Nickel City Sprint Triathlon Race Report!

September 16, 2012

Monday morning I woke up and reviewed my training schedule for the week. I knew I had a 5K on Sunday, and I knew where I was going to run it and I knew what our goals would be. And suddenly I had the urge to race a triathlon. Knowing that the Nickel City triathlon was this weekend in Buffalo….. I quickly conferred with Coach Michelle and it was on.

Why would I run a 5 freaking K when I could swim bike and run! I pee eight gallons before a race and every triathlete knows it’s much easier to do that in the water than in a porta potty before a 5K.

Plus swim bike run is much more fun. However…. my specialty distances are races that last 5-12 hours. A sprint is 75 or so minutes. This was going to hurt. But that’s what short course is.

I awoke race morning with this strange feeling in my belly. BUTTERFLIES. I have been an athlete all my life and butterflies are the best pre competition feeling on earth. it means you are alive, eager…. it means you care. This season for the first time in my life…. I hadn’t cared. I thought back to April 1st sitting in the lawn with my colleague Tim Snow. I had a bit before my wave went off at Texas 70.3 and I confessed to him that while I was happy to be there….. I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t eager. The butterflies were just not there and that’d been the case for a good year.

He encouraged me after that to not be afraid to step back. It was normal to go through a period of burnout. Lucky for me my burnout came during a time where I was struggling with a health issue, but more so that my burnout was that I didn’t care. I still wanted to train. I still wanted to be out there. The fire was dim but it wasn’t gone.

So I took that step back. Best thing I have ever done for myself. Because THIS MORNING morning the butterflies had returned. I was eager and I cared. And I could not wait to get to the race.

It was 49 degrees and as I looked outside I was hoping for rain. No such luck. I might be the only athlete on the face of this earth that loves…. and I mean LOVES…. to race in cold, wind and rain. The harder the conditions the faster I go.

I will take 49 degrees. YES.

Saturday was the USAT Elite Men’s National race, which meant that there were development athletes in town. Sure enough at the start I spotted a young 15 year old from Guatemala. Typically kids of this age can swim and run, and they really begin working on their bike (hence…. development). Although I was old enough to be her mother….. I knew I had a shot at outbiking her.

My goal for the race? It was a sprint…. so establish the red line and HOLD IT. I knew I would swim and bike well, and I knew my run would as always be my limiter. I knew what I ran at Musselman (not good!) and my goal was to keep my heart rate on the run higher than it was on the bike. At almost 10 pounds lighter that was not going to be an issue.

Everyone wants to know where you swim in Downtown Buffalo, so here is where we swam.

The buoys looked like candy corn. I LOVE candy corn.

The gun went off and I stuck right with Guatemala (you give people names in races!) and ended up 2nd or third out of the water. I did lose her after the first candy corn, as we caught up with some of the men before us. I felt like I was swimming as well as I could of. I have more speed, it’s just not here yet, nor do we need it here yet.

Onto the bike my friend Diane and I got to play some cat and mouse for a bit. It’s always so much fun when the girls get to do that. A guy got in between us and I sat back a bit to stay out of the mess. That was an error on my part. Once I realized I did that I scolded myself. I can do that in an Ironman but not in a sprint.

I liked the course. It was very turny at the beginning and I found myself braking through corners when I should have been accelerating through them. Two seconds lost on a turn becomes eight seconds and then becomes a deficit you can’t make up in a red line effort. I am really good on long windy straightaways and I need to continue to improve those technical skills, which become a casualty of Ironman.

I caught up to Guatemala and was able to hold her off until the end, knowing full well it wouldn’t take her long to run me down. My bike was good…. not the best I have ever ridden but on par for where we are in the season. My Quintanna Roo…… is amazing. Absolutely amazing. It’s light, handles well and is responsive. This is by far the most awesome bike I have ever ridden. It was nothing but bike and bike shop drama this season, but whew…. worth it to have this bike as the end result.

Wheeler gave me sh*t for there being a visor on my helmet. There is not a visor on my helmet! Get some glasses Wheeler!

Here is the bike course…..

I love maps.

One onto the run I was able to run hard enough to improve my pace per mile from Musselman by about 20 seconds…. although to truly rock this out I need to peel a good 90 seconds off my run pace per mile  for a sprint triathlon. I was able to keep Diane in my sights for the entire run, I just couldn’t bridge the gap. I felt very good, very strong. I can feel that along with my training progression, my strength work with Steve is really taking effect. No right SI joint pain and I am able to…. I can’t even explain it, I feel stronger.

Four people complimented my run form during the run. MINE! Mine? yes mine. Since 2009 I have been working on that. No one had EVER complimented my run FORM before. No one has ever complimented my run…. ANYTHING BEFORE!!! (I grew up a swimmer). Did I relish in that? Hell yes I did.

At the finish line if someone had said….. Mary this is actually a 20 mile run…… I would have cheered. I felt good, I felt like that was a pace I could hold for a few hours. Three miles? Good GOD that’s a slow pace. But as I said…. it will come. Ten pounds are down, ten before the marathon and then we will work on getting to Ironman body comp. The thing you must understand with this sport is that everything CAN come with patience.

I used to be a faster runner, and I definitely can be again. But it takes time. Because of my background my swim and bike can come around very easily. Running has always and will always take more for me. Kind of like Jennie. I could take away her run for 3 weeks and she’d be fine. Take away her swim for that long and we’d have an issue. We are all different and we need to understand that with consistent work, these paces will come.

As I approached the turnaround…. I saw Graham. Heather’s brother. He was so far in front I couldn’t see anyone behind him. I knew this could be his first win. I knew Heather was second overall female here last year. I knew what this would mean to him.

I got choked up.

I get choked up whenever I think of Heather. Which is several times a day. It comes in the form of taking my breath away…. but not in a positive way. For a moment I can’t breathe, then the tears come, and with it often comes anger.

At the same time I glanced over the horizon over the city of Buffalo. Knowing in the hospital just a few miles away another friend, also a cyclist was fighting for his life, with his wife at his bedside. His status is touch and go. After the race his wife and I were going to try to connect for coffee and a visit to see him. If she was ready.

For the next mile the only way out of that feeling was to run. It’s the only way through that kind of pain. It got very emotionally hard at that point. Not the…. wow this distance is hard will I finish …feeling…….. but the……  I feel faithful but faithless, these two people should be out here right now…… kind of feeling.

Tears were there. for sure. for both of them.

Carry the fallen Mary. I told myself. If they were here they would do that for you. That’s what we as athletes do. We work towards our own goals and we bring one another along with us.

My mind snapped back to the look on Graham’s face. The smile. I thought about his strength through this whole thing. He’s been strong, he’s smiled. he’s on the roads racing and living. And that brought me around. I wanted to get to the finish line to celebrate. What a feeling.

As I came through the finish line I felt good. Really good. USAT’s Tim Yount was announcing which was a big treat. I finished and immediately found Graham who was just over the moon. I soaked up his and his family’s excitement. I remembered that together we will all bring one another though this horrible tragedy. And we will bring Heather with us in the ways that we all can.

Graham Frazer. Champion. Photo by his lovely wife Barb. This victory was MUCH MORE than swim bike and run. Heather Strong.

I finished third overall female. The 15 year old took it, and my friend Diane finished 2nd. I felt so victorious. Not because I laid down some world record breaking time…. but because I wanted to be there so badly that it ached. I’d rather be slower and want to be there than win by 10 minutes and feel like I hate it.

I looked at my results which I would normally just hand over to Michelle. I cared about them. Power on the bike was good but could have been higher. I should have cornered better, I should have not let the guy get to me like that. My run looked so slow….. but it was 20 seconds faster per mile than at Musselman. I am ten pounds lighter, a bit stronger and that run will come back.

Instead of the negative, I felt hungry. I felt eager. I felt like I wanted the improvement. Rather than I wish I could be faster…. I felt….. okay this is the next starting point. Next training block begins tomorrow and I need to tighten a few things up. Actually I have a lot of things to tighten up, and that leaves me with incredible desire.

Incredible desire. That’s what’s been missing. That right there.

It’s was a small race in size and distance but a big deal to me….. for reasons I don’t even talk about. Some understand, some stand back and say …. what? But that’s ok. I am elusive about some things and I am only because I don’t make them a big deal. Big deals are only as big as you let them become.

This journey I am on is never possible without the help of some really fantastic people. To become the best I can be I have carefully surrounded myself with the best of the best. And on a daily basis I need them to know how much I appreciate them… I don’t think in this world we say thank you to ANYONE enough. And mean it. I mean it.

Thank you so much to my amazing coach Michelle of QT2 Systems (yes…. we at QT2 coach each other!!!). Michelle is direct, yet she understands life. She’s realistic and helps me reach for it. Thanks to QT2 ‘s Tim Snow for encouraging me to take the break in the first place! Thanks to Rachel G from the Core Diet (which is also part of QT2). Rachel told me what I needed to eat, helped me drop ten and is incredible. Thanks to Steve Lopes from Midtown Athletic Club. In jus a few weeks he’s helped to identify imbalances, and help me become stronger. He’s also teaching me to think less move more! Thanks to Quintanna Roo….. my unbelievable bike rides like a dream. Thanks to Nootca for my awesome goggles (a big post for that coming soon!). Thanks to PowerBar, Fuel Belt, Breathe Yoga, Cycledelic…… and there are some I am forgetting.

The biggest thanks always go to the Eggers boys. Curt let me borrow his Reynold’s wheels (love these) and to Luc who is always always always the wind beneath my wings. I am lucky that we do this as a family.

Also big thanks to Eclipse Multisport for putting on such a great race! to the volunteers who give up their Sunday morning to help make the race safe for all of us, a GIANT THANKS TO ALL OF YOU!  And to Score This for your awesome timing. No one does it like you guys!

Thank you for believing in me, and for helping me to believe in myself again. The comeback…..has begun!

Can we put an age limit on these kids in my races? That lil Guatemalan girl was a snapper!



  1. Congratulations on a great race!!! I love how sprints can perk us up when the distance stuff gets to be a little much.

  2. Epic day! Congratulations

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