So...let's talk about this. Giving it to you straight, no sugar coating. I've spent a lot of time thinking about and writing this race report... it means a lot to me.
After so many weeks and so much heart invested into this race, Vegas weekend finally came. I knew it had been less than a stellar year for me, and I'd dealt with some heavy sh*t, but after Vineman I did my best to be a fighter and make the most of every day leading up to September -- in training and in life -- I was proud of that. It really seemed like things had turned a new leaf and I was rockin' it. Whether it would get me where I wanted on race day was yet to be determined. I'll tell ya though, I wanted it, I really did. I especially wanted to ride my Shiv like a b-o-s-s on that course!
We hit the road Friday morning and were in good spirits. I wasn't quite as loose and relaxed as I normally am before a race, but not a total dud because I was also looking forward to spending a weekend away with John, who was going above and beyond to be the best sherpa ever. Saturday, we took care of pre-race business, i.e. T1 and T2 drop offs, but more importantly, buying a coffee maker. That's it! I am fed up and sick of crappy hotel coffee makers, and I need good coffee race morning, so I said screw it and bought one for $19.99 at Sears! Once all that was taken care of, to John's surprise, I made the call to go out for a little Vegas "fun" -- PG style, of course -- rather than sit in the hotel room. We went and drove the Strip, and met with his bro-in-law, who was also in town, so they could share a flight of beers at a local brewery. I had a kombucha and water. Surprisingly, I had no desire even for a small drink before this race, but it was enjoyable to get out and get triathlon/the race off my mind.
As you can imagine, race morning turned out to be a scramble, despite having dropped off almost everything in T1/T2 the day prior. Getting into transition area alone was a cluster-f with 2,000+ people trying to bottle neck onto one little road by the lake in crap weather. Meanwhile, multiple pros rolled up in style, aka they rode their bikes to the lake in pretty sketch conditions. Badass. Respect. I took a cue from what I saw going on around me and finally bailed from the car and ran to T1 with all my gear because we weren't going anywhere. I had to get set up in a matter of minutes by then; it was faster on foot. Meanwhile, we were all getting drenched in the rain, and it was still dark. Brrrrr - I was cold. Who would have thought?!?!
(As I was packing before the weekend, I got excited thinking it would be the first time I wouldn't have to worry about warm clothes for race morning. Um, nope! Now, no matter what, I will always bring something just in case, Vegas proved that anything is possible. I think it was Susan Lacke who tweeted that it only rains 27 days of the year in Henderson, and we got one of those lucky days!)
Finally it was go time. Our wave lined up -- we were second to last -- and I found my athlete, Lauren, who was also racing and in the same wave, which was very cool. That turned my mood around and I felt grateful for that moment with her and got excited. While there was no swim warm-up allowed, they did make us swim about 100m to the start line, which helped a little.
Backing up: When we started and I hung with the pack for about 400m before I slowly got dropped and then was on my own entirely minus the occasional girl or two. I was doing my thing, and I was ok, but a draft would have been nicer :) The last wave was 25-29 males, and they caught me when I was about 1k into the swim, which was beneficial at times because I would catch an occasional draft of them.... and then get trampled. Ha.
Those final meters were tough, from 1700 on, and seemed to drag on. But I got through it. I was elated to conquer something that had weighed so heavily on my mind for so long. I'd had been thinking about this swim daily for more than a year. Getting through it was a small victory in itself! Face your fears, folks, because what a relief when you do.
The swim was one small victory, but still so much ahead. Unfortunately I could tell something was up and not in a good way. Normally I am booking it in T1 and passing people like nobody's business (a girl's gotta make up for lost time!), but in this case I was sluggish and the one getting passed.
Honestly, experiencing this bike was something I'll never forget, and I was honored to have been invited to the party. But other than the epic weather conditions on a crazy hilly course (I think "epic" is, for once, appropriate here!), the bike was a total bust performance-wise, which sucks because I thought this would be where I'd shine the most. I had a podcast recently in which the guest, Dr. Tim Noakes , said something to the effect of being able to know what kind of workout it's going to be -- good or bad -- within the first couple minutes. That was the case here. From the get-go I was just flat. Had nothing. Zilch. I wanted to give so much and it meant so much to me, but I was totally blah. Why?!?! My power meter had died, so I had no idea of watts. HRM was not working either.
On a positive note, 1) my nutrition was great and I was having no trouble taking in my Skratch and Bonk Breakers . Even when everything else is out of whack, those products hold up and do me well. Thanks, guys! 2) The Shiv rode like a dream and handled so well in those tough conditions. Never once did I feel frightened or unsure about my ride, and, in fact, the bike and all the great stuff on it was the biggest motivator to keep me going. Thank you Specialized for creating a solid bike in which I have 100% confidence. And thank you Shimano for decking it out in awesome components. Sorry, guys, that I wasn't able to perform and do this setup justice like I should have.
Last note on the bike, no big deal here, but just pointing it out for the record. First, it was long, about 57 miles. Second, there was some debate about the actual elevation gain on the course, and my Garmin had 3,745 ft of vertical and 3,003 ft of descent. Just sayin...
As soon as I hit transition I saw/heard John and the tears hit. As did the snot. I did my best to suck it up and also not let anyone see what was happening to me. I took a very long T2, taking my time to put on my socks and shoes and just breathe deeply.... It felt like hours in that tent, but it was less than 3 minutes.
There was one awesome thing in T2. I opted to wear the Hokas, left them there Saturday, and they sat in the rain. I was a little afraid I'd get to T2 and they'd be soaking wet, but they were fine, and I'm glad I wore them! Super comfy!
I made a promise with myself in T2 to get through the dang run and not DNF. It was all about finishing at that point. I wasn't injured, I was physically fine in that regard, so there was no legit reason to quit. Yea, my body was not right, but I knew I couldn't live with myself with a seemingly pointless DNF. If someone's injured, I think a DNF is totally fair, but that wasn't my situation. And, hell, the medals looked pretty cool and I wanted one ;)
I also thought a lot about everyone else who's shared in my journey (all you mentioned in the beginning here). I didn't want to let you guys down. That was tough to take. Yea, I probably should have just let go and rolled with it. But sometimes I just care way too damn much.
On that same level, I also didn't want to take this opportunity for granted. Not too many people ever get to race a world championship event, and I was honored to be involved. So, even if it wasn't my day and I felt like death, the least I could do was finish what I started.
That all said, at no point did I hate being out there, and I have to say, it was a great run course (and a well-run event in general). I think the three loops with the uphill and downhill made it very easy to wrap your head around and get through. I just simply broke it into segments and got through each part, i.e: "Ok, just get to the top of the hill, no more than a couple miles..." "Alright, downhill for a while, you can do this...." "Just make it to the turnaround by the park..." That said, I really couldn't give much merit to my splits. They were all over the place. You really just have to go with the flow on a course like this.
Also, the volunteers were superb. (This goes for the swim/bike too.) There was ALWAYS an abundance of volunteers helping and an abundance of everything at the aid stations. And I was one of the very last folks on the course that day, so I can vouch that even at the end they were still rocking out and stocked up on ice, water, food, gels, etc....
Nearing the end, I finally flipped through my Garmin screens to see overall time, which I hadn't been watching. I realized, not surprising by that point, that I would undoubtedly get my slowest half-Ironman performance to date. So what did I do? I didn't cry about it this time. I just set some new goals, and those happened to be a sub-2hr half marathon and a sub-6 half-Ironman. Those little goals helped to light the fire just enough. Thinking about it now, I guess I can just look at this s/b/r combo in Vegas as a practice in Ironman pacing for Tahoe! Hahaha...
Going into this race, I had a personal goal of going top-10 age group, regardless of finishing time, but hopefully that would be sub-5:15. On paper, I was ready to achieve that! Reality: That couldn't have been further from what happened. Life threw a curveball at me and I still don't know exactly why or what happened, but whatever, move on. I've already forgotten my end results... it's not relevant here. Many more lessons to be learned from this experience.
Once I crossed the finish, I was just trashed. Exhausted on all levels (see above photo). It took a while to find John, and before I did I ran into Punk Rock Racing Ron, who was there just at the right moment when I was alone and in need of a hug and kind words from a good friend. Thanks Ron.
John and I found each other, and he was more than supportive and kind. I'm a lucky girl. I already knew that, but sometimes in adverse situations we realize even more who we love and who loves us. Heck, he had already cleaned up my gear out of transition and loaded it in the car.... dream come true! And with that, we bounced.
I'll end with this: John asked me after the race that if I knew what I knew then -- i.e. about how the race would turn out -- would I do it again? And without any hesitation I answered a firm, "Yes."
It's the hard days that make us stronger.