Monday, April 27, 2015

New Orleans 70.3: race report

I love this race.
It's early, it's windy, it's flat and hot and I always have a good time.  This year I flew down late Friday night instead of Saturday morning as I've done in the past.  It didn't net me any more sleep after flight delays but it did make the pre-race logistics a bit easier to navigate Saturday morning.  I met up with several of my athletes for brunch, and then we made our way through packet pick-up and down to the race site.  For the first time, I used ProBike Express instead of flying with my bike and after this weekend I am officially a convert.  Wes parked at the race site and made life so easy, plus we had a place to meet and hang out all weekend and I didn't have to pick a fight with a single airline representative over how many times they were going to charge me and for what.
Tapering for this race had a normal amount of I really don't think I can hold this power/pace for an entire race workouts, but similar to last year, I felt extremely curious about what would happen on race day.  It's been five months since I last raced triathlon, and those five months have been very different.  Full of fun and training, new people, amazing experiences, and while I had some ideas about what I could take from the race, the only thing I really wanted was to stay out of my own way and see what was in there.
I took a long nap Saturday afternoon, did a short shake-out run, filled my stomach with carbohydrates and sugar, had one last quick chat with Michelle and tucked up into bed.  I didn't sleep well or long and was awake and in the shower long before my alarm clock went off.  Some of the race morning logistics were different this year and created quite the mess of trying to drive in and park, to the point where I abandoned the rental car with my BFF and walked the last mile or so into transition.  I got to meet longtime Twitter buddy Chloe at the rack, and it was nice to have a friendly face to chat with as we got set up.  My warm-up jog took me to an entire row of empty and brand-new un-shitted-upon porta-potties and then it was simply time to wait, to top off my sugar stores and plug into the race morning tunes and speeches that have accompanied me around the world for the past six years, one last round of hugs and ass-slaps and a kiss stamped on my cheek and that was that, I was bouncing down the pier yet again.
Swim: a slightly short 1.2 miles: 25:53, 6/123 AG
I think I was in the second group of women off the dock.  I didn't wait, the whistle blew and I was the first one to cannonball into the water and start swimming.  One of my goals for this race was to not get lost on the swim - the angled path and the nearly-180-degree turns around buoy make that tougher than it sounds or maybe I'm just always going to be terrible at paying attention to where I am going.  The first year I think I swam so far off course that a kayaker had to whack me with his paddle and get me going in the right direction.  I had a tough time again this year, after the first turn buoy I swam a few minutes and then noticed that no one was around me because they were all about 75 yards to my left. But I had a good swim.  I never wear a watch in the water and with the TT start I didn't even bother looking for a clock getting out, but I plowed through five different color cap'd waves in front of me, I never found feet but I could tell that I was moving well, and right before I hit the stairs to bounce up and out, I said to myself, whatever that was, was just about perfect.  I still think that I'm holding back a bit in the water because I'm afraid of blowing which is actually just the story of my life as a racing athlete, but my effort-o-mometer tells me that this is the hardest I've swam in a 70.3 yet.  It felt good, strong, and I didn't feel even a little bit winded as I ran down the carpet towards transition.  
T1: 3:29
Another one of my process-goals for this race was to spend less than four minutes in T1 because what in the actual fuck was I doing last year?  I sat down briefly to pull on my shoes and helmet and take care of sitting-down-in-T1 business and then I was out.

Bike: 56 miles, 2:36:28, 6/123 AG
I went over the mount line, got my leg over, pushed the pedal halfway around and my chain fell off and got wedged between the crankset and the frame.  I cursed under my breath, got off, yanked it out and got everything in the right place and then as soon as I pushed the pedal down it fell off again, wedged.  I cursed much more loudly, spent a few extra seconds reseating it and shifting gears around and then finally got up and going.  Garmin says I lost about 90 seconds here, it felt more like 90 hours but I settled down into aero and by the time I was a quarter mile down the road I had forgotten all about it.  I may not have even remember it happened at all if I hadn't been startled to look down at my hands around mile 20 of the bike and wonder why my left one was ripped up and covered in blood.  
Before the race, I had actually remembered to redo my main Garmin screen and take heart rate off as a variable instead of needing to do it while dripping lake water and chewing through the first five miles so I was pretty proud of myself for that.  I didn't realize until well into the second hour of riding that the box I thought that was showing average lap power was actually showing average power for the entire ride, so I think my output for most of this leg was more unsteady than I would have wanted.  None of this actually matters, I was glancing at 10s power here and there but for the most part I just rode.  
The day before the race, I did a short ride, out with the tailwind and back into the headwind, just to see what my legs were doing.  When I got off the bike I guess I had a weird look on my face because my friend standing there started saying things like it's okay if your legs feel like shit don't worry about it they'll be here tomorrow. I put my bike away, we walked for a second towards the car, and I said, quietly, they don't feel like shit, they feel fucking awesome.  And that was this whole day on the bike.  I don't want to say that it didn't feel hard, because it was definitely work, but with the exception of the few blissful miles of phenomenal tailwind, I held the power numbers I wanted to hold and wasn't ripping myself apart to do so.  Last year at this race still stands out in my head as the worst I've ever hurt on the bike in my life, and I was ready to do that again last Sunday, and I didn't need to.  Instead I stayed focused, I dropped back and surged around the long lines of drafting cyclists that are always present here, I worked hard to ride legal and when a girl with my age group on her calf went by me at some point near the end of the first hour, my initial reaction was wow, I could never ride like that and then I shook myself and said, fuck that, I'm going to ride like that RIGHT NOW and had her in my sights - sometimes as far up the road as an eighth of a mile, a couple times I caught her and we passed back and forth - all the way back to transition.  Last year, more than once in a 70.3, I was too focused on the numbers and the last-year results I had looked up and so much crap that kept me from being present in the day I was having.  It kept me off the podium at Austin, and if I'm being perfectly honest with myself it shouldn't have, and I went into this day wanting, above all else, to chase the race.  I wanted where the other women were, what we were all doing, and if I had a shot at reaching any of them I wanted to go for it.  
The last 10-15 miles of the ride were straight into the wind and that made me happy because I hoped that it would stretch out the women a bit.  I stayed low and focused on keeping my power up and realized I hadn't eaten nearly enough so I got some more calories down.  I passed quite a few men that were fading in the wind and I felt strong, I've never felt as good and powerful on the bike as I felt last Sunday and I can't stop blathering about it in the aftermath of the race, but I was just so surprised to feel like that on the bike the whole time.  I don't watch overall time so I had no idea what my bike split was but as I rolled back around into transition and started working my feet out of my shoes I felt the same way I did getting out of the water, whatever that was, was fucking brilliant, is what that was.
Nutrition: 760 calories (yeah, whoops) and 88oz of OSMO for 304 calories/hour and 35 oz/hour.  

T2: 1:39
The only thing notable about transition was when I racked my bike it was completely alone on the rack, and I did a split-second dance party in my head about that.  I got all my shit together and headed out, and one of my friends was standing there holding up his hands and he said, sixth, you're in sixth place right now and I gave him the nod as I went by.

Run: 13.1 miles, 1:59:38, 11/123 AG
The wind that we spent the last chunk of the ride heading straight into hadn't magically dissipated in the ninety seconds I spent in T2, so the first 6+ miles of the run were straight into it.  I cruised through the first mile but it felt completely awful.  By the time I hit lap I was breathing harder than I thought I should have been, and for whatever reason, that kicked off an avalanche of failure inside my head, one that I haven't seen in a while.  A little bit of fuck this, a whole lot of fuck running fuck triathlon fuck I did not ride too hard so why am I falling apart and it only went on about a minute or so before I realized that all of those thoughts were crashing over me because I was bonking to high heaven.  I fished out a pack of chews but I hadn't pre-opened them before the race because I was afraid it would rain and melt them (season openers, so hard to play triathlon again!) so I spent at least two minutes jogging and trying to gnaw into the packet with my teeth and finally I just exclaimed motherfucker! and stopped dead in the middle of the run course.  I stood there for at least 30 seconds fighting with the package until I finally ripped a hole in the corner big enough that I could squeeze a chew out.  I got moving, pushing chews into my mouth and chasing them with OSMO, I could feel that my stomach was grumbling as I ate so I put down most of the package even though I was worried that much sugar would upset my tummy.  I took a few TUMS with them just in case, but I only made it another mile or so before I got the sugar warning shot down low in my intestines.  I know that water + chips is the magic fix for that, but there weren't any chips or even anything salty at the aid station so I pitched my OSMO and hoped I would make it to the next one.  Which I did, just barely, before collapsing in a porta potty like I've done far too many times in my life in this sport.
I let my stomach be angry, the stop cost me just over two minutes and when I came out I walked back to the aid station and covered myself in water, then kept moving.  I latched onto a ponytail at some point, we traded off doing work for a bit and when we turned around with the wind finally at our backs I asked her how old are you and when she said 33, I said, good, let's work together I'm Katie but I don't want to talk and her name was Katie too and we spent about five more miles side-by-side, suffering in silence.  I didn't realize on the out that the headwind was disguising how miserably hot it had gotten but as soon as we turned around I realized that we were going to fry the entire way back.  And it became survival, I don't think I looked at a single mile split or was really even still aware that I was wearing a watch for the rest of the race.  I walked every aid station, drenched myself with water, I put down as much orange drink as I could stand, ice in my top and shorts, I would start running again at the back side of the aid station and have a good 4-5 minutes before the heat would kick back in and the red alarms danger you are about to faint from your brain being boiled while you are using it danger would slow me down to more of a jog the rest of the way to the next water stop, and repeat.  
Several of my athletes told me that they saw me, cheered or waved or said hi and I didn't see any of them.  One that was spectating jumped in to run with me and said, do you want me to talk to you? and I barked, NO and then followed her striped ass for a little while.  I had about a mile left when my friend jumped in to run next to me and I tried to get away from him because I thought that he was going to yell at me for not running well (obviously this wasn't going to happen but I was in the hole) but instead he was perfect, he didn't say anything he just stayed by my side like so many millions of runs we have done together, quiet, nothing but the sounds of our feet and our breath and our friendship in those moments.  I was probably about a half-mile out from the finish when he leaned over and said quietly, that girl up ahead is in your age group, if you want to get her you need to make a move now, and I said, this is it this is everything I have, and he said okay and later he told me that I sped up a tiny bit and then he peeled off and I didn't see or hear anything and then finally, I was over the line.
70.3 miles: 5:07:07, 11/123 AG

As soon as I crossed a volunteer grabbed my arm and I went down, apparently the announcer was still saying my name Katrina Ingram from Longmont COlolooohhh! when I went.  I said what I always say when I've been frying in the heat which is, I'm fine I promise I'm fine I just need a minute and someone hauled me up and got me to the fence and then about seven volunteers dumped ice water over my head and my vision cleared and I was fine.  I made my way out of the finishing corral and found my friend at the fence and he held me, covered in lake and sweat and orange drink and salt and traces of vomit from when I blew chunks at mile 11 without even slowing, while I cried.  
Talking in the days before the race, when people asked me what I wanted, I said jokingly, I want to not get lost on the swim, spend less than 4 minutes in T1 and not put ice down my shorts on the run, so against those parameters, I went 1 for 3 on achievement.  But to be serious, for just a second, this race was all about the bike.  I've stood at the front of 70.3 a dozen times now, and I've always been afraid of the run.  Over the last year or so, I've gained a little bit of confidence there, and then I've had a few breakthroughs while riding and suddenly I'm chasing numbers that scare me.  A lot.  And I did not want to come out of this race and look back at the file with Michelle and have the truth be that I coasted, I soft-pedaled, I under-rode against what we thought I could do...again.  I didn't want to hear the disappointed sigh come out of my own mouth if I had been too afraid of trusting in myself and my people and my training to go out there and throw the fuck down.
Instead, I got what I wanted, and I'm still a little shocked by that.  I rode smart, I rode hard, I rode well, and it has left me completely happy with the entire shape of my race.  I lost some time on the run from small mistakes with nutrition, from the incredibly hard conditions of the day, but I'm not unhappy with how I ran, either.  I held my shit together, I didn't give up and walk when I realized I wasn't going to have the day I had planned for, and maybe for the first time I truly embraced the idea that everyone is suffering out here.  I was falling apart, and I knew it, but if I was falling apart then probably there were women ahead of me also falling apart, and if I faded less than they did, I would get to the line first, and that kept me going.  The last time I was getting ready for Coeur d'Alene back in 2012, I raced a 70.3 that ended with an incredibly hot and challenging run and I fell apart to the tune of 2:45.  This last Sunday was equally hot and challenging and while I'm always going to be chasing a faster day, I held my shit together in those moments.  I figured out the problems and I let the past go.  And that might not sound like much in the grand scheme of the universe, but it's been a while since I've stood as close to the edge of giving it all up and walking it in as I did in those first few miles of the run, bonking so badly.  That scares me, a little, that even after all this time, that failure, giving up, those things are still an option in my brain after all this time.  But on the other hand, failure danced that close to me, I was tempted, and I turned my back on it and ran my ass in.  

A huge amount of love and grace needs to be spread in the direction of all the people that support me beating the shit out of my body over and over and over.  Thanks to: Erin Carson who is teaching me that my body can move in more than one direction and has had a huge hand in keeping my chassis strong, Charlie Merrill who never hesitates to drop one million needles in any of my everywhere places and has been key to how healthy I've stayed the past year despite the fact that I say ow fuck ow six million times an hour and drive him nuts with emojis, Geoff Hower who has the sharpest elbow I've ever met, OSMO Nutrition for keeping my belly happy so I can ride my ass off, NormaTec compresses  my legs so they can stay moving and grooving, and Wes at ProBikeExpress for taking such good care of all of us this weekend.  All my Team Amazing Day athletes and coaches and friends, I'm not sure how I ever laughed so much or wanted to see success spread so far and wide before creating this family of my own.  The biggest fucking high-five goes to Michelle for giving me space and opportunity to grow and change as an athlete, to understand that different doesn't mean better or worse it just means, not the same, and for teaching me to ride the living shit out of my bike.

1 comment:

  1. Incredible! I always dream about one day doing a 70.3. This was a fantastic recap!

    ReplyDelete

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