I have difficulty listing things I’m good at. Folding socks, esoteric “bar trivia” knowledge, and giving advice via text message are about the extent of my skills. While running half a mile through transition 1 at the Chicago ITU amateur race the other weekend, I came up with two more: swimming and self-preservation. The problem being that these things, like my other “skills,” only SOMETIMES benefit a gal in life. In that moment, my skills occurred to me more as a curse than a blessing, as in “damnit, why am I *only* good at swimming and not hurting myself? GO FASTER ALREADY.”
Let me backtrack a little:
Since Honu, I took a mid-season week off (I was supposed to “train by feel” … so I bought golf clubs), traveled almost every weekend, have barely swum (and only in open water), haven’t ridden my TT bike indoors or out, and have skipped or scaled back more run workouts that I’ve done. I was limping around on my left ankle for weeks and only got a modicum of relief from this constant, new pain the day before heading to Chicago. I also wasn’t sleeping well, and was preoccupied with “being in Chicago” rather than “racing (at Chicago).” I was stressed about logistics with my apartment and visiting parents… oh yeah, and the race.
My head wasn’t in the game. As usual, I was unfocused and talked myself into not caring or taking it seriously, despite coach’s excitement and race-specific workouts. And HEY, GUESS WHAT HAPPENED? Surprise! Everything went wrong.
Well OK, the swim went well: I started front and center, let things shake out for a few 100 yards, then followed the leader’s feet. After the half-way point (of what would be a long swim –I had it at a full mile), I fell out of her draft a bit, but continued to let her plow through previous waves, and sighted off her red cap. Dusty and my mom and dad walked along the shore the entire way, so occasionally I smiled and waved at them to my right, as the sun broke through the clouds on my left.
T1 was a long, looooooooong run, wherein I had the aforementioned time to curse myself, and a number of people handily passed me, one of whom I learned was Jennifer Garrison: a formidable ginger and former pro who I’ve raced a ton but only beat once (when she was like three weeks post-partum and I was in the best shape of my life).
I hopped on my bike and started out on the unconventional course: the amateur ITU race is NOT draft legal like the pro race is. Nevertheless, due to the expense of road closures, the course was 4 full laps: north on Columbus Drive, scooping around for about 3 miles on LOWER Wacker drive (underground), then back to Columbus. Each lap had three 180-degree turns, four 90-degree turns, and about a billion big seams, manhole covers, or potholes to watch out for. The first mile was dedicated to trying to get my power meter to work (it wouldn’t, again). By turn #1, I had much bigger things to worry about. I ran over a seam followed by a manhole cover and discovered my bars weren’t tightened down enough. They started slipping, and I started going deeper into self-preservation mode.
Quit or keep going? My superaero position was basically ruined, but I could hang on for now. If it got a lot worse, however, I’d have to at least stop and ask around for an Allen key and my day would be as good as over. I communicated as much to Dusty and my parents when I saw them (twice) that first lap.
Lap 2, more bar slippage, but still kinda manageable. This time Coach Steve was hanging out with my family, too. I waved and shrugged. Quitting vs. keep going was taking up more mental energy than it should have.
Lap 3, WAY more slippage. This was getting dangerous. I was balancing my forearms on the edge of my pads while gripping onto my bar extensions with my pinkies. My between-the-arms water bottle was going to fall out at any minute, and it was taking a ton of effort trying to hold it in place. I really needed to concentrate on, you know, not dying or losing control while braking and steering around the corners and other competitors (the course was getting crowded).
Lap 4. In a dark section of Lower Wacker Drive, I decided to ditch my water bottle. I was relieved to be free of its burden. I only had a few miles to cope with now, but it still felt perilous and like I might not make it to the dismount line safely.
Thankfully, I did make it there, (and then some). I wasn’t thinking clearly and was having trouble braking, so rolled OVER the dismount line. The volunteer told the guy behind me “dismount BEFORE the line,” and I was like “oh shoot, that’s right. Sorry!” before moving along.
Another long transition run to my spot, then out on the 3.5 loop run. I really enjoyed the run course –about a mile of each loop overlapped my daily trail from my former home in the West Loop to the Lakefront Path. I ran somewhere close to my goal pace for the first loop, let it slip a bit for the second, and the last 1.5 loops was just about hanging on.
So the good news is that I saw a ton of new and old friends all over the place. The other great news is that I hadn’t been passed since transition 1. Dusty and Steve had spotted for me, and we were pretty sure I came across the line 3rd in my age group (albeit like 15 minutes behind #1 and #2). Woo hoo! I also made friends with #4 in the finisher village. I have so much love for friendly competitors who can congratulate others and for whom I can celebrate if they happen to crush me. So, all in all and despite everything, I was a happy camper at the end of my race.
Cut to several hours me running around trying to cheer for Dusty, Steve, and anyone else I could spot, dragging my parents around, all while trying to figure out what the race “organizers” had planned for the awards ceremony. When no one handed me a trophy, I went on another quest to find out what happened, and voila, I found out I was penalized twice: once for ditching the Bottle of Potential Death, and once for rolling over the dismount line. Six minutes worth of infractions (all added to my run time in the results) moved me down to 10th place. I didn’t want to cry. I wanted to tell everyone what a dumbass I was. I wanted to apologize to Dusty and my parents and most of all to Steve for … I’m not sure what. Letting THEM down, I guess. Suffice to say, I let myself down too, but instead of internalizing it I went into self-preservation mode AGAIN and pretended (and maybe still am pretending) “I don’t care, but am sorry for those who do.” The ultimate non-apology.
So… the really hard truth is that although I haven’t shed a tear about not getting a trophy, I’m deeply disappointed in my race and that I made such stupid
mistakes choices. I wasn’t on top of my shit, and though some of that was circumstantial, ONCE AGAIN, I ceded control of even the things I COULD control, giving up before I even started.
All this said, and despite myself, I still had fun. That’s what all this is about, I’ve heard. =)