Monday, June 22, 2015

Eagleman 70.3

Holy Hot & Long Day!!! 

I went into this race with lofty - and realistic - goals. My swim and bike training has been solid. And though I haven't been as on top of my running as I would have liked, I did have a few decent long runs under my belt, albeit maxing out at 8 miles. The forecasts were calling for warm temperatures, but I was ready!  Deb picked me up and we made an easy drive to Cambridge for check-in and bike racking.
Xena settled in for the night!
Once Xena was settled in her position for the night, Deb and I went back to the hotel to get all of our stuff together and set for the morning.  Then we found a cute restaurant on Tilghman Island, picked up some last minute groceries for breakfast, had some ice cream and lounged around.  My nutrition plan was simple:  double concentrated Infinit on the bike along with water in the aero-bottle that I would grab from each aid station.  I also had salt tabs with me and was going to take one in the last couple hours to prepare for the run. On the run I had some BASE salt that I had picked up from the expo, a couple gels, and planned to use the water and gatorade from the aid stations.  We even had a freezer in the hotel room so I could freeze all my water bottles.  Everything was ready!
We woke up at 3am to thunderstorms, and then again at 4am to the sounds of people leaving.  It was still too early for us, so we slept until about 5am, collected our things and made our way to Great Marsh Park.  I pumped air in Xena's tires and made sure everything was ready before heading over to the Team Z tent.  It was so freaking hot and humid already!  In fact, Coach Alexis asked me how the water was... it took me a minute to realize he thought I had been swimming, when in fact, I was just covered in sweat!  Ha!

Then I met Christine, who I had connected with on facebook a few days prior, also on Team Z, and we figured out we might be close to each other in speed.  I spent the rest of the time until my wave with Team Z and Deb, in the port-o-potty lines and hanging around the swim start.  I was anxious to get going!

Oddly, I was nervous about this swim, despite my swim training.  The thing is, the last time I did this Eagleman swim, I missed the cutoff and was DQ'ed.  Once again, they announced that it was not wetsuit legal, and I wasn't sure how I would fare.  We waded into the water and were able to stand (versus tread water) until the horn went off.  Finally, we were on our way.... It was actually shallow enough that I walked a bit of the way, rather than dive into the masses.  By the first buoy though, I was horizontal and finding a good stroke.  For some reason, I thought all the men had gone off in earlier waves, so I was surprised when I started getting bumped and kicked and swum over.  Annoying!  At one point, someone swimming on my left hit the back of my head with his/her arm.  And then they did it again!  Come on!  You know when you are right on top of someone!  So I started thinking about and executing the high elbow drills from swim practice... that was the last time that person hit me.
Someone in the facebook group captured this shot -- look how far out people are walking!
At the first turn buoy, I decided to look at my watch, knowing the hardest part, the part that went against the current, was over.  25 minutes.  Not bad!  I was feeling good about this, knowing that after the next turn buoy, we should have a little current in our favor.  Right as I was going around that next turn buoy, another guy knocked my goggles off of my face.  Luckily, the water was shallower there and I could stand and readjust.  That's when I noticed how much people had started walking.  I was still chest deep, so it would've been counter-productive for me to walk, so I went back to swimming, plugging away buoy after buoy.  Finally, with about one buoy left to go, I stood up for good and just walked the rest of the way back.  It was hard for me to walk at this point, but I chalked it up to the way I normally feel going from horizontal to vertical, and figured it would work itself out in a few minutes.
I exited the Choptank River and walked over the timing mats.  Official time for the swim was 50:50.  I will take it!  It's my best non-wetsuit swim, and I had just been hoping for under and hour.  I grabbed some water and walked to where Xena was, put on all of my bike gear, and headed out for what I hoped would be a great bike.  3:45 was my goal.  It always takes a few minutes for me to settle down after the swim, so I just took it easy for the first mile or so.  But.. I never caught my breath

This just wasn't my day for biking.  In the first few miles, we went around a sharp turn and my aero-bottle flew off.  Now I had no way of taking in water, other than grabbing the water bottle at the aid station and drinking as much as I could before discarding it before I exited the aid station.  My shoulders hurt, inexplicably, in a way that my shoulders have never hurt biking.  There was not a single position that was comfortable, not to mention, I still couldn't breathe!  Riding in the aero position is probably the worst way to try to catch your breath, but my shoulders hurt if I sat up a little straighter.  Then, about 20 miles in, I got hot spots on both my feet to the point of unbearable.  And then I got stung or bitten by something... hard... on my right calf and then my butt... the third time, I glanced down at my left calf and saw that whatever it was had drawn blood!  If something could've gone wrong on that bike ride, it did.
Finally, when I got to the third aid station around mile 30, I stopped.  I took my shoes off, took a gatorade and drank the entire thing while just standing there.  I thought that maybe by standing up for a bit, I would be able to catch my breath and breathe normal, though that never happened.  I have no idea how much time I wasted at that aid station, but it was probably a lot.  Reluctantly, I climbed back on the bike and proceeded on.  From that point, I stopped every 4-5 miles.  There were times that I had to push myself a little further than I would've liked to because somebody else was stopped in the only shady spot available.  It was getting really, really hot by this point.  There were several times that ambulances raced down the street.  That's something you never like to see during the race.  I realized that I wasn't having a great bike, that I was super slow and way beyond my goal, but I was safe.  I was thankful for that, at least.  But... I have never had to stop on a flat course like that.  Ridiculous.
It was also around mile 30 that Christine passed me for the first time.  We leap-frogged each other from that point on, and I am so grateful that she was out there with me, also struggling with her own issues on this damned bike ride.   For my last stop, around mile 52-ish, I pulled up right behind Christine and we exchanged a few words that would probably not be deemed safe to repeat.  We both just wanted to be off that bike course!  I really could not believe how crappy this bike was going. I basically did the entire 56 miles with a consistent asthma attack, and I have zero explanation for it.  This has never happened before.  4:27:19 was the official time for the bike.  Pathetic.  Checking my data, I did have a couple legs that were over 15mph, which was my goal, but all the stopping and breathing issues really killed it.

Finally into transition.  Christine was a minute or two ahead of me, but I met up with her at our transition spot, which were actually right next to each other!  We both sat down, flat on the ground.  I don't normally sit in transition, but it was all I could do.  I put on my visor, running shoes and race belt all whilst sitting.  The idea of doing a half marathon at this point was mind blowing.  Once I was ready, I stood up and Christine and I made our way to the run course.  It was hot, hot HOT by this point.  I knew that there was just no way that I was going to make the cut off time at this point unless I really pushed it, and I just didn't have it in me to really push it at this point, in this heat.  So I walked.  Christine went ahead to do some intervals and power walking, and I also tried to run for small bits of time, about 100 meters feet here and there.  But not much.  It just wasn't worth it.
Z'er, Kris captured this shot... the first part of my death march...
passing the finish line in the wrong direction...
The first couple miles went through neighborhoods and the residents were all outside cheering with music and sprinklers.  The town of Cambridge really embraced the event which was great!  I was so thankful for those sprinklers, even though it completely soaked my shoes leading to some fairly significant blisters.  Someone on facebook had posted that we had over a mile to the first aid station, and recommended carrying a disposable water bottle for the first part of the run.  I took this advice with a frozen water bottle at transition, only now it was very hot water.  It burned my throat as I tried to wash down some salt.  This quickly turned into a death march.  I was so happy when I got to that first aid station and found oranges.  I had basically abandoned my nutrition on the bike, and oranges sounded like the best thing ever at that point.  I think I ate about 5 orange slices.

Other than those first couple miles there was no shade.  Zip, zero, zilch.  It was hot, my feet hurt and I was still getting bitten by those dang horse flies(?).  Then I remembered that I had packed a bug repellant wipe in my race pouch.  I got that out and started applying it to my arms and shoulders.  That's when I first found the chaffingOuch!  I was miserable.  I am so thankful to all the friendly athletes going the other direction who were cheering me on.  I'm pretty sure my resting face at work is bitch-face, but my resting face during a race must be a smile because everybody was so freaking nice, not only Team Z, but everyone!  And it seemed it was more so with me than people in front of or behind me.  I can't remember the last time I high-fived and fist-bumped so many people, many of them saying "keep smiling" -- ugh, I was not meaning to smile!!
Christine found this weather data for the day -- OUCH!
...note the "feels like" temperature of 123.. ONE-TWENTY-THREE!!!
I knew that I probably needed some additional nutrition, so I picked up some bonk breaker chews at one of the aid stations and forced some of those down.  The volunteers were so wonderful, dumping ice water on you, handing you as much water and gatorade as you could take.  Not all of the stations had food options, but for the most part they stayed fully stocked - and at least always had ice, water and gatorade - even for the back of the pack.  I have never been so hot in my entire life.  The crowds were thinning out at this point, with only us stragglers left behind.  And I wasn't even halfway yet.  I just had no idea how I was going to manage to make it back to Great Marsh Park.  I thought about giving up.  I mean, would anybody really blame me?  It was ridiculously hot, I'd had a terrible bike, I wasn't going to make the cutoff... but damnit, I came out there to do 70.3 miles, and as long as I was standing upright on my own, I was going to do 70.3 miles!

Finally, the turnaround point.  This was where I noticed that there were people behind me.  At least 8 people behind me and I cheered on every single one of them as I passed them.  I seriously had to force myself to put one foot in front of the other.  I wanted to stop and stand still for a little bit.  Or even better, sit or lie down.  This was excruciating.  A couple of the people behind me caught up and passed me.  I didn't mind because it was getting lonely out there, and them passing meant that I had a couple minutes of conversation.  Then I saw some of the people who were behind me pass me on the golf carts, abandoning their race.  I didn't blame them.
As I was approaching mile 10 (only a 5K left!) I saw someone from Team Z out there cheering for us final athletes.  Mike joined me and decided to walk with me for that final few miles.  At the aid stations, he grabbed extra gatorade, oranges and ice-soaked sponges for me.  Then, about a mile later, we found Deb who joined the death march.  Two miles still seemed like a really, really long way to go.  At the final aid station, we collected Patty and Marti, also from Team Z who had been out cheering, and the group of us did that final mile together.  I am so very thankful to all of them for keeping me company!!  We were finally coming back to the park and we could see the Team Z tents.  After that, it was just a matter of turning the corner and going down the finisher's chute.  I decided to run from that point on.  Mike ran ahead of me with his camera to make sure I got a finish line shot, and I was delighted to see that they had kept the finish line open with the clock still going and everything.  I made it!!  It was a technical DNF because I didn't make the cutoff, but I didn't care.  I did 70.3 miles.
My fantastic, impromptu sherpa, Mike -- THANK YOU!!
I was wobbly as the volunteer unpinned and took my timing chip from my ankle.  Mike and Deb collected some food and water for me as I made the long (not really) walk over to the Team Z tents.  Christine was there and I found out she finished only 7 minutes after the cut off.  7 minutes!!  I am so proud of her though, she really powered through for that entire "run".  I sat down and would've probably stayed in that chair forever if I could have.  Thank you Mike for helping me collect all of my stuff from transition and to Deb for going to get the car so I didn't have to walk any more.  As we were waiting for Deb to get back with the car, we saw the final athlete come in.  I was so glad that he made it!
Look at Deb sporting a Team Z jersey :-)  She did awesome, coming in under 7 hours!
Then came the long drive home.  I was definitely dehydrated.  I'd peed before the swim and not again until after we crossed the bay bridge (after sitting in a good amount of traffic).  A quick shower and then my friends met up with me for a late (9:30pm!) celebratory dinner (and Joann brought cake!!).  It was a long day.  Of course I started having thoughts about whether I can handle Ironman or not given that performance, but I have to think that bike was an anomaly.  I did the aquabike at Kinetic about a month ago with no issues.  I'm just going to try to shake it off and move forward.

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