Let me preface this report by first clearly stating that this year's race panned out quite differently than what is normally characteristic of Muncie's atmosphere, mostly as far as weather is concerned. This area has received a considerably abnormal amount of rain this year, and combined with cooler temperatures, race morning presented itself with lower than normal heat and humidity. As a result, what is normally a non-wetsuit swim turned into just that when water temperatures that threatened to breach the cutoff last week, dipped down to 72 degrees by Saturday morning. I don't know what other triathletes were doing Friday night, but perhaps you can envision the dancing and hollering that ensued when Bryan and I found this to be the case. Then, imagine the looks of confusion this prompted on the faces of Bryan's non-triathlon familiarized family, and this pretty much summarizes our pre- and post-race experience staying with Bryan's cousin, Gerri Garrett, and intermingling with many more relatives who braved becoming involved (to varying degrees) in what many consider to either be an admirable or crazy and stupid sport.
This race did not offer a professional division and therefore did not attract any professionals (of which I'm aware) except for one female, Nina Kraft, representing Germany. While race directors expected over 2000 athletes, they confirmed race morning that only 1700 had picked up their packets. Because of the wet and rainy weather that I alluded to earlier, I don't think these same race officials anticipated the parking delays that resulted, when fields they'd normally reserved for parking held so much moisture as to cause even the smallest of vehicles to get stuck in mud. Considering that most of us were driving mid- to full-sized vehicles in an effort to transport our bikes and gear, you can get a pretty good picture of what we saw after waiting in a line of cars that nearly spanned two miles out from our parking destinations. Our efforts to time just how long it would take for us to drive to Prairie Creek Reservoir from Gerri's house seemed pointless at 6:45am when we still sat in our cars, when transition closed.
We finally parked, found Jane Alley (Bryan's aunt) volunteering as a body marker, and created our transition areas before grabbing our wetsuits and making a concerted effort to find the line for porta-potties. The urgency of our bladders seemed to mitigate a little when we learned the race start had been delayed 15 minutes. It didn't so much matter for me, being in the 11th wave, as it did for Bryan, who was scheduled to set off in the second one. Regardless, it all worked out, and we learned that in reality, you don't really need 45 minutes to set up transition. Just 10 minutes will do.
This swim is counter clockwise with a distinctly different entrance and exit. In the 11th wave, I found myself not only receiving elbows and feet to my face by my own wave, but the previous waves didn't seem all too accommodating of those like myself trying to get through the masses. I witnessed some seriously interesting types of strokes by the time I'd made it around the second turn. By that time, some weren't even swimming, just floating, as though their swim strategy was to rely entirely upon the current created by others.
Upon turning, you also look into the rising sun. Yet I managed to maintain my position right along the buoy line despite not actually being able to see them. This contrasted sharply with the way I swam going out into the course in my efforts to avoid slower swimmers/floaters.
Nevertheless, I escaped the swim in a time just over 31 minutes. It's not a time I'm particularly proud of, as I'd like to consistently be swimming under 30 minutes. By the time I'd exited the water, however, I'd completely forgotten about the swim and transitioned to how I'd introduce myself to the bike ride. Wetsuit strippers greeted us halfway up the chute to T1, and with a little assertive encouragement to my stripper (her daintiness would not suffice in getting my Blue Seventy Helix off), I ran up the chute. Unfortunately, a few shoves ensued when about seven out of ten athletes, by this point in the race, had decided to walk.
In and out of T1, my Cdo.1 and I made it out onto roads that badly needed resurfacing. Making my way out to highway 35 where much of the bike race takes place required a significant amount of jockeying for position and handling my bike in such a way as to avoid deep cracks, grooves, and holes literally 5 inches in diameter and just as deep. It appeared as though race directors had run out of orange spray paint because after awhile, all you saw was the entire lane covered in one long line of paint as if to say, "Screw it. You might as well fly over to avoid it all."
Once out on highway 35, athletes had complete access to the road, as the Governor had graciously signed a permit to keep cars from making our bike ride hairier than what the poor road quality had already done. The course takes you through fields of corn and soybeans and showcases what it seems most residents in this area value most: huge plots of lawn. Acres of well-manicured, well-watered, grass. I was able to pace myself accordingly and gauge my power output accurately because the course is relatively flat with just a few rollers and false flats. Today, no wind affected my performance. Despite my efforts to maintain my power output, I couldn't. It's a good thing I didn't dwell upon what I thought might influence my set up to run, because I learned later in the day that my bike split was the second fastest of the day among my women competitors. To date, it was also my fastest bike split at 2:26 and change.
After completing the two loops on highway 35, I had to ride back to T1/T2 with every other athlete, it seemed. Fearful of receiving a card for drafting, I made an effort (one time) to back off, only to have the gap I'd created filled with three other athletes. In other words, because of the narrow and poor-quality roads, combined with the fact I'd started in a later wave, riding in a pack back to transition was inevitable. It also created a significant amount of panic inside me because in reality, there existed no room for error (as far as bike handling skills were concerned) on either my part or the parts of my fellow competitors.
Regardless, I survived and sighed heavily once I entered transition. I didn't have long to dwell on the bike, as my mind had already moved on to the run, so much so that I completely missed the hollering and screaming of the Rowe clan that Bryan later described as being anything other than orderly and subdued.
It was on this final leg that perhaps we, as athletes, benefited the most from the mild heat (low 70s), low humidity (50-60%), and partly sunny to relatively overcast skies. This run took us out along the perimeter of Prairie Creek Reservoir, showcasing some of the best lawns of not only Indiana, but perhaps the entire United States. So much so that I totally neglected to give credit and due admiration to the mansions those pristinely green lawns encompassed. Wow.
Not long into the run, my focus began to shift toward the terrain. We'd driven part of the run course on Thursday, but like I said, my attention must have been drawn more to the lawns than the road, because I'd completely neglected to notice how undulating and relatively exposed it seemed. There exists perhaps three flat sections on this course, of which you get to experience six times. The kicker is, no section lasts more than perhaps 200 yards, and if you're really struggling and feeling sorry for yourself, perhaps 100 yards. None of the hills we encountered were steep; they simply presented a constant annoyance that even the down hill on each backside of every uphill couldn't make up for. I stopped counting hills (not that I ever should have been in the first place) and instead began using aid stations at every mile to keep myself running in the present. The typical necessities (water, ice, gels, Gatorade, and coke) were offered by generous and rambunctious volunteers, but past the turnaround and heading back toward home, it became increasingly difficult to get your necessities even when you called them out multiple times upon approaching, and then running through, the station. I think this flaw could have been attributed to the fact that most, if not all of the stations, were supplying athletes running in both directions.
I held my pace fairly well through the first half of the run to the turnaround. The only girl in my age group I'd been able to keep track of I'd passed in the first mile. I later learned she had positioned herself off the bike as the only one ahead of me going out into the run. However, at the time, my slowing pace despite my efforts to keep on track presented yet another surmounting urgency deep within me. By the 8th mile, my efforts felt so labored that I could have sworn, if not for my Garmin telling me otherwise, that I'd slowed to a 9:00min / mile pace. Instead, despite feeling terrible, I'd only slipped to just over a 7:00min / mile pace from one closer to 6:50min / mile.
Beyond the eighth mile, about the only motivators I had involved the encounters I had with Bryan and my Big Sexy Racing teammates; the reminders of my training sessions to prepare for the race (some of which even my coach didn't want credit for assigning); the Rowe family that, despite not even knowing how to spectate a triathlon, made every effort (and succeeded) in being in all the right places at the right times; the support of my sponsors that I've come to respectfully and gratefully represent; and finally, finding that damn finish line with my dignity still intact.
On any other day, my slowing pace might have resulted in a disastrous finish. Yet on this race day, I seemed to have found luck through pure mental determination that currently, could use some serious work in the next couple of months for me. Yet with whatever mental toughness I seemed to have had left, I scaled the last hill to the finishing chute and scrambled over ruts in grass that were likely created by any number of vehicles driving over it while setting up the race venue. I knew Bryan had finished well before me, and I later learned that he had positioned himself in such a way as to be able to flag me down for a high-five before crossing the finish line. Unfortunately, I didn't see or hear him (or any of the other Rowe's) hollering for me, indicating that I must have had every emotion and last bit of energy sapped from me when I crossed the finish line in 4:34:11.
When Ron Rowe declared unofficial online results denoting me as not only first in my age group, but also first overall woman, there rumbled within me an excitement so great that it took a significant amount of control and composure to quell it, at least for the time being. While I knew I was one of the last waves to start the race, and the only other waves behind me were comprised of men and relays, I didn't want to get my hopes up and experience disappointment when all I've wanted to accomplish this year was to finally win a triathlon.
Finally, with a little bit of time and patience, and with an official announcement of the top times of the day by the race director, I heard my name announced as the top female of the day. The rumble turned into an explosion, and the excitement I'd been holding down for the last 20 minutes finally erupted. Had it not been for my Newtons holding me fast to the ground, I would have flown skyward to the clouds that had graciously kept this day cooler than anything I had prepared to endure.
It didn't take long for me to understand the impact of my win didn't simply affect me. In reality, I appreciated the opportunity to experience it with family and friends (both near and far), with Bryan, with the support of my sponsors and team BSR, and with my coach, Derek Garcia. All of these people and entities have propelled me further in this sport than I could have ever hoped to go by myself. For all of them, I am grateful.
I've PR'd more times in this year alone than I have in the last five years combined. I truly didn't think I had the potential to find myself on this kind of podium until the end of last year, and most of the desire was inspired by the support and beliefs of those I credit above. This win further encourages me to look for and fight for more from myself. Through the remainder of July and into August, I will continue to spend quality time with Bryan by lifting weights and utilizing therapeutic exercises to gain strength and protect against injury as I focus on running stronger. I look forward to competing in some smaller, local races in an effort to tweak and refine my strengths, as well as call out areas in need of improvement. Then, I look forward to toeing the line at Santa Cruz 70.3 in September to chase down a 2016 World Championship slot to Queensland, Australia.
Thank you for joining me through this very last sentence detailing (perhaps too much) my journey through 2015's Muncie 70.3. I correlate your dedication and perseverance of making it this long through the blog post with your support and interest for my endeavors. To you, I am grateful.