With all of the choices for racing this weekend, Syracuse was one of the most challenging (to me) in the 70.3 circuit. It also had the most points and largest prize purse for the professional athletes that weekend, making it even more enticing. The combination of a stellar field and a hilly course made it one I’ve had my eye on for quite some time. Unfortunately, Leanda Cave had to skip the race because of a back issue; I thrive on good competition and she's always fun to go up against. However, with Jodie Swallow and Nikki Butterfield also toeing the line, I knew the day was still going to be a challenge.
It was an awesome weekend filled with lots of laughs and smiles thanks to one of the coolest triathlon couples out there: Jen and Mike Corona. I met both of them over a year ago and am so glad I did. We're planning to party it up in Vegas post-worlds! Jen, I can't wait for a girls' night out!
When race day arrived, we couldn't have asked for a better day weather wise - sunny, 80 degrees and some cloud cover. Making the morning even better was reading some inspiring, good-luck emails from Paul, Mark and my family.
The only pre-race problem was that I donned my new one-piece (thanks PI!!! It makes me feel like Super Woman!) and hadn't gone to the bathroom before we left for the 20-minute car ride and the circus that is pre-race parking. I was more squirrelly then a 3 year old on RedBull. Let's just say it made for a very uneasy start to the day! Jen, who was racing as well, was lucky to not have the same problems. On the bright side, I found out it was going to be a wetsuit swim; anything that helps this non-swimmer, trying-not-to-drown athlete is a bonus! Also, Mike was on board to give the two of us time splits and high cheers.
The lake was more of a large swamp but with fish. The water was pretty murky, but I’m almost positive I saw the Swamp Thing. I loved it actually, because it was warm. I did my best to catch some feet when our gun went off, and I did! There I was, for a brief moment, with a group of women for the swim. It didn’t last long, however, and coming out of the water I was 3:30 down from the fish-like Jodie Swallow.
Following a good effort but mediocre swim, Swallow had a few minutes on me and Nikki was right on my heels. She got me in transition and I hustled to stay with her. My legs cooperated but my hands fumbled at my bike shoe straps. I ended up forgetting about them and riding the entire course with my shoes undone. Hey, it’s hard to remember, “strap your shoes,” when all your brain will think is, “catch her, catch her, catch her!”
The first 10-12 miles of this course is uphill. My original plan was to keep it mellow and try to have a solid power output throughout. Being 3:30 down and Nikki 100 yards ahead I threw that out the window. I stormed up the hill, passed the 4-5 girls ahead and relished in the sweaty mess I was creating…(my bike needs a very good cleaning!). I managed to catch Swallow at mile 25, however, the rest of the ride is a net downhill all the way back to transition. I tried hard, but I just couldn't get away. Both of us rode strong and we headed into T2 within seconds of each other.
Good things happened on the run: 1. My legs were still underneath me. 2. Hills…lots of hills. It's a two lap course with 2 solid climbs (the latter being roughly a mile up hill); doing this twice, along with some cross-country running, was my kind of race course. I LOVE trail running and uphill running, so I couldn't have asked for a better course. I managed to make a gap at mile three and bombed the downhills like I was running for my life (was that the Swamp Thing I saw?!). The latter half of the bike being all downhill helped me with this for sure.
With the kind words in my head from the morning's emails, I was confident and focused on doing the best I could out there. It's awesome how just a few words and thoughts change the whole dynamic of a race in your head. I also had Phil Maffetone and his wife, Coralee, on the sidelines cheering away. I'm so grateful for such an awesome support team!
By the second lap of the run, everyone was on the race course. I love looped courses because we're running with the masses and I try to catch anyone in front of me, so it’s a great motivator. I had so many cheers as well. When I run I tend to breathe quite heavily (it's a rhythm thing); I think most of the other runners out there thought I was a dying. Honestly, it helps me stay focused and push hard; if I'm not making noises, I'm not going hard enough! :)
On the course was a fellow triathlete running the opposite direction who yelled out, "Sexy," while I was running past. That was a first and let me tell you, there is no way I looked sexy at all - I was sweaty and had puke, food etc. all over me and I felt like crap (I probably looked like the Swamp Thing). There’s nothing sexy about that!
I felt in control for most of the run, until about mile 5...and then again at 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13. I needed that Coke! I always race to the line and it was awesome to cross it and see Phil and Coralee, and of course Mike, all with high-fives and hugs at the end! Course record AND fastest run and bike splits = happy camper. The field was tough and I love races like these. The cherry on top was that the next day I got my Canadian fix with a Tim Horton's Coffee!
The biggest thanks goes to my support crew, which seems to keep growing! I had some hard times before this race and it helped a ton to hear their kind words and know that I had their support. I recently tweeted: An old coach once told me, “a fast athlete is a happy athlete,” but I beg to differ - a happy athlete is a fast one!
My coach and sounding board, Mark Allen, my advisor, Phil Maffetone, my manager, Russ Reimer, my friends and family who live around the world now, and Paul, I'm always smiling because of you! Of course I can never forget my sponsors - you've all been so kind and supportive, and you make this all possible! I'm truly honored and humbled.