Branson: Misery in Missouri

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Currently nursing the worst hangover I’ve had in all of 2013… and that’s without touching a drop of alcohol. I don’t know whether to blame today's dehydration on my big fat F in nutrition on the bike yesterday or not wanting to over-hydrate for a hundred bathroom stops on my ten hour drive home from Branson yesterday afternoon, but either way it’s certainly terrible. The good thing is that while my overall body feels pretty crummy, my legs don’t feel too shot! I don’t know whether that’s testament to a speedy recovery or not going hard enough yesterday but either way it certainly gives me peace of mind with Kona three weeks out on the race horizon. 20130925-164059.jpg

I went into yesterday a bit ambivalent: I wanted to race, I had the green light to race and race hard and no better place to do it than with Rev3 on this notoriously brutal course. Check out the pro recap:

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However, despite my faith in my training and my coach’s plan, I had no fewer than five separate random people warn me that I was going to give myself dead legs by racing so close to Kona. I shouldn’t have paid attention to them (I mean, look at what Maik Twelsiek managed with back to back podiums at hilly Wisco and Tahoe… and he just so happens to be married to my coach!) That being said, that chatter in the back of my head was not healthy going into race day and bottom line, I just wasn’t focused enough or wise enough to tune it out.

Race morning I said goodbye to Maggs (racing the Olympic) and Moose and drove down to the start to drop things off at T1 and then board the ducks that would take us the 20-minutes up the hill to T2 at Moonshine Beach. The only bad thing about this set-up is that it means you can’t bring your phone with you to T1 unless you want to leave it in the dry clothes bag – so I didn’t have a camera to capture the absolutely stunning sight of the sun rising over Lake Table Rock and mist rising off of the nearly 80-degree water.

After some warming up and watching the pro men and women take off, our wave started shortly after. It was a running start to the beach, some dolphin dives and then we were off! For some reason I got a men’s orange cap instead of the blue the girls got but makes me stand out (front right of the group)!

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I swam on the feet of a pack of four or so other swimmers, including two speedy aquabikers, for probably the first third of the course until I lost them and had to zag myself back to the buoy line. With the fog rising over the water, it was hard to sight at times but thankfully it was a pretty straightforward course – except for some reason the second far buoy seemed to have a weird angle coming back into the shore: as a result I went a little too wide, couldn’t find the next buoy and had to pop up and tread water for a few seconds until I saw the pack (still mostly together!) steam by me.

Head down, I pushed hard and managed to swim up alongside them and past them with a push toward the finish. As I got out of the water I beeped my watch – 29:52! First female! – and while the Rev3 time was longer (probably because the mats were closer to T1), I’m TOTALLY counting that as my first sub-30 swim. All of that pesky band work is finally starting to pay off!

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Onto the bike and from the first few seconds I knew I regretted not wearing gloves and toe warmers. Maybe I’m a wimp but the swim would be the last time I could feel my feet and hands until the very last parts of the bike. Going into the bike, I knew I wouldn’t have my powermeter (silly quarq has been acting up) but had no idea how much racing “blind” and chilly would affect me. I like to think I know my body and my efforts but right away felt clueless about how hard I was working and the first five or so miles are an uphill climb with a few rollers before the route spits you out onto the famous (infamous?) Branson highway, closed to bikes only during the entire race.

It was during the climb out of transition that things went from unpleasant to worse when in a small glimmering moment my quarq decided to send watts to my watch. In a moment of not thinking but wanting to get a correct average reading, I lapped my garmin. Whoops. Immediately I went into “transition” – I had forgotten that I was racing in multisport mode and that the lap button sent me to the next discipline. I spent the next minute fiddling with my watch to reset it and get it back into bike mode – though the only reading I was getting was distance and mph, which was pretty meaningless given the brutal hills we were up against.

Photo courtesy of Eric Wynn, from Rev3's facebook page:

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And they were brutal, long and grinding and I saw at least 4 people having to walk their bikes up at least two different climbs. The views were beautiful,  particularly one stretch of highway where the road splits and one is at a higher elevation than the other: you could look up or down across the way and see the other riders in the other direction. Once crawling up each incline, you then got to bomb down it, and I probably went a little faster than I would have liked in a few occasions, topping out at nearly 47mph on one sweeping downhill.

But with my cold hands and the wind whipping past on the descents, I was having trouble feeling my hands and gripping on and as a result, I probably spun up a few more hills staying aero and not getting out of my seat than I should have. It wasn’t until lap two when I really started to find my legs and start to push up the hills more aggressively, honey badger style (watching MBE ride is pretty insane - she's my bad-ass biker inspiration).

Cold hands and the descents also meant that I was being a pansy about taking in nutrition. I ended up about 500-calories short of where I should have been and only managed to take in just over two bottles. This was totally my fault. Of all the things you get control over, nutrition is a biggie and I blew it… again, take notes on “what not to do.” :)

At one point, the pro men came riding by me, in their staggered position. It was a large group of 6 or 7 and it was crazy to see the little song and dance they have to do as everyone was constantly shuffling positions and moving around to stay legal. They blew up the climb like it was nothing and took the off-ramp back toward T2 and the run course.

Once you take the ramp, you get to a curious part of the bike course. I’m sure some had fun with it but I’ll be honest and say that I was not a fan. After riding down through some pretty winding smaller roads, you get to switchback city where there are some turn-arounds and then you’re on essentially a side-walk. I love you, Rev3, but this was tough to navigate and my race mentality dropped to about zero here. It’s a no pass zone but it goes on for a good mile or mile-and-a-half and felt longer. I also went through here hating life because this had just happened moments prior:

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My flat kit unvelcro-ed itself from my seat and fell off. I was right by a race official and it’s like $40 of tools so I pulled over, ran the 10-yards back to grab it, stuffed it down my shirt and rode on. Of course this also happened right before a hill so I got the joy of trying to get up that sucker from a standstill. Not a happy camper at all.

I came into T2 not knowing my time because of the watch snafu but knowing that it was SLOOOOW. I went into this knowing from previous years’ results that it was going to be a slow split but I had never expected to be so far out on this side of 3-hours at a glacial (for me) 3:06. I harrumphed through transition and bolted out of there.

I was weirdly excited for the run, most likely because it was a fast and flat course and “at least I didn’t have to run a marathon!” And even though I was ticking away from pretty speedy splits on the first lap, I was having a blast. I liked this run as the three loop course took you through the town shopping center (with the aromatic ice cream shop that I nearly puked at the 3x I passed it) so you have plenty of participants, then down through some winding parts of a neighborhood and cute little neighborhood and then back along the river. My favorite part was running next to the water because a bit of a breeze over the cold water had a nice chilling effect. The only bad part about the 3-loops was that twice you had to run next to the finish line and hear Sean cheering the finishers in, before having to head back out on another loop.

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At some point in lap one, a pro passed me and I enjoyed the pace she was running so tagged along, keeping her in my sight, for about two miles. From there it was waving at people, the guy running in the police uniform, a Rev3 volunteer I thought was Sharpie, the real Sharpie, the owners of the dog/bear/wolf, photographers, you name it. Looking back, I had way too much fun out here on the run after the miserable time I had on the bike.

The last two miles I saw Summer at the final turn-around and realized I had chipped into a teeny bit of her lead and figured I might as well go for it and see what happens. I never got close but did run my last mile in 7:01… whoops! Probably should have paced a bit better earlier on but happy to only be 2-minutes off my previous HIM PR given the brutal bike and my mental state for most of the race. At the finish was so happy to be done and jumped like a spaz through the finish line in front of the awesome fountain backdrop.

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But overall a good day and so happy to go 1-2 with Summer for a Rev3-filled podium! Nearly eleven hours later, I rolled into Austin around 2am. I could NOT have been happier to be home and crash in bed. Two weeks to Hawaii, three weeks to Kona!

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