Having done the Quassy half distance three times, I was anxious to see what the Olympic had to offer. In theory, you think to yourself that “shorter is easier” but that’s not the case when your goals are to be in the top 10 or podium as an age grouper. I wasn’t sure what my body was going to do having come off a week of stomach flu and not eating as ideally as I should be leading into a race. With that said, I also knew that this was not an ‘A’ race, rather a test of fitness. My race plan was as expected:  “go hard, then harder then almost die, but don’t” and I did just that.

The swim is the hardest part of the race for me as I have been dealing with some hefty anxiety over the past few months after nearly drowning in the deep end at Columbia Masters Swim. I have this problem with swallowing water down the wrong tube that causes my throat to tighten to the point that I cannot breathe. Not breathing naturally leads to fear of death which would result in no more puppy time with Frankie or pizza with friends. Certainly not an acceptable thing to happen to say the least. With my nerves running high, I stepped onto the beach and waited for my wave to start. I positioned myself right in the front, to the right. I sight left, so I like to keep the other swimmers to my left for lazy steering. I also find it useful to let others kick the sh*t out of me in an effort to get angry so I race harder. Ok, So that last bit isn’t really true, but I find getting out in front of the other swimmers helps to avoid the “being swam over” part of the swim start.

As we ran into the water, I quickly did the dolphin dance move, took a few punches and kicks to the face and jacked my heartrate into Z5 with very little effort! My anxiety began only a few minutes later where I had to roll onto my back, grip at my wetsuit and slow my breathing down. This I had to do at nearly all swim buoys on the course. I would take a small sip of water to help with being thirsty in the water and by stopping to do this, it would ensure that I wouldn’t choke. The only downside to this, it likely cost me 2-3 minutes, easy. After the first red buoy, I was able to get into my zone, and stretch my stroke out to be long, strong and relaxed. I drafted a little bit but got annoyed with letting slightly slower people set the pace. My entire goal of the swim was to not die so I could see my Unicorn at the exit and when I did, I felt like a million bucks! My time was 3 minutes slower than I had hoped, but I was happy to have completed it without choking or dying.

The transition surface really sucked. I think that running down 5th avenue in Brooklyn may have felt just as awesome on my feet, which undoubtedly slowed me down by at least 20 seconds. I found my hog, saddled up and was on my way for the bike portion.

Ah the bike (aka snack time!). I was excited to hop on and with permission, let my heart rate ride in Z4a. When I start any ride during a race, I always pick a target and mine had QT2 written all over her and blonde pigtails. I wasn’t about to let the pigtails beat me. I was able to fall into pace and target hr relatively easy and stuck to my nutrition plan. I spent the majority of the ride playing tag team with the pigtails and another girl. At one point I decided to match their gearing in an effort to stay with or slightly behind them. Putting myself ahead of them was proving to fatigue myself and I had full confidence that if I kept both in my view, I’d catch them on the run. I climbed the hills with some surprised strength (thank you Yung Hae and Laura!) and was able to destroy the downhills with confidence and stellar speed. Unlike the half, I knew I had to go much harder but still be smart with just how hard. Coming into transition, I was slower than I had hoped, but considering the course, I was happy with the practice I had in Z4a on the bike. fine dining on the bike included: caffeinated Shot Bloks and a double espresso Powerbar gel.

Ah the run. My baby. The only part of the race I truly take personally. The pigtails had come off the bike before me, so my initial goal was already in place. I lost a few seconds by putting a shoe on with no sock (definitely couldn’t blame my dog for taking it this time as it was underneath the towel and not in Brooklyn). I quickly got my stuff together and was on my way. I was excited to execute some of the new race tactics Erik had worked with us earlier in the week with running hills hard and running down the hills fast. My first 2 miles were pretty damn fantastic and I have to credit the pigtails for motivating me as I clocked both under 7:00/mi pacing. I not only smoked the pigtails, but the other girl I saw on the bike. I kept my stride nice and short and shoulders relaxed. On the hills, I dropped my pace, but not my HR and refused to walk at any point. I knew my uphill miles would be about a minute slower and they were, 1-1:30 slower, which was ok because even after the slower ones, I was still able to pull pace back down below a 7:00/mi pace. Because it was a shorter run, I opted to not really stop for liquid or snacks along the way. At mile 2, I took a sip of water and at mile 3 I took in some Gatorade where I had the infamous choke grab hold of me, but I was able to quickly tackle it and only lost about 10 seconds of fearing I’d die.  The remainder of the race, I was only passed by 1 person, a guy who smelled just fantastic and managed to move up 10 spots in my AG to snag 6th of 48 women. For me Team TB3 played a HUGE and important role with my run. I told myself to think of the woman in pink socks as Demetra and worked to catch up with her throughout the 6.2mi. By the end, I missed her by just 10 seconds, but she kept me going so thank you Demetra for being there in spirit.

I crossed the finish line and helped myself to a hot dog, 3 cups of orange pop, a soft pretzel and a shower.

All in all, while this wasn’t a day to set an Olympic PR, but I couldn’t have been happier with my performance, especially the run. Considering how tough the course was, 4 of the 6 miles were below a 7:00/mi. At no point during the race did I think to myself that I couldn’t finish strong and felt strong throughout despite spending most of the entire run in Z4b and Z5. The training over the past few months and weeks paid off in this race in that I can see my run has gotten much faster despite feeling like all the Z2 work was slowing me down. I was much more confident on the bike that helped me build a strong mental game for the run. I’ve got Syracuse coming up next in a few weeks and I’m beyond words excited to race a whole lot of downhill on both the bike and the run.