It’s been one week since REV3 Quassy and things have finally settled back into a normal rhythm. Quassy is a race that I’ve had on my mind for the past year and I’m so glad that everything came together so that I could make the trip back east to compete, visit family, catch up with old friends and make some new ones along the way. It was a very full and fulfilling trip; one that I look forward to repeating next year.
It started with a flight into NYC. Why did I chose to fly in and out of the Big Apple, you might ask? Location, location, location! It was central enough to all the places I wanted to visit while out there so that my furthest drive would not be more than 3 hours. My plan was to visit my friend and once-upon-a-time training partner Rudy (Adam Rudin) whom I had not seen in six years (!!!), not since the last time I did the NYC Triathlon. Rudy also set me up with a place to stay while I was in New York…in a convent! I had to chuckle over this since I am not exactly nun-worthy material, but it ended up being a wonderful place to get a good QUIET night’s sleep as my friend Betsy pointed out. It’s not actually an active convent anymore and there are only three (non-nun) girls living there at the moment, so there’s lots of space to rattle around in. I met two of the girls, Jayne and Terry, both extraordinarily friendly and generous people. Thank you ladies for your hospitality!
After my night in the nunnery I made the drive up to Middlebury, CT, to the race site at Quassy Amusement Park. What a location! Lake Quassapaug is a perfect little piece of water to swim in, the amusement park itself is a friendly size, and the surrounding countryside is picturesque with wonderful leafy green trees and rolling hills. I knew immediately that this course was going to suit me. I did a bit of training and previewed the bike course, then met up with my homestay Kim Dubord later in the day. Thank you Kim and Sheri for adopting me for this race! Kim raced in the Olympic-distance race on Saturday, and both she and Sheri came out to cheer me on in the Half-Rev on Sunday. They were awesome!
Saturday consisted of an early morning run on the rail trail close to Kim’s house, a rousing game of frisbee with Hannah the Golden Retriever, then the usual day-before-the-race routine of organizing gear, pre-race meetings, and trying to relax. It helped that Saturday was “movie night” at my homestay house. I finally wound down for bed a little later than I would have liked, but it didn’t matter because I barely slept a wink anyway with all the butterflies dancing around in my stomach!
Race morning came early (why do I insist on traveling east to race?!). I was able to get to the race site without any problems (unlike Knoxville) and I had plenty of time to set up my gear and warm up properly before the gun went off. The pro men started at 6:50am and the ladies followed 3 minutes later. The water temperature was just above the allowable limit for professionals to wear wetsuits, so I suited up in my BlueSeventy PointZero3 swimskin. The swim was solid—I was able to build my effort throughout and work my way up to 6th place coming out of the water, right on the feet of defending Hawaii Ironman World Champion Mirinda Carfrae. My transition was quick and I got onto the bike ahead of Rinny, although I almost blew my usually smooth flying mount when one of my cycling shoes flipped and I had a bit of a wobbly struggle to get it righted again. Thank goodness I didn’t tip over! That would have been rather embarrassing. I headed out on the bike course and got right to work. I’ve been putting in a lot of cycling miles lately, what with my commuting routine and doing long rides with my awesome training partner Rich on the weekends, so I was not afraid to attack this course. I overtook a couple of girls within the first few miles then realized that I had company with Rinny and Jessica Meyers right on my tail. We rode in a nice little pack for a while and I was pleasantly surprised to not only hang with them but feel completely in control of the pace. Eventually we reeled in Liz Blatchford; at that point I threw in a little acceleration up a hill and was able to establish a bit of a gap that lasted the rest of the ride. There had been a media crew following us pretty much the whole way, and I assumed it was because Rinny was in the group—the World Champ definitely deserves the coverage! I was a bit surprised that the camera followed me on that break, and it wasn’t until somewhere between 35-40 miles when a spectator yelled at me to “go get her!” that it dawned on me that I was in second place!!! Wow, that was a pretty cool position to be in amongst such a tough field of competitors. It was a MASSIVE breakthrough for me…realizing that I can ride with some of the best ladies in the world and, more importantly, giving myself permission to do so.
Hopping off the bike in second place behind the great Julie Dibens at Quassy is hands-down the most exhilarating moment of my triathlon career thus far. But there is still work to be done. My running form is not where it needs to be to compete at the top level in this sport. It was a good run for me considering where my training currently is and how challenging the course was, but there is plenty of room for improvement both physically and mentally in the third leg of the race. I slid from 2nd place to 8th place by the end of the race—a statistic I am not especially pleased with. I would have been absolutely thrilled with a top-five finish at this event; top-eight is a good showing but I am hungry for more and I know what needs to be done to get there. So now it’s back to work before the next string of races!
This race was special to me not only for my performance, but also because my Aunt Candy (#1 Philly Fan) was able to make the trip up from New Jersey to cheer and share the experience with me. She is a classically trained singer and knows how to project her voice—a great quality to have in someone rooting for you! After the awards ceremony we hopped in our respective vehicles and caravaned south (through NYC traffic—ugh) to the Philadelphia area where I spent two very special days visiting my relatives in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and getting back to my eastern roots. I visited with my elderly grandparents as well as a smattering of aunts and uncles, and met one of my cousins for the first time ever. I also had the opportunity to go up in the new Comcast tower in Philly (my aunt works there) and meet a bunch of her co-workers, who apparently know all about me and are part of my Philly Fan Club. We also made a side trip to where my aunt takes horse-riding lessons (she competes in dressage) and met her wonderful trainer Joanie and her mother Joanne. Wonderful people! Crossing paths with so many great people made the trip that much more memorable…thank you each and every one for your part in making my journey a special one!
On my way out I headed back to NYC where I had a nice pizza dinner with Rudy and his girlfriend Lucy, packed up my bike, and spent one more very short night in the convent before catching an early morning flight back to Salt Lake. When Albert and I got back from the airport we were greeted by two dogs with vigorously wagging tails…I think they missed me…and by some new plants poking their heads up out of the ground in the garden! I can taste those fresh home-grown tomatoes already. Yum.
Thanks as always to my sponsors (PowerBar, BlueSeventy, Rudy Project, Maxxis, Wasatch Running Center) for their support, to the great folks at REV3 for putting on a good show, and to my family, friends, clients, training partners, and other random people I’ve met along the way who have encouraged me and contributed in some way to my success.
Next up: a local one at Dinoland, then REV3 Portland on July 10th—another family trip!
To learn more about Malaika, visit her blog at http://www.malaikahomo.blogspot.com/