So I found myself on race morning awake before the alarm (note: I had 3 different alarms set - cell phone, alarm clock, and watch. Not that I am neurotic or anything). I got up and ate my breakfast then jumped in the shower. It's important to be clean before you sweat like a pig during the race. My race nutrition was put together the night before:
FRS chews, shot blocks, and a big bag of cocaine. Nothing gets me up more for a race than a little blow. OK, just kidding there. The white bag is Infinit, a custom blended sport drink that I've been using for a few years now. Works great for me. The bag here is a 3 hour mix that I put into one bottle that I take a swig from every 15 minutes and then supplement it with water bottles that are handed out on the course.
We had to pack up and check out of the hotel before the race because I knew we would not make it back before the "late" checkout time. So with the Element packed, we were on our way. The race was ~15 minutes from the hotel. Made it there with no problems, parked the car and headed over to transition. I've got my setup down to a science now. The woman next to me clearly does not understand setting up and her surrounding athletes. She had a large tarp on the ground with her bike stuff to the left of her bike and run stuff to the right. Really?!?! She took up so much room that other people moved her stuff in a little when she wasn't around.
Once my setup was done, I made my way over to the porto-john and took care of business. I was lucky that there was no line there. Got in and out quickly. Went back to transition, grabbed my wetsuit, swim stuff, and sneakers and headed over to the swim. Sneakers for the swim you ask? After the swim you have to run 1/4 mile to T1 and I would rather not do that barefoot over pavement. We were told to be careful entering the water from the ramp because of a 1 1/2" drop off. They had lifeguards at that point to warn you. I stepped off of the ramp into what I believe was a lake bottom coated with mashed potatoes. It was so gross. And what made it worse was that every few steps, you would sink down into it. At this point I decided it would be a better idea to swim to the starting line.
I found a nice spot to start from, away from the crowd so I could start the swim without having the crap kicked out of me. When they called "Go!!" I was on my way. The swim went pretty smoothly. I just kept the thought in my head that I was back home swimming in the lake, no stress. The course was a rectangular shaped out and back. I didn't notice much on the way out but on the way back, I heard a loud noise. Turns out I was swimming next to someone I refer to as the 'bitchslap' swimmer. He had a weird swim stroke. He had a straight arm recovery and would slam his arm into the water making a cracking noise. This would go on for ~10 strokes and then he would do a few breast strokes and then repeat the cycle. I picked it up a little to get away from him. The rest of the swim was good. I made my way to the ramp and followed the life guard's warning about the lip. Once out of the water, I stripped my wetsuit, put on my sneakers and ran to T1. Got in and out pretty quick and was on the bike.
I was looking forward to the bike course because it was real flat except for one bridge to climb going out and back. I felt like the bike was going to be my strongest event in this race. Once I hit the road, I started my watch timer. I have it set to go off every 15 minutes to remind me to drink. I realized right away that I made a big mistake. My watch was set to go off every 15 HOURS!!! I did not want to take the effort to reset it. I would just be careful to keep my eye on the clock instead. I got into a smooth rhythm early on. My speed was up there with very little effort. I wanted to think about spinning and not mashing. I like to keep my cadence over 80 rpm. I looked down to see what my cadence was. Crap, something was up with the cadence meter. The display field was blank. Well, I guess I'm riding 'old school' at this point. I tucked down into my aero position and was on my 56 mile journey. I tried not to think ahead too much about the bridge ahead. I wasn't so concerned about the big bridge I had to climb, but the small bridge just before it.
It is a steel grated bridge and I am so thankful it was not raining and the roads were not wet. I would probably needed a change of shorts if I had to cross it wet. Once I crossed this bridge, the big climb was next.
These shots are actually on the way back, but you can see what I was dealing with. The climb really wasn't that bad on the way out. I had a tail wind helping me up the hill and I was able to spin easily. The side rails are really low until you get to the top. I was hoping a crosswind wasn't going to blow me over the edge! When I got to the top, I let 'er rip coming down the other side. Once at the bottom I got back into the aero position and kept moving. For some weird reason I had the theme from Rawhide going through my head at this point:
Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'
Keep movin', movin', movin',
Though they're disapprovin',
Keep them doggies movin' Rawhide!
Hey, whatever it takes to keep the pedals moving. There were plenty of water views once you cross the bridge. I was feeling good until I came across this sight:
Yep, that's a nuclear power plant in the distance. And to make it worse there are signs along the roads of the bike course stating if you hear a horn sound for 3-5 minutes to turn to a local AM radio frequency. At this point, I was hoping to make it through without hearing the horn!! I saw quite a few people in boats fishing in body of water near the plant. That left me thinking about it for quite a few miles. I am not sure I would want to know what is capable of living in that water. How many heads would that fish have? And if I did catch something, would I want to eat it? Would it eat me?
I got my head back into the bike ride after this nice diversion. I passed a few people on the rest of the 'out' portion of the ride. I got to the turnaround and was feeling good. I had a little headwind to deal with on the way back. It wasn't too bad and my speed really didn't drop. I rode past the power plant again and saw the fishermen. Again, this occupied my mind for a few miles. Then I was approaching the bridge climb again. This time I climbed into the wind and actually had to pedal to get any speed coming down the hill. I white knuckled it because the wind was blowing me around a little plus the expansion joints on the bridge would rattle the bike. And to add insult to my injury, I would have to slow down at the bottom to cross the steel grated bridge. The rest of the bike was uneventful and I made it back to T2 feeling good. I looked down at my computer and saw my ride time. I managed to go 15 minutes faster than I anticipated. Sweet! Plus, I managed to finish my nutrition bottle without the aid of my timer. My thought after the bike ride was "I love this race course!!"
T2 went smoothly and I was on my way out to the run. You have to do a 1 mile loop around the camp grounds before heading out. I made a quick pitstop at the port-john again since I didn't know when I would see another one. I made it out to the road and tried to find my running legs. The roadway leads to a dirt road and down along a river.
As you can see, it's a boring course. Picture this view (minus the bridge) for ~4.5 miles out and back. It didn't take long for me to lose focus. My plan was to just run easy for as long as I could. Problem was the sun came out just in time for me to start running. I got really hot, really fast. At each aid station I took 2 cups of water (drink one, pour one over head/body) and a cup of gatorade. I was sweating like crazy and getting crusty. Plus I was slowly losing my mind (not that I had far to go). I tried to keep it together for as long as I could. When I got to the turn around, I think I started experiencing some of the stages of grief. "Denial" - there's nothing wrong here. I'm going to be OK. I'll just change my strategy and run 5 mintues, walk 30 seconds. That will get me through this. "Anger" - Oh for pete's sake. How much longer will I be out here? Enough is enough. Whoever designed this course is a sh%thead. "Bargaining" - OK, just run 3 telephone poles and then you can walk one. Just keep it moving. The pain is not so bad. "Depression" - This is never going to end. I'm going to die out here and no one will know. I contemplated hanging myself with my shoelaces but that wouldn't work because I use stretch laces so there would be no tension. And the Neil Young song "Down by the River" was going through my head:
I know you're all jealous of me!!
I missed my goal time by 6 minutes. I guess that's not too bad. Plus at the end imagine my surprise when they announced I took 2nd place in my division. At least that medal was a little bigger.
A huge thanks to my Wingman/Sherpa for his help this weekend. He gave in to the dark side and said this weekend could be "all about me." Nothing like feeding my ego ;-) When the race was over, I packed my gear and he took it all back to the car and packed it all up. I got to sit down and relax before we hit the road. We had to come right back as I had school today. Needless to say I was worthless in class today. I was so fatigued mentally and physically.
Not sure I would do this race again. The run course really leaves a lot to be desired. Otherwise if there was an aquabike option, I'd do it.
No rest for the weary, the Army 10 Miler is in a few weeks. Yikes!!