This was, by far, the biggest race I’ve ever done in terms of attendance and talent. It was an honor to be there amongst some of the nation’s best triathletes.
Unfortunately in early June I started dealing with hamstring and glute pain. Bad enough to stop me from running. Turns out it stems from my lower back. Long story short it’s sciatica and rest and rehab is needed. I didn’t want to injure it any further, but I also wasn’t going to skip Nationals (read “already paid for race & reserved hotel”), so my goal became to keep up with my training while also seeing my massage therapist, my chiropractor, and my physical therapist as much as possible to keep me from getting any worse. The joke was that I’m like Humpty Dumpty and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men tried to put (keep) me together again. I had to scale back on running more than I wanted. It became a frustrating couple of months needing to modify or cut some run workouts. Some days were good and some not good. I tried to keep a positive attitude (also called denial) about the whole situation and hoped for the best come race day.
Speaking of race day here’s my report…
My wave (women 40-44) didn’t start until 9:18 (CST). We were wave 12 of 17 waves. So racers were already out on the run before I even got my wetsuit on. It is hard to sit around and just wait. One triathlete in wave 16 told me that he was beyond nervous at that point, just bored. I wasn’t so lucky. I was nervous. I hate being nervous.
Swim start was intimidating with everyone required to hang onto the barge until they blew the start horn. I like a little wiggle room and there was none! Women were squeezed in on both sides of me. Earlier that morning I wrote STRONG on the back of my hand and a woman hanging onto the barge next to me commented on how she liked it. I told her I needed it for the run and she nodded, understanding. Another woman said “we did all the hard work getting here, now it’s just time to have fun!” There was high fiving and “good luck!”s going around. They played some Jaws tunes (thanks) as we waited for the horn to start. It blew and we were off… it was a very crowded swim and I was thankful that despite being kicked in the face, water splashing into my mouth while breathing, and people all around me on every side, my goggles stayed on and the crowd eventually spread out (a little).
The transition from swim to bike was about .3 miles and I tried to do it quickly. The bike had just a couple hills but nothing like home so I stayed mostly in my big chain ring and down on my aerobars. During the entire ride I was concerned if I would be able to run off the bike, but kept reminding myself to focus on the moment and stay strong.
I was very happy and surprised that coming off the bike my back and leg didn’t hurt! But I didn’t feel I was able to kick it into a higher gear. I was tired. I didn’t have the run training I needed to go faster. I had to keep looking at my hand, STRONG, and try not to look at my GPS watch telling me how slow I was going. I thought of my kids back home and my husband waiting at the finish line cheering loudly. The last mile was tough but I kept reading the word STRONG, and despite not being sure if I could keep running, I did.
Seeing the finish line with the long red carpet and wonderful finish arch was amazing. I did it! I didn’t hit my goal time but with my injury I was thrilled to come in top 20 (15th) in my age group and I qualified for 2016 Team USA ITU Triathlon World Championships!
Later that day I watched the Super Sprint (325m swim, 5K bike, 1.5K run, twice!), which my Freeplay teamie Kelsey was competing in. It was an amazing group of professional athletes and it was so fun to watch! Kelsey did great and that evening we all went out to celebrate. We ran into many other athletes that evening including the legend Karen Smyers, it was a fun night sharing race stories and future goals.
Thanks for reading! Here’s to rehab and coming out the other side an even stronger athlete. I won’t be out for long, you can count on that!
A big thanks to my biggest & loudest (and most handsome) fan – my husband (and photographer!) Greg. I couldn’t have done it without you! And a HUGE thanks to my in-laws for watching our kids back home so we both could go. You guys are the best.