I have a few races to update on! The first one is the Vera Cruz race from way back in early September. I would have posted an update sooner, but I closed on my house in Atlanta and moved to Greenville three days after I got back from Vera Cruz. Needless to say, I have not spent much time on the computer the past few weeks.
Anyway, I was very pleased with my race in Vera Cruz. It was my first ITU points race since 2005, so I was a bit nervous before the race. I had some confidence from the two sprint races I did this summer, but I still did not know what to expect in a competitive Olympic distance race in the heat!!! While I wanted to do well in the race, my primary goal was to race well enough to keep my pro license. I had to finish within 8% of the winner's time (in a race with a prize purse over $5000). Otherwise, my license would expire at the end of this year. Having this as my primary goal did help take some of the pressure off. While the other competitors seemed to be worried about points and rankings, I could relax a bit and focus on something completely different.
On race day, I woke up to a very sunny day with extreme heat and humidity. On one hand, I was relieved as only a few days before we were concerned that a hurricane might disrupt the race. On the other hand, however, I was concerned because in the past I stuggled a lot in real hot and humid conditions.
The swim consisted of a two loop ocean swim. I tried to block the heat out of my mind and just focus on the race. Not easy to do as the sun was already beating down on us before the 11:00am start. I was very pleased in that I ended up having a great swim. Unfortunately, I was pretty slow getting out of the ocean (I need to work on running through the water). I ended up losing time to the three girls that were right ahead of me when we finished the swim. One of the other American girls had a great transition and got out on the bike about 10 or so seconds ahead. Two other girls, one from Mexico and one from Japan got out after her, but ahead of me. I sprinted at the beginning of the bike and was able to catch the two right in front of me. I was hoping that we would work together to catch the leader, but it did not happen that way. I pulled a lot at the beginning doing most of the work. Fortunately, I was getting some help from the girl from Japan. We kept trying to make up time on the leader, but we were having difficulty with the other girl in our group. Not only would she not take the lead or pull, but she would get in our way as we tried to pull. It was difficult to tell if she was intentionally blocking us or just inexperienced. I am hoping that she was just new because it was hard not to feel like she was trying to slow us down as she had three other Mexican teammates in the bike group behind us.
I worked on the bike for as long as I could, but when I realized that we were losing time to both the leader and the group behind us, I started to conserve a bit for the run. I was still worried about the upcoming run in the heat. The leader stayed out in front with a huge lead and I ended up coming into transition with the same two girls, along with three other girls that had caught us from behind.
I feel like I started the run conservatively, but by the time we finished the first of four loops I had moved into third place. I started to get excited... actually allowing myself to think that I might have a great run in the heat. However, just a few minutes later, I stated to feel that dizzy feeling.
It was not easy, but I had to make the decision to back off a bit and slow down my pace. This is so contradictory to what you want and should do in a race, but I have felt that dizzy feeling before in the heat. I learned in the past that if I push through I can do some serious damage to myself and might not be able to finish anyway. I got a bit discouraged for a few minutes when I first slowed down as I got passed by another girl. This now meant I had fallen back to fourth and I was scared that I would keep losing places. I tried to stay calm. Fortunately for me, my decision to play it safe in the heat worked out as I ended up not only finishing, but finishing as first American and third overall... my first time on the podium (top 3) ever in an ITU race. The girl who had been leading the entire race got pulled off the course from heat problems. I certainly do not like to see other people stuggling or having problems, but it made me extra glad that I decided to play it safe and slow my pace down as I think I would have been in the same situation had I not done so.
I was pretty tired from racing in the heat when I finished, but I was greeted at the line by Anthony (who had been such a huge help both before and during the race... cheering and taking pictures). I was able to take in some water and then enjoy my first experience on the podium. However, I think I made a fool of myself as I could not figure out how to open up the celebratory champagne that they give out on the award stand. I had to ask the winner for help!!!
I really enjoyed this experience in Vera Cruz. Along with the race, I truly enjoyed meeting and spending time with some of the other American athletes... both the ones I already knew as well as some new athletes. I had great support during the race from Anthony, one of the other girls' coach, and another girl's husband. All of their cheering helped me so much. Especially during the hot run when I really just wanted to stop. They all kept me going and for that I am so grateful!!!
I am not sure where this takes me now. I am very glad to have extended my license. While I earned a lot of points with my third place finish, it does not look like I have raced enough yet to earn the points I need for the Cancun World Cup in November. I would love to do another triathlon this season, but I may have to wait until the winter to race again. I submitted my name for the Cancun World Cup, but there are twelve other girls ahead of me points wise who have been racing the past two years. I am in a wait and see position. If I do not get in, I will just finish my season with a few fun running road races and then figure out how much and where I want to race next year. Either way, I just feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to race in Vera Cruz and that it went so well!