I'm beyond pleased--I'm so proud--of my performance at Portland. It wasn't super fast, definitely not glitch-free, but in the end I accomplished what I set out to do, and that's what matters most.
Race morning went well. Greg cooked SuperOats and I had a bit of coffee, changed and was at the race site by 6am. It was such a treat being able to ride my bike to the race start, instead of having to deal with parking, cars, traffic etc! It made for a very stress-free morning! My plan was to get to the race early, so as to get a great spot in transition and have plenty of time to warm up. However when I got there, the racks were over half full! I managed to find a sweet spot though, right next to Bike In/Out, and with a good straight line to Run Out. As I was setting things up i heard there was going to be a mandatory meeting at 7am, and then all racers would be herded to the race start for the first sendoff of the waves. I ran around for probably 15 minutes trying to figure out if there'd be swim warm-up available after the meeting...I didn't want to warm up at 6:45 and sit in my cold, soggy wetsuit for an hour until my wave, but I also didn't want to start the swim without warming up! No one knew the answer to my question, so I decided I'd warm up after if I could, and if not, I wouldn't worry about it.
Turns out there was no warm up after the meeting. Instead we were all ushered down to the dock area, and without any audible warning they started sending waves off. At about the time of the first wave I realized I hadn't eaten since breakfast, and I was getting hungry! Not good right before a race! I dashed back into transition and found a granola bar to scarf down. As soon as I'd finished that and pulled my wetsuit on, I saw a herd of white-capped women walking towards the water! I hollered at a few and found out they were Olympic distance--I still had five minutes until my wave. Phew! So I stood close to the ramp and made sure I was one of the first women to walk down to the dock once our wave was called. I tried to get a straight line to the buoy, but from the water they were nearly impossible to see! For some reason the buoys were white and small and square, so from the water they were practically invisible. The swim start was nuts: The officials had all 100 or so of us sardined against the dock in the water, and once they yelled "Go" it was a typical mad rush. I panicked a bit, and my breathing got crazy because I'd never warmed up, but eventually I found some feet and told myself to calm down and stick with them. The problem was, the water was so brown and murky I couldn't see anyone's bubbles, and couldn't see their feet until they were about to kick me in the face! So I did what I could, and tried to feel for a draft, which helped for the first 300 meters or so. Right before the first buoy I must have hit an eddy or something--suddenly I got super dizzy and disoriented, and told myself to just keep swimming and keep following the others. At the second buoy I felt a lot better, and started booking it towards the dock. However the Swim Out was also poorly marked, and I suck at sighting, so I couldn't really see where I was supposed to be swimming the last 300 meters. The other swimmers were super spread out, so I didn't know who to follow. Thankfully when I got close enough to see signs, the Swim Out sign was right in front of me. I made it up the ladder (ladder? Really??) and ran up to transition. On the run up I was super tired and feeling a little apathetic, but I reminded myself I'd feel tons better once I was on the bike.
I got my shoes on quick, helmet on quick, and had a super fast transition--until, just as I was leaving transition, I realized my timing chip had come off with my wetsuit!! I spun around with my bike--nearly bowling over another guy!--and frantically started digging around my area. Here's where I was so glad my setup was so close to Bike In/Out!! So anyways I started pulling through the sleeves of my wetsuit and shaking it out hunting all over...then I spotted a timing ship across the isle. I yelled at a girl, "Is this yours? I lost mine!" She looked at me wildly, and when I noticed a chip on her ankle I thought, "Oh well!" and put it on and got on the bike. I figured worst case scenario: it wasn't my chip, and I was out of the running. But I didn't have anything to lose..I couldn't keep searching any longer! Once I was out on the bike I got down in the aeros, which I'm not super comfortable in anyways, almost instantly some guy rides up in front of me and boxes me into the curb. My pedal dragged for a few seconds while I tried to find room to ease off the curb, and once I did I steadied myself and hopped back up onto my hoods. I was so glad I didn't go down! I decided that since it was such a crowded bike course I'd stay in my hoods, and not risk getting bumped in the aeros again! The bike was a two-loop course, a slow uphill to a steeper short climb, then a long fast descent back towards the transition area. At the top of the hill on the first loop I was shifting up and heard a clank--sure enough, I'd dropped my chain! Fortunately I was right next to a parking lot loop, so I pulled off immediately, threw my chain back on, and sped off down the hill. Also annoying, was for the entire bike my nose was running sooo bad! It was irritating, if nothing else. Starting the second loop I was feeling pretty aggrivated by everything that had happened so far, but focused on keeping a steady pace, having a little water, and by the end of the second lap I'd talked myself into a better mood.
I racked my bike fast and while I was trying to jam on my runners the insole kept getting squished up in the toe! Finally I had to untie my shoe, put it on, and retie it. Ugh! Another failed transition. But I set out on the run with my goals rejuvenated, and immediately found a good rhythm. The run was fantastic. I felt great the whole time, and strong, and in the last mile I focused on pushing the run as hard as I could. I kept reminding myself how disappointed I'd be if I didn't qualify and still had something in the tank at the finish line, so I ran as hard as I could through the finish. I immediately went to the timing van and had the guy confirm that my chip was, in fact, mine! Thank goodness it was!
I placed second in my age group and was the 11th woman overall: a result I'm super pleased with! And best of all, I qualified for USAT Age Group Nationals! I won't go, but it was my main goal this year to simply qualify, and has me so excited for next season!
Sadly I haven't trained at all since the race! The next morning I went right to the dentist to get my wisdom teeth pulled, and have been on bed rest, gumming pudding and yogurt! But I know I need to rest, and the more I rest now the sooner I'll be back to swimbikerun! I can't wait!