Hoooboy.  Let’s get started, this is a long one.

Earlier race week, I got really sick, and then got better.  Bullet #1, dodged.  I actually had great sleep all week.  I ate according to plan and had two days of really great carb loading (400+ carbs, sticking really well to my other macros) and felt really rested and fueled and was ready to go by the time I tucked into bed around 8pm Saturday night.

Sept30-3

Ugliest race shirt ever.  The logo is pretty cool, but the gold v-neck and the maroon stripes on the sides with white text that don’t actually match anything means this one is probably going right into storage…

I went to bed and drifted off to sleep around 10-ish and slept fairly fitfully and then… **TMI warning incoming** that lovely and wonderful time of the month came knocking like a drunken asshole at my door at 2am race morning, waking me up with killer cramps.  This particular 24 hours of each month is the one where I normally cancel or heavily modify my workout plans and sit on couch in a red meat, chocolate, and pain-killer stupor.

Racing really hard for 6-7 hours in the heat is generally OFF the plan those days.  But, hey, sometimes when you roll the dice, it comes up craps.  I don’t love racing on painkillers, so, I tried to suffer a bit and go back to sleep.  After being awake for 45 minutes in the fetal position, I said FUCK THAT NOISE and took 2 aleve.  That dulled the pain a bit, but after I slept a bit more, woke up, and ate breakfast, I took 1 more (my normal dose for cramps) because I still had twinges and said que sera sera.  The race was not happening without it.

It definitely impacted my ability to FEEL anything before the race.  Even with a full dose of purple stuff, I did all the things you do before a race in a stupor and I practically fell asleep in line to get in the water instead of bouncing around like I normally do and I totally ended up in the back of my age group because I didn’t pay attention, but all of a sudden it was 3, 2, 1, splash, and whether I was ready or not, the race had started for me.

Sept30-4

This obviously wasn’t where we swam, but I LOVED our hotel pool!

Swim:

It was quickly apparent that my top 2 gears were missing, but I just tried to roll with it.  The current this year ran perpendicular to the shore, which made it COMPLETELY not useful because most of the course was parallel so it was just this annoying side chop that kept pushing you off course.

My watch kept telling me paces that seemed pretty great so I didn’t worry about it, but I could definitely tell the effort wasn’t there.  I knew I was in trouble when I thought I hit the halfway point at 18 and was excited… then kept swimming and realized I was closer to the actual halfway point at 21.  My heart kind of sank and I just kept trying to plug away at it, but I knew I wasn’t going to have a stellar time.  I was cursing my lack of open water training in the summer, and the fact that I haven’t done more than 2000m but ONCE this year, but in retrospect, I think it was more the conditions of the day.

When I got out and saw 44, I was like… what in the actual FUCK?  I mean, I didn’t have a lot of gas but 2:17/100m pace is like paddle pace for me.  That’s 4 minutes slower than last year.  However, my watch did show 1.35 miles and while I went a little off course, I don’t think I went 250m off. 😛  Other folks said their swim experiences jived the same way so at least I felt better about it after the fact, but still, I was disappointed.

Also, I had to pee the whole frickin’ time and just couldn’t.  I am a master at the wetsuit pee.  That annoyed me.

I usually love the swim at Kerrville and instead was just cranky about it going into T1.  It was a crappy start to a long day.

Swim Time: 44:06, 2:17/100m, 7/13 AG

T1:

While I didn’t hit my sub-3 goal, I did actually hustle in and out of this quicker than last year.  Not being super winded from the swim helped, I think.  I saw Zliten at his rack and told him I had a terrible swim and I’d see him out on the bike course (he took off about 1-2 mins before me).

T1 Time: 3:56, 8/13 AG

Bike:

I tried to get my annoyed attitude in check and figured if I had a great bike, I could easily make up some minutes from the swim.  I got out and going, and within the first half hour took down a gatorade and a caffeinated gel.  I was trying to knock out this crap headspace with rocket fuel.

At first, it worked.  My bike pace was pretty good, I passed Zliten on the bike and kept things pretty steady on the first lap.  Things started turning around.  I’m sure a lot of things happened in that 1:30+change it took for me to ride those 29 miles, but I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember feeling like my day was turning around.

Then, on the second lap, my cramps decided to make it known that they were NOT enjoying the idea of 56 miles of bumpy riding (ok, maybe only 40 of the 56 are bumpy, but still).  To someone who’s never had the privilege of menstrual cramps, let me put it this way: imagine you had a stomach ache – and you had to kick your stomach constantly for 3 hours.  I made up songs about my uterus hating Kerrville and sang them out loud.  I asked the universe to please, please make it stop.

And then, it nearly did.  Right before mile 50 is a steep hill.  I passed someone right before the hill, and then halfway up, they tried to pass me back.  They swerved out to the right and then when a car came through, they swerved again… RIGHT INTO ME.  I lost my balance but tried to reach out for them to steady myself on instinct, and then we both kind of fell down on top of each other.

FUCK.  It was the lowest of the low speed collisions, and I thought nothing of it at the time, but my handlebars are torn up, I have some painful bruises and some baby road rash, but you don’t notice any of that on race day adrenaline.  You just know that you and a bunch of other people that almost ran over you are walking up a steep fucking hill and wasting fucking time because fuckery.  Fuck. Can I swear a few more times?  I know I did on Sunday!

Sept30-1

Day after.  It actually looks a little worse now, the bruises took about 2-3 days to really come out.  Every time I accidentally kneel on something it’s a world of pain.

Once I crested the hill, I got onto my bike and started to clip in and… um… something didn’t feel right.  I just kind of sat there and stared at my bike until this angel of a gentleman came by and asked what was wrong and I was just like “my bike isn’t working right” and he unclipped and I was like “no, no, don’t stop your race for me” to which he said “it’s not like I’m winning this thing, let me help”.  He helped me figure out what was wrong and held my bike up while I clipped in and it went forward, so I thanked him profusely and got on my way.

We went down the hill and then… about 5-6 more miles mostly uphill were left on the course.  And my bike wasn’t getting above 11mph.  Fuck.  At first I thought I was just slow, but I had a bunch of people pass me and ask me if my bike was ok, and I said “it’ll get me to T2”.  So, yeah, let’s add a fucked up back brake that rubbed the entire time to the list of casualties. After the race, Zliten showed me how I could have potentially fixed it temporarily, but it would have disabled my back brake, which seems a little dicey.

After about 30 minutes of straight mashing and seeing my average pace drop from above 18 mph to 17 to 16.4 by the end of that torturous 6 miles, I was flattened. I almost in tears and just never wanted to ride my bike ever again.  And it’s not as if my cramps had gone anywhere.  Not in the slightest.  Salt, meet wound.

I was thinking that the universe was punishing me for asking for a reprieve and having a bad attitude during the race, and that I was a weak triathlete and sucked and it was really funny that I thought I could sub-6 ever and I was over it.  Insult to injury – I caught a glimpse of the run course during this time and it was a long section without shade, and it was getting HOT.  I had serious thoughts about turning in my chip when I got to T2, and going to drink beer and float in the river instead of running that half marathon.

I FINALLY rolled into T2 and was so happy to be rid of the torture device that evilbike had become that morning.

Bike Time: 3:24:47, 16.4 mph, 11/13 AG 🙁

T2:

I walked my bike in.  I had lost all give a shit.  I racked my bike, dumped my run bag, and found my purple gatorade and took most of it down in about 3 seconds.  In my haze while thinking about how to drop the race, I took off my bike gear and found myself with my run gear on.  I figured that at the very least I should start the run and see if I got my legs under me and I should tell Zliten I was ok, and well, you just kind of run after biking if you’re a triathlete.  It’s what we do.  So, after the longest T2 ever (it was DECIDEDLY NOT HOT LAVA, I could have easily been out in under 2 minutes if I hustled), I got out onto the run course.

T2 Time: 3:41, 8/13 AG

Run:

Let’s just say that running with cramps is probably as uncomfortable as riding, just in different ways.  I got out on the course and ran the first mile the best I could, but it was obvious the run I wanted was NOT coming out of my body that day.  I ducked into a porta potty right before mile 1 and peed (fiiiiinally) and had thoughts of just sitting there and taking a break and seeing if the pain would go away.  Then, I realized I was in a stanky ass porta potty and got myself out of there.

I found my herbal muscle relaxers in my handheld and took them, figuring they’d help me out even if I dropped at some point, and then the first mile split at like 14 minutes.

I broke.

I started walking, saying fuck it, I didn’t care anymore.  I was over it.  I mostly wanted to tell Zliten I was alright so he wouldn’t worry, and I figured it would be the punishment I deserved to make myself walk 13 miles in the stupid hot 90 degree sun and I didn’t deserve to drink beer and float if I was this crappy of a triathlete.  Hormones + bad race + behind on my gels = huge mental downward spiral.  I am not a crier but I probably shed a few tears in the first 2 miles behind my sunglasses and might have had a full on meltdown if so many people weren’t looking at me on the out and back course.  I saw Zliten and told him what happened and that I didn’t know if I was going to finish the race and he gave me a big hug and I felt a little better.

Then, all of a sudden around mile 3, the 303s kicked in, the massive amount of gatorade I’d drank made me feel a lot better, and I started running more than walking.  I had lost any hopes at a even a PR on the last 6 miles of the bike and the first 3 miles of the run, but I could salvage things and have a better rest of my day.

I decided to take all the pressure off and stop trying for a specific time, but to just get to the finish as fast as I could without killing myself, running when I could and walk when I physically or mentally needed a break.  Just like last year, my run was in the 9s and 10s, it felt good to run that speed, I just needed to intersperse it with powerwalking in that heat and in the condition I was in (cramps + actually a little in pain from the bike crash, though I didn’t piece that fact together until way later).

I had a gel.  I started smiling and talking to people.  I let the kiddies at the aide stations fill my bottle even though it took longer.  I actually started to enjoy the run course and have some mad respect that on a different day, I could have a huge run here since it’s pretty gentle rolling… slight terrain changes?  I wouldn’t even say hills.  Totally runnable.  Just not after the day I already had on Sunday.

I caught Zliten halfway through the second lap, and we took a little walk break together, but we were on different speed plans that day (it would have absolutely broken me to run 12-13 minute miles and he couldn’t keep up with 10s when I was running) so we said adieu and I ran up ahead.

I watched my 2013 time tick by, and I watched 7 hours also tick by, but at that point, I was just happy I didn’t quit (and… let’s not tell him, but also happy that I beat Zliten even though I wish he had a better day too) and ran it into the finish.  Good thing too – to move up a place I needed about 30 minutes, but I beat the lady in 10th by about 30 seconds.  That’s something.

Run Time: 2:53:10, 9/13 AG, 13:13 min/mile.  Whatever.  For a split of about 50% run and 50% powerwalking, I’m at peace with this.

When I started the run I didn’t even feel like I wanted a medal for this race but I actually wore the fucker for two days.  I earned that one by sticking it out and not quitting on a really tough day.

Total Time: 7:09:42, 9/13 AG

Sept30-2

Parting thoughts:

I’ve had a great 2015 tri season before this race, and eventually you have to have one spectacular explosion, I guess, but I do regret that it was my biggest race of the year in which I don’t have another crack at the distance for… probably at least another year.

If I wasn’t rolling right into marathon training, I would consider signing up for the same distance at the end of next month (Austin 70.3) and trying to roll my fitness into a better performance, but I think I’d rather just stick to the plan and let this one go.

Both Zliten and I are really thinking long and hard about how to proceed from here.  We had been talking about doing an Ironman in early 2017, but we’re really reconsidering that after this race.

I love the long course training.  I’m a workhorse.  I was kind of looking forward to the ramp up and riding my bike for 5 hours and long runs more often and more training hours, but it’s the racing part that frustrates me.  I just feel like I fall apart in these long 4+ hour races and I’m sick of it.

I can be solid in sprints and olympics and the 5k to half marathon distances on down for running.  I wouldn’t say I’m awesome at them, but I’m a lot LESS BAD.  Sometimes, even age group competitive – I’m not often taking home medals, but I’m regularly finishing top 1/3 or 1/4 and I’m starting to think about incremental improvements over the next year or two that I might actually be able to start racing for at least third more often in the smaller races.

But I’ve always wanted to climb the mountain.  Especially if it made me fall down the first time.

As a kid singing, all I wanted out of life was to be a soprano with the high lilting voice and all the cool solo parts.  I would always audition for those roles even though I had a deep (and pretty decent) alto type voice.  Maybe if I would have stopped forcing it and went with what I was actually good at, I might be able to have done something with it.  I just have this stupid desire to climb the mountains if the mountains are there, even if maybe I don’t have the right equipment.

If I suck at it, it’s just something I need to bang my head against until I’m good, right?  In my 20s, I sought to get out of a job title I actually liked a lot because it was too easy.  I was actually really good at it at the get go.  I instead took the harder one that I frankly sucked at and it felt uncomfortable and took me MANY years, but I’m finally good at it.  Really good.  And I grew in ways I wouldn’t if I hadn’t gone this route.

But… maybe that’s not the answer to everything.  It sucks to suck at things.  You have to have passion to suck at something for years.  When you suck a little bit less each year, it’s at least comforting you’re making progress.  But this year, I sucked more at 70.3 than I did the last two years.  Sure – there were mitigating circumstances.  I’m almost not even talking about the total time.  I’m talking about the INCREDIBLE meltdown and bad attitude I had all over the course.  I thought I was over that as an athlete.  I guess not.  I didn’t give up, but I was really close.

Maybe I’m the bee – at it’s weight and body shape it has NO CHANCE of flying via the laws of physics.  All the laws of time and space forbid it to get off the ground.  But, as they swarmed me as I rolled my stupid broken bike ridiculously sticky with splashy gatorade out of transition, (oh, right, another thing on the bike – I forgot my aero bottle sponge so my liquid went everywhere with every bump…)  I was reminded they fly somehow even though they’re not supposed to.

EDIT: ok fine, after research, that’s not totally true.  But I like the analogy.  So, shut up, science. 😛

Then again, maybe I’m just the freaky kid in a bee costume jumping and buzzing around.  That’s probably more likely. 🙂

I’m less than 3 days out of racing and still feeling incredibly raw.  I pegged myself as annoyingly fine the day after the race.  I was barely sore.  Then, over the next 48 hours I found bruises and scrapes and my brain still feels like it’s wrapped in cotton and my legs still groan at stairs.  A bit less so after 3 sleeps, but I’m still getting emotional thinking about this stuff.

It may have not been every inch I had in my body, but seven hours of mental gymnastics, raging emotions, and mood swings, not to mention the actual physical toll of running, biking, and swimming in the hot sun for 7 hours, takes a lot out of you.  Post race evening, I thought I might go for a shakeout run the next day – ha!  It’s clear that physically I can use a break, but probably more so mentally.  After a disappointing race, it’s SO difficult not to just start training hard the next day (well, if I fucked this up, I just need to train more), but that is a recipe for disaster.

Sept30-5

Either way, you don’t make big decisions in this condition. You eat the gawddamn half lb hamburger and fried pickles you’ve been craving for 3 weeks but they’re too much fat, and you wiggle around the house with your post race inflammation on display while you drink some beers and sit on your ass for a few days.

I’ve got my my course set for about the next 6-9 months, and I’ll start out on that path mid-October and see if it’s the one I should continue to follow.  I’m excited to set out on a run build after this little break and maybe see about two more cracks at long distance racing to see if there’s any joy to be found there this year.  At the very least, the simplicity of shoes on, out the door, sounds awesome.  I’m looking forward to seeing what the fall holds for me.

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