I always preempt my race reports with gratitude to those who helped me achieve my goals and more! TriOKC is filled with mentors (too many to mention) and competitive activities and races that have fueled me and driven me to achieve more than I ever thought possible…had Dr. David J. Flesher not suggested I “hook up” with the club back when I was struggling with achilles tendon issues, I likely would not have found the enjoyment of multi-sport. I am grateful for his encouragement and support!
My training partners in the 5am Club, Tiffany Cone and Sue Park have kept my running on pace to be competitive and provided me with the human touch missing in the solitary training endured by most triathletes. My bike racing team, Tulsa Tough, has kept me strong on the bike, and the OKC Velo Club Master’s Racing Team has been an additional source of support and encouragement. Schlegel’s Bicycles, especially Marty B. are another constant source of support…
Last but nowhere near least, my hubby Dan, who drives me harder than anyone, especially when he is in “coach” mode! I am pretty sure I’m grateful for the training rides where I either had to go faster or be left on the road alone; I’m grateful for the training plans he carefully prepared for me and his constant griping about the imperfections in my form, on the bike, on the run and in the pool…some of those we still need to work on!
Getting to Spain was exciting as well as anxiety producing – thank goodness for the travel savvy of Jerianne Davis, my own personal agent for the best airline and hotel fares! We added Dan to our flight plans about a month after our booking, and had all but one connection together as a trio. That one connection added some drama to the flight home, but we got to Gijon (pronounced hee-hawn), Spain without any problems. The Madrid airport was a bit confusing, but once the lay of the terminal was figured out, it wasn’t so tough!
Once in Gijon we hooked up with some other Team USA athletes and enjoyed a dinner of very fresh fish – I mean they caught it that day! We started meeting people from all over the World and learned about Cider, one of the most economical beverages in Gijon and the most consumed! It must be poured from about 3 feet in order to aerate the perfect glass…ask Dan about this, he practiced a lot! Our hotel was on the city walk and beach, so the view and the strolls were wonderful. Everything in Spain is a bit smaller than the US, except for the recycle bins which are the size of small cars and spread through out the city – they are an incredibly eco-friendly community! From food proportions to sleeping arrangements, we adjusted to the size and had a fairly decent first nights sleep and acclimation to the environment.
Our hotel was shared with the South African Team, so we ate breakfast along side them and enjoyed their elegant accents and multicultural antics during the meals. They were very cohesive and had many activities planned through out the week leading up to the race, so I tagged onto some of their group rides to learn the bike course (well, almost learn the bike course – more on that later). The first morning in Gijon, we all went for a run along the boardwalk, and beyond, enjoying the country side and many artistic sculptures along the way. Then Jerianne and I headed to the Las Mestas Stadium (race venue) to pick up our packets for the race. Joluvi (athletic clothing manufacturer in Spain) was a major sponsor of the event, and they provided the athletes with a really nice rain jacket, which came in handy, as it started raining on our walk back from the stadium!
Friday we attended the Opening Ceremonies with Team USA – City Administrators welcomed the athletes, a Spanish Band played during the introduction of the participating countries (35 total), and we enjoyed the hospitality in the City Center. It was low key, but I enjoyed the atmosphere! After the City Center Ceremony we enjoyed the sites of the city and planned our next meal…it really is all about the food! Later we attended the USA Age Group team briefing and of interest to me was the management of penalties! As a “soccer centered” country your first penalty on the bike resulted in a “yellow card”, seriously! Along with serving 2:00 minutes in one of two “penalty boxes” on the bike course!! If the official waved a yellow card at you and called out your number you were to go directly to the nearest penalty box and serve your time! A “red” card meant you were disqualified from the race…
Saturday was bike check in and Elite Races. We watched some of the Elite Races, and then met more athletes during long periods of time spent in line for bike inspection, body marking, uniform inspection and bike check-in to transition. Our next goal was to find a place to eat prior to 8:00 PM which is what time the restaurants open for dinner…a local Spanish Pizzeria was our best option, though we did have to wait until 8:00…after that off to sleep, or attempted sleep…
Our race time was 10:30 AM; transition was open at 7:30 AM, so we headed out to set up our “space”, after a decent hotel breakfast. By now nerves are completely on edge, but I managed to find a USAT mechanic to air up my tires. The event was a Standard (formerly Olympic) distance duathlon, 10K run/40K bike/5K run, so the transition area was minimal for me – just my helmet and a bottle of Heed on the bike! Shoes are attached to the bike, which was fairly important for this transition area involving quite a bit of running with the bike on a grassy infield, followed by a slippery mat onto a very long concrete path (about 100 meters) before the bike mounting line. Running in bike shoes would have been a liability to me. After transition set up, we got into another fairly long line to check our bags into the Athletes Village. By the time we got out of that line, the officials were herding us into the stadium for wave start corals. I started to panic because at this point I had warmed up exactly zero minutes!!
There was about 20 yards at the end of the infield were the athletes were allowed to “warm up”. I snuck out behind the stadium and started jogging around and doing some dynamic warm up movements, a few strides, and a few nervous trips to the toilet (they don’t call them restrooms or bathrooms in Spain). It wasn’t my ideal warm-up, so I was a little anxious about how I might feel at the outset of the race. Women 40-99 were in the last wave, everyone else was already on the course when we started our race, and with 4 loops on the run course we immediately merged with the younger athletes, male and female. I knew my USA rival and team mate who won Gold at World’s last year was the one I needed to mark, along with about half dozen Brit’s who have extremely fast run times. I maintained 6th or 7th position from what I could tell during the first 10K, and actually ran a PR of 40:40. My husband was on the course taking pictures and shouting out my position and lag time through out the run. My T1 went great; I was off onto the bike course in a decent time.
I loved the bike course! It was challenging on the climb (8-9% maximum grades during about 4km of climbing) and a nice fast technical downhill, followed by a straightaway parallel to the city board walk and beach, so very spectator friendly! It was a lot of fun to hear the crowds shouting your name and “GO USA” throughout the race. We did two laps on the bike course, and I managed to pass all but one of my rivals on the first lap…I ended up catching a large group of men who were on their final lap back toward the Stadium; however, as they headed toward the stadium I should have made a turnaround for my second lap…I missed that turnaround and had a momentary lapse in reason, thinking maybe I was supposed to go back toward the stadium to cross a timing mat…that was wrong, and I desperately tried to get the volunteers to steer me to the turnaround point. I was about a Km off course by now, realized I needed to go back to the turnaround, and I was cursing myself for not knowing the course more thoroughly! I got back to the turnaround with the realization that all of those I had passed were now back in front of me…this is where you leave your mistake on the course and pick up from where you are! Behind!! Adrenaline drove me back onto the technical parts of the course, and it wasn’t long before I was once again passing my rivals (who later would ask me why I passed them twice). By the time I made it up the second climb, I was more confident knowing I had managed to get by all of my age group rivals a second time, except one!
Besides missing the turnaround, I had a great bike split, one of the top overall amongst the females, 1:03:25, followed by what was almost a super fast T2…problem is, I unhooked my helmet before I racked my bike and was met by a race official who stopped me in my tracks at my transition area and started counting out my 30 second penalty! Argh! More frustration, but I utilized the time to slow down my heart rate, so I could easily get into my running shoes and back out on the run course.
The second run went well for me, though it was a tough as a second run always is. On the second lap of two, some South African women started working together to get around me; a fellow USA team mate came around me also, so I latched onto her heels for pacing (she was not in my AG so she didn’t mind). I was able to relax and she kept me in contact with the two women that had passed me…as we approached the stadium the USA woman fell off pace and I was stride for stride with the South African’s – I turned on my kick and was able to over take all three of the women in the finishing pack. They weren’t in my AG, but it was nice to finish ahead of them anyway! I had the third fasted 5K in our AG so I was happy, and the overall winner of our AG was at the finish to let me know that I won the Silver Medal.
Even with the mistakes, I couldn’t be happier! I learned a lot, and had an incredible time at the event. I gave all I had to give on that day, with no serious regrets…there is always the “what if’s” but they didn’t possess me after this race, I was way too exhilarated to even contemplate the “what if’s” because the race finished as it was meant to be on September 25, 2011.
Team USA had a party for the athletes, and then we loaded buses to head for a Llagar (Cider) house and an all athlete event including the awards ceremony! It was a grand event, lots of food, drink and fellowship. We ate a variety of meats, cheese, and breads, sea food and ribs, along with wine and the regional cider. We headed back to our rooms to finish packing up our bikes and prepared for a 4:15 AM wake up, to catch a bus to the airport.
This is where the trip was a bit complicated, because Jerianne and Dan had a flight to Madrid at 8:35, my flight was at 10:35, and try as I might, I could not get on the earlier flight with my mates. But, hey, no worries, I would catch up with them a couple hours later, and we would all fly to DFW together, right? Wrong! Soon after they departed to Madrid, the overhead announcements about the delay of our flight began. There were 3 other USA team mates waiting…after more than an hour passed, we knew we were doomed to miss our connection, and when I finally was able to communicate with my hubby, he had no idea how to help me…they simply had to get on their flight and leave me stranded in Madrid…I was none too happy and when I reached Madrid, I frantically begged the Iberia flight staff to get me on any flight to the US, but no can do…I was bussed off to a hotel with many other stranded travelers.
Once I accepted my fate, I dined with my USA comrades, and had a restless nights sleep, alone in a foreign country. It was a good experience for me, teaching me patience and humility…also made me wish I had taken Spanish in my youth! I arrived at the Madrid airport early, anxious to get home to my country and my family! I finally arrived back in the good ole US of A 23 hours overdue! If ever the opportunity to compete on another continent arises, just do it!