I had the near perfect race and it was just 2 weeks ago at Monticelloman Olympic in Charlottesville, VA.  It was a race that made me so proud and had me smiling the entire next day over all of the accomplishments.  I have never felt so confident leading into any race.  I was feeling very certain about my fitness and after coming through some tough times physically and emotionally, I was absolutely sure I’d reached new levels in my mental toughness to channel towards racing hard.  My head was in the right place and I was even allowed to have a rest week leading up to the race so my body felt fresh and ready to race hard.  Nick and I stayed in a hotel the night before and we had a relaxing dinner in adorable downtown Charlottesville.  I love seafood the night before a race and the shrimp and grits were perfect.

This was an AM race and my routine went off just fine.  On race morning, I often write key phrases or names on my arms to use as motivating “mental fuel” when it gets tough out there.  Seeing these “notes” pushes me to continue through the pain or stress.  During my first sprint race, Angels, VA in 2008 everyone wrote a person’s name on their arm and so I have continued the tradition of always dedicating a race to another person.  For example, Rumpass was for my friend, AF who was injured.  This day, I wrote everyone in my immediate family… D, D, S, A, N, S, S, B, C and of course the kittie cats on my left arm.  My right arm however, had MY name.  Yes, my own name, which was a first.  I did this because I realized recently that I’m not trying to prove myself to anyone else anymore in racing.  I just want to see what I can do out there physically and mentally.  I want to push my limits, not prove to someone else that I am fast.  Its a recent shift in mindset that’s really helped my training just skyrocket.  I also wrote down my mantras… BSFS (Better, Stronger, Faster, Smarter) and of course, YACKMA, a new high impact mantra compliments of coach!  I swear, that dude gives me the perfect balance of empathy and hard$$-ness to keep me constantly motivated to train and race.  : )

This race was close to home, so there were a ton of local athletes out there with me and I had a lot of friends and familiar faces which felt reassuring.  I set up my transition area, chatted with other athletes I knew and met some out of towners as well.  I often approach races like one big social party atmosphere.  The culture and vibe of tri has a much deeper social element than single sport events.

Still, as the clocked ticked closer to the start.. I was actually excited yet…. still kind of nervous.  I said to a friend, “Why am I so nervous?  I wish I were serene.”   She said, “Kelly, if you were serene… you would LOSE.”
Me, “WHAT?  Oh.  Hell.  No.”  S:  “Yes you need your adrenaline.  You just be all serene and calm and would let everyone pass you otherwise.”  I love that she said that.  It was perfect.

With the water temps in the 70’s, I also didn’t know if I should wear my wetsuit or not.  This really fast female athlete I recently met said, “If you care about  your swim time, and I know you do, wear your wetsuit.”  My decision was made and the fretting stopped.

My friend S and I put on our wetsuits (such a spectacle squeezing into these things)  and watched the half ironman athletes start and before we knew it, we had our warm up and were ready to go.  It was a running beach start which I was incredibly excited about.  I lined myself up with the buoys and swam aggressive off the start.  I never looked at my watch during the swim.  I went hard and sighted often.  I was always around other people during the swim drafting when possible and passing many as well.  I liked this race because I could see the buoys easily.   Returning to the beach was a challenge for aiming as they only had a small white flag as a marker and you could barely see it at the swim exit until you were right there.  Regardless, my swim was a big PR for me…by 2 minutes.  Coming out of the water I dropped my wetsuit cord and as I was running and trying to find it, another athlete grabbed my zipper and pulled it down on his way cruising past.  He was my wetsuit zipper angel… THANK YOU, whoever you are!

The bike course starts off with a fast descent that you can not take at full speed due to a stop sign and sharp turn at the bottom.  This was not marked well, but luckily I had pre-ridden the course so knew to be careful.  After that descent, there’s a steep climb and mostly gentle inclines sloping up into the wind making it deceptively tough.  I was trying to focus on better pacing of the climbs, but of course I still have a lot of work to do as far as keeping the effort steady.  It was challenging, but after the 2nd half its fast and mostly down hill towards the bike finish.  It was not as hard as lobsterman, but tougher than rumpass to compare.

I was having a blast out there, and really feeling the camaraderie and local solidarity between all the various athletes I knew and training team jerseys I recognized.  I called out cheerfully to my pals and also to everyone I identified as a Richmond athlete as I have enjoyed doing every single race I have done since my first tri in 2008.  I get energy from elevating others around me.  I love when other racers connect with me out there and I am a friendly, happy racer even when competing and pushing myself hard.  We all have a story and a reason for participating in the event.  Generally we support each other as athletes even while competing due to the common bonds of suffering out there.  I love when others say hi to me, so I do the same.  I have met a lot of buddies and connections this way from all over the country… but sadly, I will try to refrain from doing this locally anymore due to the strange dynamics among the various jerseys in Richmond…but I digress…that is a sad story for another day.  I don’t want to ruin the memory of this race… which during the race and even the next day, I was feeling the triathlon camaraderie vibe and just loving the energy.  My coach says if I have energy to talk to others, I’m probably not pushing hard enough anyway!  : )

While hammering it out on the bike, I caught up to my friend J in the last 5 miles and the two of us leap frogged a little bit towards the end.  He passed me on almost every descent.  Later, at the tri club tent, he said to my hubby, “Hey, I almost nailed your wife out on the bike course” .. to which Nick replied, “phrasing, J, phrasing!”
I sped into the bike finish, taking my feet out of my shoes a bit too early, but ran my bike to the rack and threw on my run shoes just fine.   At that point I didn’t really have a clue where I was in the field.  I imagined I came out of the water in the middle of the women’s pack as usual…but I now know I was near the top.  The half iron cyclists were mixed in with the olympic cyclists during the bike, and I passed a lot of people, but I never knew which race they were in so I had no idea how far ahead I was in the women’s field in my race.

There were no women in sight coming out of transition heading into the run which was strange.  I hadn’t seen too many on the bike either.  This is when a doubt crept in and I wondered if I was in the back of the pack.  I wondered if my swim was slower than I thought and if I never caught up on the bike.  The thought popped up irrationally out of nowhere, but it was there with me on the course in that moment, weighing on me.  This was the tough part and dark part of my race, the way I let my mind wander and wanted desperately to know where I was in comparison to others.  I am not proud of this, but it was there.  I asked Nick when I saw him at the run start, “Where are all the women, I can’t find any?  Where are they?”  He said, “Go chase those boys!”  The crowd loved Nick (as always) and started telling me to go get the boys… so off I went, trying to redirect the focus to my own race and focusing on my form and breathing and pace.  Looking at my own name I had written earlier on my arm helped me draw strength to move on for a solid run leg.

My legs felt tired, but I was racing with my heart and flying by at 8:00 pace the first mile on the rolling terrain.  I was able to kick it up progressively and saw the first female finisher on the out and back heading to the finish.  She was a pro, blowing the rest of the women away.   I counted women ahead of me… as they ran back and there were only 5 includng the pro!  I was pushing hard and trying to stay on pace.  I picked up my pace around mile 3 and really pushed.  Someone passed me at mile 4, but I was already pressing as hard as I could.  At the half mile mark, I saw my friend A and asked, “How many women ahead of me are in my age group?”  She said, “I don’t know, but there’s someone right behind you… run!”   So I took off as if freaking ZOMBIES were chasing me… (a story for another post- my zombies run app).  I ran harder than I ever had.  I ran so far outside what I thought I could do to the finish.

If you are squeamish, know I finished well.  The run was an “in tri” oly distance run leg PR and an age group win. Don’t read any more.  If you are tough, keep reading…

I can say with confidence… my finish was SICK!   Seriously, I ran so hard, that I threw up just after I crossed the line.   My race finish picture is disgusting.  It was just water and got on my shirt, so nothing too messy… but I was actually… proud.  A bit embarrassed and did not enjoy the feeling, but inside my heart I knew I had actually given this race everything I could with absolutely nothing left in the end.  Vomit at the finish is like the holy grail of hard core!  : )

I won my age group…. my first oly distance age group win.  I was 6th overall woman, and 5th amateur woman since the winner was a pro.  Awesome.  Awesome.  Awesome!

This was a PR of about 2 minutes on a very tough course.  I had a lot of friends out there and stayed to cheer many others on and socialize during the day.  I finally broke 2:30 in an olympic distance race and I’m just so happy.

Now on to Columbia Tri.. but it is a C race and quite an afterthought for fun I’ll be racing it on heavy, shattered, tired legs after a super intense work and training week.  Off I go…