Sunday, June 10, 2007

LoveFest '07 aka "The Danskin Race Report"

The Danskin -- it is a different race all to its own.

The best thing about the Danskin is that it is a giant love fest. Everyone is excited to be there, everyone's polite and supportive and it's an all women race, so there are women of ALL shapes and sizes out racing - which just freakin ROCKS!

The worst thing about the Danskin is that it is a giant love fest. How are you supposed to put your competitors in your sights and beat them down, when everytime someone says "On your left", the response back is "Oh Sorry! You Go Girl! Looking Great!". The swim start which in other races typically features enough elbowing, ankle grabbing and swimming over one another to make the Texas RollerGirls get fired instead replaced by comments like "Are you doing ok?" or "Sorry, I bumped you!".

But what keeps me coming back year after year (this was my 4th) was the You Go Girls, the 60+ year-old ladies who are rocking and rolling, the wave of fabulous, strong, brave Cancer survivors, and especially all the ladies who 12-weeks ago probably couldn't do a 10-minute run but were there today running across the finish line holding hands or pumping fists in the air while tears and sweat ran down their faces. They are all there...swimming, biking, running...proving to the world that if you set your mind to it, there ain't nothing you can't do! It's nirvana for the cheerleader in me.

Race day for me started out well as on the drive over (at the crack ass of dawn..ugh.) the Gwen Stefani song "Ain't No Hollaback Girl" came on. Perfect for me to get my game face on. After the ensuing logistical gymanstics to actually get to the race site (actually it was a lot better this year...I think they've finally finetuned the whole park/shuttle thing), I settled in to my typical pre-race activities (read: hit the potty 3- 5 times within 40 minutes...) and tried to get mentally prepared.

Ran in to Joey who had scouted the course and told me that after turning off of Decker to stay left on those back roads to find the smoothest pavements during all the construction. (Thanks Joey for the heads up!)

I was in wave #12, so I had some time to mill around and watch the elites power through the water and take in all the nervous excitement of those getting ready to go. When our wave was called, I found my favorite spot for the swim start...front, outside lane... and let Sally take us through our pre-race cheers as we waited for our start. It was great...lots of high fives and nervous smiling.... I took a moment and just looked at the other ladies in the wave and was proud of every one of them for having the will to show up today. The count down started and then we were on our way!! Hooray!

The most challenging part of the Danskin swim for me is the traffic. We were probably only 100 in before I started running into the back end of the previous wave. There were noodles everywhere, folks on their backs, folks on their sides, etc. My biggest fear was getting kicked in the head by a breast stroker (happened in '05 -- goggles filled with water, etc....). I tried to find open water where I could and swim strong. I ended up mostly swimming on the very inside lane so that I could have room to go around people as I needed.

There was one gal in my swim wave that was ahead of me around mid-way and so I settled in behind her feet and let her do the work of finding the path through the swimmers. This proved to be much easier as she was basically slicing a path and all I had to do was follow!! Turned out to have a decent swim, 0:16:48. Not my best out there (2005 was 0:16:06), but I'll take it.

On my way to T1, I heard from the crowd in a familiar voice, "GO MOMMY!". It was Team Schaffner (Big Daddy and the boyz)! Shay was sitting on Scott's shoulders waving his arms wildly while Scott was holding Devon in his arms who looked a little confused (I'm not sure if he recognized me since I still had my swim cap on....). It was great to see them and I knew it took quite the effort to get them up at the crack of dawn, loaded into the car with all their gear and then the mile+ walk with the double stroller from the parking lot to the race, so I was VERY APPRECIATIVE!! And it definitely put a spring in my step.

Went quickly through T1 and hopped on my bike and took off, BANG! My cycling goal for this race was to break through my speed barrier. I've been kinda stuck at the 18.5 mph range for awhile, and I'd really like to be at 20.

So my two-part plan was this:
1. To just go "One More Click". I think what happens is I get comfortable at a good cadence, but not a big enough gear. But just going one more click isn't THAT much least that's what I'm telling myself.

2. Balls out on the Flats and Downhills. Biggest gear, turn it hard and GO!

So, I started the bike with those two goals in mind. I was going pretty hard on a slight uphill when I saw Ramsay on the side of the road cheering folks on. It put a smile on my face and when I got closer I yelled, "HI RAMSAY!" She jumped up and down, waving and smiling said "HI DIONN!" and quickly went from supporter to coach, put a grimace on her face and said "You shouldn't be talking....WORK HARDER!" (I love coaches who kick my ass!) Right, I thought to back in my aeros and went back to work...HARD!

The rest of the ride was thankfully uneventful. I did have to yell "on your left" a couple times, but in Danskin tradition, the gals moved over quickly and yelled some encouragement back at me.

Saw Jack ( at a corner and heard him yell, "PRIMETIME!!" as I went by. I smiled (always good to have eye candy on the course)...but then got back to working HARD! There was a beautiful stretch of brand new pavement on the highway that they were working I made sure to take advantage of it and pushed as hard as I could. I knew the good runners would come hawk me down, so I really tried to leave it all on the bike.

When I got back for T2, my legs were good and tired!! After a quick T2, I began ominously be heading out the wrong direction for the run start (what a rookie mistake...), quickly turned around and headed in the right direction and hoped it was not a harbinger of things to come on the run. Headed out the chute and got some more yells from Team Schaffner! Big Daddy said I was looking strong! WOOOT! (Yea, but did I look cute???)

First the first mile, I really focused on short, quick steps. I could hear Coach Carolyn in my mind saying "turnover, turnover". I didn't feel like I was running fast, but I forcefully kept my stride short and my cadence up.

It always takes me at least the first mile to get my running legs back under me...and this race was no exception. Hit the first mile stop and got a cheer from Malinda who was volunteering! Woot! And just then I was starting to remember what it felt like to run and so I picked up my pace...after all, this was the second set of the run, and this is where you work hard....

Hit the long grassy downhill and watched the cyclists battling uphill. Folks giving each other encouragement to just keep spinning, keep spinning up that hill. Shouts of "Go Bikers" from the runners and "Go Runners" from the bikers.....a big love was awesome.

I took advantage of the downhill and just opened it up and let gravity do its thing. I pretty much did the controlled falling down the hill thing and it felt great to moving quickly. At the bottom, I made the turn and began the mental preparation for that freakin' hill by the dam.

The IronChick coaches were all along the hill, encouraging everyone to just keep going, keep going....get to the top then it's once around the track and you are DONE!. I just put my head down and kept chugging away. Got to the top and you can see the finish line and all the supporters....HOORAY!

Picked up the pace as best I could (cheated my lengthening my stride....what the heck are long legs for if you don't use them, right??) and headed home. Tried to find any extra gear I had left, but I had pretty much left everything out on the race today, so I was ok with that.

Heard more cheers from Team Schaffner and realized I had just a little more I could give and so I put it out there and accelerated through the finish. Check my watch...... 1:21! Hell YA!

Official times:
Swim: 0:16:48
Bike: 0:36:25 (21.4 mph)
Run: 0:25:18 (8:09)

Total Time: 1:21:38

A total PR for me! Hooray! I was also really pumped about my bike pace, I finally broke through! (Although, I wonder if the construction changed the total mileage...cause I'm not sure I was going that fast....but it definitely felt faster than before..) And my run pace was my best so far as well! I ended up placing 4th in my age group (damn...just out of the money!), but I felt really good about the race. The top gal finished in I don't think it was a slouchy group this year. I was also 24 out of 2601...even managed to beat the times of a couple elites....and all before 10:00am. Not a bad morning at all....


Shorey said...

Awesome job, D! You rocked it, as expected.

Erin said...

Just when Kris & I started feeling good about our races yesterday, we looked at your Danskin times. Then, even though our bike clothes were dirty and we were tired from the race, we almost got on our bikes and went for a ride. You are scaring us!!!

Congratulations, 24th place is amazing. I need to keep up with you on the run!

Kris said...

Seriously, Erin and I were THIS CLOSE to getting on our bikes and riding again yesterday. And if your ears were burning this afternoon, they should have been--we spent a nice chunk of time talking about your race yesterday and trying to convince ourselves that your ride was actually completely flat and without wind (which we all know is absolutely false!).

In all sincerity, though, you obviously had an incredible race--I'm so happy for you, way to go!!

MikeW said...

A job very well done!
And a great race report!
24th is top 1%.

That's incredible!!