I had my A tri-race in New Hampshire a few weeks ago. This was the race I have been training for since January. One would think that I would be bummed that I came in dead last in this race. One would be wrong! Let me start at the beginning.
The Wednesday morning before the race, I woke up with a little tickle in my throat. This is how my allergies normally start acting up. Alas, this was not the case this time. By that night I’m rocking a full scale fever of 100.08.
The next day I meet up with my training partner, Meghan. She has offered to bring my bike and gear to the race. I’m still unsure if I will even head up to New Hampshire to cheer my teammates. I’m not even thinking about racing on a conscious level. Obviously though, my athlete brain is thinking I will race no matter what as I send Meghan up to NH with my transition bag and bike!
I go to work for bit and then head home to rest. I still have a low grade fever that night. I consult Dr. Google and my step-dad (an E.R. Doc). I determine that I am more than likely not infectious. Jim says I can go but I should not race. I confirm with my tri-roomie that she is okay having a sick roomie and she tells me to get my rear on the plane.
So that is what I plan to do. When I wake up on Friday morning I still have a fever hovering a bit above 100.00. I tell myself “I’m not racing” as I pack my race kit, running shoes, and energy gels.
I make my flight and land in NH. This is the farthest North I have ever been. It reminds me of North Alabama.
I get picked up by Andrea and her Mama. We stop at the liqueur store and a diner. Since I’m not racing the next day I have a very satisfying meal of chocolate chip pancakes! I’m feeling better at this point, but I still have a low fever.
We head to packet pick up. I decide to get my number. I’m feeling good so I think that maybe I will just try to race. I think about a conversation I had with a fellow teammate about her race the weekend before. She had been up sick the whole night before. Coach Ed told her she might as well try to race since she was already up there. After all, there’s no shame in pulling out after the swim if she wasn’t felling better. I figured the same thing applied here.
I racked my bike that night to save my energy the next day by not riding it to the race site. I secure a ride for in the A.M. with a fellow teammate. Andrea and I drive the bike course. 27.25 miles seems really long in the car! The ride itself doesn’t seem that much different from the team’s normal weekend rides. It has a few big hills and rollers at the end. Pretty typical stuff from where we sit in the car. There is one nasty Devil hill that reminds me of the Brickyard hill at the Glen Echo ride. All in all, I am glad we drove the bike course. I need to remember to do this for every race as it really helps mentally prepare me for the race.
I sleep well that night for about 5 or 6 hours.
I wake up by 5:00A.M. on race morning. I immediately check my temperature. BLAST it is 100.00 even. I feel pretty good under the circumstances so I stick to my plan to race! My ride says to be ready by 5:20. They are there by 5:10! CRAP! I rush around and I am out the door by 5:21. We secure ourselves a good parking spot and start unloading the car. ARGHH I realize that I left my main transition bag at the house. Luckily, Rich drives my bag and the rest of the gangs gear to the park. Thank God for good friends!
I am able to set up my transition area with plenty of time to spare. I take Ruby Blue out for a quick spin to see how she handled the trip up. She feels great. I really enjoy riding her and I’m actually looking forward to the ride. That is a victory in and of itself. I have a real love/hate with the bike. I had a tough ride the Sunday before that I bagged after 10 miles so I was not heading into this race feeling confident about the bike portion.
After re-racking my bike I headed to the team tent. I know the water is cold and I need to get in some warm up laps, but first I need to put on my game face. I spent about 5 minutes putting on my make-up. It is a strangely calming and practically meditative activity. What can I say, I’m from the South!
I finished my peanut butter and banana breakfast and drank the rest of my Gatorade. I did not want a repeat of the nutrition disaster that was my last race! I put on my sleeveless wetsuit and use double swim caps to keep out the cold. I head out to the water. The first time I put my face under I was taken back by the cold, but I was able to push through that. I’m glad to note that the work I have done in the pool the last three weeks on my form has paid off. I feel comfortable in the water with the wetsuit on.
I lined up with some fellow Zs and before I knew it, we were off. The swim was pretty uneventful. I focused on making my stokes long and pretty. A few times I treadedwater while looking around at my surroundings. I told myself to soak it all in because I was freaking swimming in a lake in New Hampshire! I never would have imagined that before I started doing tris.
I was out of the water with a time of 43:22…rocking good for me! That is a smidge under 9 minutes faster than my last 1500 meter swim. A total victory in my book!
I spent some time in T1 putting on my arm-warmers andstretching my shoulders. I did not want those to cramp up on this ride as I didn’t think I could handle a shoulder issue AND the fever. I’m a one issue per ride kind of gal!
I headed out on the ride and was amazed at how great I felt! I couldn’t believe I was riding my bike in freaking New Hampshire! I had to walk up Devil’s hill. I heard someone say it was a 15% grade. Not that that means anything to me, but its now noted on this blog for next year! I lost my Burt’s Bees chapstick while taking my dayquil. I stuck to my nutrition plan and felt good for most of the way.
I hit a rough patch around mile 22. The demon voices started in my head. I think every athlete has those voices that come during the hard part of any ride. Everyone’s voices sound different. My particular voices are a Greek chorus of Southern women from my family. They say I’m to fat to be doing tri’s, that I shouldn’t bother, that I’m embarrassing myself by being out there in spandex, that I’m kidding myself if I think I’m getting better and on and on and on they can go. These voices also show up at the finish line for me. I will finish a race and instead of enjoying the accomplishment of being finished, I’m thinking about all the ways I did not measure up to everyone else. I was experiencing some fear about dealing with these voices so I spoke with a wise person earlier in the week about what I could do. The plan was to tell them to shut up and to counteract the negative thoughts with positive ones.
I did not have a plan for what to do if the voices came while I was on the bike…so I improvised a plan! I thought about what each woman would really say if she were there. I imagined what her inflection, tone, and accent would sound like. I thought about what slang type phrases they would use. In the end I had a few chuckles thinking about them. The ladies in my life just want me to be happy. I know this, even when the ways they try to keep me from getting hurt seem to hurt the most. It was really nice to imagine them there, cheering me on.
After one final killer hill, the bike was done in 2:29:17.
Once I started the run, I knew I was spent. I walked the first mile, trying to get my heart rate down to zone 2. I tried to jog the 2nd mile, but I just didn’t have it in me. The fever was making itself known now that the day was hitting up. I walked the rest of the way, staying mostly in zone 2 as the route was very hilly.
Around mile 4, my teammate Angie caught up with me. We were the last two on the course and made a pact to cross the finish line together! Awesome. Its always been a fear of mine to be DFL (Dead Effing Last), and here it was…my fear was coming true.
*******Okay, this post has been sitting in my draft box for over a week now so I’m just going to post this as is! I finished in 5:09:11…which is slow even for me.
That said, I found this race to be liberating. I faced my biggest fear of being last and found out it really isn’t so bad! I even got a gift basket from the race organizers in honor of my perseverance on the course. In the end, I see that it’s about racing oneself…trying to beat your previous best time. I may never win my age group, but I will always find something that I did better than the time before!
******The title of this post is from a text that Nikki sent to me the morning of my race. I told her that I was racing with a fever and she texts back “Well hugs dear. You are a machine unlike any other.” I used that as a mantra on the bike course for some of the particularly bad hills…I said to myself “I’m a machine unlike any other” over and over and over until I got to the top!