Monday, August 24, 2015

Race report: Michigan Titanium 54.1 aquabike =(

I felt OK taking this since it says "Aquabike" on it.
What a weekend. I was hoping to write up a wonderful race report about how I PR'd every split and had an amazing race but, alas, it wasn't meant to be.

Instead, I had an OK swim and got to almost mile 53 of the bike before lightning started. The storm stuck around long enough that the race was canceled. The directors made the right call, of course, but it was so disappointing.

Final prep and pre-race

I had to work a half-day Thursday but ran a bunch of last-minute errands, including buying Gu, and fit in a doctor appointment. My hip/SI joint/lower back was still bothering me, so the only training I did was some stretching. (I had missed what was to be my last pool swim for the Great Garage Door Adventure.)

I talked about Friday and Saturday in my last post, but boils down it to getting in one last short ride and run even after my tire pump broke in my hands, heading to Grand Rapids, a practice swim, and the usual drive the course/athlete meeting/last-minute stuff. When I left off last post, it was time to try to go to sleep Saturday night.

Well, that didn't really happen. I was exhausted, so I did fall asleep, but my butterflies didn't let me sleep for long. I spent most of the night lying there, just being nervous. Ugh. I wasn't feeling great about the day. But I got up, ate as many potatoes and drank as much coffee as I could, double-checked everything, and headed for the shuttle. We were at the park in no time and I headed to transition (while my husband headed to McDonald's for an egg mcmuffin) to finish setting up.

First off, the guy assigned to the spot next to me tried to mansplain how to rack my bike. Are you kidding me? I was way too nervous for a feminist rant so I just said something like, "My tag says the front wheel goes this way" and ignored him. I pumped my tires -- new pump, remember? -- and I couldn't get the damn pump off the front wheel. I struggled with it until finally it came off, THE TIP OF THE VALVE WITH IT. Oh no, not this, not now. After an internal freakout, I realized the air was staying in the tire. I finished setting up, watched the full racers take off, and went back to check on it right before transition closed. The tire was still full. I decided there was nothing I could do now, crossed my fingers, and headed to the beach for good.

I'm not sure why, but they didn't let us do a warmup swim this year. My mantra of the day was "Race the mile you're in" and I repeated that to myself in my head. Struggled into my wetsuit, made sure I had everything, kissed the husband goodbye, and headed down. I knew the chances of me panicking were less if I got in the water and splashed around first, so I darted off to the right to squeeze in as many warm-up strokes as I could before the countdown. I stayed off to the side and to the rear. "Here we go," I thought.

The swim

And we were off. This year's course was an elongated triangle, with a short second leg. They had warned us that the sight buoys were free-floating in the lake and to keep the anchored triangle turn buoys in sight. Easier said than done, considering I'm half-blind and they were a half mile away. But I focused on one buoy at a time, swimming strong. I got clear water after the first few minutes, after the faster swimmers put some distance between us. I was sighting pretty often, every five strokes or so, but I figured the extra time sighting would make up for getting lost in the lake. "One buoy at a time. Race the mile you're in," I kept thinking.

Around the first turn buoy with no incident. Sighted to the second and around that one too. I got foot cramps a couple of times, but I'd just try to swim with my arms and flex my feet. It was painful, but they eventually went away. After I made the second turn, I started passing a lot of men from the wave before and slower full swimmers on their second lap. I was honestly surprised -- I am not usually the person passing other swimmers. The wind was starting to pick up and it was blowing me a bit off course. I tried a sharp turn back on course but got a wave full in the face -- it hit me so hard I thought a jet ski had just gone by to rescue another swimmer. I randomly found myself on the other side of the sight buoys. Really??? I passed more people -- I guess everyone was having a hard time navigating the waves. It seemed like I had to adjust every time I looked up. I saw the beach. Closer and closer. Adjust. Touched bottom and stood up. One leg down.

Final time: 47:39

Ugh. I know this would have been faster if I would have been able to swim in a straight damn line. It's 21 seconds faster than last year, so I'll take the PR, but I know I was capable of better.

T1: 3:47

I used the wetsuit strippers this year and it worked beautifully. Dry off; headband, helmet and glasses on; jersey on; shoes and socks on; Garmin and gloves on; quick spray of sunscreen; and I'm off. I should note that mansplainer was still there -- I guess you don't know everything, do you, buddy? My time was almost a full minute faster than last year, so I can't be mad about that.

The bike

I hit the mount line and was off. My front tire seemed to be OK. I headed up the main road away from the park, and then on to the country roads. The first thing I noticed was the road surface, chip seal. Not conducive to fast riding! I felt every bump. Oh well -- everyone was suffering along with me. The course was not closed to traffic so I tried to stay over to the right as best as I could. I'm slow, so I got passed a lot, but this time I thought, "I swam faster than you, and I swam faster than you, and you and you," every time I got passed. It put me in better spirits, whether or not it was true. We hit some decent hills (for Michigan) on the way out so I was crawling along. The wind was also blowing pretty good.

I had taken Gatorade coming out of transition and I wanted to front-load some solid calories, so I took a Larabar at about mile 5 and a That's It bar (dehydrated fruit) at about 15. Up hills, down hills, passing farmland, passed by faster racers. My stomach started not feeling so great. I tried to ride in aero, but it cramped up by my ribcage. I couldn't even breathe deeply. Gatorade and even water made it worse. OK, this isn't good. Do I need to find a port-o-potty? I remember hearing advice that if you feel crappy and are eating, stop; if you aren't, start. I stopped trying to put anything down. Hills, people cheering, some beautiful country scenery, cows. (Yes, I mooed at some.) There was TONS of roadkill. The middle section was pretty flat and I made up a bit of speed (relatively speaking). Finally, the turnaround. A few zigs and zags and we were on the final straightaway back into town.

Side note: On the last big hill, I put my head down and just spun and spun. The next thing I know, I'm riding RIGHT OVER THE SANDBAG keeping a temporary road sign anchored. I screamed an obscenity and the person in front of me looked back to make sure I wasn't dead. How incredibly lucky I am that I hit the sandbag and not the metal bar. Kids: Always watch where you are going. I definitely learned my lesson on that one.

I noticed around mile 40 that the clouds were moving in. By 45 it was getting dark. By 50 I was getting a few sprinkles. "I better hustle," I thought. "If it starts raining I want to at least back to T2." The special needs station for the full distance bikers was up ahead. As I got closer I noticed a volunteer in an orange vest waving me down. "Pull over! Lightning!" he called out.

Crap. By my Garmin, I was at mile 52.89. So close!

There was a pretty big group of a couple dozen of us, with more trickling in, and we tried to make the best of it. I chatted with someone who lives near where I grew up, tried a bite of someone's gluten-free pop tart from her special needs bag, and just generally commiserated. We got word that we were 5 minutes away from restarting as long as there was no more lightning. Just then, there was a HUGE flash and a kaboom of thunder. 50-75 grown adults collectively groaned, "Awwwwww."

We all knew then our race was over. The official word came a few minutes later. We hustled across the street to a church, where we called for rides. Since my husband was near the start/finish line and I'd have to track him down anyway, I asked him to come get me. We loaded up my bike. It was done.

Unofficial time: By my Garmin, I completed 52.89 miles in in 3:28:37. This wouldn't have been a PR, but the average mph is slightly faster than my final mph average from last year, so I'm not sure how that works. Anyway, I guess we'll never know.

I gathered my swim and run stuff from transition -- my run shoes had standing water in them and everything was completely soaked -- and got a medal anyway. A young girl, no older than 13, said to me "Good job." "Yeah, I wish," I joked. She got a bit serious: "No, really. You did good." Aw, thanks, kiddo. After that we headed back to my friend's house so I could shower, eat leftover pizza, pack up and head out of town early. There was no reason to stay.

One thing I realized after the fact was how my priorities changed during the race. First I was worried about my back. Then my tire. Then not barfing. Then the storm. The things I thought would take me out ended up being non-issues, and new issues kept popping up. It just goes to show how you can't plan nor expect anything on race day.

So, what next? By the time the race was called, I was pretty over it. Last year I felt I had one more sprint race in me, but this year I'm just done. I'm frustrated that I am making such small improvements in the swim and bike. I feel like I need a mental break. Plus, I really need to get my running back in gear, considering I haven't had decent mileage in weeks.

I took today completely off and am going to try for an easy run tomorrow. I am hoping that my back issue is better, with all the intentional and unintentional rest. My season isn't over yet and I still have some work to do.

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