In an attempt to avoid this race report turning into a novel, I will try to get right to the nitty-gritty. However I cannot skip over the fact that camaraderie between the Team USA athletes in the week leading up to the event was absolutely vital in making this race a success. Spending quality time with friends – both old and new – made the experience one I will never forget. Gail Kattouf, Rick Kattouf, Nicole Sin Quee, Jessica Zebrak, Steve Zebrak, Corrie Kristick, Erica Ruge, Kristin Villopoto, Wayne Tomasek, Jocelyn Shilling, Kristen Hetzel, Mike Ashworth, Deepak Patel, and of course…Marty Stiegmann and Dave Tierney – it was a pleasure getting to spend time with all of you!! I’m not even kidding – there’s no way I could’ve done it without you!
Onto the race…the evening before I went into hermit mode – after eating I stretched, used my trigger point toys, then performed my ritual of painting my toe nails racing red 😉 While they dried, it was time to research the competition. Last year I was 11th overall, so I checked the 10 athletes who finished before me to see if they were racing, and who was in my age group this year. Once that was narrowed down, I came up with my goals for the runs – there was no point in setting a goal for the bike – the course was like nothing I’ve ever raced on, and I knew congestion would be a major issue. 19 turns x 5 laps, which includes two 180 turns per lap! I also came up with some performance statements to use when the going got tough – the mental game is so important! Once I was able to shut my brain off from riding that bike course over and over again in my mind (there was my visualization!), I was able to get a good night’s sleep.
Race morning – I headed downstairs to eat the breakfast I brought from the states – same thing I ate every day that week. The hotel dining room had that pre-race “quiet” and you could cut the tension with a knife! I sat by myself and ate quietly – I was feeling very calm and relaxed. Then I left the hotel on my bike, in the dark, to meet up with some teammates to pre-ride the course. We never had an opportunity to ride the course when it was closed to traffic, so this was it! We also had a limited time slot to rack our bikes and set up transition, so we had to ride in the dark. It was a great idea to preview the course and see how and where barricades and lanes were situated. I got into transition at 7:05 – yikes! We had until 7:15… Fortunately setting up transition for a duathlon takes no time at all, but I really needed to have my tire pressure checked as I was having not only pump malfunctions, but valve extender issues the whole week. I went directly to Jack from Jack and Adams bike shop and he was busy working on another athlete’s bike. I went back and forth deciding if I had time to worry about this. NSQ found me and I expressed my concern over not even knowing where my spot in transition was! She offered to find it for me, came back to report, then offered to take my helmet and put it in my bin to at least get me started – what an angel! I decided against the air check, and ran to my spot to set up by bike – all I needed to do was rubber band my shoes, and as I noticed people were still in transition, and no one was asking athletes to leave, I decided to grab my bike and run back over to Jack for that tire check. Halfway there he is running towards me with the pump – he’s lucky I didn’t tackle him with a bear hug for his efforts! Turns out my pressure was fine, but the peace of mind was priceless!
With an 8:40 start, I now had plenty of time. I found NSQ – that girl was a bundle nerves! I didn’t tell ya Nicole, but I said to myself “maybe I should not be around her right now” – thinking your nervous energy would transfer to me. But luckily we calmed you down – I’m sure the “droppin’ the kids off at the pool” comments helped, along with the horrified look on some of the men’s faces 😉 I’m glad I got to spend my pre-race time with you! Then the time came to leave the warm comfort of City Hall, strip down, warm up, and toe the line! I was still feeling totally relaxed, but took a few centering breaths, found Esther Evans, who I wanted to keep an eye on during the first run, and then we were off!
Esther immediately moved to the front of the pack, and I tucked in right behind her ( that was easy to do – that girl is TALL!). I was pretty amazed at how relaxed the pace was, or at least it felt that way. As Esther and I started to pull away, I noticed that she was breathing heavy, and I was not. I was going to use this to my advantage, and remained on her shoulder until we exited the park on the first lap. I made my move and never slowed up! It was exciting every time I came into the square – normally people see your jersey and yell “GO USA”. This time, thanks to the race announcers, everyone was cheering for me by name, and their cheers grew louder each lap. Heading out onto the 4th lap I could see my lead, but decided to turn it up just one more notch to widen the gap. I had no idea what would happen on the bike, but decided that no matter the outcome, it was pretty awesome to finish that first run in the lead. I never looked at my watch – so much for lap goals! My 38:25 was slower than I had planned, which would explain why I felt so relaxed, but I think it worked to my advantage to save some for the rest of the race.
I came into T1 and found my bike immediately – thanks to Gail’s disc wheel racked right next to me! What I wasn’t prepared for was my frozen digits. I fumbled with my helmet buckle before I could grab the bike and run out to the mount line. Once on the bike, I again struggle getting into my shoes. Lesson learned – gloves can’t hurt! Now it was time to see just how long I could hold my lead. I have two words for that bike course – SH*T SHOW! I expected the worse, or so I thought. The corners and turns were slow and congested, just like I imagined, the motorcycles were in the way – even more than I had expected. What really blew my mind was the amount of blocking. We needed to take advantage of every section where we could pass, and it was frustrating when people were taking up the lane, riding 2 abreast, and making no efforts to get out of the way. Yelling “on your left” didn’t seem to ever help, even when the riders understood English. On the last 2 laps my tone turned to pleading, and one time I even said “on your left…PLEASE“. I had to remind myself that everyone in my wave was experiencing the same issues, so we just needed to deal with it and press on. Otherwise, the course layout itself was a blast! At one point I realized I hadn’t looked at my watch once during the race, and I was going to need to eat. I look down and see 1:20 on the watch – oops! I thought maybe I was just really in the zone…but I think it was more due to the amount of attention you had to pay to that course – the only time you weren’t going all out was into the turns, where you really needed to pay attention. I was cold…and in the last two laps every time I got out of the saddle to accelerate, my calves would seize. Worry started to set in – would I dismount and totally seize? The I started to visualize what kind of pace I could hold on the 2nd run while hobbling. Oh no – get those thoughts out of your head! I started lap 5 still in the lead and decided I really need to push this last lap. I came into T2 and guess what? Calves felt fine 🙂
Heading out on that last run was all mental for me. I didn’t know what my lead was, but had confidence in my run off the bike. I just kept telling myself I could do it – just 2 more laps – I can’t let it slip away now. And Tim Yount was reminding me of this – his yelling getting louder every time I passed. I was also lucky to have Steve Zebrak on the course – screaming his lungs out during both runs – you could hear him through the whole park! I don’t know how he even had a voice after all the cheering he was doing that day – his amazing wife was out there looking strong as well. This guy could quit his day job and become “race-support-for-hire”. Really – he’s got it down. Heading out on the 2nd lap I saw Gail was right behind me and she was moving! I was so happy to see her, but realized I really needed to push this last lap. I also knew in the back of my mind that there could be a fast girl or 2 in the 30-24 age group that started behind us. Plus I didn’t know the finishing time of the first heat. I was nowhere near safe – no letting up. I crossed that finish line feeling like I left it all out there – and waited for teammate Gail to come in 2nd. We had it – a dominating 1-2 in the 35-39 age group. Then it was time to wait…I missed the first finisher of the 30-34 age group, so still had no idea if I had the winning time. It wasn’t until hours later that the results were posted in City Hall. I did it! 13 seconds faster than the winner of the 30-34 age group. Phew – that was close! And now we got to see how many of our teammates medaled as well. Kristin Villopoto dominated her age group and took the gold – amazing performance after a very challenging week! Gail and Nicole both took well-deserved silver medals. I never got to see Kristin on the course, but seeing Gail and Nicole looking so strong was so motivational – what an awesome group of ladies!
Again, I cannot give enough thanks to my awesome teammates who all raced their hearts out along with me. And even more so, their families who came along for support. When you come to these races alone, having others out there cheering for you makes all the difference! I also need to thank all of my friends, and especially my amazing family, who have supported me the whole way. They had to deal with me through all of the ups and downs I suffered after my injury, and my goal was to make you proud! And I cannot forget to thank my gracious sponsors who supported me throughout my season – Kline Process Systems, RMK Solar, and Gretna Bikes – who kept my bike in top racing shape! And I cannot forget to thank Deepak of Premium Plus Sports for always making my travel stress-free. Finally, I need give major props to Jack and Joe of Jack and Adams bike shop, who provided phenomenal service to the Team USA athletes!
10K – 38:25
T1 – :46
37.5k – 1:05:15
T2 – 1:21
5k – 20:16
Finishing time – 2:06:01