The race depicted below actually took place on May 10th... as you can see, I'm still far behind on these posts:
So I ran into the waves – just like Mary and I’d practiced. However, when Mary and I had been rehearsing our starts, I should’ve had her beat me repeatedly with a baseball bat. It would have been better simulation. I’m aware that mass starts can be violent… but, mix in big waves, and you’ve got a full on water war.
I was gulping salt water, trying desperately to find open water. I felt legs, feet, arms, hands… I lifted my head to sight the first buoy, and all I saw was an approaching wave. My mind was spinning. I finally felt like I had some space – but, that didn’t mean the waves let up. I could see a buoy about once every forth sighting attempt.
The swim was a roller coaster ride. The waves never ceased. It was up and down the whole way – I focused on forward progress. Somehow I made it to the turn buoy… about 100 yards over, and turn to go back. You’d think the waves would take you into shore. Wrong. I could feel myself getting carried up and down, and the waves seemed to suck me back. I fought toward shore. Damn, the crowd just wouldn’t get closer. Somehow I forged through the laundry cycle of a swim. I looked over my shoulder to find a wave… and actually body surfed in. Caught sand in my hands and stood up like a shipwreck victim.
(was this dramatic enough for you?)
I ran up the beach and began taking off my wetsuit. Through the showers and toward transition. I entered transition and tried to follow the mental map I’d routed out earlier that morning. Past the port-o-potties, over the bushes, around another section of port-o-potties, left turn, and to my rack. I could hear Marit and Joanna yelling for me to hurry (and thanks to them I actually ranked #3 ag in T1 – go me, small victories :). Wetsuit off and bike gear on. Grabbed my ride and ran out.
The course starts with a short out and back… I pumped my legs and tried to shake off the swim. After all that salt water, my bottles (mix of nuun and Heed) tasted like heaven. For a bit, I was able to hang out on the left – while I passed all those people who’d handled the waves better than I.
After the 1st turn around I saw a girl in ‘The Sports Factory’ apparel lying face down on the road – bike on top of her. At that moment, I though Amy Kloner had gone down. People were running to aid the fallen cyclist… and I prayed that she was ok.
(Come to find out later – it was not the eventual amateur winner, Amy. However, this race did involve some tragedy. There was a young, male, relay swimmer who died on the beach after being pulled out of the water. There were also a few horrible crashes along the bike route)
As I passed back by transition… I heard Marit and Joanna screaming my name. A huge smile spread across my face – and I knew in that moment what it was all about. I could feel Marit’s race energy. I yelled to Marit that it was for her, and I wished she was racing too.
Eventually the riders began to string out. Unlike the IM races I’d heard about and witnessed… I really didn’t see much intentional drafting (although there was a pack of 4 guys obviously pace lining). Up and over the bridge – I stood to stretch my back. Then one of the craziest things happened. It’s much easier to explain in person. I’m big on physical reenactments. But, I’ll do my best in writing: The base of the bridge has a big seam. Just as I rode over, the hammer gel flask (which I’d Velcroed onto my bike frame) launched into the air. By total chance, my left knee was on an up stroke. The flask hit my knee and I caught it in my right hand. ALL while going about 38 mph. I felt like catwoman. Shazam!
(another thing I’ve thought since finishing the race; as I’m pretty sure it was the hammer gel that upset my stomach… maybe fate launched it from my bike for a reason. But, knowing the plan I’d established before the race – I probably would have stopped to retrieve the gel… but the fact that it jumped from my bike is a sign I won’t forget)
What else to say about the bike? I’ve never been in aero for so long. The scenery and elevation didn’t change much. It was exciting to see the male pros hammer on their way back. I saw Peter in 5th place.
The 2nd half of the ride was into more of a wind than we’d faced on the way out. I felt the urge to pee... but, still have yet to master that move on a bike. I tried coasting, standing, relaxing... nada. A woman I'd passed early on the bike, passed me back as we neared transition.
Getting vertical felt a bit odd to my system. Something already felt wrong w/ my stomach, but I thought it was just the need to pee. I quickly made it to my transition spot: discard bike gear, pee, put on run stuff... and head out.
Oooo, with each step, it felt like someone was inflating my stomach with a bike pump. I was in pain... but, kept reminding myself: that's what racing is all about - pushing to the point of pain. Unfortunately, it wasn't a fatigue/muscular/endurance pain. This was a "balloon about to explode in your stomach" kind of pain.
I made it to the 10k mark in just over 44:00 min. Not bad... but, then I couldn't handle it any longer. There were tears in my eyes - tears because of the pain in my abdomen, tears because I wasn't running like I know I can, tears because I wasn't going to reach my time goal, tears because I knew I could do better.....
I crossed the finish line w/out a smile. So glad to be done, but not happy with the day. Thanks to Marit for being there to "catch" me at the end.
That's pretty much my disappointment with this race. Although the time/finish place seem good - I'm frustrated because it failed to demonstrate the level at which I'd been training. To me, that's what racing is about: on one day, with friends/family watching... you get to celebrate all the hard work you've put in. This race did not reach the goals or expectations I wanted to see.
But, I suppose that's what longer distance races will teach you! It's the combination of hard training, preparation, goal setting, focus, determination, travel, endurance, flexibility, and a good nutrition plan ;)
A great learning experience, indeed. Not to forget, a super fun vacation with HTFU friends!
Great job: Mary, Amy, Donna, Gabby, Peter, Mark, Dan, Megan