It’s been seven days now and the dust has settled after my latest adventure in the Pacific Northwest. Albert and I loaded up the car with camping and triathlon gear, settled the dogs down in the way back and headed northwest for a week-long race-cation in Portland, OR. We were lucky enough to have family to stay with for the majority of the trip (спасибо Edward and Valentina!), and even more family and friends to come out and cheer on race day. Many thanks to the REV3 crew for their impeccable (albeit inadvertently so) choice in race locations!
The days leading up to the race were filled with similar activities to what we normally do at home; some swim/bike/run mixed in exercising the dogs. Our “challenged” dog does not have very nice manners around other canines but we’re working on improving that flaw. There is a really great dog park close to Gresham where we took Sherman and Suzzie almost everyday for some much-need social skills training and hiking. It was just what the doggie doctor ordered! Suzzie is not 100% cured but she’s doing a lot better now…it’s a relief to know she’s not going to eat every single other dog we come across—just the smaller tastier ones. ;)
Back to the race. I was much more relaxed going into this race than I have been for the last few events and was able to sleep soundly the night before. I chalk it up to being in a familiar place doing familiar things. For once race morning did not come early! A solid night’s sleep, plus traveling one time zone west and having a rare 8:00am start time made for a nicely relaxed morning. The big question mark as everyone was setting up their gear was whether or not it would be a wetsuit legal swim for the pros. The answer was no which was fine by me; I had packed my trusty BlueSeventy PointZero swimskin just in case and I prefer a cooler swim anyway. The women’s pro field took off at 8:05am, five minutes after the men. I chose a spot to the far right of the field for the beach run-in because I prefer to avoid the tangle of arms and legs and find some clean water as quickly as possible. The sprint to the first buoy was FAST. After the first turn the pace let up and I was able to swing around a couple of girls and settle into a nice rhythm in second place. The leader’s feet were too far away to catch (holy smokes Meredith, that was a great swim!) but I focused on keeping my turnover up and my head in the game. Ha—keeping the turnover up is all relative of course; I saw some footage of the swim and compared to the other girls my arms move in slow motion! But then again, my wingspan is about twice as wide as any of the other ladies who were racing…that makes a difference, right?!
I exited Blue Lake about a minute behind Meredith but with another minute lead on the next pack of swimmers. The run to transition was almost a half mile long, the highlight of which was seeing my sister and her husband cheering for me somewhere along the path through the park. Have I mentioned how great it is to race in places where I’ve got family/friends to come out and whoop it up?! T1 went smoothly and I got out onto the FLAT FLAT FLAT bike course quickly. The original course was going to be extremely hilly with the swim/transition/finish all in downtown Portland but there were some last-minute permit issues and the REV3 crew had to scramble to find a new venue so that the show could go on. They did an incredible job bringing it all together and the REV3 experience did not suffer one bit from the eleventh-hour changes.
The bike was two out-and-back laps on a road flanked by the Columbia River on one side and the Portland Airport on the other. There was a nice view of Mt. Hood on the second half of each loop—if you had the presence of mind to lift your eyes from the road for a minute to see it. (I did.) Some people might assume that a flat course is an easy course, but staying focused and keeping the pedal to the metal for 56 flat miles is not a walk in the park. There wasn’t much wind to speak of, but there was a section of rough and “humming” road that took some mental fortitude to endure. I rode a good part of the first lap keying off of two of the slower pro men, trying to control the damage that Meredith was doing to the rest of the field while increasing the gap between me and my pursuers. I knew I would need a considerable cushion going into the run because it is my weakest link and there were some fleet-footed ladies on my tail. On the second bike lap I focused on catching whoever was up the road, which happened to be a string of age-groupers on their first lap. At one point I even tried racing an airplane that was just revving up for take-off…I thought I had it for a minute but then it kicked into a higher gear and left me in the dust. :)
The run: it was probably in my best interest that it ended up being a flat run course. I’ve been working hard at sealing this chink in the armor but there’s still a lot of work to do; at this point it’s easier for me to hold my form and pace together on flat terrain. I was greeted at the start of the run by my cheering squad which was a nice boost and put a smile on my face. The first few miles ticked by pretty quickly and I was pleased to settle into a relatively comfortable 6:45 pace. If I held it together I would be able to break 1:30 which would be a first for me in a triathlon. The initial out-and-back section of the run gave me a good look at who was behind me and what kind of gaps there were. Time for some mental math! I figured it would be a real battle to hang onto second place and even third place might be questionable, so I buckled down and kept my feet moving as fast as I could. It took Kate until mile 8 to catch me which is 2-3 miles longer than at Quassy so there’s an improvement! Coming back from the far turnaround I got another look at the field and knew that barring a complete blow-up I would come in third. Miles 11 and 12 were long straights that were mentally challenging, but they were followed by the nice surprise of a somewhat short mile 13. Rounding the last bend into the finishing chute was awesome and I’m sure I was grinning like the Cheshire cat. At the end of the day I ran a 1:28+ split with an overall time of 4:25 and change, both of which were significant improvements for me.
It’s such a great feeling to FINALLY have gotten my act together in training and to see the consistent hard work paying off. I’ve definitely got some good momentum going right now and I’m eager to keep it rolling through the second half of the season. Five races down, five to go!
Thanks go to: Charlie, Eric, Krista, and the rest of the REV3 staff and volunteers for making this race happen; Stu, Jen, and the entire camera crew for the great coverage; Albert, Valentina, Edward, Val, Kira, John, Rachel, Nathan, Marie, Daniel, Dave, and Kara for all coming out to cheer; the ladies field for the strong competition; my clients/athletes for understanding the week-long absence; and to my sponsors PowerBar, BlueSeventy, Rudy Project, Maxxis, and Wasatch Running Center for continuing to support my athletic endeavors.
Results so far:
REV3 Costa Rica 8th
REV3 Knoxville 5th
REV3 Quassy 8th
Dino Tri 1st
REV3 Portland 3rd
Giant Eagle Tri (Olympic)
Mountain Tropic Tri (Half)
REV3 Cedar Point (Full)
REV3 South Carolina (Half)
ITU Long Course World Champs (a really weird longer-than-half-but-shorter-than-full distance)
To learn more about the super star Malaika Homo, visit her blog at http://malaikahomo.blogspot.com/