By Crystal Anthony
By far my favorite races are hometown ones, and with all the training I do in the Gloucester area and the friends and family participating and spectating, Gloucester feels like a hometown race. Of course, I also love good competition, so couple the familiarity with the incredible talent the event attracts, and I was very excited to race.
Preparation began a few weeks out when I incorporated the new bike course into several of my training rides. It was helpful to have trained and raced on these roads before, but I wanted to really know the turns and hills. In such a short bike course, I didn’t want to be losing time to mismanaging curves or attacking a hill in the wrong gear. Also I am terrified of downhills so I like to practice them to know how they feel and what comes at the bottom! Each time I try using the brakes a little bit less. I didn’t recon the run or swim since I had done the race last year.
On Friday, I got my bike in order with brother Jesse’s help, including putting a disc cover on my rear wheel. That way I could still have use of my powertap while also having an aero wheel. Saturday I went up to register and did a course recon of the bike, run and swim. That night, the one and only Anna Milton came to stay over – what an up-and-coming triathlete at 15! We had an early dinner of brown rice pasta, spinach and ground turkey and then relaxed. Anna’s gutsy enthusiasm to come up by herself for the adventure was inspiring – great positive energy before the race.
Race morning, I awoke to some sprinkles, but by the time I arrived at GHS, the precipitation had abated. However, when I unloaded my bike, I discovered my rear tire was flat. Immediately, I pulled a Schleck and looked around for my team car… of course I didn’t have one but I did happen to see my friend Scott and I hurried over to get his help . Yes, I can change a tire but being so anxious I didn’t trust myself. Once checked into transition, I headed out for a warm-up run in lieu of a bike warm-up because I didn’t want to risk another flat. Then, I set up my gear and got ready for the swim. As a precaution, I double-checked my rear tire before heading down to the water. It was flat again! Now I was in an all-out panic, since I had used my spare tube and clearly something was wrong with the wheel if it was flatting like that. Fortunately, my dad, friend Dawn, and Christina were spectating nearby and they were kind enough to run the wheel down to the Seaside tent while I went to swim.
Assured that they would take care of it, I headed down to warm up swimming! It was time to shut out all the worried thoughts about the bike and to focus, channeling whatever energy I had towards the effort in front of me. Perhaps I would just attempt the unicycle today. Freaking out had also gotten my heart rate elevated and my adrenaline pumping, so I focused on how that was good before starting a sprint race.
The swim went well for me. In fact, at one point I felt this very strange sensation behind me and when I looked during a breath, someone was drafting me! That was a first for me and I have Craig Lewin to thank for that! Since swimming is my most challenging discipline, I’ve had to work hardest on it. Craig’s patient instruction, his tough workouts with the morning swim crew, and his open water technique sessions are paying off as I never would have guessed I would like swimming so much or that I would start to feel like a swimmer! I came out of the water in 8th, and was behind the leader by 2:30 and that’s the way the race would end. Thanks to the Seaside crew and my friends and family a functioning wheel was mounted on my bike when I entered transition! I had a decent bike, and felt strong on the run, passing 3 competitors to finish 5th. In the end, I posted the 2nd fastest bike split and 2nd fastest run split.
It was good practice in staying mentally in the game when things go awry, and a good reminder that without the friendly faces and gracious helping hands around me, I wouldn’t be out there racing!