Here's to limiting all mistakes, racing with a clear mind and a soul full of fire. You have done everything you need to do. Time to let it rip. We will be watching and cheering from Colorado. Go Mighty Mouse, take them down. -Son
My coach says the same thing to me almost daily but his words are a bit more blatant: "Don't be a f*^%-tard!" he'll yell. He's never been politically polite and he tends to opt for negative reinforcement. But since it seems to be working, I'll accept these faults!
When I look back at this race report in future years, I think this race will mean more to me than it does now. It'll show, I think, a turning point in my confidence (and career) as a professional athlete. During the swim and throughout the run, I kept telling myself: I belong. Now I am certain of that.
My race recap:
Unlike most race mornings, when I climbed out of bed, I was still extraordinarily groggy. (Even after two naps the day before and two solid nights of sleep.) Three cups of high-octane coffee didn't even work its usual magic. I actually laid on the couch for a while and fell back asleep. It was less than an hour to race time! Thankfully, we were just a 10-minute drive from the race site, so when I was pulled from the couch I didn't panic. I probably should have, however. We arrived in T1 just 20-minutes before the gun was to go off. I was the last pro there.
I couldn't understand what was going on within me. I'm usually a nervous wreck, as I had been the week before. And this race had one of the most stacked fields I've gone up against! I would have worried about lack of energy but I was so tired I couldn't even generate worry. I've never yawned on a starting line before (while floating in water!) but here I was now. I had to slap myself a few times to see if I could get into a fight-or-flight state. It didn't help. But once the gun went off, my body just reacted, even though my mind was still in a fog.
We weren't allowed a warm-up before the swim but it didn't seemed to hurt. I found a solid rhythm right away and managed to stay just behind the front pack. That was a first.
Entering T1, I was stoked to hear I was a mere three minutes behind Mary Beth Ellis (one of the sport's fastest fish). No more swim warm-ups for me! :)
On the bike we were fortunate enough to have gale-like winds on such a pancake-flat course. If the conditions had been docile, I'm sure the results would not have been in my favor. Thank you Mother Nature! Coach had chosen a disc wheel for me and I was being thrown everywhere. But after five miles or so, the road traveled slightly inland and the houses kept some of the winds at bay. Almost all of the houses sit on stilts in Galveston, but the winds don't seem to slide under them. I'd end up passing everyone ahead of me, overtaking race leader Mary Beth Ellis not long before I heard a deep rumble coming up from behind, in the form of Karin Thuerig. Holy moly! That's what a real cyclist can do. I had to laugh at her speed, it was so fast. The 20-30mph winds obviously didn't faze the Olympic bronze medalist.
Chuckie reminded me that in life you aren't afforded many opportunities to compare yourself to the best, and Karin provided this to all of us in the race. (On a side note I'm equally as excited to see what an Olympic gold medalist, Kristin Armstrong, can do on the bike come May 14th, when I compete at the Leadman Epic 250 triathlon!) Armstrong beat Thuerig that fateful day in Beijing in the women's time-trial.
I tried to stay within striking distance to Thuerig but she quickly created a time gap of about two minutes going into the second transition area.
The run was basically a case of, "out of sight, out of mind." There were four three-plus-mile loops and I ran afraid because I knew that behind me a Cat was on the hunt, as were some other great runners like Mary Beth Ellis, Kelly Williamson and Desiree Ficker. Meanwhile, Karin was gone! I made up the difference between her and I by mile 4, just as Cat (Morrison) caught us both. Cat cruised on by while Karin hung there, stalking me just seconds behind. My coach kept reminding me to grab some drinks and some cups of ice. It was getting hotter by the minute and finishing was going to be tough enough, let alone racing. I would hang on to finish second, just half a minute or so ahead of Karin and about three minutes down of Cat.
Ultimately, my biggest inspiration during the race wasn't the chance for a big check or a high placing but in watching a young blind competitor compete. He and his helper had racked their tandem just a few bikes away and he would start the swim with the professional women. I was honored to receive a hug before race start and it would carry me throughout the day, and even now when I think about it. I never found out the young man's name, but I won't forget him nonetheless. (4-15-11: I've since found out the young man's name is Brandon Adame of Houston. His companion was Nigel Willerton,)
I had a great home stay with Hud and Christine Hopkins, right in Galveston. ("What in the hell kind of name is Hud?" Chuckie asked me in his best Texas accent. "Seems to me a guy named Hud is gonna put us to work on his ranch! Or kill us!") Thanks Hud and Christine for all the laughs. I'm not kidding when I say that my stomach got the best workout of the entire trip!
Lastly, I know pros normally never write about this sort of stuff, but in the past eight days I've been fortunate enough to see what it really means to be a professional. My income is proving I can earn a living. But the income has never been the reason I compete. I do so out of a pure love for competition, competing both against others and against myself (my toughest competitor). I know I represent more than myself out there and I am truly honored to have the names I do on my Pearl Izumi race kit! Triathlon can be a viable profession and up until now, I was never certain of it. From here forward, I am fully committed to the sport. I couldn't ask for a better job!
Thanks Ron from Punk Rock Racing who provided the plane tickets; and congratulations on finishing your first 50-miler, in Chuckie's hometown of Auburn. I'm guessing there will be more, including a 100-miler someday!