The 2012 season marks my return to the 70.3 race distance after more than 7 years since my first and last attempt at long course triathlon. The lengthy hiatus was out of necessity. 6 years ago I moved back to Connecticut after attending Grad school in Arizona. I was planning a wedding, starting a grueling course load to earn my Doctor of Chiropractic and Masters in Nutrition (up to 32 credits per semester) for 4 years, and working part-time. So I raced Sprint and Olympic distance races, I simply didn’t have the time to train for longer races nor the focus.
So 2012 marked my first opportunity to do just that, spend time training and focusing. Granted I started my chiropractic practice (at Dembski Chiropractic), nutrition practice and coaching business (TriMaxTraining) and took on the role as a coach for the Greater Waterbury YMCA Triathlon Club with over 140 athletes, but this still seemed to leave me more time for what I love…training!
What I feared was that making this switch would come at the cost of losing speed so when my first race of the season, a sprint Duathlon, came around I was pleasantly surprised to post the exact same time as the prior year.
Roughly 1 month later, an Olympic Distance race (Rev3 Quassy) came along and again, despite 50 degree temperatures and pouring rain, my time was EXACTLY the same as last year…Ironic! So when it came time to defend my title as the 2 x USAT North East Regional Champion, I was feeling pretty good. Until 11 days before the race I became very ill. I would assume I could blame this on racing in the cold-rainy weather 2 days before my symptoms began at the Rev3. I was taken out of training due to a fever, sinus infection and nasty cough for 7 of the 11 days, I began to worry about my title. I also began to worry about all of my hard work leading up to this point. Syracuse 70.3 was only 1 week after the NE Regionals which would serve as a final “tune-up” race.
Did I risk throwing all of that hard work away just to attempt a 3rd title considering I was still feeling pretty crummy 2 days prior? What if my illness got worse just 1 week before my 70.3? And what about all of the training I had missed over the past 11 days, would that mean changing my goals for Syracuse?
Well, the day before the NE Regionals I closely monitored my health every minute assessing how stuffy were my sinuses, how was my energy, what was my confidence level, am I still coughing up green stuff?
Yesterday was the day. I woke up still very tired despite a pretty solid night of sleep. My appetite was lower than usual and I was unable to finish my normal race day breakfast. We packed up and headed to the race.
I told myself I wouldn’t race unless I was sure I had a chance to win but looking back we never really know what those chances are, do we? I abandoned my usual pre-race routine to do a short run, instead I sat on my transition mat and just observed the athletes around me. As I looked around, I saw a lot of familiar faces. Everyone was checking and double checking their race gear, most in a slight panic. Lots of nervous chatter. I took a few deep breaths and thought to myself “You can do this! You race the best under the worst circumstances.” I put on my wetsuit and headed down to the water.
I planned ahead with extra PowerGels and water at the beach knowing that today’s effort was going to be very high. I was anticipating a higher than usual heart rate on the bike and run especially so I planned to hold back a little on the swim. I got a great start, swam a little wide to avoid any chaos to the first turn and kept a strong pace for the 1 mile route.
A smooth transition and I was off on my Quintana Roo for the 25 mile hilly bike course. I was 4 minutes behind the leader and in 5th place so I knew I had some work to do. I focused on my breathing and nutrition. Within a few miles I was passing the first two women, another mile or two and another two women. One left. I decided that I would have to pass her before topping the last of a long series of hills around mile 8 in order to create a big enough gap for the run. As I hit mile 7 she was in my sights and as my high school track coach would say I “passed her like she was standing still”. I knew the effort would take a slight toll on me but hoped the mental toll on her would be far greater. Now to get out of her sights and on to the run!
I know it’s very hard to chase what you can’t see, so I was in and out of T2 quickly. I also quickly noticed both quads cramping. Had I spent too much energy on the bike trying to get ahead? Was there enough left in the tank to hold on? My heart and lungs were really feeling the effort and my legs were screaming to stop. I grabbed a cup of Gatorade at the aid station and the cramping began to calm down. Again focusing on breathing, was I going to be able to pull this off? Up ahead I saw a friend and at the first turn-around he yelled to me “you’re slowing down! come and run with me!” I thought “OK, lets go.” I ran up to Ian and he calmly told me to relax, I must have looked as bad as I felt. Here, at mile 2 I saw her. She was about 1 mile behind me. We picked up the pace a little and the cramping kicked back in, another cup of Gatorade. Up the steep hill and past the finish line to the turn around for lap #2. Another cup of Gatorade and Ian kept encouraging me along. Quads and Hamstrings now cramping, but I didn’t care. If I held my pace the win was mine. Down the steep hill again, holding the pace on the flat to the turn-around. One more cup of Gatorade and Ian said “Now GO!” I pulled away from him and pushed as hard as I could manage up the steep hill for the second time.
My legs, lungs and heart were screaming but I could smell the victory so I told myself they were all numb. One final turn-around and 100 meters to the finish, she was no where in sight. I remember crossing the line, then I remember sitting down, then laying down. It was over. I ended up winning by over 4 minutes, putting in my best 10k (42 minutes) of my life. It was the hardest win mentally and physically of my life.
Looking back I realize that I can proudly say that I have not lost my speed from the long training and I can’t wait for June 24th to see what I can dish out in Syracuse.