Saturday, October 25, 2008

Blasted Wind!!!

Sometimes I really really hate the wind...especially when I am on my bike and not feeling great. Today was one of those days in Boulder, the wind was blowing at 30mph and gusting up to 40mph. There is something so futile and frustrating about riding into a wind and especially getting upset with the wind (wind rage as I call it). The first hour and a half of the ride, I really was angry at life at the wind at everything. But once I got into the efforts in my ride, I forgot about the wind and focused on going hard. It is amazing how once you stop obsessing about something you can't control like the wind; it seems to suddenly be a non-issue. I am sure there will be wind rage in the future but maybe next time it won't take me a whole 90 minutes to get over my blow-hard anger and just focus on the ride.

Change In Plans

I was planning to end the season with another three-peat: racing the world cup in Mexico followed by the Bermuda triathlon, and finishing with the 70.3 world championships in Clearwater. But around the time I got back from Dallas, I started to feel a bit off. At first, I thought it was just all the travel and racing. But last week, I went downhill fast and headed to the doctor for the strep test and to see if I had a sinus infection. After starting antibiotics, I turned around pretty quickly and felt okay by the middle of this week. However, after a tough decision, I decided to cancel my plans to go to Mexico on Thursday. It was a hard choice, but I just felt that racing when I wasn't 100% didn't make sense. I also didn't want to jeopardize my last two races by racing when I was still sick. In addition, I realized that a big reason for going to the world cup was not to miss out on one of the few easy points world cups (there are only 21 girls on the start list and top 20 get points). After thinking about this rational, it seemed silly as the only finish that would really help me would be a podium finish, and I know that I am just not at that level yet. So I am home recovering and will ready to roll for the next two weekends. I am excited to finish the season with a bang or a very loud belly flop!

Last But Not Least Dallas

The last race in my three race string was the Dallas US Open, the final race in the Lifetime Fitness series. I was excited for the race but definitely tired from all the travel. I arrived home from France on Monday but spent a few days on the east coast again, flew back to Denver on Thursday, then left 20 hours later for Dallas...racking up the frequent flyer miles. I was in a bad mood on Friday, but had a nice time at the race briefing and VIP party. It is always a treat to get free food, the life of a poor pro triathlete, and catch up friends that I haven't seen in awhile.
The day before the race Rinny, another pro, and I caravan'd with some of her Aussie friends to the race site. It was only supposed to be @24 miles away but driving there took forever. It made me wonder if the bike course is really 40 miles not 40K. After getting a bike, run, and swim at the race start, we drove the 20 feels like 40 miles and headed back downtown. After a relaxing lunch, I headed back to my room to rest and do all my pre-race rituals.
Race morning started very early....we had to be down and ready to go at 5am. It was still pitch dark for the first hour or so when we arrived at transition. I went on a dark ride through the park and hoped I didn't hit a pothole and crash before the race. The race started off well; the pack was swimming well and then we turned around at the far buoy and started swimming directly into the sun. I think our pack zigg-zagged back and forth and wouldn't be surprised if everyone swam an extra 100 or 200 as we tried to find our way. It was amusing and didn't really bother me too much as I figured everyone else was just as screwed as I was. I just tried to follow the feet and splashing up ahead...probably blinding following them as they zigg-zagged. Once on the bike, it was a bit of a draft-fest for the first few miles as we road through the pack on a tight single lane road. It was a bit frustrating but at least it was only for a few miles. Once on the main road, the pack spread out and drafting officials started hovering around us. Joanna Zeiger got a questionable call to stand down early in the bike; I didn't think she was drafting but sometimes the officials can see things we can't or make calls that suck but we have to live with....I had a great ride and was doing well in second place with Sarah Haskins and Julie Dibens. Then, with only 2 miles to go in the bike, I took a drink and had my water bottle in my hand as I went over a huge bump in the road. The bottle popped out of my butter fingers as I hit the bump with full force. Since I was in the front of the bike, the drafting official was right next to me and told me to stand down. After 90 seconds of standing on the side of the road watching competitors whizz by me I finally able to remount and continue. It was a bit of bad luck for me and very frustrating, but in the end I really wouldn't have done anything differently except maybe put my bottle back in the cage right away post-drink instead of trying to get in two swigs. After the stand down I arrived in transition, not in 2nd place but in 9th. I tried to keep my focus and not stew about the penalty. About 2 miles into the run, I started to cramp in my quads right at the teardrop and was struggling to continue. I tried to take in as many liquids and took a gel right away. After a few miles of struggling, I was able to push it a bit again but was constantly aware of my quads. It was not a good end to the race, and I lost another few places finishing in 12th. Without the 90 second stand down, I would have done better but at least I finished the race and did my best despite some challenges. Next year, I hope that I am able to be competitive at all the lifetime fitness races. On a positive note, I finished second overall in the Lifetime Fitness Series and definitely improved dramatically from my racing last year.

Viva La France

After racing in Portland, I headed directly to the east coast to spend a few days with family before heading to Lorient France for a world cup race. I have never been to France and was excited for the trip and ready to have a good race after the frustrating mechanical issues in Portland.
The town of Lorient was a very friendly seaside town in south Brittany. The people were very nice and welcoming. The race course pleasantly surprised me again as both the bike and run were quite hilly. I stayed the first night at a hostel and moved into a hotel downtown as the hostel wasn't quite the ideal place to stay. The karaoke the night I arrived along with constant opening and closing of the doors kept me up most of the night not to mention being on a top bunk. Luckily, Katie one of the USAT coaches let me stay with her a few nights in a normal hotel. The team and coaches for the race had a few dinners together, and I was impressed with the food though I am sure the waiters were annoyed with our antics and string of questions about the menu. It is always nice to spend some time bonding with the other team USA athletes at the world cup races.
Race morning came quickly; the day was gorgeous sunny but not hot and windy but not too bad. I had breakfast at the hotel, opting not to have the football size croissant race morning. The race went well. In the swim, I found myself at the front of the main pack behind a small breakaway group. I was fourth out of the water and happy that I was able to stay out of the mayhem that seems to be worse when there are wetsuit swims. On the bike, I worked with my pack to bring in the riders ahead Sarah Groff came back to us first then the small breakaway came back. When they were reeled in, I knew everyone would sit back so I threw in a surge and managed to get a gap on the group. It was early for a breakaway, and I knew I would only stay away if the pack let me go. Unfortunately, they chased a bit and reeled me in about three quarters of a lap later. I then sat back and worked through on the bike but didn't try to take on too much of the work at the front. Unfortunately like every world cup, so many of the girls just sit back for the whole ride it is a frustrating experience. Once off the bike, I tried to focus on having a steady run. It wasn't great but I was happy to run a 37 and finish 16th overall. While I was happy with the race overall, I definitely want to keep improving and move up to finish in the top ten consistently next year.

Ups and Downs at Pro Nationals

I was a bit unenthusiastic about pro nationals mostly because it has been a long season already and I had a string of three races planned that started with the nationals in Portland. And I was sad that Jeff wasn’t able to make the trip, but the race wasn’t in Portland as we thought rather about 45 minutes out of the city at Hagg Lake so he opted out as logistics for getting out there turned into a nightmare. But my attitude completely changed once I got to Hagg Lake and saw the course. It was beautiful and perfect for me: incredibly hilly for both the bike and run exactly what I like and works to my strengths.
When I arrived at the race site on Friday, I was pleasantly surprised and started to get a very excited for the race, my first ITU style, drafting race, since June. Race day was beautiful for us; we started late in the morning so it had time t warm up and the sun was trying to breakthrough the cloud cover. It was the perfect temperature where I was never cold but never hot either. The swim wasn’t my best; I picked the wrong feet to follow and was SOL when the feet I chose were dropped off the back of the front pack. Definitely a lesson to not be happy at the back on the front pack but rather try to get closer to the front so that I at least have a shot at staying with the small pack around the buoys. I came out of the swim in the second pack and felt good the second I got on my bike. I rode with our group for about 2 laps and then made my move and rode very aggressively over the next two laps to close the minute gap up to the lead pack. Entering my 4th lap through transition, I was only 8 seconds off the leaders and was definitely going to bridge. Then disaster….I hit the corner at the top of the hill going down into transition and my tubular tire came off the rim. At the time, I wasn’t sure why I hit the deck. I got up quickly fixed my chain tried to ride and the wheels wouldn’t move. I checked the brakes tried to go again and the bike still wouldn’t go. Hmmm what is wrong. .. Needless to say, after about a minute and a half of chaos, a spectator volunteered that my tire was off the rim. I checked and indeed they were correct a six inch section of the tire had come unglued and was off the side of the rim. I popped the tire back on adjusted the font brake as it was rubbing again and was off…a minute and 45 seconds later with a few bruises and scraps and a much more timid riding style. While I was off the side of the road, the girls in the second group both went by me and I busted my ass to try to make up all the ground I lost. By the 5th lap, I caught one of the riders and she sat on my ass for the rest of the ride. I made up some time on the other rider and the lead pack but definitely wasn’t as aggressive through the technical sections and keep worrying that my tire would pop off the rim again. Starting the run, I felt a bit tired and frustrated that all my hard cycling effort really netted me no gains with the time loss as a result of the crash. I tried to focus but ended up just running smoothly and simply holding my position of 7th. Overall the race was frustrating but I wouldn’t change the way that I rode or anything I did except to maybe have a better swim. On a side note, the tire was a USAT wheel that was glued by the trade team mechanic, the husband of a competitor I might note. In retrospect, I need to do a better job of checking the equipment that I receive since in the end it’s my job to be safe and stay upright out there.