technical or not, etc. And not just in general, but where it is hilly or technical helps too. This just allows you to be a bit more prepared. Anyway, somewhere in the first 30km the super speedy Beth Shutt passed me like I was riding backwards! Quite demoralizing, but I still saw that my power was where it should be, and that kept me optimistic. It wasn't until the last 20km of the bike that my legs really started to hurt and my power numbers took a bit of a nose dive. My nutrition had been right on and I was well rested for the race, but I hadn't biked over 90km in a month due to all the racing I had been doing and I was certainly paying for it! In the last 10km, I was passed by Heather Leiggi and moved into 6th place. I really had nothing in the legs to get me to race her into transition. This was the hardest part of the race for me and I was so happy when I finally dismounted into T2.
THE RUN: 1:31:14
Still feeling the effects of a tough final leg of the bike, I started my run feeling quite tired. It didn't help that the first mile was uphill and mostly on grass! I really did feel like I had bricks for legs. I saw my parents at the end of that first torturous segment of the run and I was not happy...I had a feeling that the run would be a repeat of my run at Eagleman. I did start to settle in and found my legs once I hit the paved roads. I had about 1.5 miles of flat/rolling road before we would hit the infamous hill that is about a mile long with grades of about 8-10% the whole way. The hill was just as painful as it sounds, and I felt like I was running at a snails pace. But what pushed me along was the fact that I could see Jenny just up ahead. Catching her became my motivation to go strong up that hill. Oh, that and the fact that someone had written on the road "BEAST MODE" (I had this image of myself running like a beast up that hill that almost made me laugh out loud!). And I did manage to catch Jenny and move into 5th just after the turnaround at the top of the hill. I also saw how far back my competitors were...400m, 1.2km, etc. etc. I would have to continue to stay strong if I wanted to hold on to a podium spot. And I was hurting. So I started to focus on what I could control: taking in my nutrition, staying cool by pouring water over my head at the aid stations, taking water and coke as I needed, and focusing on my run form and my breathing. I thought of Adam telling me to "take the shortest line" on the turns and heard him saying "use the downhill" as I descended the steep hill and then the grassy part of the run. Once I reached the turnaround at the halfway point I started assessing how far back the rest of the girls were...it looked like I was actually gaining ground on them and not losing it! How this was possible I didn't know...but it gave me just the boost I needed. The next time I saw my parents I was in good spirits and waved and smiled. I knew I could do this. The rest of the run is a blur as I was so focused on maintaining my speed that I didn't notice anything around me. Even fellow competitors who saw me commented on how focused I looked! Before I knew it I was in the last (and longest!) mile of the course. I pushed as hard as I could and crossed that line and waved my hands in the air. I didn't finish first, but it was a huge personal victory for me.
FINISH TIME: 4:40:20
As I always say, I couldn't have achieved this result by myself. This is especially true this time. Last winter, I suffered through the emotional damage caused by November's "cyberbully" attack and a run injury, among other personal matters. And I was easily at my lowest point. Giving up on the sport seemed so much easier than continuing to go on. Racing and training for an event that lasts as long as a half-ironman doesn't just take physical strength, but emotional and mental strength as well. When you go through personal stress, training can become an outlet, an escape. But at the level that I want to compete at, that much stress is detrimental to everything: training, performance and recovery. But with each word of love and support I receive, which continues to sometimes surprise me (do I really deserve it?), that stress is lifted a little bit. And the road I am travelling on as I pursue my triathlon journey becomes smoother and less lonely. So, a very sincere thank you to everyone for lifting that stress enough for me to put together a solid result in Syracuse.
Special thank you to:
1. The family I stayed with in Syracuse. Lindsay and her family were absolutely wonderful and I couldn't have asked for anything more from them.
2. My parents, who were able to make it down for the race, again! And for ringing their cowbells super loud and dealing with my emotional ups and downs during and after the race.
3. My sponsors: Turner-Tomenson Wealth Management and Raymond James Financial continue to make my life as a Pro triathlete possible, Scott Judges at Fitt1st, Bill Wells (Chiro) at Urban Athlete, Brad Wilson (RMT), all my equipment sponsors: Quintana Roo, ISM Saddles, Gray wheels, Rudy Project, Karhu Running Shoes, eLoad sports nutrition, IBB Cyclery in Utah, The Bike Zone in Toronto, Swiftwick socks, Suunto, Perfect Fuel Chocolate, Funkita/Funky Trunks swim wear, SRM for my power, Champion System for the most amazingly comfortable race kit, X-1 Audio for allowing me to train to music (in the rain or pool too) !!!
4. My fellow friends/competitors from Toronto who raced! Mikael - who was 17th male pro in his debut race, Kevin - who had a World Championship qualifying performance, Jessica - who also qualified for Worlds (and cheered me on during the run SUPER loud, no less!), Janet - who PB'd on that crazy tough course! You are all inspiring!
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