There was no snow on the ground or cookies in the oven, but coming home from Wisconsin this weekend, I had a lot of the same post-Christmas feelings that I do in December. There were a lot of good things waiting under the tree for me on race day, and we’ll get to that, but first I’ll go through the usual routine. You know how your dad always makes you wait at the top of the steps before coming down and seeing the presents? Well, sit down on the top step my friends. Because I have to go get out the video camera, charge it up, and ask you the obligatory “what day is today?” before you’re going to get to the good parts!
Prior to CDA, I had a completely different race lineup for pre-Kona. I planned on maybe a local race in August, Cedar Point (half), then Kona. I wasn’t sure if I was feeling racing a lot, and just wanted to do a big training block with Cedar Point thrown in to get the lead out. After CDA, Coach and I chatted and we switched it up. The plan became “Bike Camp” through the Dells, a quick turnaround before racing again at Rev3 Maine, and then play September by ear. After all the hours of bike camp and a fairly stressful July, the Dells became the light at the end of my tunnel. I put my head down and was grinding away, and before I knew it I had my 3 day (gee, 3 whole days, I am lucky! 🙂 ) taper starting and I was boxing up my bike.
As usual, traveling was no cut and dry ordeal, and I owe a huge thank you to Erin for helping make this trip happen! Erin was doing a 200k organized ride Saturday – but she gave up her Friday evening to pick me up from the airport, help me build my bike, then make the late night drive to Madison where she organized a stay for us at a friend’s house. And then after getting up a 4am and riding 200k through hilly Wisconsin, she came out to the Dells to offer race support and drive me back to Milwaukee…..and then got up early on Monday to take me to the airport. Cannot thank this girl enough!
Erin left early on Saturday morning, but I was able to relax a little bit in Madison which I was really excited about. I slept in a bit, went for a quick spin around Lake Wingra, got some spicy cheese bread at the Farmers Market, and even got in a short jog. I really love Madison and if it weren’t for the harsh winters I think I’d be sold on living there! But it was fun to be back after 2 years away, and hopefully I can make this a yearly trip! Then Erin’s friend Patrick swung through Madison to scoop me and my bike up, and we headed out to the Dells….aka the Midwest Jersey Shore! This town was hopping all weekend, and when it was dinner time we managed to find a quieter Italian restaurant with Maggie.
Sunday morning came and was chilly for those of us living on the east coast these days. But once I put the wetsuit on I was able to stay warm. The swim venue at this race is really neat – you swim from where the Tommy Bartlett water show is. You don’t have to know who TB is – you just have to know that he has a huge amphitheater right on the lake. This made it super spectator friendly, and gave plenty of seating for those of us competing to not be on our legs before the swim. It was a TT start, 2 at a time, and my age group was in the back. By the time I started there were plenty of people in the water and I did my best to just reel in everyone I could one by one. The water could not have been more calm which was a nice treat after the choppy water I had at last week’s OWS (Christmas in August present #1)! On one hand, I felt like I was flying in the smooth water, but on the other hand it did start to feeling like I was flying for many minutes, and I wasn’t too shocked to see 32 on the watch when I came out. But after running into transition, I didn’t see more than a few bikes gone, so I knew that placement wise I was right where I wanted to be.
Knowing that there were a few bikes gone was just the motivation I needed on the bike. Well, that, and the bajillon hours of bike camp I wanted to make good use of 🙂 But seriously, if nothing else the one thing bike camp gave me was confidence. I knew nothing about the course previously. In retrospect, I had plenty of opportunities where people offered to give me details, but my busyness/laziness factor took over and I ended up blindly going in knowing nothing other than people saying it was hilly. Having done IM Wisconsin, and the rides I do at home, I knew hilly was relative. All in all, I would put this course somewhere in between Quassy and Knoxville, more skewed towards Quassy. There were 3 killer climbs, but I did find that there were some open road sections to really hammer as well. We had favorable conditions with it staying cool and cloudy, and the wind wasn’t a factor (Christmas in August present #2). And it was a HUGE boost that Erin made the effort to make it out to 2 places on the course. So awesome! As I was riding out the final few miles I knew I had passed a couple women but wasn’t entirely sure where I stood given the TT start. I decided to swap to my Garmin for the run. As I put my original watch down, I saw that I had to run about a 1:35 to have any prayer of getting under 5 hours.
By the time my Garmin picked up satellites, I was about 1.5 miles in, so I literally had no idea of my cumulative time on the run. But, I knew a pace for a 1:35 was 7-lows, so that was where I was going to try to stay. The run course was a little tight at times, but I really liked the part through the downtown area of the Dells. The backed up traffic offered some cheers from the cars, and some people pumped the jams as I ran by which, coupled with those people out on the streets, was a great boost. You also run right by the upsidedown house, so keep your eyes peeled for that!
My legs felt good…..really good (Christmas in August present #3). I stayed within myself through the whole run, keeping it dialed back until I knew that it was time to let it hurt. With 5 miles to go I opened up and emptied the tank. The final couple hills were tough, but this was definitely a race where I was able to stay in control. Haley has mentioned before that she talks to herself when things get a little rough, and I used that here as well. When I’d start up a hill I’d begin repeating to myself “you are stronger than this hill” over and over and over. And before I knew it, I was at the top. I also *never* look at my Garmin on an uphill. I don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that I’m slowing down when I run uphill! It also helped that once again Erin was popping out at random places on the run, keeping me guessing where she’d be! As I ran through the finishing chute, Laura and Eric (two of my favorites from the Rev3 fam) were there to give me high fives, and the burning in my legs let me know I had run a great race.
The only question that remained was my time. As I was catching up with Tara and Kurt afterwards, Kurt pulled the results up on his phone and let me know that I did in fact get the sub-5 time, with a 4:59:27. This is a 6 minute PR for me, but more than that I finally broke that 5 hour barrier – and on a tough course (Christmas in August present #4)! I’d say this bodes well for the things to come. All too soon the fun was over…..but, just like Christmas when you have New Years to look forward to – I have Rev3 Maine in 2 weeks! Bring it on 🙂