I'm still not sure if this was a great idea as it took us almost 3 hours to drive 60 miles. Yes, we DID leave before rush hour - around 2:15pm. Huge traffic fail. We got to the hotel, checked in, and went for dinner. The only non-fast food place nearby was an italian place down the road, so we headed there for garlic knots and pizza - bread with a side of bread.
After that, it was just time for packing and repacking until bed time. I went to bed early, but was woken up around 2:45am when SOMEONE decided to get up and turn on the lights. I laid in bed for another two hours, wide awake, before I finally decided to get up. I ate a Clif Builder bar, some yogurt, got dressed and then ate a bagel while we drove out to the race site.
We left a tiny bit later than I wanted to leave, and the line for packet pick-up was REALLY long and being kind of poorly managed, so by the time I got my numbers and cap and was out of line, it was already 6:30am. I hurried back to the car, picked up my bike and transition bag and headed to transition, making a quick pit stop to get body marked. This left me with approximately 6 minutes to get transition set up. This was the first (definitely not the last) time that I would be relieved because of how ridiculously type A I am. When I laid out my transition stuff to pack, I packed everything for each leg inside a different ziploc bag, so it was easy to pull out the run bag, lay out what I needed, pull out the bike bag, etc. I also had brought along some plastic trash bags (thanks, Liz!) to lay on the ground under my hand towel. I zipped over, picked up my chip, ran back to transition, dropped off everything, sucked down a Gu, sprayed my legs with PAM (thanks, Amy!) and headed down to the water with approximately 8 minutes to wrestle my way into my wet suit. I found my super-fast friends already down there, and we had a minute for a few pictures before it was time for our wave.
I will pretend to be excited so maybe I will stop freaking out.
Me and the Emilys!Swim: 1.2 miles, 38:43
This was a "run into the water and go" start, which I did not realize until we were about to start when I looked around and said, "Why aren't we getting in the water?" Oh, right. I made sure to stay at the back of the pack of red caps and when the horn sounded, they rushed the water (I let them go). I thought the water temperature was perfect - I think 71º at the start, and it was cool enough that I wasn't hot in my wetsuit but it didn't feel cold on my exposed skin.
If I had to guess, I'd say I'm the one in the red cap.I ran into the water behind everyone else and immediately started panicking. I tried to just put my face into the water and swim but I couldn't breathe. I started swimming with my face out of the water but could already see that most of the red caps were far ahead of me and knew I couldn't swim the entire loop that way. So I flipped over onto my back and started talking to myself, mostly just saying, "It's okay," over and over. After a minute or two my heart calmed down so I flipped back over and started swimming. For a while I was swimming 1-2 strokes with my face in the water, 1-2 strokes with my head out, just saying, "It's okay" to myself every time I came out of the water. And after a few minutes of that I was calm enough to leave my face in the water, breathing every 2 strokes, and eventually I calmed down enough to breathe every 3 and then every 5, which is the way I normally breathe when I swim. By that point I had heard the horn sound twice more so I knew that I was soon going to be surrounded by swimmers from waves after me. I made it to the first turn and took a second to pause in the water to make sure I was headed in the right direction. Sighting was a little bit tough because of all the mist on the water but I was pretty sure I was headed in the right direction, which was confirmed when I swam directly into an orange buoy and conked my head pretty good.
I was concentrating on just swimming easily and not letting my heart go nuts. I honestly didn't care about my time, I just wanted to get out before they closed the swim. The swimmers were pretty spread out but everywhere I looked I saw blue or purple caps, so I figured I was way behind my wave. I didn't want to stop and look at my garmin to see how long I had been in the water, so I probably deserved what I got when my garmin vibrated at the 30-minute mark (I set a 30-minute timer to remind me to eat on the bike) and it felt like something bit me hard on the arm. I completely freaked, snorted water up my nose and shrieked and had a stroke for about 3 seconds until I realized that it was my garmin, not a rogue zombie trying to eat me for breakfast. When I glanced at the shore before I started swimming again, I saw how close I was. I also could see the poet on the shore, who wins the spectator/twitter updater/race photographer award of the century for everything he did while I was racing. I started swimming one normal stroke, one frantic arm-waving stroke to try and catch his attention. Apparently it worked.
I swam until my hands touched sand, then got up and ran out. I thought it was a pretty good hike from the swim exit to transition, but I was able to get the top half of my wetsuit and all my swim bits off while I ran.
Holy super terrifying goggle-eyes, Batman!
It took me far longer than I liked to get my wetsuit off my feet, and my hands were shaking pretty badly, so it took 3 tries to get my socks and gloves on.
Stupid wetsuit.I made the last-minute decision the night before to wear my bike jersey instead of the tri top, and this was a good call for so many reasons. I was able to shove all my extra nutrition into the pockets without worrying that I was going to fall off my bike trying to get it out of the saddle bag, and it was dry, which was nice since the temperature was only around 60º when I got out of the water. Time to be grateful for over-preparation #2: I put on ride glide when I got dressed at the hotel "just in case," which was brilliant because I'm an idiot and completely forgot to put any on in transition, and wasn't carrying any on the bike.
Bike: 56 miles, 3:05:48
I knew that there was a hill coming off the mount line, so I had geared my bike way down the night before. I started eating a Clif bar in transition, and was still choking it down coming into the ride.
I did a pretty terrible job watching the garmin throughout the day, and I can tell that I wasn't lapping it at the right times because my splits for each legs are off - I knew I lapped it late getting out of the water, and thinking back, I'm pretty sure I lapped it at the mount/dismount line, not at the transition mat. Somehow when I got on the bike I thought I had spent 6 minutes in transition, and was kind of appalled. I finished eating and looked at my overall time to see it was around 44 minutes. I decided I'd Gu at 1:00 (overall time) and then eat every 30 minutes from that point.
I rode less than a mile and my water bottle strap was flicking my leg, so I leaned down to adjust it and - you guessed it - dropped it. I cursed the day I was born and then made the split-second decision to leave it, but after another 30 seconds or so realized that I couldn't. I only had two bottles on the bike, both with Nuun in them, and I couldn't give up half of my electrolytes unless I wanted the run to super-extra suck. So I stopped, got off my bike, walked back the 100 yards or so, picked up the bottle, walked back to the bike and rode on. This was my slowest mile (obviously) of the ride, clocking in at 7:15, a full 3:30 slower than my next-slowest mile on the ride. I can tell that I was pretty pissed about this because my next mile (2:38) was one of the fastest miles on the day. When I saw that split, I told myself, "WHOA, relax."
I spent the next 4-5 miles just riding easy and shaking my legs out. I felt like I warmed up pretty fast, and I kept having to remind myself to hold back because my legs felt great. Despite the Water Bottle Disaster, I hit 10 miles really early (around 32 minutes) and started to become pretty worried that I was going to blow up, so I pulled it back a bit more. I sucked down a Gu at the 1:00 (overall) mark and ate a granola bar at the 1:30 mark. My stomach actually still felt pretty full and it was tough to get the granola bar down (also rode by a race photog with half a granola bar in my mouth, sigh). I was drinking pretty often and felt good.
The front half of the loop was pretty fast, and I was kind of concerned that we were going to pay for it on the back half, but it wasn't bad. A few rollers and two decent but relatively short climbs, plus some false-flat uphill. When I crossed over into the second loop I decided to try and take advantage of the front half and bank some time for the slower back half. I pushed back my next Gu to 2:15 because of how full my stomach felt, and I grabbed a water bottle at the handoff and managed to refill my front water bottle (it was about 2/3 empty) without stopping or crashing. About 10 miles into this loop, I realized that I was still way ahead of my bike plan and feeling great, so I made the conscious decision to try and crush the bike. I knew the run was going to be rough anyway based on my training, so I figured I'd sacrifice the extra 5 or 10 minutes of the run for a really great bike leg. My only regret is that I didn't decide this sooner, because I think I pretty easily could have gone sub-3 if I hadn't been holding myself back for 38 miles.
I couldn't face another granola bar at 2:45, so I ate a pack of shot bloks instead. The last few miles of the loop were a bit rough, but by that time I was within 10 miles of the end of the leg and just counting down. I stopped drinking when I estimated I was about 15 minutes out. We turned off the loop and headed back to the park, and I averaged 20.3mph for the last 6 miles. I was so pumped about my bike time when I flew into transition.
As soon as I unclipped and put one foot on the ground, I knew I was going to pay on the run. I almost fell over at the dismount line, and then I got stuck behind someone slow coming into transition. Huge regret: that I had not considered the rain and put a second pair of dry socks in transition. My socks were soaked from the ride and I knew it was going to be a blister catastrophe. I got my bike racked and helmet off, grabbed my run stuff and ran out of transition. I realized right before I crossed the mat that I still had my bike gloves on, so I took them off and threw them at the poet, who was taking pictures at the run start.
Run: 13.1 miles, 2:26:55
The run course was just stupid. I left transition, turned right, and did a 60 foot out-and-back before running back up and out of the finish line area. I knew that there was a steep hill coming out of transition on the run, but what I didn't know was that the steep hill was part of the run loop so I would have to do it THREE TIMES over the course of the run. My right calf was cramping hard, my stomach was sloshing and I barely made it to the first porta potty on the course. There was someone in there and another guy waiting, so I took the time to stretch both calves before the first of two very explosive pit stops of the day. Mile 2 tells the tale: 14:08 (I didn't stop my garmin any time I stopped, of course). I felt a LOT better after this stop and headed out. Possibly the most brilliant result of my obsessive-compulsive packing was discovering that I had put Tums inside my iFitness belt. I almost cried with relief, and immediately downed about 8 of them. They actually started helping about 30 minutes later, after one more rough pit stop.
The first loop wasn't bad. I ran almost all of it and despite being very slow, I felt okay once my stomach and calf calmed down a bit. But I felt tired (duh). When I got to the end of the first loop, I because very confused about the course and was firmly convinced that if we ran that loop 3 times, we would be running at least 15 miles. I spent most of the second and third loops looking for the course cut off to bring us back down to 13.1 miles. Another awful thing about this loop - you had to run by the finish line three times (once out of transition, twice on the loops) before you actually got to finish. Cruel.
I wasn't thrilled about running but wasn't yet feeling that awful. I headed up and out to my second loop.
Stupid hill out of transition.Things started to fall apart a bit on the second loop. After the mile 6 sign, I started to feel that blisters that had formed on the bottom of my foot (shocker). I could tell that they were huge because every step felt like a knife in my foot, and then they started to burst. I stopped at an aid station and asked if they had anything for blisters, which seemed to completely baffle the nice people there. Finally someone dug some band-aids out of the first-aid kid in his car, and I took my shoes off, wiped off the blood, put a bunch of band-aids over the blisters, then started running again. I laughed when I saw my mile 7 split (13:57).
When I hit the sign for mile 8 I had to stop and walk. This started that "run 1 mile, walk 1 minute" deal with myself, which lasted for about 2 miles, which then it turned into the "run .5, walk 2 minutes" and then deteriorated into the "run to that stick and then you can walk." I've never run a race before that I haven't been trained to run, but I could recognize the signs of the death march that others have described.
The only good thing about this run is that I was really mentally prepared for it to go down this way. Emotionally, I was fine. I was exhausted and struggling and wanted it to be over, but I never thought about quitting, just rolling over the miles to the finish, no matter how long it took. I knew that I could walk the course and still finish inside the time limit, so I just took my time. The great thing about having a rough day is that you make lots of friends with other people that are struggling. I spent some time chatting with a cramped hamstring, an upset stomach and a great cyclist who just hated running. I hit the last rest stop (they handed me a dry sponge, sigh) just after mile 12 and realized how close I was. The last mile is a little rolling trail through the woods that spits you out at the mile 13 sign. I was able to push out a 10:21 last mile (I know) and flew into the finish (8:15 pace for the .1, that's right, bitches!).
This post is long enough without further recap, but I am completely happy about how this went down. Yes, I wish I hadn't wasted time panicking in the water, dropping my water bottle and groaning in a porta potty, but those things can all be improved upon. I think the most important thing about the day is, as hard as it was, it wasn't a struggle, if that makes sense. I didn't have to fight and claw with my fingernails for that inch. It was tough, but it was a day that I was mentally and, for the most part, physically ready to tackle. I'll go ahead and borrow from the poet, who I can't thank enough for everything he did on Saturday. What is the theme of your life? Mine: You have no idea what you can do.