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Pacific Crest Provides The Gift

Every triathlon season, I return to Pacific Crest Weekend Sports Festival in Sunriver, OR with warm-fuzzies and an undertone of excitement. Though I live in Boise, this race has come to feel like a hometown event more and more each year.

One of the best things about this weekend is the ease of travel. It’s only about 300 miles from Boise, and while 5+ hours on the road can drag, it certainly did not with my road trip partner and friend, Sarah Barber. A few other Boiseans joined us at a rental house in Sunriver just minutes from the village and all the goings-on. One might expect nerves to be a bit frayed with so many tri-geeks under one roof, but our house was upbeat, helpful to each other and well-nourished (Brian, I think you missed your calling as a dietitian!)

In the weeks since Raleigh, I’d been working with the awesome folks at Tri Town, K-Edge and TorHans to get my TT cockpit re-vamped for Pacific Crest. It came together beautifully! The anticipation of zipping through the picturesque, challenging bike course had me positively giddy. As I spoke with MFMG the day before the race, he asked how I was feeling. I said, “Let’s do this! Fire that gun!” He replied, “That’s what I like to hear!” Game face = CHECK!

With the sun barely peaking over the mountaintops, T1 was rife with goosebumps, and Wickiup Reservoir was buzzing with nerves, smiles and chatter as the athletes prepared for their day. I loved seeing so many familiar faces, whether it was other Boiseans, fellow competitors from years past or new acquaintances at the water-fill station. It’s a perfect blend of pump-you-up energy and calming camaraderie.

From the sound of the gun, the alacrity and positive energy powered every motion. This is what I love! Thankful that I finally got to wear my Blueseventy Helix, I felt strong and relaxed the entire swim. Transition went smoothly, and I heard Sarah call out that I was within a minute of the leaders.

Once I was pedaling aboard my Blue Triad, I became laser-focused on catching said females. My new setup worked flawlessly, and I was able to maintain a strong but controlled effort the entire ride. I had the pleasure of leap-frogging a little bit with Laura Coombs, whom I had heard was riding solidly this year. Turns out she was the perfect rabbit to keep me engaged on the bike. We rolled into T2 in close proximity.

As I readied my head for the run, I heard “second female” upon exiting T2. I had just passed Laura in transition…so that could only mean one thing: Kinsey Laine. I had chased her all day at this race in 2016, and she’s no slouch. I know she’s scrappy and gutsy, which can be a lethal combination in a race. Here we go…

Some races have excitement worth reliving on each leg. Others are somewhat uneventful all the way through the finisher’s chute. Pacific Crest came down to a specific point on the run; one that has been pivotal for me each time I’ve done this race. The windy, tree-lined nature of the run course provides little opportunity to spot your competition unless she’s directly in front of you. I kept hearing “Less than a minute!” during my relentless pursuit. About 5 miles in, I finally spotted Kinsey on the trail ahead.

It’s kind of odd--in the instant before the pass, there are a dozen fleeting thoughts that hit all at once. Confidence surges from the fact that I’ve run down my competition. But there’s also some uncertainty- how will this unfold? It took so much effort to get here; do I ease off a bit and collect myself, then make the pass? Keep the momentum churning and blow by? How’s she feeling? I really hope she’s hurting as much as I am…

As I reached her shoulder, we sort of grunted our “good jobs” to each other as I edged ahead. To my surprise (and chagrin) Kinsey matched my stride and hung on my shoulder. This was not in the plan. Pass with AUTHORITAH!

This. This is the moment when the limits of fitness encounter a crossroads with the desire to win. This moment can’t be replicated in training- it only emerges in racing, when you have to look yourself square in the eye and be completely at peace with giving everything you can and possibly realizing it still isn’t enough. This kind of vulnerability doesn’t come often, and there’s no way to really prepare for it.

We both ticked up the pace for a short while until I heard her footfalls drifting farther and farther behind me. The contest was brief, but enough to fuel the fire in my belly to keep digging all the way to the finish. I respect Kinsey’s feistiness and her athletic abilities enough not to get complacent in the lead. And let’s not forget the entire field of other strong women who might have been closing the gap.

The rest of the run was a blur of seeing red with the occasional vocalization to the dear volunteers handing me water and ice. I recall the cyclist leading me around the course pointing to the Mile 12 marker and saying, “Start celebrating.” Not a chance. I was all business until reaching that finisher’s chute, not even allowing a quick glance behind to spot anyone on my heels. The veil of disbelief finally lifted once I crossed under the arch to the cheers of the crowd and hearing the words, “3rd year in a row!” What a feeling!!

When Matt read my Raleigh 70.3 blog, he had said, “I don’t think you dwell on the disappointment of the race…but it will be nice for you to have something else to write about next time.” Man, was he right! And he usually is right about this kind of thing but don’t tell him I said that. ;-) This race was the reward I’d been seeking all season long. The win is awesome. The 3-peat is incredible. But to be given the chance to delve deeper than the mind and body says you can go, to gamely expose everything you can possibly give regardless of the outcome- this is the true gift.

Thank you to all of the race organizers, volunteers and spectators! I couldn't do this without the support of these awesome companies: Blue, Garneau, Blueseventy, ISM, K-Edge, Pioneer, CLIF Bar, Oakley, Tri Town Boise, TorHans, Vittoria Tires, Black Dragon Racing

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