Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gotta Start Somewhere

That's my ride!

I headed down to Las Vegas last week for the opening of the Xterra Pro Series, XTERRA West Championships, located at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson. I was able to arrive a couple days early and get ready for the race on Sunday. It was hot. It has been getting really warm in Sacramento, but it is Hot in Vegas. I was able to get out for a pre-ride of the not so exciting course on Friday. This was only my 3rd time out on my new Liv/giant Obsess so I was happy to get some more time on it before the race!
Yep, that's what there is to see on the course. (Photo courtesy of Danelle :))

So, I have been on the fence this whole off-season as to whether or not I should take my pro license. I qualified but I kept going back on forth as to whether I should do it or not. There were a lot of factors going into my decision, and I finally decided a couple weeks ago that I just needed to be all in and go for it! What do I have to lose? Worst case, not much changes in my finishes, but most likely stepping up to the next level will push me harder while still keeping it fun! Decision made and paperwork sent to USAT, I still began to doubt slightly once I got there and was actually registering Pro! Yikes. To make matters worse, my neck was killing me all week! This was some of the worst it has ever been which did not help with the nerves going into my first Pro race.

So that's where I got to go
 Race morning came and amazingly my neck was feeling significantly better from the day before, thank goodness for Maia Ignatz helping me out a bit on Saturday. I could actually turn my head to the right which is really good since I generally breath to the right.  I went through the morning and was feeling pretty good, and then I went down to the water and that is when the nerves set in big time! Swimming is not my strong point so I suddenly felt I was going to get dropped right off. I got focused and calmed myself knowing that I had a plan and had been working on this swim in the pool. I thought about coach Joan's training and tips and had the plan and calmed my nerves.

Found this one. I don't look nervous or concerned about my neck at all ;)

Pro swim start

Gun went off and I started out well. I was focused on going fast and then getting on some feet. Feeling good, and then it began to happen....water....coming in the goggles. "Maybe I can do this all one eye" I thought briefly, and then the other started filling. Well, I know I cant' swim a 1500 open water blind. So that left no choice but to empty my goggles and re-seal. As I did so the rest of the field that I was ahead of surged over me and just like that I was off the back!  Ugh! Silly goggles, of course they were great during my warm-up. So, I tried to go hard but now I was off the back and had no feet or anyone to swim with the whole way. I could see the little group of pink caps not far ahead the whole time. Bummer! I was bummed because I have been working a lot on the swim and I do think I may have been able to have a much better swim than this as I did feel alright for the rest of the swim. As, I ran up to transition with one of the men, we came in and Brian, said "Well, someone had to be last right?" :) "Might as well be us." I replied. Gotta keep things upbeat :). Turns out we weren't actually last there were a couple more ladies out there.

Onto the bike, I was ready to get going and see if I could make up some ground. I could see the next female just ahead about 10 sec so I set my sights on catching her, but as I got going my legs just weren't coming around. I felt like I had no power and was just not in a good rhythm. I kept screwing everything up! As, I came around for lap 2 I was mixed in with the leading amateurs who started 45 mins after us and were just getting on the bike. I liked having the course all to ourselves the first lap but it probably helped me push a little more having people racing around me. Finally about halfway through the second lap I felt like my legs were coming a little but I still felt like I was lacking power and like my seat was too low even though I had checked and raised it the night before. Also, the wind had picked up by the second lap. So, along with that lack of push feeling I was also fighting a strong headwind on a lot of sections. 

I started the run and actually felt pretty strong, which is a new feeling for me. Another thing I have been working on this year. I was trying to tell myself that I could still catch people on the run but I am not sure I ever convinced myself. (Guess I may need to work on the mental part of this) The run course went out and then followed the bike course for about 4 miles. So, now I was running past the bikers going uphill and then getting blown by on the downhills, which was a little sketchy in sections were there was only one good route. I felt like my run was alright for me but I know that I could have run harder!

Turned out that I placed 10th and I was not last as I was thinking the whole time! It was a small pro field but I was still happy to have a top 10 (out of 12) ha ;) Both my swim and my run were vastly improved comparatively over last year!

I thought I had most of the mess-ups out of the way already before the big races but apparently not. Goggle misfortune: "SEAL!" (that's for you Elise and Steve).
Bike legs: Well, come to find when I got home, that my seat was in fact over an inch too low! Not sure how that happened since I did put it up the night before, I guess it slipped or something. Grr! It felt so much better at a local race last night being the right height! At least, that can explain some of the feeling.

One thing that does seem to be working really well, is my change in nutrition strategy! I have been loving the Osmo Women's line! The Pre-load was awesome to have for this heat. I had a bottle the night before and then a bottle in the morning before the race. I had almost 2 bottles of the active hydration on the bike and a flask that I started the run with. I have been trying to go with the Osmo motto of "food in the pocket, hydration in the bottle" too. It has been a little trial and error with what works but I am getting there. As one who has never done well with gu-type things anyway this has been good. I have often struggled with cramps on the run but have not had any! Also, my stomach felt soo much better post-race! I like that.

 All in all it was a good time in Vegas! While it was not the race I was hoping to have for my Pro debut, it was not the worst I could have had, and I learned some valuable lessons. Now, I have gotten that first one under my belt. Everyone always says that is the worst one. I was encouraged to know it could have been better and I also know some things to work on.  I am glad I decided to step up and just do it. Everyone has to start somewhere!
Figured I should have a pic in here somewhere.

Thanks to everyone's support and encouragement in this process. So, many of you have encouraged me to go ahead and take that step and so many of you had my back no matter what happens! I appreciate all of the support and encouragement so much!  

Also read this the day before. :)  "But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls." Heb 10:39

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