Monday, June 24, 2013

Pay the Piper

Syracuse 70.3 has come and gone. Five months ago registering had relit the spark for my enthusiasm to work out and train for a race.  I shook things up a bit with a new coach, albeit again with a small team, more intensity and willingness to let the workout bring the pain.  I had high hopes for today and did what I could to work toward that goal. Given the timing, a new PR would have been a birthday present to myself.

It's been another four and a half months of craziness, juggling training with health, family time, QT with TT, seeking real estate in a market with low inventory, work, and fun.  Once again it has been a struggle to get everything done. One thing I have learned, life never stops throwing me curveballs, I just have to stay on my toes fielding them.  Add to that a handful of health crises-cancer scare that took seven moths to rule out, parasite, hundred day cough, pulled gluteus medius, adenovirus and strep throat in a one-two punch two weeks before race day.
It's enough to make getting out of bed an achievement, which of course is not enough for me.  I missed a bit of training which made me a bit nervous but figured muscle memory from last year would kick in.

Leading up to race day, I have not felt my best. Even though I managed to hold off stomach issues while bedridden, they have lingered and popped up at the worst moments. Plus, I have felt really tired.  My weight fluctuated a bit, first it dropped (yes!) then felt like it came back. The lymph node near my jaw has not fully subsided either, but I shrugged it off.  Part of me wanted to drop this down to a relay with a friend biking, but the part of me that wants to push and get out of my comfort zone to conquer the bike won. I stuck with pre-race water glugging and cut out alcohol and caffeine for the week prior, doing my best to eat well too.

Left later than expected and hit traffic almost the whole drive up to Cuse. Lesson learned- take the day off. The next day we took it easy in the morning and went to expo in the afternoon. The beach closed for swimming and all the medium size t-shirts were out. Why they don't order based on responses is beyond me -how many XL triathletes and runners do you know? Lesson learned- go to expo early, rest later.  Then anxiety hits on my mini-ride-argh! Pep talk with my coach takes me down. Wegman's for dinner and driving the course made it better.

Race day is here!!! I'm packed and ready. The walk to transition from parking is a good 10 minutes. The bike check tells us all floor pumps have to go back to the car, ugh!!! Ok no biggee. Take it back and put my wetsuit on outside of transition. Then my favorite pair of goggles break after transition was scheduled to close. Nooooo! Luckily I had a spare (learned from last weekend). Crisis averted. Take a gel and get to the water.

And here we go. The water was pretty crowded, and I found myself sighting a lot in the beginning to keep my bearings and bumping into people most of the way out to the first turn. Weeds were not so bad, Lake Sebago in Harriman State Park is worse. Feeling good, felt like a long time to the first turn, but we keep going. During the middle, my stomach felt a little off, but I ignored it and focused on getting to the second turn. The way back to shore seemed shorter, and then I was climbing out of the water. The wetsuit stripper was really handy, and even with the wetsuit removal I finished the swim portion faster than last year by 45 seconds, which probably comes to at least a 2 to 3 minute PR. Solid.

Out of T1 pretty quickly, onto the bike.  My CatEye pops off right as I start. Pull over, go get it, resume.  Feeling good, then come the climbs. Everyone seems to slow down up the hills so I take my  time.  Holding off to drink and eat and just get my bearings, remembering from the drive that the climbs are not that long. Feeling good. Stomach feels a little bloated again early on, stop take a break, get back on. no biggee, if i need to stop stop. Stop at first aid station for a Gu some chomps and more water. Big descent comes around mile 23 or so and I am squeezing my brakes for dear life.  That is where my quad first starts to seize. I tell it to shut up and help me get up the big climb after the descent. The climb is long and I end up dismounting 2/3 of the way up.  I have company so it's not so bad.  Get back on at the top and go. At mile 25 the cramps are overwhelming. A nice guy stopped to  give me two salt tablets so I can try again. I remount and take it slow, and the salt caps seems to work. This is not something I trained with given the weather so I want to see how I react. So far so good, hit some good stretches, roll back my time goal to a six-handle, just keep moving. I think I was so focused on going that I did not drink enough consistently, but started before I really felt the thirst.   cramps return at mile 45. I try to coast down some hills, and even granny gear to go up small inclines hurts. Stop, stretch flood myself with fluids and electrolytes, try again. I told my legs to STFU, almost there. Thought about my coach's voice, my team, everyone who emailed and texted good luck, a teammate struggling with cornea transplant issues, and pushed.  Anyone who saw me at the side of the road shrieking must have thought I was a banshee. It was excruciating and I was determined to make it back for the run. After a while of waiting for it to let up, I felt like i was losing control of the bike. Thinking of my mom and her receiving a phone call that I fell and got seriously hurt, I stopped. A cop found me and radioed the SAG wagon. A teammate who roomed with me stopped but I told her to keep going. I would never want to stop someone else from racing their best for me. It took 20 minutes to get a ride and another 15 to get to transition, and even there they had to figure out how to get me to the med tent. I was in a hot car with cramped legs and two Advil were not doing much. Finally the gurney mobile came by and whisked me away. I got hooked up to an IV, handed a water a chocolate milk and half a banana, and had my blood pressure and glucose checked- they were fine, especially considering all the shit I was stuffing in my gullet. Getting an IV was not bad, the tape holding it down that kept peeling off hurt more. I was miserable. All these other people with finisher medals and me just with a lot of  chain grease on my leg to show for. IV made me have to pee and feel a bit woozy as I discovered when I stood up to go to the port a John
, so they have me come back for a Gatorade.  While in there, thunder struck and the skies opened. With all the lightning they shut down the race. Everyone crowds into the med tent so that the people who actually need assistance can't get in. A golf cart almost hit a spectator yapping on her cell phone, and I don't think I would have felt too bad for her. All my stuff in transition was soaked. After leaving medical I packed my car and attempted to return merchandise to the ironman store. They closed up and told me everything is non-refundable. Lesson learned: never buy photos or clothing from Ironman until after the race. Getting out of the grass parking lot after the rain was a cluster f- since I had to shift the car into low gear to avoid getting stuck on an incline in mud. We got home with minimal traffic so I could lick my wounds in the comfort of my own bed.
I still feel crushed, the product of a drunk frat boy smashing his beverage container against his forehead in a drunken show of bravado. Part of me started to reconsider going for an Ironman or continuing to do tris in general. I feel like maybe I am not cut out for this or should at least lower my expectations. And I only have myself to hold accountable.  Long-course triathlon is a high-maintenance demanding significant other. If I wanted to do this race, I should have prioritized my training over what other people need from me. If I was having problems with anxiety on the bike, I should see a shrink or at least work more on it. If I wasn't ready, I should have assessed my limitations more honestly and backed off so the event would have been more fun. But I wanted to go all-out and reach a very lofty goal. I tried my hardest. And I paid the piper for not bringing my A game.  I didn't fully step toe to toe with my fear of failure and beat it in this instance. But maybe I had to fail now to see it's really not a big deal.

If I learned anything else, I still have a lot of fight. My friend told me I looked like a warrior on the bike course, so I am improving. It is not all for naught. My level of disappointment shows me that I want to still keep at it and keep trying. And I don't have to cross the finish line to be an athlete. (Thanks Galvan)

Next up? Get my shit together a little more. Gather strength to make some tough decisions. out myself first more. that could probably be a better gift than a finisher medal.  After that? NYC tri in three weeks, maybe another half in late September, who knows. My work here is not finished, time to get back in the ring.....