Last year, I did this race and finished 3rd female and wouldn’t you know it, the two women who placed ahead of me were signed up again. Re-match! I went into the day intent to give it all I had because, well, I wanted to see if I could do it.
With Missy Kuck and Gail Kattouf on the starting line with me, I really had my work cut out for me. More than that. I doubt many would have picked me as the favorite to win. I wouldn’t have, but then I seem to do better when I’m underestimated. In the very least, I wasn’t going to let myself cross that finishing line with any doubts that I didn’t do all I could.
I knew that this would mean consistently drilling it the entire way through. Over two hours of hitting it really hard, wire to wire. It’s best not to think about that too much, since that sounds ridiculous even though history shows I can do that if I really want to.
At the swim start, I found myself lined up behind Missy Kuck who I knew to be a substantially faster swimmer than I. I figured that I would try and stay on her feet as long as I could, but there ended up being a lot of competition for those feet, so instead, I swam next to the guy also trying to hang on to her feet. For a while until she pulled away. I also found my own pair of feet to draft for a little while.
The pack I was with must have heard the same message that I did about the swim buouys. Normally, the orange ones on the way out are only for sighting and it’s only important to keep the yellow ones on our right. However, I thought I heard differently this morning, which wouldn’t have been too big of a deal if they were lined up straight. As it was, we probably added some yards to the swim.
On the back half of the swim, I ended up in pulling position, leading what I assume to be a small train of wet-suitted swimmers. Closer to the end, I converged with someone who smartly took a more direct line and was able to let her lead the way to the swim finish. I felt like I kept my effort up, so I was happy with my swim.
Maybe 75% of the way through, a blazing fast swimmer came barreling by from the next wave. This person had made up 3 minutes on me. Now, I know I’m not a super-studly-awesome swimmer, but the speed at which this person went by was stunning. I was all “who the heck is THAT?” Turns out it was John Kenny, which explains a lot.
So, out of the open wave, I think I was 3rd woman out of the water and right on the heels of #2. I do my usual barreling through T1 and easily leave transition in 2nd. I, of course, know that it is Missy Kuck out in front.
I have high hopes that my bike fitness will lead to an impressive bike split, but I guess the humid conditions slowed us all a bit and I actually went slower this year than last, even though in 2010 I got stopped behind traffic tfor a good long while hat was stuck behind some newbie triathletes. This year, we had an open wave, so I got to start in the first wave. I found myself riding, for the most part, a similar pace as two other guys– Ken Younts and some other fellow. I know Ken from other local events, so we took turns setting the pace while the other rode legally behind. This was good for both of us, I imagine.
I rolled into T2 and still hadn’t seen any sign of Missy. I wondered how much of a gap there was and I found out pretty quickly as Gary told me she was still making her way out of transition when I was coming in. This told me I had a shot if I ran well and if she, well, if she didn’t have a great run.
Out on the out and back run course, I could see her up ahead. I plugged away best I could and, honestly, it didn’t look like I was making much, if any, head way. Since the first half is uphill and we head back downhill the second 5k, I hoped my newly found downhilling prowess (from all that ultra trail running) could serve me well. The run hurt. I gave myself lots of pep talks talking to myself in third person, “You cand do this Alicia.” Over and over. It took a lot of reminding myself to keep pushing so I wouldn’t regret a lost opportunity.
Did I mention that first place wins $300? Did I also mention that there was a speedy Gail Kattouf bearing down on me all the while?
So I finally some how caught up to Missy just before the 5 mile marker, which was about when my legs started to really feel the lactic acid accumulate. Uh oh. She stuck to me for a while. I hoped she wasn’t saving up for a sprint, because I never have a sprint. Some relief came when a small gap opened up, but I was still worried because anyone with decent finishing speed could still make it up no problem. Then there was the question of Gail. Where was she?
I hit the final turn before the finishing straight away and took a peek back. I didn’t see Gail, but I did see Missy well within striking distance. I did my best impression of a finishing sprint, which thankfully was enough to open up a 7 second gap. Gail finished another 12 seconds later. That was close. An awesome battle and a great show for the spectators.
The men’s race had some impressive speediness going on. Two previous winners and pro triathletes — Kevin Lisska and Andrew Starykowicz– came in 3rd and 4th. All us women were minutes off our speedier times from last year. Not sure what to attribute that to. Maybe the weather.