Monday, September 5, 2016

Worlds 70.3 Sunshine Coast, Australia: Race recap

Memories from yesterday's race completely overwhelm my train of thought, making it difficult to know where to begin my review. Overall, though, I feel event organizers successfully made athletes feel welcome and special on a weekend designed to showcase some of the best age group athletes of the sport. 

My Sunday morning started with me sitting on the beach, waiting for my turn as part of the last of 19 waves to begin the race. I looked out onto the calm waters and felt grateful it still looked as calm as it did when the professionals took off on their journeys. I watched Bryan exit the water and had the pleasure of cheering him onward before I headed over to join my wave. With what sounded like relief, the announcer encouraged us females 18-29 to swim out to the start line, approximately 100m from the shore. As we moved out from under the arch and into the water, the amount of shoving and jostling hardly surprised me. Just as like every other Worlds 70.3 event I've raced, we women seem to do a pretty good job of establishing ourselves among the competition. 

When the gun went off to signal the start of our race, I fought for the first 200m to stay above water. I kicked to keep girls from grasping my ankles, I swam with wide arms to protect my face, I breathed by rolling onto my side to ensure someone else's stroke didn't push water down my throat. After one gulp of sea water, I managed to find clean water and make the first turn buoy. In an effort to avoid someone in front of me who kicked at such a profound rate as to make me think she didn't have arms, I ended up swimming slightly off course and had to make up ground before finding the second turn buoy. 

I knew I swam with women far faster than me here, so it didn't surprise me to later find out I exited the water in 33rd place. My time, however, did discourage me, as I thought with an ocean swim, combined with my efforts to strengthen my upper body more this past year, I had the power to swim under 30 minutes. Not today, however. 

Transition took a long time to negotiate. We ran up some stairs, found our bike bag hanging on racks, doffed our wetsuits, put on our helmets, and put all of our swim gear in the bag. Then, we had to run the approximate quarter mile of transition to get our bikes onto the course. If I had not yet felt behind as result of my slow swim time, I certainly did when I saw the male professionals coming in off the bike, about ready to start their runs. 

Photo by Bryan Cox.
The bike ride felt harder than I imagined it would. Heading out onto Motorway 70 toward Noosa (north) felt easy because we had a tailwind. Yet my power numbers did not seem to reflect what effort I thought I pushed through the pedals. Again, my head felt slightly rattled, especially when I turned back to make the trek south to battle the headwind. I winced and swore when girls in my age group passed me in packs, looking over their shoulders as if to dare me to cheat, too. I hated the thought of losing ground to them simply because I wanted to follow the rules instead. It didn't take long for me to witness motorcycle officials handing out cards, and some group of cheaters found themselves reaping the results of their own bad decisions when apparently, they'd crashed and sat, scattered, along the shoulder. 

I used the change in terrain of the bike course coming off the motorway to find a more confident train of thought. The hills that the hinterland section of this course introduced to us certainly crippled plenty of riders who either perform best on the flat sections or reaped the benefits of the draft line on the motorway. The advice from friends back home to stay on my nutrition (so I drank) and stay concentrated on my effort (so I watched my power meter) kept me in the moment. After recalibrating my power meter, my numbers started to more accurately reflect my effort. Relief started to transform into confidence when I passed one girl (and plenty of men) after the next. The biggest hill on Rosemount road, whose grade boosted an impressive 14%, disabled some so significantly that many had to walk. It felt good to ride myself back into Mooloolaba in 19th place. 

Photo by Bryan Cox
Again, getting through transition felt like an endeavor all on its own. By the time I'd racked my bike, found my run bag on its peg, run down some stairs to change into my shoes, and dropped my bag off, my heart had already started beating at such a rate I thought it would explode from my chest. A hill greeted us immediately, like the long, grinding hill we all know in Spokane as Cemetery hill on the Bloomsday course. Up and over I ran, keeping a decent pace up until mile four. At this point, I'd turned around and started making my way back to the finish line. Here, we all felt the force of the headwind that made the hill to the turnaround for the second lap seem more challenging. Following me closely, I could hear the footsteps and see the shadow of the winner of my age group from Coeur d'Alene. She wanted to push a slightly faster pace than what I felt comfortable with, especially turning into a headwind. I backed off the pace and let her lead, but no more than 15 yards ahead of me. 

Up and over the same hill I started the run course on, the second time felt harder. However, I prodded myself to take short steps and "fall up the hill." I don't know that my story mimics anyone else's, but my reputation at the tail end of these runs seems to be that I consistently hurt. The miles hurt so badly that my pace slowed tremendously. Where once I felt good at my race pace, I suddenly didn't anymore. Even sticking to my nutrition, taking a swallow of GU combined with PhD's Electro durance, didn't keep my body from wanting to croak. 

I reached the 17th kilometer with another woman whose quick steps and relaxed posture convinced me to stick with her. If nothing else, I needed someone to draft off of to get me through the last 4km of this race, especially up that hill. Sure enough, her presence and pace gave me someone to focus on and mirror. Before I knew it, I realized she had helped me gain time on the woman who beat me in CDA. Ten yards turned into 5, which turned into 2 upon entering the finisher chute. 

My kick didn't stand up to her's, though. One look over her shoulder, and upon spotting me, she apparently had just a little more juice, too. That means she beat me. Again. All it took this time was just two seconds. Sadly, I'll add this finish to a growing list of mine where merely seconds keep me from placing either at the top of my division or just short of a benchmark. In this instance, two seconds kept me out of the top ten.  


I've struggled today. Hoping to use this race to gauge whether or not I'm ready to go to the next level, I'm convinced I'm not. Essentially, I'm tired of making excuses for myself, and I refuse to settle for this outcome. Perhaps a fault of my own, my stubbornness may end up costing me more in the long run than either Bryan or I would care to know. I will persist. I am trying to accept that it's not the outcome of the race that matters so much as the memories I take away from the event afterward. I am blessed with a body that allows me to push and challenge myself to new levels. May I learn and grow from this one, and may I find patience with the process. 

Upon our return, our hosts welcomed us with these goodies.
Never has anyone taken such good care of us!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Countdown to Worlds 70.3: Race week

In an effort to calm my growing pre race jitters, I turn to Blogger to share my profound thanks and appreciation to everyone who has given me the motivation and encouragement to keep working for the ultimate goal I've set out before me. As Bryan and I ate our lunch this afternoon, we reminded ourselves why we sat here on the porch of an AirBnB just outside of Coolum Beach, on the shores of the Sunshine Coast, on a land further than either Bryan and I have ever traveled, in Australia. Ironically, neither of us mentioned that honeymoon we thought this trip would help us to celebrate our recent marriage in June. Rather, the memories of waking up at 4 o'clock in the morning, multiple mornings, one day after another, to finish one workout before work so our arrival might allow us enough time to complete yet another workout midday and/or upon returning home, flooded our minds.

When on the Sunshine Coast, relish the sunrise.

We have come so far. Yet I found myself smothered in waves of self doubt. When I looked out over the churning waters while walking along the Mooloolaba Esplanade this afternoon, wave upon wave crashed upon the shores, mimicking the ones rattling my brain. Perhaps I should only feel happy to be here; feel satisfied enough to toe the starting line. I find it ironic that, just after climbing into our Hertz van to make the drive home to rest the afternoon away, my phone conversation with my coach ended on what felt like an uncomfortable note. He pushed me for a finishing time and age group placing. No "I hope to," or "I think I cans" sufficed. Derek wanted an answer. He wanted confidence.

The backdrop for my Quintana Roo in transition is second to
none. With over 3000 athletes here, so is the run out of transition.

He wanted to hear me say, win. In truth, after committing myself to achieving this goal, I have to trust my efforts have been legitimate. I have to know I can do it. Therefore, I look forward to seeing this most difficult and challenging process yield a beautiful destination. I am already here in one of the prettiest places I have yet explored. It's time to embellish it. Tomorrow, I yearn to burst this brewing bubble of emotions that have welled up within me over the past 6 weeks. Where once waves of doubt overwhelmed me, let explosions of fireworks win.

Best of skill to my Big Sexy teammates, whom we shared the
company of over lunch yesterday.