Race report from Nadia Sullivan:
It was a dark and stormy night... when I showed up for bike check-in and body marking. Lightning struck the top of the Sky Tower and the steady rain became a downpour. But that's not where our story begins...
The journey to New Zealand was long and we got very little sleep in almost 36 hours. We stayed up to change our internal clocks to local time, and our hotel wouldn't be ready until the afternoon anyway. Friday, 3 days before the race, I joined a group for a pre-ride of the bike course. The course had 2 short, steep climbs with fast descents and the winds made the course much more technical, especially for anyone with aero wheels. I felt right at home! But after the ride, I felt like I might be getting sick, so I took a nap after lunch. Woke up with a fever and was barely able to sleep that night. Fortunately, Team USA brought a doctor, so we saw him right away the next morning. I got some antibiotics for a raging sinus infection and spent the day in bed. The next morning, I took a hot shower to help clear my head and blacked out. Fortunately Nick was there to rouse me, but it was clear I was really, really sick. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to race at all.
Race-day morning I was still weak and my head felt like it was full of cement. I moved slowly & deliberately through my pre-race rituals, hoping the cold ocean water would help loosen things up in my head. On the plus side, I never got race nerves!
Our start was delayed a bit, but eventually they led the 90 of us down to the water and let us jump in. We were lined up along a pontoon for the start and I happened to have a good position that was on-course. When the start sounded, I shot off like a rocket, just as I'd been doing in training. I soon found myself at the front of the field and realized there was no way I could sustain such a hard effort so I backed off and joined a large pack. The swim was shaped like a "T" and the water was calm when we were between the piers. Outside the piers, the tide was strong and the waves made navigation very difficult. I stayed with my little pack but it kept getting smaller. The lifeguards were standing up in the boats, pointing the way, but even they were hard to find. When I was coming back to shore, I noticed there were very few women in front of me. The field had been shattered! I stumbled up the ramp toward the very long run into transition and struggled to stay upright since my balance was off from being sick.
Fortunately, my bike was the first one in transition so I didn't get lost! I was very deliberate about getting out of my wetsuit, every time I put my head down I thought I was going to fall over. I managed to change gear & run out to the mount line, but I don't remember getting on my bike! I didn't feel any power in my legs and my only chance for a real race on the bike was to ride smart. I gave what I had on the climbs, then let go to fly down every descent. It was a little windy, but not as much as the pre-ride, so it was a great day for a bike-handler! Anyone who got away from me on a climb was soon caught at the bottom again! And a few of them I dropped in the roundabout on top of a hill. The riders from Australia, Japan, and Mexico were having an especially hard time on the course, maybe because it was cool & windy, maybe because of the hills. I came into T2 with another American, but her dismount wasn't as fast as mine ;)
Again, I was very deliberate about putting my running shoes on, focusing hard on staying upright. I trotted out of T2, my primary goal being to have enough energy to run the entire 10K without walking. It was a flat, twisty run through the city, perfect for me! I focused on my form and worked on holding a steady pace that was comfortable. Oddly, I was feeling better as the run went on! I still couldn't breathe and something resembling a banana slug was coating my upper lip, but I still felt pretty good. A woman from Mexico caught me in the first lap and we ran step for step for a mile or so. She was breathing much harder than me so I took a few turns extra tight with a little more speed and dropped her! I even passed a few other runners! I picked up the pace more in the second lap, amazed at how good I felt in spite of being sick. It was really neat to hear the crowds calling out to the racers and cheering each country. Going into the finish, there was someone handing out US flags so I grabbed one and sprinted in. I may not have been fast, but dang it, I wanted to look good at the end!
I finished 41/88 that day. Not bad for only going at 60-70% capacity. Another American I've raced against was 6th in our category. She has a swim/bike background like me and we've been good competition for each other. I can only guess how I would have done had I been healthy. But I'm not disappointed. I gave it everything I had for the day, I knew you were all cheering for me from home!
Thank you guys for all your support these past 2 years! The Team was a huge factor in making this race possible for me. I couldn't have done it without you!