Reflecting on this tonight I think I'd like to modify this belief. There have been several times, tonight being one of them, where I (and I'm sure others) have experienced the 'near-puke' gut reaction. This is most commonly caused by exerting oneself to the extreme and or sucking wind at an irrational/impossible rate. I somehow accomplished all of that in less than a minute as I tried to sprint up Taylor St. in Fairhaven. For those of you that do not know of the street, you're lucky. Picture this - 70 ft. elevation gain in .1 mile (2 city blocks). Now, that may not seem like a lot, but when you look below at the % elevation gain, it's kind of daunting.
Let me just say that after 5 repeats I was done. My legs didn't want to move and my gut wanted to cry in protest. So...'pushing' myself even more I jogged down to Taylor Dock (a slightly easier grade) to finish with 3 repeats of that short section. All in all, a good workout. One more step to getting faster for Portland. And...luckily avoiding the reflexive loss of food after such exertion which I'm hoping everyone avoids in their training. Happy Hills!
Transition set up took place in the pre-dawn light. My nerves going a mile a minute I tried to focus on getting everything in the right spot. I probably could have stared at it for a few hours - analyzing the best set up - but luckily Rachael came along and we decided to go scope out the water.
We grabbed our timing chips, lathered up with Pam, and slipped into our wetsuits - adding some much needed heat. Air temperature...somewhere in the 50s. At some point the race director announced that the start was going to be delayed because of a thick layer of fog that sat on the water. Looking out onto the lake I was a bit shocked and a little unnerved that we could only see the first handful of line buoys. The sighting buoys were lost in the mist. I guess that solidifies getting to the line as soon as possible so you don't swim off track. Gulp.
Our anxiety mounted as they began to announce the pro men and women to what I believe was the Rocky soundtrack. Meaning to pump the crowd up it only served to make me more nervous. At that point I figured we should at least make our way to the water and potentially warm up a bit - not to mention I had to pee. Water temp - 70 and comfortable.
Swim - 1.2 miles, 42:41
I slid off the dock in the water and positioned myself behind the first line of women. The horn blew and I waited briefly before I put my head in the water and began to swim. It was quite choppy at first, women competing for position, cutting me off to try to get to the buoy line. I tried to find a rhythm and struggled for 50 feet or so, bumping into people and gulping a lot of water. Once the pack thinned I found my space and my rhythm.
There was another gal directly to my left and we were going stroke for stroke. It was almost comforting. She rode the line while I just had to keep her to my left and not sight. On our way to the turn buoy we passed several swimmers (the last wave of men) riding their wake for as long as possible and then swerving around them.
As we neared the turn buoy faster swimmers from later age groups began to catch us. Feet were grabbed, sides were bumped - the typical. I tend to have great manners as a swimmer and will go around people - everyone else...not so much. I tried to throw some elbows here and there just to share my frustration.
After the first turn the sun blinded me a bit but 100 yards later we were turning the second buoy and heading home. On the way back I found myself on the buoy line which turned into basically the fast lane and I was somehow in the way. Not too terrible because at this point there weren't thick clumps of swimmers so there was plenty of room to pass and be passed.
About 200 yards before the ramp the water was thick with sludge. I couldn't tell you what it was but I knew that I was pushing handfuls of it past me and trying not to gulp any water at each breath. The smell was atrocious as well. Then, 50 feet from the ramp my left calf decided to cramp. The surprise alone almost forced me to stop swimming completely. I flexed my foot and tried to keep myself going by only kicking with my right leg. It was definitely a struggle and I felt 'special' - and not in the good way. The thought of getting up and stumbling on the ramp had no appeals to I just prayed that I would be able to walk into transition. Surprisingly it was gone when I stood up and I was able to run and strip all at the same time.
T1 - 3:07
I ran down the row looking to the right but all I saw was a yellow tri bike...flash thought - oh crap! I turned to the left and voila! Wetsuit off, drink of Nuun hoping to stem any further cramping and proceed to dress. Not the fastest transition but no worries.
Bike - 56 miles, 3:27:11, 16.2 mi/hour
The bike course is two loops of about 22 miles each plus a 6 mile hook to and from transition. I settled in quickly and focused on fueling and hydrating. Since my swim wave was the first group of women I was out there with a good group of men and then the faster women from older age groups. I was surprising myself by easily passing faster looking cyclists on the uphill. All that hill climbing back home probably paid off - even if it was semi-miserable.
During this first lap I was really conscious (or I should say paranoid) of the drafting rules. For the most part passing and being passed worked out well but there were instances when someone would pass me at the base of a hill and then lose any sort of speed going up. Now the rules say that if you are passed you have to fall back 4 bike lengths before attempting to pass. You can imagine my frustration with this. Get a strategy folks - or at least attempt to think it through.
Every 15 minutes I was trying to consume some sort of food. Shot blocks were going down easily so I was taking two at a time. Peanut butter pretzels - dry, dry dry. This course was hard to have a system for nutrition because there were so many ups and downs. Working hard on the uphill you don't really want to shove something in your mouth and then be unable to breath, but once at the top you wanted to hammer into the descents to another opportunity missed. Needless to say I didn't eat or drink enough. Physically I felt strong but my left hamstring was a solid rod and totally uncomfortable. Tight hamstring = calf cramping in the swim. Bummer.
Just past Lake Roesiger some of the pro male triathletes passed me. You could hear their disc wheels 'whum, whum, whum' noise and before you knew it they'd be gone and around the next bend. They were flying! It was awesome to watch.
Next up - Dubuque Rd. Surprisingly it didn't seem nearly as bad as when we did the pre-ride a month ago. Probably because 1) I hadn't run 14 miles the day before and 2) I hadn't taken a 12 mile detour before getting to the hill. I was actually PREPARED. Easy spin, passing folks and I'm up and over and rocking the downhill. Max speed - 39.1 mi/hour.
As I finished the first lap I had a brief moment of 'crap, I have another lap to go.' I shrugged it off and just figured I'd grind it out. At least I knew what was coming and my hamstring was finally loosening up.
The second lap was much of the same. More spread out in terms of participants and not as many people to pass and passing. Nutrition wise I totally screwed up. For some reason I had it in my head that I should stop eating an hour before the run, which would have been somewhat okay had I only had an hour left on the bike, but in reality it was more like 1:45 - first oversight.
The hills on this lap seemed easier and the descents more fun. There were more cars and I had to slow down at one point to avoid rear-ending a guy but no buzzing, no fingers - I consider this a good give and take. All in all this lap went quickly and uneventful. Max speed - 43.5 mi/hour.
T2 - 2:27
Again, uneventful and smooth. The 2nd place pro woman was finishing the entire race as I was leaving the transition area - awesome!
Run - 13.1 miles, 2:07:01, 9:42 min/mile
The run course consists of two laps of a bow tie route. The first part is a loop through an industrial section of town away from the lake ( = no breeze) with rolling hills and then a long steady incline - not the 'flat' course I had envisioned. I stopped at the first aid station to use the facilities and got stuck in a line - big bummer and indecision leads to just standing and waiting.
Back on the road I hit a good stride and felt completely comfortable. Chatting with another woman we finished this loop with an 8:30 pace. Near the center of the bow tie I saw Robin, Tjalling and Gabe cheering me on. It was great to have such support out there.
The next section was pretty tough. After rounding a couple of quick turns it's a long steady climb followed by a sloping downhill. Then it's a turnaround and do it all over again. I passed several people that were walking and felt pretty strong. Even after downing a Gu and getting a side stitch I felt okay. I'm not a huge fan of out-and-backs only because you can see who is ahead of you and you want to be where you are. It's a total mental game. This first time out seemed to go quickly though and soon enough I was turning around and heading back to the finish area to start my second lap, sans side stitch.
Starting the second lap of the course I felt tired but still doing alright and still maintaining a decent pace. The legs were getting fatigued and soon the pace began to slip. I settled for 9 min/miles and was convinced I could sustain that for the rest of the run. Maybe one mile later though my legs were like dead weights. Hints of cramps had me paranoid and I could definitely feel a blister forming on my right pinkie toe. I slowed my pace again and tried to get my cramping under control. I took advantage of one of the big downhills hoping to get my pace back.
The last 3 miles of the run were BRUTAL! Starting the out-and-back I glanced at my watch - 1:30. I figured it would be no problem to maintain 10 min/mile pace and finish right at 2 hours. Not to be. I ran walked up the first hill and hobbled down the other side. Turning around at the base to finish this race my calves finally gave in. Full blown cramps in my left upper calf and on the outside of my right calf. I'd walk a bit, hobble for a few yards, stop and stretch it out, and resume walking. It was like my own mini-cycle. I was trying to do anything to get it so I could run again because cardio-wise I was totally capable. My new mantra - 'just finish this f'ing race!'.
Right before you turn to see the finishing crowd I slowed next to a guy who was walking - the same pained look in his face. We walked on for a bit and then realized we weren't going to finish this race walking no matter how much it hurt. We had to at least 'look' like we finished strong! He pulled ahead and yelled back words of encouragement. Clenching my teeth and hitching my shoulders up to my ears in tension I hobbled uphill to the finish chute. It took every ounce of effort to take that final step across the timing mat.
The minute I crossed that finish line my whole body seemed to breath a sigh of relief. I could finally give my legs a break by walking and stretching. I was DONE and I had finished the entire thing in 6 hours and 22 minutes (under my 6:30 goal). I was ecstatic and it was great to have the cheer squad - Robin, Tjalling, and Gabe right there to greet me.
Race Prep - Packing 101
Friday afternoon I left work early to pack for my race. I apparently wasn't getting any real work done because I had a stack of lists in front of me that consisted of pre- and post-race clothing, condiments (i.e. toiletries), race clothing, and race nutrition. So what better solution than to head home and start my packing.
Unfortunately, several hours later I still had nothing physically stuffed into a suitcase or bag of any sort. So instead of biting the bullet and packing something I distracted myself even more by making a trip to Train or Tri to seek out packets of Perpetuem and water bottles (sidebar - how is it possible that one looses the cap of a water bottle but retains the actual bottle?). I also made a pit stop at Fred Meyer's for special hair bands (the non-grippy kind - technical term) and a fantastic duffel bag (so necessary for transitions - I recommend the purchase).
I returned home to find the mess still waiting so I sucked it up and found my packing rhythm. Non-essential items first, the pre- and post-race clothing made it quickly into the suitcase. Next up... race clothes - two sports bras (exactly identical just one was newer), two pairs of tri shorts (again, a newer one received in the mail just the day before...maybe I'd like those better), three (yep, that's right, I said three) tank tops, and two tech shirts. Over-packing slightly but hey, you never know what the weather is going to be like or how you might feel the day of the race. One must be prepared for all conditions.
With the clothes packed it was now time to pack the essential gear - helmet, bike shoes, running shoes, goggles, wetsuit, PAM, sunscreen, body glide...I could go one but why bore you? Long story short. Everything got packed minus a few food items to be picked up in the morning. The rest of the evening was uneventful - hydrate, carbo load, and rest.
Pre-Race Expo - Stress Test
Note to self, future 'day before race days' should be completely uneventful.
Saturday morning I awoke to more packing, last minute food purchases, a quick spin on the bike followed by a short run, playing fetch with Harley to burn some of his energy, an inhaled burrito from Diego's and an hour drive to Lake Stevens. I was thinking that that would be the busy part of my day - tis not true.
We arrived in Everett around 1:30 which was perfect timing to make the 2 PM race briefing and then head on over to rack my bike. 45 minutes later I was completely stressed about drafting rules, passing rules, penalty tents, bike in, bike out, mount line, dismount line...ugh! Anxiety level? Fairly high. On to the transition area with hopes of being reassured.
Now I consider my Craigslist purchased Giant OCR1 to be a pretty decent bike. Ha! It pales in comparison to the all-carbon tri bikes that caught my eye. I lust after a Cervelo or Kuota tri bike. The wheels alone on some of these bikes cost 3 times what my bike was purchased for. The good news - if someone was going to break into the transition area overnight and steal bikes it wasn't going to be mine they were taking. More good news - my position on the rack was at the very end of a row. It would be easy to find my spot in both T1 and T2. Anxiety level? Mmmm...better. Intimidation factor - skyrocketing.
Before leaving transition Gabe and I checked out the swim buoys. At first glance they seemed really close but then as we walked further out on the dock I realized those were the sighting buoys. The turn buoys were way the heck out there. Is that really the same distance as from the swim beach at Padden to the softball fields? It sure didn't look like it. Worst case scenario? I can grab a kayak and scream for help or I could do the breast stroke like my life depended on it.
Alright, moving on. Meghan's bright idea - let's drive the bike and run courses. Seemed brilliant until you realize that 1) Meghan is not really reading the map and 2) driving 28 miles at 40 miles per hour takes some serious time and 3) yes, I'm referring to myself in the 3rd person.
The rest of the evening went a little something like this: Stressed because it's already 6:30 and we still have to drop Harley off at Dan's, eat dinner at my parent's, drive back up to Everett, organize my stuff, and sleep. Fortunately it all went smoothly. The standard pre-race meal, Pho, was excellent and I was asleep by 10:30.
Hats off to Gabe and Harley for being complete troopers for this long and exhausting day.