I have been missing from the virtual world for quite some time. This is primarily due to my completing the Ph.D., beginning work in a new lab, and training 10+ hours per week for the ITU Long Course World Championship in Belfort, France 01 June 2013. The race has obviously come and gone. The 4K swim was cancelled due to cold weather and the race became the perfect distance for this little runner:
9.5K run/87K bike/20K run
A brief view of my training since January would show you a runner who put her first love aside and spent her mornings and evenings wooing her bike. Not shockingly to me at this point with cross training, I didn’t lose any speed on foot. Training went extremely well! The day after a 4.5 hour brick, I PRed at a 10K (42:22, 2nd Female). I finished my first ever 1/2 marathon in 1:37 the day after a 6.5 hour brick feeling really good. The long bricks, courtesy of Lesley Paterson, were tough, but manageable and gave me confidence going into the championship race.
I definitely made some poor choices going into the race though. I’ll list them in order of stupidity:
- New tires. New tires that were still very tight.
- Arrived in France the evening of 30 May. Race day, 01 June. Time difference, 7 hours.
- No bike training up or, more importantly, down mountains.
What was the outcome of these decisions? Well…
…2 flats that added over an hour to my bike time.
I took my roadie because I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable climbing or descending the Ballon d’Alsace on the TT bike. This was one of my better decisions. I felt good on the bike, despite the jet lag and dehydration. The scenery was unbelievable! People were out in the villages yelling, “Allez, allez, allez!” Husband and I had driven the bike course the day prior, so I knew when I reached the village before the ascent. I prayed for an enduring spirit and let any apprehension go. I encountered my first flat on my back wheel at the base of the ascent. I struggled to get the beading over the rim and an ITU official stopped to help. The needle on my CO2 gun was bent, doh! A USA teammate passing by loaned me hers. Total change time was maybe 20 minutes. Even the big motorcycle dude had trouble getting the beading back in the rim. The ascent was no joke. It was like a death march. Everyone was just grinding up and up and up, into the clouds.
The descent was freezing and I was mentally exhausted after convincing myself to finish the climb. Once back down in the villages, I started pushing hard again. I knew my time wouldn’t be stellar, but I also knew I hadn’t completely lost ground with the flat. Somewhere around the 70K I heard the, unfortunately, familiar flapping of my back wheel. I considered riding in on the flat since there was no apparent pit stops in sight and I didn’t have a second spare tube. I finally found someone with a walkie-talkie and waited…patiently…for over 30 minutes.
I never received help from the race officials. A passing teammate stopped and gave me her spare tube. She had been injured 6 weeks prior, was freezing cold, and considering not running the last leg since her time was not going to be anywhere near what she had proven herself capable of in past races. Hell, I was considering the same now that I could tack on over an hour to my bike time. How did I go from finishing the first run right behind the winner of my age group, to being one of the last people left on the bike course. It was depressing watching cyclist after cyclist pass while I waited for a tube. I had no phone. I knew Husband would be worried. My new friend and I decided that:
YOU DON’T QUIT A WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP. PERIOD.
We decided to run slower and walk some so as not to aggravate her injury since time was no longer a focus. I was embarrassed at aid stations. The volunteers were sitting out in the rain and cold. One of the timing mats was pulled before we had crossed it (see splits below). These feelings were on the first 10K loop, when I still had plenty of energy left despite the long stops in the cold on the bike and wanted to run hard. The second loop was different.
Maybe I had become drunk on fatigue, but I embraced my place in this race as more and more people passed us. We walked a lot. I enjoyed getting to know this athlete with which I was walking. She had run some competitive races. She had trained hard. She did not give up when it would be the easier option. Although, for her, maybe giving up was the harder choice since quitting doesn’t go away. She was almost last in the world and maybe she was happy to be that athlete–the one that makes it up shit creek without a paddle. Then I realized that my teammate wasn’t the only athlete I was getting to know. I was learning that the same was true for me. I realized I was also walking with Dr. Cat Isom, ITU Long Course World Championship Triathlon (well…duathlon) FINISHER. And she is a total badass.