Tip of the week: Never give up and find strength from those around you. Ironman is all about mental and physical toughness. At some point you have to make the decision to keep pushing.. Because anything is possible.
Last Saturday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin I won the US Triathlon National Championships in my Age Group 40-44 and the Master’s National Champion Title! I placed 9th overall in the Olympic Distance which consists of a 1 mile swim, 40k bike and 10k run! This was one of my most memorable moments because just 5 days earlier I found out that one of my best friends husband Udo was killed tragically by a city bus in the Marine Base called Camp Pendleton here in Southern California. I didn’t know if I could even get on the plane, but my friend Antje said to go, my parents were picking me up from the airport and 4 of my sisters were coming to cheer and spend the weekend with me. In addition, this was the National Championships. It’s an honor to race at this level and a dozen of my Timex teammates which are a warm, caring and supportive group of people were going to be there racing and supporting us. I didn’t sleep for 2 days, but cracked my first smile and laugh to an episode of “The Office” on the plane. When I landed my mom and dad were there with loving hugs to listen and console me on what had transpired in the last 2 days. Udo and Antje have been friends for 13 years. We trained together, raced, had dogs, then kids and just did a family trip to Zion National Park where they also raced in a 100K Mountain bike race only 4 weeks ago. His death was sudden and tragic leaving 2 children the same ages as mine.
The story of craziness continued as I unpacked my bike after flying. I took it to a local bike shop in Kenosha, WI to just torque my headset for assurance. Marty from Total Cyclery bike shop said, “Oh no your derailer hanger is bent! I can try to bend it back but it could snap in half.” I thought quickly and luck would have it my Team Manager Tristan lived in Millwaukee just an hour up the road by the race sight. I called Tristan and asked if he had an extra derailer hanger. He said, “you’re not gonna believe this but I just received an envelope of five derailer hangers from Quintana Roo and I used to be a mechanic and can replace it for you.” I sighed with relief and drove to Milwaukee with my parents. As Tristan replaced the hanger he popped off my back wheel and discovered one of my little screws and a spring that holds the rear wheel in place was missing! He took one off an extra QR hanging in the office and fine tuned my rear cassette and Shimano wheel to perfection. If Tristan didn’t catch that screw missing the first bump in the road would have locked my wheel against the frame sending me flying off the bike or pulling out of the National Championships. It was a blessing in disguise.
If you look at my mouth I am screaming “Udo” as I cross the finish line. I carried his German strength, certainty and hard work ethic with me in my entire race. As I pedaled I would push down each stroke chanting, “Udo then Antje then Jan and Mia” this helped me produce one of my fastest bike splits holding an average speed of 23mph on my Quintana Roo. One girl had passed me on the bike so I came onto the run in 2nd place. As I rounded the first corner at a half a mile I heard a familiar voice scream, “Go Suz! You can catch her she’s just 2 minutes ahead!” It was my college roommate Carrie! That gave me a lift in my step as did all of my family as they were perfectly spread out each mile along the run course. If you ever meet me, I’m known to have a loud voice, but my sisters and parents are truely equals in this category! I closed the gap down to a minute and thought I placed 2nd, but she received a 2 minute penalty for drafting where she was spotted by the referee’s on motorcycles for riding too close to another rider giving her an unfair advantage. Later at awards Tim Yount from USAT Triathlon screamed my name as Winner of both the 40-44 and Overall Master’s female winner! This was the most difficult emotional race in my life. God bless you Udo and to my dear friend Antje the mother of Jan and Mia. May you pull strength from everyone around you in time of need, to win another State Time Trial Championship, or just to get back on the bike. Triathlon is a sport that brought us together and will always remain close to my heart.