Thursday, September 25, 2008

Redman Triathlon 70.3

I arrived at the race before the sun came up. Setting up transition in the dark was challenging, but I had my checklist and think I remembered everything: bike shoes, socks, gloves on one side; run shoes, number belt next to them - I even thought to put my sunglasses around the pad of my aerobars so that if I forgot to pick them up, I'd still have them. I got my body marking touched up, put on my body glide and sunblock, slipped on the wetsuit and I was ready to go.... Even though I arrived at the race extra early (5:30 AM b/c I got a ride with someone, so I was on his schedule), time went pretty fast, and before I knew it they were signing the national anthem and I was chatting with fellow triathletes waiting for our turn and wondering what the heck we had gotten ourselves into...

That orange dot closest to the buoy is me!
The rifle went off signaling our start (ok, seriously - what was wrong with a buzzer used in plenty of races? Now we had to deal with the ringing in our ears for the first part of the swim!!). I started out slow, trying to wrap my mind around the fact I'd be racing for the next 8+ hours.. no reason to expend all my energy here where I was most comfortable. The sun was rising on my right so I had to force myself to breath solely on my left... slow and steady, I got into a groove and eventually found myself at the white turn buoy, halfway done. Of course, after I turned, the sun was on my left which was problematic b/c the buoys were also on the left making it impossible to spot. I kept swimming, just hoping I was going in the right direction. Every once in awhile the white cap of a full iron distance swimmer would pass on his/her 2nd lap, which made me a little more confident I was heading the right way. A little while later the next turn buoy was there and I was heading into shore. I felt good with the swim, but forgot to check my watch so I didn't know until much later that I'd beaten my Eagleman AquaVelo time by almost 2 minutes - 51:21 for the 1.2 mile swim.

Loved the wetsuit strippers
As I was running out of the water, I heard Jo's friend's daughter screaming at me - after a quick pause to wave hello, I made a stop at the wetsuit strippers (a first for me)and headed to my spot to get ready for the bike. Having someone else take off the wetsuit was a big help, and probably explains why my transition time was 4:24 compared with my normal 6:00...

The bike was the part I was most nervous about - too many things could happen, many of which were out of my control. The first problem was my uncertainties about how Joann & I put my bike together.. even though I had it checked out by the bike people at check-in, I wondered if my handlebars or pedal might fly off during the ride. We traveled through the city and then into rural Oklahoma.. the pavement got rough and the mesh sponge thingy (technical term) flew out of my aero water bottle, spilling gatorade all over me.

I started feeling a little low to the ground so I stopped to adjust my seat height... much better... except a girl caught up to me and mentioned I might want to raise my seat... what?? Ok, fine.. I stopped again and raised it some more - definitely higher than I'd been training all summer, but turns out she was right - it felt good. The course wasn't flat, but the hills were rolling and very doable.. I was passing people on the up hills, using my advantage of training on courses like the Reston Rambler. I smiled to myself when I saw people granny gearing it up hills that I didn't even consider getting out of my big ring for..

My computer wasn't working, so I had no idea how far I'd gone, but based on my watch, I had about 15 more minutes until I was halfway. To my surprise, I reached the turnaround in only 5 more minutes, 10 minutes ahead of my Eagleman pace.. could that be right? Even with the stopping to fix my seat? As soon as I turned, my stomach started cramping up - I had been keeping with my nutrition plan - even had my watch set to beep every 20 minutes to remind me to take in calories - but maybe I was hungry. I wolfed down a luna bar, but that didn't help at all, in fact it made it worse.. so I abandoned my nutrition for the 2nd half of the ride.. I was miserable and couldn't find a good position.. I couldn't get back to transition soon enough.

I was still getting gatorade spilled all over me, and was worried about getting a flat on these rough roads. Finally, I was back in the city, the home stretch... damn those hills!!!! I was granny gearing it up hills that I swear were no steeper than a wheelchair ramp!! Then a blaring horn started to sound - a tornado warning - WHAT?? Like the other cyclists around me, I kept going.. I was so close to the end that nothing, not even a tornado, was going to keep me from finishing this race.. up the last hill and to the path that goes along the lake.. and finally I see Joann (ok, I didn't really see her until she yelled at me), and was ready to rack up my bike. I had slowed down on the 2nd half, but finished the 56 miles in 3:47:21 beating my Eagleman AquaVelo time by over 12 minutes!
My bike was close to the edge of transition area, so Joann came over to chat, and after a few "I swear to goodness" remarks, I was off again in 2:51...

I grabbed some food, made faces for the pictures Jo was taking, and realized that no matter what happens, I was going to finish this race - all I had to do was remember to put one foot in front of the other. Luckily the stomach cramps went away as soon as I got off the bike.... but my legs weren't happy at all. I was tempted to walk quite a bit.. heck, I probably would've walked the whole way, but I decided I wanted to be consistent. I set my watch at 1:2 intervals.. yep, you read that correctly - run 1 minute and walk 2 - it should be embarrassing, but even that was optimistic to me at the time! I didn't know how I was going to run a whole minute... but I kept with it, walking only my scheduled walks or when I had food and drink in my hands.

Right away 2 girls passed me, but they didn't get very far ahead... I was able to keep them in my sights and regained my lead by mile 4. I caught up with another girl and even ran through an entire walk segment just to carry on a conversation - with only 700 people racing long distances, you get pretty spread out, so any opportunity for chatting was welcome. Everybody was so friendly, yelling out encouraging words as we passed each other, even the much faster runners going in the opposite direction. It was getting hot, but volunteers kept coming around on golf carts handing out ice cubes and cold sponges.. finally the turn around.  All I had to do now was get back around the lake and I'd be done.. one foot in front of the other. It took forever.. I was running by parts I didn't remember on the first half of the out and back course.. did the lake expand??

I glanced at my watch and tried to do some quick calculations - while my only goal was to finish, I'd secretly wanted to come in under 8:30. It was possible. I kept up with my intervals and finally I could hear the music and celebration.. any minute now! It was getting hotter and my legs were angry.. but I kept going.. I saw a girl in front of me who I'd seen early on the course going faster than me.. I was catching up to her.. I was almost there. I turned the corner and saw Joann and Michelle.. so close!! I picked up my pace to finish strong, over took the girl I'd seen earlier and ran through the finish line!! 3:33:19 for the run - not a great half marathon time, but I'll take it -- I finished!!

My overall time was 8:19:14 so I'd come in under my secret goal!! I'd also managed to stay consistent on the run and had beaten all of my Eagleman AquaVelo times (the only other event I'd swam and biked these distances). I couldn't be happier - Jo and Michelle had a cooler with beer and Mike's Hard Lemonade, so we sat for awhile and got to see the winter of the full iron distance come by...

We got back to the hotel, packed up most of our stuff, including my bike, and went out to Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill for a great celebratory dinner (though I crashed around 10:30 and finally headed to bed).

OH! It turns out the tornado horn goes off every day at noon -- um, thanks for the heads up!! :-)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Eagleman AquaVelo

I did this race completely on my own.  It's a little lonely doing these big races solo, not knowing anyone, not having anyone around to help ease the nerves or hug you when you're finished.  But this was just a warm up for me, a practice doing half iron distances in the swim and bike before the big event in September, so I didn't ask anyone to come.  In fact, I think I turned down offers from Jon and Joann, knowing I'd rather have them there for the big event.  This was just a glorified brick workout... or so I thought.

I made the drive to Cambridge for packet pickup not really knowing what I was getting myself into.  Up until now, all my races, while big to me, were just regular events.  I was not prepared for the hugeness that was this event.  The cumulative value of all the bikes was probably more than my house.  People were carrying their bikes so as not to have to roll them over the grass, protecting the tires.  What?  Definitely in over my head, I made my way to the back corner where all of the aqua velo people were assigned.  I racked my bike, took in the scene, and made my way over to Salisbury where I'd be spending the evening.

The hotel was a dump, but that really didn't matter too much.  I made a stop at the local Target and grabbed some dinner before settling in for the evening.  Morning came and I made the drive back to Cambridge.  It wasn't too hard to find a place to park and so I arrived in transition a little earlier than expected.  I started chatting with one of the girls -- Maria -- who's bike was racked next to mine.  It was her first attempt at these distances also and we shared stories of training (neither of us had done a ride greater than 40 miles).  I hung out with Maria in the hours that led up to our wave start (aqua velo went last) and met her family.  It was nice having someone to talk to since I didn't have any of my own crew around.  It turns out Maria's family lives right on the Eagleman run course about a mile from where we were, and were having a BBQ after the race, which they invited me to.

It was time for our start and Maria and I made our way into the water.  Soon we were off and I just took this swim one stroke at a time.  1.2 miles is not too much further than 1500 meters, the distance of Olympic distance races which I had done plenty of times before, so I figured I'd be OK.  We lucked out with the currents and the lack of choppiness (it's not called the Choptank River for nothing!) and I ran out of the river in 53 minutes to see Maria's family cheering for me.  That was nice. 

I hopped on the bike and I was off.  I passed a couple people and was passed by plenty others within the first few miles, but that was it.  This might have been the loneliest bike course in history as I didn't see another human being practically the entire time.  In fact, for the entire 56 miles, I think I only saw (and passed) 2 other people.  At times, I wondered if I had veered off the course since it was so quiet.  I kept expecting Maria to catch up with me as I had seen her bike still in transition and knew she finished the swim after me.  At about mile 45 I started getting really really tired and wished I could just coast along, except this is the flattest (and windiest) course ever, so anytime I stopped pedaling, I slowed to almost a stop, if not going backwards or to the sides.  My butt hurt and I kept standing up trying to shift my position. 

As I got closer to transition, there were already plenty of runners on the course and I had to scream to announce my bike coming through.  This obsticle course lasted the last few miles until I was finally on the home stretch.  Everyone was cheering me on, telling me that I only had 13.1 miles to go - HA, I'm not doing the run portion!!!  I pulled up to the aqua velo finish, got off my bike and sat down.  There was no way I could walk one step let alone run 13.1 miles.  How the heck am I going to do the full race in Oklahoma?  Well... that's not to think about right now.  Maria came in not too long after me and we were both so happy to be done.  We collected our medals and then Maria, who's car was closer, gave me a ride to my car and then we drove to her mom's house for the BBQ.  Good thing for the ride because I was really hurting.  Turns out I should have applied some more sunblock because I ended up with 2nd degree burns and had slight heat exhaustion.  

I stayed at Maria's for a bit before heading to Annapolis for my cousin's high school graduation party and then finally got home for a shower and a nap.  I did it and was pleased with myself, if not a little unsure how I was going to manage the full 70.3 a few months later.....

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Columbia Triathlon


Sometimes you wake up for a workout or a race and you just aren't feeling it.  I returned to this race hoping to drop some significant time off my previous year's 4.5+ hour result.  This course has defeated me and I was determined to tackle it.  Yet, I wasn't feeling it this day, and should've known the day wouldn't end well.

I actually had a really good swim, 0:33:25 for the 1500 meters.  Not bad at all.  6 minutes in transition is nothing to sing about, but I was dreading this bike course (see last year's race report for an explanation).  I headed out on the bike, slowly but surely making my way up the first hill, up the second hill... and on the third hill, just as I'm approaching the top, the person (I don't even remember if it was a girl or a boy) went to replace the water bottle in its cage... and missed.  The water bottle fell and landed right under my front tire.  I was too out of it from climbing up these mountains to have any chance to swerve and avoid it, and so my bike went down slamming my elbow into the pavement.  ouch.

I got my first ride in an ambulance back to transition, upset about the incident but I'm sure there was a part of me slightly relieved to have an "out" for the day.  It was raining and the ambulance dropped me off and quickly rushed out to another crash.  In fact, I later heard that many cyclists were held up as one crash was so bad a helicopter had to be called in.  Geez, dangerous conditions on that type of course no doubt.  I had Joann's car and the plan was that Jon, Joann, PD, Dan and Brock (Chris' friend, visiting from Atlanta) would come up later, and I'd be able to return home with Jon.  Well, this put a damper in the plan and Joann was the first person I could get in touch with.  She rushed out to Columbia to collect me, and eventually her, PD, Jon and I had breakfast at Eggspectations in Columbia.  Good food but what a terrible, rainy day.  Yuck.

Columbia Triathlon: 2
Jen: 0