Six-word recap: Winning third overall feels damn amazing.
I got this bib for free from Iron Girl Events, but the opinions are all mine. I showed up to the expo at the Pleasant Prairie RecPlex at like 4:45 p.m. Saturday ... and we were supposed to rack our bikes by 5 p.m. After some minor confusion about my bib number, I picked up my packet, shirt and stickers and road my bike into the transition area to rack it with like four seconds to spare. The bikes weren't in numerical order and being the opportunist I am, I chose the spot closest to the exit and called it a night.
Sunday morning, I got to transition at about 6:10, and it closed at 6:30. I didn't get too worked up because a) it's a sprint and b) I had more than an hour before my wave went off. I set up all my junk, then went in search of water because my bottle were empty and I couldn't find a fill station. Luckily, I keep a case of water in my truck.
I checked my transition bag, peed a bunch of times and then started walking around the lake to the start. This race is pretty simply - you swim straight across a spring-fed, 79-degree lake, bike 12 miles with two turn arounds and then run a 5K with one turn around at mile 2.
I did a short warm up in the water and thought this was going to be my day. The water was smooth as glass, it was overcast and there was only a gentle breeze. Also, I speculated that my age group must be small, because it was combined with the 19 and under group for the swim start. I had hoped to win my age group from the outset and focused on competing in such a fashion.
The swim start waves felt like they took forever. I stood on the beach all the way to the left, which is what they asked the stronger swimmers to do so the lifeguards on the right could focus. When the horn went off, it was a scramble for the first 50 feet or so. Then I settled into a rhythm, but elect to breath off of every stroke so I could push through as hard as possible. I caught up to the previous wave and felt like I was really cruising, but I saw a few people from my wave get out of the water before me.
I transitioned quickly and focused on pushing hard in the first five miles. This allowed me to burn off the people who bested me in the swim, but also boosted my confidence. I kept passing people to the point that I felt like I had a comfortable lead on my age group. I had to keep in mind I still had a run in front of me, so I couldn't go all out. My strategy was simple - can I pass another five people before the next mile marker/end/corner/etc. It gave me something to focus on and an achievable goal.
I only got passed once, and that was on the way into the dismount line. Oh well. I shoved my feet into my running shoes and took off for the last of it. The run was really flat and pleasant, and I started focusing in on passing people where I could. It was a good game to distract myself. My first mile was 7:36, which I knew I couldn't maintain, so I dialed it back. Right before the 2-mile marker, the first and only person to pass me came in hot. She flew past me and I had zero hope of catching up. She would finish 40 seconds in front of me to take the number two spot.
When I crossed the finish line, I was spent. I knew I couldn't have pushed any harder and was satisfied with my time. I waited for a few friends to cross the finish line, and had a bite to eat before checking out my finish time. I was chatting away and not paying much attention when I heard "You're third." I assumed in my age group and was kind of sad, since I went so hard, until it was explained that that was overall. As in, only two other people that day were faster than me.
It was an incredible feeling.
I have no idea how this happened, but I am tickled pink. I have a ticket to Nationals now, and a finish that put me at the top of the top. We stayed for the award ceremony and I was bummed they did first overall and then age groups, but I still took second in my age group and got a certificate and a Top Finisher pint glass.
I am sore and will likely feel worse tomorrow, but damn, you can't beat this feeling.
Time: 1:14:42 (Swim: 14:03, T1: 1:24, Bike: 33:04, T2: 56, Run: 25:14)
Pros: Flat and fast race, very beginner friendly, approachable swim, better than average post-race party, medal for all finishers, lots of free on-site parking, lots of port o potties
Cons: You have to rack your bike the night before, filling stations for water was hard to find at the start
Would I do this race again? Yes, indeed. Winning feels good.