Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Recovery and race report

I just read GeekGirl's blog - (click on "Athena Diaries" in my links section) - she just did a half-ironman!!! on Saturday and her workout plan for this week is intense - no rest, just moving forward! Whereas I took two days almost completely off, and only went to a 45-minute spinning today. I'll go running tomorrow, and TGTina has invited me to do some open water swimming with her to overcome my fears - maybe Friday. I feel a bit adrift at the moment - I was so unhappy about the swim that I'm not sure I want to do another tri (except that I really really do - I want to go faster and do better!) So I must overcome.
This is me, prerace!

So, here is the full race report. The day before was the worst possible pre-first-race day. I took off from work, in theory, to rest and prepare. But I'd discovered only a few days earlier that my kids were having a school picnic, parents invited, at noon, with dismissal right after, so my morning free time was cut short, and then cut shorter by the fact that I had some real deadlines and ended up working at home most of the morning. The afternoon was spent chauffering them and a vanload of their friends back and forth to birthday parties and ballet rehearsals with several unplanned trips back home to get things we'd forgotten. The party itself was particularly irritating for reasons I won't go into here - suffice to say that one of my daughters was told there weren't enough cupcakes, so she couldn't have one, which she accepted philosophically, but I found out that the DOG ate three! But what was worst: I developed one of my classic huge allergy attacks and was sneezing, nose-blowing and eye-rubbing all afternoon. Usually, these wipe me out for days - the stress on my system, plus the effects of the large doses of antihistimines necessary to knock out the attack, rob me of any energy.IMG_0627

Miraculously, this did not happen this time. I took my usual battery of meds, with the exception of benadryl - took only a half, and much earlier in the evening than normal, rather than waiting for bed time. So it seemed to have completely cleared my system by morning, and I had no other ill effects - I felt well rested and happy when I got up at 6:20 am. I'd finally managed to pack and organize my gear the night before, so all I had to do was eat (my usual: eggs and toast, plus coffee) and go. I dressed in my workout gear and brought the all-in-one tri suit - I figured I'd put it on after a bathroom break, rather than struggling with getting it on and off too many times. (As it turned out, it wasn't that difficult to pull down and up - much easier than changing completely in the port-a-potty. Think about it - there's no place you'd want to put anything down while changing!)

The scene at 7:30am was a bit disorganized, I thought - everyone was super nice, but people would say things, like, "your safety pins are in the bag." What bag? "Oh, you didn't get one of these?" No, where else would I have gotten it except from you? Ditto, "oh, nobody wrote your number on your shoulder yet?" No, at what point was supposed to have been told where and when this was supposed to happen? But it didn't really bother me too much - I found everything I needed quickly enough and made my way into the transition area. (After getting some more wrong information: I asked one volunteer if it mattered where I parked my bike,IMG_0624 since some books say to choose a spot on the end of a rack, and she said, park anywhere you like. IN fact the racks were assigned according to race number. Again, no big deal!) It took me a long time to decide how to set up my gear (I hadn't practiced transitions - bad, I know! Next time I'll at least remember to untie my running shoe laces in advance! And I will definitely bring a pan of water, about which, more later!)
I waded into the water and found it quite reasonably un-cold. I made small talk with my rack neighbors and friendly people I met in the port-a-potty line. I took nervous bites of the many clif bars I'd brought, and packed some gus in the cool little pockets on my suit. I'd brought four bottles of water, so I mixed some energy drink powder in one and put it on one of my bike's bottle racks, and put plain water in the other.
Around then (maybe 40 minutes before start time) TGTina found me and, after a big welcoming hug, showed me a few more tricks. We went down to the water and she showed me how to find my way back to the bike rack - to plan the route in advance to save time. She encouraged me to swim without my wetsuit - she's convinced that it saves time not to have to peel it off at the end of the swim. The water temp was fine, but I was a bit worried about losing that extra flotation (or perception thereof.) Nonetheless, I went wetsuit-less.

I was in the second wave, (benefit of early registration, as that determines the order) so headed down to the beach about 10 before 9. I could feel it was already starting to get quite warm out. My fellow triathloners all wished each other luck, and soon enough, we were off. I felt comfortable at first - I wasn't cold, and I quickly got past the icky seaweed part into the dark water. The lake was flat as could be, so sighting wasn't a problem. I stroked along, noticing that people were passing me pretty quick, but didn't worry about it for a minute or two. Then I noticed a woman (I was pretty sure it was the one who'd parked right next to me on my rack) struggling and looking back towards shore as if she wanted to quit. I shouted at her, don't stop, you can do it! and she continued on. But for some reason this shook me, and I started to realize how far from any solid ground (or pool wall) I was - that turnaround buoy was still far away. I tried to shake it off and keep going, but started to hyperventilate and feel very anxious. I saw a boat not too far away, so started to move toward it. The lifeguard aboard asked me if I needed help, and I said I didn't think so, but that I was feeling freaked out. They told me I could hang on to the boat without getting disqualified, which I gratefully did. The woman swimming with me soon came alongside and did the same. We ended up going boat to boat, clinging to each for a minute or two (while wave after wave passed us, of course). My anxiety went up and down - at times I felt quite despairing and like I'd just have to get out (and get disqualified) but then I'd get a grip and carry on. The last bit felt better - as I was heading into shore I just felt determined to keep going. I think the key will be improving my stroke and in-the-water endurance - if I feel like I'm going faster, and thus getting somewhere sooner, I think I'll keep calmer.
Finally, out of the water wobbling back to transition. This was where I fell in love with my tri-suit - how great to not have to think about it at all! I'd thought about going sockless, but decided at the last minute to try to wipe off my feet and put socks on. Some sand stayed on my feet, which would turn out to be a BIG problem later on. I knew I was already among the last to leave the water, but I tried not to think about that. The breeze felt great, the sun wasn't too hot, and I was delighted to be out on the bike. The ride is SO pretty, and I knew I could do the distance, even after that exhausting swim (emotionally and physically - all that extra treading water took a lot more out of me than I'd planned!) I chugged along, never stopping to walk, and even though all those amazing-looking athletes (and a lot of ordinary chubby folk) whizzed by me, I was happy enough. I tried to remember to sip both water and energy drink (it makes me feel a bit queasy and I don't like the taste, but I was concerned about electrolytes so my heart wouldn't suddenly go haywire. If I ever read about someone having a medical problem, I psych myself into thinking I have it. One summer, a couple of football players died of heat stroke after heavy workouts in hot weather. That same week, I took a hike with some kids up a nearby mountain and climbed a fire tower. It was really hot, and I was really out of shape, and I started to feel certain I was overheating dangerously. I drank lots of cold water, dunked in someone's sink, put ice on my wrists, but even so, after two hours I had a friend drive me to the emergency room as I was convinced I was going to die. My temparature was indeed 103, so they gave me a cold IV (a very weird sensation!) and kept me for an hour or two. To this day I don't know if I caused myself to overheat that way, by just worrying so much about it!)

Anyway, as I finished the bike (having passed only one person, who stopped to rest on a hill!) I saw my husband drive into the parking lot - he'd spent the first part of the morning dropping the kids off at various friends' houses so they could get to their ballet dress rehearsals.) He didn't see me, but I figured we'd spot each other before the run. Again, transition was fairly smooth, except for the shoelaces - that definitely added a minute or so to my time. I put my hat on, strapped on my water bottle (I'd been undecided about whether this would be too bothersome, but again was worried about hydration as it was really hot by now!) As soon as I got out of transition I realized I was seriously wobbly and weak - but tried to remind myself that this feeling would pass, as it had during my brick workouts. I saw people crossing the finish line as I passed it in the other direction - it was somewhere around 1:23 on the clock, so those folks were well behind the leaders, but still doing some pretty impressive times.

My husband was walking along the road, so he jogged alongside me for a few moments and gave me great encouragement, and then I was away. I wonder now if I didn't have enough gels and energy drinks as I just never hit my stride, never found any reserves of energy. It was bloody hot, the hills felt like mountains, and again, I was passed by just about every remaining athlete. I poured water over my head at every water station (and drank plenty too) but again, my brain just beat my body - I started really getting down on myself, thinking of myself as slow, out-of-shape, hopeless. I tried to pep-talk myself, reminding myself that I'd trained for a year, that I could kick it if I wanted to. But the negative voices were louder, and I just went slower and slower as I felt the heat more and more. I was finally walking even on the downhills. With a quarter mile to go, the path leaves the road, heads up a grassy hill, back into the park. As I got nearer, I saw my husband, and then TGTina, who was waiting for me. She came and ran alongside, and I told her I thought I was going to cry, or lie down right then, or both. For some reason, she told me I couldn't do that - I had to just keep shuffling my feet til I crossed the finish line. Obediently, I did so, though I knew she couldn't possible realize that I was about to die of heat exhaustion. When I saw the finish line, my body miraculously found a way to cross it at a jog, I think. The clock said 2:10 (and something) as I crossed. Roughly the time of the most elite marathoners. Significance? Only that now I know what it feels like to work my hardest for that amount of time , I guess!

As the volunteer took my chip off, I suddenly felt - GREAT! Euphoric, delighted, not hot or sick at all! I found some mystery drink they were giving out, grabbed a banana, and posed for the photo you see below. I walked around babbling to my husband and anyone else who would listen for a while, soaked my legs in the pond to cool off and chill my muscles, chowed on the giant 10-foot-long sandwiches and yummy pesto pasta, and found all the people I'd met previously to say hi, how'd you do. It took me longest to find the woman I'd "swum" with - she was one of only two people to finish after me, and she seemed quite glum about it. But she's young (29, according to the results) so I'm sure she'll be able to do better in the future! As, I hope, will I.


RUTH said...

Wow Jenny a great report. It takes far more courage and determination to keep going when you feel you want/need/have to give up than when it's all plain sailing (or running/swimming and cycling in this case!). The over heating was proably quite natutal under those conditions especially with antihistamines in your system. You're one gutsy lady....well done doesn't seem enough to say. It was good to read about your euphoria once you'd finished....now you've got through this triathlon there will be no stopping you..once you've fully recovered from it of course.

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

great job.

i did my first open water triathlon (an olympic distance - my first few were sprints with pool swims) a few weeks ago and totally freaked out in the water. so i know exactly how that is.

not giving up is such a huge accomplishment! the mental aspect of the sport is not to be overlooked.

anyway, great job. nice report. keep at it!!!

Jenny said...

Lisa, I've heard a lot of stories like mine in the last few days - I'm glad to know I'm not the only one! What are you doing to overcome the panic - it really feels like an obstacle to doing another one?

GeekGirl said...

Great job, and well done! You know about elastic shoe laces, right? You put them on once,and never tie them again...by the way, I did take 3 days off. sorta.

barracuda said...

Just was stopping by to see how it went. Congrats on finishing the race! I was taking plenty-o-mental notes while reading your experiences. Our first tri is in only 7 weeks!!!