Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rev3 Florida: Part 2 - The Race

I had such a great time hanging with my homies pre-race that I felt fairly calm waking up race morning. I approached this race with very few expectations. I know I am a good swimmer but how do I compare to these really fast chicks? I am getting stronger on the bike but am I strong enough? Could I hold my own for the run? I did not have the answers to these questions. I just had the desire to utilize my current fitness to the best of my ability and to learn from the experience my weaknesses and the areas which need the most improvement. 

Race morning
The guys and I got up with plenty of time to spare. The van was packed so we were more or less ready to go. I went downstairs to get my first cup of coffee and people were already heading out to the race. It was 5:15. I should have picked up on this but at the time I was just going through the motions. I was fixing my coffee and chatting with another participant when she saw my number and exclaimed, "You're the number of love!!" Wait, what? Apparently my bib number "143" is the number of love. I never heard that but when I mentioned in back the room Ross knew exactly what I was talking about. Urban Dictionary knows what's up

"I love you"
The last thing the woman said to me was, "With a number like that there is no way you won't have a great race." Yeah, yeah you're right. She got me pretty excited for what was waiting ahead for me. We left the hotel and were promptly greeted with a long line of cars waiting to park at the race site. Suddenly our arrival cushion was dwindling quickly and we were downright late. To add insult to injury James and I both got flat tires. We had less than 20 minutes! WHY!? The inside mechanism of my valve pulled right out when I finished pumping the tire leaving me with an instant flat. I am pretty sure I changed that sucker in less than 2 minutes, what up!?!. At least I got my blood pumping. I ran over to transition, set up my space, threw on my BlueSeventy PZ3TX, and jetted off to the beach for as much warm up as they would allow me. Geeez, so much for a relaxed race morning.

I don't lock my knees. Nope, not this girl.

Swim (26:11, 2nd)
Like the Carolina Half, the swim was a beach start. This was my first start alongside a group of females which very different than starting alongside the dudes at the Set Up races. When the gun went off I was a little slow to start but I caught up quickly as I entered the water. Good thing I did all that practicing the day before! Luckily for me, or my lack of grace, the tide was a bit higher so I did not have to negotiate the sharp beach/ocean floor angle. After two dolphin dives and two freestyle strokes I was already breaking away with the lead pack. The swim course was by no means the typical rectangular shape. The first turn came quickly and we were still a little congested. I came into the turn dead on while everyone else cut in from the side. With a little extra kick I was able to break into some clean water coming out of the turn. Jennifer Spieldenner also made a move and broke away by a body length. I debated bridging the gap or hanging back. In retrospect I wish I bridged the gap. All I needed was a 10 second sprint and I would have been on her feet but since it was so early in the swim/race I held back. I swam behind her for quite some time but I lost her when we started to catch the pro men. The back of the pack pro men do not swim in a straight line (correlation?). I was amazed at how all over the place they were. I even got caught up with one guy who swam into me at a 90 degree angle. The collision caused me to lose sight of Jennifer's bright green cap as she tucked into a pack of dudes. 2/3 into the back stretch I catch a glimpse of a very familiar stroke and breathing pattern. Who cares if I was just ahead of Ironman legend Meredith Kessler and Rev3 Series leader Lauren Goss, I caught James MF Haycraft, woot woot! I am pretty sure I heard him moan as I quickly passed, hehehehe. I wanted him to jump on my feet, like he does sooooo often at swim practice, but he just kept looking at me with that eye of his. The sighting/passing/crushing gave me the little boost I needed because I had started to slow down a bit ever since I lost sight of Jennifer. I was feeling good and continued to pick up the pace closing into the last buoy and finish. I had a lot of energy left in the tank which is why I regret my decision to not close that gap in the beginning. Not surprising to most of you at this point, my exit from the water was less than graceful (@0:44 my foot sunk in the sand sending me to faceplant town). My mom told me I popped back up so quickly no one even noticed. Thanks mom! Nothing to see here folks . . . 

Nothing to see here but total domination (sorta but not really)
Meredith and Lauren passed me handily during the run into transition. I thought I was doing ok but by the time I got on my bike they were gone.

Bike (2:26:59, 6th)
I started the bike course a little too excited. Everything was just so, so exciting! I was stoked I was 2nd out of the water and now I had this super flat course to navigate under the stagger rule. Rebecca Wassner passed me pretty soon out of transition; I tried to keep her in my sights but I quickly realized I was working much harder than I was comfortable. I was trying to dial it back when James rolled by. Some people receive encouraging remarks from their teammies. I just got a very huffy "damn you" from James. He rolled on but my content smugness lasted for several miles. All was quiet on the Florida front until Malaika Homo passed me. She passed me on an overpass like I was standing still. Florida is pretty flat, flatter than White Lake flat, so I tried to hang behind her and entertain myself with the Rev3 stagger rule. Rev3 has a rule for the pro waves in which every rider must staggered to the right or left of the rider in front of him/her. Most of the time everyone's position on the road is stable but when a pass is made everyone shifts to the right or left. It is like a dance; a somewhat fun but slightly painful dance. She developed a pretty good gap in me but eventually I caught up to her. Unfortunately when I finally did, I also lost a water bottle on a bump. WHY!? I lost the bottle on the beginning of an out and back so I did not stop there to get it. I crossed my fingers and hoped it would still be there when I came back through. I mean, why wouldn't it? I slowed down a little bit just in case because I was an hour out from the next aid station. On my way back out, a volunteer had located my water bottle and was guarding it. I stopped to grab it and thanked him profusely. Like I said, the nicest people live in Florida! I then set my sights on catching back up to Malaika. 10 miles out from the finish I made my only pass of the day. I was feeling pretty good so I put in a little extra effort to create a gap. 

This picture is mostly of a volunteer but I'm in here somewhere.

Creating a gap on Malaika was a complete waste. While I made it into transition before her, I didn't even have one sock on when she ran out. Lesson learned: former ITU pros have sick transition times.

Run (1:36:00, 9th)
I left transition feeling fresh. My only agenda for the run was to stay calm for the first 1/3 and pick it up from there. Unfortunately calm felt too good . . . and too slow. With no initial cramping and a rock solid fuel plan I was feeling pretty good. I tried to keep calm but for the first 10K I was rattling off each mile just like the last one. The run course was a flat four mile out and back which was super cool. I got to see James, Ross, Sylvain, and Matt Wisthoff multiple times but I also got to the see the race play out for the top three men and women. Unforunately I needed to stop watching and start running as round mile 9, the pace I had been holding disappeared. I felt fine and did not feel like I was laboring an harder than before but by the time I got to miles 10 and 11 there was just no turn over in my legs. At the last turn around I was 3 miles from the finish and 1 minute up in 8th place. It was not a good time for me to be slowing down. I still felt great but when I got to the next mile marker I knew I needed to pick it up. At mile marker 12 my pace had not improved and with less than 2 minutes to the finish I was passed by Jackie Arendt. Going through her blog just now I saw she won Ironman Wisconsin, so ok keeewwwwwl. 

Credit to
Final 4:32:58, 9th
Half ironman PR, 56 mile bike PR, and 13.1 triathlon PR. 9th at my first pro race and a $500 paycheck. Overall, I am pleased with my performance. I wish I had a little extra to finish off that run but I just ran out of juice. While I am happy, I am not satisfied. I am now hyper aware of the areas that need improvement. At a certain point races like these stop being about fitness and start being about the little things. I still hope to make some fitness gains in the swim, bike, and especially the run but I need to also start to concentrate a bit more on the little things. There is a lot of free speed out there for the taking and I am about to get greedy.

Nina Kraft, Me, Malaika, Jennifer Spieldenner