This has been a difficult race report to start writing. Where do I begin? I feel like there was so much leading up to the race, let alone the race itself. I didn’t want this to be a blur of unorganized chaos. Besides, my race pictures are pretty gross, my times even more pitiful. Yet…how do I describe the odd sense of accomplishment I feel peeking through the cracks of slow split times ? Let me start with the traveling part!
I’ve never traveled to a race by myself before. The furthest was to run Team Nationals and stay with my mother and father in law… and never traveling with a bike. So the thought of having to bring it on the plane, get it past security, find someone to reassemble (thanks awesome Hansen family ) and make sure it made it out of transition in one piece stressed me out. Let alone the thought of getting a flat on the course. I had to learn how to use a c02 cartridge the week before the race because although I always carried it, I’ve luckily never had to use it (note never still stands today…PHEW!). Trying to carry a bike box, a huge suitcase, a carry on, my helmet and a purse is NOT fun when your by yourself. Oh the things you take for granted!
I met the nicest couple on the bus over to rent my car. Amy was also racing, Guido was spectating. After a few minutes of chatting, we realized that Guido and I WERE ON THE SAME TEAM! This was so exciting to me because I finally felt like I wasn’t completely alone. Besides…they were great 🙂 Adam tried to tell me not to get talked into ANY extra charges for the rental car, but this woman had me completely convinced that the state of Texas REQUIRES you to carry this insurance for an extra 13 dollars/ day. After getting that straightened out, it was off to Galveston, a 90 minute commute in heavy traffic from Houston. Luckily not too hard to navigate by myself. My navigational skills are less than stellar. Especially when compared to that of a pilot. My hotel was great. Minus one thing. They were brand new and had NO CELL PHONE SIGNAL. UGH. Had to call all my family and let them know I was okay from outside. Which also meant no bedtime pep talks or face book stalking 😦 But on the good side of that, it forced me to FOCUS on what I needed to do. Saturday morning was the team breakfast. I was excited to meet the team. They were even nicer than I had expected. I met some great girls that were racing in my age group, and some really fast girls that I could only hope to catch up to some day. Chrissy handed out team uniforms while everyone ate. My uniform showed up at my house when Adam got home from dropping me off from the airport. Luckily, Chrissy was nice enough to bring me an extra men’s that she had. I tried it on in the bathroom at Denny’s. And it fit! Hey I never said it was flattering. Argh. I think i’m pointing to my pancakes in this photo . Anyone want a double decker? Still full!
After breakfast I headed to the hotel with Dave and Jennie Hansen. Jennie is a professional on our team from my Rochester. I ran Cross Country against her at a neighboring high school, so i’ve been watching her pony tail in races for quite a few years. I don’t know what I would have done with out their help! Rented a bike? hah! After that, I hit up the expo, to find out that surprise! You have no bib! You must go to the Solutions booth. Ok, no problem. They had me fill out more paperwork and take it to the timing chip booth. She told me to make sure that it was put into the computer. After asking the guy twice, he was clearly annoyed with me. He said look, it’ll get done. “Okay…sorry, thanks”. I walked away thinking “I hope so”. I of course purchased some nice gear and checked out the transitions and course before heading out. This was getting REAL!
It was nice and warm without being HOT. Perfect weather. I was getting excited. T1 didn’t open until 2pm, so I would have to come back to set up my bike (you leave it there over night). That was a first too. When I did get my number, I realized that it was 2819…almost the last number in the race. And everyone in my age group was 5– something. Meaning their transition rack was directly behind the pro’s, and mine was among the relay’s.
Breathe Katie. It’s okay. It’s the same race. Anxiety is building. Bike, car, phone, bib, rack, i’m here. It’s okayyyyy. Adam let me know that he looked up my name and I was showing up under “Team Myszka, Age 99”. AWESOME. So now not only will everyone tracking me be confused, but I won’t register with my age group. BREATHE KATIE. I found someone to ask. He assured me it was fixed. I asked again. He assured me it was fixed. “Okay…thanks”. After, I ran some last minute errands, tested out my bike, and brought it to transition, and went for a quick massage. He worked only on my right foot. I’ve been battling some nasty, nasty plantar fascitis and a heel spur, and figured this couldn’t hurt. I was nervous about how it would feel on the run. The massage felt AMAZINGGGGGG. First time I relaxed all week!
Dinner was brutal! I had been fueling all day and just had to force feed myself that last meal. Gotta do it! I met some AMAZING people and was invited to sit with them at dinner. Turns out Chad’s parents were from Mount Morris, NY! And I met him in TEXAS?!? Such a small world!!! Sleep was not really happening Saturday night. I got about 2 hours. I just kept thinking about everything I needed to remember. This included the flow of my transitions which I had been working on. Helmet, feet, socks shoes….yupp. This was my plane ride.
My alarm went of at 4am. Enough time to down the 2 cups of apple sauce, banana, and 24 ounces of perform. MMMM. YUMMY. Usually I start with Oatmeal and Coffee. But this race was different. I checked the notes I left for myself everywhere, double checked, triple checked. Put on my uniform, put copious amounts of hairspray in my hair so that I had one less thing to touch and mess with getting out of the water. And lets not forget the body glide. Although I did forget one spot. Check out my nice trophy from my wetsuit!
By 5am I was ready to go. I headed to Moody Gardens watching the same Youtube video over and over again. Coach Mary Eggers had sent this to her athletes. It was perfect. It describes us crazy endurance athletes perfectly.
I got to transition and set everything up. I immediately went to another race director to try to get my “Team Myszka age 99” fixed again since it was still not correct online. I wanted to make sure my chip was okay. He said “were busy. It’s fine”. I knew they were…so I just went with it. Decided there wasn’t much I could do. I tried. I am SO GLAD Adam made me practice my transitions and think about how I wanted to set it up and keep it simple. It’s funny how it is such a short part of the race, but can be so stressful if you don’t think about it until race day. This made it easy for me. I got there, set it up just like I practiced, and relaxed.
After finding my teammates QT2 teammates Kaitlin Anelauskas and Matt Curbeau, I settled down and walked to the swim start with my wetsuit, swim cap, goggles, and morning drop bag. Getting real now! Matt was great about explaining what was going down, and Kaitlin was helping to settle my first time jitters. My team is just plain awesome. And FAST! By the time we hit the bathroom one last time, we looked at our watch and it was time to go! We headed to the start, put on our wetsuits, dropped off our morning bags, took our last gel and headed onto the pier where we would jump into the water for the start! Here is just part of our wave on the pier. Just before jumping into the water.
I started on the far, front, left as planned. Unfortunately, that too is where most of the other gals in my wave planned to start apparently. When the gun went off, I got pummeled. I guess I just hadn’t mentally prepared myself for the actual swim START. I had prepared myself for the SWIM. I had prepared myself to get kicked in the face once I had some momentum, to see feet in my face, to swim around people. I DID NOT expect people to try to swim over the top of me. I just hadn’t thought of it. I guess this is why everyone needs a first race. None the less, I had my very first very unexpected full blown water panic attack. I was expecting a very solid swim. Maybe I shouldn’t have given myself so much credit, but my swim times in the pool (cough cough, I know) had improved a lot. I was hoping to be between 31-32 minutes . I just really thought I had that in me. I have spent what I thought was a lot of time in the pool. Anyways, I came up for air and panicked. Thoughts rushed into my head immediately. “I can’t do this.” Oh my god I can’t do this. I can’t breathe. I can’t move!” I was treading water. The damn gun had gone off and I was TREADING WATER! Anyone who knows me knows that me and the starting cannon have a little love affair. I hear it and I GO. There was never such thing as “an easy day” in a race. I just hear it and something inside me lights on fire. But at this moment. I could not move. It was as if all the stress I had felt before the race had come piling down on me and I just couldn’t swim. Just try to take a stroke. I put my face in the water, took one stoke and came up again. My body was fighting my brain. NO! NO! You can’t! I have to! I can’t! But you want to! No I don’t ! Yes Katie! Yes you do! Don’t let this stop you! Oh my god. This is ridiculous i’m wasting time!!!! My moment of clarity came when I heard the swim coach from home telling me to visualize. What would you see? I told her before I left that I would see the pool because I love swimming. It relaxes me. I would see the lane line in a calm pool. So I closed my eyes, put my face in the water and swam. And that was the end of the panic. It just clicked. I then found myself on someones feet. Unfortunately, I was too caught up in following them to realize they were way off course! WAY OFF COURSE. When I came up, it was to the paddle board pointing to the buoy wayyyy off in the distance. CRAP! Stay calm, FOCUS. MAKE THIS RIGHT KATIE YOU HAVE TO FOCUS. I knew that these first time jitters were OBVIOUSLY getting the best of me and I had a choice from this point on. Let them ruin my race that I had worked so hard to get to, or deal with it and go. So that’s what I did. I swam. The rest of the swim felt amazing. Almost too easy. I was passing people like crazy. Like a big game of Pac man as Mary would say. Spotting the buoys seemed to be no problem from that point on. I did what Mary told me to do and it was working really well. The sad part it, my average pace was pathetic from treading water and going off course. Although, for as easy as the swim felt I think I should have pushed the pace much harder than I did. Again, this first time race stuff is a lot harder than I had anticipated. Especially when you cant read your watch in the water!
Headed into T1 (1st Transition) I used a wetsuit stripper. The run back was very long and I felt very very disoriented. I was falling over putting on my bike gear but managed a pretty quick transition time. Here we go. The part of the race that has always made me the most nervous. The bike. Thankfully this was flat as a pancake. I just wasn’t as experienced of a biker as the other athletes. I was planning on basing my whole race pace on my Heart rate, focusing in on the bike. But when I got hopped on, my watch read — — — where the heart rate should be. I jostled with it a little. And still nothing. Ok Katie don’t worry. This is why we practice. (Here you can see me trying to move it around)
Mary told me that my pace would feel slow. That I would be mad because I would feel like she was holding me back. So I knew that I had to find a pace that felt like that. So that’s what I did. My heart rate monitor did end up kicking in, but I was afraid to trust it by this point. I was trying to go based on feel, and unfortunately I just don’ t have an awesome “feel ” for my pacing on the bike yet. It was definitely under where I should have been. In my head I was just not sure what 56 miles was going to bring having a half marathon ahead of me. Typically, I would hammer the half marathon and I wanted to save some energy for it. I was really focused in on the nutrition for this race. I had worked out a modest plan with Mary going in, but we hadn’t tried it yet, so there was no telling how my body would react. This was totally my own fault. So dumb. I should have been practicing with it all along. But I was trying to train with REAL FOOD! Trying to be HEATLHY! Well…healthy would be to train with what the course provides and to eat healthy the rest of the day! Mary said I should pee within the first hour on the bike. Wait. Like…on my bike? Yeahhhh I tried. EEEEEEE. EEEEE. PUSHHHHH. UGH I can’t do it! I stopped to pee twice. I was glad to know I was hydrated, but man I hate wasting time. I can see it now. Me: “I’ll be back in an hour” Adam: “Where you going?”
Me: “I’m going to go practice urinating on myself”
Oh the perks of being an athlete 🙂
Over the course of the bike I took in 3 bottles of Powerade Perform, 12 Shot blocks, 1 Accel gel, and 1 bottle of water. More than I have ever take for any ultra marathon or marathon I have ever run. When I got off the bike, my legs felt good, but my stomach not so much. I felt like I was going to throw up. I had a pretty quick transition and just tried to keep my feet moving. I could tell that this run was going to be rough. I was supposed to take in perform at every aide station, and a gel every 40 minutes. I couldn’t even bear the thought of taking a sip of water. For the first 4-5 miles I did all I could…pour water over my head to keep my body cool with sponges. And try not to vomit.
I could feel my pace slowing from the 7 minute mile I was holding. Instead of the negative splits I was planning on, my pace was slowly falling. I could feel that I somehow needed to find a time to get some nutrition in me. I forced down a gel around mile 4 or 5. Took enough water to chase it without making me too sick. I was feeling utterly horrible with bouts of semi horrible and rare bouts of mildly terrible. That’s how the whole half marathon felt. I’m not used to that. It was definitely a mental battle with myself to cross that line. I’ve never felt so sick on a run. I tried to put my brain in my feet if that makes any sense. If it was anywhere else I think I would have spent most of the race over the garbage can. It was awesome seeing so many of my QT2 teammates over the 3 loop course. My favorite section of the race was on the waterfront, where the QT2 pro’s , early starts, and FAST finishers were there screaming their heads off for us! Here is my favorite picture. Caitlin Snow cheering after placing 3rd overall Female Pro. What an incredible girl! Love her!
The run course was three loops with LOTS of turns. My feet felt like they were completely blistered on the bottom. Rookie mistake : new shoes and second time wearing them in a race. OMG. DAH!
Crossing the finish line was an amazing sense of accomplishment and disappointment at the same time. I had set my goal much higher for myself for this race. But considering what I was facing during the race, I could have given up. I could have walked away and said “next year i’ll try again”. But I decided to grit my teeth (I mean smile) and cross the line anyways. Like I talk about when I talk about the marathon and life.
“Isn’t this why we put ourselves through this? To press on when we think we can’t? To stay strong when we want to fall apart? To use the energy from those around us, while giving off our own for others to use? To dig deep when you know it counts? That is the heart of Endurance to me. We are fighters. “
As stated in the quote at the beginning of my blog. I may have come a long way, but I have a long ways to go. I am looking forward to my next race and improving upon the things that I was able to get rid of with first time jitters. I am looking forward to doing a race that will have me traveling HOME! To test the waters again and my mental preparedness to withstand the swim start. To handle a hilly bike course with a whole new added stress of my mental axiety from that bike crash, and to come of the bike nutritionally sound and ready to run the race I know that I can. Syracuse….I’m coming for you!