Thursday, August 15, 2013

Race of My Life...So Far...?

Just about a year ago I found out USAT Age Group Nationals was going to be held in Milwaukee.  Every two years the race moves.  I had previously driven to Tuscaloosa, Alabama (2010) and Burlington, Vermont (2012) to complete, and was excited to have a much shorter drive!  In Alabama, I was there for the experience and I got a great fill of that.  In Vermont, my goal was to qualify for the World Championships (top 18).  I came in 12th, reserved a spot for the world championships in London, but decided to not race it (it was interesting to learn the process and the cost).  Awards were given to the top 10 athletes in each age group, which I missed by about 30 seconds.  I never thought I would be that close, but knew I gave it my all during that race and there was nowhere I could have gained those seconds.  So, for 2012 my goal was to get a top-10 award.

As the weeks got closer to race day, we began receiving emails containing information for the race.  As I was reading one I notice they were only giving awards this year to the top-5.  A little of my motivation was instantly lost.  Each email we received, I checked to see if they had changed their minds.  Nope.


We drove to Milwaukee on Thursday, first stopping in Galena for lunch at a brewery that ended up not being open for lunch, and then Madison for a flight at the Ale Asylum.  Before heading over to the condo we were staying, we had dinner at Comet Cafe in Milwaukee,  which also included our favorite beer of the trip that we tried, O'So Dank.

Ale Asylum flight
We checked into our room, had a good night sleep, then woke to a beautiful view of Milwaukee, which included a view of part of the bike course.

 Morning coffee in Milwaukee
(bridge going through my head is part of the bike course)

My goal for Friday was get in a 10 mile bike ride, and 2 mile run, check in my bike, and relax.  The transition area was a little less than a mile from where we were staying, so I rode my bike there, did a bit of the run and bike course, headed back, then ran to transition and back.  All at a fairly leisurely pace. I was feeling good!

For lunch we checked out the local coop, then swung by Horny Goat Brewery on the way to the third ward.  It was still early, so sampled each, but thankfully the view of the was better than the beer.

Horny Goat Brewery flight

While Wes wandered off to a tobacco store in the third ward, I stopped into Lululemon, then we met up at Milwaukee Ale House for another flight.  Again, nothing too great.

Milwaukee Ale House flight

Quick stop to the Milwaukee Public Market to grab some food to cook up for diner, back to the condo, the figured it was about time to drop off my bike at the race site.  The plan was for me to ride over, Wes to walk over, then we would walk back together.  I picked up my packet, racked my bike, and no sign of Wes.  I wandered around the expo and found out there was no line for the NormaTec boots.  Sweet! For 10 minutes I laid in a chair while the full-leg contraption gently massaged my legs.  I wish I had a pair of my own....  Anyway, still no Wes.  He got "lost" and was at the Wicked Hop.  Likely story!

The night before the most important race of the summer and I'm wandering around the third ward attempting to find a place I've never been to in a town I don't know very well with a phone that doesn't have a fancy mapping capability.  "Only a few blocks out of the way" becomes a bit more, and I become more frustrated with every step.  After a few loud phone calls and non-helpful texts, I find it!!  We only stay for less than a half hour, but it was enough time to see the most awesome bloody mary.  I did not have one, but would love to return sometime to try it!

Olive, shrimp, beef stick, kosher dill pickle, mushroom,
lemon wedge, and strings of mozzarella cheese.  Love!
Finally dinner and bed!  Not much sleep, but no surprise.

Saturday - Race Day!

Temps were in the 60's to 70's with very little wind.  Perfect!

Transition closed at 7:30, but my wave wasn't until 8:58.  I usually eat about 2.5 hours before the race, but was worried about getting to transition and setting everything up, so ate about 3 hours before and grabbed a gel to take about a half hour before starting.

Wes drove to the race so we'd have the truck to pack everything up in to take back to the condo.  Worked out well.  In transition I quickly saw Steve and Kim from Iowa HEAT.  At my transition spot I found Elesa, also from our club.  Our bikes were back to back.  Crazy awesome!  It's her first year in triathlon and is already a rock star.

It was nice to have teammates to hang out with while we waited for our waves to start.  Mine was one of the middle waves.  Odd to see people coming in off their bikes before we have even started the swim.

I grew up swimming, so I'm a decent swimmer compared to the average triathlete.  In most races that means I have to deal with the nastiness of the swim start for just a few yards before breaking free.  In this race, I'm average.  I had to fight through almost the entire swim.  But, it also meant I had more people to draft off of.  Thankfully I came out of the water without any cuts or bruises.  At this point, I have no idea where I am compared to others in my age group.  I know there were several pink swim caps ahead, so I have plenty of people to hunt down on the bike.

T1 went fairly well.  As always, it was a slight struggle to get my feet out of my wetsuit, but I don't think any amount of practice will help with that.

The bike heads north for a few miles, climbs a hill, turns around to head south, passes transition, travels over the bridge in the first picture above, winds east and south towards the airport, then heads back to transition.  It's fairly flat with the exception of the hill on the north side of the course, and going over the bridge.

I started off somewhat conservatively.  I didn't have the mojo I needed to get going.  That all changed when I dropped my chain shifting up the first hill.  I have a k-edge, which should prevent that.  I later found out that it wasn't tightened down, so when the chain hit it, instead of stopping the chain, it moved and let it fall...and get wedged.  According to my bike computer, I spent about 30 frustrating seconds getting it un-wedged and back on.  I was pissed.  Everyone I had just passed, including a few people in my age group, went by as I was on the side of the road.  I got back on my bike and was on a mission.  I rode the rest of the bike leg hard and never let up.  I do wonder if my time was actually faster because of dropping my chain, even though I was stopped for a bit.

About a mile out from transition I come upon Cindi Bannink, a triathlete that I got to know through my classmate Mark Harms who is also an amazing triathlete. I have a huge respect for Cindi, and was shocked to be riding up along side her.  This is the first time in the race where I thought I may be near the front of our age group!  And, that was the motivation I needed for the run.

In and out of T2, and I knew Cindi was right behind me.  It didn't take long for her to pass me.  The run has two out and back sections.  The first turnaround is at about mile 1 and the other is at mile 4.  Because the wave before and after us were men, I knew the range of race numbers that made up my age group.  At the first turn I decided not to look.  I didn't want to know.  It was too early in the race to do anything about it if someone was right ahead or behind.  I just kept pushing.  I was running on a fine line the entire run.  I worried that at any moment I would crash.

After the second turnaround, with 2 miles to go, I checked bibs for women behind me.  There was one that worried me.  She was probably around 30 seconds behind me, and looked like a runner....bikini-type uniform, great body, nice tan.  Crap!  There are too many triathletes out there that could make up the 30 seconds on me in two miles.  But, I wasn't going to give in.  With a mile to go I looked back quickly.  Couldn't see her, but still worried.  I checked a few more times in the last mile.  Still didn't see her, but still running scared.  Someone said only .2 miles to go.  I picked up the pace.  Couldn't see the finish line, but trusted him.  I finally rounded a curve and saw it, but it still seemed so far away.  I was running at my capacity.  When I stepped on the finish line shoot carpet I noticed the ground surface change, and feared my legs would give out before I crossed the finish line.  But, I kept running and running and running.  Finally, it was over.  I turned around and no site of the great-body chick. legs were giving out.  Med tent guy led the way to a very comfortable chair and wet rag for my neck.  It was only a few minutes later when they released me to Wes.  We wandered around a little, and found the best post-race relaxation area ever!

Ice cold water...heaven!
About the next half hour was spent wandering around and talking to people.  Finally we figured out where the results were.  I anxiously waited to see it.  They handed it over, and....I scream like a little girl.  If not out loud, I was definitely screaming inside.  Fifth.  5th!  The race marshals were giving out a lot of penalties on the course, so it wasn't official yet.  But, my PR was official.  Almost 3 minutes faster than I have ever raced at this distance.   I was a happy camper, but still cautious that it could all change between now and the awards ceremony.

So, during the race, Wes took one and only one picture... not of me, but of...


I was getting tired and just wanted to get back to the condo.  Found Wes, grabbed the post-race food to go (burrito, chips, and a banana), packed up the truck, and left.  Shortly after showering, we drove down to Milwaukee Brewing Company in hopes that there were still spots left on the tour, but they were sold out for the day.  Across the street was the next best thing, a local ice cream shop.  Good enough for me!  Next up was a coffee shop near the condo to relax a bit before making our way back to the race site.

The awards ceremony was to start at 5, but was delayed until 5:30.  Glad I brought a snack, because I was getting hungry!

The final results were not posted anywhere, so I still was not positive of my award.   I waited by the stage while they called up the age groups.  Finally mine, and I was officially 5th place.  I was honored to be standing on the podium with some of the best triathletes in the country.

After the ceremony was finally over, we walked back to the third ward for dinner.  I carried my award with me the entire way.  Can't remember the name of the place we ate, but it wasn't all that special.  Good prices, though.

After diner, I was ready to crash, and I did, hard.


Up and at em!  Breakfast and a 'long' drive home...with a quick stop at a liquor store in Madison to pick up beer that can only be found in Wisconsin.  And, a failed attempt to find the beer from our first dinner in Milwaukee.  We'll be back in Madison in a few weeks and the hunt will be back on!!

Only two more triathlons left this year...Pigman and Hy-Vee 5150 Championships.  Both olympic distance.  This summer has flown by!  With my new coaching, I'm already looking forward to what next year will bring.

1 comment:

  1. This is great. CONGRATS!!! Way to rock it! Sounded like a great time.