After having to sit this race out in 2012 due to injury, I was excited to be able to toe the start line at this year’s Door County Triathlon. The weather in the week leading up to the race was stifling. Day after day in the upper 90’s with crushing humidity was taking it’s toll on everyone. When I saw the forecast for Sunday, it seemed too good to be true.
I was also very excited to put my training to the test. I’ve been working hard with an awesome coach, and this was my first time racing a tri under her expert guidance. I felt strong going in, and knew that I was well prepared.
We arrived in Door County late Friday night, and on Saturday it was all about race prep. I did a short bike/run workout to loosen up, then it was off to packet pick up. It was windy on Saturday, and the lake looked like it had a pretty strong current going on, so I was hoping the wind was going to die down before Sunday.
We got our number tattoos put on while listening to a course talk from the race director. With my number on I felt all official-like and was ready to rock the pants off this race.
After a trip to the bike shop and a little relaxing at the house, it was time for dinner. I had perhaps the strangest pre-race dinner ever.
Yes, that would be pancakes, fish and rice. So carbs, carbs, and a little protein. Exactly what I needed. Back at the house, I was in bed by 9:15 and had no problem falling asleep. I slept ok, but I kept waking up thinking that my number tattoos were sticking to the sheets and coming off. I’m a weirdo. Before I knew it, my phone alarm was going off at 4:50.
I came upstairs and was greeted by the beginnings of a beautiful sunrise, and had a feeling it was gonna be a great day.
I went through the usual routine of coffee, bagel, peanut butter, banana, fill bottles, etc, etc. We left for the race around 6am, and were pulling into the parking lot by 6:15. I set up my transition, sunscreened, said hi to a few friends, and then it was time to wait. The race started at 8am, and I was in wave 7 at 8:19am. As we were waiting for the site, my uncle Mike kept talking about the skies looking dark. I told him to shut it, insisting there was no way it was gonna rain. Sure enough, just as I was about to get in the water, it started drizzling. I was quite sure it would pass while I was swimming, so I wasn’t concerned at all.
39:16 – 21/56 AG
Before I knew it, it was time for my wave to enter the water for the thigh-deep start. And then we were off. It took me a little while to get a rhythm. Actually it took a long while. I am used to breathing every three strokes, but for some reason I couldn’t stop breathing every two. The water wasn’t really choppy, but there were some slow swells that threw me off a little bit. Swimming in Lake Michigan is so different than the inland lakes. Even when the water looks calm, it likely is not. I knew that the first part of the swim would be against the current, so I told myself to just get to the turn around one buoy at a time. I had clear water for the most part, though I got run into quite a few times on the final long stretch. It seemed like no one could swim in a straight line. As always, I was so happy when the swim was over and I could get my wetsuit stripped off by the wonderful volunteers.
T1 – 1:39
Coming into transition, I noticed that the ground was totally wet and realized that it had rained more than I thought. Then I realized it was still raining. I put on my socks, bike shoes, helmet & sunglasses and high tailed it out of there.
2:54:39 – 13/56 AG
It rained for the first 45 minutes of the bike, which I was not expecting. It makes me nervous to ride on wet roads, but I knew there were no turns for the first 15 miles, so I just tried to get into a good rhythm, taking it easy in the beginning. The miles ticked by, and I concentrated on making sure I got in my nutrition when I was supposed to. It was cat and mouse with quite a few women for almost the whole ride. I didn’t get passed by too many of them, but towards the end I was getting passed by a lot of men that started in later waves. I was hoping not to see Steve out there, because it would mean he bridged the 18 min head start I had and was passing me. Even though he had an amazing bike split, it wasn’t quite enough to catch me 🙂 The bike was uneventful for the most part, until mile 45. I felt something fly into my tri top, and as I was reaching in there to try to get it out, it stung me right in the boob. Jerk. I was glad to get onto the final 10 mile straight away to the finish, because I knew it was flat and fast. Before I knew it, I was pulling back into transition. I was a little disappointed with my time, but I pushed that thought out of my head right away because I had big plans for the run.
T2 – 3:14
Coming off of the bike, I had to pee so bad. I guess that means I was well-hydrated, but it also meant a stop in transition at the port-o-potty. I changed shoes and grabbed my run nutrition and headed in to take care of business. I swear, I was peeing forever. I was starting to get really pissed (pun intended) that it was taking so long, but there’s nothing I could do. FINALLY, I was able to head out on the run.
1:39:58 – 1/56 AG
The week before the race I told Coach Liz that my goal for the run was 1:42, but that I thought I would be happy with 1:45. She told me to take my mindset from completer to competitor, and race against others on the run, not just with others. I was thinking about this as I started the run, because I knew that given my time on the bike, I had a lot of ground to make up. I made a last minute decision in T2 to grab my Garmin for the run, and I am glad I did that. I knew I had to hold back the first 3 miles, and when I saw 7:26 for mile one I concentrated on slowing down a little bit and breathing slow and deep. I was passing people left and right, and even though the pace felt easy, I still worried that it was a little too fast.
I don’t thing I have ever had a run fly by so fast in a race. Before I knew it, I was in Egg Harbor climbing the big hill at mile 6 and turning around back towards the finish. I ate everything I brought with me on the run, including my spare gel and all of my extra salt tabs. It was perfect weather for running (70 and overcast), but I felt like I needed the extra nutrition to make sure I could finish strong. The entire run was a series of spotting the next person ahead of me, catching them, and passing them. I must have passed at least 10 women in my age group along the way, as well as a bunch of the men that had blown by me towards the end of the bike. During the whole run, I was passed by zero women which made me really happy. I was mentally prepared for “the bluff” just before mile 10, and my plan was to walk up the impossibly steep hill. Once I got to the top, I continued running and was ready to give it everything I had for the last 3 miles.
Coming down the half mile long hill into the finish hurts, but knowing that the finish line is at the bottom helps to make it a little less painful on the quads. I barreled down the hill and crossed the line knowing that I had a great run, and that I had set a huge PR.
Gotta love the finish line picture that shows exactly how glad I was to be done.
My official time for the race was 5:18:37, a 29 minute course PR. I came in 16th overall and 4th in my age group, by far the best I have ever placed in a tri. I was elated to find out that I had the 3rd fastest run split of the day. I always thought that as a fairly competitive runner, I was destined to remain a middle of the pack finisher in Triathlon. Now I am realizing that with hard work, heart, and determination, anything is possible. After all, when I started running in 2003, I never thought in a million years that I could qualify for Boston, place in the top 3 in three ultramarathons, or even win an age group award in a 10k for that matter. But I have done all of those things and more, as over the years I have worked my butt off to become a faster, smarter runner. Why I thought the same thing couldn’t apply to triathlon, I’m not sure. I am now aiming my goals a little higher than before, and I am expecting more of myself. So if you need me between now and September 8th, you will be able to find me at the pool, on my bike, or running around town. I have an Ironman to train for.