In the past two years I've raced in just two Olympic-distance events: Boulder Peak and The Kemah Olympic-distance Triathlon, which took place the day before yesterday. In each of the two races I found great success. But even aside from my successes, I loved every minute of these events (partly because they're over before I can even blink or think!).
To sum up this weekend's race in one sentence: The Kemah Triathlon is a cut above all other triathlons I've participated in, with the exception of perhaps Abu Dhabi. The promoters, Onurleft Productions, work hard (day and night, in fact) to make sure things run smoothly, and that they do. Everything from the race itself to pre-race organization was outstanding.
1. The pre-race bag was actually a nifty embossed cardboard box, complete with handle, that reminded me of my school days and the lunch boxes I used to carry. Although it's cardboard, it's definitely a keeper.
2. Optional bike-racking the day before the race. I hate it when it's mandatory to rack your bike 24 hours in advance, as I tend to worry that moisture could wreak havoc on the electronic components. But everyone I've spoken to who's ever used Shimano Di-2 assured me rain has never, ever been a problem. I wouldn't know: Tucson doesn't get rain!
3. Jumping off a boat! This made navigation simple, to say the least! It was a new experience for me riding on a paddle boat and then jumping into the Gulf, aiming to swim back to shore. I was nervous…very nervous. But the exhilaration was worth it!
4. The red carpet all the way from the water's edge to T1 (at least quarter-mile long! My feet were grateful but not grated!). There was so many people taking pictures and cheering! It was as if I was on the red carpet at the Oscars, though my outfit wasn't quite up to spiff.
5. Exceptional on-site race organization with a police officer at every corner. I felt very secure hammering as hard as my heart (and head) would allow.
6. Running the steep bridge…twice! I love hills and to have an obstacle like a quarter-mile-long bridge--twice--was much to my liking!
7. The post-race food was outstanding…from pizza to the most appetizing healthy food you could take in (I partook in both!).
It was one of those days where everything "clicked." It all started very early, at 3:30am. My homestay is situated in Galveston (45-minutes south) so we were out the door by 4am. On the way I drank more coffee than I had in the past couple of years, as coach finally allowed me "the poison," as he calls it. I call it the elixir of the gods! (Now more than ever!) Once at race site, I set my transition gear up and then made my way over to the paddle boat, about a quarter-mile walk through Kemah itself. Everyone (1,000 triathletes and the boat's captain) had to be loaded on the boat, but surprisingly it went without a hitch. It was the single most unique experience in my short sporting career.
The pro men were the first to go. I watched them diligently, to see how the current affected them. I would definitely have to swim toward 10 o'clock in order to go straight. The other competitors counted us down and I had no choice but to dive in. I was nervous and a little panicky. But I loved it!
I got into a groove right away and swam with another competitor the whole way. We used one another to sight and draft. It actually was a bit longer than 1.5k (the boat drifted while the motor was shut down before the start). Once on shore, I was assisted by some volunteers and then made the journey along the long red carpet to the transition area. Right away I knew I was in good knick because my legs were moving fast and effortlessly.
I saw Chuckie as he yelled out, "you're 2:30 down from who you should be worried about." I was stoked! I was confident I could make up the difference on the bike.
The ride had three out-and-backs and I couldn't believe how quick it went! It was a fast, flat course, with some of the smoothest roads I've been on (then again, any road is smooth compared to Tucson's). In the end I managed to reel back two minutes on the leaders. I was 17 seconds behind Becky Lavelle and 40 behind Jasmine leaving T2. I knew both girls would go out fast for the first mile or two (as everyone tends to), but I had to keep pace.
By the first mile both Becky and I passed Jasmine. I was still 10 seconds back of Becky at mile 2 and, in the back of my mind, I could hear Chuck saying, "just reach the person in front of you, then worry about what to do next." So I pushed hard to catch the new mom, but it took a half-mile to do so.
Once in the lead, I started worrying about what was going on behind me! Sam Warriner was in the hunt and I know how strong she is; she just won an Ironman a month before, in her first attempt at the distance! The last 2 miles were up and down an elevated bridge twice, as I mentioned earlier. This was more like riding than running: it took strength on the way up and lots of speed on the way down. Once onto the final stretch, I unleashed the biggest smile I've had in a long while. There, in front of me, was a ribbon at the finish line! What a rare treat after last year's seemingly endless string of second places!
After the race it was great to sit and chat with everyone, particularly Tim DeBoom, who finished 6th in the men's race. Tim is a two-time Ironman World Champ and offered to help me out when I return to Boulder! I hope he didn't mind all the questions! But there will be more to come!
Congrats goes to Andrew Yoder, who annihilated the men's race, and to Becky Lavelle, who inspires me more than she realizes. I think she inspires more people than she realizes.
I'd like to thank my sponsors for believing in me and backing that belief with the help I truly need: enormous amounts of funds deposited in a Nigerian bank account! Thanks also to Ron or the flight miles that got me and my coach here! By the way Ron, it's Naeth, not Neath. It rhymes with Faith!
Now it's time to rest and then ramp-up for Texas 70.3 this Sunday. I hope my confidence lasts!