Monday, July 13, 2009

Race Report - July 12 2009

This isn't a blog I'm looking forward to writing.  It isn't easy facing up to expectations and goals after a lot of hard effort and you miss the mark so completely.   

In the grand scheme of things 10 minutes (this is about how far off I was from my projected time based on my training coming into the race) really isn't a large chunk of time.  It is about as long as it takes to run into a tri store and pick up a couple of GUs and some lace locks.

This weekend I was in the Iron Brother's Super Sprint Tri in Grand Prairie.  Because my season will go into late November this year I started my racing later so, this was my first race of 2009.  The race is short which means I can train normally and get a feel for some of the new equipment and bike adjustments I've made since last year.   

The picture here to the left is probably the best moment I had the entire morning.  From the time I got into the water and started swimming, I just felt off.  Things were manageable until I rounded the first buoy but shortly after that is when things just went from feeling off to being dizzy and nauseous.  I had no idea what was going on.  And I really began to struggle.  Not to the point of panic mind you, but I was incredibly uncomfortable.  Needless to say a simple 400 meter swim became a test of patience and survival.  And given the way I was feeling I was pretty sure, I was done for the day once I reached the boat ramp.

So, after some backstroke, breaststroke, and a chat with one of the guys in a canoe as I treaded water who informed me the water temp was almost 90 degrees (probably not the cause of the nausea, but certainly not helping my situation any) I finally emerged from the water dizzy, probably overheated, but in one piece.  Oh yeah, max heart rate in the swim, 211 (This is not a typo).

I took my time getting to the bike.  In the transition area as I cooled off a little, I took the attitude of "Let's just see how this goes..."  How it went was I suffered.  I've been working on my cycling a lot in the off season and this was one area where I really wanted to see some improvement.  But I still felt like crap so I settled into a gear and a cadence I could stand and just went at it.  The good thing about a crappy swim is you spend all of your time on the bike passing people.  This can make you feel a little better even if you still want to puke.  

After the turn around, things got a little tougher because the slight cross wind became more of a frontal assault.  But I was happy with my effort.  A glance at my heart rate monitor was encouraging, I was spinning a larger gear than I had the year before and my heart rate was 154.  Last year I had an average heart rate on that course of 158 and I was feeling great and it wasn't windy.  I wasn't moving fast, but I wasn't floundering like I had in the water.

Coming into transition, I was fully committed to ending my day with the bike ride,  but somehow found shoes on my feet and WALKED out of transition.  I think I ran about 10 steps before stopping with a cramp under my right arch.  "That's it," I thought.  "I'm having one of the worst races ever and I'm not about to get injured because of my own stupidity."  So I proceeded to walk and would have walked the rest of the run had it not been for a "guardian angel" on the course who ran by me saying "I've been on your feet all race, don't stop now!"  

So I started running with her.  Her pace wasn't uncomfortable so, for the first time all day I wasn't struggling, though I still was dealing with the nausea.  But my foot wasn't cramping and that was a relief.  She was having a hard time with her breathing and began to slow so, I slowed down to stay with her and talked to her about focusing on her footsteps instead of her breathing.  Each time she slowed, I slowed as well.  Finally her husband came and ran with her just before the mile marker and I felt he could run the rest of the way with her.  

I think I went through the 1 mile point at about 10:50 given the walking I'd been doing.  At this point I decided my legs felt great even though the rest of me didn't and if I kept running like that I'd have to run for longer than I wanted so, I let my legs take over.  My second mile was a 6:55.   

Given the day I was having and the expectations I had going into the race, I think I would have rather forgotten the whole thing.  But one of the reasons I race is to learn things about myself I would otherwise not discover such as how I respond when things aren't going my way.  This race was one of those days where I had to come face to face with my expectations and the reality of my capacity at the moment not meeting.  I think this is what allows me to improve not only in a sport I love, but also in other areas of my life.  

The moment of truth came for me not as I crossed the finish line, but when I started writing this blog and I began to realize some of the experiences I was struggling with from my day actually offered me the very information I sought anyway.  As I said, racing for me is a quest for information about who it is I am and what I am capable of even when things don't go as planned.  What I learned as I sat down to write was so small as to almost go totally unnoticed.  Basically what I wanted to know yesterday was if my training was working.  So this is what I found out.  I ran a sub 7 min mile.  I haven't run one of those in a tri since I started doing them again 2 years ago.  And I was sick.  I had a bike split that was 5 sec faster than the year before under much more distressing conditions, both internally and externally.  And my heart rate average was 5 bps lower than last year...  As for the swim, well until the nausea hit I just might have at least equaled last year's time and the water temp that day was no where near 90 degrees.  Oh and even with all the nausea, I never did cover the course or any race volunteers with my pre race meal.  And for that, I'm so very thankful...


-Brandon said...

Sometimes you learn more from the less than ideal races than the ideal...most times you learn more! I just linked/posted your last blog on mine.

Fred (aka ace) said...

Thanks Brandon!! I'm really trying to keep that excellent advice in mind.

Vertical Man said...

Congrats on getting through the race! I agree with Brandon that while the "Great" races are more fun, sometimes the struggles teach you more. Just remember, if you rank all your races from "Great" down to "Awful" it's a statistical fact that there'll always be a "worst" race. It's all relative.

And I totally agree with you about 90 degree water! The colder the better, I always say!

Fred (aka ace) said...

Sort makes me glad I'm racing later into the season this year. Gives the water a chance to cool down. Next year if the temps are like this I may wait until Sept to start racing ;)