Monday, September 19, 2011

Challenge Henley-on-Thames Race Report

There are some days when all of that hard work we put into training pays off. I usually see it in bits and pieces, but yesterday it somehow all fell into place. I'm not sure anything quite compares to this intangible reward for hours and hours spent training.

The swim start dawned foggy and chilly.

I got in a good warmup. With the swans.

And we were off. My plan was to work hard to chase feet. I did this, and then they swam right away from me. Just past the turn-around I caught a guy and passed him. He promptly re-passed me and I figured awesome, we can work together. He then started swimming off course, I left him, and in the end maybe I should have stuck with him as he ended up exiting the water almost a minute ahead of me.

Out of the water 3rd pro female, a look at my watch and saw 57:18. Whoa!! I learned how to swim! Had the day ended right here, I would have been very happy.

Onto the bike and I moved into 2nd. Other than my fingers being numb for the first hour, the weather was comfortable. We had a bit of rain, but nothing crazy. I settled in and then it was time to race, race, race! The course consists of three loops with several solid climbs.

My friends Angelina and Shaun were awesome, giving me splits, yelling motivational things to make me laugh, etc. All was fairly uneventful until a section between mile 85-95 where I completely imploded. I'm not sure if it was calories, or just overall legs hating me, but on the final climb I was literally going backwards. Two girls passed me and at that point I really wasn't sure if I'd blown my entire race. My watts went from near 200 to about 130 and everything became damage control - I threw down some gels and a banana and thankfully revived before I hit transition after 5:34 on the bike. 

And then it was time for my favorite part - the run. I knew if I wanted to pull off not only a good race, but a solid finish, I need to run fast. Yvette was 2 minutes up on me and she can run. Lou came into T2 with me and she can run as well. Steven yelled at me to be patient - it is so easy to go out too hard on the run, especially when the lead is in sight.

The run consists of four loops with quite a bit of cross-country terrain. I loved this. It is also beautiful. On the second loop I moved into 2nd and picked up a bicycle escort. Honestly - this was my favorite part of the race. I've never had a bicycle escort before. I continued to get splits - Yvette pulled the gap up past 3 minutes, and Lou was holding the gap behind me at two. I was chasing and running scared all day.

Chasing my bike escort in the pouring rain.

We had several downpours. I wasn't cold, so I really enjoyed this. There's something about running in the rain and splashing in massive puddles that makes me feel like I'm five years old again.

On the final lap I knew I was closing. We ran around a large open area at one point and I could see first. My bike escort turned around and said "This is going to be close. Really close." I picked up the pace. And I chased. And ate gels and slammed Coke. I willed my legs to turn over faster.

In the end I closed the gap to 50 seconds and finished 2nd with a 3:12 marathon. I have no regrets - it was a great day of racing against talented girls.

I finally broke ten hours with a 9:48 finish. It was a 19 minute PR.

A huge thank you to Felix - the man behind the Challenge races. This was my first Challenge race and all I can say is that I wish there were some in the States. Everything about the Challenge race was top-notch.

Alan is the Challenge Henley-on-Thames race director. I'm pretty sure he has not eaten or slept all week. But you would never know this was a first year race. I'm looking forward to racing Henley again. A huge thank you to our amazing homestay in Henley - they not only made me feel so relaxed and at home, but they fed us awesome home-cooked vegetarian meals, drove us around, and even gave me splits out on the run course!

On a great day of racing I am the one who does the work, but there are oh-so-many people supporting and my dream-chasing would never be possible without them. Many THANK YOUs to:
  • Zoot – From my awesome running shoes, to the wetsuit that I'm finally doing justice, I love all your gear. And even more I love the Zoot family.
  • Profile Design – I love my wheels, aero bars, aero drink setup, etc. They are all FAST!
  • – the support you provide is amazing, I am lucky to have you on my team.
  • QR – Love love love my bike! It climbs well, descends even better, and is so very comfortable.
  • Rudy Project – my sunglasses and helmet are the best out there.
  • ZipVit – I attribute the fact that I had absolutely no stomach issues in a long day of racing to the great products you make.
  • XEndurance – podium again. Thank you.
  • SableWater Optics – I can see when I swim. Always. This rocks!
  • K-Edge – Haven’t dropped my chain once all year – thanks!
  • – I love my job, thank you for always working around my crazy training & racing schedule.
  • Coach - Thank you for believing this result was possible.
  • Steven – This adventure of life has been amazing, I am lucky to have you along on it!
  • Mom & Dad - the fact that you got up in the middle of the night to track my race says it all.
  • My training friends – there will most definitely be a party when I get home!
I have a few days to explore London and then it's back home to California. Ireland and the UK have been good to me.