Athena National Championships – long course, 2016   1 comment

It’s been just over 18 months since my last half ironman distance triathlon, but for some reason, the distance didn’t seem to phase me all that much this time around. Well, not at least until just about midnight the night before. Of course, at midnight, my eyes flew open, and the panicked thought of, “WHAT THE EVER-LOVING FUCK AM I DOING TO MYSELF???” came crashing into my brain. Thank, brain. Thanks.

My alarm went off stupidly early (I don’t like getting to the race site much later than the open of transition… Who needs the extra stress on race day?) I got my shit together, and headed out. At the race site, I did all my pre-race weirdness that I normally do (fuck off, waste time, post a selfie of Sara and I… Then panic because transition closes in 5 minutes and I don’t have mine set up even though I’ve been sitting there for a fucking hour… You know, the norm.) I tried to round up the rest of the BAWGs who were racing so that we could get our pre-race photo of badassery together. Quite a few were missing, but it was time to get the wetsuit on and head down to the corrals.

I have been spoiled by time trial starts in Austin. It’s been a while since I’ve done a mass swim start. As a matter of fact, I think last year’s Athena Nat’l Championships was the last mass start I’ve done. For some reason, I don’t remember it being nearly as chaotic as this year’s. I’ll tell ya, I sure as shit was not ready to be in a washing machine again. My wave was about 200 women. I got kicked in the eye about 100 m in and had to stop to fix my goggles. That tells you how hard that bitch nailed me; I use Aquasphere Vista goggles, which are closer to a mask than goggles. If THOSE moved? Yeah, she NAILED me! I ended up with a shiner, so that’s pretty cool. Anyway, after that, I had a really hard time finding my groove. I was windmilling and not focusing on my form AT ALL. I was just trying to survive that damned washing machine. My brain went into squirrel mode, and it probably took about 400-500 for me to realize that I was still swimming like shit, even though the field had cleared and I was swimming without 100 other women right on top of me. I started paying attention to things like my kicking (I know I tend to drop my knees instead of kicking from the hips when I’m not EXPLICITLY focusing on it.) I started focusing on my glide and rotation, my pull, not pulling out too early, (which of course elicits a George Takei style, “ohhhh my!”) It was a pretty uneventful swim, AFTER taking a beating in that first short stretch. I come out of the water, and BAM! PR for the 1.2 mile distance! Yessssssss! OK, it was by, like, a minute, but I’M CALLING IT A PR DAMMIT!

T1 was speedy! There were wetsuit strippers at the swim exit, so that made getting out of my wetsuit SUPER FUCKING SIMPLE. Side note: Thank you to all the volunteers who choose to work as a wetsuit stripper in triathlons. I completely respect the shit out of you, but would NEVER choose to do that job. Why? Because we all PEE in our wetsuits, and when you strip that shit off, little droplets of water fly all over the stripper (huh huh huh,) thus coating them in a fine mist of every athlete’s urine. Nasty. Just… Nasty. Wetsuit stripped, I head into transition (which, by the way is on the other side of the goddamn world). Sunglasses on, helmet secured, shoes on, bike unracked. I notice that I am the last bike off my rack, which means I need to make up some time. There are other racks for the half distance Athena competitors, but because of a snafu with the racks, we weren’t in the same place and I couldn’t scope how far behind I was from the entire field. Looking back through the results, I was 6th Athena out of the water, and 3rd in my AG. My transition was SUPER FAST, and I made up a shit ton of time (MINUTES) in getting out. Another side note: Man, this is the longest transition area ever. It’s like a gun barrel, with racks on either side of one central aisle. I’m pretty sure it was about 3 miles long (OK, maybe only 1/4 mile, but STILL! That’s really FAR in cycling shoes!!!) I hop on the bike and *whoosh* I take off!

I felt really strong on the bike until mile 20. Then I had to pee. Like REALLY pee. But the next stop wasn’t til 28, AND I knew that I had someone on my heels. I didn’t know how far back she was, but she was close enough that I didn’t want to stop. So I tried to pee on the bike for the first time. Yes, I tried. And tried, and tried. I went through the aid station, and there were 4 fuckers in line for the ONE porta-potty. So I kept trying. IT TOOK ME 20 FUCKING MILES TO PEE. And when I finally did let loose, holy shit. I’m glad no one was around, because I think I peed 29384729 gallons. So there you have it. I earned my “Pee on the Bike” merit badge. Did it save me any time? Probably not. Over those 20 miles, I would take little breaks in my intensity to try and pee off the back, or side, or something, try to get into any position where my stupid bladder would let go. And it just wouldn’t (Aren’t you happy to read all about my fucking PEE?) Back to the actual biking. The course was about as flat as a pancake (1115 feet of climb total), but the wind was a bit much. Heading out, I have a lovely tail wind and was cruising at a nice 20 mph pace for the first 15 or so miles. Then we hit a few baby rollers, and true to form, I slowed way down. But I still held 15 mph for most of those baby rollers, then the whole 20 miles trying to pee fiasco. I think I held 17-19 during those miles. The last 15 were into a pretty nasty headwind, and the roads were shit, but I felt good coming into transition. Averaged 17.someodd. I think my PR is 18.5 at Galveston a few years ago, but I felt MUCH better after this ride. One thing I noticed, as with the swim, I had a hard time staying present during the bike. When I stopped being present, I’d start mashing. I have been working hard for a few years to work on the pull through of my stroke, but I was a mashing fool for a while (especially when I was trying to figure out the whole “how the fuck do I pee” thing.) BUT my cadence was fucking amazing. I kept an 88 average cadence, and it DIDN’T FEEL WEIRD! Or hard! And I never once had to think about it! My legs just SPUN! 2 years! 2 years of focusing on cadence, and for ONCE it worked! WIN!!!

T2: Yup, still a goddamn transitioning rockstar. I put on socks though, because I use socks for anything longer than an Oly. My poor feet would blister to all hell and back if I ran a half marathon without my beloved Balegas!!! That might have cost me 14 seconds or so, but I still was #1, and I beat #2 by about 2 minutes here, so I’ll call it a win. I did notice that most of the bikes that were on my rack were still out on the course, so I made up good time. I don’t remember passing anyone specifically, but I obviously did somewhere. I hope I didn’t pee on them.

I felt strong, y’all. I felt really fucking strong on that run. I decided to not look at my pace except when my watch dinged at the mile markers. I went by heart rate and kept it at around 3.5 for the first 10 miles. When I hit 4.0 or above, I took a 10 second walk break (only happened 3-4 times). Last 2 miles, I didn’t look at my watch at all. I walked the water stops where I drank, because I still can’t drink and run. First mile ticked by, fueled by a verrrrry slight downhill. 9:17, and I barely felt like I was moving. I really wish I could have kept that pace forever, but alas, it didn’t happen. I stayed steady between 9:25 and 10:10 until mile 9. Then it started to feel like the wheels were falling off. It got warm (80, sunny) and miles 9-11 were uphill. 10:30, 11:04, then 11:27…. I really had to keep telling myself to push it. After mile 11, it flattened out, and I was able to pick it back up for the end. According to Garmin later, I saw that mile 12 was 10:20, mile 13 was sub 10. Those last few miles were a mental battle, that’s for sure.

Some dude tried to high five me as I entered the finishers’ chute, and I was just like, “NO!” I NEVER don’t high five people, but I wasn’t having it. That was my second fastest half marathon EVER, and a HIM half marathon PR by 8:30. I came across the finish line feeling like my lungs were going to EXPLODE and my legs were going to fall off, but I didn’t feel destroyed. It felt stronger than any other finish I’ve had. The chute had the GORGEOUS USA Triathlon “national championship” flags, and I couldn’t have been happier to pass that finish line. Funny, my finisher’s photo pretty much looks like I’m dying. There might be some truth to that photo…

My friend Sarah was at the finish line when I crossed, and she walked with me to shove a piece of pizza in my mouth and throw water down my throat. I decided to go to the area where times were being posted, and it was good timing, too! Just as I got there, the announcer says, “And this year’s 2016 40-54 Athena National Champion is CC ROWE!!!!” So that answered my question! I took first in my age group!! That felt really damned good, y’all. Really good. I didn’t go into this race with any kind of expectation. I didn’t want to destroy myself a mere 8 weeks before my big dance. And here, I finished, feeling strong, feeling fit, winning my AG and getting that beautiful National Champion jersey. And, like the icing on a cake, I set a Personal Record for the 70.3 distance by EXACTLY 10 minutes. Oh fuck yes, I will call that a successful race!


Shockingly, I’m not saying something like, “FUCK THIS” in this photo. WIN!

Posted June 23, 2016 by CC in Uncategorized

One response to “Athena National Championships – long course, 2016

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  1. My coach told me to not worry about my swim form during a race, and to just focus on forward momentum. I found that very helpful. 😉

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