Sometimes I think I'm a masochist and I truly enjoy the pain that racing brings upon me. Some call it crazy, others call it love. I guess I'll just call it a severely dysfunctional love hate relationship. I decided a while ago that the TTT was a race I really wanted to do. Racing triathlons, you're basically time trialing yourself the entire bike course and trying to save some of your strength for the run. For me, I morph into a suicide biker and go all out and then slowly wonder how I'll make it through the run. Somehow I get it done and do fairly well at most races. Being newer to the sport of cycling itself, (going on 5 years racing triathlon) team races are things that are foreign to me. In my races, it's every person for themselves and that's that. Most triathlons aren't draft legal so you're out there in no mans land hammering away wondering when the pain will come to an end. You're not even thinking about how your legs are going to feel in a few minutes after you hop off the bike and start the run.

I've gotten pretty close to some teammates this year and have gone riding with them quite frequently. I felt that Jess, Meg, Sue and myself have similar abilities and would make a good time trial team. We sent in our team submission and the rest is just details. Our schedules couldn't have been more different from each other, making it super hard to try and practice as a team. We'd schedule a practice, then one person couldn't come. We'd try again the next week, then another person came down with a cold. At this point, being that worrier that I am, I started to slightly worry. This was a totally new event for all of us and I knew that I needed to be comfortable in a group at a high speed in order to feel good on race day. I took Tamera's advice and just 'trusted our abilities individually for our team'.

About 2 weeks ago, I strained my calf pretty bad and haven't raced since. The strain took me out of two big triathlons I planned, which was pretty discouraging. Not a stranger to injury, I knew what I needed to do and made a firm decision to stop racing until today. There was no way I was letting my team down. I was given clearance to ride last week and had been riding pretty frequently since then. Sleeping in compression socks, plugging along at physical therapy, I actually felt it was getting better. Always a good sign.

Race morning comes and Meg, Adam and myself are off to Leonore. At this point, I'm more concerned with our bikes falling off my new bike rack (which I've never used before) into oncoming traffic instead of the race. They say you shouldn't try new things on race day... I was actually feeling mentally prepared and excited to suffer, which is also a good sign. I notice most races that I go into feeling a sense of calm instead a sense of panic and nervousness is an indication it will hopefully go according to plan. We caravan with Sue and Courtney and finally arrive. Last minute race preps, chamois cream applications and music preferences are in place and we're ready to roll.

As an added bonus, we were allowed a follow car, and Adam was ever so gracious to volunteer as our driver. Had to have our yellow car out there packed with wheels, water bottles and Lady Gaga tunes to get us through the hurt. The countdown timer beeps and we're off. Our strategy was to start off at a steady pace for the first few miles, shake out the legs, get a feel for the course and GO. Sue leads out because she was the tallest, followed by myself, Jess and Meg. We're rolling at a steady 20mph and feel good. "If this is how it's going to go, we're going to have a solid race" I thought to myself. Then we make a turn into the headwind...

5 miles into it we see the other xXx ladies team of Tamera, Mia and Natalie...sans Courtney. We hoped she was ok. We cheered them on as we kept pushing along. A few more miles up the road the inevitable happened, the calf started cramping. This was no bueno. Now the strain isn't in the general calf vicinity, it was the insertion point between the top of the calf and back of the knee, which also has control of the hamstring. Complicated? Yeah, it is. It also hurt. Bad. One thing we had going for us was our strong ability to communicate. When I went in front for the pull, the girls could see I was in pain. Now normally this is something I'd shun and push forward with...yeah..not so much. I was not getting dropped from this team and my teammates were not going to let that happen, so I sat on the back for a little bit and tried to recover. The turnaround was a mile up ahead and I knew once we got past that and into the tailwind, the resistance would be easier and the strain would hurt less.

My theory proved correct. I knew I needed to provide relief for my girls who had just pulled me into the wind and it was time to gun it. I came from the caboose and told Sue that it was my turn and they could all hang back. I put my head down, grabbed my aerobars as if I were hanging off a cliff and put the hammer down. They kept asking if I needed to pull off and I told them that they helped me out, now this was me helping them out. Feeling super strong, I had the lead out for a couple of minutes until they forced me back into the line, it was only mile 15, no need for a burn out just yet :)

Before we knew it, the race was more than halfway over. I knew this was the time when I was going to need to dig deep. I've been in this place many times before. It's just a feeling that comes over your body when you're so deep in the pain, you're not sure which end is up or how you're going to get out. We come up to the last turnaround and I knew we had to be finishing soon. What I failed to know was the insane headwind we were going to have for the next three miles. All 4 of us suddenly got quiet and had to go to our happy place. Shouting words of encouragement to each other, we kept going. Heads down, legs mashing, there was no giving up now. We passed a group of ladies from Alberto's who wished us luck (girls are so nice!) and that garnered some confidence with in us.

I could see the right turn about 300 feet ahead and knew once we approached it, we'd be out of the wind. Sue's awesome words to me were "You're a triathlete! You do this crazy stuff! You do time trials all the time! KEEP MOVING!" In essence she was totally right, but I'd never felt this pain before. Not even in my half Ironman. It was my turn to pull and same as before, I was going to self sacrifice for the betterment of my team. It was getting towards the end and they were tired, but I still felt like I needed to pay them back for their awesome help earlier in the race. Head down, hands gripped, off I went. Thinking angry thoughts fueled my fire and I wanted to continue pulling, so I did. Adam pulls next to us and tells us we're 10 miles from the finish. 10 more miles!! WHY!!!

I hear Jess yell a gap so we slow the pace a little bit, Meg was hurting. That's what was great about our team. We knew we weren't winning this race. Our goal was to go out, have fun, work until we couldn't work anymore and finish strong as a TEAM. No one held us back, we would work together to gap back up to the group. Jess went to recover Meg and we were back on. 3 more miles. 2 more miles. We saw a group of guys up the road and decided to keep it steady then we'd attack. There was about 200 feet between us and them and we saw them sprinting. Why are they sprinting already? Well because the finish line was straight ahead. Not even knowing we were virtually done, we all yelled to gun it and go. And so we did.

Looking at our performance and thinking about how the race went, I do not have a single complaint. We truly defied what it means to be a 'team' and use teamwork to your advantage. Each of us gave 110% and went to places in our minds and bodies that we didn't even know existed. I can say that this race is ranked one of the top 3 hardest races I've ever competed in in the 5 years I've been racing. It was harder than my half Ironman this past spring (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run). Crazy, huh? After that race I felt really good. After this race, I felt a different kind of good. No words can explain it. Knowing that you go all out, with 3 of your teammates, not only strengthens your bond, it creates a sense of satisfaction that only hard racing can provide. If you've raced at this intensity, you know what I'm talking about.

A quote that Sue said to us mid way through our race today was, "You don't want to be part of a team of all stars. You want to be part of an all star team".

This was the the epitome of the pain cave.