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Troika Olympic Triathlon

I had plans to write this post no later than one week post race with the idea that I could say it took that long to let my fingers thaw and regain the dexterity to type again. As I sit in a hotel room in Mount Vernon and prepare to depart for Sidney, BC on a ferry in the morning nearly two weeks after Troika, I realize that now, my fingers have not only thawed but actually sport a bit of bronze from the sunshine that radiated down upon us all last week. Leave it to a busy race schedule to hold me accountable to writing my race reports.

Leave it to Mother Nature to remind me of the unpredictability of Spokane spring weather. I remember thinking last weekend while riding across sun-soaked pavement how hot I felt, sweat trickling down my face. On the wet and cold Saturday morning Troika Triathlon (sprint, Olympic, long and duathlon courses) happened to fall upon, my sweat mixed freely with beads of water, both falling out of the ski and splashing upon me from passing cars. To marvel at the irony only makes me shake my head. Well done, Mother Nature. Touché.

What more need I say? We all hope for stellar conditions on a day we pay significant amount of money for the opportunity to knowingly push ourselves past a level of serious discomfort. We all know the feeling of race officials kicking us out of transition with nothing but our wetsuits on to keep us warm while rain pelts us from above, generally at least 30-45 minutes prior to the time we actually dive into the water. Perhaps what surprised us on Saturday morning more than the misery of swimming in the cold Medical Lake water was how much more pleasant the swim turned out to feel compared to the "swim" we all experienced on the bike ride.

In fact, trying to use my frozen hands to pull out the silicone ear plugs I'd jammed into my ears and remove my wetsuit that seemed to have latched onto my ankles proved impossible. Looking at the results, it appears my slow transition times cost me valuable time overall. Though my less than stellar performance on the bike could possibly have done me in, too.

Photo by Rene Guerrero Photography
The wet roads and sheets of rainfall likely did more for my character than my confidence. As I dismounted my bike after a less than enjoyable paddle over the soggy roads of Medical Lake, I felt nothing but gratitude for a bike course that, this year, more closely adhered to the standard distance for an Olympic distance triathlon. Memories of confusion regarding the extra two miles that weasled their way into the course last year made me think how fortunate we should all feel that the storm had held up those extra two miles in their attempt to entertain us again this year.

My sentiments regarding the weather quickly turned to concern when, upon dismounting my bike, I felt relatively disoriented. I reminded myself that despite the puddles I'd landed in, this was neither the time nor the place to experience the sensation that having sea legs imparts. So I pulled off my swim fins came to my senses and waded haphazardly through the chute into transition.

It turns out unbuckling my helmet proved harder than taking off my wetsuit. When I couldn't make progress with my headdress, I shifted my attention to my shoes. By the time I'd donned my Hokas and bib number belt, my fingers had regained enough function to unbuckle my helmet, but the time spent floundering cost me more precious time I didn't have to lose.

Photo by Rene Guerrero Photography
On the running trail, the rain seemed to have abated. The legs I struggled to feel during the bike ride had shown up for the run. Spectators told me I'd come into transition as third overall woman, which meant I had work to do. I found this particular work comfortably uncomfortable. Running at a sub-7 minute/mile pace felt familiar despite not having spent much time this early season running it because of injury. It also made for a fast first lap around the lake, which, though rewarding, hardly compared to the happiness I felt upon finding my good friend, Craig Thorsen, prior to finishing the first lap. After some gentle encouragement, Craig ushered me onward for a second go around the lake with a quick whip, "Get to work."

I thought to myself how difficult that might actually be given I had not yet tracked down either of the two women ahead of me by the end of the first lap. Yet I should have trusted myself when, after making my way through the park, I spotted the talented Kari Cardon about 100 yards in front of me. At the time, I pondered whether or not I should expose myself so soon. We had two more miles until the finish line, and her form from behind convinced me she ran strong. I don't know what compelled me to go for it, but I decided to maintain my pace, and it proved fast enough to catch up with her.

With just over a mile to go, I passed another woman thinking I'd run my fatiguing self into first place. However, I later found out my competition had actually finished well ahead of me, and the other woman I'd passed had merely finished her first of three laps of the long course race.

Not often do I find myself at the finish line shivering. On this day, I did. Bryan finished a few minutes after me, and we quickly gathered our soaking belongings from transition before seeking refuge in the truck. Though not the most pleasant of race experiences, I remind myself how fortunate I am to participate in these athletic endeavors regardless of the weather and conditions. Now, I look forward to tackling Ironman Victoria 70.3 this weekend, and so far, the forecast looks a little more accommodating for a race.

Photo by Craig Thorsen.


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