I just completed the best race of my life at the USA Triathlon (USAT) Multisport National Championships in Irving, TX on Saturday, April 22. I raced the Olympic (Standard) distance made up of a 10k run – 24.5 mile bike – 5k run. Here I’ll share my experience leading up to, during, and post race.
The championships were being held at the same venue as last year and typically are hosted at the same city in two year cycles so I knew what to expect from a course perspective going into this year with a slight modification to the bike course. Reflecting back to last year I remember how hard the first 10k run felt for the pace I was exerting although it was a good pace. The ride was hard and my body was failing in the middle of the final 5k run with major cramping. I hung on last year for a 5th place finish which I was satisfied with but not satisfied enough. I knew I had opportunities to do things a bit different to set myself up for better success at this distance and format of the race. This is the only race along with World Championships where the 10k run is first so you can’t replicate that race like experience anywhere in the year…but there were things I took away to get better.
I arrived late on Thursday night for my Saturday race giving me a day to get acclimated, pick up my packet, and drive the race course. Another day would have been ideal but I had great preparation at home before I left setting myself up to be ready to go Sunday morning.
Dr. Mike Abenoja helped me through two issues leading up to the race in my right quad and right heel/achilles. I was pretty confident I would feel them but they would not impact my performance. The combination of strength training, yoga, Dr. Mike, training, racing, eating clean, recovery, and taper set me up to feel the best I ever felt going into a major race.
The first run consisted of two laps of 5k and it was primarily flat. The temperatures were perfect for a duathlon starting the race at 59 degrees so the run would feel good and even though the temperatures would be a bit cool to hop on the bike by the time the run was over, it was ok as the body was warmed up from the run.
The horn went off and I was in the first group for one mile before they left me. I was ok with that as I was running my race, my pace, and I was feeling pretty good for the pace I was running. It felt better than last year when I was laboring for the pace I was holding. After the run I was in third place but I didn’t know that as we were in a wave with the 50-54 age group as well. My goal was to keep pressing and not hold back on the bike. I was going 100% and would see what I had left for the final run.
The bike consisted of three loops to make up the 24.5 miles. It took several miles to settle in after the 10k run effort but I did. By the second lap there was a competitor I battled the rest of the way on the bike. It was great! One of us would surge and then the other. That helped drive us to a great effort. As I was approaching the finish of the bike portion, a gentleman passed me and we continued into transition where he racked his bike next to me…he was in my age group. I wasn’t sure how many others were in front of us or around us but I knew he had to be with me. Post race I found out we were in first and second place as we exited transition.
As we came out he pulled away immediately and I didn’t have the gear to stick with him. I was doing my thing and working hard at that. As I was approaching the one mile mark of 3.1, I was thinking that my head was together (not feeling like I was going to bonk due to dehydration) but my right hamstring was vulnerable and in better shape than last year when the hamstring completely locked up cramping in mile two and was an issue the rest of the way. That feeling quickly changed as when I hit mile one, my head started spinning. I quickly took a gel and the aid station was immediately after where I took a quick sip and drenched my head for the heat. In a few seconds I felt a revival of sorts where the focus came back in my head (not spinning). I was back in the game…
In the final mile my hamstring became more of a worry as it was fluttering with cramps. I maintained a smooth cadence to not prompt the muscle to quickly react and seize up. With a half mile to go, great friend and competitor Celia Dubey, yelled at me that I was in 4th place with a lot around me. I kept pressing on as hard as I could and I also thought to myself that I was racing the best race of my life and I was about to finish one place ahead of my three consecutive years of 5th place finishes. That was a bit demoralizing but out of my control. I kept pressing taking a final left turn off the main road heading towards the finish line. I glanced back and didn’t see anyone. As I reached about 30 meters remaining my hamstring began seizing up so I flexed/straightened my leg so it wouldn’t go into full lock down. If I had to hop across the finish line that’s what it would have come to to hold on to 4th place. As soon as I hit the line it seized up, I grabbed the side rail, and flexed my foot up to release.
As I walked away I found the gentleman who I battled on the bike, congratulated and thanked him for the effort. We had a nice brief chat as I then headed back for a mile walk back to my car. As I was making the journey I reflected on my effort and again was a bit disappointed that on my best day I only moved up a spot from the last three years. I improved but not good enough for the podium on this day. I did have comfort in knowing I executed my game plan with my body failing at the finish line. I had nothing left and that was satisfying.
When I reached my car, I grabbed my phone to check the results. When I selected my race I couldn’t believe my eyes…I finished 2nd!!! I about broke down with emotions. It was only two spots from where I thought I finished but 2nd felt so validating for the plan, work, and execution. This was 12 months in the making from last year. I changed my off season program and a few other things to attack this race, this year and it happened! As I pulled myself together I saw text messages congratulating me. Others knew before I did what transpired.
I made a few calls, shared my story, and heard stories of those following me on the tracker. I felt so fortunate to have family and friends support me through this. It makes a huge difference.
Later that evening I proudly hopped on stage and climbed on the 2nd place podium platform. I was and still am on cloud 9…what an experience.
Sunday morning I was able to participate in the Duathlon Mixed Relay Super Sprint with Celia Dubey and Sharon Byun to win our age group and National Championship. It was a fun way to end the weekend before heading back to Safety Harbor and prepare for the World Championships the following weekend. The World Championships were a result of qualifying at the National Championships from last year.
I just finished the best race of my life and had the World Championships next. How could it get any better than that?
– Add Health to Your Life
Leave a Reply