I woke up on Saturday morning, July 14th, in our hotel room in Everett, Washington to the weather report I had been dreading my entire triathlon racing career. I called Coach M in a panic. My voice cracked……”What am I going to do?”
Adam and I left St. George on Wednesday afternoon and headed North for the long trek to Seattle. The plan was to drop the kids off to my parent’s house in Cedar City, put them to bed for the night and head to Salt Lake before we called it a night. The next morning we were up early to pick up Tony’s (a friend who would be going us for the race) bike and race stuff and make the LONG drive to Seattle, Washington. Tony would be flying up the following morning and we would pick him up at the airport.
I’ll bypass a narrative about the drive. Let’s just say Idaho is flatter than I expected, Oregon looks like Idaho, Eastern Washington looks like Oregon and the mountains of Western Washington are an INCREDIBLE carpet of 30 foot pine trees!
Weather forecasts for the weekend had looked okay, but they kept changing for the wetter and worse every time we checked. The weather in the Seattle area was stormy when we got there. Rare lightening and thunderstorms were occurring daily. It hadn’t rained in weeks, but that had returned in an unlikely pattern. By Saturday the forecasts were for overcast skies and afternoon storms and showers in Lake Stevens (a small town north east of Seattle hosting the event). In my short time in this Northern Pacific area I learned that chances of rain are a guarantee that you are going to get wet. I started to panic!
Rain is not my friend! I have NEVER enjoyed riding my bike in the rain. Give me rain on the run any day. I absolutely LOVE to run in the rain. It is refreshing and cool! The bike is the complete opposite. It is slippery, cold and just down right miserable. Not quite a year ago as I was trying to get myself more comfortable in the wet conditions, I slipped and crashed on a turn because of a puddle. I had a football-sized bruise on my hip and gashes and road rash EVERYWHERE! It was 4 weeks before the bruising started to heal. I still have a dimple of scar tissue on that hip bone. Our last long training day for Ironman St. George this year was in the drizzling rain and cold. I froze! Both literally and figuratively. I couldn’t feel my toes, nor any other extremity and I was paralyzed with fear of riding anything over a crawl.
This race day weather forecast put me into a tailspin. This was an “A” race for me. I had driven 18 hours for a chance to compete at World Championships in Las Vegas in the Fall. I NEEDED a good day in order to secure that spot. My body was ready. My training had been solid. I just needed Mother Nature to cooperate and she wasn’t holding up her end of the bargain.
Sunday morning came. It was overcast and foggy in the hills around Lake Stevens. Temperatures were cool, but not bad. I decided to not pull on extra clothes in transition and just hoped that I would be okay and the rain would hold off.
Lake Stevens is a BEAUTIFUL venue! It is a small town with cute little waterfront houses, each with amazing displays of landscaping. The lake was large and gorgeous. We had done a test swim on Saturday and the temperatures were well into the mid 70s. I was boiling in my long-sleeved wetsuit. There would be one transition area right in downtown. The bike is a single, 56 mile long loop up into the hills to the East. The run is a double loop back in town. With my sleeveless wetsuit on, I was ready to race! The roads were not wet and I just kept thinking positive thoughts about the weather.
The swim start was easy. I jumped off a dock to a deep water start in a wave of 49 women in my division. Coach M wanted me to push the swim. She wanted me to hit it hard and hold on tight. I would have plenty of time to recover the effort on the bike and she wanted to see what I could do. Sighting was extremely easy with underwater buoy lines a straight out and back course. On the way out I was on my own (at least I thought). I was in a good groove and there were not many purple caps in front of me. Crowds were not an issue. I quickly came upon some of the slower men, but it didn’t cause me to slow down. As I turned the buoy and began to head back to the dock there were two or three purple caps on my inside. Clearly, I had not been alone It was my turn to draft. I caught on to another women and stayed on her hip the rest of the way in. Her tempo and pace was perfect. Just a bit fast, but enough that I could hold on and benefit from the draft.
Exactly 1.2 miles! That was a 1:27/100 yards and an GREAT swim for me! 7th Place in my Division
Transition was just plain crowded. It was a traditional transition in that there were no bags or anything…..just everyone’s stuff laying around. I didn’t feel like I had the best transition, but it would do.
As we mounted the bikes the roads were fairly dry, but it was misting. The bike course consists of a large single 56 mile loop with nothing but large rolling hills. When we pre-drove the course I was VERY surprised at the size of some of the “rollers”. They were steep, some over 10%. There were many spots where after a fast descent there were sharp 90 degree turns. The last 20 miles was nothing but short climbs and descents and tight turns the entire course. I put everything out of my mind and just tried to ride well.
As soon as we were out of town, the roads turned wet and the rain never stopped until we were about 2 miles from the finish.
I was soaked by Mile 5. It took everything I had to make myself relax. Others must have thought I was psychotic talking to myself the entire time….reminding myself to calm down and relax. Gratefully, after the first few turns I settled in. The road “straightened out” (no 90 degree turns) and I was able to get comfortable. I tried to stay in the “driest” parts of the road avoiding paint and standing water. I was okay and actually quite proud of myself. I was living my nightmare, but I was rising to the challenge.
At about Mile 30 I took a water bottle to refill my rear hydration system. I shoved the top of the bottle into the opening (which is behind my bottom). After I finished filling my bottle I went to toss the empty bottle to the side of the road. It was completely stuck in my hydration system…….I COULD NOT GET IT OUT! There were two choices: leave it there and risk it falling out or stop and pull the darn thing out. I chose to stop. I couldn’t get the picture out of my head that the bottle was going to some how cause me to crash….I was already a bit paranoid at this point.
Not 5 miles later as I was shifting into harder gears to descend a hill my chain jammed when it jumped outside of my cassete and in between my frame. Jammed is an understatement, actually. Once I again, I was stopped trying desperately to work my chain loose. Luckily, I was able to work it free and but for grease all over my hands, I was on my way……again…..
The last 20 miles of this course got technical, especially considering the slippery conditions. There was 90 degree turn after 90 degree turn (think stop signs). I’m not the best bike handler……I will readily admit that. In the rain, the situation got even more sketchy. I approached the turns very cautiously. I had made it this far on the bike in the soaking rain, I wasn’t going to crash now. Men were flying by me down the steep descents and into the turns. I just to not behind one of them when their tires let go through a turn. Gratefully, I saw no crashes (they were happening all over the place though). I slowed down a lot on this part of the course, but I was still upright and in good condition. I was almost done. The run would be a welcome SAFE environment!
Things dried out a bit as we approached town and before I knew it I was off the bike. I didn’t have a drop of nutrition left and not even a mouthful of water. That bike took a lot longer than I had planned.
6th Place in My Division
Transition, again, wasn’t the fastest, but it would do. The area was a complete disaster. There were wetsuits and gear in the aisles and all my running gear was soaked from the rain.
The run is a double loop course broken down into two 5K sections on each loop. As I started to run, I knew I was going to have to make a potty stop. With the cooler temps I was clearly well hydrated. That “stop” was the longest “stop” of my life. A full minute to empty my bladder. Wowza! That felt better
Coach M wanted me to hold a 7:30 pace. My numbers were looking good and my body was responding well. I felt great. Maybe it was just the fact that my stress level was significantly reduced being off the bike, but I was feeling good. Going into the second 5K my position was clear. I knew that I was not in the top ladies in my division, but I wasn’t far behind. Adam told me I was in 6th as I approached the second loop and Coach M wanted me to try to catch a few people. I tried! I was running hard and running well, but I didn’t know where those women were.
The course is not flat. Not one little bit of it. It is up or down. I was holding strong on the uphills and opening up on the downhills. I was really happy with how I was running. The 13 miles flew by. Before I knew it I was on the last 3 miles. Don’t get me wrong, I was feeling the mileage. I told myself that it was just a tempo run for 3 miles and to put the hammer down and run it in. The finish was just around the corner and I was done.
Held 6th in my Division
Finish Time: 5:16:31
6th Place Women 30-34
After the race I struggled a little bit with disappointment. I came to this race expecting wonderful things and I got crap weather ONCE AGAIN this year. After meeting Tony at the finish line, we headed back to the hotel for a quick shower. By 3:00 we were back at the race venue impatiently waiting “roll down”. My ultimate goal for this race was to secure a spot to World Championships in Las Vegas in September. I knew that I needed to have a solid race and place well in the top of my age group. With a 6th place finish, the chances of that golden ticket were sketchy (just like the bike course). I had just survived one of the hardest fought battles of my triathlon career. I had to mentally survive through conditions that I am deathly afraid of. I hadn’t had a race without weather related excuses all year. I had travelled 18 hours for this and didn’t know what I was going home with. I missed the podium by 1 place and now I was afraid I would miss my chances for Vegas.
I swallowed my pride and walked up to the tent to find out how many slots were still available in my division. To my surprise, none had been claimed. So now there were 3 people in front of me and 2 slots available. I took a seat on the grass to lament and wait for the “auction” to begin. Most of the slots in the earlier age groups didn’t roll down or didn’t get very far. They finally got to my division. 3rd place didn’t take the slot. 4th place did. 5th place didn’t take the slot. Then they called my name. Adam jumped up and down before I did and restrained myself from running to the tent with my checkbook in hand (you have to pay for the registration immediately). It was a surreal moment. A part of me was ecstatic, but the other part of me was still mad that I was so far down on the list. I paid my money and climbed in the car for the 18 hour ride home.
I’m happy to report that my post-race slump didn’t last too long. Calories really helped me snap out of that one I came to grips with the fact that I overcame a lot for this prized slot to Vegas. I deserved the chance to compete in Worlds. I fought through conditions I have sworn NEVER to ride, let alone race. I had to battle my demons and I WON! Now, I’m not excited about the next time I get to ride in the rain……but at least I know I’ve done it before. I had a HUGE personal victory in Lake Stevens and luckily the roll-down Gods saw that victory and rewarded me for the effort
It’s all about Vegas now! I’m excited to be able to race next to one of my good friends Sarah Jarvis in just a few weeks. At least in Vegas I know it will be windy and hot just like it is in St. George. Bring it on! It can’t be much worse than anything I’ve already battled through this year…………..or could it be