Wow...where do I even start? I'm not sure how I can put this whole experience into words, but I'll try. I'd been thinking of this race, obsessing about it, dreaming about it, and worrying about it since the initial excitement of qualifying had worn off. At first, just getting there had been my focus, but it didn't take too long after I'd turned over my check and filled out my registration that it dawned on me that I'd like to do well. Still, "do well" to me was initially thought of as top 20 in my age group. After Musselman, I had sort of raised my goal to top 10 on a good day. As Vegas got nearer, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have the podium on my brain, but I thought it was a stretch, and I needed to concentrate on the things that were within my power. Of course, the weather wasn't within my power, but that didn't stop me from having the 10 day forecast for Henderson, NV open on my computer. Luckily, I began to feel better as the predicted high for race day dropped to the low 90's-after all, it had gotten up to that at Musselman, and I'd survived. Labor Day weekend came and went, I made it through a couple more work days (sorry, patients, for being completely unfocused in that time!), we donated a couple of dogs to my parents for the weekend, and before I knew it, departure time had rolled around!
Well, almost. Ten minutes into the drive to the Buffalo airport Thursday morning, I realized that the magnet for my bike computer was on my regular wheel, and of course the race wheels were packed. Luckily, Dave and I were able to turn around and get it, and still got to the airport with time to spare (thanks to my speeding...oops). We got to Vegas in the late afternoon, where I experienced 100 degree heat for the first time. The bike survived the flight, we got some dinner (read: Dave had about 1700 pieces of "all you can eat" sushi), I watched people lose money in slot machines, and we fell asleep on east coast time. Friday morning, after some Original Pancake House at the hotel (I thought they were only in Buffalo! This discovery was exciting), I lost $3 in a couple slot machines, and decided I was over gambling. We picked up Alyssa from the airport, and then it was time for "Jennie attempts to see the bike course and fails: Part A". I meant to go just for a 20mi ride over the start of the course. Instead (another shining example of how I should never be allowed to navigate alone), I didn't turn off the narrow bike path that the race briefly used to get us across the road. I was then following the bike path, which included a couple of climbs that had me standing on my pedals, gasping for air, followed by narrow, curvy, steep descents. During this time, my thoughts ranged from "I'm going to tip over from going so slow up these hills", to "Seriously? How are 1500 people supposed to be going out and back along this at the same time and passing? I might cry", and then finally to "You moron-this clearly isn't the course. You're heading back towards the hotel. You should be heading away from it. Not to mention, it's literally impossible to fit that many people on this path". So, with that crisis averted, I went back out to the road, and felt a little reassured that at least the real course couldn't be as bad as that. I was experiencing the desert, for sure, though-my throat was raw, my fluids were grossly hot in a brief period, and I was surprisingly unsweaty.
Saturday was suprisingly cool when Alyssa and I set out for the practice swim, which was allegedly a 650m loop that took us 15min. I know my swimming leaves a lot to be desired, but seriously...not that much. I hoped that Sunday's course measurement would be a bit more on. After a brief bike/run (the low humidity and overcast skies felt surprisingly refreshing to run in), we began Part B of my failed attempts to see the bike course. Alyssa and I missed a turn in the recreational area, and began driving a fork on the opposite side of the lake. It ended up being pretty similar, which meant that it was enough to inspire me to express anxiety over being under 3 hours on the bike, given my thoughts of: a. I don't climb well. b. I'm too scared to make up time on descents. c. If it's windy, I'll be way too scared to try to make up time on descents. Dave and Alyssa probably wanted to smack me by that point. After that, I had to head back to the expo to get my front brake adjusted, and I ended up buying a swimskin, much to Dave's chagrin. In retrospect, nothing really helps my swim, but it appeared that all the cool kids were wearing them...
The rest of Saturday was spent packing our race day bags, taping unnatural sources of food to my bike, and heading to bike drop off. My favorite part of bike drop off was getting surveyed about my bike components, particularly my saddle, which is some off brand that I took off my road bike in a need to save my female parts and money at the same time. Hopefully, they admired my Neverreach along the way- nothing quite beats a 64oz jug of hands-free goodness attached to the back of the seat in terms of awesomeness. We checked out T1, which featured about a 300m run from the swim exit to the changing tent. I actually somewhat embraced this feature, though, as I figured it'd give me a chance to chase down a few people after getting my butt kicked on the swim. After that, we'd have to push our bikes up a steep hill with a sharp turn in it, a fact that amused me, in a way. Nothing like starting the bike panting! Soon enough, after eating a lot as per usual, I was in bed for my normal night of disturbed, anxious pre-race sleep!
Me in the hotel room, trying to decide if I looked more or less dorky in my aero helmet with sunglasses on: