Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Once More with Feeling!! (Part 2)

Where did I leave off? Oh yes, 2011 was declared the "year I would complete a 1/2 Ironman!"  Training under Coach Mary's direction started the 1st of December 2010, and right away I marvelled at how many hours a week we were doing: 6.  In retrospect, this is pretty funny.  I clearly had no idea what I was in for :-)  While I must admit, my volume never got much higher than 10-11 hours per week - I just didn't have the time! - I did find it enough to satisfy my need to be moderately active and yet challenged, both athletically and in life LOL.  When all systems were running well, I managed to "make all my blocks green" on Training Peaks, which was very satisfying!  Some weeks of course, I just was not able to fit it all in... household responsibilities, family obligations, and my own darn body just refused to cooperate.  Like this past week, during which we hosted 30 family members for a party, I prepared the kids for back-to-school, and came down with a cold.

In an effort to not completely neglect my family (and I hope I didn't), I signed up for 1 race a month (a year in review will follow at some point) all leading up to the big show: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Presented by Pizza Hut (what a hilarious title!!). And now I present - my first ever race report!

The weekend of August 15th, Andy and I headed off to Benton Harbor, Michigan with Little Mary and her hubbie Paul for an adult weekend away. Yes, that's pretty weak as far as weekend "getaways" go, but hey, I gotta take my chances where I can.   We arrived on Saturday under very dark & ominous skies, and were greeted shortly thereafter by a massive thunderstorm.  Scratching our plan to check-in our bikes the day before (the Transition area was closed due to the weather), we Expo-ed a bit and caught some dinner with a large group of triathletes who were also there from Windsor.  I tried to go to bed early (lights out at 9pm), but of course had trouble falling (and staying!) asleep.  Lesson learned:  always check the hotel alarm clock to ensure it is not accidentally (or on purpose) set to BLARE at 1:00am!! O yes, that's what happened in our room, and I could not figure out how to turn the damn thing off.  I think - in my sleepy stupor - I simply turned the volume down. In fact, it could be playing to this very day :-) I finally dozed on and off - having nightmares about the potential for a choppy (or cancelled) swim.

My (actual) alarm sounded at 430am, and it was time for my pre-race breakfast of a toasted white bagel with PB, a banana, and a small tea. I had organized my race bag the night before so getting ready was a snap, and except for a small 5am parking lot argument with my buddy Dave about how to get to the race site (none of us looked the night before? Sheesh!!), we were off!  Since Andy was running in a relay and did not have to set up transition, he dropped us off as close as we could get and we rode our bikes into the race site under the cover of darkness.  Some people had headlamps - good idea! My poor friend Dawn could not wear her prescription sunglasses (since it was still dark) and was practically blind as we rode in.  I love these minor pickles... they make me laugh.

As we made our way into the transition area - which was dark CHAOS except for when you got blinded by the smart people with headlamps - we started to hear rumblings that the swim was cancelled.  What we could definitely hear was a whipping wind and crashing waves.  Oh no!!! I had been hoping for an overcast day, since I suffer in the heat, but not a hurricane! Unfortunately, in very quick order, Mother Nature put the beats to my goal of "completing a 1/2 Ironman".  The swim was CANCELLED.  The race director announced that there were 7 foot swells, rip tide currents, and small craft advisories.  Now, I am known as "Safety Syd" among my friends, so I definitely appreciated that he did not want anyone to get killed, but I was soooo disappointed about the swim.  I swear I went through the stages of grief as I stood in the Mile long line for port-a-potties.  I trained 8 months for this event, and to top it off, the swim is my best discipline (or where I tend to place halfway decent).

Alrighty then, I sat around stunned for a while and got hungry while I waited for the "time trial" bike start to kick off.  Another lesson learned: pack extra food in case of emergencies!  If all had gone as planned, I would've started swimming much earlier and would not be or notice hunger.  As Bib #508 I waited for five hundred and seven other people to roll out before me, approximately 3 seconds apart, and eventually, I was off!

Coach Mary had yelled at me (well, she typed in CAPITAL LETTERS) that I was to be careful for the first bit of the bike... no major heart rate spikes, steady riding, high zone 2, ease into it and don't pay attention to what anyone else is doing.  And like the rule follower I am, I pedalled along getting warmed up, passed a lot (LOL), and into the groove of things.  Within the first 5 minutes I realized I had put my bike number sticker in a really dumb spot, and it scratched my inner right thigh every time it went by - so about 90 times a minute.  Realizing that this would annoy me the whole f-ing time and possibly make running uncomfortable later (and I don't need any extra help in that area), I decided to pull over and put it in a different spot.  Once I started up again, I then realized the adhesive had worn off and I was worried it would fall off the new spot.  OK, over to the side of the road I go, digging an elastic band out of my fuel box (I am not quite sure why I even HAD the band), and after stopping I secured the stupid bike number with the elastic.  Lesson learned (are we up to 3 now?):  Put your sticker in a better spot!!!  Now is about the time I realize I have to pee. Oh boy, I have never had to pee on a long ride - ever.  Buuuuttt, I sat around for a while and drank before the race, and never got to jump in the lake if you know what I mean.  So, following the sage advice of Coach Mary, I just pee'd on the bike! Well, it wasn't that easy. I did have to stop pedalling, coast and relax a little bit, and then wash myself down with some extra water.   Wow, not even 5 miles done and I've already stopped twice and taken a bit of a pee break.  Now that these issues are out of the way, the rest of the ride was WONDERFUL.  It was honestly so much fun, the rolling hills and changing gears kept me completely engaged, and the time just flew by.  After about 1 hour or so, I picked up my effort into a tempo zone, and with about 25 miles to go I just gave her the nuts.  I pedalled as fast as I could in as hard a gear as I could manage, and let my heart rate park itself in mid-zone 4.  This section of the ride had long rollers on beautifully paved roads with awesome descents.  I had an absolute ball.  I think I must have been having so much fun, I forgot to drink the amount I planned, and skipped one of my gels.  Would this come back to haunt me later?

Transition was no problem, I hopped off my bike with my feet already out of my shoes and gingerly trotted to my spot. On the way there I realized - stomach cramps!  This has been a problem for me for 2 seasons now.  They are not the kind where I may find some relief by visiting a bathroom, they are upper abdomen straight across under my ribs.  Ok, I tried to chill out, tell myself this was not really unexpected, and I would just start out easy on the run.  About 500m in, I realized I had to pee again.  What the?!  This never happens to me, especially since I didn't drink much on the bike.  I quickly stopped at the port-a-pottie at Mile 1 (I just couldn't pee my pants twice in one day!) and was on my way again.  I seriously took my time for the first 6 miles, just running by feel (horrible) and not watching my pace or heart rate.  I could not stomach the thought of taking a gel, and tried to sip cola and water at each aide station.  I also took salt pills every hour as planned.  I think this may be the ONLY aspect of my fuel plan that I executed perfectly! Pretty funny as this is quite contrary to how I usually am - meticulous about following the plan.

By about 7 miles, I was convinced I could not run any more. Between my stomach (still having cramps) and my quads (they were saying "no thank you!"), I was a mess.  Seeing how many other people were walking was an invitation to do it too, and before you know it I was mentally negotiating small walk breaks.  Well, each break got longer and longer, and I think I walked much of miles 7 through 10.  Every time I gave myself some positive self-talk, a little devil sitting on my shoulder said something contrary. I swear, it was like an episode of Bugs Bunny up there! I also ran into many other competitors from Windsor, some of whom were having a tough time, and we would walk/run together. I liked the double-loop course since it did lend itself to seeing people I knew.  Miles 10-13 went a little better, but I still walked a bit.  A friend came upon me with about a mile to go and wanted me to run with her, but my legs seriously felt like they were going to buckle at her pace, so she went ahead - but not without making me promise not to stop :-) Sure enough, I managed to hold on during that last mile and get 'er done with a bit of a kick.  I actually got passed by someone in my AG about 200ft from the finish chute, but I passed her back right away and did not let her back in. I am actually pretty proud about not giving up and letting her beat me. Small victories!!

I sat down in the sand for a loooong time right after the finish line.  Little Mary asked about getting me medical attention, but I felt I just needed some time and rest. That medical tent looks scary!! :-) Unfortunately they were not serving any food I wanted to eat (Pizza Hut pizza, big surprise! LOL) and henceforth, reinforcement of a lesson learned: pack extra food! A Snickers bar would've been absolute heaven at that time.  I was exhausted, happy, and relieved. I had done 69.1 miles.  But not quite a "1/2 Ironman".... it felt a little hollow.

Immediately, friends started talking about signing up for another event, the Rev3 Cedar Point Half, scheduled for Sept 11th. Little Mary signed up as soon as we got home! But I stated rather emphatically that I was done, tired, and not sure I was cut out for longer distance events.  Or triathlon :-)

But like any true triathlete (or Type A masochist), I could not resist the siren song...the lure of another race.  And the chance to ACTUALLY COMPLETE the distance.  Remember?  2011 is the year I will "complete a 70.3". Gah! I was 1.2 miles short.  Two days after Steelhead I felt remarkably good. So much so, I wondered if I had pushed myself hard enough?  Did I flake out on the run? Can I be tougher?  In retrospect, part of my problem I think,  was that I was short on calories and possibly experiencing hunger pains on the run.  I missed my mark on calories through drink and gels. I f-ed it up quite good actually.

And so here we are: 5 days away from another kick at the can:  the Rev3 Cedar Point Half.  Here is my second chance to get 70.3 miles under my belt and hopefully do a better job on the run.  Stay tuned!

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