Thursday, June 9, 2016

Leon's Triathlon: Team Style

Sometimes it's hard for me to to really wrap my head around how far I've come in the last few years. If I'm being honest, I still feel like a novice in this sport. So when Ryan approached me a few weeks ago and asked me to race on the EGO Sammy's triathlon team for Leon's Triathlon the following weekend, I honestly thought it was a joke. 

Me? You want ME? The girl that has never taken a proper swim lesson? The girl who needs her hand held when it comes to bike lingo/maintenance because she's that un-savvy with the bike? The girl that thinks biking without socks is weird and gross and will always take the time in T1 to put on socks? The girl that STILL chokes on water at run aid stations? You want HER to race on YOUR team? You gotta be kidding me.

We're talking about a team with a STACKED group of athletes. These people have been racing competitively for multiple years

...and this is my 3rd season in the triathlon world. Competing against myself. Cue panic attack.

I'm usually up for any and all opportunities for a last minute race if I can fit it into life, but this time I had a hard time saying yes right away. My stomach knotted up almost instantly and I felt my palms getting sweaty. If I said yes, the team would be relying on my performance, something I'm not 100% confident in myself yet. I'm still new. I'm still learning. What if I have one of my newbie swim moments and completely start choking on water mid-swim for no reason? What if my legs aren't recovered from Texas? And worse, my newest struggle: what if I oversleep?

I called my better half, Rob, and laid it all out for him. His response: "You'd be crazy not to." I've said it once and I'll say it again. This man has some confidence in me that I wish I could have in myself. It was settled. A few hours later, I was registered for Leon's Triathlon (Olympic distance) as a member of the EGO p/b Sammy's Bikes team. 

{Olympic Distance = .9mile swim, 25mile bike, 6.2mile run}

Rob and I spent Saturday night in Frankfort with my college roommate and her family. We woke up on Sunday (to multiple alarms) with a pretty easy drive to Hammond, Indiana. My brother had to work on Saturday but drove down on Sunday morning to watch the race. We all arrived about the same time and I made my way to set up transition. Transition was kind of a free for all. You had to set up your bike in a specific row, but not on a specific spot in that row. I spotted Ryan's bike and plopped mine a few spots next to his. While I was setting up transition my phone kept buzzing in my pocket. 

"Come to the Sammy's tent by the water!"

"You guys coming over?"

Jacqui. She knows I have to get ready for the race, why is she so persistent I come to the tent right now? I told her to give me a few minutes while I set up transition. 

"But we need to get you suited up!"

I was doing good keeping my nerves under control until I read that text. Yep, there goes my blood pressure. So now when I fall off my bike everyone is going to know I'm racing on the Sammy's team. Great. I made my way over and was expecting to have Jacqui hand me her kit for the day since she couldn't race. Instead, I was greeted by Sammy and the team while they handed me a brand new team race kit and told me it was mine to keep. WHAT. I'm pretty sure I thanked them half a dozen times before it registered that I needed to actually go change into it.

Shortly thereafter, the opening ceremonies started honoring our U.S. Military. (Did I mention that this race has SO many U.S. flags set up throughout the race course and all over the transition area. Such a cool site.) 

Beautiful day for a race!

I listened from afar while I put my wetsuit on and tried to relax. Right before I jumped off the of dock and into the water Rob snuck one last kiss and asked how soon he should expect to see me out of the water. "Probably around 28 minutes...maybe?" 

Just a little bit of sun


All of the teams started in the 1st wave. We were a small group, no more than 20 of us (if that). So to say that I had plenty of space in the swim would be an understatement. In fact, most of the swim I was SO alone that I had to rely on my wonderful siting abilities to make sure I followed the buoys properly. On top of that, the wind was alive and made the water a little choppy, testing my "try and swim the shortest distance" skills. This will for sure be one of my worst swims. I'm swimming into the wind and probably far from straight. While on the back stretch of the course I noticed there were a few helicopters flying over head (and pretty low) when I would breath. What the heck is going on? I hope everything is ok. I reached the swim exit and the first thing I saw was the numbers 2 and 6 on my watch. I had made it out of the water in 26 minutes. HOW.DID.THAT.HAPPEN.

 Coming out of the water and feeling great!

Transition 1:
Transition was a short run from the water and I was ready to ride. I bent down to grab my helmet and when I stood up and looked straight ahead I had a camera man in my face. Oh shit, I forgot. Every year, Leon's is broadcasted about a month after the race. And right now, I was this camera mans transition subject. Now is not the time to look like you don't know what you're doing. This also explains the helicopters I saw during the swim.

Fast forward about 30 seconds. As I'm running out of transition with my bike, I notice the ground is very uneven and covered with a carpet to help make the grass-to-road transition easier. If only. While on the carpet my back tire hit a bump/carpet folding/something and essentially broke free of my hands and went straight into the ground. My bike computer went flying in the air. My nutrition bottle started to roll down the hill. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! Just like that time I almost overslept for an Ironman, my language was less than stellar. I grabbed my bike computer and threw it to the side knowing that Ryan's dad was standing there with his jaw to the ground watching my race fall apart. I chased my water bottle down and then made my way to the mounting line. I clipped in and instantly my foot dropped with no effort. My chain. Of course my chain fell off. I could see Sammy out of the corner of my eye watching me fumble to get my chain back on track. This is exactly what I didn't want to happen. But somehow my shaky fingers managed to get my chain in place and ready to ride.

 Trying to pick up some speed right after my transition mishap


Unlike an Ironman or even a half Ironman, there's no time to really get settled on the bike during an Olympic race. You only have 25 miles so you can't waste the first 3 getting comfortable. Ready or not it's time to ride.
And now that my ability to track any sort of speed was lost, I had to ride based on feel. I had my watch if I wanted to know what my average speed was, but I could never know how fast I was going any given moment. And once again, the wind was anything but forgiving. Looking back, not having my computer might have been the best thing for my bike that day. The winds were never unbearable, but it definitely caused me to work a lot harder at times. If I knew how fast/slow I was going during those moments, it might have messed with my head a little. 

The 2 loop course offered multiple out-and-back sections with plenty of opportunities to see all the spectators. I saw (and heard) Rob and Mark each time I passed through but I heard my name from all sides of the course. It was such a cool feeling knowing that the Sammy's team was cheering for me. Today, I was one of them. I truly had no idea how I was doing but I never really worried about it because I felt like I had a world of supporters. The more I heard my name the faster I wanted to go. But I never knew how fast I was going! Catch 22 ;) I saw Ryan early on the bike during my first out-and-back section. He had a couple of motorcycles in front of him as he held the lead. This kid never ceases to amaze me. Immediately following him was Alex, another Sammy's teammate. And shortly behind him, Chris. Like I said, this team has some major talent. I continued to see the Sammy's team throughout the entire ride because of all the out-and-back turn arounds.

 Just havin' a little fun ;)

Around halfway I made my way around a turn and I heard a buzzing to my left. A drone. I tried to regain the speed I had lost on the turn and the buzzing got louder. The drone was right next to my face and picking up speed along side me. Who's in charge of this thing? 

I approached transition and made sure to take my time and note the uneven ground as I entered. I glanced at my watch and saw 1 hour 11 minutes for 23.5 miles, a 19.7mph average. I'll take it. 

Transition 2: 

Uneventful. Thank God. 


I exited transition and saw Rob just past the first aid station. How'd I get so lucky? This guy literally
chases me all over the country while I race. All while hanging out the behind the camera lens to try and get the best shot. "Have a good run, Meg! Love you!" He shouted as I ran by

 My favorite part of the day!

The run course goes all the way around Wolf Lake. I noticed right away that my pace was a teensy bit faster than it should have been. I got a little excited and made myself slow down so that I wouldn't embarrass myself and flop during a 6 mile run. Thankfully, when I made it to the 2nd aid station and I grabbed a cup of water and proceeded to choke on it, there was no one around me. (As far as I know?) Once I settled into a good pace my goal was to keep all miles under 8 minutes. I really had no idea how fast my legs would move coming off of a 23 mile bike, so I wasn't sure if a sub 8 minute goal was reasonable? With the exception of mile 5 when my lungs were burning (8:05) all miles were well under 8. I approached the finish area and couldn't be happier. My lungs and legs were burning pretty bad the last few miles. 49:00 minutes even and my run was over. 

Official time: 2:31:32. Good enough for a solid PR, 2nd in my age group, and 1st place for the the EGO Sammy's team. Successful day.

Reuniting with Rob and Mark, my stomach was in knots. It took me a while to get my senses back to normal. I hung with Jacqui and was reliving some of the race and the whole time I was wondering if I was going to end up with my head in a garbage can. NO THANKYOU. Ryan made his way over to me, (he was just finishing a quick interview, NBD) arms folded. The first thing that came to mind: "But I was able to fix my bike! That's good!" He laughed at me and shook his head at the same time. Apparently we have some transition work to do?

 Winner and Newbie

All in all, I couldn't be more thankful for the chance to race with the EGO Sammy's team. I'm honored that they thought to ask me, the girl who needs to learn how to run next to her bike. I can't thank them enough for treating me like one of their own. For the first time in 3 years since I dipped my toes into this sport, I felt like all of my hard work meant something. Someone other than myself was counting on my performance and I'm positive that that small reminder drove me to the finish line faster

 Sammy's Men took the 1-2-3 sweep!

W for the team!

My biggest fan :)

My BFG brother, Mark, had to take off shortly after the finish because he had his own agenda to take care of that afternoon. He's about to embark on his first Ironman in 6 short weeks in Lake Placid, New York. His bike was calling his name. As I pulled in the driveway I saw him in the garage, putting his helmet on and about ready to take off. I made him pull out his phone because we missed out on our post-race celebration together. 

 "little" brother "big" sister

My "little" brother is turning into quite the gentleman. Always there to support his "big" sister, no matter the cost. And I can not WAIT to be by his side as he tackles his first 140.6. Not a day goes by that I don't know how lucky I am to have the support system that I do. And I'm ready to pay it back.

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