I've been racing in the KOZ Events Series for the past (4) years and know (and are friends with) those athletes that regularly compete in my category. I know what their strengths and weaknesses are (and they know the same about me), and how they've done in recent races, mostly because we all catch up while setting up transition, line up on the same start line, and commiserate with each other at the finish line.
I was very nervous coming into the Mission Bay Triathlon... not only because I took time off, but because coming into this race I was tied with Cathy Gugala for 1st place in the Athena 40+ category for 2015. All of the racing we had done all season came down to this race...
500 meter swim. I'm a strong swimmer and am usually out of the water with a lead over Cathy. You can see my excitement when I realized I had just done my fastest 500 swim EVER! 6:55 as I hit the beach! Good start! I got straight into transition and had a quick turn around... and was surprised to see Cathy coming into transition as I was running out with my bike! HOLY COW! She totally ROCKED her swim... YEAH for her... oh, crud, she's right behind me!!!
I was concerned about the bike. It was threatening to rain and there were (4) 180 degree turns on the bike course. Although this was a new bike course, I was familiar with most of it. I took the hard turns very easy and then pushed as hard as I could. Cathy is a strong cyclist and usually cuts my swim lead with her bike leg. I knew she was much closer that I wanted, but when I saw her pass me about 1/2 mile from transition, I knew I was in trouble.
When I saw her go by, she said, "Aren't you supposed to be on the run by now?" I cheered her on, and thought "Crap! Now I'm in trouble!" In this photo, she is just out of frame in front of me... that is the look of, what do I do now? Do I have anything left for the run?
We came into transition and I was about 10 seconds behind her... and she was hauling! Before the race, I asked Jeff to watch out for Cathy... if she came into T2 before me, I needed to know how far she was in front of me. Well, coming into T2, Cathy and I were so close, he missed her as he was watching me. He ran to the yellow fence right by our transition area and yelled. "I haven't seen Cathy! You are in front of her!" I was rushing as fast as I could to get out of transition and I yelled over to my very sweet husband, as embarrased as I could be... "She's here... and standing right in front of me!"
Somehow I made it out transition before Cathy... but only by a few seconds. Our run times are pretty close, and I was already gasping for breath. I just had to run... run... run! About 1/2 mile into the 3.1 mile run, Jeff and Anna caught me to take some photos. I couldn't breathe... "How far is she behind me?" I didn't want to look back, but had to know where she was. Jeff said she was a few hundred yards behind... REALLY!? That was it! Jeff and Anna were yelling, "DON'T STOP... KEEP RUNNING!" I was yelling in my head, "DON'T STOP... DON'T STOP... DON'T STOP!" Mile one... okay time... mile two... slowing down, but not stopping... mile three... slowest yet... I turned around and didn't see her. This is such a pretty course... palm trees, ocean view, lots of volunteers doing cheers and stomps and cheering you on... it is funny the things you remember when you are in so much pain!
I came across the line and knew I had met my goal. First place KOZ Events Triathlete - Athena 40+ for 2015! But wait... there is a whole different story that was about to unfold...
Xanthe Belsky, fellow competitor, was standing in the beer garden as I crossed the finish line...
Xanthe and I have been racing for years, but she has never beat me. As I was trying to catch my breath in the finishing chute, she told me what had just happened...
She said that she passed me about half way through the bike. She gave me a sign and she thought I saw that it was her... once she explained, I know exactly the moment she passed me, but I didn't realize it was her (she's recently lost over 20 pounds, and I've never seen the back of her during a race before :-) ) Once she passed me, she thought "Holy crud... Tracey's coming after me!" She said she raced with everything she had because she thought I was chasing her down. She had a great run and finished less than 2 minutes ahead of me. When she crossed the finish line, she asked another friend, "Is Tracey here yet!!!?" Our friend said, "Her husband is standing at the finsh chute with camera ready, so I don't think she's here yet!" I'm still wondering how Xanthe finished, caught her breath, had her timing chip removed, got her medal, made it to the beer garden, got a full glass, and was sitting at the finish line waiting for me... in about 90 seconds... :-)
I'm blessed to have met so many great triathlon friends. Frank and Tammy Franco... I see them at the Spring Spring and Mission Bay every year. Incredibly wonderful people and they give the best pre-race prayers! Love to you, my friends!
Here we are at the podium... Xanthe, me, Cathy. A great year of racing...with great athletes and friends. Overall for the Atheletes of the Year competition, this is also our Top 3, I'm in 1st, Cathy is in 2nd and Xanthe is in 3rd. While this race usually marks the end of tri season, this is now the start of my 2016 season. I have a few fun things to share... in my next post... ;-)