Multiple people the week after Wildflower (which was last week) kept telling me how tough I am. Which I thought was funny. I told my husband, Steve, this and he also thought it was funny, so that’s either encouraging or not.
I don’t feel tough. I feel like I had four-and-a-half hours of feeling good at Wildflower and then 40 minutes of feeling like I was going to pass out, wondering if my shuffle would get me to the finish line before I passed out, and being 100% certain no one was moving as slowly as I was. There was a long period where I was not gaining on the larger older man in front of me, and all I could think was: That’s not great.
The arguments in my head for continuing to run were: You’re winning the amateur race, you should not start walking. Just don’t screw it all up now. You don’t even have to run fast, you just have to run. And even if you get passed, you’ve still had a great race, so there’s that. (Yes, I talk to myself in the third person during races. Let it go.)
In retrospect, though, I guess I’ve gotten tougher maybe. A year ago, I’m fairly certain the long-course at Wildflower would have left me walking most of the time. A year ago, post-bachelorette party, I got 7th in the Olympic race. It must have been the RV this year that made all the difference. After a disappointing race at Galveston 70.3 last month, Leslie, who is also coached by my coach Hillary, gave me a pep talk about how triathlon is supposed to be fun. So I invited myself to join her and Alyssa’s super classy RV to Wildflower. I slept on top of the kitchen table.
We hung out at the campgrounds on Friday, got our pre-race stuff done, and “relaxed.” The two of them kept making me take “relaxing time,” which is a new thing for me. That meant on race morning I ended up with hours and hours to talk to The USC Kids and hang out with my Freeplay teammate Christine. See, triathlon is fun!
My goal for the swim was to stick with Christine, which lasted for all of 30 seconds. The problem with my swimming right now is I’m not sure yet if I’m fast or not. I’m almost fast? I ended up coming out of the water with one girl, and with two others (including Christine) less than 45 seconds ahead of us. Apparently the swim was long, but I don’t wear a watch anymore, so don’t know, don’t care. I transitioned like a champ, because that’s basically what I’m best at in life. And I caught Christine by the top of the boat ramp.
I either did something brilliant or stupid at this point. I decided if I was in first, and I was pretty sure I was, then I should make it stick. To do that, I had to run the first weird 2.2-mile transition fast. I wasn’t wearing a watch, just went off feel and it felt hard but do-able. In retrospect, though, I’m 90% sure I was running 6:30-40s. This might have come back to bite me later, but it worked, so I’m putting it in the brilliant category.
By the time I got on my bike, I was hoping I had enough of a gap that no one would even see me and I’d be gone and they’d never think about it again. The bike started out windy and kind of miserable. It took almost an hour to do the first 15 miles. But, out of all the things that bothered me mentally during the race, that didn’t bother me at all. I’ve spent so much time riding in the wind lately that I don’t even remember how nice it is to not ride in miserable wind. And it was so obviously slow that it was clear it wasn’t just me. Either this was going to be slow for everyone (it was) or it would have to get less windy on the back half (it did).
Parts of the bike were sketchy though. When I was going in the mid-30s mph downhill, on potholed roads, with sudden gusts of wind, and trucks passing, I didn’t even worry about what kind of effort I was putting out. I just tried to stay on my bike. I almost got hit by a horse trailer at one point — the guy gave me enough room, but appeared to forget that his trailer would swing wide behind him, almost hitting me. Overall, though, I felt good on the bike. Thirsty (stupid tiny water bottles at the aid stations), but good.
And I kept feeling good for three miles of the run. Then I really didn’t. Evidently, everyone thought I had done the long-course here before, so no one told me exactly how bad it is. That was a fun surprise. Leslie and Alyssa had mentioned the one really steep section, so the whole run I kept thinking: Is this it? Is this it? I still don’t know which part was the really bad part. It was all bad.
I was pounding gels and dumping water on myself. My shoes were squishing. I was hot and I was sure that I was going to pass out. I was primarily concerned that I was going to lose via passing out. Basically, the only thing that kept me moving was that I was in the lead. I was sure I was going to be run down, and I was just trying to make it hard for Christine (or anyone in the later waves behind us) to catch me. Just make them earn it.
At the top of the hill to the finish, there’s a guy giving tequila shots. I really thought about taking on, but figured I’d be pissed if I lost by five seconds. And then I just had to run down the hill and cross the line.
The part that’s crazy to me is I was completely sure I was running straight into the med tent. I was so hot and so messed up. But I crossed the line, struggled a little bit, wobbled, and then was fine. Thirsty and tired and shaky, but fine. The next day I was totally fine. By Tuesday, I’d never felt better after a race. This is weird to me. After Galveston, it took a week before I even wanted to do a workout. I napped every single day. I was a wreck. Who knows how these things work. Maybe it’s all in our heads.