May 12, 2012

My first Olympic Tri Race Report

If you noticed I was a little distracted this week, it's because...I WAS!

All I could think about was this race.  Each distance on it's own is achievable for me, but putting them all together is something I have yet to do!  So previously I've done a Sprint Tri, but this is a big step up.  Compare the distances....

SPRINT - 400 yd swim, 20k bike, 5k run
OLYMPIC - 1500 yd swim, 40k bike, 10k run

Alarm was set for 5:15, and as usual, I watched it tick minute by minute from about 5 a.m. on.  Everything was laid out and ready to go, so I was dressed and ready by 5:30.  Still debating what to eat, I had a banana and a granola bar with a can of diet coke and a bottle of water..  I left the house at 5:50, I promise you I was still hungry, and took my chances on a bacon egg and cheese bagel and large diet from McDonald's!  I know, I know - what was I thinking?  Believe it or not, this sandwich sits well for me, and the bagel is very filling!  Not recommended for most!

I was at the site plenty early, so I got my timing chip, body marked, and unloaded.  It's still pretty chilly out, around 50 degrees.  I got my transition set up so quickly, that I felt like I was surely forgetting something.  Found a port a pot, and decided I was too anxious, so I actually went back to the van, reclined the seat, and rested my eyes for about 15 minutes.  Playing out the race in my mind really helped to feel confident and ease the prerace jitters.

I hit the port a pot one more time, and squeezed into the wet suit.  Pre race meeting is just a formality at this point.  But found my support group for the day.  Chuck Alfrey came up to do his first Sprint Du, Gary Thomas has been a great model for me in this adventure, and he was racing the Sprint Tri.  Sara Fauquher is my swimming idol and she was there for the Aqua Bike.  Lots of other local friends were there too, as well as Jason Linke (a high school classmate) who was there to watch his wife do her first Sprint Tri.

I got in the water and splashed around for a few minutes to get used to the water.  It was officially 67 degrees, but in the full wet suit, didn't bother me at all.  Out of the water, and the elites are off and running with the boom of the canon!  Sprint and Olympic Elite's start together, then all the Sprint athletes go every 5 seconds, followed by all the Olympic athletes in the same manner.  I'm lined up toward the back, probably only 30 athletes behind me.  It's a 750 lap that you do twice, which means you get out of the water, run across the beach back to the start and do it again.  The Olympic Elite leaders are already starting their second lap before I even start the race.

Finally my turn, and I'm off and finding my rhythm.  The course is crowded with first and second lap swimmers, but I feel good.  No trouble sighting until the final turn coming back to the beach when the sun is square in my eyes!  I'm basically following all the pink caps around me to stay on course.  When I hit the beach my watch reads 15 minutes - right where I was hoping to be - the run across the beach takes a full minute, and I'm back out for lap 2.  Not nearly as many in the water at this point, but I'm good navigate the buoys until that final turn again.  But when I hit the beach I'm at 32:23!  Couldn't be happier!

Jogged all the way to T1 while stripping the wetsuit.  A little shaky but executed things about as well as I ever have.  Got the bike, jogged out of transition in less than 3 and a half minutes.  Mounted the bike and I'm rolling.

Mental check of everything head to toe, and I'm in good shape.  Reach for the Gatorade bottle, and got two big drinks out of it.  Reached down to put it back in the cage AND I DROPPED IT!!!  Hit the brakes hard and turned and looked just in time to see it roll into the tall grass.  I turn the bike around, but am freaked out by the other athletes coming toward me.  A volunteer close by yells at me that it's farther back than I think.  Screw it!  I clip back in and tell the volunteer that if she can find it I will pick it up on my second lap.  This all happens in the first mile, and I figure it probably only cost me about 30 seconds, but mentally I'm panicked over not having any water for the next 12 miles!  Lesson learned - ALWAYS carry 2 bottles no matter what the distance!

I'm feeling good early but am still getting passed by some athletes as if I'm still looking for my water bottle.  Most miles are click off under 3:30 (16.5 mph), and a couple under 3:00 (20 mph).  Total bike time was 1:20:50 which when divided out = 18.8 mph!   My legs felt great.  When I caught someone and wanted to pass them, I had no problem doing so, but many others were having the same ease getting around me.  I'm getting passed more than I am passing, but I'm good with my pace.  25 miles on the bike is a short ride for me these days, so I was confident all the way around both laps.

As I come into T2 I'm still feeling very good.  I get my shoes changed, helmet off, and visor on, and head out for the run in less than 100 seconds!  Chuck and his wife are standing there at the exit, and I look at the watch.  He asks if I'm good, and I yell back that I've got to do the run in an hour to hit 3 hours.  I felt strong so I'm all out.  A nice first downhill opens up my stride nicely and I'm rolling over the hills like they're not there.  My first mile - 8:50!  What?!?  Didn't realize I was that fast - now I'm worried - and rightfully so!

The 5k turn around 1.5 miles into the run and there's water or gatorade there, for the first time I walk through that aid station, and struggle to get going again.  The sun is getting hot (low 70s by now), and I find a rhythm of running and walking all the way to the 10k turnaround and miles 2 and 3 pace out at 10:24.  The hills are really too much for me at this point and I've got a cramp in the bottom of both quads just above the knees in both legs.  More walking than running leads to miles of 11:26 and 12:23 before I get to the final mile where I get a better rhythm going to pace out to an 11 minute pace for the run.

I had done the math in my head all week - I had looked at previous years results and knew where I thought I could be.  I said all along that 3 hours would be a dream, and 3:15 would be very acceptable.  I also went so far as to say at 3:25 there may have been a problem.  That said, I admit that when I knew I was not going to break 3 hours, I lost a little bit of my drive in miles 4 and 5 as I let those hills get the best of me.  No shame though.

Turn the final corner and into the grass where my good tri friend Amy Fletcher is volunteering and I get the congrats from her as I head to the finish line where I can see Gary, Amy and Sara waiting for me!  The race clock reads 3:20, but only I know how long it took me to get into the water for my official start time.  Flex for the photo, and Gary asks for my time...3:07 BABY!!!!  High 5s all around!  I could not be happier.  Next question - how do you feel?  And I reply with confidence, "Like Shit!"

I'm a little shaky on my feet, but feeling good enough to carry on a conversation and share my stories.  Gary says it again, 3:07 Rocks, you are going to be just fine for the Half Ironman.  Part of me actually believes him!  Grab a Gatorade and a banana and I'm headed back to the van.

At the end of the day, I have to see the results, and I don't stack up so well.  91st on the swim, 89th on the bike and my run split didn't register, but had to be low since I placed 101st overall.  And yet, I'm okay with it!  My times are great for me, and the goal remains to simply FINISH the Half Ironman!  

A great day all around - next big race is identical to this one - June 9 - I've got until then to shed a few more pounds, gain a little muscle, and workout the run pacing coming off the bike!  But for now - I rest!

May 9, 2012

Indy Mini 2012 Race Report

I hope you enjoy my recollection of this race as I helped Molly to her first finish line!

I flew in to Indy around 3:30, hustled over to the expo to get my packets, and then met Molly and the kids at Olive Garden in Anderson for our “carb load” dinner!  We arrived home at the same time that Tracey and Joe arrived.  We got settled in, kids to bed, and we followed shortly, down by 10.

Alarm was set for 4:40 a.m.!  Had everything sat out and ready to go, so quick dress and Abby arrived to babysit at 5:05.  Met up with the YRC caravan at YMS at 5:15 and we were on the road by 5:30.  Uneventful trip down, got parked and group photo!  One last pit stop at our usual hotel, and it was high fives all around as we parted for our corrals.

Ted and Norm were the front runners in corrals A and B, while Molly, Tracey and I lined up in corral V.  Everyone else was somewhere in between.  I could sense Molly’s anxiety rising as the announcements increased, the beach balls were flying, and the fireworks exploded. 

On your mark, get set, Go….nowhere!  Typical for Indy is the “how long did it take you to get to the start line” - in our case - exactly 30 minutes!  Amazing to be on your aching feet that long just waiting to start the race!  But once we got there, we were all smiles and off and running..or walking as it were today. 

The race plan in my mind was that we would walk comfortably, yet briskly until we could clearly see each mile marker, and then we would jog to the mile marker.  The girls agreed, and I held them to it.  So here comes mile 1, and we’re jogging strong to complete the first mile in 16:13!  Wow, if we could do that all day, this will be great!  Everyone is smiling and laughing, talking with and about strangers, and enjoying the sites of the river, the zoo, the bands and entertainment. 

Miles 2 was almost an exact repeat of mile 1 at 16:24.  We got water (at every station) and continued to enjoy the crowd with no worries.  Miles 3, 4, and 5 were all between 16:53 and 17:24, so we were beginning to labor somewhat, but there was not a lot of negative talk.  I asked them to pick it up just a little bit when I would occasionally glance at my Garmin to realize we were slowing, but there were no real concerns.  We were all feeling the need for a bathroom, and I had suggested we wait until we were inside the track because there was a bath house there with no wait as opposed to standing in line for a portapot.  As we drew nearer the track, I reminded Molly that this is where it ended for her previously.  Her last attempt got her this far, ended with her on the sidewalk while I lapped the track, and ultimately ended with a bus ride to the finish line.  Not today!

We ran down the hill that goes into and under the speedway, climbed back up the other side to finish mile 6 in 17:40.  Grabbed a bathroom break and headed out onto the track.  The temps were rising and we were all starting to hurt a little.  Even I had started to get some cramping in my calves; I realize now that my walking stride uses a slightly different set of muscles than my running stride does.  As we hit mile 7, I was alarmed by the 21:05 that it took, but I’ll blame Molly’s 4 minute urination on that! 

Hoping we could pick it back up we made our way down the front stretch, posed for pictures on the yard of bricks and scoring pylon, and grabbed every drop of water spray that we could.  Molly seemed reluctant to run to mile marker 8, but she did stride out to complete a 18:42 mile.  At this point, I begin to have stress over the pace and what if the bus could catch us and pull us off the course if we continue to slow.  As we round turn 2 near the exit, my fears are confirmed as I realize that no one else is entering the track, and the first water stop is now cleaning up.  I again encourage them to pick it up as the last walkers are now on the track, and as we exit the track, there sits the buses awaiting those that don’t exit in time.

By this time, most of our running friends are done, and I’m playing on Molly’s phone getting facebook updates on everyone’s finish times.  Molly doesn’t act too interested and I sense her anxiety, and pain, are rising quickly.  Back out on 16th street I spot mile marker 9, and ask them to run with me, but this time the only thing running were the tears down Molly’s face.  I saw the lip quiver and as she uttered the defeating words, “I can’t”.  My heart is breaking inside, but I am trying to remain calm, confident, and encouraging without saying “suck it up and let’s go”.  I reminded her of how far she’d come, I made her turn around and look at the buses waiting there.  I told her I was proud of her, and that I thought she would appreciate being able to say that she ran to the end of every mile.  I put my arm around her and squeezed her, and then I shut up.  I waited about 15 seconds before I then said.  It’s not too late, you can change your mind whenever you want, and when you’re ready, you can still run to the mile marker.  It was only a few short strides later, that without warning she took off…*tear*…I was overwhelmed with joy that she found the strength inside to stride out, even if for only a hundred yards, she still did it.  I didn’t know what else to say, so I just jogged beside her.  When we slowed to walk again, I reminded her that we only had to do that 4 more times - mile 10, 11, 12 and the finish!  Mile 9 was 18:26

We stopped very briefly because Molly had mentioned a pebble in her shoe since mile 4.  It had worked its way around and was uncomfortable.  I ran back to her and bent down on one knee to help her out of and back into her shoe.  I feared if she stopped too long, or bent over, she might become dizzy or worse.  We pushed on confidently and as we neared mile 10, I advised her that she could take off running whenever she wished and I’d go with her.  She didn’t wait too long, and off she went with a consistent 18:49.

Just 3 miles to go!  The crowds are thinning at this point both on and off the course - we’re taking lots of water, but the heat seems to be winning.  We’re 3 hours into our race, which means it’s almost 11:00 a.m. and I can tell both Molly and Tracey are struggling.  There is a timing mat at the mile 11 marker, so I try to use that to motivate them to run up and score a good time, but Molly reminds me she doesn’t care what her time is, she just wants to finish - I half way believe her.  Mile 11 was 18:32, slow, but consistent.

Molly paused at the sidewalk to stretch her calf, and does a deep knee bend or two.  She stays down a little too long and I insist she gets up before she cuts circulation to the point of getting dizzy, it’s getting difficult for me to maintain this slow of a pace, but there’s no reason for me to leave her side, so I continue with my half motivating- half annoying comments.  We make the next to last turn on the course which brings us back to the familiar part of the course near mile 2.  I spot the “super-soaker” lady and suggest that these ladies around me would really like to be sprayed.  Molly makes the mistake of saying how good that might feel, and so - she got sprayed!!  It was hilarious to hear her squeal in shock and even funnier to see.  A short jog to the 12 mile marker in 19:39 - yikes!  Let’s go!

At this point I tell her that if we can do this last mile in under 19 we can break 4 hours!  She just looks at me and says again, I don’t care what my time is!  That’s fine - and yet, she chose to jog down this little decline in the course coming off the bridge, so I say it again - If we can get there in 15 minutes, we’ll break 4 hours, wouldn’t that be cool?  Again, I get the look - but no response.  With a half mile to go, I just look at my watch, then her, then my watch and say 10 minutes.  She half smiles, and asks if we can see the finish line, but not quite yet.  Repeat actions - 5 minutes, and now she can see it - and the crowd - and hear the music.  Repeat actions - 3 minutes, and….cue the Chariots of Fire music!

We hit the 13 mile marker in 18:35, and off she goes - running as fast as she did in mile 1 - smiling through the pain - waving to the cameras - waving to Pete and Amy who are standing the in bleachers waiting on us - and ultimately FINISHING 13.1 MILES - total time - 3.59:29!  We embrace with a hug, and now she’s ready to sit - no, keep walking!  We shuffle to get our medal and pause as if they’re going to now play our National Anthem!  But there are no songs - no flags - no fireworks - the fruit is gone, the cookies are few - but we had each other.  We started it together - we finished it together - we stayed by each others side through the joy and the pain, the tears and the smiles.  It wasn’t easy, but it was very rewarding.  I admit, I wanted to run today, but no PR could be as meaningfull as this moment.  It was emotional, and very special.  Truly a moment I will cherish forever.  I’m so proud of her for sticking with it.  I hope she now sees herself the way I see her.  Strong, confident, and inspiring - she can do anything she wants to. 
When we got to the reunion tent, there was no one to reunite with.  I suspect most of our group was home and showered by this time, but we enjoyed the food and drink just the same, and made our way back to the car reliving the memories we had just made together.  A perfect day in so many ways!