New Orleans, New Orleans! I did this race 2 years ago and absolutely loved it. I knew if I could fit it on my schedule for 2011 that I'd be back. There was some question after my bike crash if I could be ready for Galveston, and I felt one extra week of healing/training would do me well so I went ahead and signed up. It actually turned out well. After about 3 weeks down from Costa Rica, I got a great block of training in and came into New Orleans feeling very fresh and surprisingly fit. I love it when a plan comes together at the last moment! I absolutely love my Kestrel 4000, it fits me so much better than my previous bike, and it's just so smooth. Also, Zipp was kind enough to send me some new race tires and I couldn't believe how much better (and faster!) the bike felt. I digress...I left on Thursday afternoon and made it out before all the tornadoes hit Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Lucas and the kids had to camp out in the basement for awhile! No damage, everything was fine. I got to the hotel and had Friday all to myself to completely chill. I relish these moments of doing nothing, as they don't seem to happen often! I also brought my Recovery Boots and spent some time in them. I was feeling very relaxed, which is always a great sign.
Lucas got in that night and Saturday morning we met up with our good friends Jon and Sandra. Jon was doing the race and picked us up to do a little swim/bike/run. I panicked when I loaded my bike and realized my front 808 was completely flat. After sorting it out and realizing it was just a slight mechanical error, I was confident in my equipment for Sunday. When we got to the race site the wind was howling and there were white caps on the water. They wouldn't let us in for a test swim, but I figured in the morning with less wind everything would be fine. No worries.
Sunday morning always comes too early. I got up and ate 3 hrs prior to the start. I also sipped on First Endurance mild grape drink. Although it was not going to be a scorcher of a day, I know from Oklahoma winds that dehydration can be deceiving. We got out to the race site and quickly learned the swim was cancelled. Bummer. I'm never happy about this. Not that I'm the world's greatest swimmer (obviously) but any chance to swim in a race setting allows me to gauge my strengths and weakness. I need to know these things, it's imperative to my training. Plus, it changes the whole dynamic of our race. I want to know where I stand, not where I think I stand in a race (as in trying to add or subtract the time according to where you start). But, this was not the time to dwell. I'm actually very proud that I stayed focused and realized it is what it is, it doesn't change your objectives. 30 minutes prior I took my EFS pre-race mixed with water and a little bit of gel. This stuff is amazing. I love that it doesn't make me jittery like coffee can. And there is no crash, it's just pure power baby :) Seriously, I kept my nerves in check and lined up for out time trial start. The plan was to start 30 secs apart, and I was number 7. I actually kind of liked this. I was able to stay focused in the wind, and there were several 180s where you could see everyone. This was huge for me, I really like to see what's going on. While it was tricky actually knowing where you stand, I knew I was having a great bike ride. My coach and I carefully planned how to execute this ride. I rode conservatively, knowing that the wind would take more out then people realize. I had two bottles with 300 calories each of mild grape EFS. I grabbed one bottle of water from the aid station and had about 100 calories of vanilla EFS gel. I also went ahead and took a few salt. I felt great, very in control and as the ride continued I felt stronger. The was a good sign for my #1 objective-- to run fast. I've been running very well lately and was psyched to have a good run in New Orleans. I got into T2, slipped on the Avia Bolt III and took off. I love these shoes. They have a lot of cushion, which I need for my heavy forefoot strike. When I started running I knew it was going to be good. I felt snappy right from the go. Again, I wanted to be conservative the first 5k, and then really build and try to negative split the run. While I felt great, I felt a little tug in the back of my left lower leg. Almost exactly 1 year ago I experienced a level 2 strain of my soleus. It was kind of a freak thing, I had a sinus infection and had been on the antibiotic Levaquin. I was out on an easy run and suddenly it felt like someone was stabbing me in the back of the leg. I couldn't figure out why--all my years of running and nothing like this has ever happen. Upon further research it turns out one Levaquin has been black boxed by the FDA for causing Achilles tendon ruptures. As you can imagine, I was not pleased to learn this. After a few weeks off, I seemed to get it under control but really had to manage it as it seems to flare up at random times. When I felt the tug in my leg I got a little worried. I backed off the pace a little and tried to change my gait, thinking I could keep it under control. Somewhere between mile 6 and 7 I suddenly got that stabbing pain again. When this happens there is nothing I can do. It's not like a cramp that you can work out. It kind of reminds me of the movie Pet Cemetery when the creepy toddler cuts the old man's Achilles, rendering him totally ineffective. I knew I was done, and trying to do more would probably just tear the soleus more. The problem was this was a point to point race and I was literally smack-dab in the middle. Besides my crash, I've never DNFd (except Branson and Armed Forces one year, both mechanical). I have no idea how it works. I didn't know if there was anyone on the course that could take me back. I just kept moving forward with a walk, trot, thinking Lucas is waiting for me at the finish. Luckily a spectator on his bike was on the course taking pictures. He asked if I was okay. I told him no and asked if I could borrow his phone to call my husband to come pick me up. He was so kind and generous and let me use his phone. It felt great that people were so supportive, other women going by shouted words of encouragement, which was great as I was incredibly disappointed. Okay, I have to tell this story because now it just makes me laugh. So this nice man is letting me use his phone. I'm limp trotting down the road on the phone as he is biking next to me. This part of the course happen to be an out and back. Another athlete sees me and yells out an accusation of "outside assistance!!"??? I'm caught so off guard as just about everyone else is yelling things like, "sorry girl" or "keep it up." Perhaps she thought the man was pacing me as I was gimping along rocking out to Pink on the phone?? I guess in these races at a calorie deficit one can be void of common sense? I'll admit, I was pretty angry. I take my reputation very seriously--and by that I think I'm pretty up front that integrity is probably the biggest quality that I hold to myself and look for in others. But like I said, if you know me then you know this about me. Yelling things like that is just sad and laughable....So luckily down the road I was able to get a ride back from an official and there you have it.
So, where does this leave me? Of course, very disappointed--but mainly because I don't know what triggered my leg for this to happen. I haven't had any problems that would warn me. I'm trying to figure it out as I write this. But on the flip side I know I can get it better and still have a good season, as I did last year. And as for positives, I have confidence of where I am with my fitness. I have confidence in my training plan. I'm not run down, I'm just more hungry to get this leg better and get out there and race!! I never want to let my sponsors down, and I feel as if I've done so. Please be patient with me, I promise good things are to come :)!! Special thanks to Trakkers/Revolution 3, Kestrel, Avia, Endurance First, TYR, Recovery Boots, Louis Garneau. Also, the best bike shop ever, 918XC. The bike rode like a dream! To Rip at Zipp, you came through in a pinch, thank you! Team Red White and Blue, I promise to represent next time! Coach Kevin P, this is the start of a beautiful friendship :0 Most of all to Lucas for being so supportive this weekend and not letting me dwell! Until next time!