Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Professional Christening

My Florida70.3 race weekend was magical, and not just because anywhere you go within Disney you're told to "have a magical day." The entire experience was new, exciting and inspiring! Even my pre-race glitches (significant bike issues, and almost getting hit by a car) couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I was the most relaxed I've ever been for a race. Honestly, it didn't really make sense...I always thought I would be more nervous pre-race as a professional, because "it would matter more." Turns out, it's all about perspective! This was another new and excited adventure that God guided me to, and I was/am excited to see where it will take me.
I awoke, at 4am (yes, that was 1 A.M. to me!) to strong wind, rain and thunder. I didn't panic, or even think of a canceled swim. It's Florida, and with 2.5hrs until the start I knew it could easily blow over. Once in transition it was dark, still raining, and still storming. While attending to my bike and setting up transition (under layers of towels and plastic bags to keep things dry), race director T. Ziebart came over and showed me the radar weather forecast. "No worries" he said, we'll get you guys in there. (a much better attitude than what I experienced at NOLA).  So, while it was still raining we made our way to water's edge. We couldn't see the first, let alone second or sixth buoy, but we were ready....ready to wait. They delayed the start a bit allowing the sun to sneak over the horizon and light our way.
A special thanks to stud/studette pro vets Cait Snow, Heather Gollnick, Andy Potts and Ian Mikelson. Each of them welcomed me to the pro field and made me feel right at home. There were a few other first timers out there, so together we kept the mood light and fun. I had never formally met Heather or Cait. These little gestures went a long way with me. Thanks for keepin' it real girls!
Swim: TYR ready. Always out that's where I started. Ok, so I wasn't "as" confident as I am amongst the age group women. So I started right behind the girls I thought would lead the pack. I was right. Within 10seconds they were off. Within 2minutes I was alone.
I am right in front of red suit girl
I picked my head up to see how far ahead the lead girls were. 3 girls ahead of me, all swimming alone. Head down, no one on my feet. You're good girl, just GO! Kick, remember to kick. Pull, hand entry, freaking go! I was working, I swear. Once to the first turn buoy Gollnick appeared out of no where. Ok, we're probably 4th and 5th, get her feet. I'm on. Go! Then she started viering to the right. I always tend to go a bit left, so this was a bit uncomfy for me. Where are you going girl, buoy's that way. To stay on the feet and swing wide, or to create my own path? (the water was very murky so it was tough to see her feet even when they were 2inches ahead of me). I stayed to my course (which clearly was the wrong decision, since she beat me out of the water. Lesson learned. check).
2nd turn buoy, bring 'er home. Go! Kick, pull harder. I felt good. On the way in the chop picked up, and I swear I saw a water snake right under me. Ick! That got me moving again. One of the buoys was a bit off course, and far right. I don't like going to my right so I aimed past it. 20feet later Disney's finest lifeguards were yelling at me. Were they cheering? I lifed my head up and they yelled at me to stay right. WTF, it's not a turn buoy. But it's my first pro race and I'm not letting something dumb take me out of it. I went back a bit and rounded the buoy. Smart? Maybe not, but I heard the same thing happened to a few others. Whatever, keep going.  When I exited the water the cheering was intense. I felt good. Thankfully I didn't see my time or I might of been pissed. Top 5, not too far out of it, I'm good. My time doesn't show it, but I was swimming well. I'm ok in this department. A few lessons learned for sure!
Bike: Alright Quarq Cinqo, let's see some numbers! The plan was to somewhat ignore the wattage numbers, and instead chase anyone ahead of me and hold off anyone behind me. Around mile 5 the first pass was made, and in case you can't guess by my bike split, it wasn't me doing the passing.
Both of us eating...I'm sure the pass happened soon after this shot was captured
Grrrr, come on legs it's like the Wednesday group ride, jump within a legal distance and hang on...let's reel them in. My legs answered with a big fat NOTHING. Ummmm, hello, I said "Go. Now." Nothing. Ok, maybe they aren't in it now, but stay positive and they'll come around. The next pass was made around mile 15. Another opportunity, ride with someone. Nothing. Without going into the details of the next 56 miles I'll leave it at that. My legs just weren't there. It was bad, like zone 2 training ride bad. The goal was to be with the group, to push with them, answer back and ride strong with them. I missed every opportunity to jump on and be within the mix. A group of 5 formed, and I was left behind for a solo session.
Run: When I came into T2 the announcer welcomed me and told me I was in 8th. I believed him, but I'm not sure why. I knew there were at least 10 girls ahead of me. But why wouldn't he be right?!?!?! I ran out of T2 like I stole something. I probably looked like it too. My hands were full of every variety of GU nutrition you could ever want. I like options ;-) Chomps, Roctane, salt, Gu Brew/Carbo Pro mush...let's Go!
 Within the first mile I dropped half my salt and passed one girl. Ok, I'll trade salt for moving up one position. Who's next. Ahhhhh, no one....anywhere. I asked a few people where the next chic was and the answers weren't pretty: "4minutes" "between 5 and 6 minutes" "it's been a while since I saw one." Awesome. Mentally I was weakening. My pace wasn't fast. I quickly learned why this run course hasn't produced any record breaking run splits. They description says there are some "off road sections." Picture a field of unmanaged grass, random divots and holes, and tractor wheel carve outs guiding the way.
My stomach wasn't happy. It was warm, but not hot. I wanted hot, however maybe my stomach wouldn't of approved to any more heat. Good thing I packed options, but none sounded appealing. My mental and physical state remained stationary...until I saw a group of girls within reach. I only had 4.2 miles to go, but I was excited to play again. "Alright Caroline, set the treadmill at 6:20 pace and go. You've done this how many times? Garmin, show me 6:20. Grass or no grass, just get-a-move-on." I was smiling again, and back to the chase. Within a mile I caught one girl. I paused for a few seconds behind her. Yeah, she was holding a much slower pace, no reason to stay here. Grass again. Ugh! 2 girls right ahead. I twisted and turned my way through the age groupers (3 loop course= busy busy!). No time to pause. I'm good, I can take them. I still didn't feel great, but passing people sure does help the whole mind over body thing. Final mile, ticked off one more. Ugh, does the run have to end, it was just starting to get fun.
Through the line, and the announcer welcomed me as 5th. Huh? I was a bit delusional, and believed him for a minute. Then I saw a slew of pro women hanging out around the finish. Unless they arrived here some other way, other than through the finish line, I clearly was not 5th. When I realized I was 8th I felt a bit sad. But once it all soaked in, and I really looked at the big picture, I WAS SO HAPPY! (yes, you guessed it, coach Chris talked some sense into me).

Thanks: where do I start! The messages before and after this race ALL mean a ton to me. I know you read various blogs put out by pro athletes, and the all end the same way. But the reason, is because the support we get from family, friends, and sponsors really means something. Race day is exponentially enhanced because of the people we share them with. So thank you for the calls, texts, and messages! 
TYR: My loyalty to TYR is firm! There is a reason 90% of the professional athletes at the start line were wearing TYR. Their increased product line this year is amazing...and I can't wait to see what they'll come out with later this year and next. Thank you for your support. I'm beyond honored that you believe in me and allow me the opportunity to promote my favorite swim and triathlon apparel!
 Newton: It's simple, their running philosophy, science, and shoes are the reason running has become my strength. If things keep improving as they have this past year I'm going to be one very happy triathlete. Plain and simple, my improvement is a testament to the shoes and Newton's dedication to speed.
Quarq: I swear my cycling is coming along. I know when it appears in my race results the proof will be in the power...the power meter that is. Training with my Cincqo has been key! Stay tuned, I know I'm going to be in the mix on the bike. Not only has Quarq been amazing, but I can already see the strength they're gaining from the SRAM acquisition. 
Thanks for reading! What's next??? All eyes are set on Ironman Coeur D'Alene. 8 years ago I completed my first ever ironman on that course. I can't think of a better place to jump into the ironman professional scene.  


Christi said...

Congratulations on your first pro race!

Simone said...

Congratulations CG!!! Fantastic first pro race!

Kim said...

Congrats on your first pro race! I read back through some your older posts about the decision making process and I'm finding all that very familiar! It's a tough decision, but it's all individual so if it's right for you - it's right for you!