One of the nice things about racing on the West Coast is gaining some extra hours on your way out there. Waking up early on race day feels like sleeping in. Another nice thing... Going from 100 degrees to 75-80 degrees, makes a big difference.
We arrived in Santa Rosa on Friday a little later than we expected, a delayed flight and a lot of traffic. I would usually swim and run 2 days out from race day but I decided to just run since it was getting later in the evening and it had been a long day. I was so excited to run in the nice weather. It was still warm but very little humidity. I ran 6 miles, got some dinner and was ready to pass out.
Friday morning I went to Windsor High School where T2, race packet pickup and the finish line is. I biked the run course and was starting to feel really excited about racing. I ran 3 miles off the bike and felt great.
I had the pro meeting at 2 pm, left my running shoes and bib #/ race belt at T2, relaxed a little in the afternoon and put my race things together.
I slept well that night and was wide awake 30 minutes before my alarm went off.
It was in the 50's that morning. I loved it! We did find out we were not allowed to wear wetsuits because the water was 72.1 degrees and the pros cut off is 71.5 degrees. I feel like they could have found a cold spot in the river for us! I was a bit cold getting in the river. I waited until the last 5 minutes to get in or I would be standing around wet, freezing.
I went for a run to warm up before the race and ran across the bridge, stopped to stretch. I saw Crowie (Craig Alexander) and a couple other guys running my way so I decided to jump in with them and run my warm up "with Crowie." I listened to them talk, Crowie was talking about how he just turned 43 ( I would know, because we have the same birthday! ) I have a lot of respect for Crowie. He is such a stellar athlete, won 5 World championship titles and is still racing at 43! One of the Greats in this sport.
There were about 30 pro girls at the start, I usually recognize most of them and know who I should line up behind but I didn't recognize many of them here and just started the swim near the inside buoy. Horn sounded and we were off. Kicking and white water, arms flying, this seemed like a faster start then usual. I felt like I was hyperventilating, I was having a hard time breathing and started to freak out in my head, I tried to stay relaxed, slow down a little to catch my breath as a group of girls swam away from me. When I had my breathing under control I could only see a couple girls ahead of me so I picked them off one by one. At the turn around it was shallow. As I did a few dolphin dives, I could see a couple groups behind me and ahead of me but I was swimming alone. I picked up the pace on the way back down the river and was a bit frustrated at the swim exit, at least there were a decent amount of bikes still on the pro rack and I heard them announce one of the girls leaving transition and that the women's field was very strung out. I tried to forget about the swim and enjoy the bike course. At the top of the hill at the mount line I heard Paul say I was about 45 seconds back from the last girl of the group ahead of me. I could barely see her off in the distance.
The cool air felt great on the bike. The first 5 miles is pretty easy before the hills and winding roads begin. I didn't have a power meter for this race, something was wrong with it and I had to send it in last week, not ideal but not the end of the world.
Mile after mile I rode without a bike in sight. An ocassional media motorcycle or referee would drive by, other than that I was riding alone, I tried focus on the race and enjoy the beautiful bike course. It was much windier this year than I remember it ever being before. A few points I was getting frustrated with how slow I was going with the wind and hills. There are some fast descents and longer up hill sections. At one point I saw a bike ahead of me, as I got closer I realized it was just a cyclist on the road, not anyone in the race. Finally around 35 miles a girl passed me. I was happy to see another cyclist on the course, I kept her in sight for a while and then I saw another cyclist...so there is a race going on?!
Around Chalk Hill, (45-50 miles) which is the last hill before it gets flatter and turns for home, there were 3 of us. One girl I passed and one ahead of me. I was starting to have fun. Coming into transition there were 3 or 4 of us pretty close. I got out of transition before a couple girls and had one in front of me. I was ready to go for a run, after being a bit frustrated with the swim and bike I told myself to just go have fun on this run. I quickly caught up to the girl ahead of me within the first half mile and passed her. My watch went off at the first mile and I thought, should I look, or just keep running and not even think about my pace? I was curious so I glanced at my watch. 6:24. Alright... I know that's a little fast but I felt good, decided to take a chance and not slow down at the moment, even if I started out fast I felt good and didn't think I would crash and burn. I took a cup of water running through the aid station and thought I heard footsteps behind me. I must have been imagining! I thought I better keep up this pace so no one catches me. I know how these girls are, you slow down for like a minute and they swarm pass you. At least that is how I've felt before. Mile 2, watch goes off, 6:24 again. I smiled and thought I would love to just keep this up. As long as possible for sure. A couple short hills were coming up but I always tell myself, "what goes up must come down." I was running with no one in sight. Around each corner, over each hill, no one. Every mile an aid station would pop up and since I was the only one out there at the time they would ask what I wanted and have it ready for me as I ran passed. It was great. I stuck to just water and ice the first few miles. My mile times started to fade into 6:40's -6:50's but I was still feeling fine and trying my best to push myself to keep going faster. I focused on taking my nutrition and staying hydrated. The temperature was going up by this point. Through the winery there is about a mile on a gravel/dirt road, I took another gel and passed the 8 mile mark. This run was going by fast, only 5 more miles to go. At this, point I was on the out and back section. There was one girl who was falling back, I focused on her in the last 4 miles when I started to feel a little tired I kept asking myself, "can you go faster?" Around 9-10 miles I started to feel a little dehydrated. I slowed down through the next 2 aid stations making sure I got enough water, gatorade and coke. Some of it just splashed in my face but most of it I got down! I could see all the bikes coming in and the spectators. I didn't ever look at my watch for my overall time. I stopped my watch at the finish line and took a couple waters they handed me. I was so thirsty! After a minute or two I glanced down at my watch and was like, oh yah, what did I run? 1:29! Woohoo! I've ran a few minutes faster than that in open half marathons but never after a 56 mile bike ride. I've been trying to do that for 3 years and I just did it! That made me smile. Overall, I finished the race in 14th place (4:40).
One thing this race made me remember is even if you have a bad start and are frustrated with your race, not where you hoped you would be, it's not over until it's over! Keep on going, change your mindset, try to relax and have fun.
I am very grateful for my best friend/training partner/future husband, for going on this trip with me and for his continual support! Thanks to my sponsors (Xterra wetsuits, Epix gear, ISM, Flying Fish Bikes) and my coach, Jon Noland, who always reminds me to "relax", "just deal with it" and "stay focused!"