BEFORE the RACE
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, or that is what they say, anyways. Well I disagree, what happened in Vegas will forever be a highlight of my life!
Lee Gardner my Amazing Coach and I left Thursday morning for the long road trip to Sin City. After several hours of driving we arrived around 9pm to Henderson which is just outside of Las Vegas. We eagerly jumped out of the car and we both were shocked by the overwhelming heat, 90 degrees, dear God it was hot for so late at night!
The next morning I felt completely lethargic from the long road trip. Since we got in so late, Lee and I needed to get some groceries. After a quick stop at Trader Joe’s (which I love, super cheap and great food) and breakfast, Lee and I headed over to the pre-race check in. The race venue was completely packed with hundreds of athletes all of whom are incredible shape. Pre-race always makes me think of a dog show where everyone judges the competition based solely on appearance. I always get so nervous at check in, it is actually my least favorite part about racing because I start to question myself, “am I fit enough to race”,” they look so strong, how will I ever beat them?” etc. I am always extremely happy to get out of check in as quickly as possible.
Right after getting my packet, Lee and I drove to Lake Las Vegas where we did a 2 hour stake out ride. We had all intentions of previewing the course during this ride but shortly after entering the State park I missed our turn and I didn’t realize it till almost 40 minutes into the ride. It was painfully hot, about 105 degrees at 2:00pm and in the rush to get everything done we didn’t eat lunch. Once we started to put in some light intervals to wake up the legs, my bike was skipping gears and I started feeling extremely light headed and so at two intervals we just rode easy back to the car.
I was having my doubts at check-in if I was ready for this race, but now I was getting pretty concerned. How am I going to race in this heat? I am dying after a fairly easy bike ride. Plus, my bike wasn’t working properly, which is never a warm fuzzy, especially, with my track record of having bike malfunctions at all my very important races. Thank goodness, Lee never faltered and if he was having doubts himself, he never let me know. He continued to build me up reminding me of all the hard work we had done and how I was going to do great.
Thursday night was the second night in a row that the people staying in the hotel above mine made such a ruckus that it woke me up several times throughout the night. Two nights in a row of poor sleep made it hard to get up early the next morning. However, I know if I wanted to get my shake out run before the insane heat blast that seemed to start at 6:00am I needed to pull myself out of bed.
The start of the shake-out run, I wasn’t too excited and slightly grumpy. But once Lee and I started the run instantly I started to wake up and feel so much better then I felt the day prior on the bike. We did a short jog and ended with some half ironman pace striders. Meanwhile, we got to watch the entire sunrise, which was spectacular! It is amazing what exercise does to your mood, after the run I was laughing at myself for being a grouch before the run.
Lee made breakfast, which was delicious, and then we drove to Lake Las Vegas. Friday, was the only day athletes were allowed to pre-swim part of the course. It felt fantastic to get an open water swim in and practice some drills. I just started working with a new swim coach Joe Novak, to improve my swimming technique. He is the swim coach for Cheyenne Mountain High School and was highly recommended to me by Michael Weiss. Joe’s approach to swimming is very different than any other swim coach I have worked with. He views swimming more like the sport of golf. You would never go to the driving range and hit 200 golf balls not thinking at all about your technique. In the same breath he explained to me why swimming 4 to 5k a practice without thinking about technique will never allow me to reach my full potential in the water. Therefore, instead of swimming for yardage, I have now switched my approach to swimming until I achieve a certain skill for the day, wow, what a difference it has made in just a few short weeks!
After the swim, Lee made lunch and then we were back in the car to drop off all the gear at each of the transitions. Luckily, Cervelo had a tent setup at T2 and one of the mechanics was able to adjust my wheel and derailleur so that I wouldn’t have issues on the bike come race day. Lee and I got on our bikes one last time to double check that I wasn’t having any issues with the shifting before I checked it into T1 for the night.
Once I had all my gear check-in, Lee made another amazing dinner and for some comic relief we watched The Dictator and part of Old School, one of my favorite movies. Before going to bed, Lee said to me; “Danielle, tomorrow might be your last 70.3 race as an amateur.” Afterwards, when I was lying in bed visualizing my perfect race, I prayed that if it was my last 70.3 race as amateur that I would make it one to remember. I was so tired that even if my upstairs neighbors were having a party I couldn’t hear it. I was out cold throughout the night and woke up right before my alarm.