As soon as we got home from ITU Worlds, it was race week again! Kyle (his race report here!) and I headed out to Oklahoma City to race the Redman Tri Half which was this year’s USAT Long Course National Championship. Oklahoma City was a cool place to visit, it’s like a little Texas except everyone is friendlier! The city really got on board with the race too, which is so encouraging to see as an out of town athlete. Much better than when the locals resent you for causing weekend traffic jams. When we checked in to our hotel, there was a big “Welcome Redman Athletes!” banner up, the front desk clerk was wearing a Redman shirt, and we even got goodie bags! Seeminly small things, but they go a long way in making athletes feel welcomed and excited about the race. Even in a non-championship year, Redman would be an excellent race. Very well organized, all details and even unlikely contingency plans are clearly communicated, and the RD and great volunteers do a great job creating a fun and enjoyable atmosphere for athletes and spectators. If it’s not on your bucket list of races, it should be!!
Swim – 28:50 fastest female split
As my wave started lining up 6 deep and packed like sardines on the inside, I chose to line up a bit towards the outside to give myself clear water to quickly get away from the pack. My plan sort of worked, I got out of the traffic quickly and saw one pink cap breaking away from the group that started on the inside. I tried to swim over to the inside to catch their feet, but another swimmer right on my inside just adamantly refused to let me swim that way and kept swimming further outside and away from the direction of the turn buoy. Doesn’t everyone look around after the start for some feet to draft off of?!? Why this person didn’t also want to catch them is beyond me, but I ended up having to stop completely, duck behind them, and continue to swim on the inside. By that time, the swimmer was out of reach and I swam solo. The swim was comfortable and smooth, a great relief that I still know how to swim strong after the previous week’s misfire in Chicago. I ended up catching the breakaway swimmer once they got caught up in the traffic of 1000 people that started within 15 minutes of us, he turned out to be a man doing the aquabike anyways so I was all alone in front of the female wave. The Blueseventy helix does it again with a first out of the water! As I got to my bike and started running out of T1, I hear the announcer: “And now here come our first women, that’s Jessica Jones Meyers in front!” Well, I’m already on my bike so I guess I’m in front, but also, why does that name sound familiar?
Bike – 2:31:01 – 10th fastest female split
So, I crashed my bike during this race. It was a pretty easy fall and quick recovery, but seems like I usually tend to crash my bike in a race about once per season. Got to work on that. There was one spot early in the race with a *really* tight right turn into a lane blocked off by cones separating it from oncoming traffic. And even though I slowed down as advised, I knew I wasn’t going to make that turn. I figured I could go outside of the cone, which seemed like the equivalent of crossing the double yellow line and might be a DQ, so I just tried my hardest to make the turn, didn’t make it, hit the cone, and wiped out. I’ve fortunately gotten good at easy landing low speed falls on my bike 🙂
The ride was feeling very easy and relaxed until about 25 miles. Then it’s like in Cinderella when the clock strikes 12 and everything turns back into a pumpkin. After 25 miles, my body thinks I should be off my bike by now and starts shutting down. All of a sudden, it felt like I was trying SO HARD and going SO SLOW. I lost the group of men I’d been following from the start. People started passing me like I was standing still. And I was 30 miles from being off my bike. I just made sure to get in hydration, nutrition, took some time to sit up and stretch out, enjoy the course and seeing fellow competitors. I came off the bike in 3rd, exactly where I expected to be, behind pro Jessica Jones Meyers and the newly crowned AG World Champion Kirsten Sass. Not a bad spot to be in!
Run – 1:45:04 – 18th fastest female split
And then, as usual, the run happens. I started running with the usual feeling of urgency of a short course race, then after checking my watch and realized that I was running at sub 7 pace for the first mile I thought: “uh oh”. I dialed it back to about 7:35 pace, but 3 miles in I knew this wasn’t going to be pretty. My legs were just not interested into this whole running thing. I abandoned the race plan (which included a negative split half marathon) and just focused on forward progress. Walked the aid stations. Celebrated each elapsed mile. Tried to smile for the cameras. My pace slowed and slowed and slowed until it was practically a zombie shuffle. It seemed like I had built up enough of a lead that I can hang on to 1st place age group. But that would require finishing, and probably not walking to the finish. I had a lot of time to be in pain and regret my decision to throw a half ironman onto the end of my season, which is the same thing I regretted doing the two previous Septembers. Will I never learn?!? I tried to convince myself that 5k to go was nothing, just jog it in! No, 5k is an eternity at the end of a half ironman. 1 mile to go, that’s like, only 8 (I really mean 9) more minutes of agony! Just pretend it’s your warm down jog at the end of a run workout. NOPE. My body had enough, full body failure, all the muscles in both of my legs start cramping and seizing up. I start thinking, how did Julie Moss really crawl to the finish line? Crawling is hard. Spectators start shouting, “She’s right behind you! She’s gonna catch you!” This woman blazes past me, wow, I am so envious of how much quicker her pain is going to be over. I stagger through the seemingly never ending finishing chute. Another woman was only a few seconds behind me and I silently praised her for not forcing me into a limping sprint to the finish line. Boy was that awful. Ok I’m past the finish line, why am I still in pain just standing here?
My final finish time was 4:47:12, a huge PR! But also the only half I’ve done even remotely close to correct distances. Wound up 5th overall, ONE SECOND behind 4th who started in a later wave. A bit heartbreaking, but also I feel lucky to have held on to top 5 after such a fantastic crash and burn half marathon. I’ve now reaffirmed 3 times that I can’t just wing it and cruise through a half ironman after a season of olympic distance focused training. In addition to learning valuable lessons about my own limits and long course racing, I still ended up on top of my age group as a National Champion! A very proud accomplishment that I was strong enough on my short course fitness to win my first National Champion title! And as a double bonus, Kyle crushed his race and ended up 3rd AG!
I’ll wrap up the season in a separate blog post, but wow, what a year! I’ve accomplished some things that I never though feasible thanks to Coach Matt Mauclair. In a huge turn of events, I actually really love riding my bike now, which has a lot to do with Todd Schoeni setting me up with a fast and comfortable fit and Chas at Sayle for keeping my bike in tip top shape, plus keeping me from any pre-race meltdowns when I can’t figure out how to solve my shifting problems by simply fixing the cable housing. And a huge thanks to the Pittsburgh Triathlon Club and all it’s members for being plain awesome. Thanks for everything from giving me a reason to show up for swim practice, to sharing all your inspirational journeys, to being supportive and equally insane about all things triathlon. You all make me feel somewhat normal.
The race was tough, but the toughest part of the trip may have been worrying that our pup Josie might get kicked out of her first stay at overnight doggie day care. She was more than apprehensive when we dropped her off, not sure she liked this new place and new people, but turns out she had so much fun she was too pooped to make it the whole car ride home! Big thanks to Dog Daze at The Big Easy Animal Hospital for taking great care of our dog monster! But I am so looking forward to being done with travel for a while! Until the next adventure…