Wednesday, October 26, 2011

And then there were none

Considering the time taken to accomplish a dream on my terms, I don't really think this race report blog is late.  So Lump it and quit your bitchin'.

"One and done." "Two and through." "Three and free."  "Four and no more."

Personally, I think I was really still at one and done.  My first three attempts at iron distance triathlons did not go as I had planned.  Let me remind you:

The Bigfoot Triathlon, alternately named Jethro Throws a Triathlon.  I blogged about this race several years ago and reread my descriptions a few months ago.  I didn't do it justice.  This was the worst organized race I have yet run.  That includes all "Any Distance Classics" and the "Alice's Restaurant Massacre Run".  I got food and drink at both the latter races.

Ironman Brazil.  FUCK!  Disassembled my bike, packed it, flew it to another continent, found it after some considerable consternation and time, unpacked it, reassembled it, and checked it into transition.  Had to wait 10 hours to get to ride it back to our hotel as I pretended to be driftwood for 2:35 in the ocean.  FUCK!  And I especially appreciated the super-support I received from my "friends".

Ironman Arizona.  17:14:20.  Don't worry so much about dehydration in the desert.  OR learn to pee on your bike.  Either way.

And so, #4:  Ironman Texas.

I had a pretty foolproof method for this one.  Train your ass off.  Literally, I dropped 15 pounds before race day.  Got plenty of rest, ate a healthy diet.  Oh yeah, one other thing:  throw money at the race.  New gorgeous Cervelo bike:  check.  Private swim lessons:  check.  Ensuring Ed didn't let me get away with anything in weight training or indoor cycling:  check.  Multiple bike fits:  check.  Clinical massage therapy:  check.

And then convince your bestest friends that the most important place for them to be on May 21, 2011 is in Hellouston, TX....not eating, not drinking, not peeing for just a smidge over 16 hours.  Perfect.  I do regret not convincing Mom, David & Karen to come.  Oh well.

It was an amazing day.  I slept pretty well the night before, not nearly as many dreams as previous attempts.  I was ready.  The water was warm and extremely crowded, as you might expect with a bunch of panicked swimmers in a very little area.  I got punched, shoved, swum over.  I never really found that sweet spot where you're just swimming.  This was due to yes, a much-improved swim stroke, but also one lone crazy-woman, who must have covered 4 miles in her swim.  She swam the entire way - side to side.  She kept hitting me perpendicularly, if that makes any sense.  She could have won that damn swim if she'd learned to sight. At all.

My favorite part of the swim was the last bit with the canal.  I'm still not sure exactly how far it was, but it was certainly longer than I expected.  But I got to see and hear my peeps following me the whole way.  And I got to hear the Vuvuzela.  OK, I may have to re-examine whether that was my favorite part.  I remain surprised that Annn did not end up in the drink at some point that day.  Anita, Joy, J9, Adelia & Jackie must have been on some good drugs. 

My swim time was about 30 minutes faster than IMAZ.  That's with no extra swim effort - that's all technique improvement.  Thanks to Annn for convincing me how awesome ProKaren is and to ProKaren for convincing me I could easily complete the IM swim in under 2 hours.  How about 1:43???  Suhweet.

I immediately spent a significant portion of that time savings in transition.   It wasn't like IMAZ.  When you're in the middle of the pack, the volunteers are a whole lot busier.  So, I had to dress myself.  Doesn't that just suck?  Who knew?  Always difficult to get tight fitting bike clothes on a damp body.  Oh well.

Then I foolishly allowed volunteers to put sunscreen on me.  Yes, sunscreen was a good idea.  But these folks had lathered up their hands with the gunk awhile ago and it had formed more of a glue than a lotion.  Great race pictures that resembled the Wicked 10k the year before.  Did not know I'd be biking in my zombie makeup.

And then I went out and had the best 80 mile bike ride I've ever had.  Best on so many levels.  Smooth roads, great pedalling, passing folks on every small up and down hill!  Staying hydrated, but not over-hydrated.  Got stopped by a cop for 3 minutes (along with some of my much less happy racing friends) for traffic.  3 minutes is a long time.  Like the difference between a sub 16 hour IM and not.  Thankfully, not the difference between under 17 and not.  Still, I didn't care.  I was averaging between 16 & 17 mph and was able to stay in aero without the significant discomfort that I'd felt on EVERY OTHER BIKE RIDE I'D EVER TAKEN AS AN ADULT.  I love it when a plan comes together.

Anita & her entourage were supposed to try and stake out the bike course at about mile 35.  But I was too fast.  Ha!  Yes, I'm chair-dancing in victory knowing I was going too fast on my bike.  What I did not know until much later was that this panicked Anita because she thought I was going to burn out.  But Annn was able to talk her down from the ledge as we had discussed strategy for months.  And we'd decided I should just go.  Not crazy effort, but a sustained push as long as I could.  We knew to expect a steady headwind all the way back into town, so ride whatever tailwind for all I was worth.

The gang caught up with me about mile 50 and it was really good to see them.  I managed to avoid wiping out as the girl in front of me slowed way down for the turn as I was waving to the best support crew ever to show up for a race.  I was about an inch from clipping her tire and had to apply the brakes an a strenous manner (aka nearly skidded out).  Didn't mean to give Anita yet another heart attack.  But I was much too busy trying to decipher Annn's signs and find my Where's Waldo friend, J9, who kept hiding on me all day and then popping out in surprise.  It was good to see that everyone was still smiling (and screaming and jumping and yelling).  I was having the time of my life.

At IMAZ, I probably got off my bike to pee at least 6 times.  At IMTX:  once.  Which was a really good thing, because my biggest pet peeve was that there was a line at every portajohn all day - there were not nearly enough.  I waited for over 5 minutes at mile 70 on the bike.  And when the volunteer came out of the extremely foul restroom after that 5 minutes (when there were other facilities available to non-racers) I almost peed on him.  Asshole.  So, 5 minutes is the difference between a sub 16 hour, blah, blah, blah....

So I had the best 80 mile bike ride ever.  But gee, CJ, isn't the IM bike 112 miles.  Why, I'm glad you asked that.  Yes, there were 32 miles left after my best bike ride ever.  Mile 81-100 was on the worst pavement I've ever driven or walked on with awful traffic and no shoulder to speak of.  It was scary and I understand that at least 2 bikers were actually hit by cars in this stretch.  There is a rumor that one of those accidents caused a detour on the bike course and many bikers actually completed 114 miles or more (yes, my bike computer showed over 114 miles).  Do you know what the time difference it took to ride those extra 2 miles was?  It's the difference between a sub....whatev.  So those were a rough 20 miles. 

And my trusted friend, my 5 lb. watch, crapped out at mile 84 of the bike.  WTF?  I'd used it for 6 months and it was always perfect.  Turns out, the memory was full.  I never did manage to read the accompanying manual and thought I was transferring the data from watch to Mac after every use.  Nope.  I was copying.  FUCK!  Can't exactly learn how to program my watch biking down the road.

And then we came to the sign that brought us back into "The Woodlands".  Home sweet home.  WHoopeee!!!  Maybe the bike course is short?  Certainly, the pavement was better....but those were the 12 longest miles I have ever experienced in a race on a bike. Every corner looked like the turn for transition and none of them were.  I kept telling myself to stay focused.  Every 20 seconds when I realized I wasn't in aero anymore and I wasn't pedalling very hard anymore.   Oh look, a golf course....hmmm...I like golf...Oh hey, there's Where'sJ9Waldo on the smallest median I've ever seen between 6 lanes of traffic.  Hope she's OK.  I must be close to transition.  And yet the miles just kept ticking off with no end, not even at 112....

Finally made the last turn and saw all my very happy, but nervous peeps waving me into transition (except for poor Joy who was sent on the camera batter errand at an inopportune time - I am hoping she took some extra time to cool off in the hotel).  Turns out Anita was a wreck because I was unable to maintain that 16-17 pace for the last 40 miles since they'd seen me.  And they'd heard there was a wreck.  Poor girl.  Someone should have gotten her a mai tai.

End result of the bike:  a much improved bike time and superior prognosis for finishing an IM in under 17 hours.  Although, I didn't know what time it was....

Into the changing tent and again, no one to help me change.  DAMMIT.  What do these people expect from me.  Anywho, got changed (slowly), got some water, filled all my shorts pockets with my preferred nutrition and headed out.  I decided to try to fix my watch in the first mile, so drink, eat, fix watch, then run.  I got some data deleted and started the watch again about the 1/2 mile mark.  This was distressing to me because I never managed to get a real mile time for the rest of the race.  It's probably a good thing though because I never found a pace on the run.

Let me back up a bit.  I've never run as well or as fast as I have in the 4 months leading up IMTX.  I actually enjoyed running.  Occasionally, I'd tell Anita what time I expected to be home and I'd beat that time by several minutes without cutting the run short.  I'd PR every mileage without pushing (OK, there were a couple of races I pushed at the end).  So I was expecting my best IM run ever.  Well, actually, yes, I think it was my best IM run ever.  For the 4-5 miles I actually ran.  Which were not consecutive.  Nor probably even miles.  However, did I mention it was hot?  I mean MF'ing hot.  Like, the second I got off the plane I turned to Anita and said "Oh, I didn't know.  This race is totally going to suck.  And not in a good way."  The heat was another factor in the last 30 miles of the bike.  It had been overcast and a little rainy earlier in the day.  Still hot.  HOT actually.  I don't know how hot.  But it got muggy AND sunny in the last 30 miles of the bike.

And then they expected me to run.  There was about a mile, maybe 1.5 miles of shade on the run course.  The 3 look 8.x mile course.  And sunset was after 9pm.  Hot.

OK, so after I got my watch reset, I started running.  I noticed it was hot.  I poured ice down my shirt/shorts at every rest stop, which was every mile.  Lots to drink.  Cool sponges under my hat and on the back of my neck.  Still hot.  Felt woosy pretty early on.  Digestive issues early on.  I slowed down.  OK, CJ, get it together.  No problem.  This is a long race with lots of recovery time available.  Change up nutrition/hydration, slow down until you feel a bit better.  Until I can think again.  Hmmm.  Managed to get through the first loop.  It was hot and slow.  Anita was worried.  Joy asked me what my pace was.  I laughed.  No pace.  None.  I'd expected to be able to catch some friends on some loop of the run, but I had nothing.  I was only able to run a few steps at a time before I'd feel woosy again.  Without the vuvuzela in my ear, I'm not sure I'd have run that much.

I started to notice in that second lap that there were a ton of bike paramedics on the course.  And that all of them were very busy.  Those that weren't administering IV's were on their bikes following folks they'd soon be putting IV's in.  I realized that I could think - I realized that as long as I stayed vertical and moving forward, I'd be able to finish this thing in under 17 hours.  No hope for the 15 hour goal at this run pace, but as long as my body didn't get a new piercing by IV, I'd have the monkey off my back.  I also realized that though I'd finally enjoyed an IM (finally) that my body is really not cut out for it.  Maybe shorter races.

I hope CrazyWaldoTrainJ9 doesn't really ever want to do one with me.  But I'd be happy to cheer and train too.

Nearing the lights of the finish line, I was able to run.  One of my favorite Teammates, Adri and her husband, ran with me for some of that last mile, and that was awesome.  Helped to distract from the pain. 

I never saw nor heard my peeps as I ran down the finish chute, but I knew that crowd noise was definitely louder than it had been for the finisher before me.  And I knew that meant they were there.  Still there.  Sharing every moment of the battle with me.

I love you all.