Over two and a half years. That's how long it's been since my last podium finish in a pro triathlon. That's quite a drought in a sport where there are champions crowned at races every weekend. But that's what happens when you have an injury (or two) and then step away from racing to have a baby.
Last year I raced a handful of times, starting just 4 months after Amy was born. I traveled around the country for the Rev3 tri series and raced for the fun of it, even though my body wasn't ready to compete with the top level. I was never close to finishing on the podium. While it was amazing to just be out there racing, at the same time it was just plain frustrating. I felt like I was in someone else's body. When I told my legs to move faster, they just wouldn't go.
But…it was all part of a plan: collect as many points as possible and put myself in the running for the Rev3 Series bonus because you never know what's going to happen.
With my third place finish in the Rev3 Tri over the weekend, I not only made my long awaited return to the podium, but this placing led me to a 3rd place finish in the Series (and an $8,000 bonus!)
Using The Run
My main goal this year is to get my running back to the point where it's a threat. I want my run to be something I can use to win a race, not something that causes me to fall behind. When I started working with my new coach Tim, in March, he said, "why are you running 1:28's for your half marathons when you should be running 1:18's…don't worry, we'll get you there." Well, I'm not quite there yet, but I did run down 4 girls in Sunday's race. This was the first time I've caught anyone on the run in forever - last year I ran down zero people and got run down by about 100. Even Triathlete Magazine noticed:
So far Tim's plan is on track. We haven't even started any speed or tempo runs. All my runs have been progression runs, with the fastest paces just under 7 minute miles. That may explain why my calves are so sore today, after the all out sprint I attempted in the last half mile of Sunday's race.
So what happened before the run that left me with four people to catch? The swim was fine. I got in a little pod with Lauren G., Radka, and Jill P. The pace was consistent and not that hard, which was a good thing for me because I was coughing underwater throughout the whole thing. This is not meant to be an excuse, but I was sick going into the race (and really sick after). Anyway, when I got to dry land, I was having a hard time breathing and just tried to stay calm and within myself. The other three girls took off on their bikes and I felt a little like I was in slow motion. I rode alone and followed my race plan. Eventually, I was caught by Mandy McLane and Malaika H. They were both riding really well, so I worked hard to stick with them the rest of the way. They both pulled away from me on the last big downhill and I came into transition in 7th. I started the run at a really comfortable pace and could see the other girls way off in the distance. Even though they were so far ahead, I felt confident that I would catch up, but knew that I didn't have to go super hard in the first few miles to get to them. Instead, I slowly chipped away as I slowly increased my running pace. I moved into 5th at about halfway and at that point decided to increase my pace. I knew I was running well when an age group guy caught me and I stayed with him. I tucked in behind him and the next thing I knew we were coming up on 4th, then 3rd place. Knowing that Amy was waiting for me made me want to run even faster. I made the pass to get into 3rd with just over a mile or so to go. By that point I was running hard and feeling great. I ran hard all the way to the finish line where I did an ITU-style collapse on to the ground.
A Fair Fight
It should be mentioned that Jenn Spieldenner got a flat about 10 miles into the bike course. She managed to fix the flat herself and then got another flat a few miles later, which put her out of the race. She was riding with the lead group of 4 at that point and would have had a great race. Going into the race, Jenn was in 3rd in the series rankings. I had to beat her if I wanted to move up from fourth to third. I'd feel much better about earning 3rd place if Jenn had the opportunity to give me a fair fight for it. She'll be back though and I know this is going to make her even hungrier in her next race.
The True Champions of the Weekend
This weekend wouldn't have been what it was without a few true champions:
Rev3's Charlie Patten - he's the guy who made this whole thing possible. He has created an experience unique amongst triathlons. Rev3 races are fun, family friendly and they always put on a good show. I'm going to miss these races now that the pro series is over, but am looking forward to attending future races as a spectator.
Nichole Wishoff - She was mistaken for a Wassner sister all weekend. Nichole joined me for the drive down from New York and was Amy's chief caretaker for the weekend. She showed her toughness and determination on the drive home, pressing on and doing most of the driving when I was too sick to help.
Amy Frances - 20+ hours in the car and she only screeched 3 times. She loved walking around in the VIP tent after the race and got to meet tons of triathletes.
Thanks also to all the fans for the cheers out there on the run course and for the virtual cheers through Twitter. Once I kick this cold, I'll be looking forward to the next adventure: Eagleman 70.3 on June 8.