Sunday, August 26, 2012

It Don't Come Easy

"It don't come easy
You know it don't come easy"

The lyrics to the Ringo Starr song were very appropriate today. It was my 'A' race of the season, the Rev3 Half Iron race in Maine. The Wingman and I arrived on Wednesday to settle in before the race. I picked up my race packet on Friday and got my bike ready for drop off Saturday. There was the mandatory athlete meeting in the early afternoon. Once that was done, we went back to the hotel to relax and rest up.

I had trouble sleeping the night before, which is not unusual. I went to bed around 8p, then was up from 9-10:30p, then asleep until 2:30a. From there I tossed and turned until 3:30a when my alarm went off. It was an early morning because the race started a little earlier than usual. They explained it at the race meeting. When you exit the swim, you have to run up the main street and cross the railroad tracks. There was an Amtrak train scheduled to roll through at 8:20a so they had to make sure all athletes were out of the water by then and not slowed down for a passing train.

My wave went off at 6:36a. It's a beach start and you have to run into the water, through the waves and start swimming. I made it out past the waves OK and was on my way. The course is a rectangle shape, swimming out .35 miles, then across .5 miles, then back .35 miles. When I got to my turn buoy, I had trouble finding the next set of buoys to sight off of. They were small yellow buoys, and with the rising sun in the background it was hard to see. The other odd thing I noticed was it didn't seem to be straight line across. It seemed to veer out to the right, making the course possibly longer. But since we all swim the same course, I just kept going. I kept my thoughts on the final leg of the swim. With the waves coming in, it should hopefully make for an easier effort. When I made that final turn, the easy factor I was looking for was not there. You had to deal with the current coming in, and then pulling out. So for your forward progress, you were pulled back a little. I had trouble seeing the beach due to the swells, so I used the ferris wheel for sighting. When I finally hit the beach, everything went wrong. I had trouble focusing my eyes on anything. It looked like the people on the beach were tilting left and right. I thought for sure I was going to stumble and go down. I managed to make it up the beach and down the road to transition. It was along the way that I gave my first thoughts to dropping out of the race. 

I sat down in transition to put my socks on. What I really wanted to do was lay down and take a nap, calling it a day. But then I thought I should get on the bike and start riding, that my stomach and head would settle down after a few miles. 

I grabbed my bike and exited transition. The bike course is rolling, but the bigger elevation gains are early in the ride. I knew I had to just relax and wait for my body to reset. I did the short climb out of town to begin the ride. I knew ~3-4 miles in is the first big climb. Honestly, it's not that big of a climb, but for this course, it is. It seemed a little steep so i just relaxed and pedaled. I kept looking at my bike computer to see when I should start eating/drinking. usually it takes me 15 minutes to settle down, but today took a little longer. I started sipping water, then adding in my regular nutrition every 15 minutes. The first hour was going to be a hard ride so I knew I needed to be patient. I could gain some speed after the first 20 miles or so. Or at least that was my plan. I could see that my power targets were not happening .I just couldn't hit my numbers today. I felt like I had no snap in my legs. Now I started getting nervous about how I was going to run if I couldn't ride. I decided to not think about that right now. I just kept focusing on 5 miles at a time. 

Finally around mile 30 I started feeling a little better. My speed picked up, but the power still wasn't there. I cruised along for the next 15 miles, then my stomach just completely shut down. I started getting a cramp on my right side and couldn't stay in the aero position. I rode the last 10 miles sitting up, and belching like a truck driver in an effort to relieve my stomach. 

I made it back to transition to begin the run. I poured water over me to cool off, changed my shoes, grabbed my hat and number and started to run. I figured the sooner I got running, and faster, the sooner I could end this race. I was getting quite hot out there. But I could feel my stomach getting harder. When I got to the 1 mile aide station, I grabbed some ice for my hat and a little water. Then I kept moving along, slowly, but I was moving. By the time I got to mile 2, they said they had soda as well as water and gatorade. Perfect, I knew that some flat soda would hopefully settle my stomach down. It did wake me up a little, but didn't really help me. I burped a few more times to try and relieve some of my stomach bloat, but it didn't help. I thought at one point I was going to vomit. Just before mile 3 they have you on a packed trail out to the 6.55 mile mark and then turn around and come back. There was an aide station every mile and I grabbed soda at each one. I had my gels for some extra calories. I ran as best as I could, but by mile 5, my stomach told my brain "you are walking now". I just couldn't run anymore. Every running step was murder on my gut. But the bright side was my methods of keeping cool were working. I tend to overheat in warmer temps, so at each aide station I grabbed a cup of ice and carried it in my hand with the open end of the cup in the palm of my hand. It seemed to be doing the trick to keep me comfortable in the heat. I also read that cooling your pudendal nerve is also a good way to keep you core temperature down. So I dumped some ice down my shorts. Let me tell you, it WOKE ME UP!!! Holy cow, that will get your attention every time!! 

Before I knew it I was at the turn around and heading back. I was still walking, but I was more than halfway there. I almost missed the turn to come off the trail. The traffic cop stationed there directed me to exit the trail. Thank goodness, I would have kept going. Now I had ~2.5 miles to go. By the time I got to the 11 mile marker, I was running/walking. I had to end this misery quickly. When I started the run, I told the Wingman to wait for me before the finishing shoot. Rev3 gives you your finishers photo for free. Plus, you are allowed to bring someone with you across the finish line, but you just have to be mindful of the other racers. About half a mile from the finish I saw Wingman, in his proper Wingman shirt. 

I told him what I wanted from him and he ran along side me all the way to the final shoot. I grabbed his hand and we made our way to the finish line. The race announcer made quite a deal about him running with me. He even announced that "the Wingman is coming through the finish."  Me, all I got was a mention of my race number. Where's the love?!?!? What's up with that?!?!? 

The thought of crossing the line with the Wingman was what helped drive me to finish. I dragged him all the way up to Maine, and he got up really really early on his day off to accompany me to the race so there was no way I could not finish. I wasn't feeling well, but it wasn't anything very serious required me to stop. I knew I had to keep going. It's the tough races like this where you find out just how deep you can dig to pull out a finish. This was by far my worst half ironman finish by a lot, but it was the best that I could do today. 

We have a couple more days up here before heading back home. Tomorrow we will be battling for the "Putt-Putt Championship of Maine." It's going to be an epic battle. I will also post some photos later from the race. I have to put them together first.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Calm before the storm

We drove up to Maine on Wednesday for a little R&R before my race on Sunday. It's been a busy summer and I wanted a little peace and quiet from the insanity/BS of the Hamptons. We were on the 11a ferry out of Orient and on our way. We made it to the hotel before dinner time. We managed to get everything up to the room in two trips.

Thursday morning we packed the bikes into the Element and drove most of the bike course to check it out. We parked at a local supermarket and decided to ride part of the course. It seems very manageable, but you have to be patient early on. While it is a relatively flat course, most of the elevation gain is in the first 18-19 miles. If you pace yourself well there, you can be rewarded with a great 2nd half. So far the weather forecast looks like the winds will be low and if I get lucky with the weather, the humidity will come way down when I start the run. Bonus!!

Today was packet pickup at the race expo. This is the first year at the venue for Rev3. So far, they have done well at other locations so I anticipate them doing well here. The turnout will be around ~1000 athletes between the olympic and half Rev. Hopefully that won't mean I will be DFL........

Tomorrow the Wingman and I will do an early swim to get a feel for the water temperature. I was torn between a full sleeve and sleeveless wetsuit.  The water temperature is 65 degrees. Everyone I emailed said they would go full sleeve for this one. Ian even went so far as to say "Don't be a jackass, wear the full sleeve, it will be faster." So full sleeve it will be. There is also an athlete meeting and mandatory bike check in. I will get all of that done early and then just try to relax in the afternoon.

The race is Sunday morning and hopefully I have a great race in me. I know my pacing for the bike so I don't ruin my run. I just have to GTWD Sunday..............

Swim start, heading towards the pier

 No messy racks to deal with, just grab your bike and go

 Rev3 has some big trucks to haul their gear

Some day I will get my coveted race number '666'

 So much junk food down at the Pier, but it looks so good

And the mother of all snacks - Nutella Crepes

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Taper Time

My one big race is coming up in just under two weeks. A lot has been going on since I last posted. I've been using this year as a springboard for racing longer next season. I had on particular race in mind, but decided to return to Ironman Lake Placid and improve on my original race performance. I hesitated about financially committing a year in advance to this race, plus it's over crowded, but the idea of getting my big race done in July instead of September was a bonus. This year I struggled with the heat in my training and had to resort to indoor training for my long runs. If I race in July, most of my training would be in cooler temps.

My Wingman has been riding with me and that makes my rides more enjoyable. We pick a route based on my scheduled ride time (and wind direction) and head out. Getting him into cycling was a great decision. He enjoys the riding and we get to spend time together. My last few long runs have been on the treadmill. With all the heat/humidity, I've had to stay indoors. I managed to pull off (2) two hour runs on the treadmill. It wasn't easy, but for the first run I watched the women's marathon in the Olympics. I was ready to stop around 1:40 into the run when the announcer talked about Alberto Salazar. Alberto said what separates the greats are their ability to embrace the suffering when things get hard. Upon hearing that, how could I possibly quit running. So I kept going and finally finished my run when the winner crossed the finish line. My run lasted 2 hours and 13 minutes. That's a lot of running.......