If I had God-like powers to design flawless race day conditions I would do it much like the weather in Dallas on October 11th, 2009. A breezy 50 something air temperature with a bit of rain. The water temperature as cool as it gets without being a wetsuit legal swim (68 degrees) and some chop on the lake for a thorny swim. Then, a bike course with small rollers and a head wind to polish off my perfect race conditions. But I had to laugh; as ideal conditions set me up for a fast race, my stupid back was not playing along. Most of my movements were hindered by the extreme pain of an area in my back that decided to go on strike against any actions.
Sunday October 11, 2009 5:00am
Waking up Sunday morning for the Toyota U.S. Open Triathlon, it took me a couple minutes to physically get out of bed and with substantial pain. My facial expressions contorted in an effort to deal with the white hot energy overloading my senses. My lower back had locked up the day before and now any number of movements caused distortions in my face. I could barely dress myself, how was I going to do a triathlon in a couple hours? Rationally, it seemed unrealistic to even consider it. In an exasperated tone I told Nico Lebrun (my traveling buddy for the weekend), “I’m just going to stay here and watch TV.” As depressing as that was, it truly seemed like the logical choice. Nico, “Nah, you can at least swim.” Grabbing on to this thought, some of my sorrow lifted. “You’re right, I can at least swim.”
Many of the world’s fastest triathletes were signed up for this year’s U.S. Open and I needed to race them. Olympic non-drafting races are my favorite and I had yet to do one in prime condition this year. To have such a good season end with a no-show or a DNF was eating me up. I yearned for this test and wanted the challenge; it can be so much fun to move your body as fast as you can. Projecting my mind into all the unknowns (the reoccurring theme here being my back locking up) and anticipating the race caused much anxiety. Usually, envisioning a race is pleasurable, but hobbling around and not being able to tie my shoe had me worrying. Then, a turning point; I became present, and at the moment sitting on the bus in route to the start I was OK with manageable back pain (but this small victory was due to the fact that I was not moving!?). I joked with Nico, who came to this race as preparation for the Maui Xterra World Championships with the expectations for some heat and humidity, that this cold rainy weather is ideal for racing. “Perfect prep for Maui!”
Dallas is a point to point race and after the long 40k bus ride we were thrust into the dark, rainy, and fresh chill of early morning. I felt it before I knew it. That pit of the belly feeling that something is wrong. Then, I realized what was wrong…no helmet. A little self sabotage to give me another out for this sure to be painful race? Nico too, needed a helmet as his European Metz helmet did not have the all important seal of approval sticker. Ah well, no aero helmet for me but we were fortunate to both obtain helmets from the local B&B Bike store. Thank You!
After a long and fresh warm up the pros huddled together in a tent, feeding off all the body heat to stay warm. Luckily, for me, we started in knee deep water so I had little concern for throwing out my back before swimming. I took a safe spot right in the middle. Waiting for the start, I was aware of being in a calm mindset. The guys on the far left had the best start and a good lead for the first few hundred meters. Miyasiro pulled away from everyone early on but I hung around the front comfortably. Content to be in the front pack I went as easy as possible and enjoyed the speed that we moved through the water. It is awesome; the energy your body can sustain, to move you.
Finishing up the swim and right with the 2nd guy out of the water Matt Reed, came the moment of truth. Yesterday, I had great trouble getting to an upright position out of the water. I stood up. Yes, yes, yes. This little victory gave me a huge boost. I can do this! My excitement directly channeled into more speed.
My T1 was only a second off the fastest and after a minute or two had passed Miyasiro and was riding in 3rd place with Reed and Collins just a breadth away.
Again, I enjoyed the speed at which my body thrust me through the wind. It was exhilarating and I had a furnace with ample coal to throw on the fire. I threw coal on the fire with reckless abandon. The day and half of paralysis was way too much, I felt like the butterfly bursting out of his cocoon enjoying the freedom of flying.
This was a non-drafting race and to be staying around the likes of Greg Bennett, Bevan Docherty, and Bruno Pais, with Matt Reed just off the front was thrilling for a full time YMCA employee / part time pro (expensive hobby) guy from Boise, Idaho.
Feeling strong throughout the bike I came into T2 on the heels of Bennett in 4th position. As good as things were going I still feared the bending over to put on my shoes because this was the exact motion that might make me scream like a little girl. My back was hot and a little stiff but vastly improved over my situation this morning. I ran with a big inner smile.
Feeling awesome I ran with the likes of Hayes and Docherty for a few, let’s say moments. It seemed I had limitless energy, yet I just don’t run as smooth or as well as these pure breeds. They were working way less to go faster, maximizing each foot strike, gaining ‘free’ speed. My form is not pretty, (a work in progress) and much of my energy gets lost in the ground. Only 6 years into triathlon and running with the first 2 being plagued with injury, I hope to turn yet another corner this winter in the never ending quest of improving your Tri-skills.
Running alone and focusing on quick feet I felt great but was still hindered by a stiff and fatigued back. It did throw my form off, but I was so ecstatic just to be running that it hardly mattered. And there was still the race with in the race…to hold off a mad dashing Lebrun on the run. Alas, he was nowhere to be seen on the out and back course. But he kept me running scared for ¾ of the run…thanks!
It seems once the race started Nico and I traded fortunes. He received a bogus ‘failed to stagger’ bike penalty even though he was 20m or more behind the guy. A few minutes after his 1 minute both feet on the ground penalty he got a rear flat tire. Riding Kristin Armstrong’s gold medal TT bike he had to be careful not to damage it. So he came into T2 freezing from lack of effort and wisely called it a day. Thanks for trading fortunes with me Nico…it was very kind of you.
Later that afternoon Nico vented with some world class running speed complete with 2 times up and down the 10 stories of our 10,000 room Hilton (our little bed & breakfast).
Nearing the finish (400m) Chris Foster cruised by putting me in 12th place. Chris is some kind of NCAA track star so I didn’t feel too bad about being run down by him. I did see him later and call him a bastard…with a smile on my face and only in jest. Good job Chris.
Thrilled with my finish and my season I marveled at the body’s ability to heal and overcome. Our bodies are truly amazing. Here’s to using yours and being moved!
On a side note, I may have won the triathlon, but Nico won the all important bike packing competition crushing me by several minutes complete with trash talking and a jubilant victory dance.