Having missed a bunch of east coast races with professional fields in May and June because I was not ready to compete at a high level just yet, Rev3 Williamsburg seemed like the perfect choice of races. It would fall right after a vacation at the lake, it was within driving distance, and I had a homestay with family friends. I was also very much looking forward to racing a Rev3 event, as they have demonstrated that they are committed to the professionals in the sport, after bringing back prize money with a unique prize purse structure, as well as engaging in marketing efforts devoted to increasing media exposure for the professionals in the Rev3 races. All awesome things, especially for a new and developing pro like myself.
I drove down to Williamsburg the Friday before the race after spending the previous 10 days at the Lake in the Adirondacks, where I completed some of the biggest training days and hardest workouts so far this year. The Adriondacks are the perfect place to train with scenic riding on great roads, the lake for open water swimming, and plenty of places to run. I also sleep incredibly well at the lake house, as it is cool, dark, and quiet, and I took advantage of this opportunity to catch-up on sleep as. I headed down to Williamsburg feeling confident in my training and fairly well rested, which, all things considered, should have been a killer combination leading up to a race.
I was lucky to be able to stay with some family friends, Anne and Ron Grossman, who lived in my hometown before retiring to Virginia 10 years ago. My mom practiced medicine with Ron for 20 years, and Dr. Ron took care of me when I was injured as a high school runner; and Anne was my mentor when I was confirmed at our church over a decade ago, so it was wonderful to be able to stay with them and catch-up. I brought them some delicious Jersey corn and tomatoes, since Virginia corn doesn’t hold a candle to the corn from the Garden State. The produce was a hit, so I highly recommend bringing some fresh local goods for your homestay family. #protip
The day before the race, I went about my usual pre-race routine consisting of short workouts, organizing my race gear 18 times, resting, and hydrating and eating well. Also on the docket was the pro meeting and my first ever pro panel! It was a hot and humid day, and because the pro field was small we were able to meet in a very posh and air conditioned RV.
So the pro field was small, but I did not know how small until everyone arrived at the meeting. There would just be five of us, and with the $7500 prize purse paying 5 deep, everybody wins! Or at least would walk away with a paycheck. This was a huge relief, and while I was feeling fairly confident, I still had my doubts since I am still really new to the professional scene, and tucked away in the back of my mind was the realization that I am still not quite back to my old self.
Race morning brought the usual nervous anticipation. Just like the pro meeting the day before, I was the first to arrive in transition in the morning. I had plenty of time to kill so I putzed around setting up my spot before going on a short warm-up.
When enough time had passed, I headed over to the swim start, and had my Sherpa, Dr. Ron, zip up my swim skin before I got in to splash around a bit. The water was as warm as bath water.
The five of us were called to the start, and a strong current kept pushing us forward past the start buoy so they kept calling us back. I did my best to tread in place without wasting too much energy. Finally the horn sounded and we were off. I tried my very best to jump on feet and I was successful for about 50 meters, then said feet were lost. Oh well, I thought, just do your thing.
Swim, swim, swim, sight. I underestimated the current going around the first turn buoy on the L-shaped course, and ended up getting myself wrapped around the rope anchoring it to the murky river bottom. So not a pro move. I untangled myself and kept on swimming. I did not realize how quickly the river current was pushing me along to the final buoy; the swim did not really feel much faster or shorter than usual. After another snafu, when I tried to go up the wrong ramp, I was out of the water. As I ran toward transition, I could hear the announcer proclaiming that everyone else was on their way out of transition and onto the bike.
“Don’t get flustered, don’t get flustered. Do your thing. Do your thing.” I was saying these phrases over and over in my head. I also was laughing at myself for one of the responses I gave during the pro panel the previous day: “Don’t lose it on the swim, and win it on the run,” was my reply to what my race day mantra would be. Well it sure looked like I had lost it on the swim.
The first few miles of the bike I tried to focus on brining my heart rate down and settling in. Neither of these things seemed to be happening. By the time I made the first turn, I knew I was not going to hit what I had set as my goal power for the day. I was feeling off, but resolved to keep fighting. I was getting paid to do this after all.
I was passing the age group athletes competing in the half for the first part of the course. The moto with the camera pulled up alongside of me a couple of times, which was cool, but I felt inflicted with a bit of imposture syndrome, especially since I was handily in last place without another pro women in sight. When I turned off to follow the Olympic course it was a very lonely ride back to transition. I tried my best to keep the positive self-talk flowing, but not gonna lie, I was feeling a little bit embarrassed, in addition to feeling less than great in general. As I was crossing back over the bridge, I saw Laurel heading out on the run with Erin hot on her heels. I was in no man’s land.
When I rolled in to transition, I tried to fake a stoic laser focus, so as to not appear as if I had any realization that I was not really in the race. Just before I headed over the bridge, Taylor, a fellow Duke Alum and husband of one of my Duke teammates, Esther Vermeer, told me my deficit. I gave him a thumbs up, but I honestly did not think I would be able to make it up. My legs were not quite their usual speedy self. But when I crested the top of the bridge I could see Bec and Julie up ahead. Though I was moving at anything but a blistering pace, I was chipping away and making up ground. I almost could not believe it, as my legs were hardly cooperating. I kept the pace steady and made my first pass just before the turn around. This boosted my confidence and I set my eyes on the next one.
With less than two miles to go, I moved into 3rd place. Fueled by the cheers and encouragement of some of the age group athletes, especially Tan, Ed, and Kristen, inspired me and propelled me forward. I tried my best to kick it in at the end, but it just was not there. Though it was not a pretty race or a first place finish, I felt compelled to raise my hands in the air as I approached the finish line, to simply praise the fact that I had started and finished another race. Finishing on the podium, while a reasonable expectation, still felt like a bonus on that day.
Though I was not overly pleased with my race, I still felt proud that I had stayed tough and not given up even when it looked like I was out of the race. I also have to be happy with the result of finishing third, even though I am not 100% recovered from the neck injury. Not too shabby and certainly a little boost of confidence as I keep chipping away, and slowly but surely gain fitness and prepare for some more racing!
Overall it was a weekend filled with highlights, from seeing Anne and Ron and the Cassimatis family, to finishing on the Podium, and from meeting social media friends in real life to meeting and interacting with the other professional women. The latter is something I had kind of felt like I had been missing out on having not been able to race much the past year, so it was awesome to finally get to meet some fast, friendly, and all around amazing women.
Thank you to Rev3 for putting on a fun-filled and well organized race week, I look forward to racing with you all again soon! A big thank you to everyone who was cheering me on from far and near. Thanks to coach Brian for helping me prepare and more importantly helping me keep my head straight. Thank you to my team, TMB Racing, and my sponsors, for all of your support. Finally, the greatest appreciation to Anne and Ron for being great and accommodating hosts, and Ron for accompanying me race day and really stepping-up as an all-star Sherpa.
More to come soon! Onward and upward!