“Pissed for greatness” has been the name of the game since my race at Age Group Nationals the weekend before last. Arriving in Milwaukee, I knew I had the fitness to at least podium, and I was nervously excited but hungry for blood. After falling short of that goal, I haven't wasted a second (well, ok, maybe a FEW seconds) being frustrated about the result. Since then my coach and I have been 100% focused on the process, where we/I went wrong, and what we will learn/change for the future in order to achieve greatness. So, you might ask, what went wrong? Well, flashback to 2 weeks ago...
As an exercise, Coach had me write a “race report” leading up to Nationals that walked through my ideal performance. While results are great – and I admittedly had a particular result in mind leading up to the race – he and I were focused on laying out and executing a plan to perform the best that I could.
Long story short, my race went exactly as envisioned…. until 2miles to the finish line. It was luxurious to be able to sleep past 4:30am on a race morning, and I woke up well rested, and ready to rock! Milwaukee weather was much cooler than what we’ve had in South Bend, which was much welcomed by my body. The energy was palpable at transition when I arrived to set up at 6:45am, and I have to admit that it was pretty cool to kick off the race with sky divers!
It’s always a bit weird to set up transition and then have hours to go until you race, but I was able to lay out a schedule that actually worked out really well in terms of set up and warm-up. I was particularly proud of my impeccable timing to the swim chute, as I was able to calmly sip up my wetsuit versus my typical rush in the last 3 minutes before the start.
In the past, I’ve lined up as far to the left as possible to avoid the mayhem of the group, but this year was different. I’ve worked a lot on my swim, and thanks to Sheila Taormina and Coach Mueller’s coaching, I’ve been able to improve both my top end speed as well as my overall fitness in the water. Extensive open water training this summer with Team IE teammates also had me better prepared to get pummeled.
To my pleasant surprise, when the horn started, I was able to get out in front of the pack better than I ever have. While I couldn’t catch the feet of the fastest women in my wave, I focused on using as many of my competitors' feet as possible, and once I had passed them, swimming alone in the 2nd half of the swim, I was single-mindedly focused on finding my rhythm and crushing to the swim finish. I was able to go about the same speed as last year when most of my competition went about a minute slower. So while I definitely still have work to do, that was a positive that I took away from the race.
I continued to hit the gas coming into T1. I knew I needed every second I could get, and I was on my bike before I knew it. Of course my power meter didn’t work on race day (grrrr!), so I had to go by feel, finding that uncomfortable but sustainable Olympic race pace. To be honest, my mind was pretty blank on the bike other than reminders every so often to keep it on the gas. In the past, the run has loomed in my mind over the course of the swim and bike, but I’ve been working to compartmentalize the race as much as possible — it’s a swim race, then a bike race, then a run race. 3 events in one. While I admittedly thought about the run ahead here and there, I definitely did better on focusing on the present — drinking regularly and taking it one pedal stroke at a time.
After a respectably speedy T2, I was off on the run. And boy were my legs heavy! But they were still turning over well, and after a few hundred yards I felt like I had found my stride at a steady 6:15 min/mi. While I haven’t done much run-specific training this year, Coach Mueller and I were confident I could hold this pace for 10k off the bike (asterisk: with proper nutrition). But by mile 3, I could feel my legs and body starting to shut down. I was able to hold on for another couple miles but by mile 5 it felt like my legs might collapse with each step. While I was first off the bike in my wave, I knew there were girls running me down and I knew there were some fast contenders in the later waves. I could not stop and would not stop until I got to the finish line.
And I didn’t. But boy did that pace creep up, and for as much pain as I was in, getting passed 50m from the finish line and having nothing to respond was perhaps more painful. That being said, I was able to hang on for a respectable 5th overall, 3rd in my age group (see results here).
Looking back at the race, Coach and I identified a glaring issue: did you see any mention of nutrition other than drinking on the bike?! …. Between breakfast at 5:45am and the end of the race at 11:05am, I took in 50 calories (2 slurps of Hammer Gel on the run). What the (bleep)? You might ask? Well, in the past I’ve been able to get by on minimal calories, but I also have never performed at the level I was seeking that day. In not wanting to change anything leading up to the race, we had left nutrition alone, figuring “if it aint broke…..” But in hindsight, the symptoms that emerged in my race were clearly indicative of nutritional deficits (although thank god for that bit of gel! Who knows what would have happened without any cals!). So last week, we immediately set about making adjustments — bigger breakfast (oats+peanut butter+sprinkle of dried crans), longer lasting energy sources (more fats and protein, switch to Hammer products for during/post workout), better fueling during the bike, and more. Plus the obvious need for continued training to keep building my speed!
And we’ve already seen some change. As I toed the line this past weekend at the Detroit EDR, I had left behind any internally placed pressure. I was approaching the race as having nothing to lose — this was a chance to practice nutrition (even though there are admittedly different needs for a spring versus olympic distance triathlon) and to just get in some good hard racing. Having just missed the feet of the first two swimmers, I came out of the water 3rd with Erin Paradis and Sam Kennedy right on my heels (note to self: get ready for lots more swimming in the next training block!). We had some work to do to close the 45 second gap between us and the two leading women. But Sam and I were able to work together to catch them with a couple minutes to go in the last lap of the bike. Legs were burning by then, but I was still feeling like I had plenty of energy in general thanks to a short breather in the back of the pack coming into transition (yay!). After a not so graceful T2, I sped out of transition, not knowing what kind of runners were behind me. But I was able to establish a comfortable lead, which I only extended over the 5k. As I passed the finish line in a satisfying first place (see full results here).
The race was definitely a gratifying rebound from Milwaukee! And it SO fun to watch my Team IE teammates – Taylor Spivey, John O’Neill, Robbie Deckard, Michael Arishita, and Adam Sopko – crush their races both weekends! It’s also always fascinating to explore new and different cities. Both the City of Milwaukee and the City of Detroit served as amazing hosts. Thanks to USAT, the race directors, Coach Mueller, and my sponsors (particularly Mox, which set me up a roadbike for Detroit, since I am sadly still lacking one!), friends, fab fiance, and family for the support leading up to and on race day!
Now, we’re back to the grind here in South Bend, with a 14 mile trail run the morning after Detroit and continued analysis of my nutrition and performance gaps to address both between now and my next two races and over the long-term. I’m on a quest for greatness and won’t be satisfied with anything less :) Stay tuned as I share my journey along the road to Chicago… and beyond (and hopefully some other fun/random/different adventures as well!).