In honor of Elka Strong
I head out to pre-ride the bike course on Thursday. The route went right be my friend, Elka’s house. (I had no idea) Elka is an amazing woman and she’s fighting an amazing fight against an awful cancer. I looked down at my Elka Strong bracelet and knew that I wanted to do my last race of the season in her honor and with her spirit. I texted her to make sure it would be okay. Once I had her blessing, Hannah & I went to work on important details – like toenails…
Pre-race: Easy commute by bike
The race is so close to home, that it just made more sense to bike to the race than drive and find parking. My packing system was a little off, needing to keep my bike gear out for the commute. All in all, it worked out great. The ride to Hopkinton State Park was a nice way to great the morning. The only thing I forgot was my flip flops for pre&post race.
The venue & transition set-up was like a peaceful homecoming.
I instantly recognized the first bike on my rack from a 2013 race and reconnected with a great local triathlete. (happy) The racks were crowded, but we all moved equipment around to make sure there was room. I started the morning with stomach issues – thankfully there was an actual restroom (not porta-potty) within a quick jog. I had to skip the warm up swim. On the walk to the boat launch, I ran into more racers I’ve met over the season and friends from Ashland, many of whom were doing their first. The excitement was great and a good distraction from my gut.
On the boat ramp:
The swim waves were quite large, but the young race volunteers herded us slowly to the start. Happily, there was another restroom at the start. My hub, Jason, found me as I was coming out of the boathouse bathroom for the second time. I was concerned about my gut, but working on keeping my thoughts calm. (thinking of Elka & chemo I managed a little bit of gratitude for being able to make so many trips) It was a relatively short swim (1/3 mile) and often exercise quiets things down. When there was no more time for anymore pit-stops, I zipped up my wetsuit and waded down the ramp with the rest of the blue caps.
In the water:
We bobbed in the water for several minutes before starting. It was a clear day; good for sighting off the buoys. The course was a point to point – a pretty straight line, 1/3 of a mile through the Hopkinton reservoir. The water temperature was still warm. The horn blasted and our wave set off. My belly was still gurgling and I didn’t have a lot of strength in my arms and legs (thank goodness for learning about rotation). Thankfully there wasn’t a lot of splashing or much maneuvering required. My focus was on long, strong, and steady. It’s always about doing my best on that given day whatever the day brings. Near the midway point, my gut calmed down and I stopped thinking I’d need to detour to the porta-potty on my way to the bike. By the last buoy I felt good. I swam as close to shore as possible and had the energy to jog to transition. This was a happy feeling!
T1: Out & In
It was another run to transition without any dizziness – awesome. I was out of my wetsuit & in to my socks, quickly. (yes, still wearing socks) On my way to the bike mount.
In the saddle: Very bumpy course!
The ride through the State Park is rough. There are deep cracks through the road every few feet. (ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump) Even with Velcro on my aero water bottle, I was repositioning it after each crack in the pavement. Before I was even out of the park, I lost the water bottle. The whole course was bumpy – so I felt like there was no point to go back for it – it would happen again. A nice volunteer picked it up and held on to it for me. I was concerned about having stomach issues all morning and no water on the bike, but it just was what it was. I’d been hydrating well for the past couple of days and pre-morning and it was a sprint, so I should be fine.
The ride is a very nice looking course, but the rough roads aren’t my favorite. A lot of women dropped chains (one was nice enough to pass me for a second time after she fixed her chain). The course has some good climbs, which I’m still working on. I focused on keeping with the front of my age group in sight. As we came down the steep hill that goes by Elka’s house – I hollered “Elka Strong”, loudly enough for her to hear anywhere in the house. She wasn’t home, but I still think she heard me.
T2: A chance to grab some water
I racked my bike just as the next of my age group was leaving. I was so happy for the water bottle I keep at transition, but rarely ever use. I stopped for the water bottle and then head out for the run.
The Run: Steady as she goes
As I set out for the run I decided to focus on good form (which helps with speed, but in an indirect way). I really felt ok. Not my most fabulous, but surprisingly good considering how the day started. I don’t usually drink from the water stops on such a short race, but I drank a little at each mile just to be safe. The run course is very nice and stays inside the park for most of the run. There are good sections where we were on grass and a nice packed trail that crosses a levy – great scenery. As we crossed the levy, the sounds of the announcer, the music, and the finish grew stronger. I was looking forward to being done. I was pacing next to one of the Gals for Cal as we came to the end of the 5k. Once we got back on to pavement, I knew I could push it into the finish without falling over.
Swim:10:38 -2ag/31ov T1: 2:00 Bike:35:32 –4 ag/22ov T2: :53 Run:22:55- 1ag/16ov Total: 1:11:57 AG:2/73 OV:12/610
Title 9 was a great race. I plan to do it again next year.
Hopefully I’ll remember to sign up earlier, I was lucky to get in from the wait list this year.
There’s such a great vibe in this race – tons of challenge, support, and inspiration.
It was an honor to race with the spirit of Elka – she was in my thoughts and my heart every step of the way. This endeavor pales in comparison to her current challenge. I have a wish that somehow my effort or strength could transpire into strength for her and her family. The reality that her strength transpires into more strength and inspiration for me, and for all of her friends and family. We are all growing Elka Stronger.
p.s. great swag! Thanks, Max Performance!