The entire week leading into this race excitement and nerves were building. This race was going to be the biggest race to date for me this season because of a highly competitive elite amateur field and there would be a pro field racing, Saturday couldn’t arrive soon enough.
Saturday morning my alarms went off at 3:45, 3:50, and 3:55, I was up with the first alarm but always set back ups. Dad was at the house to pick me up at 4:10, I was happy to walk out of the house onto a dry sidewalk instead of torrential flooding downpours like last year.
I arrived at transition a little after it opened at 4:30 and was surprised to see there weren’t many people around, there’s usually a group of early birds with me but the racks were pretty bare. I was able to rack my bike and relax with my coffee for a bit and let my body really start to wake up. I always check my bike over before races but I still like to have my bike checked over by the professionals so I took my bike over to the Gear West tent to have them double check that everything was in good order.
The transitions were different than the year prior so I walked over to the beach to check out the swim and walk the t1 route. I was then ready to take my bike out for a quick warm-up; when I was riding out of the park something started tapping my disc. I pulled over to check out what was going on, it wasn’t a sound a recognized. I quickly saw my speed sensor had come loose and was hitting the disc. Phew, glad this happened on my warm-up ride! I tightened it up and got back to my ride.
After my ride I was off for a quick run and stretch, by the time I was back it was time to be getting out of transition. I setup the rest of my gear, grabbed my wetsuit and headed to the beach.
The pro women were headed out first with a 10:01 head start on the pro men for the equalizer. New this year the elite amateur fields were also doing a mass start (thank you Lifetime!! …or maybe Cathy Yndestad was able to influence this?) the women were next and the men following two minutes behind.
It was time to go, I did a few dolphin dives but got to swimming as soon as I could, setting my sights on the first buoy. As I neared the first buoy I could see a few men that had dropped off the back of the pro pack. As I rounded the first buoy I caught the first pro, gearing up for the second buoy. I caught a few waves as some boats or jet skis were moving about in the water but luckily didn’t take on any water. I passed one more pro before rounding the second buoy. Sighting for the finish line I saw a small pack of pros off in the distance so I had some motivation to swim them down. I caught the three pack right as we reached the shoreline. Knowing I had a long transition I first worried about getting out of the water as fast as possible. When I looked at my watch past the timing mat I saw 18:20 something, my first thought was disappointment that the swim was short, but teammate David Thompson was in the three pack of men I caught. In a wet suit we literally would swim arm and arm, but since the pro race was non-wetsuit they’d be a bit slower. At that point I decided it didn’t matter and I needed to concentrate on the next part of the race.
Transition went smooth, mounting my bike not so much. As I stepped on my shoe to throw my leg over the saddle my shoe almost came off the pedal, my bike and I sharply turning and leaning left, I just clipped the curb when I got control and recovered finally pedaling forward. I got a little speed before I slipped into my shoes and was headed around the lake. The bike is my favorite part of the race but I was really nervous for it because of all the rough roads and endless potholes along the course. Luckily, living in the area, I was able to ride and drive the course to know where the really rough patches were and where the clear spots were. I had a map of the course in my head and I knew where I needed to be careful and where I needed to take advantage of the smooth roads and hammer it out as much as I could.
The fun thing about this course is you ride back by the lake in the middle of the race so Patrick and my family were able to cheer me on an extra time as I rode down Minnehaha Pkwy. I was a little behind where I wanted to be at this point but I knew I was still within my goal range, I gave Patrick a thumbs up as I rode by since I was feeling pretty good (maybe that was cause I was on a nice downhill). As I neared Cedar Ave (approx 14.5 miles) Stopwatch Greg was there to give me an update on time back that the women were coming out of the water. My mom, aunt, cousins and nieces were also there to cheer me (and my sister, Lisa Lendway) on.
At this point I knew there were about ten miles to go and mostly smooth riding so I had to really work hard the back half. Heading to the lake there are some sharp winding roads where you can get some good speed, I almost wiped out on one of the small curves as I underestimated how much I needed to turn. After my lap around the lake I saw teammate Kortney Haag, smiling of course, just about to do her lap around Harriet, just behind her I saw Lisa, both in really good position.
Turning back onto Cedar, less than a mile to transition, I got another update from Stopwatch Greg where things were at, I was still in pretty good position but the hardest part to come. I hadn’t been passed by any of the elite men yet but I knew they’d be hunting me down quickly. As I was heading out for my run they were announcing Gear West teammate Matt Payne coming into transition, so I knew a pack of men would be right behind me. Right out the gate I heard someone coming quickly behind me, I was expecting Matt, but someone else had made it out before him. Just a few blocks later, Matt was at my heels and blazed by me. I was trying to keep a steady pace for the first couple miles, making sure to get water at every water stop, then re-evaluate how I was feeling. Running back on Cedar I saw Sean Cooley closing in on me with Marcus Stromberg not too far behind. Sean passed me before mile 2 at which point I was still feeling alright; I didn’t even think to look at my watch I just wanted to continue as is. Patrick was waiting for me near the north beach to cheer me on and let me know my lead time. I was still in good position and I knew I just needed to hold on.
Not feeling like death yet I kept with the pace. Marcus passed me as we headed to mile 3. It was awesome to come back through the park halfway through to have crowds of people cheering you on again for the second half. One of my co-workers had come out to cheer me on and she was screaming and jumping up and down going crazy for me, (Thanks Jing-Jing Nickel!) a nice boost of motivation. Stopwatch Greg was there to give me an update, yet again, I had maintained my lead on the next lady so at this point needed to continue as is. Mentally I was in a good place and held that as long as I could. By the time I hit mile five I was feeling ready to be at the finish line, I was maybe starting to feel some stomach contents ready to go in reverse on me. When I saw Patrick with a little under a mile to go he just said something like, “you got this, just finish,” no time update on my competition. Mentally I thought crap they must be right on my toes, so I held on as much as I could. Nearing the finish I looked behind me but didn’t really see anyone approaching. Coming up to the finish line my family was there cheering me on, along with hundreds of other fans.
I finished in 2:06:21, 4:31 under the course record. My time would have placed me third among the pro women. My swim was the second fastest of the day, including the pro men and women (although they only could wear swim skins) edged out by a mere three seconds to Marcus Duval. While I made my personal goal times for each leg of the race I was hoping to be a little faster on the bike and run. Mentally this was my best Olympic distance race to date and I think that is a huge piece of the puzzle if you want to improve as an athlete so I am thrilled about that.
It was an amazing race to be a part of and I definitely could not have done it without my support team. I have to say a big thanks to Patrick for being my mental pillar the entire week up to the race. A huge thanks to my mom and dad for always being there to cheer and tote my stuff around while managing the little cheer squad (my two nieces). I know my sister and I are both really lucky that our family can be at all our races and support us the way they do, we couldn’t do it without them. One last thanks to the Minnesota Tri Community, so many folks were out on Saturday cheering if they weren’t racing, I heard “Go Heather” all over the course, being unable to breath I couldn’t say thanks at the time, but I’ll say it now, THANK YOU, for cheering on all your fellow Minnesota Athletes, it’s wonderful to be a part of the Minnesota Tri family.