Progress! It’s now only 2 weeks (technically 13 days) from my last race and I’m already writing my blog. Okay, 2 weeks is still a long time, but I’m definitely getting better!
Sooo, Sunday, November 20th, was official my debut as a professional triathlete! It was an exciting day and I was glad I was able to race as a pro for the first time at Ironman Arizona. Just two years ago I raced there as an age-grouper. It was my 2nd Ironman ever, I got a 2:12 PR (that’s 2 hours and 12 minutes), qualified for Kona for the first time, and realized I might actually have some potential in this sport. Needless to say I have fond memories of this race.
Anyway, when we arrived VERY late on November 17th I was super excited to be back. Friday was a pretty busy day. I had to get my bike, get in a short ride to make sure everything was working well, register, and attend my first pro meeting. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little intimidated going to my first pro meeting. So many of the other athletes knew each other, and of course just looked like fierce competition. I have been told that as an athlete I am “very unassuming” which is, I guess, a more polite way of saying I don’t look fast. I was also shocked by the number of pros entered to race. The female field alone had 26 racers on the start line, significantly more than most other Ironmans in the US. After the pro meeting I attended an event at Tribe Multisport – a local triathlon shop. They partnered with Slowtwitch to offer food, drinks, the chance to win raffle prizes, and the opportunity to look at some of the pro’s bikes. It was a fun event and I got to meet a lot of great people. My bike wasn’t the most amazing ride at the event, but it still trumps what I was riding 2 years ago!
Saturday was pretty relaxing and I was able to rest my legs and get everything ready for the race. As usual, I was nervous when I woke up on race morning, but not as nervous as I was expecting. Even though this was my first pro race, I think I was just more excited to get out there and race. I didn’t have any expectations except to lay it all on the line. This was going to be my last race of the season so there would be no 2nd chances. I knew I wasn’t going to have a Kona repeat and I was determined to end my season on a high note. I think because my last IMAZ was a great race for me, I had a little more confidence that I was going to have a good day.
It was a little surreal lining up at the start. I positioned myself next to the amazing Meredith Kessler, who I was hoping to stick with during the swim. Unfortunately when the gun went off, I only had her feet for about 50 meters, until I did a couple strokes with my head down and missed a move. The pro field definitely had a FAST start, which is something I need to work on. It was obvious to me I didn’t sprint hard enough in the beginning when after about 10 minutes I realized the pack I was in wasn’t swimming very fast. I was able to get around that pack, then the next one, and finally catch another pack towards the end. I didn’t have quite the swim I wanted, but it was about a 30 sec. PR at :54 flat. I was 7th out of the water, which is further down the field than I was hoping to be, but I was within about 10 seconds of 5th place, so not too bad.
I tried to make T1 a fast one and get on the bike as quickly as possible. I HAVE to learn how to start with my shoes on the bike in the offseason! I really like the bike in Tempe, even if the flat terrain doesn’t suit me as well as a hillier course. The 3 loops allow you to better manage your pace (which is important when you are like me and don’t have power), see your competition more, and of course more often experience the amazing crowd support. On the first loop I was passed pretty quickly by a couple other women. At first I matched the pace to see if I could hang with them, but realized we were on the first loop and if I tried to stay in contact, I might blow up on the 3rd loop. I made the strategic decision to hold my pace and let the other women go, which unfortunately meant I rode alone for almost 100 miles. The only time I was actually able to pace with someone was on the third loop and even that was pretty short lived. My legs actually felt reasonably fresh at the end of the bike, but I was still ready to start the run. My back and shoulders were killing me and I ended up sitting up WAY too much on the last 18 miles. The bay area is GREAT for climbing and building strength on the bike, but not for aero bar riding. Another thing to work on for next season…check!
I felt amazing on the run. I tried to stay conservative on the first loop of the run so I could finish strong on the last loop. Unfortunately what I THOUGHT was conservative, was actually about 20 seconds / mile faster than I probably should have been running. After the first loop I was right on pace to run a 3:20 and I still felt great. The fatigue really didn’t start to set in until about mile 13. It built really slowly, which I guess is good, but by about mile 18 I was starting to struggle and the aid-station walking began (grrr). 2 years ago I didn’t walk a single step and I was hoping for a repeat of that, although I didn’t start out at a 7:20 pace in 2009. At mile 21, I was ready for the race to be over. I was really struggling, my legs were sore, my back and shoulders were on fire, and I needed nutrition, but couldn’t even think about another gu or cliff blok. I saw my coach and he could tell I was in trouble. He yelled for me to only drink coke and water for the rest of the race. I don’t actually like coca cola, but a lot of racers I know say it’s like magic. The next aid station couldn’t come soon enough. I drank a cup of water, then coke, then another water. Within about a minute I felt a lot better. All of a sudden my running picked back up and I felt like I had energy again. Coke was going to save the day! Each little cup of coke would last me almost exactly 1 mile. I would come into the aid station feel like I was about to fall over and leave feeling great again. I kept up this patter for 5 miles until FINALLY I crossed the finish line! It was over! I raced as a pro, I finished, I got a 46min PR and I was 12th overall. With the strength of that field, I’ll take it!
Overall I thought the race went really well. I struggled the last 8 miles on the run, but I still had a 7 minute PR. I can’t be upset about that – although I will always drink coke and will probably start it a little early next time! I thought on my best day I MIGHT be able to break 9:30 so my 9:34 was extremely satisfying. I am excited I was able to end my season on a high note, but also with more motivation to improve and come back even stronger in 2012.
I also have to give a shout out to Leanda Cave, Linsey Corbin, and Meredith Kessler for their AMAZING performances at IMAZ. Linsey jointed the sub 9 hour club and MBK was 9 hours flat…WOW!! Three inspiring performances by three incredible women.
Also, thanks so much to my coach Matt Dixon of Purplepatch Fitness and to my amazing sponsors, especially SOAS Racing. I couldn't do it without you!
This person is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. She is a fierce competitor, an inspirational athlete, and a caring and compassionate teammate and friend. I have had a lot of help from other athletes to get me where I am today, but no one has given more of their time and energy than Meredith Kessler.
I first met Meredith at a Velo SF indoor cycling class in late 2010. Before the class I was amazed by how friendly she was and how much everyone in the class seemed to love her. During the class I was amazed by how strong and focused she was. While others were showing the pain of the class on their faces, Meredith’s expression never seemed to deviate from determination (something that still amazes and inspires me today).
I was lucky enough to sign on with Meredith’s coach, Matt Dixon of Purplepatch Fitness and since then she has completely taken me under her wing. She checks on me when I’m tired, ensures I am set for all my races, and gives me guidance and support in training. She had helped me navigate becoming a professional and is doing everything she can to make sure I’m set up for success in 2012. I can honestly say I really don’t know where I’d be without MBK! I think there are a lot of other athletes who feel the same. Thanks Meredith for all you do for me and so many others! You are truly and inspiration in and out of triathlon!