Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Turning the Corner

On the bike, I felt a sense of confidence. Before I started swimming and running, I biked. I made it from New York to Boston in under 4 days with the Northeast AIDS Ride. That I managed on little training and relying on the body of a 23 year old. I'm ten years older now, but I have my time in the saddle. Regardless of my triathlon experience, Banana and I had been places together. She brought me some much needed confidence after a challenging swim.

I escaped transition with nary a trip, fall or embarrassing snafu. I am thankful for that. Cause when I fall, I tend to do it in front of large groups of people. Like in front of full restaurants with plate glass windows.

I don't fall small.

So mounting and staying mounted was my first feet for the day. Bravo. And then I was off like a herd of turtles.

The greatest things about being a blogger during race season is getting to read so many race reports. Learn from others. I repeat -- Learn From Others. It works.

So I went out sloooooowly. High cadence. Slow speed. No! I will not be seduced by the first flat out and back! No! No! No!


But, to be completely honest, I wonder if I really could have turned it on anyway, if so inclined. My legs were a little mushy and I felt like I was spinning through quicksand for the first five miles. Ah well, we'll just call it part of the plan. Quicksand cadence? Check!

A number of people passed me on this section -- and when I say a number, I mean the entire Masters/HIM section and a bunch of the Olympic field. But I reminded myself -- I'm racing my race, not theirs. Maybe they'll poop out later, after going out too strong. Maybe they won't. I'll never know. Wasted energy to worry about it, right? Right.

About this time, on the out and back by the river, I started eating and drinking. First a Balance bar and then started on the Perpetuem. Not too fast, but we were already 15 minutes into the bike section and -- learning from others -- I remembered that this was the key time to begin.

Anyway, it tasted like sawdust. It was awful. I ate it, but bletch. Gross.

The course itself was two full laps, each with one loooong hill (about 4 1/2 miles) and one steep hill (under 1 mile, but the same elevation change). Mighty M and I drove the course the night before, so I was prepared for a mind numbing assent. After each turn on the long grade, there was yet another section of -- you guessed it -- a long slow hill.

But knowing ahead of time makes all the difference in the world. Learn from me, people. If you can, ride the course first. Do your recon. Map it out on the online tools. Know what to expect. It will help with managing your effort. Trust me.

Anyway, the first loop wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The long assent -- felt like cake. Granny gear and a high cadence kept me feeling fresh. I skipped the first rest stop (at about 15 miles) since I still had a good amount of fluids on board and I had no idea how to do the hand off. The steep hill was a challenge -- my heart rate spiked through the roof and I was clearly feeling the effort. It didn't help that it was devoid of trees or cover from the morning sun. Sweaty! But I got through it fine, and it was downhill the rest of the way back to town.

(This, by the way, was when I was first "caught" by the pro field on their second loop. Holy geeze. I've never been in a race with these kind of pros -- ever. They are astounding. Impressive doesn't cover it. They take your breath away. Except for the first one, who I yelled at for not calling out an OnYourLeft in a particularly craggy and narrow section of road. After figuring out he's a pro, I forgive him. I'm sure he gives a hoot.)

So, when I swung through town and saw Mighty M at the bridge over the Monongahela, things were all thumbs up. I was feeling good -- to be halfway through and know that the long climb didn't kill me. I was in need of some fluids and a little solids, but all was good.

This was the last time that day I could honestly say I was in a good place.

It's amazing how quickly things can turn from good to oh-my-goodness- this-sucks-monkey-balls. How very, very quickly.

Rest stop two -- at the main transition area -- included my first hand off. Wahoo! A new water! Yeah! Banana please...(snatch)...wahoo!

Wait...um, what do I do with these things?

Yeah. I didn't really think about things like "ditch your used water bottles before the rolling rest stop, and replace with the new ones." Nobody taught me that lesson! Now I know. Ditch and roll. Ditch and roll.

I allowed myself a quick stop in the parking lot to fill up with fresh water and peel and eat a mushy banana. Back on the road for the second loop I felt great. I was on track with a bike time somewhere around 1:45. I'd been in a good place if I could do that one more time. Saw Mighty M again and he was cheering like a rock star. I felt fueled and strong.

But soon my energies started going down. I was only starting to catch up with a little dehydration I felt on the way back into town, although the waterstop helped. The fast and flat out and back by the river, before the long climb, suddenly felt like a long hill. The padding (or lack thereof) in my race suit was making itself known -- with each and every pothole and bump. Discomfort turned the corner to pain. More people passed me, efficiently tucked in aero and spinning away. The field thinned noticeably. My left aerobar was twisted out of position (how did that happen?) and my legs felt heavy and empty.

Where was everyone?

As my legs started getting tired, I became concerned about the climbs. My gearing for the long one was clearly more forgiving the second go around. The last obnoxious sharp hill at the top seemed doubly obnoxious.

And it was dawning on me how quiet it was out there. Lonely, even.

Now, the first time around, there were people doing both the half iron distance and the olympic. So, my rational mind told me that all those Oly people were out on their run.

But, my pragmatic mind knew better. And with the knowledge came the dread. And that dread was confirmed at the last out and back section of the course.

I was in a race for last place. And I was running out of fuel.


B Bop said...

Uh oh, sounds like a bonk coming on.....and before T2. Maybe you could use more food and/or drink next time???? Do you use a sports drink???? In a recent conversation about my upcoming 70.3 I was warned of the importance of nutrition.

I also look foreward to mounting my yellow racing machine (which means I survived the swim). I am really enjoying all installments of your race report and cannot wait to hear about your run.....and how you overcame the bonk.

Laurie said...

This is getting good. You have me anxious for more, even if I already know you finished.

I enjoy how you write :)

Wes said...

You are on a tough road to Iron. This is definitely a good learning experience for you, and through you us. I'm sitting on the edge of my seat for the rest of the story, and I can't wait to try out that recipe ;-)

LBTEPA said...

More! More!

Duane said...

You cannot leave me hanging! Argh! More, more! :-)

TriTurtL said...

This is absolutely my favorite blog right now! Thanks for all your tips. I'm paying attention to every one of them. This may be the only time I've ever anxiously looked forward to the run...