This year’s Pleasant Prairie was almost “the race that never was.” The day before the race, the weather forecast was calling for an 80% chance of thunderstorms for the Pleasant Prairie/Kenosha area. I got an email from another friend who had entered asking if they would do the race. To my knowledge, they will run the race in rain. Lightening, no.
The alarm didn’t actually wake me up. It had been storming for a while and I just laid there and listened to it until it was time to get up and get ready. I flipped on the TV for the weather forecast and it still indicated thunderstorms and flash flood warnings in the area. But I still got dressed, ate and packed all my things as if this race was going to happen. We opted to park in a lot near the actual parking area. They usually have everyone park in a big, grassy field. No way was my little car going to make it through that field, so we just parked in a nearby lot and prepared to walk to the transition area.
We weren’t the only ones with this idea and the lot quickly filled. It was raining pretty hard and there was the occassional lightening flash. I wrapped grocery bags around both feet and threw on my raincoat. I had flashbacks of the Boston Marathon where we had to sit for hours in the cold wind and rain, so I did my best to keep myself dry. On a positive note, it wasn’t nearly as cold as Boston was this past April! On the way to the transition, we saw a guy bringing his bike back. He said they were delaying the start of the race and would make the call at 6:30 whether or not the race was going to happen. I thought “no way are we going to race…it’s raining hard, there is a lot of water on the roads and it’s lightening out.”
Thankfully, they opened the Rec Plex and let us all wait in there for a while. It was great to see so many familiar faces and have a few moments to catch up with each of them. I was already mentally checked out and just waiting to go get my bike so we could head back to the hotel to shower and get moving on home. I mean, I can’t really run with the shin injury anyway. This race wasn’t going to be good for me either way. Wouldn’t break my heart if it was cancelled. The announcer was giving us frequent updates. Each time he got on the microphone, there was dead silence. You could hear a pin drop. He ran down a list of what they could do….delay the start, make it a duathlon, change the course, shorten the course, and possibly cancel the race. Now I’m being remembered of Galena, when we stood…outside…in pouring rain for about 2.5 hours before they decided to call that race. Within 30 minutes of calling it, the weather was beautiful.
I chatted on with my triathlete friends, all the while fully believing this race was going to be cancelled. I was in the line for body marking when I saw Angie who was like, “What’re you doing, we aren’t going to race, why are you getting marked?” I agreed and walked out of the line to chat with her some more.
Right about 6:15, the announcer came back on. The race was on. Full course. Instructions were: if at any time you see lightening, get off the course. Get back to transition immediately. I was like, gee, if that happens while I’m on the bike, I guess I’ll have to ride the whole course because I’ll have no idea how to get back here without following the arrows!!!
I was in shock. Race? Come on. No way. Shoot. Crap. Now I’m scared. The pavement was really, really wet. This course has some very sharp turns. Aw man. Then it hit me…I have less than 25 minutes to prepare transition and get my wetsuit on before my wave start! AAAAGH! I ran to get in line for the bathroom. That took almost 10 minutes. I rushed over to transition and began to figure out how to arrange my things all while protecting them from getting soaked should the rain start coming down. I tried to arrange it so I could be fast, but who was I kidding? Everything was in bags I couldn’t see through, so I just did the best I could and began squeezing into the wetsuit. I popped a Clif Shot. Because the race was delayed, I had eaten too early and forgotten my usual banana, so this was all I had.
If they did the national anthem, I missed it. I really love swimming in Lake Andrea and I knew former professional triathlete, Lauren Jensen, was in my wave. Our wave was next up and I scooted into the starting chute. I saw Laura (aka Whizzzz) and moved over to talk to her and wish her luck and before I could move back, my spot was taken. I was now in the THIRD row of the swim start! Now how did that happen? I was bummed and I saw Lauren but knew I’d need to draft off her immediately if I was to keep up and now I was sort of boxed out of that position. Oh well, not like this is going to be a PR for me, so I’ll just do the best I can.
From this picture, I’m like the 4th or 5th person you can see. Behind the woman with her elbows sticking straight out…no idea what she’s trying to do…probably BLOCK me. And it was a pretty aggressive swim start from there. I got hit more than normal and just attributed that to me not being able to being one of the first ones in the water. After about 25 yards, there was still a good group with me and I saw the leaders up ahead, so I just hammered for the next 50 yards to get away from the mess! It worked and I found myself able to draft of someone who was pretty close to my speed. It was a beautiful thing!
I followed her around the buoys, around the slower swimmers from the wave in front of me and just relaxed and tried to keep my breathing easy. The lake water was comfortable and I just enjoyed coasting on her feet. Then we got into a mess of slower swimmers and my rabbit started breast stroke kicking. I made a quick move to the right to not only avoid being kicked in the face, but to also try and maintain my rhythym. And now my draftee was trying to be the drafter. Yes, yes, you’ve done all the work, so hop on my feet. But I’m not going to make it easy. We had just rounded the last corner, so I hammered again, pushing the pace to the finish. I had a nice, clean space in front of me which allowed me to keep my head down and focus on strong, smooth strokes. I easily swam all the way to the beach and jumped out of my water.
I hit my watch as I crossed over the timing mat and notice it said 12:21. What? Crap, somehow I didn’t turn on my watch…but wait, it wasn’t 12:21, either. Whatever, I don’t have time to think of this now! I ripped off my cap and goggles and began getting out of the wetsuit. I thankfully found my bike easily and tried to finish getting the wetsuit off. I had a little trouble getting if off of the shin I had put a compression wrap on. I was a little shaky as I reached into the first bag to get my socks and shoes. I put my sunglasses on, they steamed up, I threw them back down. I was still wobbly and put on the cycling jacket. I stood there for a couple of seconds before deciding it was too warm for the jacket and I threw it back down. I put on the helmet and grabbed the sunglasses. Tried putting them on again, steamed up again, I ripped them off and took my bike from the rack and began running to the bike exit. I tried starting my watch again once I passed the timing mat. At least I’d get a bike split!
Once on the bike, I put the glasses on and they stayed clear. I was very, very scared. Within the first 5 minutes of my bike leg, I watched a guy in front of me wipe out. There was an officer not very far away, so I knew help was already there. But it made me more scared and I slowed down. The pavement was really wet and the last thing I wanted was to crash. Even worse would be an injury to end my season, so I just kind of cruised along. I actually looked at some of my surroundings. It was nice. Then other women started passing me. I let them go, who knows, this could be their “A” race. Their season could be over after today. That was not the case for me. I slowed almost to a complete stop around all corners. People would pass me and get in front of me too soon and the spray from their back wheel would kick up onto my face. Oh, I was too nervous. My shin hurt a little on the bike, but I just focused on other things. I wondered how long it would take me to complete the distance at this laid back pace. Didn’t matter, even if I had a great bike leg, I can’t run, so this race was just for practice.
I passed what was like the half way mark and it seemed just past the overpass, the roads were a little drier. I picked up the pace. I felt a little safer, but I still crawled through the turns. I must’ve seen at least a half a dozen people on the sides of the roads. I was hoping they were just flats or bike problems and not people who had skidded out. But you could see road rash on some of them and I tried hard not to look. KEEP THE RUBBER SIDE DOWN! Damn, I’m such a baby! I decided to push a little harder. I began passing many of the people who had passed me on the first half of the bike course. It felt good. It felt even better when I was able to get off the bike, accident-free!
It was then a big cluster getting into transition. There were three guys, blocking the aisle and just moseying along. HELLLOOOOO….move to the side or something! Come on. Wait, what am I doing, I’m not really racing this race! I tried to calm myself down and threw my bike on the rack. I dug in the second bag to get my running shoes out. Damn, I forgot to put out a shot for the run leg. Oh well, it’s only 6 miles. I put on my visor and limped to the run out.
Wow, the shin was painful. I thought about walking. Come on, it’s only 6 miles! I gimped along, many runners gracefully passing me by. It made me feel better to say “good job” to those few athletes I was able to pass in that first mile. I again went to hit the watch and it read 12:02. Huh? Damn, I really wanted to know what my pace was like! I started the clock again. I hobbled thinking about just turning this 10K into a 5K. Then I started seeing other people I knew, cheering me on. I was just passing mile 2 at that point and thought, you know, I should really try to go faster. (what happened to I AM NOT RACING TODAY?) Anyway, I started to pick up the pace. The weather was quite comfortable. Except for running around some of the pretty large puddles on the course, it was a good run. And my splits began getting faster. When I realized my shin really didn’t hurt any worse as I ran faster, I pushed the pace. I was now breathing heavy and the splits were getting faster. I saw more people on my way back in and it was like they gave me more energy. Yes, the shin hurt with every step, but it was tolerable. I figured it was going to take me the same amount of steps no matter what, so let’s just get this over with! I was happy with my last couple of miles, but my bike time and first 2 very slow run miles added up for what was my 3rd slowest Olympic triathlon time ever. I’m not disappointed. I’m actually quite happy to have stayed safe on the bike and to have been able to finish the run.I went to say congrats to Angie, who had a phenomenal race!
I went immediately to the medical tent to have the shin wrapped in ice and it felt so good!! I cringed at the sight of a guy who had crashed on the bike being treated for his road rash. No matter how bad things can get, it can almost always be worse. I’ve made an appointment to see a doctor this week for the shin.