It was a year ago this weekend that I sat down with Hillary to chat about 2011 and my background and where I was hoping to go. I am absolutely beside myself to be sitting down today to write that yes, we accomplished our goal: this morning I accepted the second of two Kona spots allotted to my age group at IM Arizona. But before I get there, I should probably talk about how this came about….
Race morning was flawless. Ryan and I woke up around 5 which wasn’t too early in the grand scheme of racing. Everything looked good with my bike, and while I was pretty nervous I didn’t have to think much as Ryan helped walk me through all the bag drop offs and got me zipped into my wetsuit. Getting everyone into the water was taking quite awhile and by the time I was able to hop in it was 6:55. That was great considering the water was a chilly 62 degrees, but a little unfortunate as there’s about a 100 yard swim to the actual start line so I had to move it to get into a starting position I was comfortable with. After Wisconsin was a successful swim start for me last year, I decided to employ the same strategy and just start near the front, in the thick of it all. My theory is that as long as I am confident to keep moving amongst all the limbs, I’ll just get carried along. No use trying to waste extra energy if I can help it! The starting cannon went off and sure enough within seconds it was like a washing machine. I focused on just staying calm and staying with the pack. It felt like forever to get to the turnaround, but when I saw 29 minutes on my watch I knew I was on track for a solid swim. The waters opened up a bit on the return trip but it definitely felt slower. I made the final turn and was out of the water in 1:05:37 – pretty much exactly the same as I swam at Louisville. I’ll take that! Into T1 I went, threw on my helmet and jersey and headed out for the bike.
I generally have a hard time holding back at the start of the bike because I really am just so excited to be out of the water and onto land. But, I had a firm race plan in my head and I wanted to execute it. So I did my best to keep things comfortable on the way out and hit the turn around, where I was pleasantly surprised to find a tailwind for the return trip. And, not just any tailwind, one that was helping me along to push 28mph most of the way in. Woohoo! Back into loop 2, I noticed a headwind again on the way out, turning into a crosswind….turning into a….. wait. What. Why do I have a tailwind at the end of this section? As I hit the halfway point of the bike my fear was confirmed as sure enough, the winds had shifted and we now have a nice headwind for the return trip. This meant I was hurting to push for 16-18mph in many of the downhill sections! Yikes. But I didn’t have to worry about that for long, because a larger issue had come to light: my rear tire was flat. Very flat. I pulled off the side and evaluated the situation, glancing at my watch and seeing I was 4:10 into my race. I had a spare tube, air, and a tire lever. A single tire lever. I made an attempt to get the tire off with it, but there was no hope without some more leverage. By now a state trooper had pulled into the median and asked if I needed help. Yes please, I did. He asked for my bib number and said he’d call. That was cool, but also I still had no clue when help would arrive. A few people rode by and asked if I needed help, and I asked “tire lever?” at a woman after she asked.
The woman stopped her race and pulled off, unclipped, and began to remove her tire lever from her seatpost.
I repeat, she stopped her race to help me.
Insane. I can’t thank this woman enough. Her selflessness did not go unnoticed and I will be sure to pass the favor along when I have the opportunity.
I ran back to my bike with the tool in hand and began to make my best attempt at getting the tire off. It was on there realllllly good. I was making some sort of progress, I guess, when help did arrive. The man helped get my tube fixed and my rear wheel on in, are you ready for this, 6 minutes! That, plus the 4 I spent bumbling around, left me only 10 minutes out from where I was. I high-fived the helpful tire-fixer, hopped back onto my bike, and got moving. I had a good cushion from the speedy first lap, so I knew I had some hope. After the adrenaline died down though, reality set in as I realized I still had about a third to go. Yikes. Coming in for the second loop, I yelled to Mike and Claire (our fearless spectators/ support crew) that I got a flat and could they please pass that information to Hillary. I figured my change in time for the loop may have caused some concern. They got that message to her before I rode up to where she was and as she spotted me she was practically jumping over the barriers yelling to me: KEEP YOUR HEAD IN THIS RACE. DO NOT LET THAT SET YOU BACK. She was right. I was still in it. The third lap was kind of a blur as I made sure I could get as much nutrition in me as I could bear. With the winds still challenging on this loop I think everyone’s spirits had dropped somewhat, and we all just wanted to be off our bikes. I happily hit the turnaround and charged for home. All things told, my bike split was 5:45:11. That’s about 3 minutes slower than Louisville, but with the mechanical I wouldn’t complain! Yes, I was still in this race!
(to be continued)