It was noticeable in the Miami airport as our fellow passengers gathered at the gate for St. Croix, that the people that race St. Croix are racing to win. Every single person had a body fat percentage of under 8% and it was the fittest group I've ever seen in my life. These were not recreational age groupers. These people were here to collect their Kona slots. Whoa. I felt pretty out of place, but i kept in mind I am just here to have a good time and finish the race as best I can.
It was quite a busy few days with our surprise Friday wedding and pre-race day. The weather had become increasingly questionable and the downpours here are no joke. Going into this race I knew the weather was my #1 challenge as I don't do too well in the heat and humidity. I hadn't really considered that it could rain the whole bike course. Now, I love running in the rain and I don't mind swimming in the rain, but riding in the rain is a whole other story and I'm not super comfortable at handling my bike in serious rain. Since the weather here can change in two seconds I decided to just play it by ear and adjust my race as necessary.
I went into this race pretty intimidated. I really felt like I didn't have any right to be racing here with these people. The age groupers looked like pros. 99% of them. This race really is made up of the best of the best. And then there was me.... I felt a bit out of place, but figured what the hell, all I have to do is just keep going. It's not like I was going for a win. I knew given the girls in my AG I would probably come in last and had to be okay, mentally with that. If this race had the normal array of age groupers, I probably would be more middle to back of the pack, but not here! I'm nowhere near winning anything in the 70.3 range, but I usually am a strong athlete and I knew that I had to swallow my pride because I was going to be coming in last here.
|Swim to start island!|
Race morning we woke up, ate something, and got ready. No big deal there. We had a two mile ride into town to the race. It was raining a bit, but not too bad. The bugs here love me and I am covered in a billion little bites so the cool water felt good on my skin. I have a bit of an allergic reaction going on which is more annoying than anything else. As we made our way onto the main road it started pouring. Pitch black, slick roads, pouring rain overwhelmed me. I pulled over and told Adam I didn't think I could race today. He was really surprised since I'm not usually such a wuss. We got back on the road and I just tried to hold it together and not slip on the way in. By the time I got to transition it was still raining and I just had a bad feeling. I've never ridden in real rain (CA rain is waaaaay different than the torrential downpour of the Caribbean) and I knew it would be a technical course with lots of descents with turns. Adam and I talked about it for awhile and I gave him a firm no. My heart rate was at about 117 and I thought I was going to throw up. I am never really like that so I figured maybe I was just having a gut feeling that it was a bad idea to race.
|Pardon me, Lance Armstrong|
Yet, I looked around and I forgot there was also a sprint race going on. I saw all kinds of people who didn't look like the fancy pants racers and thought shit, if they can do it I can do it. I was going to text my family that I wasn't racing and then thought, fine I'll go for a swim. Well, when we hopped off the dock to swim to the island, none of them came with. Hah, joke was on me. But the swim was the best I felt all morning. Its a really short few hundred yards over so no big deal. Once on the island we had some water, I almost smacked into Lance and found some friends we'd met earlier. It was nice being isolated (no crowd) on the island. The pros were warming up right with everyone else. I'm not much of a celebrity fan type, but it was pretty neat to be in such talented company and have a unique experience like that!
|The guy behind me is way happier with his time than me.|
|That's not even the Beast|
It was absolutely beautiful. The most amazing scenery I've ever seen. We rode along the coast, through rainforests, along countryside and farms, saw iguanas, peacocks, horses, goats, mongooses (mongeese?) and lots of squished frogs. We pretty much rode the entire island and along the way there were some historical landmarks and what looked like old ruins. I really enjoyed the view, sometimes you have to look around and be grateful for what you're doing and why you do it and that you CAN do it. It was pissing down rain, so I let go of any frustration and just accepted the rain. Riding in the mud and puddles and getting filthy was fun. It rained so hard that we went through some puddles that were about a foot or more deep, it was nuts. They had plenty of people out marking where to slow and where to turn and cheering. The islanders and the crowd were just amazing. Aid stations were smooth and frequent and the volunteers were great at handing off water.
There's no missing the beast. The islanders paint the ground marking the start, the grades and the distances in 1/10th mi increments. It's a bitch because you make a sharp turn to get on it effectively losing whatever speed you had. It starts steep right away and naturally, the rain began again just as I got to it. It's like the steep side of modjeska but it just goes on and on! I rode a good chunk of the beast until I tried to stand and my hands were slipping on my bars from the rain. I got off and tried to hustle up the really steep stuff on foot. Then I hopped back on and rode the rest of the way, passing a number of guys in the process. That part felt good. A bunch of islander ladies were hollering at me to pass all the men so I felt a little fire in my belly and did what I could. Granted, they were old dudes, but it felt good anyways!
The descent wasn't as bad as everyone said. None of the descents were bad at all. It wasn't like descending modjeska at all (the descent) and I was really really really glad I rode the course instead of wussing out. Nothing was too scary and there weren't a ton of people around me making me nervous that they'd wipe me out. In fact a lot of the course I rode alone or leapfrogging with one or two other people. It was really nice to go my own pace and not feel like I was riding in a crowd. I hit mile 38 and thought shit I'm mentally at mile 50 and pretty much out of food. I was really, really hungry. Those first 20 miles burn more than you think they will. I took my salt the whole way and took the same amount of food we usually do on races, but whoa super hungry. I think I ran out of food at mile 40 and realized, that's gonna screw me on the run. And it did. But I know keeping up on the salt and the water helped me as best it could I went through at least 5 or 6 bottles of water, I had to remind myself that even though it was raining, it was also hot and I was sweating not just covered in rain!
I had to move some bikes to rack my bike since people had racked on top of my stuff, but I know most of the girls were gunning for time, so it was no big deal for me to take a little extra time. I put on running shoes, thought about finding porta potties, decided to just pee where I was instead. Classy, I know, but its lesss gross than going into a day full of used porta potties and I was already dirty and wet. Being a guy is much easier, I'm sure. I started the run and figured I'd just settle in. Unlike Oceanside I wasn't running 9:00 out of the gate trying to slow down. I was at about 10:15 or something and thought huh...I don't think i'll be I hitting the gas, but you never know. The 2 mi run out of town has some shorter hills, just enough to remind you of the bike you just did. Aid stations were amazing and I used the ice, water, sponges and even treated myself to some coke to make up for my lack of sugar. The 2 mi on the Buccaneer property was the humid part. It had stopped raining and while there was cloud cover (thankfully) the sun is still burning right through it. I felt like I couldn't get a good breath, so I kept breathing with my foot strikes trying to even it out, but it feels stifling and I was unable to get a good clear breath. It's frustrating because I've run in the heat and the hills and this run was total bullshit. I had no more matches to burn even thought my heart rate wasn't that high ... I felt like hyperventilating when I tried to pick it up due to the humidity. I hadn't expected that. The Buccanneer run is pretty hilly and it takes you back into a wooded trail that is full of gnats and mud...Everyone comes out of the wood covered in gnats. The 2mi back into town was the easier part.
|Hot. Humid. Blech. Smile!|
The first four miles of the run was the hardest. I just felt tapped energy wise and I knew how flipping slow I was and how crappy my time was. But for the day I had, the weather we had and the course, I kept reminding myself that it didn't matter if my time sucked. I know I'm better than what I did. I know I train way harder. But I was going to finish even if my pride was on the floor. A lot of people signed up for the race and didn't show. A lot of people crashed. A lot of people wouldn't even have signed up in the first place. And there were really few women on the course, so as a woman I knew I was alright just for being there. I was uninjured, within cutoff, and I was going to finish. I knew the heat and humidity would fuck me on this race, so I had to be ok with whatever came along. The second loop of the run I felt better. My time was slow, but I was feeling happier. I said hi to everyone, thanked all the volunteers, cheered on other athletes and just kept moving. People kept saying I looked great and my form was good. Nothing hurt, I just couldn't go any faster. It was like being stuck in molasses. The last two miles were tough!
|My new husband and I!|
I turned onto the final street and could see the finish line and Adam waiting for me. He medalled me and I was finally done. We ate and cleaned up our stuff and then headed back for a slow two mile ride to the hotel. We ordered room service and had nice massages at the spa. We tucked in for bed by 8:30 and called it a day!
I have mixed feelings about my race. I know I can race harder than that. But sometimes you have it and sometimes you don't. I'm looking forward to recovering for the next month from the past two races and then hammering the shit out of SOMA half ironman in fall and getting ready for IMAZ!