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!
  • TriSports.com – 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!
  • MicroscopeWorld.com – 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.

25 comments:

cheryl said...

congrats - what a great race! enjoy the rest of yout trip!

Beth said...

So, so, so, soooooo happy for you to have it all come together Charisa!! 19 minute PR - that is HUGE!!! Loved your race report. Huge congrats again and safe travels home!

scottie said...

Solid race! Nice job

Jennifer Harrison said...

SO happy for you! JErome did Challenge ROTH last year and I was there spectating - hands down an amazing event for sure - that Challenge Series!!! Great to see ADC and Shaun there with you too! Congrats on your 2nd place finish!

jameson said...

congrats... sounds like an epic! patience pays off!!!

J. L. said...

CONGRATULATIONS!

Snakebite said...

Wow! Way to go! Congrats!

Kelly said...

much deserved, charisa. sounds like you had a near perfect race day; those are so few and far between and we have to savor them! if i were to do a challenge race this sounds like a good one w/ the hills. a huge congrats to you & enjoy your time there!! ~kelly

Christi said...

Congratulations on a great race!

jc said...

great race. very inspiring!

Andrea said...

Wow! Inspiring indeed!!! Awesome, awesome, awesome! :)

Kiet said...

Leave Europe with the name Charisa Wernick stamped in people's minds...checked! You are simply amazing and now we can swim together.

Kim said...

way to go charisa! you really threw down on that run! awesome, congrats girl!

Red Rock said...

Congrats Charisa! And great write-up too! :-)

TRI714 said...

wow, your marathon was insane !! Great swim, bike !!!! So stoked for you. Great job on the HUGE 2ND !!!

Angela and David said...

Amazing job! So glad it all came together and you had such an amazing day!

Libby said...

love the race report and HUGE congrats!! its so inspiring to see all that hard work pay off for you! huge and well earned breakthrough! now enjoy some vacation!!!

Steve said...

WOAH!!! That is amazing. Great job, you are G-R-E-A-T!!! No doubt about it. :)

kristinschleicher said...

congratulations! this made my day.

Kathleen @ ForgingAhead said...

That smile on your face coming down the final stretch says it all! So happy for you!

Kim said...

Whooo hoooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Times a thousand!! So excited for you and just so happy it came together! YES YES YES! Thankful beyond belief for you and way to HANG TOUGH and race!!

krystyna47 said...

YES!!!!!! I think you had the best race day magic, and what an amazing race report!
(And I especially love the Challenge events -- you should try Challenge Cairns next June 3, in tropical north Queensland in Australia... I did the half-iron last year, am going back next year. The funnest week of events ever. I mean you get to do an OWS over the Great Barrier Reef!!!!!!)

Teresa said...

That looks chilly, fun and FAST!!! Way to go!

IAN said...

I wanna be you when I grow up ;-)

solarpowered said...

WOOHOO!!!! What an amazing experience to have everything fall into place -- even getting through the rough bike spot! Congratulations!!!!