The morning started early...earlier than usual. Karel was up at 4:20 so that he could be on his bike at 5am to start his 2 1/2 hour workout before he volunteered at 7:30am. He is so disciplined! I could smell the coffee and once Karel headed out for his early and cold morning ride I was ready to get up. Race day morning started with a small bowl of oatmeal and raisins (normal race day breakfast :) and I bundled up with a sweatshirt, ear warmer and gloves. I headed to Clearwater Beach on my road bike and in about 25 minutes I was on the beach. I was a little nervous climbing the 12% grade Memorial bridge with my running shoes on my Look pedals (since I'm an out-of-the-saddle type of climber) but I managed to make it up the bridge in a small chain ring all the way to the top. I was hoping to run into my good friend Hunter and as I was heading to the transition area I saw Angie (his gf) and his sister. We headed to their car so I could drop of my bike and of course we took some pics. This was Hunter's first world championship (3rd 70.3 race....all this summer!) and he is a brand new triathlete! How amazing! Since he's trained with Karel and me a lot this summer (and Karel works on his bike before races) we feel a special bond with Hunter. I gave him some good luck wishes and I stayed at the Swim finish with Angie and Hollis (Hunter's sister). I saw a lot of people I knew and received lots of congrats for Kona and my engagement. How nice of people to remember the engagement! After lots of pics of the pros I headed to the start of the bike to watch everyone head off on the bike portion. I saw the Hoyts in T1 and I had no idea that they were racing. It was great to see them back at the races...racing! I remember in 2006 seeing them all over the streets on posters and flyers at the Boston Marathon and I had the great pleasure of meeting them and taking a pic with them. Very inspirational and special people in this sport. After most of the riders were on their bikes I walked around the streets to try to find something to eat. No luck since I was not willing to wait for food and miss the pro's come in off their bike so it was a processed bar and water to keep my tummy happy. I minimize bars for training only but when it comes to watching races, sometimes I gotta just get by. Salad was for dinner that night so atleast I felt I had something clean in my system. I walked right by Laura and Greg Bennett and I am just kicking myself that I didn't get a pic with them! I always ask the celebs (pros) if i can get pics but they were always talking to people and I didn't want to interrupt. I saw the lead vehicle so I found a good spot by the transition area and watched Bjorn come into T2 with a 1:59 bike! Crazy fast! I took my bike out to the run course and checked out the pros until the Age groupers came around. A nibble or two on the rest of my sports bar as I took pics of the pros. Once the age groupers were on the course I had to start looking for some familiar faces. I think I caught everyone I knew and I was cheering loud in a perfect spot. Right after the athletes past me on their first loop I would see them again about 10 minutes later. Perfect for double cheering and making sure I got a good pic. After I spotted Hunter on his way home to finish in 4:58 I rode my bike a little further to cheer on the rest of the athletes. At this point in the race the people left on the course really needed a cheer or two. Regardless if they were enjoying the moment or hurting to finish I couldn't stop the cheering. I gave everyone a clap and a cheer and I think I was out on the course (in the same spot) for over an hour. Most of the athletes had finished and my face was starting to show how long I was out on the course (ouch-red cheeks!). I remember almost every comment that has gotten me through a race and although I've been lucky to feel good in most of my races, I never underestimate the power of a cheer. "Great stride" "great effort" "you look great" "hang in there" "Enjoy the day" all came out of my mouth and I had many thumbs up and smiles from the athletes. Around 1:00 I was getting super hungry and exhausted from my long morning without endorphins and I decided to head home. I was riding up the causeway and the cheers kept coming for the athletes. I could tell the runners envied my bike heading up the bridge but I mentally reassured them that they were the ones receiving a medal when they finished. I was not able to say i finished the 70.3 World championships's but everyone on that course that gave it their all to finish the race deserved the fame of proudly wearing a finisher shirt. As I was about to make a left turn off the race course to head home I saw a few runners heading into town to make their final loop. Nope-couldn't head back yet. I still had a couple cheers in me and lunch could wait. I followed the run course and cheered for the athletes that were jogging, walking and shuffling along. Shuffling....I've been there! I totally know what it's like to "run" 13 minute miles...no fun and the reason why you think you are "running" that slow pace is cause a shuffle feels like you are moving SO much faster than walking. As I was heading along the downtown part of the run course (just beautiful) I saw Dan Devol who I have been coaching since Feb. Dan and his friend John were representing the Clearwater Polic Department and although they both were fighting injuries before the race they pulled it out to finish! I biked with Dan for a bit and kept his mind off his knee pain. I asked him how his swim went and how the bike felt. He walked and we talked and before we knew it he was heading back on the causeway. I said my good-bye to dan and told him to enjoy his finish. I gave a quick call to Karel to tell him I was heading home and told me that even after he volunteered all morning after his ride he had just enough energy after his late breakfast/lunch to bike to downtown Clearwater to give a couple cheers. It was around 2pm when I headed home and I couldn't help but think how much fun I had today. As an athlete I understand what it is like to race. Sometimes you feel great and sometimes you question what went wrong. But regardless of the outcome, you become a better person when the day is over. And then when Monday comes around, you are back to your normal self....only a bit stronger with a little more heart and a great story to share with others. A slow and uncomfortable walk is always a great conversation starter!
congrats to everyone who finished the world championships in Clearwater. Enjoy your off-season and have a healthy recovery. Congrats to Mike B. and Bryan S. for an awesome performance at the Miami Man race today and although i haven't heard from Gay, Tony and the rest of the SwimFit members who raced, I'm sure everyone did great!