Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities: Nationals and Pan Ams Race Recaps

Hello readers! The off-season is finally here and after literally hundreds of hours of physical therapy and doctors appointments I am happy to report that my fitness is back on track as I eagerly anticipate the start of the 2011 racing season early next year (after some down time that is).

Coming off my injury, I decided to race the National Championships in Tuscaloosa, Alabama as well as the Pan American Championships in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Here's a recap of how both of those races panned out for me.

As I previously mentioned, the race in Alabama was held at the same venue used for Nationals in 2009. It's amazing how much less stressful a race seems when you can visualize the course and almost do a mental walk-through of every twist and turn. This year's race boasted a quality field of Americans, Australians, and Canadians, some who were fresh off competing in this year's World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. In the swim, I was able to maintain a good position throughout and posted my fastest swim of the year, almost breaking the 19 minute mark!

As a result, I came out with a bunch of girls and our pack eventually turned into the main chase pack. The bike course was an 8 lap criterium-style course, and included one significant hill per lap. I was riding easy in the group until the hill on the 4th lap when I dropped my chain on the hill and had to get off my bike to put it back on. Once I started up again (not fun going up a hill with no momentum) I sprinted for my life trying to chase back down my group. I got within 200 meters at one point, but was never able to regain contact with the pack. I soloed most of the rest of the bike until I was caught by a group of 3 girls during the last half lap of the final bike lap.

When I hopped off the bike and started the run leg, I immediately tried to put in a surge and get my legs moving at a quick turnover. However,after about less than a mile into the race, my body started shutting down and instead of thinking about picking up the pace, I started wondering if I could even finish the race. I slowed to almost a jog and decided to keep moving. Then, near the end of the 2nd lap, I started getting chills (with temps in the mid 90s) and was having hallucinations that trees were running towards me... so, once I passed the next water station, I decided to give my body a break. I stopped, drank 4 waterbottles and put an ice bag over my head. A couple minutes later, I continued on, feeling much better. I think my first 5k was about 27 minutes with the 2nd 5k at around 21 minutes - nothing spectacular but I was just happy to finish and survive the day. I could've easily dropped out after 5k but I strongly feel that if you're not injured or have some other mechanical problem you should finish out of respect to your competitors as we've all worked so hard to get to this point. Anyways, this was obviously not the result I was looking for coming off the injury, but I was excited knowing that I'd finished without pain in the foot I've been working so hard to rehab all summer. Also, big thanks to my momma for being there to support me through this difficult result! Love you Mom!

So,my next stop was the Pan American Championships in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The race looked to be a repeat of the weather conditions in Alabama, and this time I was prepared, eating tons of salt during the day leading up to the race and fueling up with an extra Power Bar gel during the race - no heat stroke this time! The women started just before noon as we hopped from the pontoon into the sea and executed a deep water start (the water was a little too shallow for diving). I got off to a great start, trying to stay in the draft of super swimmer Sara McLarty who was lined up next to me for the start. I settled into a good rhythm and what I felt was a good group for the first section of the 2 lap swim. Going into the turn to start the 2nd lap of the swim, I got a little lackadaisical with my sighting, following the feet of the girl in front of me and not really sighting for the buoy and a couple seconds later realized that we'd passed the buoy and gone off course a bit. Yikes! I turned around, sprinted back to what I thought was my original group and finished the swim.

As I ran out, I realized I was somewhere near the middle to back of the group and knew I'd have some work to do on the bike to catch up. I worked with a group of 7 for most of the super technical bike course (some was through dirt and cobblestones!) and we entered the 2nd transition about 3 minutes down to the leaders.

Just like Nationals, I took the run out pretty hard and actually had the energy to maintain it this time around. And, once again was SO SO thankful that my foot didn't hurt :) It was definitely an energy booster on the run to see my American teammates Gwen Jorgensen and Jill Petersen fighting for spots on the podium! I was able to chase down about 10 girls during the run portion and ended up as the 15th elite female, earning a couple of Olympic points too!

Thanks to everyone who helped me get through this difficult season! My family, friends, coaches, and sponsors are second to none and I honestly couldn't make it without each and every one of you! I look forward to the 2011 race season and some exciting changes... stay tuned for those... until then, wishing everyone a blessed fall!