Last year, this was my first elite race ever. I don't know what I was thinking, other than I wanted to try and play in the big leagues. When I picked up my generously stuffed Esprit de She Naperville packet Sunday morning, I said my wave's swimcaps are neon blue. My swim cap was bright red, because my packet indicated I was an ElitePro. I had planned to race with my age group, but when life hands you an opportunity, you go with it.
|Only Wal-Mart helmet in ElitePro|
What I didn't plan on was a) racing elite and b) racing in a ridiculous downpour. They delayed the close of transition by 15 minutes, so I set up my already soaked stuff and went back to my truck for a while. I made it down to the beach and slipped into the back of wave one. I didn't wear a wetsuit based on my swim practice last week, but I was one of the few elites who didn't.
They brought the elites into the shallow end right before the national anthem, and right as it started, the skies opened up yet again. The other athletes and I could only laugh at our luck. It was actually really exciting to start first. The water just stretches out in front of you and crowds lined the beach. There's something that I feel when I race that is unparalleled. It's a spark and tension and a determination that I hope I never lose. It's the spirit of racing.
When the siren went off, I struggled for a few strokes to find a cadence and break from the pack. By the first turn buoy, I'd settled into a pattern in someone's slipstream and just chugged along. The rain came down but who cares when you're already wet. In contrast to last year, I was not the last elite to get out of the water. I jogged into transition, which is really weird when you're first. People are still setting up and lounging around. My bike was pretty easy to find, though, since while I wasn't the last, I was already five minutes behind the first.
I got all my gear and hobbled to bike out in bike shoes on pavement in the rain. Easily the most dangerous thing I did this week. Once on my bike, I promptly passed one of the elites and started to cruise. The only issue was that rain HURTS at 20 miles per hour. It felt like little daggers.
The bike was a two-loop course, so by the time I was heading back on my first loop, the relay and survivor waves were hitting the course. It was great because it gave me people to catch. I didn't get passed at all on the bike, which was a great boost. However, since it was still raining, I could feel the water pooling in my shoes every turn I made.
I pulled into transition and got into my running shoes as quickly as possible. Much like last year, I was basically alone on the run course. I could see someone in the distance and spent mile two catching up with her, then tried really hard to pass her in the last mile. It didn't quite work, but it kept me pushing.
I finished with two other women, but the other elites were long gone. I was happy with my time, which was only 30 seconds slower than last year. With the rain, I'm going to take that as a win. I was spent and wheezing, so I know I pushed as hard as I could.
|The spread for Founding Finishers|
Finishing as an elite is not nearly as cool as starting as one, though. In the last 3/4 of a mile, there were kids playing on the course and people just not paying attention, to the point that a bike lead us in. There was next to no one cheering at the finish line, and the post-race party area was quiet. BUT that also means I got a first shot at everything there, including the Founding Finisher's VIP area:
Dunkin Donuts was there making samples of their summer-flavored ice coffees, and Kumato was giving away packages of tomatoes (weirdest post-race gift?). Gildan provided a cotton T-shirt, water bottle and socks for each finisher, and Specialized was raffling off a bike. They also had a flower pot station, bananas, bagels and sports drinks, as well as a spa area where I made a beeline for a rub down.
|Moxie Jerseys and packet items|
Time: 1:21:14 for a sprint (.5-mile swim, 13.3-mile bike, 5K run) - I was 9/13 Elites and 36th overall (top 3%)
Cost: $80-$100, depending on when you registered, but mine was free as an ambassador
Pros: You don't need a wetsuit, it's very beginner friendly, the swag is unparalleled, awesome post-race party, family-friendly race
Cons: Parking can be hard to find, it's a wave start so you could be there a while, the weather is unpredictable, it's expensive for a sprint (but you get it back in gear for sure), you can't park on-site
Would I do this race again? Every damn year if I can