The past two races were slow to get put into writing. Sometimes you have those events whereby while you’re proud of the effort, the result in your opinion is just ‘meh’. That is how I feel about both Buffalo Springs and Racine 70.3. That said, there was a similarity in both races which is something I am proud of and that is the attitude I managed to maintain throughout and how it helped get me to the finish line; in what I feel are less than stellar 3rd and 4th places, but in reality are nothing to hang my head about.
Both events, I went in rested and with a strong desire and excitement to race. I’ve done them both a few times in the past, and each one brings back great memories from when I was still cutting my teeth at the 70.3 distance. I knew I would have to swim strong and back it with a solid bike to be able to use my run for a top slot. While neither race was too large (about 8 women in Lubbock and ~20 in Racine), they both had quality fields. So nothing would come easy; but that’s good, and how I prefer it to be.
Oddly the weather at both races was ideal; sunny, breezy winds but not terribly hot. The swim in Lubbock was non-wetsuit in perfect 74F water. Racine was wetsuit legal at a brisk 60F water temp in Lake Michigan. I opted for my Zoot sleeveless, as I swam Friday and the water was a balmy 65F; I could have definitely used sleeves, as a storm blew in Saturday that cooled it off. I should have expected that temperature drop; live and learn. I got in the water 30 minutes prior to warmup and by start time, the cold temps didn’t faze me. I came out in both races a bit further back than I would prefer but still within 1-2 minutes of the lead women. Onto the bike and I knew I had to hammer down as quickly as I could; it is “only” 56 miles after all. (Ironman does wonders for your perspective!). Only it felt like the hammer was weak in Lubbock and a bit more like…uhm…well, there was no hammer in Racine. I liked both courses, for different reasons; Lubbock was a mix of rolling, some tough hills, and some fast flats with headwinds. Racine (ok maybe I loved this one a bit less) was pancake flat, many turns, some terribly bumpy roads for about 2/3 of the race; but the views took me back to where I grew up in Indiana, lots of country roads and expansive green rolling fields. I felt fairly good in Lubbock but quite awful in Racine, but the crux of both of these races was my head. I had a choice to make halfway through the bike. I could either give up because I could tell my legs were lacking on the bike (and I was quite frustrated), or I could stay positive and keep on taking it one mile at a time, doing the best I could do, with what my body was giving me. At about mile 40 in Racine at which point I had fallen pretty far back in the field, I told myself, “Three things are keeping me going right now. 1: The guy who just went in the opposite direction pulling someone behind him (whom he also pulled through the swim in a raft). 2. My Aunt Sandy who has MS who would love to be able to walk, much less swim, bike and run. And 3. My Uncle Del who was going in for surgery this week to have his prostate removed after finding cancer.” When I thought of these, I suddenly embraced the ‘stop feeling sorry for myself bullshit’, kept digging, and accepted the challenge the day was giving me; and I even went on to enjoy the final 15 miles despite how I was feeling.
Onto the run, and I felt great in both Lubbock and Racine. I started the run in Lubbock in 5th and I ended up coming across the line in 3rd. I knew 1 and 2 were about 5+ minutes up on me and both very solid runners, but I pushed with everything I had until the finish line, just going for a great run split. In Racine, it was really special to have my parents there, whom I spotted as I took off onto the 2-loop course. They have supported me from Day 1 of my athletic endeavors and here at age 37, it’s no different; I never take it for granted to have them at an event. My run legs took a couple of miles to come around, but from about Mile 3 on, I felt amazing, had a ton of fun out there, and was encouraging people right and left. This is pretty atypical for me; I am usually so laser focused, I can’t muster any words. I was so far back (maybe 10th or 12th off the bike) I figured “What do you have to lose? Run your ass off, enjoy yourself and the gifts you’ve got”, which I did. I managed to pass women throughout the run, but the Top 3 were pretty far up the road. I was excited to see the finish approaching and I knew I’d laid it all out there, despite feeling pretty awful earlier in the race, and turning around what could have been a DNF or a “it just isn’t my day” kind of race, crossing the line in a respectable 4th. To top it off, I had hoped that with these two races (combined with previous ones) I would solidify an early qualification for Kona without going to extremes (such as racing multiple Ironmans)… goal accomplished!
I believe that if you look hard enough, you can find nuggets of gold in any performance. In Lubbock it was simply the joy of racing in an environment I love (pure, grassroots, old school, non-glamourous, hard racing), and despite feeling I was ready to rock and being proven otherwise, I fought like hell on the run and felt proud of the strength of mind and resolution. In Racine it was the appreciating my dad walking me the 1 mile down to the swim start early in the morning. It was pre-race when I looked around me at a beautiful day dawning over Lake Michigan, at all the fellow competitors; namely the guy who was preparing to pull someone along in a boat and would later pull him behind on the bike (who physically could not do it themselves, but could still experience the race); and realizing how truly fortunate we all are to have these opportunities. It was the moment in both races when I knew despite all my best preparations, intentions, and hard work; it was not going to go how I had hoped, and yes, I may be feeling at the lowest of lows in the moment; but I made the choice to turn it around, and make what could be a terrible race be The Absolute Best I Had On The Day. That is something that no matter the time or the finish place, I will always be proud of as an athlete.
As always, a huge thank you to my sponsors: Memorial Hermann Ironman Sports Medicine Institute, Zoot, Hops & Grain, Road ID, Felt, Rudy Project, Recovery Pump, Nulo, ISM, Bicycle World, Profile Design, Endurance Shield, Durata Training, Zipp, SRAM, and Quarq. It’s onto the final push for 2015. After a week OFF at my parents place in Brown County, Indiana, we’re now in Brevard, North Carolina for an escape from the Austin heat and new terrain to explore. Should be great preparation for Ironman Chattanooga or Kona… decision coming soon!
Thanks for reading & see you on the roads, trails or pool…. Kelly
*Disclaimer: I have no race pics from Buffalo Springs because Derick went back to the car during the bike and took a 2-hr nap. To his credit, he had driven overnight the night prior to get there. & my father got (1) picture of me in Racine but it has yet to be downloaded to his ‘desktop computer’. So here are some non-race pics!*
Racine with Dad
In Brown County with Mama out for pizza
Derick & my nephews noodling find in my parents creek
Sharing the Hops & Grain love with my brother in law Craig
Hops & Grain cans also serve well for target practice in the country
Sharing a beer with Charlie (dad) at Mike & Angelo’s in Racine