Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Racine 70.3 Race Recap 2012

One week and one day have passed since I did this race, but somehow it feels like it was forever ago.  Then I look down at my wrist and remind myself it was recently because I am still wearing my wristband.  What can I say, that wristband costs me a lot of money!


I can say with about 95% certainty that this is going to be one long post.  And also fairly sure I could write much more, but I will try to rein it in a bit.

First off, on Saturday, Laura and I did the whole expo, packet pick-up, buy stuff, rack bikes, swim in the lake and pasta carbo-loading dinner.  I bet I could write a whole post on that but that is all you're getting.

Saturday night I tossed in turned a lot and could hear Laura doing the same.  It's always hard for me to sleep the night before the race.



Sunday looked like this:

Prep

4:45 am - wake up
Get dressed in still damp clothes, pack up remaining stuff and fill up water bottles

5:15 am - leaving hotel
Dunkin' Donuts pit stop for medium coffee w/ skim milk

5:35 am - parking for $5 less than a mile from transition = especially thankful for this after covering 70.3 miles
walk to transition, set up transition zone, lubed with plenty of BodyGlide, some sunscreen on arms

6 am - breakfast at a picnic table--two pieces of bread, a Justin's peanut butter packet, and a banana.  
downed the rest of my coffee

6:15 am - port-o-potties

6:30 am - walk the mile from transition to race start,

6:45 am - Laura freaks out because her race numbers are coming off so we try to find someone to write them back on

7:00 am - watch the Pros take off after the cannon start scared the crap out of me

7:05 am - put on wetsuit, get in water, swim around a  bit, pee

7:15 am - get out of the water and take a few moments to myself to relax, collect my thoughts and mentally prepare for what I was about to do.

7:25 am - gather at swim start, chat with others, hug Laura

Feelings - everything - nervous, excited, anxious, but overall, ready for what is to come

7:38 am - move down into water, position myself on outside of pack to avoid mass chaos

Start

7:41 am - horn blasts and my wave is off

Running into water, dolphin-diving and finally swimming

Swim

The first turn buoy came quickly and then I was heading parallel to the shore.  At first, I was having a hard time settling my breathing and was taking in air every time I lifted my right arm.  But I kept reminding myself to breathe out under water and eventually relaxed a bit.  I was able to draft off various feet throughout the swim and didn't sight too much.


My goal was to keep an even pace and focus on keeping my form smooth and steady. I won't ever be the fastest swimmer, but I want to waste as little energy as possible.  

I started to get bored about 25 minutes into the swim and wondering when I would be done.  I still hadn't reached the second turn buoy to head back into shore, but after about 5 more minutes I realized the next buoy was the turn buoy.  I put my head back down and paddled away.  The shore is very shallow and I swam as long as I could and didn't stand until my hands were touching the bottom.

I stood up to get my bearings and started walked towards the beach.  Light-headedness can sometimes get me when I stand up too fast, so I took my time adjusting before starting the long run into the beach and then winding through the chute before coming into transition.  

T1

I started pulling off my cap and goggles and then reached back to pull down my wetsuit to my waist.   Somewhere around this point, I looked at my watch realized I never started it. Oops!  I started it at this point and made a mental note of the clock time as I crossed the swim finish.  Deciding not to worry about it too much ended up being very helpful for me later on in the race.


It was quite the trip from the lake to my bike in transition, but I did get to run through 2 kiddie pools to wash the sand off my feet.  The volunteer wetsuit stripper I used was awesome and whipped my wetsuit off me in about 5 seconds flat.  

Once I finally arrived at my bike, I took time to dry off the bottom half of my legs to avoid getting my socks totally soaked.  Usually I try to go as fast as I can in transition, but I realized when you are doing a 6+ hour race, the transition matters less.  On went my socks, then bike shoes, then bike gloves, then race belt, then sunglasses and finally bike helmet.  Then I trotted out of transition with my bike.

  

Bike

Bike start goes straight up a hill which I was warned about and a bit worried.  Some people looked to be struggling a bit, but I thought ahead and racked my bike in a low gear and powered right up the hill.  Apparently riding the "Iowa Alps" had come in handy for me.  


The main road out of town was BUMPY and uncomfortable.  I focused on spinning my legs fairly easily and bringing my heart and breathing rate back down.  

Some guy wearing flip flops passed me on a really nice triathlon bike here.  Forgotten bike shoes?  That could not have made for a very comfortable 56 miles.

After about 20 minutes, I forced myself to start taking in water to keep hydrated.  I wasn't thirsty but knew it would help me.  Even though, I had frozen both my water bottles overnight, they were already lukewarm at this point.  I also started forcing down some gummi bears for fuel.  I am really not a fan of Gu but chewable gummies I tolerate much better.

I took a cold water bottle at both the first and second aid station.  For some reason, it seemed that the wind was coming at us from 3 directions and only at our backs for one way.  It can be defeating to ride into the wind and look at your speed so I mostly avoided watching my speed.  


Around 40 miles, tiredness and boredom started getting the best of me.  The ring and pinky finger on my left hand were going numb which is normal for me for long rides, but bothersome nonetheless.   Changing hand positions wasn't doing anything for me so I just told myself I was getting close to the end.  The bike is the sport where I always get passed the most and this race was no exception.  Lots of cyclists kept flying by me with their fancy triathlon bikes and disc wheels.  But hills really are my strong suit and I almost always passed several people going up just by shifting to an easier gear and spinning right up them.  

I kept playing leap frog with the same guy for about 10 miles.  He would pass me and then I would pass him and back and forth we would go.  He was chatty and we would joke each time we passed. 

Many people that passed would say encouraging things and it was so nice to hear.  The whole ride I focused on keeping my effort moderately hard and having constant pressure on the pedals.  At the third aid station, I grabbed another water bottle and tried to grab a Perform drink but missed the handoff and dropped it.   Darn!  I wanted that salty Perform because it felt as if my left inner thigh was starting to cramp up or threatening to.  I made it my goal to finish off the rest of the gummi bears before the end of the ride.  Again I didn't really feel like eating them but knew I would need the fuel for the run.  

Coming back into town on the bumpy roads made me keenly aware of how tired my butt was of being in the saddle.  I swear there were pavement breaks every ten feet and all I heard was ka-thunk ka-thunk ka-thunk.  

Bike finish was down the same hill that was out of transition which is kind of a bad placement since it is so easy to come barreling down that hill towards the dismount line.  I started breaking early and unclipped my right leg to shake it out.  I came to a stop on the far right side of bike finish before getting off my bike.  I didn't want to have a repeat of Chicago where my leg gave out and I fell over.

T2

I jogged into transition once again and my legs started cursing me.  Off came the bike helmet and shoes and socks and gloves.  Swapping out my sweaty bike socks for dry double-layer run socks was the best decision.  My feet are very blister-prone and I wanted to do what I could to minimize the blisters.  It may have taken a few more minutes but it was well worth the comfort.  I made a quick pit stop at the porta-potties since I had to go since the halfway point of the bike and also got some sunscreen rubbed on my shoulders and back of my arms.  Also the sunscreen volunteer rubbed some sunscreen on my neck and I realized my wetsuit had chaffed there because IT BURNED!

Run

Then the slow shuffle/jog/walk of a run began.  If you have ever tried running immediately after getting off a bike, you know that your legs do not feel like your own.  They are heavy and don't move when you tell them too.  I told myself to run the first 2 miles and they would feel better.  The first aid station showed up really quick out of transition and I took some water and ate an orange slice (tasted freaking amazing).

Then came this huge hill and I changed my run 2 miles plan and gave myself permission to walk up the hills.  Of course a stupid race photographer was positioned about three-quarters of the way up the hill.  Which resulted in some very nice pictures of me walking.  Once I was at the top, I forced myself to start running shuffling again.  I walked through all the aid stations and took water at each and defizzed coke or Perform at every other.  The coke really helped my stomach and the Perform provided much needed salt.  


It was probably 90 degrees by this point and I was struggling to keep my core temperature down.  To help, I took lots of ice and shoved some down the front and back of shirt, dumped cups of water on my head, and ran through all the sprinkles and hoses I could.  The water felt so cold sometimes it was literally taking my breath away. 

As I passed mile 2, I told myself I could keep going.  My shuffle was slow but it was faster than walking.  I saw Laura for the first time at about mile 2.5 with about a half mile to go before the first turnaround. I hollered at her to keep it up!  At the first turn around, my legs finally started to feel like they were loosening up a bit and I felt like I transitioned to more of a run than just a shuffle.  

I made my way back and the first loop was done and over before I knew it.  It was pretty disappointing to go back out on the second loop because you go so close to the finish line at the turnaround.  I saw the Farmer for the first time at the turnaround and he was cheering very loudly for me.  I waved and tried to smile but that is about all I had energy for at that point.  

See that evil second loop turnaround?
I also saw the race clock at this point and tired to calculate what my time was.  My brain was a little foggy by this point (surprise, surprise) but I somehow figured that 6:30 was not out of reach.  I should take a minute to mention my goals going into this race
  1. Finish race with a smile.
  2. Finish race under 7 hours.
  3. Pie in the sky, super-ultimate goal: Finish under 6:30.
I wasn't going to be disappointed if I didn't get goal 2 or 3, but I knew if the stars aligned and everything went perfect I could have that goal.

Anyways I thought I had about 65 minutes to finish the remaining 6 miles.  If I kept up my pace I thought this was achievable.  I made it my goal to keep up the running and walking through the aid stations strategy.  This time I ran about halfway up the big hill and walked the rest, but making sure to run past the race photographer.


I ate orange slices and dumped water on myself.  My once dry socks were soaked as were my shoes.  Around mile 9, I started to get very fatigued and wanted to walk more.  At this point I decided to implement the Galloway method with walk/run intervals.  The plan run 4.5 minutes then walk 30 seconds trying to match up with the aid stations.  I know it is so hard to start running again after walking when you are tired, but a countdown really helps me.  At the end of the 30 seconds I would just start pumping my arms again and my legs would slowly start to follow.  

I saw Laura again right before the turnaround near mile 10.  I could tell she was struggling and she was walking.  I told myself I could catch up with her and we could run together.  I was exhausted but kept to my run/walks.  Once I made it back to Laura, I told her what I was doing and got her to run with me.  She told me her stomach was full but she was tanked.  I encouraged her to keep going and that I still thought we could get 6:30.  I got her to sing a little bit and even did the Iowa Fight Song, which she sang very loudly and I have no idea how.  The tiredness was beating me and I was having a hard time even speaking but she was belting this.  During about our third run segment she stopped walk but I kept going.  At the final aid station before the finish, I grabbed another orange slice, coke, and water and pushed through.  At this point I figured I had less than 1.5 miles left and about 15 minutes to get there under 6:30 (which was way wrong but forced me to keep running).  I ran in my slow jog and promised myself I was almost there. After I went through the small back part of the Racine Zoo and up the little hill, I grabbed a water from a small stand.  Four guys about my age were there cheering on the runners.  They told me I was so close and just had to go down the hill and I would be there. I threw my water cup in the garbage and must have had a crazy deranged look on my face because they were going nuts cheering.  

Finish

I told myself walking wasn't happening again and mustered what I could to pick up my pace.  My tanks were empty.  But I pushed.  I ran and started to hear the finish line announcer.  And then I could see the finish line.  It still seemed far but I was dumping everything I could into the run.  Once I got to the finisher's shoot I moved my legs with all I had left.  I saw the Farmer cheering on the left and gave some high fives before I crossed the finish line with a fist pump and a smile.  


I though I had made it in under 6:30, but didn't really know.  Almost immediately I could feel my chest tighten and I was worried I would hyperventilate but was able to talk myself out of it.  I got my medal and my hat and a bottle of ice cold water.  Walking was difficult but I made it out of the finish area and back towards to finish line to wait for Laura, she crossed about 3 minutes later even though I couldn't do anything but clap.  The Farmer found me at the exit of the finish line area and I was so glad to see him.  I was thrilled that he decided to come.  

When Laura came out we went and sat in the lake to cool our core temps back down and it was glorious.  My clothes, shoes, socks and everything was already wet from the many sprinkles and glasses of water dumped on me so I didn't mind.  After a few minutes we headed back towards the post race area and stood in the shade a bit while Laura went ot get her flipflops and change out of her trisuit.  The Farmer and I talked and Laura layed on the ground.  Eventually we both decided we felt okay enough to eat and went over to the food tent.  I ate a turkey sandwich, a cup of chips, a small bagel and peanut butter, 3/4 of an orange before decided my stomach was full.  The chips tasted absolutely magical because I crave salt so much after sweating like that.  

Resting and sitting in the shade was great and we relaxed for about 30 minutes before heading back to transition to pick up our gear.  Thankfully the Farmer was there to help carry our stuff back to the car.  I changed out of my soggy tri-kit there before heading out. The Farmer helped to load the bikes in the car and made sure we had everything before saying goodbye.  

Of course, Laura and I can't go to Wisconsin without loading up on New Glarus so we stopped at a grocery store.  I got 3 six-packs and Laura bought at least 5.  My reward for finishing the race was a giant 1.5 L bottle of Diet Mountain Dew.  I hadn't had any for about 2 months and it tasted even better than I remembered.  I was supposed to get gas but forgot till my car dinged at me and hour later.  Brain, no lo worko.  

We stopped again at the Mars Cheese Castle so Laura could get fresh cheese curds and I accidentally dropped $26 on cheese and beef sticks.  They are delicious though, I must say.

Once we made it back to my place, I pretty much made a permanent dent in my couch for the rest of the night, only leaving to pick-up Jimmy John's (I NEEDED a giant salty pickle) and a cookie dough sundae at Culver's.  Dee-licious.

1.2 mile Swim: 36:14         Pace:  1:52/100m      Division Rank: 10
56 mile Bike: 3:11:35         Pace: 17.54 mph       Division Rank: 10
13.1 mile Run 2:25:38        Pace: 11:07/mile       Division Rank: 11

T1: 5:36
T2: 3:58

Overall: 6:23:01
Division Rank: 11th out of 22 athletes starting the race
Overall Rank: 1084 of 2227  (full results here)

I couldn't be more happy with this race.  I am incredibly proud of myself, not for having a good race, but for putting in the time in the 18 weeks before this race.  It wasn't easy, it was hard, maybe the hardest thing I've done, but it was also incredibly worth it.

This race also had amazing volunteers.  From great aid stations, dumping water on runners, and directing cyclists to encouragement, cheering, and smiles, they made a GREAT race.  Thank you!

And this post wouldn't be complete without saying thanks to everyone who encouraged me, trained with me, listened to me complain, rode the bike next to me while I ran, and cheered for me on my journey to this race.


I am a HALF IRONMAN!
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