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Triathlete Blog

Esprit de She Sprint Triathlon

Here we are, four weeks post Ironman.

The high of Texas has worn off, the blisters have healed and my body seems to be recovered. I took one week of easy riding on my cyclocross bike while eating a page out of my Food Fantasy Log every day (cupcakes, ice cream for dinner, peanut butter cups), ten days off of running (let’s not talk about that first run back) and slowly rebuilt my way back into training with workouts designed to wake my body up. V02 max intervals, all out reps, big gear pushes, hill repeats. Combined with some very hot days, let’s just say it’s been a very painful wake up call!

WAKE UP, body!

So what better way to jolt the body back into fitness than a race! (hey, at least I got out of another workout that contained the words ALL OUT on my schedule!) I signed up for Esprit de She, the local women’s sprint triathlon. In Naperville, the spirit of women in sport is strong– this “little” race of up to 2000 women offers a mixed bag of mountain bikes, beach cruisers, hybrids to the most tricked out tri bike with the latest aero toys. Not surprisingly, this race can dig up some fierce competition from former pros, national champions and local up-and-comers. On race day, one thing is certain: you never know who is going to show up ready throw down.

After some insightful observation from my coach, we’ve determined I race better when a little tired. So he planned out a normal week of training. THANKS? Bike intervals, a long run and the day before the race? What happened to be one of my worst 3 hour rides ever. On a scale of zero to ten, with ten being “raging corn bear” and zero being “I quit the sport and sold my bike to a meth addict in Morris” – this bike was a legitimate .5.


I made it through 90 minutes of the ride before I felt like a giant hot, fuzzy blanket of humidity and fatigue was wrapped around me. And I still had 90 minutes to go – with intervals. I got home, completely devoid of energy, sick and washed out. I wondered how I would race, how I could race the next day. Wondering wasn’t productive so instead I forced myself to eat (tons of carbs), drink (lots of Gatorade) and rest (two hour nap – and I don’t nap!). I went to bed with my race bag packed.

All night long it stormed. Pouring rain, thundering, lightening. By morning, it was still raining with no signs of stopping. Yet I woke up feeling fantastic and ready to race. I drove to the race site, sat in my car knowing that as soon as I got out, I would commit to spending the next few hours soaking wet. Immediately I reconnected back to 70.3 Worlds in 2013 (pouring rain) and Duathlon Worlds in 2006 (again, pouring rain). Racing in rain – nothing much changes except your approach to the corners and your bike speed. The effort and mindset must STILL be there and often even with less effort, if you can mentally stay connected to the race, you will prevail.

This being a hometown race, it’s a busy one. Women I coach, women I know from masters, women I know from racing – it’s nonstop catching up and chit chat. Honestly after a big race like Ironman where every detail, every calorie, every move needs to be planned, these smaller races are refreshing. After 15 years, they are the races that feed my triathlon soul – the feel good, all about fun races. That said, I didn’t put much thought into it. My race plan was simple: 1) don’t crash, 2) get uncomfortable, 3) finish top 3 overall.

I quickly set up my belongings and then stood around – in the rain. The race was slightly delayed due to rain and then the elites were asked to line up – no warm up – to get ready for the swim.  Coaching four of the women in the wave, I knew who to line up near and  Taylorsuspected how the swim would play out. Line yourself up near your former collegiate swimmers and you will ride a smooth draft to the swim finish! I held on to Taylor’s feet and hip, exiting right behind her.

(me, behind Taylor, thinking best draft ever!)

The swim finish dumped us into wet sand, up a hill and it was STILL raining! The run to transition was long and I lost a lot of time in transition with my bike shoes and wetsuit. It was a painful reminder that in short course racing every second counts.

On to the bike where it was – you guessed it, still pouring rain! I suspected I was 3rd on the bike knowing that the current junior national champion and one of my own athletes (Jenny Garrison also a national champion who has won this race 10, yes 10, times before!) were ahead. I had some work to do! It’s a two loLiz Biking Ali 2op course that’s usually quite fast. Some standing water made for some big splashes, cautious turns but other than that I tried to shred through my legs. At times it worked, at other times I felt a little rusty. Within the first lap, I passed the younger woman and knew I needed to put as much time on her as possible.

Meanwhile, still raining!

(amazing photo courtesy of Ali Engin Photography:

I entered transition 2nd overall suspecting that 3rd was within 1 minute of me. While I can’t do math sitting at my desk in my office, I can do math wile racing (how?) and calculated 3rLiz Biking Alid place would need to outrun me by 20 seconds per mile. For her, quite possible but on this day in these conditions, for me to hold her off was not impossible so I went with that and set out to run.

Immediately the humidity wrapped thickly around me, I had a cramp in my upper diaphragm and I was wheezing. I felt TERRIBLE! All signs that I was exactly where I need to be for a sprint distance triathlon. The problem is, you have to hang there for a 5K. Which at this point felt like a marathon! At every pass of spectators, I listened for the cheers behind me to get a sense of where 3rd place was – 40 seconds, 30 seconds. I hit mile 2 with 3rd place less than 30 seconds behind me.


(another bad ass photo courtesy of Ali Engin Photography:

We soon approached the final stretch along the Riverwalk and a spectator was right there telling her, it’s time to go, NOW. I thought about something I read in Elite Minds (as you all know, one of my favorite sports books) – in which the author says there will come a point in the race where you will be forced to make a decision to go (and the author says): I’m telling you to go.

Liz RunningAnd so I did.

(photo credit to Nic Ruley)

I picked up the pace, the best I could and did a few sneak peeks over to my shoulder to see her right there. I couldn’t believe it was happening – another race with a potential sprint finish! What happened to cruising into the finish line and enjoying myself? This is not that year! I then told myself little does this young woman know that 1) I am old enough to be her mother and 2), if I can put together a sprint finish at the end of a 10 hour Ironman, you better believe I can put one together at the end of an hour and 10 minute race!, and 3) this is the longest 400 meters ever!

(I also told my coach that if this trend continues, we are going to start needing to do 200 repeats on the track to work on my kick)

In the end, I finished 9 seconds ahead of 3rd place and a few minutes behind the overall winner (Jenny, again!).  This podium proves the awesome power of us F35+ moms (Jenny has 3 kids)!  And big congrats to the young woman, Audrey, who at 16 is quickly becoming a local force to be reckoned with in short course racing!

Podium Naperville Women

I met with a local run coach earlier in the week.  He worked with me many years ago as well as before Texas. I go to him to work on the little things because when you’re training and racing for the top, the little things count. On the day we meant, it was 90 degrees with high humidity. We were on the track and broiling. He said to me that in the heat, he tells his athletes to TWIG it. In other words, take what is given and work with it. Accept the conditions and where you are and race to the best of your ability.

I thought about that a lot last week – and how applicable it is in so many situations. When I stood at the start line on Sunday, I had a dozen excuses on why the race didn’t have to go my way – I was tired, I was sick the day before and it was pouring rain. If you’re not careful, you can talk and excuse your way out of any challenge in a race. And since most races are challenging, you risk checking out before the gun even goes off. There goes your race ….

Instead, I said to myself: twig it. You’re here, the race is now, it’s time to race. When the gun goes off, all of the excuses fade away and you focus on what you can do in the moment. String together enough of those moments and you’ll find yourself pretty satisfied with your effort (and the outcome) in the race.

Congratulations for all of the women for staying gritty in tough conditions out there.  Multisport Mastery had 3 athletes in the top 10 in the elite division, a course PR and an athlete doing her first triathlon (ever!).