Monday, October 27, 2008

Soma Quarterman Results [G]

I'm back! Actually, I got home at about 10:00 PM last night but the results weren't available online yet and I was too pooped to post anyway. It took everything I had just to shower and get my PJs on.

Anyway, the short version of my race report is that this race went MUCH better than Elephant Man. I wasn't much faster - in fact, on the swim I was slower - but I kept my breathing under control, had fun on the bike and generally enjoyed myself overall. The few problems I did have were strictly due to (a) lack of speed and endurance, still, but I know I'll get faster and stronger as I continue to train, so that's OK, and (b) slacking off pretty badly on my stretching even though I know better, but this, too, can and will be remedied.

On to results!

My overall time for the Quarterman was 4:17:10.

I placed 49th out of 55 women ages 35-39 and 249th out of 270 women overall. My split rankings within my age group were 53rd in the swim, 42nd in the bike and 50th in the run. My overall rankings were 254th in the swim, 214th in the bike and 251st in the run.

So, it's clear that I need to work most on the swim, followed by the run and finally the bike. I'm going to spend my off-season working on my running, though, because I want to try to run my first half marathon on March 1. :)

Here are my Quarterman splits compared with my Elephant Man splits:

Quarterman Swim - .6 mi, 36:05, 3:25/100 yd
Elephant Man Swim - 1 mi, 50:40, 2:53/100 yd

Quarterman Bike - 27 mi, 1:56:58, 13.8 mph
Elephant Man Bike - 26.5 mi, 2:00:17, 13.2 mph
UPDATE: Reliable sources are now telling me that the Quarterman bike course was long, possibly by as much as 4.5 miles! If I really rode 31.5 miles, my average speed was something more like 16.2 mph which is closer to what it felt like I was doing. I was riding pretty hard on the straightaways even though I had to slow down a lot for the many crazy U-turns and the occasional climb.

Quarterman Run - 6.5 mi, 1:33:06, 14:19/mi
Elephant Man Run - 6 mi, 1:27:54, 14:39/mi

And here are my Quarterman feelings compared with my Elephant man feelings:

Quarterman: happy, happy, ouch, happy, happy, happy, double ouch, happy, happy, uh-oh, well, nevermind, happy, happy, tired but happy, tired but happy, tired but happy, done, happy

Elephant Man: calm, not calm, freaked, freaked and miserable, miserable, miserable, miserable, inconsolable, miserable, miserable, slightly less miserable, miserable, done, relieved but miserable

I'll post my full race report just as soon as I finally get caught up on my blog reading! I've been chipping away but am still behind.

Thanks again for all your positive thoughts and encouragement!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

You guys are the best! [G]

Seriously, you guys, thank you so much for your kind comments and awesome support!

It was all I could do to get that epic race report posted before becoming overwhelmed with work deadlines, meetings, appointments and an unplanned, sick foster cat (now OK and back with her family, don't worry). I'm SO sorry I haven't responded to your individual comments yet and also that I'm so far behind in reading all your blogs. According to Google Reader, I have 87 unread posts plus another 23 starred posts that I opened but didn't really read. Eek!

I'm going to try to get caught up on all of that, though, starting just as soon as I finish posting here.

As for the Soma Quarterman, my sister, who's always up for a road trip, has agreed to drive up with me - hooray! We're going to head out Friday after work, spend the night somewhere en route and try to be in Tempe by 11:00 AM Saturday morning so that I'll have plenty of time to do a practice swim and scope out the bike course if it's allowed.

I rented a De Soto wetsuit as they use a two-piece design which looked easier to get in and out of than a one-piece design. I took it for a test swim on Sunday (the other reason I got a De Soto is that they're chlorine treated so you can use them in a pool) to see what swimming in a wetsuit feels like. I had to experiment a bit to find a new catch position that didn't make my biceps hurt (that was weird) and it seems like it takes a little more work to rotate fully with the wetsuit on for some reason, but otherwise - WOW! - huge improvement.

With the wetsuit on, my hips and heels float right at the surface of the water and my fastest 100 yd time, which in a swimsuit is still around 2:23, is around 2:04. Not that I could maintain that in open water for the full .6 mile swim at Quarterman, but still.

Yay!

Also, for the past several weeks I've been practicing swimming with my eyes closed to try to break my mental dependency on the lane stripe since, apparently, they don't paint lane stripes on lake bottoms.

And, I've been trying to pick up the pace on all my runs as I think I tend too hold back more than I should out of fear of not being able to finish otherwise. Last week I ran 6.5 miles at an 11:32 minute pace which for me is really good considering that I would usually run that distance at a 12:00 to 12:04 minute pace.

I haven't biked as much as I'd hoped to post-Elephant Man due to multiple rained-out weekend rides and the fact that it's now dark before 7:00 PM.

But, whatever. The Quarterman is just for fun. :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Elephant Man Race Report: Part III [G]

BIKE: 26.5 MILES

I mounted my bike, clipped in and rode across a short bit of flat parking lot before turning to start up the big hill out of transition. Somehow as I turned I found myself sandwiched between two guys on mountain bikes. Where did they come from? I'd been all alone in transition so they must have been in the Porta-Potties or something as I was sitting on the carpet scraps trying to get my breathing, and my head, together. One pulled ahead of me and one dropped behind me and we remained in that order as we proceeded up the hill. I dropped into a low gear and spun my way up to warm my legs up, then geared up and passed the guy in front of me as soon as we turned onto the main road.

The first few miles after the initial big hill were pretty flat and went by fast. Then the hills started again but I still felt I was doing well until sometime around, maybe, mile 6 or 7. At this point I came up behind another guy, a Clydesdale, I think, on a mountain bike. We would go about the same speed on the downhills but on every uphill I would have to slow down because under the no drafting rules you have to either stay a minimum of 3 bike lengths behind the bike in front of you OR pass the bike in front of you within 15 seconds. I didn't think I could pass him within 15 seconds so had to hang back instead.

It wasn't until after the race that I realized that I was, I believe, not thinking correctly about passing. I was thinking that I had to get from 3 bike lengths behind him to 3 bike lengths in front of him within 15 seconds, which I didn't think I could do. In fact, though, I believe my pass would have been considered complete when I got to the point where my front wheel just edged past his front wheel, at which point he would be required under the rules to drop back himself to 3 bike lengths behind me.

In any event, I lost a lot of time being stuck behind him on every uphill, more time I'm sure than if I'd gotten even several penalties under the no draft rules (not that there were even any refs around this far back in the pack, but still) which could have been avoided anyway by just dropping back out of the draft zone at 14 seconds had a pass turned out to be incompletable.

LESSON 5: If somebody's slowing you down, always at least TRY to pass!

I tried to take advantage of being forced to slow on the uphills to front-load my nutrition a bit in the interest of being able to take full advantage of the flat and downhill speedy section in the last third of the course. Still, it was unbelievably frustrating, plus I was already pretty emotionally frayed from the whole swim disaster and being literally the last person out of the water.

Also, I had decided before the race that it would be a good idea to not track my time during the event, that rather it would be better to just try to make sure I was doing the best I could at any given moment and let the time take care of itself. So, I did not make a note of what time my swim wave started and because the start of all the waves had been delayed did not even really have a reliable estimate.

And this turned out to be a problem because the swim felt so long and horrible that I was sure I'd been in the water for over an hour, an impression which was reinforced when at the beginning of the bike leg I looked at my watch to begin timing my food and hydration intake and it was fifteen minutes later than I thought it should have been even taking into account the morning's delays.

This threw me into a state of despair because although I knew that in theory there was a possibility that if something really bad happened I could be out there for five hours, I really thought my training should get me in in about four. And yet, here I was now, apparently at least fifteen minutes behind schedule and totally exhausted already and probably doomed to a five hour finish time after all.

And so it was that at the Mile 10 aid station I dismounted, locked myself in the Porta-Potty and sobbed for several minutes while the sheriff's deputy outside, who I'm sure could hear me, politely pretended that he couldn't.

LESSON 6: Lack of information leads to catastrophizing. Track your time.

At this point I remembered what The Little One's coach told her. Don't give up on yourself! I repeated that to myself many times and was finally able to emerge, remount my bike and get moving again.

Right after the aid station was a steep hill with hairpin turn that the race director had warned us about. I'd been nervous about it but navigated it without any trouble. I got stuck behind mountain bike guy again as the course continued to go up and down and up and down. I was starting to have trouble breathing again, though, and eventually wasn't stuck behind him anymore so much as I was struggling to keep up.

And then we came to the big hills.

There are three big hills that you have to climb to get up out of this little canyon and up to the access road where you then cross the interstate and cruise back into town. I knew they were going to be steep which I why I'd been riding steep hills every Wednesday for the past several months. I did not, however, realize that the first one was going to be almost vertical, which I might have known had I taken the time to at least drive the course the day before. I didn't even try to ride it as I was already wheezing again, plus I just wasn't psychologically prepared. Instead, I got off and walked my bike then stood gasping for air at the top, thinking all the while how pathetic my entire performance was turning out to be.

Only two things really kept me from giving up at this point.

First, it had been a long time since I'd seen any kind of vehicle going any direction and I couldn't stand the thought of just sitting there by the side of the road until one of the two guys who were presumably still behind me could get to the Mile 20 aid station and send somebody to retrieve me - especially as the race director had warned us that with the recent rains, the rattlesnakes were out in force. Eek!

And, second, I kept thinking about what I'd told our club president the day before - that, you know, I'm a stubborn person and that that it would take something pretty catastrophic for me not to finish the race at all. I knew that while a broken limb or mangled wheel could certainly be sold as catastrophic, feeling exhausted and wheezy and emotionally fragile and being on course to come in very nearly last almost certainly could not be.

And so, I got back on the bike and wheezed my way up the last two hills and up to the access road. Finally I crossed the interstate and turned onto the access road on the other side. It was such a relief to be finally be done with the hills that I suddenly got a second wind. I got down in my drops, passed mountain bike guy, finally, and hammered all the way back to transition. As I descended into town, volunteers waved and cheered from every corner. I couldn't believe they were even still out there, but it was great. That last third of the bike course was the only part of the event I really felt good about although in the end it wasn't enough to save my average speed on the bike. Still, it felt good.

By the end of the bike I was feeling the perkiest I'd felt all day. I rode carefully down the steep hill toward the dismount line where I encountered our club president who had already finished the race. He said encouraging things while I tried not to freak out over the fact that people were already finished - some had apparently already showered, even - whereas I still had at least an hour and 12 minutes of running yet to do. Oh. My. God.

I dismounted, jogged into transition, racked my bike, went through my T2 checklist and jogged out of transition. Oops! Wrong gate. A volunteer intercepted and redirected me and I jogged out of transition again, this time through the correct gate.

RUN: 6 MILES

Running through the parking lot felt surprisingly good. Maybe I can do this! I thought, in a brief flash of optimism. Then I hit what was supposed to be a little under a mile of packed sand beach trail with a big hill of loose deep sand at the end. My plan for that first stretch was: run 6 1/2 minutes, walk 30 seconds, run to big sandy hill, walk big sandy hill, run to Mile 1 aid station.

This plan fell apart as it turned out that the beach trail was not packed but rather mostly plowed up. There was loose, deep sand everywhere. So, I ended up walking up much of the first mile and any perkiness I'd had at the end of the bike leg totally evaporated. I hiked up the big sandy hill to the road, then ran down the hill to the Mile 1 aid station where Pirate and GeekGirl piled on encouragement and sent me trotting out across the first dam in the direction of Mile 2.

I tried to get back into my planned run strategy (walk 1 minute through aid station, run 5 1/2 minutes, walk 30 seconds, run to aid station) but this quickly fell apart once again. There were lots of big hills, plus I was passed in the first part of the second mile by hoards of people running the other direction, down to Mile 1. They were all super nice and shouted lots of encouragement but because by now I was total emotional toast, I would gasp out a thanks, then start to cry. I just wanted it to be over.

A guy on his way down did tell me that the Mile 2 aid station was just at the other end of the second dam, which was encouraging. I kept up my new run/cry/gasp for air/walk routine for awhile. It seemed like it took forever to get to Mile 2. I realized shortly thereafter, when it took no time at all to get to Mile 3, that it was quite a bit more than a mile from Mile 1 to Mile 2 and quite a bit less than a mile from Mile 2 to Mile 3 but since I wasn't yet aware of that, it was demoralizing to go and go and still no Mile 2 aid station in sight.

And so, somewhere on the second dam I gave up on running altogether and started just walking. Be in the moment, be in the moment, be in the moment, I told myself. I made myself notice the lake, and the desert and the sky. I noted the temperature - cool, slightly breezy, nothing like the baking temperatures I'd trained for just in case. It was a gorgeous day. I couldn't deal with the thought of a Shot Blok, but I had a piece of grape Laffy Taffy and it was the Best. Thing. Ever. I started to cheer up a little and then finally, there was the Mile 2 aid station.

The volunteers there were fantastic as were all the volunteers at this event. They didn't care that I was still on track to come in almost last. They thought it was great that I was out there at all. They told me I just had a little uphill before the big downhill and big uphill leading to turnaround at Mile 3. I walked the uphills and ran the downhill. On the downhill I felt like I was getting my legs back a little, finally.

The return trip from Mile 3 to Mile 1 (now Mile 5) went by fast. I ran the downhills, walked the uphills and sort of ran/walked (in very short intervals) the few flat bits. Pirate and Geek Girl were waiting to cheer me on again at Mile 5. I ran/walked up the last paved hill then mostly walked the beach path to the finish line although I did manage to run across the line at the end. As on the bike course, there were still volunteers out on the run course to cheer on even those of us way at the back of the pack.

POST-RACE AND RESULTS

My clock time was 4:45:something but this didn't include an adjustment for the wave start. I drank some Gatorade and water and chatted with the race director's dad, then went in search of fruit while waiting for my adjusted time to post. I ran into some other people from my club, who had all done very well. I'd seen a few of them coming off the run trail just as I was heading up and many had finished even before - some way before - that.

Eventually my official time became available:

4:27:11

Ack. Not 5:00:00, but still, 22 minutes off my realistic, or so I thought, semi-secret goal time of 4:05.

If 10 or 15 of that 22 was spent struggling in the water, though, I figured, and if I lost as much time on the run as I thought I did, I must have done OK on the bike even with the two mini-meltdowns in order to have come in anywhere under 4:30.

That made me feel a little better. I gathered my stuff out of transition and piled it at the side of the parking lot, then began hiking up the hill toward my campsite to retrieve my car. A volunteer and his son, who looked to be about 9, pulled up beside me in a golf cart and offered me a ride.

Great! I hopped in and the volunteer asked me how I did. I told him I had really struggled and wasn't very happy with my time but that my main goal had been to finish and that I'd done that in spite of being tempted to quit more than once so was happy about that, at least. He described a solo quadrathlon he did where it was all he could do to finish as well and we agreed that the main thing was that we both got out there and tried and how many people don't even try, right? Right.

His son then told me that he had done the whole 6 mile run that morning and that it had been really hard, with all that sand and all those hills. I told him how impressed I was - especially since when I was his age I could probably barely run around the block and here he was out running a very tough course with some very serious adult athletes!

They dropped me at my campsite and I collected my car and drove down to transition. As I was loading up, a volunteer who had cheered me on coming and going at one of the sandiest part of beach trail came up to me. "Oh, honey, you're still here?!" I explained that I'd camped, so had to go retrieve my car after the race and had just gotten back.

It turned out that she was from out of town and was visiting her sister who had been the event staff person in charge of the run. I got the impression that she had never seen a triathlon before today and she had all kinds of questions about it. I told her about super sprints and sprints and relay options and about beginnertriathlete.com. Her sister came by at that point and I told her how fantastic all the volunteers had been and much I appreciated the great support, especially as a back-of-the-packer. "Beginnertriathlete.com," the first sister kept saying, afraid, apparently, that she might forget. I'm laughing now to think that even in my post-race misery I have may have helped recruit a new person into the triathlon community, ha!

I finished loading up the car, drove home and immediately logged on to see if my splits had been posted yet. I was shocked to see that my swim and bike times were not what I'd expected at all.

Swim
50:40
Huh. Totally within my predicted range of 50:00 to 54:00. But it felt so long!!

TI
5:04
Not as bad as I was expecting considering that I had to sit down.

Bike
2:00:17
What the hell? My predicted time had been 1:36. I knew I'd lost time being stuck behind mountain bike guy, crying in the Porta-Potty and walking up the vertical hill, but I really thought I'd made it up on the back third. This was the most upsetting split to me because the bike was supposed to be my best leg. I would have been happier to have seen a longer swim time.

T2
3:17
Not bad, my goal was to not exceed 3:00 and I knew I'd lost some time going out the wrong gate and having to backtrack.

Run
1:27:54
Pretty upsetting, but given how much walking I did I kind of expected something around 1:30, so not that surprising.

Once I saw the splits and realized that my swim time had actually been within my predicted range, I got pretty upset with myself again, this time for having come apart at the seams emotionally and also for not having tried to push a little harder on the run.

In retrospect, though, I can see that besides the mistakes described above, my performance was limited by the simple facts that (1) I had taken on a race that I knew was over my head because I knew I wouldn't train as hard if I weren't training for something I was scared of and (2) I was putting all three events together for the first time ever on race day (at least for this length race) so it's no wonder I struggled with the volume.

LESSON 7: When training for future races, try to do more two-a-days and more bricks to better prepare for the extra work volume you'll have on race day.

LESSON 8: Expect first anythings to be extra difficult and try harder in the future to remember that this is supposed to be FUN!

And that's my report. If you've made it this far, thanks for reading! My Soma Quarterman report will be, I hope, heavier on the fun and lighter on the drama! :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Elephant Man Race Report: Part II [G]

I slept well in spite of having to get up twice during the night to pee, the result of having drunk a gallon of water over the course of the day as part of my hydration plan.

Luckily, I had had the foresight to reserve a campsite right across the road from the restrooms. The temperature was mild and there was no moon and hardly any artificial light, either, so I could see about a gazillion stars. The lizards that were everywhere under foot when I'd first arrived that afternoon were in their burrows now. I heard coyotes howling in the distance the first time I got up but the second time there was only the sound of a light breeze and a few night insects.

My alarm went off at 4:30 AM and I got up and began working my way through my checklist. Everything went smoothly and by 6:30 AM I was walking my bike and my transition bag the .8 miles down to bike racking while the sky over the lake grew pink with the sunrise.

This was a very well-supported race and the race start was teeming with friendly volunteers. At the entrance to transition, one volunteer checked my helmet for a Consumer Product Safety Committee sticker (CPSC) sticker while three other volunteers prepared to body mark me and timing chip me but then decided it would be easier if I racked my bike, set down my transition bag and came back to them after getting rid of a few layers of clothing.

Bike racks were not assigned at this race so I racked my bike just down the row from the friendliest looking person I could find, a tall, calm-looking woman who seemed to be about my age. Then I went to get body marked and chipped and finally came back and began setting up my transition area.

Up to this point I had been feeling very calm and centered, probably because I was so organized, but as I began setting up, I suddenly started to shake. I managed to lay out my towel, then my T1 and T2 instructions, then all my T1 and T2 stuff, and to snap my race number onto my race belt, but by the time it was time to attach my bike number to the top tube of my bike, my hands were quaking so badly I could barely hold a twist-tie let alone thread it through the little holes in the card.

And it was at this point that the tall, calm-looking woman I'd racked my bike near because she looked so friendly complimented me on the color of my bike. I didn't snap directly out of my panic, but we started chatting and the more we talked the calmer I began to feel.

It turned out she was from Albuquerque, so I told her my story about how I improbably reconnected with my childhood friend Pirate through GeekGirl's blog and the Outlaws' website. She of course knows Pirate and GeekGirl, is an Outlaw herself and turned out to be... Cindy.

Cindy!!!

That was amazing because not only have I read her blog BUT also I had recently looked at the results from last year's race and determined that if I had a really good race that I might - might! - be able to approximate her time from last year. I told her this and immediately started to worry that she would think I was stalking her but she claims, at least, that she thought no such thing. Anyway, I told her that I post as Vegan Run Amok and she said, oh!, that she has read my blog, too, so it was another nice little triathlon small world moment. :)

By the way, you can see pictures of Cindy and of me (number 206) pre-swim on her blog here as well as pictures of her friends Holly and Kathy whom I also met and who were also very nice. (Thanks again for the pics, Cindy!) You will notice that I am not wearing a wetsuit. At this point I thought I was being clever by not wearing a wetsuit because (a) unlike everyone around me, I had not had to struggle into one and (b) also unlike everyone around me, I was not going to have to struggle out of one.

Of course, this turned out to be not so clever after all.

LESSON 2: Always wear a wetsuit in a wetsuit-legal race.

Anyway, as we chatted, I gradually stopped shaking and eventually was able to get my bike number affixed and get my sunscreen on. The pre-race meeting and race start ended up being delayed by about 10 minutes, maybe a little more, due to some equipment problems. Before the pre-race meeting I chatted briefly with GeekGirl's husband, S. Baboo, who was racing rather than reffing today - and in running shoes from the Walmart in Truth Or Consequences, no less, as he'd forgotten to pack his own. Of course, he did awesome, even in Walmart shoes.

After the meeting I walked down the water with Cindy. We were going to be in the last wave. She went down and got in the water briefly while I chatted with some people from my club who were scheduled for earlier waves. Then she came back up and I waited with her and Kathy as the first wave took off, then the second, then the third and finally it was time for us to get in the water to wait for our start.

SWIM: 1 MILE

I waded out into chest deep water with the rest of the people in my wave and waited for the horn. BBBRRRAAAHHH! Off we went!

My plan was to alternate 6 sidestroke strokes with 14 freestyle strokes, to do my sighting on the sidestroke strokes and above all to not go out too fast, to swim calmly and deliberately and to remain relaxed and streamlined at all times.

In fact what happened was that I took three sidestroke strokes and suddenly felt the little toe of my right foot starting to cramp up. What the hell? I never get cramps when I swim. Never. OK, actually, once during that crazy swim conditioning class I took over the summer I got a cramp in the arch of my right foot but my instructor told me it was probably because I was dehydrated. I drank a bunch of water, massaged it out and it never happened again.

So, here I was, about to swim out into deep open water for the first time ever and my foot was starting to cramp. To my credit, I didn't totally panic at this point but I was worried. I finished my 6 sidestroke strokes and started my 14 freestyle strokes but only got through four before I realized that the wheezing I'd experienced at my first triathlon back in June and which I'd attributed to going out too fast was coming on already, just a few strokes in. I had thought I maybe had exercise induced asthma, but this, wheezing from the outset, made no sense.

In retrospect, having read a little more about asthma now, I realize that if I do have it that it could have been brought on this time by anxiety, or possibly also by the temperature of the water. The pool I train in is kept at 86 degrees whereas the water temperature on this day and also at my first triathlon was around 75 degrees. Of course, it could also be that I don't have asthma at all, that rather I was merely hyperventilating - violently.

LESSON 3: Dude, get a diagnosis already.

Whatever the reason, I could barely breathe, and putting my face under the water, where I couldn't see anything but a halo of greenish water, only made it worse. And so, I ended up doing sidestroke for the whole mile, wheezing the whole time.

At some point the cramp in my toe went away. Also, by the time I reached the first buoy, I was unambiguously the last person in my wave, and since my wave was the last wave, I was also the last person in the water. As a consequence of which, and probably also because the spotters were afraid I might actually drown the way I was flailing about (I kept smiling and giving them the thumbs up, in fact, because I was afraid they might decide to pull me out of the water otherwise), I got a personal kayak escort for the rest of the swim.

Now, had I not had the escort, I think I might in fact have panicked, especially when I got to the back of the triangular course and realized just how far from shore I was. As it was, though, I mostly just felt rushed. This was not because of anything my escort said or did. Really, he was a paragon of patience. Rather, it was coming from inside my head. You're last! You're very last! And you still have the whole bike to do! And the run! You're gonna be out here forever! And all these people are waiting for you so they can get off the water! Hurry up! Hurry up!

LESSON 4: Practice being in the moment. Practice it more. Practice it even more.

The result was that I still could not relax, which meant that I couldn't get streamlined in the water, which made me have to work even harder just to move forward, which exacerbated my breathing problems, which further inhibited my ability to relax. And here is where I really started to regret my stubborn anti-wetsuit position, because a wetsuit would have made me more buoyant and I probably wouldn't have paid such a heavy penalty in terms of energy expenditure for my form having totally fallen apart.

In the end, the only sense in which the swim was not a total catastrophe was that: (1) I did not drown; (2) I did not stop to hang on the kayak to rest at any point even though doing so would have been allowed under the rules (as long as I made no forward progress while resting); and (3) I finished.

After what seemed like an interminable time in the water, I finally got close enough to shore that I could stand and touch the bottom. I slogged out of the water, ran up the hill though the foot rinsing station and further up into the transition area. By now I was having so much trouble breathing that a volunteer asked if I needed medical attention. No, no, I'm OK, I croaked. He looked skeptical but left me alone.

I tried to begin working through my T1 checklist but still felt like I wasn't getting any oxygen, so I sat down cross-legged on the carpet between the bike racks and did yoga breathing until finally the wheezing abated. I knew I'd expended a huge amount of energy on the swim and was sorely tempted to throw in the towel at this point in order to avoid further humiliation, but I managed to talk myself out of it: you trained 16 weeks, DFL > DNF, the bike is your strong leg, just do the bike, you can decide about the run later, what will you tell your blogger friends if you quit now, what will you tell your fellow club members... OK. OK, here we go.

I stood up, went through my T1 checklist, unracked my bike, jogged out of transition and managed, I think, at least a weak smile at the volunteers at the mount line.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Elephant Man Race Report: Part I [G]

I woke up nice and early Saturday morning because I wanted to be sure to have time to eat a good breakfast, do any last minute packing and non-postponable work email, take a shower, load the car and hit the road no later than 11:30 without feeling rushed.

Everything went smoothly and - woohoo! - when I removed the bandaid from my elbow before hopping in the shower, that last big scab, which I was still afraid might interfere with my swim, fell off! Thank you, healing powers of the body! Thank you, universe! The huge collection of waterproof bandages in all different brands and sizes in my transition bag was now just taking up space.

I loaded up the car, hit the road and had an uneventful drive which could have turned eventful, maybe, had I said, as I wanted to, to the guy at the Border Patrol checkpoint who asked me how far I was going today that it was none of his business how far I was going today, that I'm a U.S. citizen and last I checked we still have freedom of movement in this country, do we not?

In the interest of making it to my destination on time, however, and also because I'm probably just too much of a non-troublemaker personality to actually mouth off to authority no matter how tempted I sometimes feel, I told him I was going to Elephant Butte, and when he asked why I told him I was competing in a triathlon, and when he said what's under the towels in the back I told him it was my bike and that the towels were to keep the chain lube from getting all over my camping stuff and then he waved me on and that was that.

My goal was to get to Elephant Butte by 2:00 PM to help at our tri club's info table at packet pickup. I pulled into the parking lot at 1:55 PM, just behind our club president. We set everything up and hung out there for awhile but things were very slow so at about 3:30 PM we decided to just leave some membership forms on a clipboard for anyone who might be interested and go do whatever we needed to do to be ready for the next day.

He said he thought we'd probably get some new member sign-ups in the morning after the race and that he would be there to man the table as soon as he finished the course. I said I wouldn't be much help in the morning because I had calculated that 3:48 would be a fairly miraculous time for me and that 4:05 would be, probably, a realistic time. He said he didn't think I'd be out there for four hours, but I assured him that, no, seriously, I'm really slow.

"The two things I do have going for me, though," I added, "are that I'm really organized and also that I'm pretty stubborn. I mean, it would take something pretty catastrophic for me to not finish at all."

I realized as I said it that I had really committed myself now. Shit. But the words were already out of my mouth, no taking them back.

As we were closing up shop at our table, a couple of club members came by and announced that they were going to go for a swim to test out the water. I found out later that other members were driving and some were even biking the bike course to familiarize themselves with it.

I, in contrast, was focused on conserving every ounce of energy I could because I had no confidence at all that although I had the distance plus some that I needed for each leg of the race, that I could actually stack them one on top of the other and not die. And so, in the interest of conserving energy, I drove to my campsite to take a nap. In retrospect, this was a mistake because the lack of even a few minutes of real open water swim practice and unfamiliarity with the bike course set me up for problems.

LESSON 1: Always do a pre-swim if it's allowed AND always drive or ride the bike course if possible, too.

Up at my campsite I met some of my neighbors including a group of folks who were up there to do some powered paragliding which I hadn't heard of before. They were really nice and one of them was traveling with his two beagles, Otis and Snoopy, who came snuffling over to visit a few times during my stay. :)

I took my nap, ate dinner, then headed down to the lakeside for race orientation and finally up to Elephant Butte Inn for the official pre-race dinner where I thought I'd have a little salad or something just to be social. As I was getting out of my car someone called my name. I looked up and saw my friend Pirate, who had just arrived from Albuquerque with her two girls as they were all scheduled to work the Outlaws' aid station at mile 1 of the run the next day.

I got some salad and sat with Pirate, her girls and GeekGirl (yes, she of the Athena Diaries!) who was also there to work the aid station as she unfortunately wasn't going to be able to race due to an injury. :(

I also met Sarah, Gail, and Bill and Kathy, all hailing from various parts of New Mexico, and of course they were all super-nice and encouraging as so many triathletes are. Kathy couldn't race because she'd just had hip surgery - she was really sad not to be able to participate, too :( - but Sarah, Gail and Bill raced and they all did great!

After dinner I finally found the folks from my club hanging out near the pool. We all said good night and they headed to their hotel rooms and I headed up to my campsite and was asleep by 9:00 PM.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Soma Quarterman [G]

I just hit Register.

It's on.


I guess for training, the logical thing is to just repeat the last four weeks of the 16-week plan I used to prepare for Elephant Man.

Only this time, I hope, without the jury duty four weeks out, the veterinary emergency three weeks out* and the bike crash exactly two weeks prior to race day!

*Not one of ours. Our neighbor's cat apparently jumped out of a tree in an attempt to grab a hummingbird at the feeder and impaled himself on a garden stake on the way down. Eek!!! His people were working out of town but in an insanely lucky turn a landscaper who wasn't even supposed to be there that day saw the dogs trying to free him from the stake and brought him to me and I rushed him to my vet where he had surgery to repair the hole in his chest. He's fine now, though I hate to think how many lives he burned through in a single day, there. Geez Louise.

Monday, September 29, 2008

First Olympic Distance Tri Done [G]

I'm still too emotionally raw to post a full race report but know I need to post something so you, loyal readers, won't be worried.

The short version is, I finished, which was my main goal, and I finished even though it was a very rough day emotionally (example: I spent several minutes of the bike leg sobbing in the Porta-Potty at mile 10) and even though I thought very seriously about quitting twice, once after my catastrophic swim as I sat all alone on the ground at T1 in full hyperventilation mode and once as I stood wheezing after walking my bike up a nearly vertical climb somewhere around mile 13.

I felt a little better when I saw my final time and then worse again once I got home and saw my splits (which were not yet posted by the time I left for home) and realized that my mental account of the race - that I had lost a lot of time on the swim but made it up on the bike which left me with nothing for the run - was totally inaccurate and that what had actually happened was that I had finished the swim in a few minutes less than I had thought it would take me but so exhausted and emotionally frayed that I was never really able to recover, even on the bike which was supposed to be my strong leg.

Anyway, after a good night's sleep I'm holding it together better today than I was yesterday and by tomorrow should, I hope, be able to post something semi-rational.

Thanks for all your support. I seriously think I would have not been able to finish had I not known you guys were rooting for me.