After my coach and I met last week, I was fully ready for my race yesterday. The day before the race was great: I went for a swim and discovered the lake was not as cold as I thought it would be and that I felt great. I went for a short bike ride with my partner in crime and did some running fartleks with my puppy right after. My pre-race routine felt great. I also had a nap, read my book, and hung out with my family. It was a great day.
Sunday morning started early at 5am with my alarm clock and wishes of a happy 29th birthday from my partner and my family. I accepted their wishes, but was very focused on the job ahead: my 6th Frank Dunn triathlon. I ate some toast and headed off to the race with my partner and my puppy. That’s when the weather turned kind of yucky. It rained for about 15 minutes as people set up their transition stations and got body-marked, but it stopped for what turned out to be the only bad part, weather-wise, of the day. I set up my transition in my rain-proof Rubbermaid box (a little trick I learned last year during the wettest triathlon I have ever been in, when afterwards I discovered my transition station had went on a swim all by itself in the parking lot). I had a great warm-up and even did some butterfly to get my heart-rate up, which I really enjoyed.
The blow horn started and we were off. I tried to draft off of some big guy in front of me, but he was too fast. Plus, it was a really crowded start with everyone trying to get through the first buoys about 10m in front of us. However, after that everyone really spread out, which was also tough. I decided that I was on my own and that I would just push as hard as I could to try to catch up to someone. A guy with a yellow swim cap was my “white whale” and I tried very hard to catch up to him. I didn’t really do it, but I also didn’t fall behind. I came out of the water out of breath and curious about my time. I heard someone say in transition that it was around 26 minutes. The swim was probably a bit short, but since it generally is, I was pretty happy with that time.
I got out onto the bike without much incident in the transition area, except for having a really hard time getting my wetsuit off. Once on the bike, I pushed hard. It is probably the hardest I’ve pushed at the beginning of a bike ride ever. I did get passed a few times, but I also did some passing myself. My heart-rate was up and the first half of my first lap was at an average of 29km/hr. Considering the hilly ride and the wind, I was pretty pumped about it. That’s when things turned ugly.
I had seen a ridiculous number of people fixing flats through the first lap of the ride and thought it was curious. So when I was biking up a hill and thought that my bike was unnecessarily bumpy and it was really really hard to get up the hill I figured that it must have been a flat. I looked down to see if it was true and it was. I wasn’t upset in the least. A flat? No problem! I have fixed a ton of flats through my 7 years as a cyclist and thousands of kilometres on the road. So I went to work to fix it. I got the tube off and got out my spare. I took the CO2 pump out of my bag and heard a really big “hiss” come out of it. Uh oh. That can’t be good. I unscrewed the pump and sure enough the CO2 cartridge had been punctured. It was at this point that I knew I was done. But I looked around frantically and asked if someone from a nearby car had a pump. A guy threw a pump at me and said that he had just gotten someone disqualified for helping them. I told him that it was all right, I was done anyway, but I just wanted to get back to town. So he threw his pump at me and said, “I didn’t give you anything. Just leave it there when you’re done.” So I happily got back to fixing my flat. So I put my new tube in the tire and started to pump it up using the hand pump. I thought that something was wrong with the valve or the pump because I just couldn’t seem to get any air into the tube. This is what I knew that I was REALLY done. I discovered later that the tube had a hole in it as well. I was pretty discouraged, but decided to try to flag someone down to get a ride into town rather than walk the 6km in bike shoes.
I walked down the main street of Waskesiu with tears streaming down my face as I heard people say “Oh, that looks like another flat.” I came to my family looking the other way down the street, waiting for me to whiz by on my bike and wave at them. My mom gave me a big hug as I cried and said that I had a flat tire that I couldn’t fix. They felt really bad for me, but I really tried to hold it together. I think I did a pretty good job of holding it together until today, the day after. The day of reality setting in. I DNFed my first race. My heart feels broken, like I have been betrayed by a trusted friend. It felt like it was a fitting end to my worst racing season ever – and post-Ironman, too. My season was wrought with lots of injuries, personal ups and downs resulting in inconsistent training.
So I emailed my coach about the race and he sent me the best email that I could have received to keep my chin up and not feel like it was all for nothing:
“You may not agree right now, but I think that this has been a great season for you. You started experimenting with racing fast and using strategy, you got through an injury and toughed out a gutsy performance, and you learned to never trust your equipment. This is the kind of season that most athletes look on as a failure when it is over. In time, I think that this may be a breakthough season for you in terms of physically and mentally learning how to push yourself, developing a pre-race routine (that involves equipment checks ;), and learning that breaks are OK and important for mental and physical health. Remember high performance sport is not about being healthy (even though you may look good and have flat abs and the like), it’s about being designed to do what you have to in order to go fast.
Have some great time off and remember 3x/week is plenty. We start training again on September 29th.”
This is why I have a coach and why I chose the coach that I did. I am glad to have some time off now.