The morning after the race, I was laying in bed awake at 4:15am. I should have been exhausted, but I was exhilarated and I couldn’t stop replaying the events of the race the day before, over and over in my head. It’s unlike any other post-race feeling I’ve had, in that I keep thinking the outcome is somehow going to change. I think it’s because I just cannot believe what happened.
Pre-race I talked a lot about the mind-body connection. Since I was a little girl, and competing in gymnastics, my dad has always said to me “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” I was intently focused on my mental game going into this Duathlon race – which was a 3 mile run, 16 mile bike and then another brutal 3 mile run. I had to borrow my coach’s bike because mine needed to be shipped to Spain, two days before this race. With mounting pressure and logistical nightmares, I knew I had to be at the top of my mental game going into the race on Sunday.
On Saturday, I looked up the results from last year’s race to see what times the top finishers had, in comparison to mine. In doing so, I knew to maybe get third place, I would need to shave 1 minute off my first 5K, 3 minutes off the bike and another minute off the second 5k. Now, to someone who doesn’t race, that may not seem like a lot but remember, racing is a game of seconds (as you shall see), so taking off entire minutes is setting pretty lofty goals.
I’ve been training harder then I ever have before. Because of CRS (Coach Rocket Scientist) I’ve bee cycling more miles then I ever have in my life. I wanted desperately to believe in my training, but there’s always that tiny little doubt creeper. If I was going to succeed in shaving off all that time, I had shut that creeper down.
I was up at 5am. I was less nervous then I usually am, but I took that as a bad sign. That’s just what I do. I got to the race without incident, and set up my bike and all my gear in the corral. I chatted with some friends, saw CRS (who said very little to me which was good!), and started my warm-up 15 minutes prior to the start. Just before the gun went off, I went though what I needed to do: 1 min off the first 5K, 3 min off the bike and 1 more min off that final 5K. GO!
THE FIRST RUN: 19:43
I took off, and then pulled back a bit. I noticed that there was only one woman in front of me and she didn’t seem to be pushing the pace, so I held back just a touch. As she got further away from me, I turned up the speed and hit mile 1 at 6:11. Perfect. Mile two had a few little hills, but I pushed to a 6:09, and the last mile (with one last hill leading to transition) clocked in at 6:27 for a 19:43 first 5K. Last year? 20:28. First goal – accomplished!
As I came into transition, I was thinking of Tara Newman screaming “You’re still racing!” and I got my gear on as quickly as possible. How quickly? I was in and out in 48 seconds.
The blonde girl ahead of me was still in transition as I was headed out on my bike. All those brick/brick sessions I did at my house just paid off for the first time.
As I mounted my (CRS’) bike, she was standing there and said “Have fun.” What she didn’t say was “You’re the first woman out of transition.” This is yet another reason I love her. She knew what to say to me to keep me calm and level headed. It was just what I needed to hear.
THE BIKE: 51:29
The bike in this race has been my nemesis. As you know, I have struggled with calling myself a cyclist. Part of the reason is that I bolt out of the first 5K (usually in the top 5 women) and then the passing begins.
I knew the course better this year then I ever have and rode it twice before race day. I’ve been racking up mileage on my bike like a mad women and when I raced down the first part of the bike it was game on!
I kept waiting to get passed by women, but though mile 10, only guys passed me. AND, the guys that passed me mostly had fresh Ironman tattoos on their calves (which were the size of my head), the pointy helmet, $10,000 bikes and were wearing (what look like) unitards. If you’re in that get-up – you had better pass me.
Around mile 11, I was passed two women. Then at mile 12, I was passed by another two. One was the blonde from the run and another was who I called “pinky” since she had on black shorts and a bright pink top. I passed pinky again just before transition, as I headed in with a time of 51:29. My time from last year? 53:37.
Second goal – accomplished!
Once again, as I headed out of transition, the blonde girl was still there. I got her again. My second transition time was 39 seconds.
THE SECOND RUN: 21:30
Embarking on yet another 5K after all of that, in a word, sucks. My legs felt numb, my mind was racing and all I could think about was getting to the finish line in one piece. Because of the numbing feeling, it’s hard to tell just how fast you’re going. I felt like I was moving around a 7:30ish mile but it was more like 6:30. Thank God for Garmin!
I passed one girl pretty quickly and saw another up ahead. I have to be honest, at that point, I really didn’t care if I passed her. I was calling up mantras (Can’t stop. Won’t stop.), thinking about my kids and dreaming of the finish line. I was giving my all, but I was not intent on passing the girl who seemed too far away. But, then she got closer and closer and, around mile 2.5, I passed her.
That’s when the volunteer on the bike pulled up next to me.
THE FINISH: 1:34:22
My heart was pounding, my legs were aching and my mind was begging for it to be over. I was pushing as hard as I could and then the volunteer on the bike reached over to the two-way on his arm and said:
“I’ve got the lead women – bib number 1810.”
WHAT????? I’m the lead woman????? I honestly did not know! That whole time I thought for sure there was at least one more women who was so far ahead of me, that I couldn’t even see her.
Then shit got real when the bike guy said:
“First and second women are only about 20 feet apart. We have ourselves a race!”
Good Lord NOOOOOOOOO!!!!! I had no idea how I was going to hold onto this lead. I knew I had a little over a quarter mile left and, if the woman behind me had a finishing kick, I wasn’t sure I could answer it.
I rounded the final turn to the finish, which is on grass. Someone from the sidelines said “GO! She’s right behind you!” and I reached into my guts and pulled out whatever I had left. In that moment, all I could think of was crossing that tape! The grass was wet, my stride was ridiculously horrible, my left hamstring and groin were begging for mercy and then…
My last three miles: 6:20, 6:30, 6:00 – nothing like a little incentive to have my last mile be my fastest mile. When you think you can – you will!
The first thing I saw, after breaking the tape, was my aunt (who just had meniscus surgery) jumping up and down, crying and screaming “You did it! You won! You won! Oh my God Allie, you did it!” We had one of those power hugs and I felt every single pent-up emotion just drain out of me. I couldn’t have been happier. Aunt Carla may have been more excited then I was. It was hard to tell in the moment.
Hartford Marathon Foundation put together a video all about the race. My interview is at 3:49…and was right after I crossed the finish line!
These past six months of endless training, sacrificing, watching my diet, my fluid intake, my weight – juggling time in the pain cave with time on the track, waking up early everyday of the weekend, being sore, tired and hungry all the time, fretting over every single piece of equipment and scrutinizing my training logs was ALL WORTH IT.
The first time I raced this Duathlon in 2010, my overall time was 1:44:30. Last year, with a time of 1:38:40 I came in 7th overall and won my age group. Seventh!!! This year, I finally conquered the beast, with my best overall time of 1:34:22.
It was the greatest feeling, knowing that all my hard work is working. And, I won this:
That night, I went out to dinner with my family and ate a cheesy BBQ chicken appetizer with tortilla chips, a succulent filet with rice and sautéd spinach, two glasses of wine and a chocolate torte for dessert. It was friggin’ awesome. My husband said “Welcome to the way everyone else eats.”
I’ve never been more ready for Spain. BRING IT!
What’s the coolest thing you ever won?
What would you eat/drink to celebrate an accomplishment?