Sunday, March 16, 2014

2575 Road Triathlon - Las Olas - Ft. Lauderdale, FL

2575 Road Triathlon

2nd Place AG
10th Overall out of 90 ladies

Swim: 0.75k Bike: 20k Run: 5k

01:13:59.837   35392 Female
  00:11:22.460   00:37:14.933   00:22:57.330

Equipment used: Huub Axena wetsuit, LG custom Tri Kit, LG Course Helmet, LG T-Flex  2SL Shoes, LG TR-40 Bag, Xpedo M-Force 8 Ti, Salomon Mantra shoes, Suunto Ambit 2 S, Light and Motion Solite, Kuat NV Bike Rack, Clif Shot Gels and Salomon 150ml Flask.

This was my first time racing a road triathlon…

So many people I know race on the road and there are so many amazing races all around available to participate in. Also almost anyone can do it and road riding requires less time investment in the riding skills but…

I had only two days of practice on a rented bike and simply had to learn how to ride not only a road bike for the first time ever but how to ride tri - bike in the TT position.

It was an adventure and my nerves were worse than during my first Xterra a few years back.
I had little trust in those little tires (hey I am a Mountain Biker after all!) and felt jittery, unbalanced and definitely not very confident on this new type of bike during my practice.

But a bike is a bike you would think, and thankfully this turned to be true when the race day came about. I raced like I rode on the road for quite some time, quite confident and aggressive and I even found a joy of speed on the road while my quads were burning and reaching top speeds of 27.5 mph.

Shockingly I didn’t yell during the race “this is red cone central!”, since I never saw before that many cones all at once… And also “Where are the trees!” since for the first time I was not in the bike park or the forest. But somehow I was so focused on this paved path that I didn’t even bother… :-)

I finished to my complete surprise not only in top three but only 14 seconds off of 1st place. Little did I know I was actually leading the whole race until the final quarter of the mile of the run when I got passed…

The venue was beautiful: sun, ocean, wind, palms, city backdrop and all thousands of people around added this extra element to it. It was race to be remembered…
Now to the story...

I never pictured myself as a road triathlete even in my wildest dreams. A few years now of racing Xterra’s definitely gives me skills and fitness needed to compete in the race. But to this moment I still don’t own a road or triathlon bike and with my sudden decision to race today it became even more of a time pressed learning curve. Figuring out those small tires and controlling the bike in the time trial position was not easy at first, actually it was so unnatural and shaky that I almost gave up. Only person at that moment standing by me and believing in me more than I believed in myself was my husband who kept telling me to keep on trying… It was not easy but I found my peace with the bike and became even more comfortable on race day.

I was very lucky that stars aligned themselves and my friends encouraged me to race and thought that it would be a great thing for me to try. Also I am very happy for a new friend, Rachel from Mack Cycles, lending me a bike that will carry me into this new adventure.

The day before the race we went to the race site. The transition and finish area had been already setup and packet pickup and meetings were going on. I was anxious a little and wanted to see and hear anything that I could to learn as much as possible about road racing. It was pretty hot on Saturday and we were there right in the middle of the day. It was funny because I walked over to the announcer at the site to ask him few questions before the main meeting and he just looked at me and said “so, you are going to win your age group tomorrow”. Ha, I was shocked to hear that and found it kind of funny at the same time. I told him quickly that it will be my first ever race on the road tomorrow and I am looking forward to see what happens, but it would be really nice if he was close to being right. 

After the meeting Pax and I and our friend Jen who biked here all the way from her house to see us were going to ride around and preview the bike course. Oh it was really hot now and traffic on the streets was simply insane. Thousands of cars, buses, people, it felt intimidating at first but just minutes from getting on the road I was easing into it. I was happy to bike all the way to Birch Park since there I was able to find my peace in a quiet setting and surrounded by trees. A nice smooth paved winy road was very appealing and relaxing. I was very much looking forward riding tomorrow through this part. Also there was a beautiful view on the inter-coastal waterway before leaving the park and heading onto the main road. We had fun and finished with yummy fruit smoothies and some relaxing time while watching this surreal busy city-beach setting all at once. Shortly we headed home.

I’m not going to hide that I was nervous. This giant unknown of how a road triathlon is set up with all the biking and running on the street, with all the rules and all the racers that I don’t know, I felt like I was racing once again for the first time. I was unsure of my borrowed bike and had no clue how I was going to handle it in a race setting. Simply even after turning off the lights my mind never went to sleep to get some rest. The thoughts of what it might be like and what are my key things to focus on kept spiraling in my head for the whole night. Very unlike me I was almost completely awake at 3 am, but still had a little over one hour until the alarm went off. At this point I just wanted to be there and simply race.

The drive to the venue wasn’t bad; surprisingly we didn’t have any problem finding a parking space. In a matter of a few minutes I was on the race site going to set up transition. On the way there we had people doing body marking and giving timing chips; this process was amazingly fast and quite clever. It took me a while to find my numbered already bike rack which happened to be right on the exit, I didn’t expect that but it was just perfect.

It was still dark out, very windy, ocean was just a few hundred feet away and I could hear the angry waves all the way in the transition. It was nice to see some familiar faces of my Xterra friends like Melissa and Jonathan. I felt more organized now setting up my transition space comparing to my last triathlon race and had time to get out for a small warm up. When on the dark road we noticed guy from one of the restaurant’s hosing down the sidewalk and all the water was draining out on the street where we were going to race. I was hoping it would dry out before I rode over it. A few final touches and it started to light up and I grabbed all my swim gear and walked over to the race start. 

The waves were huge, currents were strong and wind was gusting with no mercy. When I walked in to warm up in the water I realized how difficult it will be to get out to the first buoy or to even get back to the shore. The ocean was simply pulling us in all different directions; most of the times where we didn’t want to go.

There was not much time to be wasted and the Wave starts were about to happen. The Pro field was going first. They were jumping, dolphin hopping, running and doing everything possible to get out and go by the angry waves, but it seemed like there were there forever and had hardly any progress. It was going to be a rough swim. Same applied to all the classes after and there was finally time for all the ladies to go. I was shocked that our group was so big comparing to the other start waves. When the announcer said 15s I was like “here we go”. We charged into the waves, it was rough, but got really bad near the first buoy which we somehow reached without many issues. The ladies were everywhere, on my both sides boxing me in and pulling on my legs while the monster waves were topping us off. I was not happy at that moment if anyone can imagine and questioned myself for quite a while on what I was doing there. It was mayhem and when I was trying to get some control and focus on the swim I gulped a nice mouthful of ocean water from a huge wave. I just wanted to swim and it was so difficult in those conditions already. Some moments went by and finally I was able to escape the grips of the ladies by my side and focus on my swim. I started sighting for the next buoys and counting them down, it was a total of 5 and I was searching for the 2nd one. By that time one of the waves jammed so hard into my face that I got water in one of my goggles, but at that point I didn’t care. All my focus now was to swim straight and don’t get intimidated by the water conditions. We were swimming parallel to the beach and huge waves were coming in from my right side and totally trashing and swinging me like a pendulum side to side. With my head in the water and constant rocking left and right I started to feel dizzy, but the last thing I wanted was to think about it and let things get worst. So I took it off my mind and kept on looking where the main groups of swimmers were and for the next buoys. One time I glanced left into the beach and all I saw is a big white wave going staring on the tall building, I could not see the sand at all. I was nowhere near anyone during most of my swim and was very happy to see the final, 5th buoy. Went around it and headed on an angle to the shore. The waves were pulling me now in and out and it was a journey to try to get out to the shore.

But I got there and had a short beach run, street crossing and into T1. Since I didn’t have time to change the sport mode on my Ambit 2 on the beach run I had to do it now in the transition, it took only 2 seconds. The worst thing for me was to put on my socks and shoes and after numerous attempts and me not being able to simply stand on one leg since I was so dizzy from the swim I finally gave up and collapsed into the ground and got my shoes on. Helmet on and into the street. Now everything that I feared the most was about to happen. I did run all the way to the mounting like and jumped on my bike. I had no clue what was going to happen now; it was weird, so weird being the first time on the road and racing. But I took off and never thought much of it really. At that moment I was on the bike and even though this is not my type of bike, biking is still my element. I picked up speed and was getting faster and faster from now on. In the matter of minutes I had to figure out and practice my passing, and it had become the theme of the day. I think I was doing great and my inner ninja came out and I was pushing on those little cranks like there was no tomorrow. Going out we had a wind with us so it was easier to go fast and I was happy to go by so many riders announcing “on your left, your left, passing on your left, Thank You!” Right in the begging of the bike course however I stumbled upon the only two obstacles on the road, first was the still wet patch from the neighboring restaurant and second was a little sandbox area some ten feet wide. Thankfully bike just floated over the sand and didn’t react much to the water patch and my friend Jonathan mentioned after the race that it should have been my favorite part since it had some dirt on it! Ha ha, maybe if I was on my mountain bike.

So when ducked in the TT position huffing and puffing and trying to figure out how to drink safely while being pushed by the strong wind I finally started getting to turn around point on A1A.  At this time I got quite familiar with one male rider in a red outfit that already went maybe two times back and forth with me. But this was only the beginning of our journey. I passed him again and was first to head into the wind and turn into the Birch park. The wind was brutal but in the park things relaxed a little bit and tree cover gave us some break from those windy conditions. It was for sure my most favorite part on the bike course, but just seconds into the park my friend in red was back and was passing me again with some other rider. After that I saw both of them settling into a comfortable pace and this is when I passed them once more. And we kept going that way throughout the park and really throughout the whole race. I jetted by them when getting back out on the street and into the wind. This time heading south was simply brutal, the speed decreased greatly but the burning in the legs increased tenfold. We had at least two miles going that way and now when I think about it it’s not that far at all, but at that time when your body is on fire and you push on the pedals as hard as you can and your heart rate is in the red and as high as it can get, than all those smallest miles look like monsters.

Right before the turn around point for the second lap I saw my husband on the right ducked down taking pictures. Usually he would be yelling, encouraging, cheering, this time he was just there quiet. It was different but felt good knowing he is right here by my side, even for this little split second when I just zipped by him. And I made a U turn and was on my way north with the fast wind on my wheels, helping and propelling, allowing me to reach speeds of 27.5 mph at some point. I passed more people and to be honest I think only there was a handful of people that passed me on the bike, and usually I would know that someone was approaching for a pass because most of them had those huge, deep and loudly buzzing wheels. When I looked to the left on people biking south I saw a man in what seemed like TT position and he was holding to his bike by his only hand. Amazing, I was scared to ride while there is a man who cannot be stopped even racing with one arm. I was quite inspired of human strength and willpower and definitely it helped me to forget about my own fears. 

Later on I saw the same man once more on the run…

Same things happened, water, sand, more passing, more suffering and again into the wind and into the park. Biking south once more was even more painful on the second lap but then there was not much to be saved for later. There were a lot of people now going this direction and it really became kind of crowded. And it culminated at the turnaround point where people were turning left for the second lap but also there was a group that was trying to go to the transition including me.
Unfortunately we were all almost stopped and were not sure where to go, few seconds later we got back to speed and realized that we still had little less than a quarter mile to go before heading to the dismount line.  Few seconds had been lost for sure but things are never perfect in any race scenario.

I got into T2 by running through the paved street and then the soft grass. I was out in no time and back on the same road. I think my run started pretty well and I looked down at my Ambit 2 and saw a pretty good pace. But only a half a mile into the run I started to feel very tired and greatly slowing down. Usually in the race is the opposite and I wondered how I was going to go about it for the rest of my run. We had a very small space to run on and at least on the beginning I was able to pass a few people. Later on things changed and I was passed by maybe a dozen people, which still was not terribly bad but not as good as on the bike. Next time I looked at my watch and it showed only 0.75 miles, than 1.2. It seemed like this run was going to last for a long time and would hurt on every step of it. I couldn’t wait to see at least the turnaround point; I started seeing a women running already back by me in the opposite direction. I did my count and approximately I figured I had a chance to be in top ten, which would be great for my first race. But I really needed to hold at least my current position, this is when I saw my friend Melissa on her way back and it was just 30 seconds away from the turnaround point. It was good seeing her focused and determined to finish strong. When I got to the turn point I had some guy grab Gatorade, stop right in the middle of the narrow path and start splashing it all over himself. My goodness, I tried to go around him and duck from his spilled drink and get on my way. I still had 1.5 miles but it felt like I had at least 3 miles to go. I felt so slow and so hopeless; it was probably the worst run I can remember. While running south I saw Melissa’s husband Kenny who said a big Hi to me while still running north and also Jonathan who also gave me a big cheer. I was searching my body and soul for some hidden energy but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was clasping my hand on the Salomon flask and was afraid to look at my watch. The pace now when against the wind was even slower. I was in a really dark place wondering how I will finish. But then I spotted this one lady in the distance just a little bit ahead of me. She was older, definitely not in my group but gave me motivation to try everything I could to get closer to her. And it worked, slowly step by step I was getting closer and closer, we had to be now only some 0.5 miles away from the finish. I caught up with her and made a pass, I think one of her family members yelled to the lady to keep going and to stay with me. I was almost there, still not completely aware of my position as far as my race group.

Now I was almost a quarter mile away and was thinking which way would be the best to cross the finish line, if I would crawl or if I would just collapse now so I don’t have to do it at all. I entertained all options I was so simply exhausted from this short but so painful all-out effort. And this is when I had some very fresh and quick feet go by me, I managed to look down and saw 3 and some scrambles. When I looked closer I realized she was in my age group and was at this moment taking over my spot. It stung and I tried to pick up my speed and stay on her heels and it was simply not going to happen. I had nothing left. I was so close but so far away, I wanted this race to be over with already. I was so sad I couldn’t keep my position I was telling myself I was going to regret it later and possibly I was losing podium in those final steps of the race. I finally crossed the finish and collapsed there for a moment. I found out minutes later that I was leading the whole race and just lost my first place by 14 seconds to the lady who just passed me on the last quarter mile of run.
What a bummer and what a great result at the same time. I wasn’t sure if I should be sad or happy. Those 14 seconds could be gained possibly here and there by little different decisions and circumstances. But the ladies that I joined on the podium were seasoned road triathlon racers and it was great to be among them in the top three on just my first attempt.

What an experience, what an effort. After all I was happy.

It was such an amazing setting and beautiful venue for the race. I met lots of new people here and also was happy to have good friends that raced by my side.

All of it wouldn’t happen if not for Jen and Melissa and Jonathan who encouraged me to race and Rachel who decided to lend me a bike and fitted me on it and gave me words of encouragement.

Also I was amazingly happy that I could use my new and beautiful custom Tri racing kit which was made by LG and was so comfortable that I didn’t have to think about it during the whole race, not even once. It fit like a glove.

And it wouldn’t also be if not for my husband Pax who doesn’t mind waking up at 4 am to go with me to the race site, be by my side for the warm-up in the darkness to the moment I cross the finish line, and in the meantime take ridiculously beautiful pictures documenting the whole experience.

I couldn’t do any of it without all this amazing support. Thank you everyone and until next time!

Of course my life is easier, my bike is faster my body is stronger and my dreams are possible because of all my amazing Sponsors:

Bike Tech Miami, Syntace, Magura, Stan’s Notubes, Schwalbe, ESI Grips, Clif, Xpedo, Trainer Road, Garden of Life, Pro Gold Lubricants, Kuat Racks, Light & Motion, KT tape, Cycleops and New for 2014 - Specialized, Louis Garneau, Selle Italia, Huub and Rotor Bike Components!

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