Race morning I was nervous. Like REALLY nervous. When my alarm went off my stomach was already in knots! But I was also very excited. Time to get this party started!
Marit was so kind to get up early with me (3:30 am - now THAT is a good friend) and drive over to the race site. I was really grateful because I've never done a race by myself and just having someone to talk with and zip up my wetsuit was a huge comfort. I think I might have been the first one to transition (nerd) so I had a lot of time once I got set up just to mill about. Yet before I knew it we were lining up to get in the water and then it was TIME TO GO!
The cold water (~58 degrees) was a shock to the system! We swam to the start line, someone said "oh look at the dolphins...no wait, those are seals!" and then...BANG! Sound of the cannon and we were off! I started swimming furiously only to look up 5 strokes later and see a huge pack (a pack that I needed to be in) already 10 yds ahead. ACK! How did this happen so quickly?! Lesson #1 of pro racing learned - you gotta be ready to go baby, 'cause these women don't wait around!
As you can imagine, the swim was a bit dismal from there. With only 25 women (which is actually kind of a big pro field for females!) in the field, and 20 of those women already swimming ahead and gapping me, I was in for a long, lonely swim. And indeed, that is what it was. But it was my mistake and inexperience that cost me so I had to live with it. I swam as hard as I could and tried to navigate as best I could through the choppiness but let's just say, it wasn't one of my best swims. When I exited the water and looked at my watch I was so sad! 31:15 is not indicative of my swim fitness but it's not just about how fast you can swim in the pool. It's about how you RACE! Again, lesson learned!
|The swim pack I needed to be in (but was far behind).|
|I did eventually make it out alive! :)|
The good news is, the race isn't over in the swim (thank goodness for that!). Despite only seeing 3-5 bikes left on the pro racks by the time I got there, I did exit with Haley. She got through transition much faster than me (lesson #2 of pro racing learned - practice transitions! oh my was I a disaster!) but luckily I still could see her once I did get rolling on the bike. I made a promise to myself right away - DO NOT let Haley out of your sight! No matter what, no matter how hard you have to ride, don't let her go.
This was easier said than done. :)
Haley, I discovered, is a really good cyclist and she absolutely hammered me on the flats and downhills. Sometimes she would get so far ahead I could BARELY see her. Thankfully, I'd make up some ground on the hills but only in time for her to kill me again on the downhills. :) I was very happy to have her as a focus though because that helped me through some rough moments!
The bike was a tad bit miserable overall. I was freezing (it was in the low 50s, misty, overcast and the roads were wet so we were all soaked and gritty/sandy), I couldn't get my heart rate over 160, I couldn't make my hands function properly to open my gels or shift, and I couldn't see a darn thing (note, take off sunglasses if it's that dark outside). At one point I actually started to get hungry! (luckily I had a few extra gels with me and I pounded them all at once). I was definitely looking forward to the run! :)
Overall I think I biked okay. I moved up from 17th to 13th and biked 2:37. Oceanside is a tough course so I was pretty happy with that.
T2 was such a welcome sight! I knew as soon as I started to run I would warm up and I would also get to see Marit out on the course. I was really looking forward to that!
Dirk had given me some directions to start the first 3 miles of the run at about 10 seconds slower per mile than goal pace. Therefore I promptly went through mile 1 AND mile 2 in 6:20. ACK! What can I said, I felt great and I was so excited to hear people cheering! Also, I clearly lack any restraint in racing whatsoever. :)
Luckily it worked out okay and I felt strong and fluid throughout the entire run. I moved up 2 more spots through the early/middle miles of the run when...who did I see ahead of me but HALEY! She had really put some distance on me in the later miles of the bike and I hadn't seen her yet on the run until mile 10 or so. I focused so hard on pulling her in. I knew focusing on something specific like that would help me keep on task.
In the end I came up 18 seconds short, but sure enough Haley helped me earn a HUGE run PR with a 1:26. That is a big breakthrough for me and I was thrilled!
My final time was 4:39:50, about 20 minutes faster than the last time I did this race (which was in 2009) and I was 11th overall. Although I know I have a lot to learn and a long way to go, I would definitely say I was pleased with my first race as a pro. I've wrestled with the decision to turn pro for the past several years and even when I did finally make the committment I still wasn't certain I had done the right thing! But when I crossed the line on Saturday I knew it is the right path for me. I truly LOVED the challenge of racing with these awesome women and I was infused with excitement and motivation to do the work to make sure I can compete on this level. Although I made a lot of mistakes and had a dismal swim, I came away very encouraged!
An absoutely HUGE thank you to everyone for their support and encouragement. It is truly appreciated. And a very, very special thanks to Marit for making my first race as a pro a big success. I really don't know what I would have done without her! She took care of me physically and most importantly, emotionally. Her positive spirit helped my own spirit soar.
And finally, I must mention that I am eternally grateful to Oscar for chasing my dreams with me. His support is unending and I certainly wouldn't be in the position I'm in without him. These past few weeks have been very hard for me because I was very homesick. And I SOOO happy to be in the air right now, on my way home to see him!
Some pictures, thanks to the very talented Marit. Her work is amazing don't you say?! Proof of this is the fact that after 20 years of running I have not 1 picture of me with both feet off the ground. Yet just this weekend Marit took THREE pictures with me in flight! HA! :) If you'd like to see her entire Oceanside gallery check it out on Facebook (she opened it to the public so all can see). Awesomeness!
|Happy ending ice bath! :)|