Transition T1: Self Talk
In order to focus despite pressure from the crowd I talked myself through a fast T1. I literally said out loud “Put on your helmet. Clip it in. Grab your bike. Come on, Kelly…go go go!” I often do this, but at Robious Landing (No Longer the Tavern Tri) its funny because my rack spot was close to a lot of spectators and I was one of the top 3 women back to T1 so there was more of a spotlight on my crazier self talk habit.
Bike: Ride Like It!
As I mounted my bike, I heard Nick say, “Drop her Kelly, drop her!” My bike Yvette and I hammered up the crowd lined hill out of the park and I didn’t even attempt to put my feet into my shoes until I was by the stop sign way down the road. My rubber bands holding my shoes upright normally break on their own but the bands were too thick this time and were creating a lot of extra work/tension. I had reach down to manually unhook them a bit stressed from trying to drop the girl on my tail.
I made my way confidently up that climb staying aero as much as possible. I put my glasses on while riding the bike and it seemed foggy though I was not sure if it was from the air or my glasses. It was the air. It is impossible to get lost on this bike route. I turned right out of the park where I saw the very officer that gave me a speeding ticket last summer. He was directing race day traffic. Coincidentally, that memory gave me some “use-able” controlled anger to fuel my ride. I made my way “stealthily” past men from earlier waves and barely had any trouble with anyone “blocking.” In some places this may have been because they could hear me telling myself out loud how awesome of a cyclist I have become over the years and wanted to get out of the path of the crazy lady! When I could muster speech (on the descents) I was giving myself all kinds of advice. Yes, I talk to myself when I need a really good advisor!
As I neared that big hill, I had to chuckle over all the experiences I have had on the climb from races to group rides. The hill seemed to have “shrunk” since that camp I did up in the Blue Ridge back in April. : )
Transition T2- Move, move move!
As I zoomed into T2, I approached the dismount line. My P5 brakes very fast and strong so I can afford to keep speed up until the very last last instant. There were two men on either side of the dismount line and I planned to fly off the bike and run through them. I had to yell to get their attention and the words “LEFT” were not appropriate since they were on either side. I just screamed, “MOVE! move! move!” as the park of spectators looked on. Hey, better to be vocally assertive than wind up in a 3 bike pile up as they had no clue I had caught up so fast and was right on them. I ran through the middle with ease. I put my bike back up on my spot and my Garmin bike computer bounced off the bike and went into the aisle. I contemplated grabbing it, but my mind flashed to a memory of one of my prior coaches many years ago losing his computer at Rockett’s Landing on the tracks and going on for a win in the race rather than looking back for it. His wife asked why did didn’t go back but he said, “It was a RACE!” I left my computer and it was fine later.
Run 2: You are not lost…
Finally, I booked it into the woods to finish the re-routed course strong and immediately saw a Ever Racing athlete I coach volunteering at an aid station. I asked her to pour water on me since I was hot. That was awesome. I was informed I was the first female coming through. I looked down at my pace and my rude Garmin stared back at me and said, “What, are you running through molasses?” “You are slower than a 3 legged Galapagos Turtle,” and mean things like that. OK, well no it technically said “7:45” pace which was not what I had hoped for. My running speed simply isn’t “back” yet plus I was running on some trails with some hills in the woods. I ignored data the remainder of the run and kicked up my effort as best as I could. I’m accustomed to chasing women down until I run out of landscape and the finish line is there to cross. The feeling of women looming behind me hunting me down for over an hour with no idea how far back the other women might be was really difficult and different for me to experience. I was grateful to be in the position but you surprisingly have a lot less control when you are at the front. It is an advantage but a precarious one. I typically am set up to follow and pounce for the pass at the right opportunity. I must admit despite the pressure, I did rather relish that painful adrenaline of being chased.
Further stress was that there weren’t as many men on the course as I thought and with all the turns there were many periods where I was alone. I get lost a lot. I might even get lost backing out of my driveway if my GPS is not on. I told myself (internally as I could no longer talk), “You are not lost. You are winning!” any time doubt seeped in. One year I stopped and asked for directions in the end of a 10K that had a longer course and the officer said those exact words! New Mantra!
This course was actually the best marked “Not the Tavern” run course experience I have ever had. There were yellow lines on the ground (hence “follow the yellow brick road” was playing over and over in my mind) and caution tape guiding our way. I never had to pause to guess where to go or try to communicate with volunteers tired of pointing out the way. I loved it. It is impressive how Andy and the Go to 11 crew pulled this off. Along the way I caught my friends John and Brad. I saw all kinds of friends volunteering and cheering along the course. At one point, I was really making it hurt and I saw Nick. I felt so happy to see him, but my reaction when he was encouraging me did not reflect that. He apparently told me I was in the lead by a lot. I heard, “Pick it up!” and told him, “I cant, just stop it!” I may have even said, “shut up!” Later he said he prefers being yelled at than getting a cute Miss America style wave and kisses blown and mega smiles because if I am growling and hating on him it indicates I am putting myself in enough “pain” physically to feel proud of my race later. I love my man’s perspective!
Finish: Seconds Matter
At the last aid station I was able to ask in a gasp, “How far back is she?” as in “Ouch, how much harder do I have to push? Oh, can I let up and how wide is the gap?’ but they didn’t know what I was mumbling between breaths so I assumed another woman was right on my heels still chasing me and kept hammering down the trails. I could have peeked backwards but I rarely do that because you if I look backwards I slow down or trip and fall. No thanks.
Just before the finish there were two men ahead from an earlier wave running next to one another blocking the trail. I was gasping and tried asking them to move but I had picked it up the where I couldn’t talk. I said, “move!” finally and they stepped aside as I blew past.
Seeing that finish line and running down the familiar chute was such a cathartic experience. My emotions were so high. I was beaming and cheering and could hear my friends pulling me through with encouraging shouts. The exhilarating feeling you get when you cross that line is from a celebration of all the effort you have put in. The finish line joy never gets old. I’ve been on both sides of the line as a volunteer and as an athlete and I must say it just feels so special, rewarding and glorious in those few seconds regardless of how the race went down. This particular race didn’t just represent the run/bike/run or training leading in. It was a conclusion of the accumulation of triathlon experiences from the past decade. This was my goodbye to my first triathlon community. I immediately went over to the side of the river so nobody would mistake the post race tears for anything other than a joyful release of pent up emotions from the day. Nick and Casey came right over to congratulate me.
Once results came out from the earlier waves, I saw I held my position as the overall female winner. I won a really cool cutting board. Here’s the kicker. There was a woman in the 40+ wave. Her time was less than one second off of mine. I won this race by less than a second and I had no idea. I thought back to all the areas where I could have widened the gap (the rubber band struggle out of T1, a faster Uturn, taking the turn into the main road faster) and where I could have lost it too. If I had picked up my bike computer, I would have lost the race. If I had heard Nick say I had a big lead or had the last aid station understood my question and told me I had space I might have slowed. This was a huge lesson. Seconds matter. Fractions of seconds matter. Never stop pushing on.
Nevertheless I couldn’t have asked for a better going away party or a better way to celebrate it. Years ago, when I sat with my tri mentor at the time (Jonah) watching the athletes get their awards she had told me to always stay for them if I can to be supportive and so I can to hear how fast the podium athletes are. I never could have envisioned making it up that big climb on the bike, doing a flying dismount off my bike, standing on an age group podium and certainly not that I would ever be the athlete accepting an overall win. You never know what amazing things are in store with some passion and perseverance. This wasn’t my first win in endurance sports but it sure was a meaningful victory on many levels. Richmond, Virginia is where I found triathlon. It is where I “grew’ as an athlete. I certainly didn’t start out with a bang. It took a long time for me (years) to come out of the BOP in cycling to be a contender but the progress and the adventure and people of the sport kept bringing me back to races year after year. I set big goals and make gradual yet consistent progress and have had so many friendships with amazing athletes in the tri community along the way.
Richmond is a place that will forever be in my heart… and I Love the Robious Landing (not the Tavern) Triathlon.
Thanks to everybody who has helped me in this sport along the way for this race (My family, Nick, all my tri advisors, Coach DTD, Track Cat Athletes, my Allianz friends, my friends both in an out of the sport, 3Sports team) and thanks to everybody who has been there in my triathlon journey over the past decade. Thank you for the support and a giant thanks to those that ultimately made me stronger in my growth as an athlete and as a person all these years. Thank you Richmond, Virginia for giving me the opportunity to fall in love with endurance sports.
Until we meet again….because… “Y’all” know I’ll be back to race! : )