Race day! I couldn’t hardly believe it was time to actually do this. It’s like having a baby (or two) because you’re pregnant and preparing for so long and then, it seems all of a sudden, it’s time. When the time came (for having the boys too) I was READY!
There was no anxiety about getting to the race, thanks to my coach, so I packed up my gear in the morning after having big and good breakfast. Not only did I eat cheese and bread (Spanish breakfast of champions!) but a banana, muesli and yogurt. I also had to pack my Gu Chomps, a HoneyStinger Waffle and two bottles of water/NUUN for extra hydration. The temp called for 75 degrees and my start time wasn’t until 12:30pm. It was going to be hot. Deal with it.
This is what I like to call my “first day of school” picture, taken the morning of the race at CRS’ rented house:
I feel like I should be holding one of those little chalkboards that reads “My First World Championship!” Nerd alert. And no, that’s not a house arrest bracelet around my ankle but the timing device for the race. It’s huge!
We made it to the arena without issue but my nerves were in full effect. Athletes from all over the world were warming up and there was definitely a buzz of unrelenting energy. I was trying to take it all in and be present but all I could think about was just getting to the start line.
AT THE START
After a short time, they started to corral us into “pens,” lined up with our age groupers, ready to be herded to the start line. It actually provided a good opportunity to size up the competition and make some friends. I always like to chat before a race to release some energy.
I have to say, the women from Great Britain were probably the nicest of the bunch. I really enjoyed talking to them in general and one girl in particular, was so sweet and super helpful when we were all trying to figure out the routing for the RUN IN, BIKE OUT. It can be complicated, especially with staggered starts, and you do not want to wait until you’re actually racing to figure it out.
The sun was beating down on my back and I was trying to distract my thoughts, focus on the race and trust in my training.
THE FIRST RUN – 6 Miles (10K) – 4 Loops
My time had come. I saw off the first five or so waves of men and women and then, there I was, at the start line. Holy shit. I had a moment to think about my family somewhere out there…and then the horn sounded!
Everyone took off like crazy, as they usually do at the start. I’ve gotten a lot better over the years at reigning myself in for those first few miles, especially when you’re going to be racing for 2+ hours.
At the first turn of the first loop, I saw my family! I had the biggest smile ever!
The whole race was run in loops. When I first heard about this, I was bummed. We had all of Spain to run and ride though! Why are we looping? Turns out, the race officials that be, know more then I do when it comes to international racing. Because the first run was four loops (which I was terrified of miscounting!) I was able to see my family four times. Not only that, but we went racing down these small backstreets of Spain that had so many corners and turns that I truly was able to channel my inner bull! I became the bull.
And the crowd? Besides my own family going insane every time they saw me, I had the power of the crowd that was lining the entire race course yelling “GO USA!” and looking at me. What the? Let me tell you, when someone you don’t know is waving an American flag and yelling “Go USA! Go Burdick!” it’s a feeling I cannot even begin to describe. I know this race is a far cry from the Olympics but, I’ll never be in the Olympics, so this was it. And it felt better then almost anything I’ve ever experienced.
The rest of the crowd was shouting in all different languages – some recognizable and some not. One woman, every time I passed her was yelling “Animal” with an accent, so it sounded like “an-e-mal” which was awesome. Most of the shouts were in Spanish and I heard quite a bit of “Vamos chicas!” Si Si! Vamos!
My coach, Hans and Claudia were also cheering and taking pictures and, most of all, CRS was reminding me to relax.
I started my assault on those who went out a little too fast. There was one significant hill at the beginning of each loop, and by the last climb I was worried about handling it when we met again after the bike.
I whipped into transition in 41:29, threw my shoes off, started to put my bike shoes on when a pain shot up my foot! WTF? There were burrs in the field where we were transitioning! You know those little suckers that stick to your socks and have 1,000 needle-like things on them? Yeah, those. So I had to stop (death!) and pick a few of them out, and then put my shoes back on. I was pissed. Transition time: 2:16! Horrible.
THE BIKE AKA DEATH BY CLIMBING – 23 Miles (40K)
It was a good thing I was pissed when I got on my bike because what was ahead of me would take every ounce of passion and fury I could manage, to conquer it. The bike was also two loops. These loops were far less motivating and magical and much more hell like and full of pain. It was basically a 6 mile climb straight up, and then a 6 mile descent straight down. Twice.
Here’s what it looks like on paper:
The first 12 miles were actually not that bad. Yes, you’re working and climbing but you also have a chance to fuel and hydrate and, you’re not running. At least for a little while. Plus, there was plenty of action with riders climbing up and speeding down. Cyclists never cease to amaze me with their speed on downhills. I’m usually pretty conservative but, in this race and after that climb? I flew down that hill as fast as I could. I clocked 47 mph at my fastest point and I loved every second that I was not pedaling against the mountain but having fun and flying down it!
Then I had to go back up. If there was any low point in the race, this was definitely it. It was on that second loop when I started to get passed by a lot of women. No matter how hard you train or who you are, when you’re getting passed, it’s very tough on your mental game. I tried my best to just keep fighting and to “set my pace and run (bike) my race,” but it was getting harder with each turn of the pedals.
And then my chain fell off.
I put it back on in no time but, just getting off the bike for those seconds, and then getting back on with grease smeared hands, was almost enough to put me over the edge. I somehow held it together (this is where all that mental training comes in handy) and pushed my way toward that second transition.
Bike time: 1:25:40 Transition time: 1:25
I was ready for those stupid burrs that time!
FINAL RUN – 3 Miles (5K)
I’m at my best on the run. No doubt about it. My legs are screaming, my hamstring was daring me to go just a little bit faster and it was going to shoot out of my leg and fly across the road – but I was on it! In the run, it’s my turn to pass some of those women back and I was determined to do just that. In my mind I think “You’re a runner! This is what you do – now do it!”
I noticed a woman just ahead of me too, an American teammate named Carter. I realized quickly that we were matching paces and I thought – if I can just stay with her, she can carry me to the finish. And what a show she put on!
At this point in the run, most of the men should be finished because of the lead time they had on us, so whenever we would pass a Team USA guy, Carter would smack ’em in the ass and yell some encouraging words. It was awesome. She is my hero.
I also saw my fans again screaming “Come on Burdick – looking strong!” and waving those flags.
I let it all sink in. I looked around and noticed. I made a memory.
As Carter and I made that final lap into the stadium, I saw my family, cheering like crazy with cameras poised:
A journey that began in May of 2012 at a local duathlon in Connecticut, was about to come to an amazing finish in Pontevedra, Spain. There are no words. I felt complete and total happiness, fulfillment and relief. I fucking did it.
Final run: 21:04
1st run/6 miles: 41:29 – 5th in age group
bike/23 miles: 1:25:40 – 11th in age group
2nd run/3 miles: 21:04 – 5th in age group
total miles: 32
9th female in the 35-39 age group, out of 16 and 3rd American woman
Results in numbers have never mattered less. In fact, I had no idea how I even did until the next day when I called CRS to tell her my hamstring was ok (since I was limping after the race) and she gave me the news. I was content with the numbers but elated with the experience itself.
Now it was time to rest and eat my face off in Portugal…
Have you ever had a feeling of total fulfillment and happiness?
Ever run a race when you didn’t check your results?