I went into theKansas70.3 race this year tapered and ready to race. I drove from Boulder with Gavin and Owen, meeting many Chicago and Boulder friends for a fun weekend of racing and camping. I absolutely love camping at ClintonState Park no matter how hot the weather.
Race day turned out to be brutally hot and windy. As we were preparing our breakfast race morning we heard the announcement of the non-wetsuit race. Gavin and I were ecstatic, so often races call water temperatures much lower than actual enabling wetsuits to be worn. I thought, today is going to be a good day. I dropped my shoes off at T2, then rode down to T1 with little time to spare. During my brief swim warm up I immediately noticed how choppy the water was especially while swimming south into headwinds.
After watching the men take off to tackle the waves the women toed to imaginary start line. Just as we were asking an official if we too were to get a lead kayaker the start gun shot. I took off slightly to the right and to my surprise was not touched by another swimmer. 2 women took off the front without me again (working on shot gunning my swim start). I settled into a steady pace rolling over high waves and feeling strong. One girl stayed on my right catching a draft (I later found out this was friend and training partner Mandy McLane). After rounding the first turn buoy we headed south and BAM there was the head wind. I increased my turnover pulling hard through the water with each stroke. Mandy dropped behind and I was now swimming alone. We had only a short distance swimming south before heading east towards the shore. I swam up to a few swimmers thinking, awesome I’m catching one of the ladies ahead of me, no such luck I was only catching and passing weak male pros. The strong wind continued to push me south so I intentionally urged my stroke to lead me north trying to stay on course. I had a perfect view of the swim exit strategizing my line using the wind to push me there. All of a sudden I hear a lifeguard warning me to head north. She comes closer and gets her red guard buoy wrapped around me while continuously apologizing. I dive down and go through the straps breaking free. I swam the remainder of the course heading into transition confident with my swim.
I must hand it to the swim director and volunteers; for the amount of wind in the swim buoys were kept in a perfect rectangle and were quite close to one another. .
I hear cheers from friends and fellow triathletes as I run through T1. Rip off my swim skin (so much easier than a wetsuit), struggle with my race belt for a few extra seconds, throw on my helmet and go. I pass a pro woman as I hop on my bike. I thought I had to be 2nd or 3rd by now. I settle into a comfortable pace, my legs feeling fresh, I had a 3 week break from my previous race which is longer than usual for me.
At mile 10 Mandy rides up offering words of encouragement, I stayed 7 bike lengths behind her for 5 miles or so before she pulled away. Approaching the 1st turn around I was able to see the men’s positions. Gavin was in 3rd. Next I got to see the women, to my surprise I was in 5th and the strong bikers were obviously riding away from me. Man these pro women are fast, my swim didn’t even crack the top 3. I powered through remembering it was hot which I tend to perform well in compared to others. There were no other position changes with the lead women throughout the bike.
At mile 40 I was caught riding too far left, trying to avoid rough road and rocks to my right. A pro man road up passing me on the right, I look at him in complete shock. Immediately the motorcycle following issues me a yellow card. He explains the penalty, what I hear is that I am required to serve 2 minutes in the penalty tent at T2. Perhaps my mind deterred to the Wildflower penalty received last month but I later found the correct penalty was only to stand down at T2’s tent signing my name for the warning given. The official next rode up to the man issuing him a yellow card as well. (Had I been riding farther left it would have only been my penalty, had he passed on the left neither of us would have received one). This being my 2nd penalty in my 3 first pro races I couldn’t control my emotions. I immediately sat up as tears streamed down my face. I made the decision to pull from the race saving my legs for Buffalo Springs in 2 weeks. I soft pedaled back the last 16 miles kicking myself for making such a stupid mistake and allowing my anger to build up against the guy for passing on my right. What was a pro man doing behind me at mile 40 anyways??? Riding back in I pulled it together and thought how many pro triathletes pull from races when things don’t go their way. I certainly didn’t want to fall into this category so I decided to finish what I started no matter what place the penalty put me at.
I stopped at the penalty tent and told the volunteers about my yellow card. To my shock they instructed me to serve 4 minutes rather than 2, I was outraged. I didn’t fight with them (the referees later praised me on my composure). I explained to them 6 times the yellow card I was given and the time penalty consequence. They told me if I left after 2 minutes I would be disqualified. So I served 4 minutes, 3 women passed me while I waited. This penalty was in the center location of the race, very close to the finish line and T2 meaning all spectators were there watching me. Icing on the cake was the announcers kept stating my name and how I was serving time in the penalty tent.
When I was finally released I sprinted through transition heading out on the run. I passed 2 of the women immediately but there was a huge gap to the 6th place woman. I ran easy my motivation completely destroyed. As referee’s rode by me I asked yellow card 2 or 4 minute penalty they held up 2 fingers. I ran through the campground wanting to quit and crawl in my tent, but refrained. I was holding back tears the entire loop, each time I started crying my breathing would suffer.
On the 2nd loop I saw Owen was only 1 mile behind. I had to stay ahead of him because if he catches me I’ll start sobbing and ruin his race as well. I picked up the pace as best I could. Now all the amateurs were on the run course so it was difficult to spot which were pro women. I assumed they were still miles ahead of me. As the course split for the 2nd loop and finish I noticed a girl right ahead of me. Had I really almost caught her? I ran in right behind her but at this point had no mental strength to race.
Gavin was waiting for me at the finish line, as we made eye contact the tears began to well up in my eyes asking him to help me protest the call.
Next, 3 referees approached me saying they were aware of the situation. They informed me of the stand down penalty I was supposed to serve (no idea why I heard 2 minutes) The head referee told me I should not have listened to the penalty tent volunteers and done what I thought was correct. At this point the other referees walked away, later they told me if I had left the penalty tent without permission I would have been immediately disqualified from the race. So basically I was in a lose/lose situation and they refused to accept my protest.
Needless to say I was disappointed with my 7th place finish but more so disappointed with myself for handling the unfortunate situation. I usually pride myself on resilience, but could not pull it together for the 2nd half of the race inKansas post-penalty. I’ll use this as another learning experience. Knowing that anything can happen in a triathlon, the preparation for the unexpected is half the battle.
Mad props go out to Mandy for placing 4th and Gavin for placing 6th in the professional field. Brian Schaning 1st 30-34, Russ Kuryk 1st 25-29, Karin Langer 1st 35-39, Owen 6th 30-34 and Bill Bishop for 1st overall swim time.
Our group did camp stay for a fun night of camping and made good use of the PowerBar pallets.