Tuesday, June 16, 2009

June 2009-Best Pigman Ever!

As I stood at the awards ceremony following the Pigman Sprint, I thought about how badly I wanted to win one of the little pink pigs. Maybe some day when I am 80 years old Rosie (our club president) and I will be the only ones competing in our age group and we will both get pigs!

A short time later they were doing the drawings for prizes. I had always hoped to win, but you don’t expect they will call your number out of the hundreds entered in the race. So when they drew my number for the Zipp 808 wheels I just started jumping up and down and screaming. I didn’t know anything about wheels, but I knew Zipps were fast and used by the big-time triathletes.

I knew this was going to be my lucky day. I’m not usually superstitious…okay, I always use my lucky Scooby-Doo towel in my transition area and I cross myself before I start the swim, even though I’m not Catholic. But when living legend Ron Ottaway parked his vehicle next to mine in the parking lot, I knew it was a sign. Ron asked to use MY bike pump and he felt my bike tire and declared it was good. It was like Ron had blessed my bike!

“I need you to be fast today,” I said to Black Thunder, a.k.a. my Felt. “Faster than you’ve ever been before.” I looked around to make sure no one saw me talking to my bike. I walked over to body marking. “Are you an elite?” the body marker asked me. I laughed but felt flattered nonetheless. I look like an elite, I told myself. It’s a sign that today is my day.

The body marker saw that I written on my forearms. On my right arm it said “Dom” for my niece’s 7-year old stepson, Dominic, who has a terminal brain disease. On my left arm I wrote “Leave Nothing” as in leave nothing on the course, give 100%. He took me over to show his wife, another body marker. I need all the motivation I can get, including doing my own body marking.

I felt the excitement and nervousness of race day. No matter how many times I had practiced the course and how ready I was, my stomach was still in knots. We were soon heading down to the beach. It looked like the rain was going to hold off…yes, the triathlon gods would be shining on me this day.

I may be in the minority, but I don’t like the time trial start. I missed being part of a group, standing on the beach, hearing the countdown and entering the water together. I knew I would be the slowest swimmer in my wave, but at least I knew we all started at the same time and I could gauge where I was in the pack. Now we were all starting at different times; it took the competition out of it. I also liked knowing exactly how many minutes behind me the next wave would start.

The Pink Caps…the 25-39 female age group had long been a thorn in my Pigman side. They are young and fast and no matter how much space I give them, they insist on swimming on top of me. Since there was no gap between waves, they were on me like a swarm of pink bugs.

Just keep your rhythm, I kept telling myself. There’s no one out here but you. As we neared the shore I saw people standing up in the water, but I remembered that club member and USAT coach Jody Rausch had told me to keep swimming until I could grab sand with my hand. I must remain patient. I was soon out of the water but nearly got run over by elite cyclists entering the transition area.

I was off on my bike. I could see Apryl and the other elites on the run course. They were sprinting the run. How is that possible? I can barely move my legs by the time I get to the run.

I headed down the first hill, but got held up by a camper. Then a strange thing happened…I started passing bikes, and not just hybrids, REAL bikes. I wasn’t used to this; I was actually going fast. I found it was a lot more fun when I could pass other bikes and feel like I was part of the race, not just out here riding.

We hit Palo, I downed my gel and started back towards the park. “This is where we separate the men from the boys,” I told myself. (It sounded better than the women from the girls). I was passing more bikes and feeling strong. As I neared the hill I shifted gears and felt my gears lock. I had to pull on to the shoulder.

I remembered that the night before I had told myself three things: (1) There are NO perfect races; (2) Something WILL go wrong; and (3) Expect the Unexpected. I wasn’t trying to be negative…just preparing myself for what race day brings.

As the bikes I had passed went by me on the road I felt an utter sense of defeat. Things had been going so well. My bad attitude only lasted a few seconds. I checked my chain and hopped back on the bike. “We’ll just have to pass them all again,” I said.

I went over the hill and was cruising down the other side when I came upon a girl riding in the middle of the lane. I had to brake. I couldn’t get around her. Would it be poor etiquette to tell her to get over? My question was answered when a male cyclist went by and yelled at her. Lane Girl got over and I started to pass.

“What’s with the green shirts? Are you a team?” she asked me. “It’s a club,” I yelled as I went by. Unfortunately, I did not have a club application with me.

I did the turnaround and headed off on the final leg. Out of nowhere Lane Girl went by me. No, she didn’t! Lane Girl was in the middle of the lane again. I had enough of this and decided to leave her behind once and for all.

Even with having to stop, I knew I was having my best bike race. “If you don’t screw up the run, you can PR this thing,” I told myself. No pressure. I had to weave through vehicles inside the park, but I made it back to transition. As I hopped off the bike I said “Be like Barry” so I could imitate Barry Breffle, who has awesome transitions. Other than running my bike into the bike rack, it went smoothly.

The run was tough and the going slow. “The pain will go away,” I said. “Just keep moving.” Everyone was passing me on the run course. Long gone was the elation I had felt in passing people with my bike. As I neared the road that led to the finish line, someone passed me. “Hey, it’s you,” she said in recognition. It was Lane Girl. She had caught me on the run.

Don’t let her pass you, I pleaded with myself. I looked down at the “Leave Nothing” on my arm. I really felt like I had nothing left. Then I heard it. It was the distinct sound of cowbells. Standing at the top of the transition area was the MWX club members. They were cheering and ringing in the runners.

I looked at my arm again. “You can take her,” I said. I felt my legs start to churn beneath me. I broke into a sprint heading down the hill. The crowd was yelling. Just feet from the finish line I passed Lane Girl. “Good race,” I told her. “You must have been saving up for the end,” she replied. Who knew I had a kick?

I was quickly drawn to the pizza. It took me some time to go get my results. What if I hadn’t improved? I nervously pulled the little slip of paper that held my time. I almost started crying. I had bettered my time by 12 minutes! That was HUGE for me. I had bettered my time in every area, including transitions. I felt like I was finally seeing some improvement.

I had told myself that I could achieve anything if I was willing to work for it. Driving out to Palo four times a week to train, early morning runs, overcoming fears and doubts, it was paying off. Of course, a little luck doesn’t hurt………..

Keep Tri-ing!