I've only got about a month left 'till my A-race of the year-- Ironman Wisonsin. Unfortunately my tri season had to be shrunk this year due to my ankle injury in March, but this week I managed to pull off my most epic week of the season and can report that my ankle is now 100%. I even won* my first event.
*Only because I went off course accidentally and shortened it by 3 miles.
Last week, I offered to pace a good friend of mine for 20 miles on her 100 mile trail run in Cleveland, Ohio. This event didn't exactly sync up with my training plan, but I've just been dying to grow the balls to run my first 30 miler since turning 30.
When one of my friend's other pacers bailed out, my 20 became 30 and then my 30 became 32, when I got us lost for a spell. Being in the woods at night...for the whole night, was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I'll definitely be signing up to do my first 50 miler next year.
So last week's slow and steady 32 miles was not the intensity I feel I should be getting this close to my Ironman, but it gave me good practice at fueling my body for the long haul and logistically being able to pull of multiple special needs drop off points and all my raw diva foods.
Long story short, I met up with my friend to give her my 3000-4000 calories of date-o-rade on Thursday and asked her to keep it refrigerated. When I tried to drink it Saturday night, it had become fermented and gelatinized. Yuck! So, I was basically forced to eat all the race-provided food. It was actually pretty darn good selection. I had a tone of boiled potatoes, Larabars, and (don't hate me) cola. One of the aid stations at about 3 am was a picturesque covered bridge in the middle of a corn field, illuminated with Christmas lights, and filled with families awaiting their loved ones...and an all you can imagine buffet. The thought of food disgusted me, but the only thing I could put down the hatch was the vegan macaroni and cheese. It was spiced with black pepper, and from then on, I had heart burn.
Fast forward one week to yesterday's workout-- a 70 miler on the rolling hills of southern Ohio. It was just what I needed to get the legs really tired. My goal was to race Sunday's oly triathlon with tired legs to see how fast I could go on an empty tank. I pounded down a about 40 oranges' worth of Juice on Saturday and about 15 bananas on Saturday night. I also have to admit that I went out with friends that night to a swanky restaurant and had two non-alcoholic beers.
I woke up on Sunday about 5:30 am to thunderstorms rolling in after weeks rainless heat wave. "Oh no!, not today". I didn't leave myself enough time to do my normal race day ritual, but I was able to pound down a 7 banana +10 strawberry smoothie after about 30 oz of water. Sorry to be graphic, but then came my ritual doodoo. I loaded up the bike on the car and drove 40 minutes east to the state park, jamming out to a Pandora mix that happened to play my favorite pump up song-- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PNpIxqqMtQ
I set up my bike in the pouring rain and felt really low from the previous day's ride. Luckily I had the optimal transition spot, because no one else was apparently feeling ambitious enough to claim their spots in the bike corral. Then all of a sudden, I needed to go poop again. Sorry to be graphic, but every race day, I end up having an unexpected projectile-like #2 that cleans me out completely. It feels quasi-orgasmic to be so cleansed before a race.
Water temperature was 85F, much too hot for wetsuits, but I decided to wear mine just for the practice of taking it off in Transition 1. My weakness is swimming, so I usually try to just focus on clean and rhythmic stroke, not letting my HR spike before the bike. But as always, I got excited and changed the plan on a whim. It was definitely my hardest swim of the year. I flew without my dials, racing by perceived exertion rather than using my heart rate monitor. I know I was near 185, because I had a hard time even getting out of the water. I have no idea how long it took me, because I also forgot to start my watch when I was distracted by the announcer telling us to check our goggles. DOH!
Getting out of the park was an immediate uphill climb on the bike, where I decided I would let me heart rate and breath recover from the swim. I got passed by the one and only dude. He looked familiar. (I actually met him on a local trail two weeks earlier. His name was Rob. I passed him on the trail and he took it personally and decided to pass me and tell me that he "never gets passed." He actually turned out to be a really nice guy, unlike most of the cyclist pricks around here). So, there Rob was, passing me again. I decided rather than play a cat and mouse game, I would just keep him on a close rein of about 50 meters, without drafting, of course. At the turn around point, we climbed and he jumped out of the saddle. As he crested, he dropped his chain. I felt so bad for him. I almost stopped as I thought about Contador leaving Andy Schleck in the dust in this situation, but I only asked if he was ok. It looked like a quick fix, so rode by and descended as fast as I could.
The course was very hilly, which I usually excel at, but my legs were taxed from the day before and I've been deliberately trying to hold back on the up hills, maintaining a steady power output both up the hill and down. This strategy seemed to work, because after the race, Rob said that he tried to use the uphills to catch me, but I was distanced myself on the descents.
As it turns out, I hadn't mapped the course and their were only volunteer police manning the key intersections. I ended up taking a wrong turn, shortening the course by 3 miles. I knew the course seemed lonely, but I just thought that I was among the first group and they were just more badass, farther ahead.
The run is usually painful as hell. On the double-out-and-back course, I implemented the same strategy as with the bike. Start the initial uphill very reserved. Hold back and get your legs used to the new motion. Before I knew it, I felt alive. I probably ran my fastest 5k in a race ever. But come lap two, and that return up the monster hill, I was in a dark and desperate place. Fresh runners were beginning their first lap as I was beginning my second. But I didn't know this, so even though I felt kind of demoralized by how fresh they looked, I tried to keep pace and I only got passed by one dude.
When I crossed the finish line, I collapsed. OUCH! Luckily there was no puking as is sometimes the case with my final sprint efforts. Maybe it helped that I couldn't muster a sprint finish. I guess I just pushed very hard all morning long.
The only thing that got me off the ground was that a volunteer handed me, guess what, a cola. I feel like such a sell out. Sorry, guys. I had a coke and it brought me back from the brink of coma. Now I can't sleep and I'm writing this blog.
I congratulated the next 3 guys to cross the line and there was Rob at #4. "Hey brother, what took you so long? I thought you just dropped a chain."
"I did. But you went left when we were supposed to go right!"
I felt like a total idiot. But you know what, human error is a factor in every sport. Think how many basketball games would be different if referees managed to catch every infraction. And rule breaking (doping) has made cycling and baseball sports of renewed interest. I'm just going to relish in the moment for a day because I'm darn proud of my effort. But of course, I'll be contacting the race officials to let them know some one else deserves the victory.
Now, I need to figure out how to get this caffeine out of my system.