After returning from a winter of warmth, it was time to tackle the housing situation.  Foof and I got to work looking at houses on my off days, which left me very little “recovery” time on those days.  I was itching to race, but knew I could not plan a far trip away from our temporary home because finding a house was the first priority and I needed to make sure I stayed close by if we found a house to buy.  I had planned on doing Kansas 70.3, but definitely needed something before then to prepare.  Coach Cliff and I decided that the Bassman international distance triathlon the first weekend in May at Bass River State Park would be perfect, as it was on my home turf in South Jersey and would be close enough that I could drive down for the weekend.   Training was going really well back in Providence, I even ventured out on my own a couple of times and rode some hills in the area.  My power was looking good on my bike and my run splits were strong and fast.  About ten days before the race, Coach Cliff suggested that instead of the international distance race (which is the same as Olympic), I would should go longer and do the iron-distance race.
Jumping up to the longer distance sounded great, since longer is better for me, but I was a bit nervous, as it wasn’t the original plan.  I also knew that this was going to be one of those races where I was going into it with a small taper– kind of training right through it because I am focusing on other races later in the summer and fall.  This meant that I wouldn’t necessarily be racing on fresh legs. I arrived in NJ on Wednesday and stayed with a very good running pal in Monmouth County (about 45 minutes north of the race venue).  While there, I squeezed in a massage with Leanne “Magic Fingers” Arcuri at Bodies 21, had a great healing reiki session with Karen Foote, got an ART tune-up with Dr. Liz and enjoyed some time with my favorite fast-leg running girls J When I got to the registration the day before, I was told the bike course had been changed from years past and the traditional two-loop straight-shot out-and-back was now a three-loop course with many turns including two U-turns.  I was familiar enough with all the roads that I wasn’t too worried, but was kind of bummed as the old course looked like it was not as technical (AKA faster).  For as long as I lived in South Jersey, I had never done this race … I had considered it, but never signed up.  Everyone seemed to like the course, or at least the old course, so I was eager to see how all of these turns were going to play into the speed of the race.  I had the chance to talk to the race directors when I picked up my race packet, who were both very pleasant. The night before the race, I stayed with a former client-turned very good friend who lives right on the bay, about 20 minutes from the race start.  It was the most relaxed and at-peace I think I have ever been before a race.  I managed to get a full night of sleep despite my concerns about the temperature at race start.  Being that it was early May, the weather could either be really hot or really cold … this year it was looking like it was going to be the latter.  I woke up and had my breakfast of a white-flour bagel with almond butter and honey right about three hours before my wave start of the race.  I packed up my belongings and made my way down to the race, without even CONSIDERING taking in a cup of coffee or pre-workout energizer.  I had intended on sipping Nuun lemon tea flavor on the bike because it has just a little bit of caffeine, but I grabbed the wrong canister, so it looked like this race was really going to be void of ANY caffeine at all!  I had prepared my nutrition for the bike — a concentrated bottle of Carbopro that I would dilute in my aerobottle with water provided on the course.  It was cold when I jumped in the car at 5:45 a.m.— 42 degrees cold, to be exact!  I was NOT looking forward to racing in this cold weather.  I do MUCH better in the heat; in fact I always say, “The hotter the better.”  I got to transition, began to set up my transition site and made small talk with a guy next to me.  I asked if he knew where the water stations would be on the course (so I could decide whether I needed to bring any) and he said that they should be at the end of the first loop, at the turn-around.  I said, “What do you mean should?”  He then went on to explain that sometimes, especially if you are out in front, they don’t have the water station set up yet when you come through and suggested that I consider bringing my own.  Eh—I figured it would be fine; they would have the water station (bottle exchange) set up because the international distance folks were going off before us.  That decision was a big mistake.
I then ran into my friend Fran, who asked me what I was wearing on the bike leg.  I told Fran that I had planned on just wearing arm warmers and my tri-suit.  Fran INSISTED that I take her windbreaker, for which I am SO GRATEFUL!!  It’s likely I would not have even finished the bike leg without that jacket!  It was about 40 minutes before race start, so I decided to hit the restroom one more time, eat my banana and get the wetsuit on.  I was so incredibly cold, I was actually looking forward to putting on my BRAND NEW Orca Alpha 1.5. (Thank you to Cycles 54 for your help with that.)  With my wetsuit on and banana consumed, I made my way to the beach, where I ran into more friends and we sat and waited for the international-distance athletes to take off.  And waited … and waited … and waited.  As it turns out, our actual start times were almost an hour PAST the original posted times.  That is one more hour for your body to break down and go through the nutrition that you are relying on to fuel you.  We were all essentially starting this race half-empty, which could cause a problem for a solid race effort.   SWIM We were finally called into the water—the ladies under 40 and duathletes were first up for the half-iron racers.  I was so grateful the ladies got to go first — this NEVER happens!!  We would be doing two loops of the lake.  I seeded myself front and center knowing that I would cut in toward the buoy as soon as I starting moving.  The water temperature was in the low 60s, not terrible, and actually felt a lot better than the air temperature at the time, which was 42 degrees, Brrrr!  I felt that my swim was going to be a good one.  I had been working with Coach Ian in the pool to really perfect my stroke and it was finally starting to show signs of a good turnaround.  The siren went off and I went out HARD!!!  Dig, dig, dig!!  After the first approximate 200 yards, I got the feeling I was out in front, but it was hard to tell as my focus was on swimming and not counting heads.  As I approached the first turn buoy, I noticed that I had company—another female swimmer in my wave had caught up to me (or she might have been there the whole time) and we were swimming shoulder to shoulder.
Moments before I had to round the first turn buoy, I realized I had two choices: round the buoy on the inside and avoid crashing with the other swimmer, which is technically cutting the course (no way, I’m NOT a cheater) or round on the outside and crash with the other swimmer … so my heartfelt apologies go out to that other swimmer if she is reading this—I am so, so, so sorry that I got tangled up with you!!  Once we were able to straighten out, I made sure to keep good distance and avoided further bumping of elbows.  We caught some of the slower international-distance swimmers and surprisingly I was able to maintain my arm turnover and not get tangled up with any of those swimmers.  I finished the first loop, and started on the second, all the while swimming pretty steady with the other female swimmer.  As we neared what seemed to be about the 1.75-mile mark, I decided to punch it up and see where it got me.  It appeared that the other swimmer could not meet my surge.  I was able to maintain that effort and swim very strong into shore.  First out of the water: about 25 seconds up on the next swimmer. Swim split: 29min 53 sec.  Watch showed that I swam a little over 1.2 miles, but hey — who even swims a straight line in open water?! J BIKE I lost all of the time I had on the swimmer behind me as I watched her fly out of transition while I was still struggling to pull the windbreaker sleeves over my soaking-wet arms.  Off I went, freezing and dripping, trying to get my heart rate down and punch through those first few miles until I could settle in to a good speed.  We had a short time coming out of the park with a nice tailwind … and that was about it.  It seemed to me that pretty much all but those couple of miles leaving the park were met with a relentless cold Northeast head- and side winds.  I passed the one female athlete that passed me in transition shortly after getting onto the main road.  The first couple of miles were pretty quiet, besides the occasional age-grouper male that passed me.  I approached the first U-turn—seeing the sign that read “slow down, U-turn ahead” very clearly.  The actual U-turn was not visibly marked with a traffic cone or anything in the middle of the road that would indicate to turn around right at that point, so I blew right past the volunteer going over 20mph. I didn’t realize I had completely overshot the point that we were supposed to “U-turn” until I heard the young volunteer yelling “COME BACK, COME BACK!!!”  Oops!!
As I passed I suggested they put a cone in the middle of the road and sure enough when I came around for the second and third loops, a cone was there J As I suffered through that first loop, it was clear that my L foot was going totally numb, I felt like I was in a bar fight with those winds and my heart rate was dropping.  I was so cold I had a hard time staying focused.  I also realized that there was another female athlete that was clearly gaining on me.  I approached the second U-turn, the one in the park that was supposed to have water and an electrolyte drink.  Except, there was no water.  I yelled out “WHERE’S THE WATER???”  Nothing but crickets …  There were NO fluids to pick up, which meant I was going to go another 50 or so minutes with nothing but a very super concentrated syrup of Carbopro and Nuun.  In all honesty, I wanted to quit.  I wanted to give up.  I had never before been that cold racing.  I really didn’t think I could go on.  The numb foot issues I had dealt with in the past paled in comparison to what I felt on this particular race day.  The numbness was traveling up my L leg, I had no feeling from the ankle down.  I tried to keep the watts in the target range, but it just wasn’t there — my heart rate was dropping below 145 bpm at times and I was shivering.  I unclipped my L foot from my pedal every 5 minutes and wiggled it around to try to get feeling back.
Fortunately, when I made it back to the park entrance to start the third loop, the water was out and I grabbed a bottle while staying upright on my bike!!  I made it back to transition, so completely relieved, but wondering how in the H-E-## I was going to run on this foot.  I also REALLY had to go to the restroom.  It is so important to stay on top of your fluids on cold days like this — but when it’s cold, you aren’t sweating out as much, which leaves you with a full bladder.  I saw Fran as I came into transition and just gave her a look of “Ugh.”   Bike split: 2:36 (This is off my computer, which I started late, so the official race results might be a minute or two slower.) RUN Heading out of transition, someone yelled out, “You’re only 45 seconds up on the next female triathlete.”  Oy — this was A LOT closer than what I had estimated.  I was told that only two or three of the 13 miles were trail and the rest was road.  With this in mind I was hoping to run around 1hr, 27min off the bike and it seemed like it would be possible.  If I was able to run a 1:27, I felt pretty confident that I would be able to hold off the next female behind me.  However, the trails were presenting a challenge since they were pretty sandy and my foot was so totally numb that I was having a hard time keeping my footing … and then there was also my bladder painfully reminding me how full it was with every step.  To say the least, those 6:40 miles just weren’t happening.  I didn’t think that having the need to use the rest room that badly would actually HURT.  I also felt very depleted—down on my calories.  I hit the first run turnaround and realized that the 2nd place female was now only 30 seconds behind—she was gaining on me!!  At this point, I figured “Well, crap, at least as soon as she passes me, I will finally get to go to the bathroom!!”  Because I was not running the pace I had planned on, I abandoned the intricate plan Coach Cliff and I had put together and went to plan B: run as hard as I could, for as long as I could, until I couldn’t run as hard as I could anymore.  As the miles marched on, I finally started to feel a little better.  It was at about mile 7 that I felt my foot coming back to life and I noticed that I had opened up the lead—I was now about one minute up on the 2nd place female.  Based on my Garmin watch and the map it created of the run, that course was about 40% trails, NOT 15%.  I pushed at about a 6:45/mile pace on the roads and just did what I could on the trails.  With about three miles left, I did one last check and realized that I was at least three minutes ahead of the 2nd place female and thought, “Holy moly, I think I’m going to win this thing?!”  With one last push to the end, I came into the finish line as the first place female overall, so relieved and desperate to get to the porto-johns!!! Run split: 1:34                          Overall time: 4:44
Porto-john split: 2.2seconds This was definitely not my fastest half-iron race, but I would say it was the most mentally challenging.  I have never really had such an overwhelming urge to give up as I did during this race.  However, the thought of a young runner who is currently fighting for her life after being struck by a car while running was on my mind a lot throughout my time on that course and I wanted to do this for her—for Lauren Murphy.  You can read more about her story here: Lauren Murphy FundSo Lauren — this win was FOR YOU!!!!   I think this is a great low-key season opening race.  The race directors are very nice and accommodating.  The lake swim is clean, clear and well marked.   After speaking with the race directors, it is my understanding that the bike leg will probably go back to the old course of previous years for the Fall 2013 Bassman.  It is great that this race largely takes place in the state park—makes it so easy to get from your car to transition in no time.  It would benefit the athletes tremendously if the race started on time, as we all depend on our pre-race nutrition to get us through strong to the end.  I also think that (although expensive), if there are going to be out-and-back sections of the bike leg, a timing mat at the turnaround points would eliminate confusion and erase any doubt as to whether the course had been followed as directed.
Overall, this was a nice race to “Blow out the carbon,” as they say! Many, many thanks to my sponsors: Cycles 54, Breakthrough Nutrition and of course to Coach Cliff at Tristar Athletes.  You all keep me tuned up, fueled up and trained right!!  I also would like to thank my Jersey girlfriends who helped make this race weekend so special.  Finally, I would like to thank my baggage handler/short-order cook/travel agent/equipment manager/fire-putter-outer/love of my life … my husband.  Without you, honey, NONE of this would be possible.  In closing, I would like to ask one tiny request from all you reading this — please take a moment to say a healing prayer for Lauren Murphy (the runner I wrote about above).  From what I understand, “Murphys don’t quit,” but Lauren has quite an uphill battle ahead of her.  However, with all the prayers and her strong will, I am sure she will come out of this just fine! Thanks to everyone for all of your well wishes and most of all, for BELIEVING IN ME!!!