WAAAAAY BACK IN OCTOBER........I did my FIFTIETH TRIATHLON! I wrote about it, but never published it. I'll tell you why later. In the meantime, here's the recap:
NUMBER 50 IN THE BOOKS! On Sunday, I took on the Sandling Beach 50 - a one mile swim + 40 mile ride + 9 mile run - for my fiftieth triathlon. The headline news: I missed first place in my age-group by THREE SECONDS! The subtitle: Number 50 might have been my best race ever.
The day before the race at check-in, I presented my USAT card and signed my waiver and said, I'm number 21. Nope, said the race timer (and my dear friend Renee). Your number had been changed - to NUMBER 50! Suddenly I was STOKED to be racing. How cool! I'd been downplaying the significance and it really was a BIG deal. The next morning, I found a balloon at my bike rack that said: Happy 50th Triathlon! on one side and Go Beth Andrew on the other. Even the temp on race morning was 50 degrees!
I had been downplaying the race in my mind. It's not a big deal. It's the last race of the season. I've done six races in 12 weeks (I'm tired!). I'm not trained for hills. I had achieved so much already this season. But, suddenly - it was a big deal! I got so excited.
Somebody asked me the other day if these races remain competitive to me and Sunday proved: YES. Yes they are.
The swim was a self-seeded rolling start which meant you could start anywhere in the line. I started in the first 20-30 people and tried to be one of the first women out. We crossed the timing mat on the beach and entered the water about 10 seconds apart. It was a beautiful swim. It was two lap loop and I got to see Renee and John and Bill (Set Up Events pros) at the turn. They gave me an atta, Girl! and I gave them a thumbs up and jumped back in. The swim seemed to fly by and the only trouble I had was on the first loop - sighting on the shore and the turn-around. I think that the sun was in just the right spot to annoy my view of the wiggly man and turn buoy. I finished in 27:42, faced an uphill run into transition and headed out on the bike.
As good as the swim was, I didn't feel strong on the bike. I felt cold. And off my game. I also just didn't care. I was apathetic and felt like I was just along for a spin. My legs felt a little heavy. At the start of the second loop I was wishing I was finished - and I still had 20 miles to go. Parker and Anna were even out on the course with an AMAZING sign and although it gave me lift, I just wasn't right. And then, a woman with a 49 on her calf passed me. And it got worse. Oh well, I thought. That's okay. It's not my day. I'm just happy to be doing number 50. I soft-pedaled up the next hill.
And then, I woke up.
All of sudden my competitive fire lit up. Burn it up! I said out loud. Just stay with her as long as you can. You are strong. Keep her in your sights. You don't have to beat her on the bike, you can catch her on the run if you stay close. Stay with her. And I did. I was within 30 seconds of her for 10 miles. I spent that whole time counting landmarks. She'd reach a landmark and I'd count how long it took me. Eventually, her lead stretched out and I could no longer see her. But something had clicked. What would normally have been disappointment turned into determination. I was going to catch her.
But, she had an 11-minute lead going into T2. That is a pretty big lead in a nine mile race. I had two advantages, I didn't know she was 11 minutes ahead and I knew I'd be able to see her on the course. There is something about seeing my competition that makes me want to race. If I can see you ahead of me or if I know you're behind me, I will race you. Plus, I had two process goals: to run with my metronome and to not walk.
I had been training with my metronome on my Garmin for about two months and had already done two races with it. It is a three-fold wonder: it keeps my turn-over on track, it gives me something to think about and it regulates my breathing. I had it set a little high, but knew that even on the hills, I would be able to keep up with the alert or at least get back into the groove. I had done two September races without walking on the run, but I had trained most of the year (for Santa Rosa) with a walk/run strategy. It is so nice to walk. And I knew I'd be tempted to walk up the hills. I promised that even if it was just a shuffle, I would run up those hills.
And I did. I counted nine hills in those nine miles. I ran up all of them - with 10 steps of fast walking on hill number 7. The great thing about this race is that there are four spurs in the two loop course. That means you can see the other runners and how close they are to you as you pass on the out and backs. I finally spotted number 49 as I climbed the second major hill. She was coming toward me and I started counting again. I was about seven minutes back. Yikes. I stuck to my plan and saw 49 at mile 3.5. She was probably five minutes ahead. But, she was walking up a hill.
I'll pause for a 20-second commercial break and say it was an amazing run. The weather was perfect. The sun was shining, it was low humidity and the temps were in the mid-60s. The best part were the volunteers. Right near transition, a group of young women volunteers directing traffic. Evidently, they had seen my balloon and heard about it being my 50th - and thought it was my BIRTHDAY! So they cheered and sang and wished me happy birthday every time (four!) that I ran through that area. It was hilarious and I wasn't about to correct them. Especially, when they remarked how good I looked for 50! Ha!
Anyway, back to the race! I did not give up my plan even though the next few times I saw her she was running and looking strong. Instead of getting discouraged, I just kept my my feet moving to the metronome and moving forward. In fact, I did not pass her until mile seven. She sighed and said, good job when I passed and I said Atta Girl! C'mon! Let's do this. I slowed for half a second thinking she would take the challenge but then changed my mind - afraid she would take the challenge. I felt like I skipped up that last hill. I suddenly felt like Mirinda Carfrae in the 2014 Ironman World Championships. I had come back from a HUGE deficit and had overtaken my rival.
I was giddy and pushed to the end.
I crossed the line in 4:17:23 - my run time was 1:26:12. Renee was there to celebrate with me and watch as I jumped up and down. I grabbed a water and waited under the finish tent. We turned around and waited for 49 to come across the line. When she came in view I cheered and screamed like I'd known her my whole life. Congrats! I gushed when she crossed the finish. You kept me on my toes and running for my life! She. Was Not. Amused. She mumbled something like thanks and walked away. Renee looked at me and we both busted out laughing. Oops.
A little while later the results were posted.
The funny thing was.....I was not disappointed. Okay, maybe a little. But - I was also really proud of myself. I joked about it with Renee. I got teased about it by one of the event directors as I stood on the podium in second place. [Three seconds? Three seconds? he asked into the microphone.] I called ACE and Anna and three other friends on the way home to tell the story.
I fought hard. I was my own best coach. The good wolf won over the bad wolf. I pushed myself. I didn't give up. I worked hard and focused on the processes it took to get the outcome I wanted. I might as well have won! I was smiling from ear to ear. [It also helped that even after John made fun of me, he also made a big hoopla about it being my 50th triathlon!]
My favorite thing about triathlon is the lessons I learn about myself along the way. It's one of the reasons why I keep at it. There is always something knew to discover and uncover. It took me one race - that first one - to learn how to move past my comfort zone. It took me until this last one to learn how to really fight until the end. I can't wait to see what happens in the next 50.