I am happy to report I am an official finisher of the 2015 International Triathlon Union Long Distance World Championships!!! Being a bit of an impromptu racer, I will admit there was much anxiety in expectation extending from qualification on June 8, 2014 until today and it is a tremendous relief to have successfully completed the endeavor. Following is the (unavoidably given the duration of the event) L O N G race day breakdown according to Bueche, Team USA. Getting to Sleep: My usual pre-race insomnia was confounded by jet lag and falling into the trap of a post-dinner nap yesterday, though it did make for a peppier prep of race day items in the night and overall left me decently rested for the day… Early Morning: As with most eventful mornings (races, lectures, travel) I had 3 alarms set and contemplated adding a wake-up call from the hotel. Thankfully, the alarms were sufficient and allowed ample time for preparations. The start time of the race was delayed slightly due to the shortened swim and I was VERY grateful that this particular event did not have the ridiculously early call-to-transition time typical of most big races. One morning mishap was the failed application of one of my numbers – a temporary tattoo that I securely applied to the protective plastic coating rather than my leg. I over-reacted for a few minutes and then moved on and made peace with going old-school with a Sharpie for body-marking. I will admit a bit of panic set in as I historically have held stock in the theory that bad things happen in threes and saw this as the second in line after my “good luck” sandals (which I swapped in from my usual pre-race footwear because I had last worn them when racing in European waters with the Kingston University Boat Club in England) literally fall apart during the Opening Ceremonies! Thankfully, I was proven wrong (which makes much more sense given my numerologic tendencies and affinity for “odds” that being let down an even number of times is much more appropriate). Regardless, we loaded up on schedule and ventured from Linkoping to Motala. Travel In: We have been continually amazed at the quiet traffic on the roads of Sweden and again this morning experienced smooth sailing along the motor way and country roads and were even able to park right near the city center, which was a surprise given that many of the surrounding roads were closed for the race – credit to Motala for maintaining access as well as a quiet course for the racers! Transition Prep: It was a definite bonus to have pre-race bike check-in yesterday, leaving one less item to transport and finagle. Today’s was a different set-up than I have previously experienced with all items left in a corral out of transition in two bags, but made for a simple and quick drop-off. I learned from fellow racers that our number bib (in addition to two chips, 3 number stickers and a racing stripe on our helmet, numbers on all four limbs, a wristband number and a number on our bike) was required on the bike as well as the run and thankfully had another race belt to make this an easy switch. It is interesting how well they keep track of you at these big events! All was ready more than an hour ahead of start time, which is reassuring but a long wait for the inevitable work of the day. Waiting: Initially set up near the swim start, the cool breeze off the bay was a bit much and we set up camp in a nearby coffee shop where I eventually donned my red, white and blue before reluctantly venturing out into the chilly morning to line up with the other age group women. I was one of about 4 athletes with a sleeveless wetsuit, but did opt for the insulated swim cap…I reminded myself of many chilly swims in The Big Lake in years’ past and that this Michigan Girl could handle the brisk water.
The Swim: Cold and choppy due to natural waves and the hundreds of bodies swimming together, my gratitude for the shortened swim was increased eleven-fold. It was take-your-breath-away cold and an in-water start, which was helpful for acclimation to the temperature but invited increased opportunity for numb digits. The swim went off without major mishap, but was not my smoothest effort. My right ankle chip kept loosening and adjusting these mid-swim can be quite awkward, likely looking to the water safety personnel that a swimmer is struggling – thankfully it stayed in place and educated me to next time use a safety pin! Additionally, the long string of my wetsuit zip did not stay in its usual resting place, wrapping itself around my shoulders – though I could swim with this, it was definitely distracting. It always amazes me how small details can interfere with the best race day prep! I made it out of the water in 32:36, which isn’t a bad 1500m split for me, and into T1 for bike prep. I always struggle with my wetsuit and am considering writing to the ITU/USAT to see if we can agree to operate on the buddy system, making it legal to help a fellow triathlete with his/her wetsuit if they return the favor! The Bike: This is always the most concerning leg of the race for me due to it’s vulnerability for technical difficulty. Given the unfamiliar bike with a fancy wheel-set, I was pretty much out if I flatted (and to be honest, even on my own bike, my tire-changing prowess, well, isn’t prowess). With many thoughts of gratitude to Ingrid, the Swedish time trial-er, who rented me her amazing bike and the helpful shop owner for coordinating and helping with fit, I ran my way out of transition and onto the course. Full disclosure moment: the longest I had ridden in the year since my qualifying race (which was 56 miles) was an isolated 38 mile bike ride along the Lake Michigan shoreline on a date night with husband. I was relying solely on my tolerance for physical challenge to survive this ride. Now, I don’t doubt that results could be improved with more high mileage training sessions, but I was amazed to find that I held a faster split for each of the first 2 40K loops than I have in recent Olympic races, where 40K is the sum total of the bike. Be it the bike, monitoring pace in km instead of mph, the course, the thoughts that I’d better make good on this plan after traveling so far or that this was the flipping World Championships, so I’d better ride like I belonged, I completed both of the first two laps in 1:11. I lost some time on the third lap and in some of the technical parts in town, but was happy with my finish time and astonished to find that I was steadily passing riders along the way. In retrospect, I am grateful that the final 10K of the bike was especially challenging as it staved off thoughts that crept in during the first two laps that perhaps I was destined for long distance tris and even heard the word IRONMAN in my head (I have promised my husband that this is NOT on the table…at least for a few more decades…) The hardest part of this distance for me is staying focused – 3:38:11 is a long time to be in the saddle and one moment of distraction can mean disaster when you are traveling on two skinny tires at 35 km/h. I am grateful that focus remained with me and I was able to endure the physicial challenge by reminding myself that I was simply taking a lovely cycle trip through the sunny Swedish country side, climbing gentle hills with nationals from across the globe. There is no suffering there!
The Run: In most of the triathlons I have completed, primarily Olympic and Half-Ironman distance, I make up the majority of ground on the run. Knowing how I pushed the bike today as well as the significant distance hike from my usual races, I was prepared that this might not be the case, which proved true. Though the first 5K was a reasonable pace, I quickly settled into a more shuffling stride and committed to the just-finish plan I had taken into the race (I’ll admit that during the bike, I began to get time-greedy, but was able to move past those thoughts and focus on completion). While on the bike and practicing thoughts of gratitude for the racing opportunity, I considered that this may serve as a means of getting through the run as well and committed to dedicating a positive thought to each of the 30 “K’s” on the run. I figured this would give me a focus beyond the physical and improve chances of finishing. The thoughts listed below became an internal chant, guiding me through each 0.62 mile interval to complete the three 6.2 mile loops. Mantras have always helped me, especially in the run, and I highly recommend this strategy for anyone tackling a new and unusual distance!
- Representing USA
- Nations @ the race
- Triathlon history (races done)
- Surviving Swim (no kicks, goggles stayed on, short enough to not get frozen)
- Bike w/o mishap (no flats, stayed upright, graciously rented to me from Ingrid)
- Run training (tabata/tempo/time trial)
- Finishing the first lap (one third run, more than halfway done)
- Continued # 9 not realizing the 10k was the finish/turn 😛
- Elevenses (and the beautiful weather since I lost #10!)
- Friday 5K (with thanks for hosting a fun race and keeping us speedy)
- Run for those who can’t (injured, physically challenged)
- Seaway Run (favorite running race! Happened today!)
- Deeds and her first 15k today @ Seaway
- Newbie triathletes (swim/bike/run, try something fun; especially Potgieter boys)
- CrossFit (mostly Julie Foucher and being tough beyond injury/pain)
- CrossFit Endurance (running UNSCARED)
- Finishing the second lap (two thirds done, now there and back again)
- Childcare Crew (Back home in Michigan, making this possible)
- Littlest song*
- Middlest song*
- Biggest song*
- Husband songs (from wedding soundtrack)
- Bueche song (our family birthday song but with a “race day” twist)
- USA (National anthem)
- Gratitude to have and take up this unique opportunity among the world’s triathletes
- Going to finish!
- Last K!!!
*These are songs I made up for each of the kiddos in their newborn years, now personalized lullabies…definitely the fastest 3 of the K’s thinking of those kiddos! I ran through the entire 18.6 miles though often much slower than I consider to be my pace, took in appropriate nutrition and finished without major injury or blister. I was certainly passed by many I had bested during the bike and did not have the usual turnover or finish-chute kick I find in a race, but I am confident I left every ounce of my effort on the gorgeous bay-bordering, shaded and woodsy course of the World Championships. The Finish: The entire course was lined with volunteers and spectators, cheering for all the countries and it was encouraging to hear, “Go USA!” and get high-fived by children along the way. Our Team USA coaches cheered me by first name and handed me a flag for the chute. I managed one last pass en route to a finish time of 7:12:47, good for 23rd in my age group, 128th of the women and 543rd overall (as some are still racing, it remains to be seen what the totals for each group are). It was glorious to cross the finish line upright and smiling. I made my way quickly back to the bay for a rinse off and ice bath, though 151.5 kilometers later, the water didn’t seem quite so cold!
The Aftermath: I am definitely sore, but all seem to be appropriate muscle aches. I am a bit pink as my second sunscreen reapplication was thwarted by that double bag transition. I am tired, though not as drastically as I expected. I am committed to triathlon, but at Half Ironman distance or shorter and positive that I’ll take speed over endurance any day. But mostly I am happy and I am grateful. I have been overwhelmed with well-wishes, support and praise for this experience and am happy to have finished well for myself and for all who have followed the event. Thank you so much for all your kind words – I look forward to cheering for you at the next event 😉 I am grateful to all who make my triathloning possible – from the fitness centers where I train, online programming that keeps me motivated, bike and run shops that supply the necessary gear, local races that keep me speedy; to my family for understanding and appreciating that the events and the daily training are an integral part of me and continue to support my quest; and especially to my husband who often has all three kiddos on a weekend day in the summer time, traipsing to a busy race site for a glimpse of mom finishing and in this particular instance was a super trooper – chauffeur, nutrition manager, gear-carrier, photographer and #1 fan. You were today, as you are always, the wind beneath my wings!!!
May we all have the support we need to make our dreams come true. One certainly has for me today!