The sense of calm ready I had boarding the plane to Japan had largely dissipated by race day. I spent the last few hours of sleep with a pounding heart and nervous thoughts about transitions and swim starts running wild through my head. This is nothing new for me race morning, although, I have not had nerves like this in quite some time.
My morning jog, to shake out the nigglies, was good. My legs were turning over and it was great to shake out my hip and hamstring. I actually had to make a concerted effort to keep myself from running too fast. I knew I'd need it all for the 10k later in the day. After a few words of calming advice from my good friend Simon Thompson, I tried to take a few deep breaths and relax.
Breakfast was a lot of bread, some eggs, some fruit and a packet of oatmeal I had brought with me from the states. 1:00pm race starts are tough because you have to get in calories early in the day but you also have to plan a second mini-meal of sorts because otherwise your tank will be empty before the horn is blown. I ate as much as I could and hoped I had fueled up well enough.
Then the waiting started. Quick shower. Tattoos on. Bag packed. Waiting. Finally, around 11, I ate again and got ready to head off to transition. I arrived there around 11:40am and headed in to set up my transition around 11:45am.
A quick run and a bit of a swim and it was time to line up. Wearing #43 I knew I had little to no choice about where I would start on the pontoon. To be honest, I kind of liked this, because I didn't have to analyze anything really. Fortunately for me, having start speed, my start position doesn't matter all that much. As long as I put myself next to people who aren't going to swim on me, I'm in good shape.
The horn sounded. I dove in the water and took off. I knew I had to use my weapon, my top end swim speed (for once being a former 50 freestyler comes in handy), to get out and away from the chaos. I had clean water. As I breathed to my left I could see the rest of the field behind me. I put my head down and continued to push the pace. I merged over towards the rest of the field at roughly 300 meters in. There was a bit of contact, but rounding the far turn buoy, I was settled nicely in and didn't have anyone bothering me at all. However, the feet I had chosen to get on, soon lost the feet of the 5 or 6 girls ahead of us. I made an attempt to go around, recognizing the gap, but she insisted on sitting on my shoulder which ultimately screwed both of us. I kept pushing and found myself exiting the water in 8th at the end of the first lap. Then, things started to go downhill. Returning to the water, I was malled from every direction. I had people on top of me, on my legs, running me into the lane rope that separated the "out and back" sides of the course. It was complete chaos and I could hardly swim let alone stay above water. By the time I exited the water I had fallen to 24th.
I knew a quick transition could still put me in a solid pack. Everything went smoothly until I mounted my bike and found myself stuck behind, while balancing, one of my competitors (I won't name names) who chose to stop and swing one leg over her top tube as her mount. I really wish she would learn to do a flying mount! I did everything I could not to crash but because of the hold up ended up missing the pack. I put my head down and continued to ride hard. Soon I was joined by another group of women. We worked together, very hard, to reel the chase group ahead of us back in.
Doing abotu 40% of the work, even though I was in a group of about 7 women, we managed to close down on the group ahead of us by the fourth of seven laps. It is an extremely tough bike course with 21 climbs over the course of the 7 laps. The merger proved to be problematic as the group ahead pretty much refused to work. I kept driving onward, working with anyone who would work and just trying to keep the pressure on. We got the gap to the lead group down to 2 minutes and change, but that was the best we could do.
The run was tough. It had 6 hills in 3 laps and after pulling and working so much on the bike, my legs were completely smashed. I pushed the best I could and actually found my turnover to be spot on when running on the flats, but the hills just got the best of me. I fell back a bunch and found myself finishing in 33rd position.
Not exactly the race I had hoped for, but there were many positive elements to it. It also showed me where I need to continue to work and where my weaknesses are, both physically and mentally. I will use it as a growing experience and take my new knowledge along with me as I continue to train harder and to race stronger.
This weekend, I'm off to Mazatlan for the PATCO Pan American Championship ITU race. It is a flat and fast course so I am excited to use my turnover and go for it. It is another chance to test myself and one of these days the way I train is going to be reflected in my racing and I am going to have that breakthrough that we are all waiting on!!
I want to send out a great big thank you to everyone who sent me emails and posts wishing me luck. Your support means the world to me and I hope you will continue to travel the world with me and to take on this journey with me one race at a time. After all, gold medalists and World Champions are not created overnight!!!