my triathlon journey
I was excited to race Harryman last month, a race we have selected to be the Team Zoot NE season opening race. Our team is spread across the Northeast, so we rarely see each other. Yet much of the team made the effort to show up and in many instances met their teammates for the first time. This is also one of very few triathlon races you can drive to the day of the race due to its proximity to Manhattan and a late start. I find being able to sleep in my own bed before a race a real treat.
The timing of the race was not ideal for me as I was in Las Vegas the weekend before participating in my friend Allison’s bachelorette party. And that involved very little sleep and close to no training if you can imagine that.
When we got into my rental car to drive to the race, the weather seemed perfect. But just as we started to cross over the GWB, I noticed incredibly dark clouds and before I knew it, we were in pouring rain that looked like it would never stop. I really did not feel like dealing with a wet start, being cold, or the danger of crashing. The rain was so heavy, it seemed unlikely it would ever stop.
But just a few exits before the race site it finally stopped, and after registration, it looked like the sun would actually come out. Now the only remaining downside were the wet roads, posing a risk for flat tires as the road debris sticks to wheels easier that way.
As the gun went off for the swim start I somehow felt difficulty breathing as if my wetsuit was constricting me. But as I kept swimming I realized it may have been the cumulative exhaustion which started in Las Vegas, making it seem like I was out of breath. After all, I loved swimming in my Prohphet Wetzoot, adding buoyancy to my swim, keeping my butt up, allowing for better form. I kept swimming and various parts of my upper back started aching. That must be the very deep tissue massage I got in China Town only on Thursday, so less than 48 hours before the race. There just wasn’t enough time to get it done earlier. I should have asked for it to be lighter but felt then my body needed the work. Oh well. The swim is shorter in this race than a regular Olympic distance race, so I kept reminding myself this torture would soon be over and I could still have good bike and run. I got out of the water and my friend Joe told me I was maybe 2 mins behind the first female. Ok, not bad.
I got on the bike and felt good. I felt like I was flying, passing a lot of participants. I was maybe 30 minutes into the bike leg when I heard a hissing somewhere beneath me. Oh no, this can’t be a flat? I clipped out of my pedals to look and sure enough, my back tire was completely empty. At this point I knew immediately he race was over. Whatever would come after this would be more a workout rather than a race. I proceeded to start fixing my flat with other racers passing me one by one asking me if I was ok. I got to the point of inflating the inner tube with my CO2 cartridge when Mike from the support vehicle stopped by my side offering me a pump instead. Ok, sure, I can save the CO2. He pumped the tired for me, helped put it back in and off he went. I think you can still win this, he said, right before leaving. Really not sure of the validity of that statement I proceeded to get my workout in. Not before long, I heard the hissing sound again. Oh no! A piece of glass must have remained in the tire, causing another puncture on the new inner tube. Now I was really done mentally to put in any competitive spirit into this. The support vehicle was gone and I did not have another inner tube to fix it. So I just had to wait for Mike to come around a second time as the clock kept ticking. Finally Mike appeared to lend me a spare wheel. 11 speed or 10 he asked. 11, I said, hoping he had one. I jumped back on my funny looking bike, which would now be slower with the spare wheel vs. my racing deep dish Zipp wheel. I must have lost at least 20 or 30 minutes with his I thought. You can still win this, said Mike again. At this point I thought he was joking but at the same time remembered the YouTube video of Chrissie Wellington at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii when she had a flat. Despite this setback, she still proceeded to win the race! Now I got new motivation, how much time could I make up to get somewhat to the front, after my two flats? Given this short race and less distance to make up time vs. the Ironman, I thought victory would be utopian, but perhaps I could still get age group podium? It would be nice if the whole Zoot team got some hardware.
I proceeded to push on my newly functioning bike, trying to make up time, using the downhills as much as I could while being careful on this highly technical course.
When I came back into transition I explained to my boyfriend I had a flat (well, 2 in fact) and he was surprised I was still racing with determination. At mile one I already saw our Zoot guys finishing their mile 5 and realized how far behind I was. They got the top three spots of the overall male podium!
I saw Adele from Zoot somewhere in front of me on the run, less than a mile ahead I thought. I had originally passed her on the bike to get passed back during my flat fixings. I tried to race after her to have a new target amidst my waning motivation. It was now all about passing as many women as possible. To my surprise I caught up to Adele after the turnaround point and told her to work together. So we did for a bit but since she’s still recovering from a foot surgery, she could not yet hold the pace. A couple of miles before the end I saw another couple of women and tried to catch them. One was really nice and asked if I was the one with the flat. You go girl – she encouraged me as I passed her. I loved the sportsmanship.
I kept pushing not truly knowing if I had anyone left within reach till I saw a female figure in front of me with about half a mile to go. I was exhausted, my legs were trashed from the hard bike, yet I knew I had to push now to have any chance to pass her. She turned around, saw me approaching and sped up. Now I had to go even faster, in fact sprint. I tried to turn off all my pain receptors in my head and just focused on catching the moving target. When the audience noticed this sprint to the finish they created some noise to cheer us on. It was very close, I had to really work to make the pass. I told myself I had strong kick, I pushed and passed her right in the finish by just one second. And that got me the third overall female finish. As with any triathlon race and many things in life, I got reminded one should never give up, even if things are not going well initially.