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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Musselman!

Right off the bat, I'll just mention that I was feeling entirely uninspired heading into this race.  Two and a half weeks prior, I'd come down with some sort of noncontagious mystery stomach infection that made my Tri in the Buff race a miserable attempt at survival.  Training for the two weeks heading in didn't go much better, as I had been feeling weak and depleted, with no appetite to speak of, which is entirely rare for me.  Anyways, I was able to salvage a couple of halfway decent, shorter workouts heading in, but still had no idea what would happen when I tried to push myself for over an hour.  So, the game plan became "push it on the bike, because the run will either be there, or it won't, regardless".  We headed down to Geneva friday night, crammed 3 people and 3 bikes into a double dorm room, and spent saturday eating a lot, watching some Mini-Mussel, and generally preparing for game time.  I was giving a rear wheel Zipp 808 a try-I had tried both rental wheels the previous weekend, but was just too uneasy for the deep set wheel on the front.  Tyler tried it instead, so we both looked semi-ridiculous with one really expensive wheel, and one stock one.  Oh well.

Race morning, for once I had plenty of time to get all my stuff prepared, as I had over half an hour between the time transition closed and my wave started.  But, soon enough, I was in the water, and we were off.  As usual, I blocked the swim out of my mind.  There was some chop on the water, not terrible but enough to make things more difficult than they had been the previous year.  Once I hit the channel, I tried to move, but still came out of the water in 33:50, barely in the top 40.  Blah.  Well, plenty of time to make it up, I hoped, and I wasn't feeling nauseous or weak yet...good enough for me.

Altogether, it was a great morning for biking.  I knew that there would be a very slight headwind for the first 15mi or so, so I pushed it through with the knowledge that it'd get easier from there.  Luckily, I gambled correctly on that, and the next 20mi or so were smooth sailing.  I was moving up, feeling decent, and was having no issues with taking in fuel at the time, even managing a "nice wheel" to Tyler as I passed him about midway through.  I knew that I was well under my pace from last year throughout most of the ride, but I had no clue by how much until, with 8 miles to go, I looked at my watch and calculated that I'd be under a 2:40 bike split as long as I averaged over 20 for the rest of the ride.  At that point, some spectators were out, and informed me that I was the 5th woman past. I took this knowledge with a grain of salt, though, as I knew I had a several minute head start on the very, very competitive women's 30-34 age group; I knew that to have a shot at this thing, I'd need to get to T2 before they caught me, because I didn't want to count on having to make that up on the run.  Towards the end of the bike, the gut problems kicked in a bit, as I just couldn't get my last few chomps in.  I kept calm, though, knowing I could get through the run even if I didn't eat anything.  I made it to T2, switched the shoes, and headed out for my run, having no idea what to expect.  I did know, though, that my bike split had been very, very solid for me-my watch read under 2:40, which included both transitions.

The early miles of the run turned into another "don't panic" situation.  The mercury was rising, I was reaching for the pepto I had stashed into the pocket of my tri top, and I didn't know if my body was going to hold up for the distance.  I will say, though, that the volunteers were fabulous- after robbing the first aid station for ice cold water, ice down the sports bra, and a sponge overhead, I was feeling a bit optimistic.  My first couple of miles were slower than the previous year, but I told myself it was meaningless, given the heat, and pressed on.  Shortly thereafter, heading up a steep hill, I looked down and saw Dave behind me.  I was entirely confused, as he had started 20min before me, and I hadn't passed him.  Turns out, he had gone the wrong way, and ended up running a couple extra miles-extremely bad break!  But, by mile 5, despite the fact that I had given up on being able to keep down any more gels or chomps, I was actually feeling pretty decent, and had passed several women.  At mile 7, heading up the most ruthless part of the course, I moved into the "lead"-again, with the wave start, I didn't know where I stood.  Several miles of downhill afterwards helped, and by the time the course evened out again, the spectator support was pushing me through.  Running alongside the lake the last few miles, the heat was certainly starting to kick in, but I wasn't about to give in at that point (despite the fact that the people cheering from their boat, beers in hand, looked like they were having wayy more fun that I was at the time).  I finally crossed the finish line to the cheers of the crowd, immediately got out of my shoes (that race did several of my toenails in), and crawled my spent body into the ice water pools.  Unlike the previous year, when we had been one of the last waves of women to start, I'd just have to wait and see how I'd place, so my elation at the finish line was blunted.  After pulling myself out of the pool, I found my parents, and we played the waiting game.

The wave difference passed, and no women had come in yet-meaning, my last barrier to the win was penalties (I hate not knowing!).  I was a strange combination of elated over my place and my PR and, after several weeks of wondering, worrying, and thinking I had to give up on my goals for the race, relieved.  I had biked faster than I'd thought I would, and, more surprisingly given the heat that day, run faster than my crazy run last year, in which I'd had women to pass throughout.  This year, I'd run against myself for the second half of the run, felt worse at the start, and been fighting hotter conditions.  I waited tensely until final results were posted, checked the penalty list about 15 times, and finally I was satisfied that everything was official.  The greatest part of the day, though, was when I was presented with a brand spanking new, carbon clincher Gray wheelset at the awards ceremony-I had no idea those were coming!  Talk about an awesome prize, I couldn't express how grateful I was for those.  Overall, I once again loved the Musselman experience, and couldn't have asked for a better outcome (other than Dave not getting lost on the run).

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