Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you don't finish!

Well, I'm back from my little NJ beach excursion and accomplished all that I wanted to since I last posted. Enjoyed some time walking on the beach and collecting sea glass with Lisa.  Lisa won the prize for finding the best piece of sea glass of which I forgot to take a picture.  It was white, large, thick and really worn out..... the kind you want to keep in your pocket and rub with your thumb all day.   We have quite a collection going in a glass bowl at our house.  I had a bit of down time from my computer and spent A LOT of time trimming some overgrown lavender bushes on the side of the house.  Of course Lisa warned me of the poison under each bush and I ignored, clipping and clearing away in my shorts.  Wouldn't you know I woke up the next day itching all over.  I also woke up scratching my lower leg in the middle of the night only to find some kind of major bite.  My lower leg swelled to the size of a football so I put on some anti itch cream and popped a Benedryl at night.  My leg is no longer swollen, but the nasty bite is still pronounced. It was not until I had my best friend over for dinner last night that she FREAKED saying she just saw a piece on Good Morning America regarding dangerous spider bites and mine looked like one of them. Here is a picture I took of it last night (the little bumps on the right are what I think to be, poison oak).

Gross huh? So, with all this being said, I'm going to see the doctor tomorrow to have it checked out. 

On to the piece of this blog that has to do with the title (forgive me for the long blog that I am about to write, however there may be lessons to pull from it). Lisa and I ended up racing at the Eagleman Half Ironman Triathlon in Cambridge, MD on June 12th.  I wavered about it for months but started to feel like I was getting in pretty darn good shape, so I committed to doing it and was glad that I did so.  The good news is that I felt absolutely INCREDIBLE during the swim, bike and the start of the run. The bad news is that I had to pull out just before mile 3 of the run because my soleus (calf) muscle started knotting up to the point where I could not walk normally.  I made the mistake of running a track workout on very little sleep a few weeks ago. It was a humid morning and although I prepped with a few electrolytes, my calf muscle gave a little pinch about halfway through the workout. I stopped immediately (having had done this before), and let it rest and calm down for 8 days. Took a mini test run, 3 days before the race and all seemed okay.  Obviously it was not ready to run after a 1.2 mi swim and a 56 mile bike ride.  Bummer city to say the least but that's how the dice roll.

Oddly, my worries before the race had to do with my right knee and not AT ALL with my soleus.  I had a short bike interval workout planned on the Wednesday before the race. Lisa and I went out to do it together and just after the first interval, I flatted (45 min from our house).  I pulled a a spare tube from my kit only to find that the tube had the wrong kind of stem (did not fit through my deeper rimmed wheels).  Pulled out my 2nd spare only to find it was the wrong size.  So, Lisa rode home and came back in the car to pick me up. I sat on the side of the road for an hour. It was 30 min before anyone stopped to see if I was okay. Jeez, that was a long time.  I felt like a dork standing there.  Picked off one tick that found it's way to me which grossed me out. What is it with bugs and me! 

Anyway, I was determined to do my intervals (more for a confidence booster) so I hopped on my Computrainer and off I went, feeling super strong. Found I was pushing more watts than than in the past for these efforts.  The next day, I taught a spin class on a bike I don't usually ride. I completely forgot to switch out the instructor bike to one that felt good for me.  Next morning, my knee really, really hurt going downstairs and walking on flats.  I strongly feel I had a bit of tendinitis going on from the combination of my Computrainer workout and my spin class.  Freaked me and still could feel it slightly on race morning. 

On to the race details. 

Pre Race: Felt calmly excited despite being a bit worried about my knee.  My race went off at 8am, which was 1:10 after the pro wave and 1 hour after Lisa's wave.  I continued to sip on sports drink, made sure to get in some pre-race calories.  I organized all of my bike and run stuff in my transition spot (which happened to be prime real estate just out of the swim and near the run exit spot. I spent about 15 min under a shady tree doing some visualization of my swim to bike transition and my bike to run transition.  Also went over my nutritional plan in my head one last time.  I was set to jet!

Swim:  There were no wetsuits allowed because the water temperature was 82 degrees. Lisa and I spaced on packing our speed suits but fortunately, I did pack my one piece, very tight fitting (slightly sexy .... okay .... not sexy) tri suit. Unfortunately, the color is BLACK which did not bode well for the hot and sunny conditions that day, but I wasn't going to drop $100 on another tri suit.  Lisa ended up buying a one piece tri suit at the expo that looked fab on her AND totally matched her bike and cycling shoes, which is super important for triathletes. We both admitted, when taking a closer look, that the seam structure had a bit of an early 80's, Jane Fonda aerobic suit kind of design.  Cracked us both up!  Anyway, I guzzled about 10oz water right before entering the water and swam out  to the front of my age group pack, lining up with the buoys. While waiting for the start, I did ask myself why the heck I continued to do this sport, especially these longer races. The answer was simple; "Because I can .... because I am able to do so."  A greater calm came over me at that point.

Once the horn sounded, I got right into my groove but had one little friend to my left that kept whacking the crap out of me.  So, I did a quick shift to the right to get rid of her and found my space.  After about 5 minutes I opted for a wider line, staying away from the mass. This worked well for me as I was really able to focus on a strong but relaxed rhythm.  I knew I could lose a bit of time with my chosen line, yet at the same time I thought I might benefit because I was not getting caught up in other swimmers.  I swam into folks from the two age groups that started prior to mine by the last 15 minutes. I stayed calm as I navigated, trying to quietly swim by them so not to make them nervous. I swam right up onto shore and remember thinking that it was the first time in a long time that I enjoyed the swim. It felt just like all of my half Ironman practice swims in the pool. I looked at my watch just before running onto the timing mat and saw 32:27 .... my fastest 1/2 IM swim in years! Yahoo! Oddly, when I looked at the results, my time was listed as 35:39 .... not sure where that came from in comparison to my watch. 

So, off I went into transition (apparently 4th out of the water in my age group).  I downed a gel, took 2 electrolyte tabs and a swig of sports drink.  As I was running out of transition, a volunteer noted that my race number belt was missing.  Duh! During my visualization session I was imagining myself putting on the number belt at the start of the run, not the bike.  Goes to show you just how effective visualization practice can be! So, back I went (about 2 bike racks away) to put on my number belt and then get the heck out of there and on the course!

Bike: FANTASTIC! Stuck to my plan.  I happened to catch a bit of the pre-race pro, media talk the day before the event. Those that I heard speak noted they had a coach, had a plan and stuck to that plan. I can't stress enough how that hit home for me.  At about mile 5, Donna Kay-Ness came roaring by me.  I VOWED that I would not respond to her this year if we ended up next to each other (we always end up next to each other on the bike, playing the cat and mouse game).  I wanted to race my race, at my heart rate zones and my pace.  So, once again, I stuck to my plan!  I have to say that I really, really enjoyed this bike ride.  I did feel discomfort in my knee for the 1st hour and worried a bit, then I think the adrenaline kicked in and I was relieved when the pain went away.  I was cruising along at 22-23.5 miles per hour comfortably at a target heart rate range of 152-158.  Not once did I feel fatigued.  Not once did an head winds bother me.

Run: I headed into transition excited about my ride (I came off the bike in 3rd place in my age group ... did not know it at the time) anticipating the start the hardest part of the day, the run. I did feel a very, very, VERY slight tightness in my calf as I ran my bike into transition but tried not to focus on it.  As I removed my cycling shoes, I noted that my left big toe (on the bunion) was totally bloody, as was my shoe. Hmmm, that never happened before! Funny how "things"  come up during races. Again, did not focus on it and just hoped it would not be a major issue later in the run. I took my time heading out on the first mile, adjusting my little fuel pack on my waist, stopping and fixing my shoe lace. Checked my heart rate and it was a bit high so I tried to settle down a bit.  Thought I was running at about an 8:30 pace and was surprised to see 6:55 with the stopping and adjusting.  I chatted a bit with a guy I was running next to during the second mile.  He was on his way to a personal best if he could nail the run.  My only goal was to NOT SUFFER on the run as I have in years past.  I immediately felt spring in my legs, which was a good sign. Unfortunately, that little tug in my calf started and quickly progressed to a full blown tie up (just as it did on the track).  It did not take me more than another mile to make the decision to call it quits.  The choice was to risk tearing my soleus muscle and be out for the season, or to stop, let it mend for a couple of weeks and have a season to look forward to.  A no brainer in my book as bummed as I was to have to do so. I'm not a quitter.  So, I hitched a motorcycle ride back to transition (you can imagine how I looked on the back of it wearing a helmet in my tri-suit).  I changed and waited for Lisa and another athlete (Matt) that I coach to finish.  Lisa had a great day despite having to battle some nerves about swimming without a wetsuit.  Matt had a good finish despite throwing up most of the day. I give him credit for his mental toughness. He learned a lot of lessons during the event as well as the days leading up to the event.  He did not stick to his plan with regard to his pre-race ritual and paid for it.

Later that day I bumped into Donna Kay Ness, who won our age group.  I hated having to say that I had to pull out ..... hated it.  I wonder what might have happened on the run if my calf was okay.  I wonder if I could have made up the 3 minutes she gained on me during the bike.  I wonder how it all would have turned out.  Who knows, maybe I would have fallen aport. All I know is that I felt great and that in itself was proof that I am in pretty good shape.  That in itself makes me happy. 

Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of the day or those days leading up to it. I'm terrible about taking pictures. But hey, I did post of my gross spider bite!