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.

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