After 2 days of hanging out with Dave and Jennie at the fabulous Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, NV, it was go time! I had managed to keep myself mostly on east coast (best coast!) time so the 4:30 am wake-up was not terrible at all. Jennie and I hopped out of the car and left Dave to go find parking so we could check in with our gear bags and double check our bikes. Everything was in working order, so I made the gametime decision to tape flat-fixing stuff to my top tube. Initially I wasn’t going to for some reason – maybe the urge to gamble being in Vegas and all. I figured there’d be plenty of time to hit the casinos at some later point and, if not, I could always play online – take a look at this article if you’re interested in doing so yourself. But, my worries got the best of me and I borrowed a spare cartridge from Jennie and taped it on. We shared a moment of silence with the world to recognize 9/11 and it was an emotional moment as all of the hustle and bustle stopped, and for one minute the race was pushed to the back of our minds as we remembered that same day ten years ago.
Nonetheless, the show must go on. The swim was a wave start, with the pro men starting at 6:30. That gave me an entire hour and twenty minutes to sit on the dirt and think about the day. Not only that – but we were lined up in our swim waves. What do you get when you put fifty nervous twenty something year old girls together in a 10×10 ft space? Well, does anyone out there remember this game that used to come with computers where you’d start out with one ball and had to successfully “build” walls around it to trap it in smaller and smaller spaces? Then each level there would be one more ball to trap? Until eventually you had a bunch of balls bouncing around in a small square – pewww pewww pchuewwww (that’s the sound effect). That is what it was like. If there was ever a time where I wish I used an iPod, this was it! I generally try to steer clear of strangers before races (well, I try to never talk to strangers, don’t worry mom!) because the nerves of everyone else really freaks me out. I think I spent a decent amount of this time with my neutral face on. I’ve always been told my neutral face looks a little angry so I’m pretty sure this scared anyone from trying to make too much friendly conversation with me, and I was able to just remain in my own thoughts.
When your wave is on deck, they put you in the water and you have to tread water for 10 minutes. Not terrible since the water was 80 degrees, but still who wants to tread water for more than they have to before a race? So I found a rock and perched my little self up there waiting for my wave to start. The lake is fairly narrow, and despite my wave not being huge, the start was still one of the rougher ones I have ever experienced. But after about 200 meters I finally had some open water. When I hit the turnaround and starting coming back in my arms began to die. This was hint number one to me that today was going to be a lesson in energy management. I came out of the water and began the long run up and around the lake over to transition where the volunteers were great and before I knew it I was climbing the switchback out of transition and mounting my bike.
The first 40 miles of the bike course are an out and back around Lake Meade. It really is a gorgeous area, and the biking is spectacular. Long, low grade climbs and similar descents forced you to pedal hard the entire time. It is definitely the type of course that you would have an advantage on having ridden it beforehand. My initial plan in this race was going to be to go all out on the bike and try to throw down a solid bike split. This was quickly forgone after about 20 miles when I confirmed to myself that yes, energy management was the name of the game. I felt “fine.” But, when you race, fine isn’t the adjective you’re hoping for. And, I didn’t want to put myself into a hole that I wouldn’t be able to dig myself out of later. So, I relaxed. The good news is that I can still climb faster than most even when I’m keeping my heart rate low. I lost some good time on the descents, but I was still having fun flying down them. Once you get back to Lake Las Vegas you head straight to Henderson. The rest of the ride is flat-ish, until there’s a nice slow 6 mile climb up to T2. When we drove this portion of the course it didn’t feel that bad, but definitely leave some gas in the tank to make it back strong!
As I headed out onto the run there were two conflicting thoughts in my head. One was “thank god my legs feel better than at Louisville.” The other: “what the heck, my stomach feels like Louisville.” The first mile is downhill and as soon as I hit the turnaround to start the 2 mile uphill (yes, you read that right), I was slowed to a walk. I was overwhelmed by everything – the emotions, the frustration, the feeling of wanting to puke, and all of the people around me – the course was really really crowded on my first loop.
I gathered my thoughts as I walked, taking water and forcing in some GU. I began to get over myself a little bit and stop having a pity party enough to remind myself that hey – most of these people running by me had not completed a full Ironman 2 weeks before. And, after all, Hillary and I agreed when I accepted this slot that it was nothing more than a roll of the dice, a day to have fun. By then I was at the top of the hill and had 2 miles of downhill to keep eating and shakeout the legs. This time on the uphill I was able to continue to run, albeit a bit slower. And then it was time for my last loop. As I hit the final mile mark, I realized that I had just about 8 minutes to get in under 5:30, so I hit my NOS button and managed to go under an 8 minute pace to finish in 5:29:25.
I would be remiss, however, to not point out another story of the day. Jennie finished the race in 4:46:26, winning the 25-29 age group by FIFTEEN MINUTES. She came out of the water in 32nd, proceeded to have the fastest women’s amateur bike split of the day to propel her into 2nd, and then ran an amazing 1:27 to win. She is a force to be reckoned with people and I hope you keep your eyes open for the amazing results she is going to produce in the next couple years!
All in all, this was a GREAT event….truly a World Championship. Crowd support was fantastic, the course was hard, and the post race banquet was a good time. But…will I sign up for a half-ironman next year, when it’s scheduled just 2 weeks after an IM? I won’t rule it out, but I will make myself read this again before signing up!