We had a tropical storm in NY two weeks ago and as part of cleaning up the yard and bringing the BBQ back onto the deck, I hurt my back. I have a cranky SI joint to begin with, but one false move while lifting the BBQ and I really threw it out. I was hobbled for two days and sought treatment from two of the best manual therapists I know - Vinny and Sinead. They did their best to free me up, but something like this doesn't heal overnight. It took some time for the inflammation to calm down. When the race rolled around Saturday morning I was feeling better, but not near 100%.
Wingman did his usual awesome job of putting my race number on the bike. He is meticulous when it comes to cutting down the number to the right size and can attach it smoothly so it doesn't interfere with me.
The Beast - locked, loaded, and ready to roll
Badges?!?! We don't need no stinkin' badges.......
I grabbed my wetsuit and walked to the beach with the Wingman. As soon as I put on the wetsuit, my back felt great. It compressed my pelvis enough to support it. Had I known how good I would feel I would have worn the wetsuit all week. I got into the water to warm up. First thing I noticed was the color of the water. Like I told my friend Kari, it looked like the color of iced tea and I don't mean that as a compliment. Her mother told me that was because of the high levels of iron in the water. Well, if I had an iron deficiency issue prior to the swim, this would take care of it.
The water temp was nice and I couldn't wait to get started. I was looking forward to putting down the hammer on the bike and the swim was acting as a warmup. There were three waves and I was in the last one. When it was my turn to enter the water, I tried to line up in a good spot - not too far back, not too far forward. When the siren went off, I went into the water and started my swim. First thing I noticed was it was crowded. The first turn was probably 100 yards out so I took it easy and then after the turn I tried to find my line. I could see that I was swimming in a pack of women. They were lined up off my right shoulder and trying to push me left. I held my line, but it was a very physical swim. I didn't want to expend too much energy trying to break loose too early since there was another pack ahead. Each time I came to a buoy they tried to push me into the buoy. I would use my left arm to push the buoy aside so I could get through. At times I could also feel someone swimming across my legs. WTF?!?! It wasn't like they would hit my leg with an arm. They would swim over my legs. That forced me to increase my kicking a little to get the point across that I was not to be used as a shortcut.
I kept my stroke nice and steady and well before the swim turn around I had lost the women near me. They fell back and now I had some room to swim. When I reached the turn around, it was setup like a u-turn. What a disaster that was. It really should have been two left turns instead of one. Clearly people on the swim lost their minds at the turn and did a breast stroke to get around. I swam a little wide to keep up my pace and not slow down. I still felt great in the water. I made every effort to not swallow water since who knows what's in Jersey water. At some point on the return trip I noticed that I was alone in the water. I looked around to be sure that I was still on course. I could see that I was fine and getting closer to the beach. I kept up my stroke pace and before I knew it I was standing up to exit the water. I peeked at my watch and saw I had a decent swim time. It was the 2nd fastest time in four half iron distance swims so I was pretty happy. Especially since this was the most physical swim I've ever participated in.
I eased my way into T1. I didn't want to risk running and jarring my back. I got to my rack and got the wetsuit off. I wanted to change into a cycling jersey instead of a tri top for the ride. I never realized just how hard it was to get a top over a wet body. I finally won the battle and finished my transition. I got out to the bike mount area and hopped on to start the ride.
Just starting the bike ride and I'm sucking my gut in to support my back
Due to the storm two weeks ago, the race director had to change to bike course from a one loop to a two loop course. As part of the change, the length increased from 56 to ~57.5 miles. The course is relatively flat and my goal was to use the first loop to warm up and check out the course and then really bring it home on the second loop. I felt great on the course. The road conditions were decent and there was virtually no wind. I settled into my aeroposition and kept an ear out for my alerts. I have my bike computer set to alert me for every lap. I defined a lap as 5 miles which, depending on my speed, is anywhere from 15 to 16 minutes. Each time the lap alert went off I took a drink or had something to eat. I knew if I was going to have a good bike split and really drop the hammer I would have to nail my nutrition.
I found myself passing quite a few people and hardly getting passed. I was feeling strong and powerful on the ride. I looked over my power numbers and saw that I was far from burning myself out. What was strange was that I was riding pretty fast, but my numbers weren't up where they usually were. I was wearing an aero helmet and that would save you some watts but I think with my back issues, I was not going to generate as much power as I usually do. I just kept my focus on the road ahead and pacing myself.
I had a couple of lapses in focus on the bike course. At one point I settled behind some guy (3 bike lengths of course) and decided to sit back. I knew I could be going faster, but for some reason I didn't feel aggressive enough to do it. Finally after ~2 miles I passed him and moved on. I was riding alone for a few more miles and came upon a few more riders. I carefully passed each one, but the final guy must have had a bone to pick. I was riding along and noticed a shadow. He was right on my wheel. Literally. I looked back two or three times at him so he would know I was aware of his wheel sucking, but he clearly didn't care. I put out a big surge for ~1/2 a mile, but he stayed with me. Well, just short of turning my head and yelling at him, I grabbed my drink bottle and took a sip. Then I sprayed it over my shoulder at him. I don't think he took too kindly too it and before I knew it he passed me and so did another rider. Now he latched onto her wheel. I could see just how close he was to her. There was less than one foot between their wheels. Again, another mental lapse as I just sat back and watched. Finally I decided enough was enough and put out another surge and passed the two riders. I was afraid of picking up the drafter again, but he didn't follow.
One mile after the pass I looked back and saw that I was alone again. I kept cruising and before I knew it I was near the turnaround to begin the second loop. I knew I had to put up or shut up now. As I made my way out again, I tried to remember the landmarks from the first loop. Sadly, nothing looked familiar and now I had a bit of a headwind. I did know that when I got to ~44 miles (halfway mark of the 2nd loop), I was home free. I looked down and saw that I was at mile 30. Not even close. Now my ride piriformis was screaming out at me. I was trying to figure a way to stretch it out without stopping on the side of the road. With the clipless pedals, it's hard to rotate my legs around to really get a good stretch. I unclipped at one point and wiggled my hip around to try to stretch it out. No luck. At this point I resigned myself to just finishing up and then after I dismount working it out. Onward ho............
I could feel fatigue start to settle in. Mentally I needed a pick-me-up. Usually I have a musical soundtrack in my head to keep me going. Oddly enough the only song that came to my head was a downer.
Mama, take this badge off of me
I can't use it anymore
It's gettin' dark, too dark to see
I feel I'm knocking on heaven's door
I had no idea what was happening. I think the stress of my summer was getting to me. Mentally I was fatigued and was running out of steam. My legs felt good, but it was hard to keep my focus. I started to calculate my calorie intake for the ride and I was spot on with my regular needs. My power numbers were still in a good range so I wasn't bonking. I didn't feel hungry but took in a few extra calories just in case I was starting to get low.
I looked down at the mileage and saw I was at mile 50. Only 7.5 miles to go. I did some quick math in my head to see how many minutes it would be. I also played a game in my head. I imagined various points along my rides at home and tried to picture where I would be if I was riding at home. This little game worked fine. When I got to the turnaround marker from the 1st loop, I was directed to go straight. At this point I saw I was alone on the course. No riders were in front of me. Now I was nervous about going off course. Honestly I had no idea what the rest of the course looked like. Thank goodness for the volunteers on course. They guided me along. I looked ahead and saw the sign for the school parking lot we parked in earlier that morning. Now I knew I was home free.
The final stretch........
I headed towards the dismount area and panic set in. I've pretty much been in the aero position the entire ride and now I have to stand up. My lower back had stiffened up and that made getting off the bike a challenge. I unclipped and stood there bent over. I lowered the bike slowly to the side and attempted to swing my leg around. I performed the most delicate dismount anyone has ever seen. Then I walked in looking something like this:
After the bike dismount
I got into the transition area and collected my medal. Once at the rack I stood there trying to relax and Wingman snapped a photo.
The most 'upright' I'd been in the last 3 hours
At the end of the race I was allowed to take my stuff out of transition right away. We brought it back to the car and then sat in the air conditioning for a while until the results were posted. After the last biker was in, they posted the results from the aquavelo division. According to the sheet I placed 2nd in my age group. When they announced the awards, the woman that came in 1st in my division was actually 2nd female overall. Since you can't double dip (overall and age group) on the awards, I won my age group. When I looked at the results online later that evening, I could see they still listed her as 2nd overall and 1st in the division. How can they steal my thunder?!?!?
Another race, another prize....
My race went well, but I am a little disappointed with my lack of aggression at times on the bike due to mental lapses. I just wasn't sharp 100% of the time out there and that can't happen again if I want to be successful. I am pleased with the swim effort. It was a rough swim. The most physical I've ever been involved in and I didn't back down. I held my position in the water and never let up.
Since I don't want to end my tri season on a whimper, I have one more short sprint later this month. Then the offseason begins. Despite not being able to race the half iron distance, it was a successful season for me. I performed well in all races I was in.........