It was all over except for the news reports, I had a four minute lead built up by a third fastest swim and fastest bike leg, and as I went out onto the run I was certain my run was going to be a formality. I steady clicked through the miles, careful to drink whenever possible, and focused on leg turnover. Then disaster struck?. I took a wrong turn at about 4 km to go, adding about 600m while I traveled back to the course en route to the finish. I continued on, trying to not think about the error, but with about 300m to finish, Jamie surprised me, running by into the finish, and I had nothing to answer with and lost the race by 22 seconds. That is racing and it was my own error (likely caused by a little heat induced delirium, it was almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit and about 88 percent humidity, I spend a little time with an IV post-race) and I am SO mad that I handed over the win when I already owned it. I am now focused on our next race in Keystone, which may be pivotal for the series. I am at a 10 point disadvantage for the series, and I can?t afford to be more than that going into the finals in Lake Tahoe. Jamie and I have further pulled away from the rest of the girls for the overall title, almost assuring ourselves of the top two spots (barring a DNF disaster in Tahoe) but unless I win in Keystone, CO in three weeks, even a win in Tahoe won?t ensure a first place in the US Series. Nothing like a little pressure to make you step up, huh? So I am on my way to Boulder right now, my second favorite training place on the planet, to adjust to altitude and try and get my best possible race at 9500 feet. But going back a bit to the story of Milwaukee, city of beer and brats??.
This was the first year for Xterra in Milwaukee, and the number of events happening in the city all on the same weekend was insane: Spirit of Racine half ironman, a PGA tour stop, IRL car race, and Superweek road racing, just to name a few biggies. It is always really cool to have the course right smack in the middle of a city and the organizers of Milwaukee did a great job in opening up the park trails to allow the race to go through there. Not a bad course, actually, although the terrain is incredibly flat, there was enough slippery, rooty sections to create some obstacles and challenges on the bike without hills. I was pretty happy that there was a significant amount of rain the night before, because all of a sudden not very technical rooty sections became much more challenging, which worked to my advantage. Lake Michigan wasn?t nearly as cold as I expected, and we actually had a non-wetsuit swim, but it was a lot rougher than your average lake swim. There was a huge amount of chop on the water and waves actually were crashing on the beach. The run course was relatively flat, with three loops down stairs into a ravine and back up, which was very muddy. There were probably 400 stairs in the race, if you counted the run up sections on the bike plus all the stairs on the run, with the ones on the bike course being the most difficult (nothing like carrying your bike up about 50 muddy stairs).
So on race morning we were told the water was 75 degrees, so no wetsuits and we all went down to the water for the start. It was very windy and hot, with the wind feeling like it was coming out of a furnace. All that wind meant very rough water and since we were having our first beach start with a run-in, that meant we would be running about 10 meters in over waves crashing into the beach, as it was very shallow for a long way out, and then dropped off. There was a ton of algae and silt in the wash coming into the beach, so you couldn?t see anything off the start until you got closer to the first buoy, and with that visibility came a cold shock as the temperature of the water dropped significantly. Not arm-numbingly cold, but probably somewhere in the 60s cold. I had a terrible run in, and found myself off the front group being crushed by age groupers instantly. Terrible start, but as I started to get into a groove and warmed up more, I started going a bit better, and started moving up. On the second lap I was pretty much alone, but with the chop and wind, everyone was going everywhere so it was almost better to choose your own line. At some point one of the buoys had been blown off of its anchor and had started moving toward the other one, so that meant that swimmers coming out on their second lap were coming straight towards those of us heading back to finish the swim. A little mayhem to start the day?
So then we ran about a kilometer back to transition, I was in third, and I hopped on the bike and went out for the first ever muddy Xterra. It was fun, but on the first lap some of the corners were pretty slick and surprised a lot of people. After I caught Candy it was a while before I caught Jess (who swam incredible, coming out before Olivier Marceau!) and unfortunately I caught her early because she slipped on one of the corners and the crash broke her front derailleur. So then I was leading and I rode conservatively aggressive, wanting to keep my lead but aware that in extreme heat you can blow up completely.
When I came back for the run I knew I had a good lead and decided to run steady, picking it up closer to the end of the race. I felt okay heading out but was super hot, and needed to make sure I was drinking at all the aid stations. All went well until the third ravine, which was very muddy and slippery. I was really slow in that section and at one point managed to lose a shoe that got stuck in the sucking mud and had to go back, pull it out and put it on! I chose Saucony Fastwitch Endurance racing flats, which were the best choice for most of the course, but they are so light they just slip on and off. I soldiered on, ran out of that ravine, went through an aid station and then all of a sudden I was lost. I was like, wait a minute, I don?t remember this section, where am I? Panicking I ran back, saw other competitors, and then tried to shrug it off and punch it to the finish.
I gave it my best, but that extra mileage was my undoing. Jamie was running better, put a huge attack in at the end and I was surprised and done for. I had to settle for second and 22 seconds back. There was honestly nothing I could do, I was already running my hardest, and ended up in the IV tent after. Run down again, this time only worse!
So my next race is the Mountain Regional Champs in Crested Butte, Colorado? first step in my preparation for Keystone in three weeks. Thanks so much to all my sponsors who have been great, Saucony, Compex, Orbea, Powerbar, Sundog Eyewear, Shimano, Profile, Maxxis, Ironman Wetsuits, Kinesys, Fox Racing Shox, Computrainer, Hypoxico, Rider?s Cycles, and Arq Hair Salon.