I’ve been dropped in cycling races. I’ve been dropped in running races. I’ve been dropped in triathlons. It all feels the same. The disappointment drains through your body as you notice yourself sliding backwards through the pack, there is (hopefully) that last ditch effort to hang in there, and then, as the gap grows quicker than ever, there is the realization that you’ve been left behind.
I popped my yellow-capped head up in Lake Memphremagog only a few hundred meters after the start and it was happening.I was getting dropped. Like it–as Snoop Dogg would say–was hot. I scrambled to remedy the situation but, apparently, I had left my brain on the beach. I couldn’t focus, I made bad decisions and I finished well behind the main pack.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from getting dropped so many times is that it is no reason to give up. I could still have a bike and run that I could be proud of and, I proclaimed to myself, transition was the perfect opportunity to switch sports and switch on my brain. Then I fumbled a bit through transition. Okay, I re-proclaimed, make that the bike course as my opportunity to get back on track.
As my bare feet hit the cement of the road and I crossed the new start line I had drawn in my mind, I boldly took a narrow gap between between two girls and flew onto my saddle. “Wow, bon technique!” a spectator yelled at me. Finally, I had done something right and that perfect flying mount set me off on a good (second) start.
The 3 lap bike course dragged uphill on the way out with rolling gentle lumps until it turned left on to a more technical section with steeper slopes. I was loving this bike course! My legs were responsive on the climbs and I was gaining confidence with each corner. When I reached the hammerhead double-hairpin turnaround on the first lap, I was already starting to catch up. I wasn’t a huge fan of some of the fast technical corners on the back split of the loop but I could’ve ridden the uphill lines through the sweeping steep corners all day. Fatigue was building throughout the effort but, after three laps and 40km done, I could’ve gone back for more.
I racked my bike in transition and, this time, I was happy to see rack space. I slid on my running shoes and found a rhythm fast on the opening flat kilometre. I may have blown the swim but after a good bike I was confident I could nail the run.
The two lap course was mostly flat with a hill in the middle that included some short off-road sections. My legs felt heavy on the hill but the downhill afterwards seemed to launch me back to speed as we returned to the concrete. On the second lap, I anticipated the more challenging parts of the course so distance seemed to go by more slowly but I also knew exactly where I was going start running for home.
With 2km go I amped up my speed until I hit an uncomfortable pace and I just let my legs burn. I tore through the last aid station, narrowly squeezing through a gap between a runner and a feeder but I didn’t care, they could get another cup of water. I ran into the crowds of spectators lining the last 100m and, although my goal run split was totally out the window, I finished really strong.
No matter how strong I ran or biked, however, the feeling of being dropped in the swim rushed back to me mere moments after I finished. As I ate some rejuvenating watermelon, I critiqued each moment of the swim. I just wasn’t proud of my actions in the water. Still, after coming out of the water in 62nd and finishing 7th in the women’s field (2nd in my age group), no matter how disappointed I was with my swim, it was definitely a comeback I could be proud of.