This year I was lucky enough to have (yet another) wonderful homestay family in the Sanders, made even better by the fact that Kim also stayed with them. Dave and Angele have lived their whole lives in New Orleans so it was awesome to hear their perspective and understand the NO culture from true locals! Plus, they took us to some awesome eats that the normal tourist (ie: me) never would have found on their own! All in all, a most wonderful time. I can't say I'd want to live in New Orleans but it is a place you have to visit at least once in a lifetime. (or every April to do the 70.3 if you are like me :)
Onto the race!
Although, as mentioned, I've done this race 2 other times, I've never actually swam in New Orleans. After many failed attempts at having a safe swim in Lake Pontchartrain, the race organizers moved the swim to a protected harbor this year. And it worked! I was happy to finally get a full triathlon for the first time!
The water was a pretty perfect 64-65 degrees (much warmer and I seem to boil in my wetsuit) and the course was shaped like an "N" with a little tail at the end to exit the water. Although it seemed like it was going to be a hard-to-navigate course, it really wasn't. I had a pretty easy time of siting (although that doesn't mean I actually went straight, I at least didn't feel lost :).
My swim itself was "meh". It was fine - not bad by any means but certainly not spectacular. The pro women's field was relatively small in ~15-16 women and within those women the swim abilities were very split - those that can swim 25 minutes or under (~5 women) and those that swim around ~30 minutes (every one else). Because I can't hang with those that swim 25 minutes, I ended up towing everyone else around the harbor. To have that awesome breakthrough 27 minute swim, I'm going to need a whole bunch of women that can swim in that range and just hang on desperately to their feet. Either way, I'm not disappointed with yesterday's effort in the water. I can definitely see big improvements over last year in this department so I'm not complaining!
Because the swim course was moved, the bike course was also just a bit different but it was essentially the same idea - an out and back on very flat but very windy roads - the kind of course where you just hunker down in your aerobars and pedal as hard as you can for 2.5 hours. As in the past, we had a head/cross wind for pretty much the entire ride out and a tail/cross wind all the way home.
I felt good on the bike and was happy with how things were going. I had swallowed quite a bit of lake water (the harbor had that little chop that smacks you in the side of the face every time you breathe) which had really triggered my reflux and so I spent the first 15 miles just trying to throw up/settle my stomach. But around mile 20ish, my friend Kristin passed me and I was super thankful for this development! Besides being an awesome person, Kristin is also a SUPER biker and I knew if I could just focus on keeping her in sight, she would pull me along to the next group of girls ahead on the road. And this is exactly how it played out. I struggled at times to keep up but pushed hard and then at other times I felt good. At some point I passed Kristin back, we caught a few of the other super swimmers and I was even in 2nd place briefly (with Haley Chura up the road 4 minutes and Amy Marsh on the side of the road with a flat). In the end I came into T2 in 4th place with the 2nd fastest bike split behind Kristin. If there is a bright spot of yesterday's race, my bike was it. I'm feeling good and strong on the bike, my power was good and my HR low, and I'm definitely progressing from last year!
Of course with every bright spot, there is also a not-so-bright spot and my run was definitely the disappointment of the day. ARGH! DOUBLE ARGH!!! It's no secret that my run definitely frustrates me more often than not. In many races I can bike myself into a great position but that doesn't mean much if you don't have the run to back it up! Oh how I wish the race sometimes ended after the bike! HA! :) Seriously though, why I'm most frustrated is because I KNOW (like I really, really, really believe!) that I have in me what I need (that 1:25ish type run) to finish off a good race. But it just won't come out.
I can come up with many excuses for yesterday - most notably the fact that I really struggled with my reflux (it's something that is very manageable on the bike but exponentially worse once you start running) but truthfully, even I'M tired of that excuse so I know you all must be too! And everyone deals with something on the run that doesn't necessarily hold them back (case in point, Kristin had some NASTY blisters starting early on but that didn't stop her from running 1:24!). Also, although it was bad yesterday, for the most part my reflux has been pretty under control. So that's certainly not the sole reason I'm not able to run 6:30 pace off the bike. It's definitely a mental demon!
I will admit to being pretty down about my dismal run right after the race. Not only was I REALLY nauseated upon crossing the line, but I was sulking a bit too! (never a good combo!) But after some time by myself (actually, on the massage table), letting my stomach settle (upon which I was STARVING) and talking with Dirk on the phone about the situation, I definitely felt very encouraged and much better.
The thing is, it's a process. This sport is really hard because it's super tough to get all the variables and the balance you need to excel in all three. Yes, I'm not running like I want to right now. But the positives are, my swim and bike are definitely progressing. I went under 4:30 for the first time (moving in the right direction!). And most importantly, I'm healthy. With patience and continued hard, consistent work, I just know that run will come! And when it does, I will be super thrilled to really finish a race off! Also, it's early. This is the one thing Dirk really impressed upon me in our phone conversation yesterday. If there is one thing I learned last year, it's that it is a VERY long year. And because I've put so many races on my schedule, Dirk assured me that he's taking things slow so I actually make it on the start line healthy and happy to all those races! It may be a bit like high school running where you just race your way into shape all season long. :) (of course my lack of patience dictates that I want success and I want it NOW!)
So I certainly haven't given up! More than anything, the somewhat disappointing days drive me to make it right the next time. I'm stubborn like that. I want to show that run who is boss! And as luck should have it, I only have to wait 2 weeks to try it again in St George, Utah! (hooooray!)
In the mean time, I will celebrate and be inspired by my friend's and fellow competitor's performances. It was amazing to see Haley with her first pro win (and super cute victor's speech!), fantastic to watch all of Kim's hard work come together so that she could really have a breakthrough run and truly inspiring to witness Kristin put together a SUPER solid race (I aspire to her bike/run combo!!). Let me tell you, I'm hanging out with the right people!
Many, many thanks as always for all your cheers and encouragement, to my family and friends who love me even if I do 15 minute miles on the run, to an awesome group of sponsors, and to a coach that never grows tired of me running 1:30. I'm not sure who is going to be more excited when I finally have that breakthrough! :)
|My new strategy for running fast is to hang around with Kim 24/7. I'm pretty sure some of her quicks will just rub right off on me! :)|
|Louie, awesome homestay dog! He's an Australian sheep dog so he spent most of the weekend herding Kim and I around. :)|
|Dave, awesome homestay, getting down at the awards ceremony! The Sanders showed Kim and I an awesome time!|
|Pittsburghers travel in packs! LOVED sharing the day with so many awesome friends from home!|