These couple days following the event have been a bit surreal. I worked so hard and built up so much anticipation, the aftermath feels a little flat. I knew I could do it, and I did. Following is a fairly detailed account of what happened on race day, and yes, it’s super long!
As expected, I had a little trouble sleeping the night before. Upon waking at 4am on Saturday, I was fairly certain I wasn’t going back to sleep. I lied in bed for almost an hour, visualizing my perfect race. According to Star, visualization is an important component of a successful race. I have a great imagination, so I took my time picturing every aspect. At 5.30am I got up and spent some time in the bathroom, making sure I wouldn’t have any problems that required a stop during the race! I fixed my hair and applied sunscreen to my face. Summer, my roommate for the weekend, had said she wanted to wake up at the last possible moment, so I packed a bag with my mini bagel and peanut butter, and headed downstairs to check out the coffee situation. Fortunately not only was the coffee delicious, but the little kiosk had a toaster I was able to pop my bagel in! I had just started to eat my bagel around 6.15am when Howell called saying he was already in the parking lot with our bikes. I put on my tri suit and we quickly went down to meet him. I tested out my bike in the parking lot since my computer had been on the fritz, and of course, Howell had fixed everything and my bike was ready to soar.
We went to transition to check in our bikes and get everything set up, and somehow I got one of the few officials who was actually checking helmets for some sort of safety approval sticker. Well, my helmet, a Trek, didn’t have the sticker, so she rather passively told me I couldn’t use it but directed me both to the expo to buy another, and to another official. I was pretty sure I could just use my helmet anyway, but would have hated for that to somehow result in a disqualification. Ladies and gentlemen, I almost had a meltdown. My emotions were already running pretty high, and excitement and happiness were rapidly turning to frustration. I knew that if I allowed myself to cry, I would really lose it, and that just wasn’t an option. After a few deep breaths and a plea to my fellow Star Runners, I had several helmet offers and we went back to the hotel to get Emily’s, who was doing the Olympic the following day instead of the Sprint. Phwew. What a doll. I brought her helmet down to transition and felt greatly relieved. I continued to drink water and my coffee, and ate half a pack of ShotBloks, too. Star did my body marking and I was ready to roll.
We took a big group photo and exchanged some last minute concerns and quips. I can’t say it enough; I LOVED being there as part of such a down to earth group. Everyone was nervous and excited, but if anybody pulled any prima dona moves, I didn’t notice. Howell hung out with us the whole time, and was super awesome in general, as usual.
The start seemed chaotic until it all began to unfold. The announcer would call for groups of 100 at a time to line up. I found my age group and the women around me were very pleasant and had a good sense of humor. Kelly and Karen were just a few people away from me in the line up, so that was really nice. The line moved quickly as each athlete started three seconds apart. Before I knew it I was at the ramp, yelling for Kelly who was in front of me, and then jogging into the water. I had tested the water the day before and knew it would feel nice. A lot of folks are grossed out by lakes, but I’ve done so much canoeing, camping, and lake swimming that I much prefer fish and moss to pool chemicals.
What happened next is hard to explain. I never panicked, but I was completely overwhelmed throughout the swim. Karen was nearby and walking some, which I also started to do. We kept looking at each other and laughing. What else was there to do?! The movement of the lake, the murkiness of the water (it was green!) and the 500 other people in there were things we just couldn’t have practiced dealing with beforehand. I grabbed a lot of feet and had mine grabbed a bunch, but that never bothered me. I did a lot of dog paddling and breast stroke, but fewer freestyle strokes than I would’ve liked. I kept reminding myself that the swim was just the first part and not to exhaust my energy too quickly. There’s a crazy tight canal towards the end and once I got through I could see the finish! I was really excited until I got caught in a current or something and felt like I was literally moving backwards. I had to flip on my back for a minute because I couldn’t touch the bottom, which was disorienting, to say the least. I knew I wasn’t drowning, but that was the closest I got to feeling like I might. I worried that my cheering team would think I was in trouble, so with that thought, I forced myself to freestyle and gain some ground, er, water. That last stretch was so hard, as it appeared deceptively short, but was much longer. I made peace with the sense that I had been in the water for about 30 minutes and I had completely blown my total goal time plus my swim goal of 15 minutes. After a slight battle with a clinging branch, I was finally being pulled out at the finish.
Perceived swim time: 35[million] minutes.
Actual swim time: 14:37
I had a gel in my tri top, which I immediately ripped open and ate. I didn’t feel like I needed it, but I opted for over-fueling, rather than risking under-fueling. The jury’s still out on whether that was the right decision. I took my time in transition and sat down to put on my socks and shoes. I sucked down a bunch of water and headed out with my bike. Howell and friends yelled for me as I exited transition. I was beside myself with excitement for the next part.
TA1 time: 3:00
Thanks to Karen, from whom I stole some pics, and thanks to Emily, who took the pics!
I climbed on my bike and topped the hill right in front of the casino. Behold, there were my parents and their dog standing smack dab in the middle of the median right in front of me! I wish I had a camera in my helmet; it was a beautiful and picturesque sight. There was a lot of traffic stopped right behind them and some asshole was laying on his horn. Then I saw people hanging out the doors of a stopped car and I realized, hey, those “assholes” are my friends! It wasn’t an angry commuter; I had four lovely ladies screaming their guts out for me right behind my parents. Let me tell you, seeing all those friendly faces made me feel like I suddenly had a jetpack on my back.
The bike was fast and flat, and a bit windy to boot. I love love loved riding on the road with police blocking traffic at every light. I played with my gears until I felt like my cadence was right and I was using the right amount of energy. And then I started passing people. Dozens of people. I made for damn sure that I didn’t dip below a 15 mph pace, but I was really aiming to stay closer to 17mph. I made a couple efforts to grab my water, but felt too nervous as I am awful fueling on the bike. Around mile five I knew I absolutely had to drink water. I considered stopping but didn’t dare lose my momentum, so I timidly grabbed for my water and drank and drank. I even passed someone while I was holding my bottle, because I had a few false starts trying to get it back in the cage.
Throughout the ride, I was uncertain about how hard I could really be pushing, because I didn’t want to blow out my legs for the run. Every time I noticed my speed dropping due to wind or a slight incline, I thought about my family, about how I’m a Korzekwa and I can do this. Around the 10 mile mark, I decided it was time to push, and brought my speed up to 19-20mph. I coasted downhill to the dismount line and again had a face full of friends and family screaming for me. It was beyond awesome and I felt amazing about my ride.
Bike time: 45:53
I barely remember this transition. I racked my bike and swapped my helmet for a ball cap and took off for the run. I had also stowed a half pack of ShotBloks and some Honey Stinger chews in my top pockets. I kind of knew I wouldn’t eat all of that, and it got in my way later. I did take my larger handheld water bottle with me, too.
TA2 time: 1:31
The main thing I focused on initially was lowering my heart rate before I really started hauling ass on the run. My dad gave me a pep talk and some sound advice a few days before about nerves and adrenaline, and not working too hard with a super high heart rate. I was so jazzed from my final effort on the bike that it took some time to lower my heart rate. I don’t have a watch or heart rate monitor (yet!) so I just did it by feel. The beginning of the run was mostly uphill, taking on the long drive we came down to end the bike. I was just barely jogging due to my heart rate. People were whizzing past me, but I just couldn’t worry about that. I ate a couple ShotBlocks and washed them down with water. Mistake. I felt full and gassy, and couldn’t really relax until I’d burped a few times later on in the run. I got surprised by one more steep climb and commiserated with a fellow runner about it! That second incline was the only time on the run that I walked.
The run was by far the most social aspect of the tri. I chatted briefly with a few people, most of whom were passing me but wishing me luck. Since I didn’t have a watch, I couldn’t gauge my speed, but I guessed I was running at around an 11:30 pace. Not fast enough to beat my goal for the run. When a man without a foot blew by me, I knew I had to ignore any minor discomfort I was having if that guy could do it with a missing limb and look like such a pro. You can probably get an idea from the pictures, but the run was fairly flat and absolutely without shade. It really got to me that I could see so far ahead and the distance looked daunting, appearing much longer than three measly miles. I ran through the one sprinkler station and thanked god for a little cool down! Right around that time a very serious and crazy fast local runner and trainer passed me, and she told me I was a rock star. That was beyond nice of her and made me feel great. Kelly passed me and said she was going to vomit, so I screamed at her not to throw up and to get to the finish as fast as she could. So many of my competitors, mostly other women, told me in that last mile that I was doing a good job or that I was getting close.
Maybe they were just incredible supportive and perhaps they could also tell that by the beginning of mile three I was limp-running. I can’t say what happened, exactly. (That sounds familiar!) My best guess is that I must have turned my ankle on some gravel during the short off-road portions of the run. All I know for sure is that I started to notice pain shooting up my right ankle, and it wasn’t a cramp or passing discomfort. I figured out pretty quickly that I was actually hurt. I had planned for calf cramps or mild joint pain; I hadn’t prepared for a real injury. There wasn’t much of a decision to be made. I just kept going. I did have some horrifying and vivid thoughts about my ankle completely blowing out and having a violent fracture and subsequent fall in front of a bunch of people. Of course, that didn’t happen, but I was not sprinting the last half mile like I had planned either.
Until I saw my dad. There he was, right around the swim start, as I closed in on that last quarter mile. He was grinning from ear to ear and telling me how impressed and amazed he was. I asked him to touch my hand to give me some extra energy, and he did me one better by running the rest of the race in the grass alongside me. I will never be able to explain how much that meant to me.
I crossed the finish line to the announcer butchering my name not once but twice. I couldn’t have cared less and threw up my arms, letting out a wild whoop. The view from those last few yards was lined with friends holding signs, and Star and Keith and other Star Runners who had come down just to support the tri group. Volunteers that must have been sent straight from heaven handed me a cold cup of water and put an ice cold towel on my neck. I was completely overwhelmed as my dad grabbed me in a huge hug, and several loud sob/laugh hybrids escaped my throat. My mom was holding a spot for me in the shade and my friends were offering me mimosas. My ankle throbbed with pain and I was blown away by what I had just accomplished. I cheered on some other group members and friends who were still crossing the finish and hugged and thanked my loving and enthusiastic supporters.
Quite a bit of time went by before I even thought to go to the results tent and get my print out. I was really proud of myself for not sweating the time in favor of simply being happy I finished. I was even more thrilled when I saw my times and realized I beat my overall goal of 01:40:00.
Total time: 01:38:06.360
Above is a record of my gut-level prediction of how I would do on each event. I scribbled those numbers on a post-it the day before the event. I’m really pleased about how realistic I was about my performance. My swim was just under 15. I averaged my transition predictions at two minutes each, knowing that the first would probably take longer and the second would be shorter. They were 3 and 1.5 minutes. The bike was almost a minute over prediction and I was only six seconds off my run time! Even with a gimpy ankle I came in two minutes under my goal. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I was hoping my total time would be nearer 1:30 than 1:40, but I learned a lot from the experience and know what I’ll do differently next time.
As for the ankle, I think it’s just a mild sprain. I’ve been icing, elevating, and taking anti-inflammatories, and it’s starting to feel better. And I did finish, and I didn’t die tri-ing!
If I have one single regret, it is only that I wasn’t with it enough to take more pictures with my family and friends.
That’s not to mention friends and family who were watching the finish line video or who were hugely supportive over the phone or online. I am such a lucky lady and I can’t wait for my next tri!