I have this little saying. When things go wrong, blame yourself, when things go right, blame your coach.
I'm not sure exactly what compelled me to sign up for AG Nationals. It's an olympic distance race, a short distance that I don't often race. I think I knew we would be working on my run speed and thought this would be a good place to work on that in a race setting. Muddy was all for it. Muddy loves the short stuff, no nutrition risk, just pure all out speed. Go 'til you blow kind of racing.
My opinions are more in the manner of "How do I will myself to go faster than I do in a 70.3?"
The travel to the race was not so good and I blame myself for this, I should have booked an earlier flight with less risk of delay being that I know we get a lot of afternoon thunderstorms this time of year that delay flights out of DIA. An extreme delay leaving Denver got me into Milwaukee at 1:20am and the rental car counter was closed so I had to go to the exit booth. The poor night shift lady there was not equipped to efficiently checkout cars but she tried her best. At 2:25am I was finally in a car and heading out of the airport. At 2:55am I arrived at my hotel. The night shift employee struggled to get me keys because it was so late...errr..early, even though I had called 5 hours ago to let them know what was going on, and they said "Okay, no problem, I'll make a note". Finally I just started crying. The tears were rolling and I just started begging him to give me keys. It worked and at 3:20am I collapsed into bed utterly spent.
I slept until 9am and then headed to the expo to swim and bike and run and check in and what not. I ended up riding the trainer at the Quintana Roo tent because I just didn't have the energy to deal with the roads around the race site. I hung out in the QR tent most the day, with my BFF Sienna, and then headed back to my hotel to try for a good nights sleep. I got a decent 7 hours.
Race morning I was really excited. HUUB had sent me a new wetsuit because I ripped mine at Boise (doh). I really should have worn it before race day because my first HUUB had taken some time to break in, but this one was BUTTER. I'm calling it my MAGIC SUIT because when I put it on it just fit me PERFECT and felt really good in the shoulders. I warmed up in it and just felt GOOOOOOD. Before I knew it we were treading water, waiting for the horn to sound.
210 women in my age group at this race. That is LEGIT! I don't think I've ever been in an age group that large. Lots of fast swimmers as well. Now we get to the part where I blame my coach. Muddy has been scheduling lots of swims these last few months. Lots of masters and 2X a week in the long course meters pool, which is painful for me, but oh so good. Then I actually got rest on race week from swimming. That's something I've figured out over the years. I have to swim a lot to make progress, but I have to rest my swimming before race day to see that progress come out on race day.
And it did! I got on feet right away and I was such a bitch. I hit that poor girls feet every flipping stroke and when she made a funny angle I hopped on the feet next to her and I smacked those every stroke. I went from feet to feet and had to defend the feet I had claimed twice from poachers. I was more aggressive than usual and I was in a pretty substantial pack. Along the last 500 we started running into men from the AG ahead. I kept on the feet all the way to the exit ramp. Running to T1 I heard a guy yell to the girl next to me "You're in 30th" and I thought to myself "Frick, I swam bad, probably a 25 or 26."
HA! Wrong Sonja....22:42! 27th in my age group, and 149th fastest woman out of all the 1343 age group women. To be in the top 15% of swimmers in a National Championship is by far and away the best I've ever swam. So, again, thank you muddy for assigning all that yardage and thank you to the various masters instructors that have kept me working hard over the months.
Also, as a small aside, the first olympic distance race I ever did was Nationals in 2007 and I was 4th to last out of the water in my age group. That year Jenny Garrison won our age group and I was 22:30 behind her. This year Jenny Garrison won our age group again, and I was 4:32 behind her. Looking at the results from '07 there are all sorts of famous people in it (all of them ahead of me): Bree Wee, Beth Shutt, Kim Schwabenbauer, Ulli Broome, Mary Miller...crazy!!!
Oh my bike mount....oh dear. I got my shoe caught up, I couldn't get in it. It was a mess and took me so long I actually had time to think "Please nobody be filming this because I'm going to end up on a blooper reel." That mount in and of itself should have prevented me from a podium finish, it was atrocious and I need to work on those stat.
Onto the bike, my first time racing on my new PR6 I might add, and Kristi yelled that I was in 17th? or 18th? or 16th? Something like that. By 7 miles in I had cracked the top 10. I passed a few more ladies and then it was just a lot of men from the AG ahead. My legs did not feel good and I think it was just because I was trying to ride so hard. I haven't put in much hard riding recently so I know they were like "what the heck." I felt a little like a baby giraffe at that speed. I feel very comfortable in the 22-23mph region, especially on my new bike, but get into the 25-26mph zone and I'm not as solid, a bit more herky-jerky. It's a muscle thing, high watt, high heart rate thing. I tried my hardest and despite thinking that I could ride in the 1:01-1:02 range I came in at 1:03:27 which means I lost time to the leaders in a leg of the race that I was hoping to gain time. Why I thought I could ride 1:01-:02 I have no idea...delusional I think. It's not like I had any data to back that claim. Note to my athletes - SEE, even I still struggle with outcome oriented thoughts at times. In retrospect I would say that 1:03 on that day was an all out effort for me and indicative of where I am at fitness wise at this distance, you never know until you race!
T2 was smooth, thank goodness and I got out and running strong. No hat, no glasses...forgot both at home...along with clean underwear and more than 1 shirt...last minute packing! Kristi told me I was 7th in my age group and that 6th was 30 seconds up. I worked on settling in and getting uncomfortable. I felt heavy and was wishing I felt just close to how I feel when I'm running my track workouts, but instead I felt brickish. Luckily I have run several tempo runs these past weeks feeling brickish so I knew 6:40-6:45 pace could still be done. I was really hoping I could move into the 6:20ish range but it just was not coming despite me trying. At mile 2 I moved into 6th place and was looking for 5th. At the 4 mile turn around I took a split and she had 40 seconds on me. Oh dear, that's a lot, but I went for it. At about mile 4.5 I started to feel some pep in my step, like "hey, I'm feeling warmed up now." That was about the same time that I guy in front of me decided I was not allowed to pass him. I went right, he blocked me, went left, he blocked me. We bumped elbows, he yelled at me. I grumbled back, and he sped up. Oy, I really don't mean to crush your ego bud, just trying to get the best out of myself.
I pushed as hard as I could that last mile and a half and I could see her getting closer, but nope, she crossed 11 seconds ahead of me. 6th it was, in a new PR of 2:11:09. Andrea was pretty close behind me so we hung out for awhile after the race. She qualified for Worlds in Chicago too! I'm so happy for her!
Well humm. There it is. Fast, short, and really questing for just one more gear. All in all, it felt great to step out of my comfort zone, to reveal some weaknesses that I can work on, and to get a small victory in my swimming. I feel like it's been forever since I had one of those.
The race was run so well, after the race they had a super sprint and the highlight of the day was watching Jake race in that at 15 years old. His spot on the starting pontoon was next to Starky. What an experience for him. I also loved the time I got to spend with Sienna, she's my favorite 7 year old and we had a blast at the Childrens museum after I finished my race. Poor thing was so patient all weekend even though she had been promised multiple times to be taken to the museum by her bro. Auntie Sonja is always good for fun stuff like that :)
That evening Kristi and Sienna were so so sweet to sit through the 2+ hours of awards just to take my photo on the podium for all of 8 seconds. We finished the night off with burgers and I was treated to 3 hours and 45 minutes of blissful sleep before catching a 6am flight back to Denver. What a whirlwind!
Huge thanks to Quintana Roo, who really has just become an extension of my family at this point. Hanging in the booth all Friday it was amazing to see just how much they bend over backwards for anyone who rides a QR and needs help. The service they provide to their athletes at the races they attend is akin to Kona treatment...but at every race. Such a perk!
Thank you Tribella Multisport, Osmo, Huub and PunkRockRacing for your continued support this year as well. And a huge thanks to Coach Muddy who really helped me thought the last few weeks.