Monday, May 11, 2009

The Gulf Coast Triathlon Race Report

Saturday, May 9 – RACE DAY!

Thankfully, the alarms woke me up with no issues and the morning race ritual began.

Contacts – check. Sunscreen – check. Oatmeal – check.

Around 5:00 a.m. we left the room and walked (via the street this time) to the Boardwalk. Several other athletes were making the same walk and there was a strange quietness until we got to transition and the race excitement took over and the quietness turned into pre-race chaos.

I set up my transition area, applied more sunscreen (that fretting about the weather was all for naught, it was perfect weather), put my bottles on my bike and hit the porta potties before putting on my wetsuit and walking down to the beach. Doug was getting anxious that we were running behind schedule because I was in one of the first waves. Most races have a hard cut off time when you have to be out of transition, but this race did not enforce one, if they had one. We got to the beach just in time for the National Anthem.

Enter nerves.

I am not sure if it was watching the waves comes in or knowing that I had 6 hours of racing ahead of me, but I was officially nervous.

After making some final adjustments to my wetsuit, I decided to get into the water to let some water into my suit and to make sure that my goggles were set to go. Right as I exited the water they made the call for my age group. After one last kiss and fist bump from my #1 fan, I lined up and waited for the shotgun. I was excited to learn that I was racing with one of the Team In Training women I met the morning before – it was just nice to see a familiar face. I think it was just what I needed to calm my nerves before hearing the shotgun.

Waiting for the swim start -- I am wearing the bright orange goggles

The Swim
The first part of the swim was not actually swimming, as much as it was navigating around the breaking waves and finding water that was deep enough to actually start swimming, well sort of, anyway.

The course was a rectangle with the out and back legs being the long legs, with a short 200 yard swim across. Unfortunately, the ~1,000 yards out were pretty tough (although I learned later that most everyone felt that way). It seemed like with every other breath I got a mouthful of salt water and I had no idea if I was on track because the swells made sighting the buoys very difficult, so it took a lot longer than usual for me to settle in to the swim. When we turned the corner for the short leg across, my stroke felt strong and I knew the worst was behind me. The long leg back went well, although I was still struggling with sighting a bit and got a bit off track at one point and had to swim diagonally to get back with the main pack. The tough part about the leg in was the last quarter as you start to approach the beach and the waves try to pull you back out. When I got to the point where I could stand up I immediately started to take off my wetsuit and by the time I got the shoreline, all I had to do was sit down, and two tugs, I had the suit off and I was running for T1.

As I made the run from the beach to T1 I noticed that a lot of people had stopped at various places to take off their suits. I am sure I didn’t look graceful sitting in the water taking off my suit, but I am confident that it came off faster than it would have otherwise.

I also noticed several people not taking the most direct route to our transition area. It seemed like half of the people in my age group ran the long way around instead of cutting across the middle of transition (where there was an opening), which was clearly shorter. I am sure I would have done the same thing had I not scoped out the most direct routes at bike drop off the night before.

T1 went well with no hiccups and I saw Doug before starting off on the bike. He made posters again that are always a bright spot as the day wears on.

My T1 plan worked like a charm, I was fastest in my age group!

The Bike
My goal for the bike was a sub-3 hour bike split and I took off with such ease and at such a great pace I felt very confident that I would make that goal. The bike did a 6 mile out and back before passing in front of the Boardwalk again and heading out for the 50 mile out and back.

While feeling good on the bike

I made a deal with myself that if I did not flat on this ride that I would learn to change a friggin tire so that I would not have to stress about the what-ifs anymore. There did not appear to be any true bike support on the course, so I was particularly nervous about having a mechanical issue.

I made great time on the first half and I was keeping the numbers in the low 20s mph. It was around the halfway mark that my stomach started to feel off. I had been drinking Infinit every 15 minutes and drinking from my aerobar profile water bottle as needed and at a minimum every 15 minutes. It was at that point that I wished I had spent more time testing the Infinit, but I also wondered if my stomach upset could be partially (or wholly) blamed on the amount of salt water that I swallowed on the swim. There is a reason they tell you NOT to drink salt water!

Thankfully my stomach problems were not slowing me down, but I was nervous about the run because I knew the run would jostle my stomach far more than the bike. Unfortunately, to add insult to injury, I started to get shots of pain down my right leg starting at my hip, all the way down to my foot, but mostly concentrated around my knee. I had never experienced anything like that before on my bike and I have done plenty of long, aero rides on my bike so it was not from a lack of practice.

It was at this point I started shifting my weight around in my seat and changing positions on my bike to see if I could find a position that was not as painful. It was not an excruciating pain, more of a throbbing pain, and thankfully, it was not constant as I was able to find other positions that lessened the pain. It did however, slow my pace more than I would have liked. Several people that I passed on the way out passed me and I knew that if my leg felt stronger I would have been able to go faster, but I was in conservative survival mode at that point. I also stopped drinking my Infinit every 15 minutes. I kept drinking water and decided to push out the Infinit to every 20ish minutes, sometimes a bit longer. I did make myself keep drinking it though as I knew I needed the calories. With about 10 miles to go I started to feel better and I found a comfortably fast position to get me home.

Lessons learned? Do not drink the salt water! Practice, practice, practice your nutrition in training. Improvise when necessary. Work through (reasonable) amounts of pain/discomfort as they may be fleeting. I am definitely going to be further testing the Infinit and seeing if I can recreate the pain in my leg/knee so I can adjust my position/fit accordingly.

Thankfully, I did not flat so now I must hold up my end of the bargain and learn to do it -- and quickly!

I was never so thankful to be off my bike! Doug was waiting for me near the fence at my transition spot as I racked my bike, changed shoes, put on my hat, applied sunscreen, put on my race belt and grabbed my nutrition. I told him about my stomach and knee pain but that I was feeling better and he told me to take 2 lefts to get out of transition and start the run. As I rounded the corner out of transition, Doug was waiting for me again with another poster and the smile I needed to start the run.

Reading a poster while in T2 trying to rack my bike

The Run
I was very excited at the start of the run for several reasons …
1 – I was off my bike
2 – My knee pain and stomach issues were both gone
3 – I made my sub-3 hour bike split
4 – I knew if I could maintain a sub 10 min pace per mile, that I would break 6 hours, which I really wanted to do

Heading out on the run

The run was definitely hot, but I felt good the entire time and was able to keep pace. I started out faster than I would have liked, but quickly settled in around a 9:30 pace. The volunteers were incredible and at no point did I really feel as if I was suffering.

I might have been able to push a little harder, but I didn’t want to jeopardize a sub-6 hour finish and I knew I was likely behind on my nutrition. I took a Hammer Gel at the start of the run and again around mile 7. I also took salt twice and I think that was helpful. I actually lost most of my salt when I dropped the cylinder I was carrying it in, so I was thankful that someone on the course shared with me later in the day. I took 2 waters and 2 sponges at each aid station. I put the sponges in my tri top and I drank one water immediately and took the other one with me. I even ended up giving my ice away once to someone in between aid stations who needed it more than I did. The course was well stocked and had great volunteers!

I was also thankful to have my Garmin because it helped me verify that my perceived effort and pace were where they needed to be to hit my goal. Looking back, I probably played it too conservative on the run, but that gives me a goal to shoot for next time!

I was really able to pick it up for the last mile and finish strong. The announcer said my name as I crossed the line and of course, I saw my husband screaming for me, which made me a bit emotional. I was thrilled to have come in well under the 6 hour mark (as was my hubby) and even more excited about how good I felt afterwards. The post-race massage was just a bonus!

With my #1 Fan

Total Time: 5:52:58

12/45 in AG
70/303 Women
348/1045 Overall

Swim: 44:20 (30th in AG, 134th Woman, 620th Overall)
T1: 2:51 (1st in AG, 22nd Woman, 90th Overall)
Bike: 2:58:06 - 18.9 mph (20th in AG, 123rd Woman, 631st Overall)
T2: 1:53 (8th in AG, 63rd Woman, 163rd Overall)
Run: 2:05:51 - 9:37 pace (11th in AG, 54th Woman, 225th Overall)

1 comment:

Paige said...

Thanks for the rundown, and fabulous job powering through it! Every athlete would be blessed to have a #1 fan like Doug.