It’s difficult to choose a single word to describe this past weekend’s Kemah Oly race – the opener to the 2012 TX3 Series put on by the Onurmark team. This may not come as a surprise to those who know me well since I’m very indecisive. But that’s not why it’s difficult to choose – it’s difficult because this race took me through the whole gamut of emotions from feeling excited, anxious, beat down, challenged, and finally…ecstatic.
With a big month ahead, we didn’t fully taper down since tapering down for every race would sacrifice too much fitness. I was a little rested but still not quite to the extent as most races. I was still excited though! The Onurmark races are some of my favorites and the team always takes good care of the athletes. There were also going to be a lot of ORR athletes racing (including some of mine whom I was already so proud of!) and it’s always extra fun when you’re surrounded by friends and familiar faces.
On race morning, that alarm came awfully early (before 3am!) since I had decided to give up my hotel room and just drive from home. Actually, my dad volunteered to drive me – my goodness, I’m spoiled! So we were out the door, on our way, and to the race site just over an hour later. After a quick transition setup and walk to the water, I waited as patiently as possible for the ride out to drop point. With the wetsuit all zipped up and goggles quadruple checked for tightness, I was ready as I was going to be.
“….5-4-3-2-1…..” and then mass chaos as the entire invitational wave dives off together. One of the kayakers actually snapped a really cool photo of the dive – you can literally see that the boat is tipping as all that weight shifts! Once I was in the water, I realized quickly what Michelle had warned me about – it was a bit warm to be all zipped up and covered in a bulky wetsuit. I just tried to remind myself that it was buoyant and helping me to go faster, despite not feeling like that at the time. It was a bit choppy and there was a current taking us to the right but I think the biggest thing that affected me was the temperature. I attempted to keep on some feet, and did so for a bit, but with a big swim wave and a large range of abilities, everyone gets spread out pretty quickly. Each time I’d lift up to see the buoys, a big wave would come and block my line of vision. But alas, 1500m later, I made it out and was third female. After a quick wetsuit removal with the aid of the designated strippers (I love when they have those!), I was on my way to hopefully make up some time.
Out on the road, it quickly became apparent that there was a STRONG headwind. I just kept my head down and pushed as hard as I could, knowing that we’d have to eventually turn around and reap the rewards with a lovely tailwind. Whew, was it fast on the way back in! I was able to catch one gal around mile 18 so was pleased with the movement.
(photo taken by Corey Oliver and courtesy of Brittani Louise Photography – thanks!)
On to the run, I fumbled to get my darn watch on my wrist but finally settled in and saw the leader up ahead. Knowing that she couldn’t be too far off, I thought I just might be able to catch her. The super fast guys were up ahead and a few familiar ORR and family faces cheered me on to give me that extra oomph I needed! Finally around mile 2.5, I surged past and tried to stay strong. With 2 bridge climbs coming, I knew I needed to gain as much distance as I could since I’m not a huge hill runner (there aren’t that many to choose from here in Houston!). It looked like I was doing okay and all of the encouragement from the spectators kept me strong. At one point I heard Michelle yell “Go Sarah!” That made me grin from ear to ear and dig even deeper. Mind you, she was racing her heart out at this point too! That’s impressive – coaching AND racing at the same time, whew!
After 2 painful climbs, I was able to cruise on in and break that coveted tape with shear joy! I immediately hopped right into those lovely ice baths waiting at the finish line.
At the end of the day, I would not be here and able to enjoy moments like these without all of the support of my outstanding coach, team, family and friends, Clint, and my sponsors. For all of these wonderful people in my life, I have the Lord to thank and my goodness, I am grateful! I realize it’s not me alone on this journey and I’m certainly not in control – everything is because of Him.
I love this picture above – there’s so much emotion captured in the image (once again, taken by Corey Oliver; Brittani Louise Photography). I have a ton to be thankful for but I also realize I have lots of room to grow and improve from here. There are things I would have done differently in this race (especially on that swim!) and I will certainly add those to my list. That’s what’s so cool about racing – no matter the outcome – good or bad, it’s always an addition to your race resume and something can be learned in every situation. If you reflect and absorb these tidbits, you’ll continue to grow as an athlete. With that being said, it’s on to the next one!