The night before I slept rather well and woke with my nose the least stuffed up it had been in past three weeks. This alone made me feel confident. The first thing I did was check my emails to see what needed to be done about not having my passport. And then my hear sank, Aretha suggested I have someone drive in my passport from Long Island. What do you do in situations of desperation well you call Mom of course. Only problem was she was down the hall in the hotel and couldn’t bail me out this time because we needed her to help Katie with her splits. To complicate it further my passport was locked up at Joe’s and his parents were also literally across the hotel hall. The only thing I could think of was to wake his sister up, have her get my Dad/or brother my passport and have them drive it in…oh yeah did I mention it is 6:30am! Fat chance, but Joey and my Mom quickly reassured me and I decided to forget about it til after the race. Joey was right I hadn’t even made the team yet so this was not something I should be worrying about.
I then proceed to get dressed in my uniform and affix my timing chip to my racers. Next it was time to prepare my bottles of aid. With my IBS and exercise induced ischemic colitis I have tried tens of different aid combos. The one that has worked for about 4 years now is called Maxim, it’s a powder that you dissolve in water, much like Gatorade powder. I went over to my bag to take out my bottles and to by utter dismay I realized I never grabbed my Maxim canister. What a complete idiot. There are certain things you never want to be without on race day and that is in order of descending importance: racers, jersey, personal aid (20k races), personal water bottles for aid, watch, and heartrate monitor. Well I had everything except number three on my list. There was no time for panic to set in; I was 15min out from leaving for the racecourse. There is nowhere to buy the Maxim, the US doesn’t retail it anymore and I have to get it shipped over from Europe. Seeing as it was only 53 degree out and lightly raining I knew I wouldn’t need that much fluid intake. I also knew that most of the winter in training I used only water or very dilute Gatorade. If I could manage in training then I had to hope I would manage in a race, after all it’s not like I had any other option. So I prepared diluted Gatorade aid bottles, hoped for the best and moved on.
The rest of my prerace routine went without a hitch. There was a porter potty on site to take care of business, the rain held off allowing us to stay as dry as possible and my legs and sinuses were feeling pretty good. During warmup I noticed my heartrate was rather on the high side, meaning I was probably still recovering from being sick, but this is not something that I could control. My racing heartrate average is usually around 180-182 for 20k. I was warming up at 158-162! I wear a heartrate monitor while racing to let me know that I am capable of pushing more as well as a warning to heed when its on the unusually high side that if the race isn’t over soon I will most likely crash. The only thing I could take from this was that I should pay careful attention to but not stress over it throughout the race.
Then before I knew it we were lined up at the start, listening to the National anthem, and getting our final instructions from the head official.
Bang the gun went off!
Tim had given us all race plans, mine was to walk around 1:32:00 with Steven Washburn (a TEAMmate with dual citizenship between USA and Australia but races for USA). Steven was in great shape and would be able to handle the pace but often would go out too hard in the beginning and crash. I was in great shape but always thrived best when I had someone to go with. The course was not a typical distance at 1.25km, our splits for 1:32:00 would be 5:45.00. Therefore to be safe we agreed on 5:43 which would allow us to hit 5:43.? and not worry about being over pace. It’s really hard to judge pace at the start of a 20k and this was clearly evident after our first split of 5:55.8! Ooops no wonder it felt so easy and my heartrate was only in the mid 160’s. We quickly picked it up and dropped a 5:40.8. I settled into a pack that consisted of Steven and I walking as a pair, Mike Mannozzi at our heels, and Alex Chavez and Jon Hallman two steps ahead. It was great having all of these guys to work with, and I really mean work with. Steven, Alex and I all seemed to take turns pushing and keeping the group on pace. We came through 5k just under 23min. This was great especially considering how slow our first lap was. Doing some quick math I was right on pace for the American record and the boys would all be under the World Cup qualifying mark of 1:32:00.
After our next lap I began looking forward to our 10k split, I was feeling great, heartrate was in the low to mid 170’s and I was on pace for both a 10k PR and the American 20k record. Sometime before 10k we caught up to and passed Jon. Also just before 10k we would lap my sister. Before the race Katie and I came up with a code, she would say “good “with a thumbs up if she was at or under pace, and would say “pushing” if she was behind pass. I didn’t hear anything she said nor see the thumbs up she swore she gave but I could tell by where in the race I was lapping her that she was on pace for her World Cup qualifying standard of sub 53:15. This was extremely encouraging and motivating!
We came through 10k in 45:41, a new 10k PB, which bettered my split of 46:03 from London and was even faster than the 45:51 that I walked from 1k-11k in London. I was ecstatic and told the guys out loud that I just got a new 10K PB. This is the 4th time that I have dropped my 10k PB mid race in a 20k. Guess I need to race the 10k open a little more often!
Unfortunately, around 10k we would also loose Steven due to loss of contact calls. Just after 10k we would also loose Alex, or more like he would drop us as he took off and paced himself to a huge negative spit of 43:something for his second 10k! I was extremely thankful to have Mike. He had gotten a few paddles early in the race and picked up another call later. I was afraid he wouldn’t survive the judging. He had worked so hard and was on pace for a great race, plus I needed his company to help push me. Just around 15k I stopped doing the pushing and let Mike pull me through the next few 1kms.
I knew the race was starting to take its toll on me or at least the conditions were as I was having trouble squeezing my water bottles and was loosing dexterity in my hands as cold numbness set in. I took a bottle every single lap except for lap 1 and 16 and each time I never wanted the bottle but knew I was still loosing fluids and needed to stay hydrated. We hit 15k in what would be a new American 15k record of 1:08:24. That meant my 5k-10k split was around 45:27/28. Yet again bettering my fastest 10k performance.The last 5k definitely became more challenging and with three laps to go I could feel my legs tiring and the slippery turns harder to steer my body around. But I hung tough and never let Mannozzi go. We powered through our last 1.25km in about 5:37 finishing the race in 1:31:10. Good enough to break the American record by about 40 seconds and my own previous personal best from London by 77seconds! It was also my very first negative split race and I was very proud of that. I also not only negative splitted but my slowest laps were numbers 1 and 3! All and all I was pretty evenly split!
While there were many factors that could have prevented me from racing my best there were also many that came together giving me just the opportunity I needed to put it all together and race my best yet ever! The weather was a huge positive factor; it wasn’t too cold and not hot at all (I always prefer cooler than warmer). This was huge in allowing me to get through the race with out having to pay the price of forgetting my Maxim…the same wasn’t necessarily true post race but my colitis attack was on the milder side. There was also very little wind out on the course which is extremely helpful. Next the course itself was very flat and the turns weren’t terrible. The 1.25km distance also went by faster than 1kms. Next I was lucky to have a group of guys to walk with the entire race. Thank you Mike, Alex, and Steven for being so great to race WITH! Another mid race bonus was knowing my sister qualified for the World Cup Team and PB’d. Lastly, and almost as importantly as the culmination of all other factors was the amazing support group I had getting me to that point before the race and those there that day during. Joey as always was amazing with my aid. Apparently I managed to throw my bottles into a huge puddle each lap that my fellow competitors smartly avoided. It was great to have my Mom, who has been my fan since day one there enthusiastically cheering me on each and every lap in both directions. I was also lucky that once Katie finished racing that she came out to cheer me on…although the big sister coach in me would have preferred she did so wearing pants since it was still raining out and cold if you weren’t moving! To top it off, Joey’s parents drove down the day before to come and cheer me on. It meant so much to me to have them there. I felt bad because it was quite cold and wet standing on the side but they toughed it out and cheered me on, powering me through each lap. And of course there were also another couple dozen or so people who either raced as juniors and stuck around to cheer me and the other 20k racers on, were family and friends of my TEAMmate and competitors, or the other racers themselves. Each and every cheer, all the words of encouragement really helped to make my race an incredible experience. To every person who has helped me, encouraged me, and supported me THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart!
Next stop Taicong, China!