April 9, 2017
To be completely honest, I was nervous about this race more than any other. Not because of the course or the competition, or because this was the third race in three weeks, but because I was afraid of getting sick. The last time I attempted this race (in 2014, the first year of the event), everything was going just fine, right up until the day before when I got so sick I couldn’t leave the bathroom and on race morning I was brought to the med tent and forced an IV while the race went on without me, no matter how much I protested in an effort to race. I was so dehydrated that the medical staff really struggled to get a needle in my veins, which is extremely rare. Only one other time in my life has that happened, which was when I had meningitis. So needless to say this week I was perhaps overly cautious with the food and water I chose to consume!
So being the third race in three weeks, I expected to be fatigued and a little undertrained because it’s so difficult to maintain fitness during a race block like that. But at the same time, I was secretly hoping that over the course of these three weeks I might actually gain some bike fitness because even though a lot of it was low intensity recovery riding, I was actually riding my bike more frequently, which I hadn’t done much of before this trip. However, on Tuesday after racing in Chile, I did some VO2 max intervals in an attempt to keep my systems firing and maintaining a little fitness. Unfortunately, I suspect I may have overdone it a little and introduced more fatigue because on Friday’s course preview ride, the fatigue in my legs gave me a bad feeling that they wouldn’t be recovered by Sunday. I did my best to back off and get as much rest and recovery as I could, but sure enough, come Sunday, they were still feeling flat. Fortunately I had a strong swim and mounted my bike a couple minutes ahead of the remaining womens field. I knew there were strong women behind me who would be chasing hard so I knew the most important thing I could do during this race was to maintain a smooth, consistent effort, avoid making silly mistakes that could cost valuable time, keep the rubber side down and keep a positive attitude.
During the almost 90 minute bike ride, I had no idea what the time gap was to the 2nd place woman, but learned that I had 3.5 minutes when I began the run. My running legs weren’t feeling much better than my riding legs, but I suspected that if I ran smart, at least for the first half until I got up the hill and onto the forest loop, maybe my legs would come around and I could negative split the 10k and hold off the chasers for the win. As much as I don’t like focusing on the outcome of winning, this was a race I really wanted to win and get the monkey off by back because of my last experience in Costa Rica. Somewhere around the middle of the run I decided to make it hurt a little more and lifted the pace. This was a race afterall, and I didn’t want to get complacent knowing I had a time cushion because for all I knew, that could be quickly erased by a super fast runner. I also knew that future races would require me to really fight for positions and I wanted to get some mental training out of the day, even if my legs weren’t responding to my brain’s instructions to run faster. I knew the last mile was on dry, soft sand and it would be hard to run fast so I pushed as much as I could up to that point and then just tried to regulate my HR and temperature over that last sandy stretch as I felt everything really heat up and become more difficult to maintain pace.
This year has been off to a rocky start in my personal life with a lot of changes and additional stress, and I’ve questioned whether or not racing is worth the cost and stress to continue doing it for much longer. But as I approached the finish and heard the announcer call my name as the women’s champion, I got goosebumps, and then a wave of happiness came over me followed by a feeling of relief that I felt the joy of doing my best even if it wasn’t my best performance, and being proud of myself for pushing through. Because that’s what winning is about to me- overcoming your own obstacles as well as those on the course, and being proud of the effort you put forth! I was so happy to have that feeling, I thought perhaps I’m not ready to give it up quite yet and savored that feeling across the finish line for the 9th time in my career. Of course nobody knows what the future holds, but I sure hope to get that feeling for a 10th time and many more, even if I’m not breaking the finish line tape first.