Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Race Report: Gateway Triathlon

Last Sunday Awesome Cheryl and I participated in the Gateway Triathlon in Carlyle, IL. We arrived in Carlyle on Saturday afternoon in order to pick up our packets and get a lay of the land. OK, so it really wasn't a packet..."Here's your bib number. Here's your cap. Here's your shirt. See you tomorrow." Not that I ever use them, but usually everything comes in a bag and you get lots of junk coupons. Not today. Just the basics. 

We looked out at the lake where the buoys were already set up and I thought that doesn't look bad at all. It's completely doable! I was trusting my training. I know I can swim a mile. I felt relaxed and at ease. 

Because we signed up so late, we couldn't get a hotel in Carlyle. We had a room reserved in Greenville which was 20 minutes away. We checked into our hotel and went to Mario's Pizza for some dinner. I had a Mediterranean Pizza with pepperoni, feta cheese and olives which was actually quite good. 

Globe Theatre
Over the past year, I have struggled with leg cramps. As a result, it's become a running joke with Awesome Cheryl and I that we should always see a movie the night before a race because the sodium on the popcorn is good for me! Carb loading and balancing my electrolytes all at once. Makes sense, right? We went to the Globe Theatre in Greenville to see Battleship. Because it was opening weekend, Awesome Cheryl thought we should arrive at the theater early....40 minutes early. Needless to say, Cheryl was shell shocked by the small theater. The cinema was showing three different movies and we were two of a total seven people there, two of whom were theater employees. When we arrived, there weren't massive lines at the ticket counter and then again at the concession stand. Instead we had one stop shopping where we purchased the movie tickets and snacks at the concession stand. The viewing rooms (I dare not call them theaters.) had 8 rows of seats. It was a definite adjustment from AMC Theaters we are used to in Central Illinois where stadium seating is the norm. The screen was more or less an extra large television screen. And the popcorn??? To quote Awesome Cheryl, "It's concession popcorn." Bahaha, yes, we are movie snobs. 

Before the movie began, we discussed the benefits of a wet suit. Cheryl was a little nervous about overheating since the air temperature was so warm.  I sent a text to one of the Intimidators, Chris, who Awesome Cheryl dubbed as Mr. Encyclopedia. Below is his response:

78 and lower is wetsuit legal. 78-84 can wear wetsuit but not be eligible for awards. 84+ no wetsuits.If you are faster swimming in your wetsuit than the time it takes you to get it off in T1, then wear it.
If you want the security and flotation, then wear it.
At 73 for an oly, I'd wear my wetsuit.
Key here: If you want the security and flotation, then wear it. Yep, I'm wearing it. 

Following the movie, we made our way back to our hotel to crash...or not. Cheryl fell fast asleep while I tossed and turned. I'm not sure why, but sleep was elusive. Was it the Diet Pepsi with the popcorn keeping me awake? Who knows, but I finally fell asleep shortly before midnight. 

Our alarm went off five few short hours later. Time to rise and shine. We had a nice continental breakfast at the hotel and then drove over to Carlyle. We set up our bikes in transition and walked down to the water. Most everyone was wearing wet suits and as soon as I stepped into the water I was glad I had it on. 

My Nemesis
The Olympic Men took off at 8. The Olympic Women at 8:05. I felt calm and confident as we waited for the race to start. I looked at Awesome Cheryl and I could see the nervousness in her face. She has only swam once in the open water and the suddenly reality of it hit her. The start gun went off. I let most of the women dive in while I took a few steps forward, adjusted my goggles and then started stroking. No big deal...first few strokes I kept my head out of the water watching the buoys and lining myself up, but as time went on I couldn't find the nerve to put my face in the water. I flipped over on my back and tried to relax, but the relaxation wouldn't come. 

I listen to the Endurance Nation podcasts and they talk constantly about putting yourself "in the box", focus on what you can control. Count your strokes. Focus on your technique. Relax. However, none of these thoughts even entered my head as I struggled with the swim. I flipped over on my belly, freestyled about 10 strokes, sighted the buoys, and flipped on my back.  For some reason, I could not relax enough to stay in a freestyle position. 

Instead every negative thought possible went flying through my head. 
  • You are insane.
  • If you can't do a mile, how are you going to do an Ironman? 
  • Look at everyone else swimming without any issue. They are leaving you behind.
  • You know you can get a partial refund on IMLOU if you withdraw before July 11th. 
  • Why can't you do this? You are an IDIOT!!!

I wanted to bail about 10 times. I was feet away from the shore. (Seriously, because I swim crooked, I even walked a few feet since my path had wandered toward the shore.) I could have just dropped out and waited for Awesome Cheryl to finish, but for some reason I kept floating, backstroking through the swim. I REALLY WANTED TO QUIT. No joke. I was ready to admit defeat. I think the only thing that kept me going was the two other swimmers who seemed to have the same struggles. Later there was only one other swimmer with me, but I found out when I got home that swim support convinced the other swimmer to keep going and complete the sprint triathlon instead of the olympic distance. 

At the halfway mark, the buoys ran parallel to the beach for about 100 yards. I made myself promise to swim freestyle for that 100 yards buoy to buoy. By sheer willpower, I did it with several stops for sighting, but I did it even though I felt slightly light-headed. I'm not sure why I felt light headed. Was I not breathing right? Was the restricted vision affecting my balance? Was it the feeling of constriction of the wet suit? Who knows. I went from cursing and swearing at my idiocy for thinking I could do this to the verge of tears and throwing my hand up in the air asking for help. But after rounding the halfway mark I knew I had to complete the swim even if I hated every second of it. After 51 minutes and 3 seconds, virtually 100% on my back, I came out of the water. I thought I would have a huge smile on my face, but instead I felt sad and defeated. I was THE LAST person out of the water by eight seconds. 

I walked up the hill to T1 grabbed my bike and took off. I left T1 before the other co-panicked swimmer so I knew I had at least one person behind me. SCORE!!! My first 5 miles averaged 18.2 miles per hour and I felt my confidence beginning to grow again as I looked for a cyclist in front of me to catch. The bike route was not my favorite....coming down big hills into a 90 degree turn. Overall my average bike pace was 15.8. I passed two more cyclists....ok, so one was on the side of the road getting bike assistance, but I passed her. Hell with it! I'm taking credit. I needed anything and everything to bolster myself at this point. Heading back to transition was tougher as the wind was coming at you at different spots, but I was determined to have a decent bike leg and overall I'm satisfied with it. 

I transitioned into the run leg and within the first mile I started feeling paranoid about leg cramps. I stopped immediately and stretched my calves. I took one endurolyte caplet before each leg of the triathlon. If I wound up with cramps today after doing everything I thought possible to eliminate the cramps ON TOP OF MY FAILURE IN THE OWS, yep, I'd take the Ironman refund. As a result, I was determined to keep a nice steady pace and not tempt fate with cramps. As luck would have it, I was able to complete the 6.2 miles without any issues. I walked the aid stations to take in plenty of water. There was absolutely no shade on the run course and with the weather in the upper 80s I didn't want to take any chances. I finished the Olympic triathlon in 3:49.09. Nothing to brag about.

At that point, I was pissed. I came right off the course and started packing up my gear. I was ready to leave and get the hell out of there. Poor Cheryl was just beside herself trying to console me, but as I told her I felt like I just needed to sit down and throw myself a great big old pity party. 

It's taken a couple of days to work my way through it all. Dear friends called and offered their support, but I was/am still filled with doubt. I know the solution is just to get in the open water and swim, swim swim. I will work on it, but I still have the Ironman refund deadline in the my back pocket. 

No comments:

Post a Comment