Finish Line 70.3

Finish Line 70.3
Finish Line 70.3

70.3 Finisher!

70.3 Finisher!
70.3 Finisher

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Was Born This Way: relaxation isn't my thing

What. You don't think I know who Lady Gaga is? Just because I'm old doesn't mean I am totally living in the past. I actually think that chick can sing, even if she steals some songs from Madonna, like "I Was Born this Way" which is a pretty good running/jogging/dancin' tune.

So my 70.3 was over on April 10. You would think I would be slurping up the easy days off this month afterwards, reveling in coming home to dinner on time, sleeping in on Sundays rather than getting up at 5 or 6 to crank out a long run, working in the yard on Sat afternoons rather than going for a 3 hour bike.

Well, I am. Sort of. A little bit. I'm also restless and bored and SO looking forward to starting training again on Sunday for my first full marathon, as well as continuing to train for shorter triathlons along with Patient Spouse, who has now elected to kick it into his own higher gear of training. I miss some of the push and pull of hard working out. If I wasn't Born this Way, I have apparently now Become This Way, which isn't nearly as interesting a song title.

Since the 70.3, I have probably worked out 2-4 days each week at my own pace, often without wearing a watch. I went for an 1100 yard swim Wed the 13th, took a gentle 3 mile run on Tuesday the 19th (this was kind of a check up run; wanted to see if anything hurt or fell off; fortunately, nothing did either way), went for another 1100 yard swim on the and added 4 sprint 25's to the end just for grins; went for a 5 mile easy run (no watch) on Good Friday morning, joined Patient Spouse for a quick 14 mile bike ride on Sunday after church, and last night joined Patient Spouse in a fairly easy interval run for an hour (10 minute warm up, 2 minutes hard and 2 minutes walk for 5 times, then 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy jog, 2 minute walk for 5 times, then a 10 minute cool down jog). Tonight I plan to go to spin class for about 45 minutes and tomorrow night another swim....but I WILL take Thursday, Friday, and Saturday off, unless I decide to get up Friday morning for a quick 4 mile easy run.

On Sunday, Coach Claire comes back to me with a Plan for (a) getting across that marathon finish line and (b) helping me shave some time off my sprint triathlon times. Patient Spouse and I met with her this past Saturday to get some pointers on our swim form and our running form. She gave me excellent tips on my arm position during the pull portion of the swim (they are too straight) and also during my run (doing too much crossover in my arm swings).

I'm also focusing a bit on some strength training; doing planks and pushups more than before since I have the time and it doesn't take long to toss down the mat and do these at home.

Our next race is in June; there is a sprint tri in McKinney and although it will be warmish here in June (like, in the upper 90's), I think we can manage to get through it without wilting too badly. I'd like to see myself hit the podium on one of these sprint tris one day, but I may have to wait until next year when I gracefully edge into the 55-60 age group. Right now I'm competing against 49 year olds which is tough, but then again, I'm pretty tough too. You just never know.

Patient Spouse may also be hearing the siren call of his own 70.3 goal. If so, next year, we'll be gearing up for another one; perhaps Austin or Florida in fall of 2012!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sunday Will Never Be the Same: Post Race

Spanky and the Gang--two of my fav, fav, fav pop songs came from this little group with great melodic charm: Sunday Will Never Be The Same and Lazy Day. No way to listen to either of these tunes without singing along. Not great jogging songs, okay, but you are not always going to be jogging. Right now, I'm not jogging at all!

Once I crossed that finish line at 4:41 p.m. I only had two thoughts: to find Patient Spouse and that I really, really, really wanted a shower. I was covered in a delightful mix of salt, sand, Gatorade (from being splashed), sunscreen, Bodyglide, Sharpie, sweat, AccelGel (no matter how hard you try, some of that stuff ends up on the outside of you) and pure grime. I don't mind getting down and dirty with the best of them, but this was something new.

At the finish line, they handed me my cool medal and a really nice running hat with the event logo. I think Chris Lieto was hanging around helping hand out medals (since he had finished his race, winning it, about 345 hours before me) but everything was such a blur.

I hobbled over to where I had last seen Patient Spouse (about 120 yards from the finish line) but he was not there, so I hobbled again (the right IT band still talking nasty to me) to the place we had designated during the sprint race the day before as our meeting place, and he wasn't there either. This second location had a nice, empty bench so I decided to sit and then to stretch out on it--oops! That was my empty water bottle in my fuel belt digging into my back, so I sat up to remove it and then lay back down. Within a couple of minutes Patient Spouse arrived with a fresh bottle of water, and was concerned that I was lying down. Was I okay? Actually, with the exception of my nagging IT band, I felt pretty good. We exchanged sweaty kisses and he looked remorseful for forgetting to bring both my morning clothes bag (with the wind, I was starting to get a little chilled from my sweaty state) AND the peanut M&Ms he had bought to bribe me to the finish line.

We hobbled (well, I hobbled and he walked) first to the finish line to cheer on a couple more finishers, and then to the food tent where I snagged the very last piece of cheese pizza that Papa John's was giving to the finishers (the rest was pepperoni, and although I was feeling pretty good, just looking at the pepperoni slices made me feel a bit queasy). We sat down to eat and halfway through I got really chilly and decided to go into transition where I had a lightweight running jacket in my transition backpack. Once at my spot, it seemed silly to leave without taking it all out with me. So I loaded up everything in the pack, slung it on my back, grabbed the wetsuit and flung it over the back, and slowly wheeled my way out of the checkout and back to the eating area, where I finished my cheese pizza and my water.

One of the things that concerned me on the race was that I didn't have to use the portapot after mile 26 on the bike. Once I finished the bike, I told myself I should go (and thought that it would not be a bad idea) but wanted to get to my first walk break on the run before I stopped. Of course, the first walk break did not coincide with a portapot, and by the time one did, I was more than halfway through the run and really didn't need to stop that badly. In my mind, I told myself I wasn't hydrating enough even though I had consumed 36 oz of Gatorade before the swim, another 36 oz on the bike, and I was drinking water and Gatorade like a thirsty fish at every single walk break I took. I didn't ever bonk or feel dizzy, and I honestly don't think I could have drank any more than I did, but it just goes to show how much moisture your body absorbs during this kind of exercise on a warm day.

After that, we walked back to the finish area and cheered on a few more later finishers and then started the slow walk back to the hotel area (about half a mile). I was actually surprised I felt okay--no doubt both hamstrings, calves and IT bands were sore, and my back a little sore, but the rest of me felt okay. I was probably suffering a bit from post race confusion, as I always do, but I think I communicated in whole sentences during the walk.

We stopped by our car on the way to load up the bike so we wouldn't have to deal with that later. Then we wandered the hallways to our room (we were a long way away from the door) and when we got inside, I went straight to the bathroom and ran a hot bath. Stripped off my sweaty gear and took a long, hot bath and washed all the salt and grit off me while Patient Spouse went to pick us up dinner from a local Italian place. I wasn't all that hungry--I really had eaten well during my race--but the cheese manicotti was too good to pass up and the chocolate cake was manna from heaven. I had one glass of wine which nearly knocked me on my rear. At 10 p.m. I was in snooze land and woke up the next day feeling refreshed, if a bit stiff and sore on the lower parts of me.

Since then, I have done nothing but walk a lot and I did go for a 1100 yard easy swim the Wednesday after the race which really helped loosen up my muscles. I have lost all the little aches and pains of the day, and I plan to start back with some easy recovery runs and bike rides this weekend, before I start on May 1 to train for my marathon this winter, and to shave off some time on my sprint tris planned for this summer (hopefully one in June and another on Labor Day).

Looking back on the entire past year, here are some mental tidbits:

1. The race was hard, but it was really not THAT hard. In retrospect, I could have pushed farther and gone harder and faster, but I am glad I did not. This was my first one, and I wanted to finish upright, happy, uninjured and wishing I could do another one. That is what happened, and so the plan was perfect.

2. The entire process was hard, but again, not THAT hard. I truly believe any able bodied person with on real significant health issues can train and do a 70.3. It requires a lot of commitment with your time, and also with your money (face it, wetsuits, bikes, tri gear, running shoes--you can do less expensive, but you can't do free). But there is no reason to say "I can't do this." Trust me on that one. If I can, you can. Remember Yoda: "do, or do not. There is no try."

3. Believe it or not, I would LOVE to do another one of these. However, I simply can't give the time commitment again right now for training. My Patient Spouse, my clients, my friends, my family, my stepkids, all had to deal with me being gone to workouts six days a week, including weekends and holidays. To ask them to do it all again would be too much. So I'm taking a year off of that schedule, at least, and then once our last daughter graduates high school next year, we'll see. The desire to do another one, and do it faster even when I'm older, is there.

4. And double believe it or not, I would love to think about a full ironman. THAT I know can never happen as I will never have the time to train for one of those unless some stranger dies and leaves me a pot of gold so I don't have to work for a living. But I just want to point out that this race did not leave me with anything but a desire to keep going. It was that much fun.

5. Finally, and I have mentioned this before, I will point out that the best part of all this was the journey and not necessarily the destination. The destination was 8 hours; the journey was a year. I learned so much about myself during that time. Because of my work and family schedule, most of my workouts were done accompanied only by my iPod and a watch. I learned to trust my body to get me where I needed to go. I learned that being tired was not the same thing as being exhausted. I learned to push through being uncomfortable, being weary, being frustrated, and being disappointed. I learned to fall down and get back up again (literally and figuratively). I learned from my mistakes. I relished my little victories, sometimes being only one second shaved off my 25 yard pool sprint time. I enjoyed watching muscles and tone appear in areas of my body where I had never seen them before. I learned to appreciate the sunrise, the moonlit run, the sunshine dancing on the lake waters as I rode by, the gentle quiet of a gym pool late at night when you are the only one there, the silky feel of the water as you glide down and back. The simple joys of well fitting goggles, of a downhill rip on the bike after a hard climb, of a run through a gentle misting rain--things I would have never felt or noticed if sitting in front of a TV or computer. The world is lovely. Go see it.

I'm not done with the blog, although I will change its name now as I prepare for my first 26.2 miles of hoofing it.

Here's hoping all of you will find the joy and strength to get to your own personal finish lines.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

I Get Around: 70.3 run to the finish line

The Beach Boys were a essential part of my growing up, especially in Galveston and the surrounding areas. You could not go to the beach when I was in high school without some Beach Boys tunes blasting on your car radio (AM/FM if you were lucky) or your fancy 8 track tape player. I think I owned every one of their albums or tapes (younger set: please don't ask, "what's a tape?" Thank you).

I Get Around was a perfect song to play in my head during the 13.1 miles of the run portion of my 70.3. The course wound around and through Moody Gardens, the parking lots, the driveways, some sidewalks, a short construction sand pit, for four loops. So it's not like you didn't know what was coming after the first loop.

After I managed to get off the bike and trot to my transition spot, I was in and out of T2 in 4:31, which was 29 seconds better than planned. It seemed longer. My patient spouse managed to video my whole T2, which was the only video he took of me the whole day, while I was standing still. I shrugged off those bike shoes with joy, and slipped on the running shoes, which I had powdered up the day before, and was pleased to discover that my painful bike hotfoot had completely and totally left the building. Grab the Garmin GPS off the bike stem and then fasten the watch band that goes with it around my wrist--took a couple of tries to do that--and slip the Garmin onto it and punch it to "run" mode. Visor on the head, number belt twisted to the front side. Fuel belt fastened around waist, full of my blue Gatorade small drink bottle, candy corn and baggie'd Luna Bar, once broken into bits, now fused back into a funny shaped bar. Gel bottle in back jersey pocket.

During the ill fated 1912 expedition led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott to the North Pole (all in the expedition perished), one of the gallant explorers, a Captain Oates, seeing that without help all would be lost, volunteered to go for help (the nearest help being over 200 miles away) in the middle of a -40 blizzard. According to the journals, as he left the tents, in typical British fashion he said to the shivering occupants: "I'm going out now. I may be some time." Patient Spouse and I have borrowed his understatement a lot.

As I trotted out of my transition area for the run, and yes, I was indeed jogging, I turned to Patient Spouse and said, "I'm going out now. I may be some time." It was a bit warmer than -40, although the winds were pretty blizzard like. However, now they were a blessing rather than a curse (except for one particularly windy corner) as it was getting pretty toasty warm out there.

I had a Plan for the run, and except for the last freaking mile, I managed to stick to it. I knew this was a run where negative splits were just not going to happen. I was tired, but fortunately not terribly so, and I wanted to finish upright, smiling, with no major injuries or strains. So my Plan was for the first loop (about 3.3 miles) I would run 7 minutes and walk 3, run 7 and walk 3, the entire loop. The second loop would be run 6 and walk four, the third loop run 5 and walk 5, and the fourth loop run 4 and walk 6.

I started out with an easy run pace, about 11:35 min mile, which was pretty much my standard run pace every time I did run. I felt okay, nothing hurt too badly, and I was focused on finishing this event. Every time you started a new loop, you passed the finish line about 20 yards to one side, and it was tough to turn at the sign that said "2,3 and 4 loops this way." Of course, people were finishing right and left; the pros had finished long ago.

The first loop went as planned. Every walk break I sucked down my Gatorade, which was warm but wet, and every aid station I grabbed ice water and tossed half of it on my head and half of it down my gullet. Somehow, and I don't know how this happened, I never managed to pass an aide station during my walk breaks except once, so I had to toss and gulp on the run, until I ran out of Gatorade, and then I was forced to walk briefly while I refilled my carry bottle from the aid station cups.

There's one small hill on the loop, and a couple of what I would call uprises but not hills, and otherwise it's fairly flat. There was one corner I immediately named Windy Corner as the wind simply punched you in the face as you turned it, but as hot as it was, that was not necessarily a curse.

Each aid station was well stocked and the volunteers on the course were awesome. They all cheered and clapped for you and had something inspirational to say, even after seeing you four freaking times.

The first loop was crowded as the faster runners, especially the women, were still out on the course.

I finished the first loop feeling fairly strong, and started my second loop knowing I had less than 10 miles left on this epic journey. Every walk break I would first slug Gatorade, then eat something (mixing up my candy corn, my gel, and my Luna bar bites--it was a nice distraction while running to ask myself, "what treat do I get this next break? Oh, candy corn time, yummy!"). There were about four robust looking (nice word for a bit overweight) supporters on one stretch blowing long horns very loudly. And often. As I ran past them, I said to a fellow runner (large African American lady whom I cheered into the finish after I finished), "do you think they know how obnoxious they are?" Silly question on my part. Look at my watch and be amazed it's only 2 something; seemed like I had already been out for a million hours.

Second loop run six walk four. Eat, drink, breathe, move. Grab water and pour over head, gulp the rest. Thank the volunteers. Hand slap a couple of kids, although one eager youngster came at me with both hands and I feared I would get knocked backwards. Try to read the inspirational signs, none of which were as funny as I wanted. Try to read the chalk markings on the sidewalks, wondering why Easter Eggs was spelled Easter Egges. Try not to notice the course was getting less crowded. Smile and say "good job" to anyone you pass, or anyone that passes you. Hold up 2 fingers to Patient Spouse (who was always waiting in a different spot, which made it interesting to wonder where he would pop out next) to mean 2 more loops after this one.

Third loop run five walk five. No problems, but hamstrings getting a bit tight and IT bands starting to sing the blues a bit. Jive to the music from the Disco Bus set up at one corner (another place also had music playing, but he closed shop after my second loop; I guess he thought all the important people had finished). Consider walking the uphill and find that my walk break coincided exactly with the uphill, what awesome news. Little things like that make a big difference. Watch a spectator dressed in a shaggy dog suit come toward us with high knee jogging saying "pick it up, pick it up, pick it up." Watch a guy spectator try to talk his girl into a jog Windy Corner and asked her if she wanted me to kick him for her (got a laugh from them both). Had a guy come up and tell me I was making it look easy, and then run off of course. Run for awhile with a nice lady in a blue striped top and discuss that we would definitely make course time, even if we had to walk the whole rest of the way, which we were not going to do. Tell the nice lady in the big hat that I would only see her one more time. Mug for the photographer on the back side. Run for awhile with 81 year old Lew, who curves away for his finish line while I still have one more loop to go. Tip of the visor to him and I'm on my way.

Now I've passed the sign Loops 2,3 and 4 this way for the last time--last loop! 3.3 miles to go and it's not 4 p.m. yet; I'm on cruise control. Run 4 walk six, no worries, lots of walk time. Grab a defizzed Pepsi from an aid station and do the "no Coke only Pepsi" routine with him (anyone younger than 40 won't know this). Tell a fellow runner that I don't think I'll do this again tomorrow. Course more crowded now with walkers and watchers and non-racers than racers; have to dodge strollers and kids and spectators; wish they would do a wee bit better course control for the late runners but try not to let it annoy me too much. Three bikers getting their bikes from transition blocking the course ahead. A polite, "I know we're slower than you, but can you let us through?" and they jumped out of the way. However, several very fit earlier finishers are standing or sitting at course side encouraging the later racers which I found awesome.

One mile to go! Suddenly the right IT band says, ya know, we've done 69.3 miles today and we don't think we should do any more. Try to jog anyway and find the pain is just too much. Think about the fact that I have over an hour and a half until they close the course down, and I don't think that the pros need to worry about me beating them anytime soon, and so I settle into a hobble walk for most of the last mile. Not the Plan, but I came pretty close to it. 2/10s of a mile to the finish gimp to Patient Spouse and hand slap, grit my teeth and start running as there is no way I am gonna cross that finish line at a walk.

As you come across the finish line, the announcer announces your name and your home town and says "You have JUST COMPLETED the Lone Star Memorial Hermann 70.3!" It sent chills up my spine and I thrust both fists into the air and had tears in my eyes as I ran across the final mat. A full year of hard work, six days a week, never quitting, always pushing, and I'd done it. I was a 70.3 finisher.

Next up: post race and some lessons learned.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I'm Driving My Life Away: the 56 miles of bike

Eddie Rabbitt: can you think of a better name than that for a singer? Especically this time of year? Kind of a bubble gum pop like song but it gets in your head and you can't get rid of it once that happens.

56 miles is a long way to do anything, and biking 28 of that into a howling headwind is not going to be the best part of my race. My intention was to average at least 14mph and I was really planning for more, as that is a slow pace for me, but I also wanted to end up with some legs left to do the run with.

As I came out of the water, I tried to duck into the fresh water cascade they had pouring down in order to just rinse off my face, but a short Asian chick bumped hard into me as she ran by and knocked me out of the area. I shuffled on to my transition spot and spent 6:41 in T1, 41 seconds longer than planned, but it seemed to just take a while to get myself organized, plus the distance from the water exit to T1 was pretty far.

I dumped my wetsuit and goggles and cap under the bike, took a quick swig of water to rinse the salt bayou out of my tonsils, re-applied some sunscreen on my face and arms, staggered one legged into my socks (always a fun thing, but on longer rides, I worry about blisters so I only go sockless for sprint distances), snapped on the helmet, put on the sunglasses, tugged on the gloves, don't forget the race belt, bike shoes on, and now grab the bike and trot to the mounting area. I ran a bit past the mounting line, lowered the bike and managed to clip in on the first try as I swung onto the bike and headed straight into the wind. In ten seconds I was down on the bars, and pretty much stayed there most of the time other than when stretching or eating.

The first mile was frustrating. I was headed slightly uphill and straight into a 25 mph wind and could not get any speed going; I felt like a turtle and was averaging around 13 mph for the first mile. I said to myself, this is not going to work. As I hit the turn onto the seawall by the Gulf, it didn't seem to get any easier. Finally, around mile 3, I was able to push it up to around 14-14.3 mph without exhausting myself. However, sometimes I would drop lower on a slight incline or an area with a big wind blast.

I shook off my worries and told myself how much fun it would be when I was headed back with the wind at my tail. I settled into a groove, pedaling in one gear mostly and hunkering down as low as I could comfortably go. Every mile on the dot I drank a big gulp of Gatorade from my water bottle between the bars and every 2.5 miles I stood up in the pedals and stretched for 10 seconds.

The course was mostly flat, with some very small inclines, and a couple of medium climbs when I got to San Luis Pass at mile 22, but nothing major. There were a lot of bikers coming back on the opposite side of the road. Because I am a slow biker, I didn't expect to pass anyone, but I actually passed a lot of people. Having another irrational fear, this one of being called for drafting, I would hesitate just outside the draft zone and gird my loins, and then hit the gas hard to pass the slower biker. I found a couple of frustrating moments when bikers would pass me and then SLOW DOWN, forcing me to back down to 13.8 or so to keep out of the draft zone. I always keep the gas pedal down for about a minute after I pass someone so they don't feel crowded but apparently not everyone follow this rule. One gal would pass me, and then I would pass her, and vice versa, but sooner or later I finally left her behind for good.

I saw lots and lots of flat tires, maybe 15 or so. I was worried about sustaining a flat, as I knew I was pushing course time (or thought I would be). I had to be at mile 48.2 at 1:18 p.m. and I had started the bike around 9:25 a.m. Plenty of time, unless I had a flat.

One girl passed me and then immediately slowed down to 12 mph. Irritated, I backed off as much as possible, but then I saw she had a flat and was pulling over. That could have been me.

I actually also passed about 4-5 guys, whose swim waves went off way before mine did. One looked pretty fit but was riding very slowly. I convinced myself he was a basketball player and had signed up for this on a lark.

I started eating every 5 miles. I started with a couple of candy corns, then went to the gel bottle, and then dug into my Bento Box for my PBJ sandwich, which, even though sealed in a baggie, was a soggy dough ball. I ate it anyway. I also saw that my Luna chocolate sports bar, which I had carefully cut into bite sized pieces and stored in another baggie, was now fused back into a solid bar. I grew up in this humidity. You think I would remember. Anyway, no problem to just bite off a tiny piece now and then. I tried to alternate snacks so I would have something different to look forward to each time. I was not terribly hungry, but I knew I had to eat, so I kept ingesting, and everything seemed to agree with my internal system just fine.

At mile 26, I stopped at an aid station to use the portapotty (no, I am not ever going to be able to go on the fly). It felt good to hop off for a minute, but so far, nothing hurt and I was feeling fine. I got back on quickly and was eagerly anticipating the turnaround to put this wind at my back at mile 28.

It seemed to take forever to get to mile 28. First, I had the climb up the San Luis Pass bridge into the wind which slowed me down a lot. Second, the road turned to harsh chip seal that rattled my teeth. Third, a small sandstorm started to blow since out here, there was hardly any rebuilding done after Hurricane Ike did its thing, and sand was mostly what was between me and the Gulf. I kept thinking I saw the turnaround but I kept being mistaken.

FINALLY the turnaround came, it was very narrow as the road was only two lane here so I turned slowly on the mats not wanting to get this far and crash, and then yes! the wind was behind me and now I was cooking between 15-16 mph without even working hard at it. I decided not to work too hard at it as I knew know I would make the cutoff times and wanted to save my legs for the run. It turned out that was a good decision.

I came up behind a lady that looked like she had a funny outfit on, when I got closer I realized she was riding IN HER WETSUIT, at least the bottom half, and the arms were flapping around her waist. She was weaving a bit and I passed her and said my usual "good job; good luck." I wondered. Was she training for Kona and trying to get really hot (it was already a very warmish day)? Did she forget her bottoms and this was all she had to wear? Did she just forget to take it off? I will always wonder.

Another lady passed me around mile 35 and as she passed, turned and threw up onto the roadside, barely missing me. I guess she preferred not to throw up on her downwind side and get herself, but this side nearly blasted me. Uck. I was so grateful my stomach was happy and resting easy.

I was focused on getting to mile 46, which meant 10 miles left, and then mile 46, where my cutoff time aid station was. I was cruising and comfortable until mile 43. Then both feet started to go numb, despite all the wiggling and stretching I was doing every 2.5 miles. At mile 45 my right foot went into full "hotfoot" mode, feeling like someone was cutting off my toes with a sharp knife. It was agony. I had experienced some numbness before on long rides, but not like this.

I debated whether to stop and walk around to get the blood circulating in my toes, but I was only 10 miles from transition and hated to stop. I kept telling myself to go another mile, another mile, and the pain got worse. I reached down and loosened my shoe to the max and wiggled my toes like mad, but it didn't help. The pain was so bad I thought I might throw up myself.

Still, I gritted my teeth and kept pedaling. My speed dropped to about 14.5 mph average but all I wanted to see was transition and to get my feet out of the pedals. I passed the 48.2 mile station with lots of spare time and kept pedaling.

Again, it seemed to take forever to reach the turn off the causeway onto the side streets, and I could not believe how long it took to get through all the side streets and into Moody Gardens. I waved at Patient Spouse who was waiting for me at the roadside and tried not to let him see the pain on my face. Several more turns--am I ever going to get there?--and THERE was the dismount line at last.

I catapulted off the bike and the pain immediately ceased. Sweet relief at last! I trotted into T2 and nearly stumbled as a wave of dizziness went over me, but then it was totally gone and I felt fine. I had survived the 56 miles of windy bike and now just had 13.1 miles between me and the finish line.

Next up: the four loop run, some interesting people and spectators, and the finish.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay: Race Recap; The Swim

Otis Redding lent a sweet sad sound to this classic song, and I'll bet you that most Boomers have Sittin on the Dock of the Bay on their iPods somewhere. It was just a classic, and remains so despite the passage of time.

The 70.3 is over, and I am glad I don't have to do another one say, tomorrow. I'm tired and sore and so happy to be across that finish line, 8 hours and six minutes after my swim wave started; not the kind of race time that inspires but well ahead of my 8:15 goal and very much ahead of course closure time. I came in 30 of 39 in my age group, and four of those DNF'd, so I did not come in last, as I was thinking I might.

I'm going to recap the race in three segments because each one had its own challenges, enjoyments, and interesting moments.

The Big Swim is always the thing that lurks in your head as the intimidation factor. We all know we can do the bike and the run, unless something or someone breaks down, but the swim...well, anything can happen out there in waterspace. I was actually feeling fairly confident about the swim, and I really like to swim, but the back of the brain nagging keep mentioning thoughts of waves, wind, and not making cutoff time, as well as whether 650 younger women were going to run over me like a speedboat over a rowboat.

The morning alarm went off at 4:45 and woke me from a sound sleep. I had slept amazingly well the night before, which I normally don't do before a race, having hit the sack around 9 p.m. I immediately went to the window of the hotel room to check the wind, and it looked like a bloody hurricane outside in the semi dark, with palm trees whipping around. Eeps. Not what I had hoped for, but what I expected. The day had been given to me, and it was time to quit worrying about it. At least I saw no sign of rain or thunderstorms.

I choked down about 2/3 of my oatmeal laced with lots and lots of honey and brown sugar, and chugged down 12 oz of Gatorade with it, while I took a fast hot shower (to loosen muscles and wake me up), stretched a bit, and got into my tri shorts, sports bra and tri shirt, after Bodygliding up underneath. I fixed myself a bagel and peanut butter snack, grabbed my gear, double checked it, and a full 24 oz bottle of Gatorade and we headed out into the darkness and wind to transition. I was a bit nervous but not terribly so, felt focused and ready. Here we go.

I had a great transition spot (so did Patient Spouse on the sprint) being at the very end of my row, which gave me lots of room and of course made it easy to find. Make up karma for the 25 mph winds. I got bodymarked and nearly forgot my age when asked, this was pure Pre Race Mental Overload Syndrome.

Once into transition, I quickly set up my towel, shoes, helmet, sunglasses (still in a soft case as it was so humid I was afraid they would fog), race belt, number belt, run visor, etc. I loaded my bike Bento box with the cut up PBJ sandwich in a baggie (with a small rock for weight), some cut up Luna bars in a baggie (and another rock), and scattered candy corn at the bottom. I attached my full gel bottle to its holder next to the seat post, checked to make sure I was in pretty low gear, added the hydration bottle to the areo bars and another to the cage, set the Garmin on the bike mount, turned it on, and set it to bike and zero. A double check of my set up and going through pretend T1 and T2 showed me I had forgotten to set out my socks and gloves, so the mental practice saved me. Patient Spouse suggested I move my number down a bit on my helmet to open up more air vents, but when I tried it, the humidity would not let it restick to the helmet. Always prepared, I used a bandaid to attach it. My bike photos will show a wounded helmet number.

Finally, I applied Bodyglide to my legs and ankles, and sunscreen to every place I thought I needed it (I would be wrong on this, but didn't find that out until later). Legs, arms, shoulders, neck, ears, face. I had written the 2 Timothy 4:7 verse on my inner forearm for inspiration with a waterproof Sharpie (it stayed on long after my race number and age melted off my legs).

I double checked my wetsuit bag for my suit, swim cap and goggles, and checked that my race chip was securely fastened on my right ankle (I have an irrational fear of losing it, and would check it several times during the race). I grabbed my bagel, my Gatorade and my spouse who was toting the wetsuit bag, and we left transition about 6:40 a.m. and I visited the portapots for the last time pre swim.

We went to the swim area to watch the pros go off at 7 a.m. and I got my first look at the water, the wind, the sky and the bouys. Although the first turn bouy looked a LONG way off, I knew it really wasn't; it was only about 600 yards away from the start. The entire swim course had yellow marker bouys every 100 meters which was awesome and they were so easy to see even from the shore. The only thing that got my heart knocking was the wind, and the slight chop in the bayou. I figured the chop would be much worse as I got farther from shore, and in this I would be right.

We stood for the national anthemn and the pros were off with the cannon shot (thank goodness for the age groupers they blew a horn instead). I ate about half my bagel and drank another 12 oz of Gatorade and tried to sit while I could. I was ready to get this show on the road, or on the water, as the case may be. The sun was now starting to rise and it looked like a clear, warm day so I choose my tinted goggles from my bag.

Around 7:30 I started the process of wiggling into my wetsuit. It actually went on easier than I expected, although I needed Patient Spouse to help tuck me in and zip me up in the back. I tried to spit in my goggles and rinse them out with a bottle of water, but my spit looked suspiciously like Gatorade.

Around 7:45 I started to make my way to the pier for my 8:15 swim wave. I wanted plenty of time to walk there and relax, although no pre warm up swims were permitted because of the rough bottom of the bayou. I did swing my arms around to get the blood flowing and did some minor stretches. I decided to put on my cap and get my hair tucked up nicely, and then I realized I had forgotten my earplugs. So a quick fast walk back about 200 yards to where Patient Spouse had been and he fortunately had not moved more than 15 yards from his original spot, grab the plugs, and a quick walk back to the spot where the nice volunteer held up the W45+ sign--a good warm up for me! We were slowly moving our way up the pier area with each wave that went off every five minutes. Our group was the first of the women to go off.

I spit again in my goggles and put them on to be sure they fit and nothing was going to break. They seemed a little bleary but I decided not to worry about it, and truth be told, they were awesome for the entire swim, never fogged or leaked or hurt. About five minutes before we were to get in the water, I put them on for good. I didn't want to be messing with them in the water.

The only time I had felt the water was when I put one toe in on the way to the pier, and the temperature felt reasonable to me. It allegedly was 71.9 degrees, okay for age grouper wetsuits but not pros. It actually felt a bit warmer to me.

Finally it was our turn to enter the water, which was done by jumping about five feet off a pier into the water (no ladders). I have a fear of dislodging my goggles, so I sat down on the edge of the pier, counted One Potato Two Potato in my head, and jumped in. It was cold but not shockingly so, and I didn't go down very far before I popped up, goggles perfectly in place (I had put one hand on their front when I jumped). I got out of the jump zone and did a couple of warm up strokes towards the start bouys. I positioned myself at the rear center and listened to the countdown and thought THIS IS IT. This is what it has been all about. Let's have some fun.

Once the horn went off, I started swimming immediately. It was quite crowded and we bumped and pushed a bit before we all found our spots, and then I actually enjoyed the swim for about 300 yards. I was swimming pretty easy and sighting every six strokes and seeing the next yellow bouy clearly when suddenly the water got a lot rougher and a bit roly. My first thought was, crap, I'm going to get seasick, and then I told myself, don't be silly, you've never in your life been seasick even on a boat, and after that, I didn't have any real issues with the waves and chop other than the occasional one that smacked me in the face.

Right after that, the first hard going 18-15 woman ran over me with a smack despite my kicking out like a kung fu artist. Then it felt like the water was full of churning arms and legs and it was very hard to keep swimming form while either being hit from behind or running into someone's feet or legs. The water was not murky and I could actually see about 5 feet in front of me which helped, but apparently the hotshots behind me didn't bother looking; they just plowed on. I did have to stop and regroup quickly a few times when I was battered hard, but I never felt panicky, just irritated that these people were interrupting a pleasant swim.

I finally reached the first turn bouy in 18 minutes (I checked my watch) which was 2 minutes ahead of my goal time, and I turned from heading north to heading west, which was exactly cross current with the waves and wind. The chop was harder to deal with here on this long leg (about 1000 yards) and it took longer to get to each marker bouy without the wind at my back. I just started to roll over more to breathe and really only swallowed the Gulf once on a freak wavelet. I could see the sun each time I breathed, and the water was great temperature and my wetsuit plus the salt water kept my nice and bouyant, and even though I could see how far away the shore was, I never once felt scared or worried about it. I even stopped to thank a paddle board volunteer but he looked at me as if I had lost my mind, and maybe I had.

I kept swimming, always doing freestyle and now sighting every 10 yards because on this leg I had a bit more time between bouys because of the cross current. I occasionally would find myself drifting out to sea a bit too much and would correct. I tried to stay away from the marker bouys themselves as there always seemed to be a crowed resting around them. I passed a few swimmers but a lot more passed me. I know there were some DNFs in the water but didn't personally see anyone have to get picked up and I just kept swimming and counting the bouys.

Finally I came to the last turn bouy and then it was only 500 yards home, but it seemed longer. First, it got really crowded on that final turn, and second, we were now headed smack into the wind and waves which slowed us down. It seemed to take forever to get past the big party paddleboat parked at the pier and now I could see the finish area. I kept swimming even past where some were already standing and only stood up when I knew I had to climb up on the lowered pier. They had put carpeting down on the bottom so you didn't cut up your feet as you got out. Both volunteers that were to help you out were busy so I just climbed out on my own and started my trot down the long area to T1. I remembered to yank off my cap and goggles, and undid my wetsuit and slipped out of the sleeves. I stopped at the strippers, who were primarly female, and pointed to the lone male and got a laugh; they stripped me quickly and I was now on my way into T1 and I had survived the long hard swim. My watch showed an hour, which was my swim time into T1.

Next up: The long and windy bike and lots of interesting things I saw on the way.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Half Ironman Finisher!

I finished it! Right smack on goal time for the swim, and ahead of time on the bike and run despite 25 mph headwinds and lots of chop in the salt water. I'm tired and sunburned but what a great day. Race details to come later. I did my race plan, and it worked well. Thanks so much to Coach Claire Oliver for giving me a coaching plan the last year that took me to the finish line. Another shout out to the man upstairs who kept me in the palm of his hand the entire race--no flat tires, no digestive issues, no bonking, no accidents.

I have fought the good fight
I have run the race
I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

Who's runnin down the streets of the city?

Everyone knows it's windy. I already Said that. She's off the bike ahead of plan and running the route I ran yesterday, but she runs 4 times. Route is more sheltered, and now the wins helps with humidity (6.023 x 10**18)