This is the first of a couple overdue posts recapping a few races from this past season. This is my experience at the Wauconda Triathlon.
There was a chill in the air for the last weekend in July. The sun had not yet risen. The mosquitos were out in force. Left side of my body still hurt from falling down the stairs days prior. Hours later, I met up with my guide-to-be, Todd Nelson. When Todd and I made our way out of the parking lot at the Dare2Tri Thursday afternoon practice to test out our racing tandem for the Wauconda Triathlon, Todd cleared the gate, but I smashed my already injured left forearm into it.
Todd arrived. Sun illuminated the sky. I stripped down to my Pinnacle Performance gear. Todd insisted I relax for the swim. He would get me through it. I knew I had the ability to crush the bike and run. Time to trek over to the swim start. We would be in the first wave.
Starting gun sounded. Todd was excited. I tried to feed off that. Spectators cheered. I took deep breaths. I was nervous. I flipped to my back and started to settle down in the back crawl. It settles me down when my guides give me praise during the swim. Trying to talk, sight, and swim can be tough, but I appreciate that my guides always do this. Todd was not speaking. I tried to remain calm. Why was he not speaking? I needed to hear his voice. After some time, I noticed Todd was side stroking while having one hand on my leg holding on to the tether which was around my thigh. I realized I did not need to hear him constantly talk so long as I found comfort in feeling his hand. Every so often, Todd would express his joy. Todd estimated I was about one hundred fifty meters from the finish. My legs were tired. My arms were too. Because it always takes me so long to get through the 750 meter swim, I usually experience anxiety at some point late in the swim. My legs drag. I question whether I can finish. My guides settle me down. With about one hundred meters to go, I was thrilled that for one of the few times, I had not yet experienced a late swim anxiety.
Volunteers tapped me. Swim was done. We transitioned from swim to bike gear. Energized that the swim was over, I pushed hard. I did not realize the course had so many rolling hills. It hurt. I thought of my friend, pro Ironman triathlete, Kimberly Shah, who once yelled at me late during one of the Chicago Marathons in which she guided me, “I know it hurts. It’s suppose to hurt! Now, run!” I could feel the hills hurting my quads. I thought, “This is why I race.” We hit the midway point. The hills kept coming. Todd laughed, “Is, you’re like the little engine that could back there. You just keep coming and coming pumping those legs. You just don’t quit.” Just then, Todd said to pull back because it was time to coast into transition.
A few days prior to the race, Todd warned me, due to injury, he might not be able to keep up with my running pace. Daniel Tun said he could step in for the run. Todd and I switched into our run gear. “Is, I’m here if you need,” said Daniel. I had mulled it over while on the bike. Todd was enjoying this experience. He kept me calm in the water. We just crushed the bike. I owed it to him to finish what we started.
Hills had done a number on my legs. I started cramping. I had taken fluids while in T2, but that did not help. I ran through it. The cramping soon stopped. I tried pushing through this unexpectedly hilly run course. The sun beat down. We reached the first mile marker. People were passing me. I tried using that as motivation, but my legs did not respond. Finally, I heard someone nearing fast. I decided I would not let that person pass. I picked it up. He kept coming. I pulled away. He kept it up. I did too. We reached the second mile marker. One more to go. Todd and I pushed. That other runner found an opening and raced by me. I tried to respond. We reached a hill. I could not go. I was moving faster than at any point in the run, but it was not enough to make up the gap. Todd said, “Half a mile left. I want to experience your famous speed. Sprint to the finish.” Do I have anything left? It was time to find out. I pressed the pace. todd rejoiced. I kept pressing. I slowed down to make the final turn. Once we straightened out, I resumed turning it on. Todd cheered. We sprinted at a sub six minute pace down the home stretch across the finish line.
Wauconda Triathlon was fun. Thank you Dare2Tri for connecting me with Todd Nelson. Thank you Todd for guiding. Thank you Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring me. thank you Base Performance for the nutrition. Thank you Jenna Parker for coaching me!