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Raleigh 70.3- What Disappointment?

Disappointment is no fun. Of course, it is a necessary component of growth and life in general. I find myself face to face with this fact as I reflect on my third race this season that leaves me unsatisfied. But if you know me, you know I’m positive and tenacious, two characteristics that serve me well when examining disappointment.

Following Ironman Texas, my body relished the couple weeks of easy-going recovery training. I basically did whatever I felt like doing for as long as I felt like doing it (within reason). I’ve learned to embrace periods of recovery, especially since introducing Iron-distance racing into my schedule this past year. Once we started introducing a little focus and intensity about 3 weeks out from Raleigh, I slowly felt the “pop” coming back. Sure, there were a few tin-man sessions in there. But overall my body felt strong and ready to race a solid half.

Plans for the race lined up beautifully. I’d arranged a homestay with a friend (whom I’ve never actually met) from my days with the Wattie Ink Team. Though I’ve moved on from the team, I stand by my words that this team has created a family of lasting friendships for me. Evan Hill and his family welcomed me into their home, oriented me to the area and provided transport, food, and great company for the entire weekend. What a treat!

The Hiccup

Race prep was uneventful until Saturday afternoon, when Evan and I loaded up to go into Raleigh for meetings and check-in. I noticed the sidewall of my rear tire had a severe friction rub all the way down to the threads. Alright, no need to panic…time for problem-solving. I bought a new tire at the expo and had the friendly guys at Inside-Out Sports install it and look over my bike while attending the pro briefing. Problem solved…or was it?

The wheel/tire combo did not clear my undermounted brake, resulting in a rub. By the time I realized this, we were at the lake with just 15 minutes until transition closed for the evening. *deep breaths* …aaaaaand cue my texting/calling/help-seeking frenzy.

The onsite mechanic, Cory from Inside-Out Sports, was ready to help immediately. He laid out my options: 1) borrow a different wheel (requiring change of brake pads), 2) change out to a different tire that may allow more clearance, or 3) go with Cory’s jerry-rig quick-fix: backing the wheel out ever so slightly so it cleared the brake, then reefing the skewer tight in hopes of it holding for the 56 mile ride. I opted for number 3 for the simplification factor. It was, after all, just over 12 hours before the gun went off.

Tri-excuses aren’t really in my nature. It is my job to arrive on race day fully prepared and ready to accept the fruits of my fitness. Nevertheless, the unforeseen wheel fiasco added last-minute stress that affected my focus and my sleep the night before the race.

During my pre-race rundown with Coach Flanny, he made it clear that this race is “all about the bike,” (not the bass- sorry, Meghan Trainor). Sweet! Recent races have yielded a lack-luster bike performance, leaving me itching to ride more aggressively than I typically have. I was ready, so long as my machine was as well.

Race Day

Upon arrival at transition, I had a quick check-in with my knight in shining mechanic’s apron, Cory. The early bus schedule left me with plenty of time to ready my gear at a relaxed pace and I made a conscious effort to push the stressors of the previous day out of my mind.

The swim was murky, warm and...disappointing. I know my swim fitness is stronger than what is reflected in my race times and I’m working to figure out the disconnect (I will happily accept pointers here). I distinctly recall the moment where I noticed the group pulling away, and it was early on. The upside was that I didn’t swim alone, having led a small group with my friend and supermom Carly Johann. I’ve raced and trained with Carly before, and I considered this a good sign since we’re relatively well-matched across disciplines. Now, let’s get on that bike…

The scenery around Raleigh is spectacular, and my Blue Triad soared flawlessly through it. Thick, vibrant foliage lines the winding roads, occasionally opening up to views of fields and lakes. The rolling terrain, while unrelenting, kept me engaged and constantly anticipating what would pop up around the next bend. Another gradual hill? A sweeping descent? A beautiful reveal of the landscape? This course had it all! While the primary focus of this race was to execute a strong bike split, I have to admit the “enjoy the ride” factor was high as I soaked in the beauty around me (while keeping my head turtled, of course). It wasn’t just work- it was fun!

The flip side of such a winding course is that I lost sight of anyone ahead of me. It is a point-to-point ride, so no out and backs or multiple loops to keep tabs on the other women. Carly rode out of sight within few miles of T1 (supermom!), and from then on it was basically a solo, focused effort. Things that go through my mind during a ride like that:

(Right: Photo by Eric Reid)

“Can you push harder?”

“Turtle that head!”

“What can you do to go faster?”

“Legs are feeling strong!” (I thought this even if it wasn’t necessarily true at the moment).

“OMG, look at that lake!”

“Eat. Drink. How many calories have you taken?”

…and a variety of songs that pop in my head from who-knows-what playlist tucked away in my brain. My earworm for this bike ride happened to be Vengaboys “We Like to Party.” Don’t ask. But it kept me upbeat for 2.5 hours!

*Smash-cut: When I collected my bike after the race the wheel hadn’t budged and the brake was not rubbing. Hooray! Other than the frustration and time spent troubleshooting the situation, no watts were lost.*

(Above: Photo by Marshall Clawson)

Unfortunately, my bubbling energy was sucked out into the sweltering vacuum that was the run course. Held in downtown Raleigh, there was very little shade and we were surrounded by asphalt and concrete. A gradual, undulating climb on the way out, turn around and zoom back to town, then do it again. Thank heavens for a CLIF Double Espresso shot on that second lap! I will readily admit that my bike effort likely took the kick out of my run. Personally, I didn’t notice the humidity as being a factor but the sun certainly felt intense! I walked several aid stations to get in as much fluid as possible, dousing my head with cold sponges and double-fisting whatever liquid I could grab. My bowels also reminded me that we’d changed a few time zones in the past several days and it caused a bit of bathroom confusion…a distraction, for sure. At no point did I necessarily crumble, or mentally give in, but I ran out of that extra oomph. Another disappointment.

I finished 12th with a smile. Sounds sort of like an oxymoron, right? All of this disappointment and yet I smile because (duh, the sizzling run is over!) but also because it reminds me that I get to do this. Racing is not something I have to do, it is something I get to do. Each experience is a learning opportunity and a celebration of my dedication to this lifestyle.

So, disappointment isn’t fun and it sure can suck if you dwell on it. That’s why I’m choosing to embrace the brighter takeaways from Raleigh. I biked my strongest Normalized Power ever in a half. Nutrition was dialed (thanks, CLIF Bar!). I shared the course with a few old friends and even made some new ones. I smiled and had fun. And I got to spend time with some wonderful people on the side. After taking a look at all of that, how could I possibly be disappointed? Now, I'll take all the things good and bad from this race and get to work on improving for the next one.

As always, I’m honored to be racing with the support of my partners: Blue Competition Cycles, Garneau, CLIF Bar, ISM, Pioneer, K-Edge, Blueseventy, Tri Town Boise. I also want to thank Evan and his family for hosting me and all the pre-race support, Eric Reid with AeroFit for offering his assistance and checking in on me race morning, Antonio Gonzalez from Tri Town for being "on call," all the good guys at Inside-Out Sports and the fabulous city of Raleigh for hosting such a great event.

Up next: Pacific Crest Long Course in Sunriver, OR

(Above: Photo by Marshal Clawson)

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