Sunday, April 27, 2008

Race Report: J-Hawk Early Bird Triathlon (In Which Our Hero Makes Triathlon Look Like A Sitcom)

Well, it's been quite a week. I had a solid swim workout on Monday, then was looking forward to Tuesday and Wednesday off after a string of straight workout days. My speed work was paying off, my run and bike endurance were in good places for this time of the season, and I thought if I could take a couple days off, then work in another speed workout and a 20-25 miler on the bike before week's end, I'd be in good shape for a strong "speed workout" on race day.

Then I got sick Wednesday night, and the rest of the week was derailed. I was out of the fever by Friday morning, but was really weak - climbing the stairs left me breathless. I had no appetite at all, and was forcing calories in. Thursday night Dakota got a fever, which has made for many more high-maintenance nights than usual. Last night I got 4 hours of sleep or so. So it could be said that missing all workouts, getting sick, and getting no sleep the week before a race - even a short, early season, indoor swim race - would be less-than-ideal. I call it tapering with style.

So I had no idea what to expect this morning - either I'd feel great and strong, my body energized and ready to pull itself out of this funk and see what all this rest would do, or I'd be that post-sick fatigue, where everything is a chore and leaves you tired and weary. I was excited to race, excited for the first race of the year. I enjoyed all my usual rituals of getting my transition bag ready to go (including the astronaut hat!), the machine ready to fly. I told myself I was fired up and ready to go. In reality, I was probably at about 80%, maybe 85% strength when I started the 45 minute drive to Whitewater this morning.

I choked down a PB&J about an hour before my wave started - it was my first indication for the kind of day I probably had in store. Still just zero appetite, and it was all I could do to eat the entire thing. Also, though I packed for all kind of dismal weather events, the day that's been banner-broadcast as cloudy, cold, and possibly snowy turned out to be sunny and cool, in a crisp sort of way, and not a cold sort of way. Weather forecasters are idiots.

The swim was 500 yards in an indoor pool. I shared a lane with 2 women, and each of them started before me in 10-second intervals. All of this was prearranged, so I don't know by what mathematic wizardry these decisions came to pass. The whistle blew, and the first woman took off...10 seconds later the next...and then I was engaged in my first race of the season.

Within 75 yards I had passed them both, and felt pretty good. I felt like I had gone out at the right pace, that I wasn't burning matches too early. The second woman, though, hung on my feet and I could feel her in my draft. That was weird - I actually felt her, like I was pulling her. It was actually kind of a pain in the ass, because I felt like it was slowing me down. The 3rd swimmer (who was the first to start) fell farther behind, but She and Me stayed tandem for the entire swim. That is, until about 375 yards in or so, when I started to pay for the week I've had. I could feel my energy tank, just like that. I suddenly felt fingers on my heels where there hadn't been, and it provoked me for another 75 yards or so. But at 450 yards - with just 50 to go - the water suddenly turned to mud. I might as well have been walking. She catapulted right past me, and I couldn't even get into her draft. I was totally spent, just like that.

I finally reached the wall to finish the swim, and was surprised to glance at my watch and see 8:30-ish; my goal had been 9:00. With several seconds to get out the door and call my number to the first check-in guy (no timing chips here, it's old school shouting "Three Thirty Six!"), my swim time was 8:46. I'll take it!

I cruised down the bike racks until I finally found mine - and was surprised and so happy to see Amy and Dakota cheering me on! It was touch & go whether they'd make it at all, with the unpredictable weather and D's cold she's fighting, and I didn't really expect they would. I left it to Amy, and she made the trip. My daughter's first race. I mostly just wanted to stop and pick her up and cuddle for awhile. "How's it going babe!" Amy shouted. "Ugh!" I replied while I strapped on my astronaut hat, "Just so weak!" She called back that she was afraid of that, and to have a safe bike, and I said something about how nice it was to see them, and then I was headed out of transition. Really, though, the whole time I felt kind of delirious, in a sick kind of way. Like the world was going by faster than my brain could process it.

I had put arm-warmers on my aero bars to put on once on the bike, but never had to - there was an almost-vicious wind from the north, but the sun was warm and it was actually a really great day to race. Right away, though, my systems were out of sync. I tried to settle down, and just couldn't - my heart rate was high, I was out of breath, and just had nothing in me. I kept waiting for my rhythm to come, for things to sort out like they should, but it was just a battle with myself the whole time. About 3 miles into the ride I puked. Super good times, puking on the bike. I was not able to fire the pistons like I wanted to, and the whole puking thing was slowing me right down - some dude on a red Trek passed me with a smug "on your left" that, underneath, was Nelson's laugh, pointing "Ha ha." I thought, for the second time, I should maybe just pull over and sit this one out. If it weren't for this stubborn hardwired finish what you start thing, I probably would have. I spent the next few miles trying to push - not content to just "finish this thing out", and in a few miles reeled Nelson back in and seriously blew by him, in devastating fashion, like he was standing still. "On your left" I handed back to him, and the word vapor entered my head, and - just like that - the new Machine has a name. Vapor.

The entire 7 miles out was mostly straight into the wind, and I tried to push a hard cadence to go fast. After dry-heaving another few miles I puked again. These weren't "I got the flu" episodes, they were demanding-more-than-I-should pukefests. I kept waiting to feel better afterwards, and never did. If you never have - and I hope you never do - I reiterate: puking on the bike is not cool.

At about mile 6 another guy passed me - disc wheel, the whole nine - and he was serious about it. It pissed me off a little - I don't know why, I think it was just the day getting to me a bit. I felt like if I had anything in the tank I could be shredding this course - it was mostly flat, and I didn't mind the headwind, even for it slowing me down a little. I swore out loud.

By the time the turnaround came, Disc Wheel was a speck ahead. At least half a mile. I felt vengeful, and me & V laid chase. I decided the day was going to be about small victories, whatever they were. Just staying in the race was one.

I finally stopped feeling like my guts were going to fall out by about mile 9, and while I had considered it really unlikely when I started chasing him, Disc Wheel was getting bigger in the distance. At mile 12 I launched by him, like he was a statue. Liberated, I headed into the final stretch happy that nobody had passed me, and I'd passed a few.

I turned left - knowing I was close to T2 - and was surprised by how close. I quickly tried to get out of my shoes to dismount. I succeeded with the right one, but was having to brake on my approach while still negotiating my left shoe. Shit!. I finally actually passed the dismount line, and had to just unclip my left shoe. While I was finally coming to a stop, my right shoe came off its pedal. So there I am in the middle of the dismount area hopping on one foot, trying to bend down and retrieve my fallen shoe. Look at the moron with the ass-hat who can't get his feet out of his shoes! Ha ha hee! I finally pick up my damn shoe and start running into T2 - one shoe on, one shoe off. Oh for the love of., so I stop and take off my stupid left shoe so I can run like a normal person, and for some reason put my right shoe in my mouth at the same time. Look at 'im now! He's eating his shoes! What a boob! So now I'm finally running into transition, carrying one shoe in my mouth and holstering the other between my arm and chest with one arm while I push my bike with my other. Then I turn into the wrong bike rack. Oh shit sandwich you have got to be kidding me. Turn around, retreat around the wrong rack, finally make it to the right one, and plop my belongings into my space with total exhaustion. Best. Transition. Ever.

Amy shouted encouragement, and that she'd probably go while I was on the run - D was getting restless. I thanked her while I got my running gear on, and in no time was on my way out of T2. My bike split was far slower than I'd hoped, than I know I'm capable of, but it's certainly the best I had this day. 13 miles and change in 42:32, at 19.8mph.

Once on the run, I wondered what Further Adventures In Vomit awaited me, but after about half a mile I finally started to settle down. It was a trail-run, though, which I'm not terribly good at (read: miserable). Right away I nearly walked - I just felt so damn weak. I didn't though, and just tried to find a comfortable pace - my thoughts about anything particularly fast for the day were obviously shot, and with a trail run in store, I just wanted to run strong.

About a mile in, some dude fell in stride right behind me - I could hear his footfalls and heavy breathing. I figured he'd pass right by me, but he just stayed there. When it occurred to me that he wasn't going to blow right by me, I decided to race him, and tried to keep my pace strong so he'd at least have to work to get by me. We ran through natural terrain, avoiding the washed out path here and there, ducking under branches, enjoying a stretch on a boardwalk built over some marsh. I figured at the next hill I was done - he'd fly by me - but I think some of my hill workouts are paying off a bit, as I'm not nearly so weak as I used to be on hills, and I require less time to recover at the crest. Darth Vader (he with heavy breathing) hung right behind me, almost stride for stride, for a solid mile before he finally cracked, his breathing moving farther away behind me. Another small victory.

As I finally approached 3 miles I imagined Vader behind me trying to sprint it out (I'm not sure if he was, but that's what I imagined), so I didn't let up. The course appears to have been measured a little long, so my split was...well actually I'm not sure. The Garmin has me going 3.21 miles in 25:41, for an 8:00/mile pace. The race results, though, slow that way down, going 3.1 miles in 27:20, for an 8:28 pace. Of course my watch isn't 2+ minutes behind - but the official results (oddly) don't consider transition times at all - so I don't know if they tack them onto the run or what...but whatever. (UPDATE: Robet informs on his blog that the splits for each leg begin at the end of the previous - so the bike split includes time in T1, and run split includes time in T2. Explains the discrepancies.) My finishing time on the watch and the official results are consistent - 1:18:36. 7th in my Age Group (out of 17).

All in all, a pretty tough day, but I did really enjoy myself, despite it all. Maybe a smarter me would have quit - I don't know. I feel fine this afternoon - though I do think I just need some decent rest for a day or two, lest this thing, whatever it is, really derails me. Glad for a day of small victories - sticking it out, chasing down a few gunners, not getting caught on the run, a faster swim than expected, sensing progress in a few places. It would have been fun to go faster, to have a really strong day - but that's okay. Sometimes you chase the dog, sometimes the dog chases you. Mostly, and above all, it was cool to have a person who didn't even exist the last time I suited up there with me. As I tell her very frequently - she won't remember any of this, but I will remember it all.

Next up - a 5k next weekend! If I can get my health on point, I'll be shooting for a P.R. (There, I said it out loud - Fates, do your worst...)


CznE said...

Hey. Way to tough through it. That's impressive. Good luck next weekend, see you the weekend after. Vapor is cool. I <3 D.

Team Brazo said...

Great job -- to me it is the mental aspect that seperates the "boys" from the "men" or the "girls" from the "women"-- anyone can be born with Kona "genes", but not everyone can puke on a bike and keep going.

Rest up...

Steph Bachman said...

First, your race report was hilarious. : ) Such a joy to read.

Second, you are a BAMF for puking on the bike (more than once!) but finishing the race AND passing disk wheel and deciding to race Darth Vadar. Holy Cow.

RunBubbaRun said...

Dang that was a tough day, when puking is involved, never fun, but you got through it, congrats on that..

You had the best supoort crew to watch you.. Definetly worth it no matter how old they are.

RobbyB said...

Puking!?! On the bike? You didn't get Vapor dirty, did you? (Cool name, BTW) Way to tough it out. The best part is that you can sign up for the fall version and rock the course for real.

Steve Stenzel said...

Nice job! Is it bad that I laughed at your description of hopping through T2?...

xt4 said...

Thanks for the love everybody - RobbyB, yes, yes I did puke on my bike. There's till aftersplash on the rear of my frame. So excited to clean that up.

Steve - no, I laugh at your blog posts all the time, you're entitled to laugh at mine.

All - a note from my mother: Hi, read your blog, good grief man, finish what you start, UNLESS you are puking--then, you stop and plan for another day, this is your mother speaking.


robert said...

Great race report. I'm fairly certain I spotted you on the way out on the bike course, by the time I realized it, that blue rocket ship on wheels was long gone. I was sitting on the retaining wall along the road at the top of the first (last) hill waiting for my wife to return (she was the one in the wave before you, not me. Us slow swimmers had already finished).

Nice work.

Triteacher said...

Ay, yay, yay. I've never puked while working out period. I'll take your word that it sucks.

VAPOR - now that's a cool name. Love it!

Very funny post - what with all the characters. Nicely done.

Anonymous said...


I am only catching up on this blog today, and read the posts out of order (the RR was long so I had to save it).

OMG!!!!! What a day!!!!! You really salvaged it, and lived to tell quite the amusing story. Thanks for sharing and good luck in the 5k. ~Heidi