With the dwindling opportunities for racing on the east coast and North America that comes with the arrival of fall, I opted to race back-to-back weekends for the first time. What also went into the decision was that it made some logistical sense to do two races in New England; I have a handful of friends I could crash with as I made my way from New Hampshire to Maine so I would not have to make two trips. Though, in keeping with the trend of the season, I dragged my feet in pulling the trigger to sign up for the races, but I eventually registered for Timberman 70.3 and Rev3 Maine without giving much thought to the mental and physical demands of racing two weeks in a row.
In reality, it was not that challenging, at least it was not as physically challenging as it could have been. I was tired after completing my longest race in 9 months, but I was able to rest and relax, and also sleep considerably more than usual, the week in between. In addition, my legs were not feeling all that beat-up after Timberman since I was not able to run to my full potential. My neck on the other hand did not hold up as well and I tried my best to give it some TLC to reduce the stiffness and swelling, and improve function before I had to go back out and test my limits again. On the other hand, it was much more of a trial to bounce back mentally from the disappointment of Timberman. Though my mood improved each day, I still experienced highs and lows from the lingering feeling of failure. I struggled to forgive myself and accept that, while I was doing my best, my body could not do what I was expecting it to do on race day. It is obvious that I am just not back to my old self since the injury setback in November. Apparently it is harder to come back from a fractured vertebra and head injury than I thought it would be.
I did manage to come around and shift my focus to the next conquest, in large part because of all of the love and support I received from my friends, family, and fellow athlete-warrior friends. Seriously, thank you for lifting me up and making me feel great when I was down in the dumps.
I was still feeling some anxiety and doubt when I arrived in Old Orchard Beach on Friday, but I felt better after getting in some short workouts in the salty sea air, and after indulging in a delicious lobster dinner. When in Maine!
What also helped to ease my mind and alleviate the pressure I was putting on myself, was deciding that this would be my last pro race of the 2016 season. I felt at peace with this decision, which had been in the back of my mind the whole week. I also resolved that no matter what the outcome on race day, I would have done my best and that would be enough.
When I woke-up on race morning, I felt relaxed and in control of my nerves. My nervous energy began to rise as I made my way to the race and was setting-up my spot in transition. On my warm-up run, I felt the best I had all year pre-race, but I did not make much of it since I have learned over the years that how I feel on a warm-up often does not correlate with race performance.
The ocean was fairly smooth and calm; the day could not have been more idyllic. With 10 minutes to go before the start, I entered my zone. When the horn sounded, I was off and had a great start running into the water. With my speedy start, I was uncomfortably in the mix with the other women. There were not too many waves, but it was hard to see to buoys with the beams of light from the rising sun in our faces. I had planned out my course to the left of the first sight buoy and straight toward the first turn, but then I felt everyone else going out to the left. I panicked and second guessed myself, and began to lift my head every stroke trying to find the buoy. The swim support on paddle boards and jet skis were a little bit too spread out and this only added to the confusion, but eventually they pointed everyone in the right direction, though I had mostly stayed on the course in the brief mayhem.
Soon enough I settled in and was swimming solo, but was content with that situation. The only other mishap was getting a bit off course again when the tide pulled me toward the shore; I also misjudged a sight buoy for a turn buoy. Overall, not a bad swim for me, and this actually is my second fastest Olympic distance time. Progress!
I felt great starting off on the bike. My adrenaline was high, and surged each time I had to dodge a car or make my way past the age groupers racing the half-distance race. With a small pro field, the officials are able to pay more careful attention out of the course, between passing the half-athletes and being caught by men in the Olympic race, I had to be particularly vigilant about the 10x2 meter draft zone.
I think I burned too many matches in the first few miles on the bike and I faded toward the end, but fought to try to keep myself in the race.
It was such a relief to not be facing the same struggles as I had faced the weekend before when I headed out onto the run. And for the first time all year I felt like my run was coming together on race day. Though I was solidly in fourth, not really racing racing, I was finally racing. I might have even cracked a smile or two out there.
At the end of it all, I am pleased with the outcome of the day. If I stay within myself, and not compare my performance with that of the other athletes or compare it to the “old Emily,” I am happy with my race in Maine. It still kind of felt bittersweet, and I teared up when telling my friend I was happy about how the race went. So many emotions of feeling like I had come a long way in the past 9 months, only to still come up short and have a long way to go.
Thanks to Rev3 for putting on another great race! It was a fun weekend of racing, eating lobster, meeting internet friends in real life, catching up with old friends, and spending a little bit of time relaxing on the beach. Also sending much gratitude to all of my hosts over the week, the Puff family, Brian, and Talia; this would not have been possible without your hospitality.
The journey will continue, and up next will be the Skylands Triathlon, a local New Jersey race. I am not yet sure what will follow. I have been taking a little break from a structured training schedule this past week to catch-up on sleep, alleviate the fatigue of racing back-to-back weekends and spending 10 days on the road, and hopefully will retrieve my motivation to get back after it again. We are restructuring my training schedule going forward as well, since I am feeling like my body is still in recovery mode and not able to take on the same training load it has previously been adept at handling. Though I’ll hopefully find my groove again soon.
Onward and upward.