Saturday, May 5, 2012

NOLA 67.1 Duathlon!

(((NOTE:  I've been holding off on publishing this post because I thought I could get my race pictures ordered and include them...however, there are some pictures from "Lost and Found" I want included in my download but making that happen seems to be taking longer than I would have hoped so I'm going to post what I have...)))

About 10 minutes before the race was going to start everyone moved out to the new start line.  They kept us in our original swim start waves.  The pro guys started (all together since they were RACING), 3 minutes later the pro women started all together...then 3 minutes later the men over 50 were sent off two at a time about every 3 seconds (since the age groupers were essentially doing a time trial event).  After them, it was time for all the women 40 and over.  I was toward the end of that group.  It was super cold so my plan was to use the 2 miles to get warmed up for the bike.  We ran by the water and WOW...I could NOT get over just how rough it was!!  I am SO GLAD we did not have to swim in that!!  It felt like I was running at about a 10:00 pace...turns out I ran that 2 miles in 18:33 (9:17 pace). 40/70 AG; 968/1133 OA

When I got back to transition, because I had pre-planned so well, I easily found my bike.  It was weird having my running shoes on...I had to remind myself I needed them later and took the extra couple of seconds to place them where I needed them (instead of tossing them to the side).  I want to learn how to mount the bike with my shoes attached so I don't have to run in them because there's no doubt that slows me down.  ((You might think in the scope of a whole race a few seconds wouldn't matter, but you'd be wrong...I'll explain later.))  T1 was 1:27.  (13/70 AG)

I knew the winds were going to be horrible (duh...that's why they cancelled the swim).  I purposely didn't listen to or look at the weather because I didn't want a number haunting my thoughts (sustained winds X mph with gusts up to X).  I told myself I was going to ride as hard as I could the whole time and let the outcome be what it may. 

SIDE NOTE:  Looking back at most of my data from previous rides, I have almost always averaged 15-16 mph (on my bike, since I had it fit by Matt Blevins).  ((There was one interval ride which ended up being MUCH faster.))  I would have told you I was averaging 17 on most of my rides if I hadn't looked...but data doesn't lie.  (I don't know what is wrong with me on the bike, but I'm hoping teaching Spinning classes will help.) 

Anyway...I knew most of my "competition" would be riding faster than me and I also knew wind has been a thorn in my side on the bike.  I hate feeling it hit me...I have this mental image of trying to ride through a wall when there's even the slightest wind.  This is a really bad thing since it ALWAYS feels like there is wind because you are moving forward through air!!  I made a very conscious decision to ride my own race and just go as fast as I could go and not worry about anyone else.  A lot of people were telling stories about seeing bad wrecks in past races with high wind being the major cause.  I was slightly worried about that; I've never seen someone have a bike wreck (and thankfully haven't wrecked myself) and knew that would probably severely affect me.  Early on I did see a girl on the side of the road with two other gals, but it didn't look like she wrecked, it just looked like she maybe had a flat tire. 

The good thing for me-this is a fairly flat course (not pancake flat since there were some bridges/overpasses, but still flat).  I also believed we'd have a great tailwind half the time which would give as much as it took.  I actually only felt it one time for a short stretch.  It seemed like we had a cross wind most of the time.

I played leap frog with a girl on a relay team (signified by the R on her calf).  I don't know what happened to her but at some point I realized she hadn't passed me back (yes, that made me smile).  Iron Angel (the friend I ran the marathon with) was racing.  She is younger than I am so she started later...and passed me about 1/2 way through the bike.  I didn't keep track of anyone I passed, and couldn't count all the people who passed me, but every time either happened I reminded myself I was only racing ME.  However, there's a competitive streak in me that just won't shut off.  As we neared the end I started trying to pick people off.  I think that helped me finish as strong as I could.  My speed averaged 17.4 which gave me a total time of 2:59:39.  I had really wanted to finish the bike leg in under 3 hours...which only happened because it had been shortened by 4 miles.  However, who knows what would have happened if the winds weren't so bad (maybe I would have been slower without any help from a tail wind...maybe I could have gone faster...who  knows!)  This time put me 47/70 AG and 936/1133 OA.

I was able to run right to my spot and quickly grab all I needed for the run.  I had to use the bathroom so badly I thought my bladder was going to burst, but I knew I wanted to get out of transition first (and, yes, I even BRIEFLY contemplated peeing while running, but I just can't bring myself to do it knowing it's not going to change my ranking enough to justify smelling like urine!!).  T2 was 1:38, good enough for 16/70 AG.

Lucky for me, portopotties were just beyond the timing mats and I didn't have to wait...lucky for the man who didn't lock the door of the first one I tried to go into that he had his back to me!! :D  I lost some time there, but I felt like I gained comfort which was certainly more important!

I mentally negotiated with myself the whole half marathon.  As I stared to move (it didn't feel like I was "running", but I know from experience I was going faster than it felt) I told myself I had to keep going until the first aide station where I had planned to take some Aleve.  I know all the dangers associated with taking NSAIDs during exercise, but I figured as long as I stayed hydrated taking them was better than not taking them.  When I got to the aide station, I walked about 20' (long enough to get the Aleve out and get some water) and then started running again.  I then told myself I would only walk every other aide station (they had them set up every single mile!!). 

This plan came in handy when I reached some tiny inclines.  There were no hills, but there were some overpass areas which caused a rise in elevation which caused my legs to think I was running up a hill which caused my mind to scream "IT'S TIME TO WALK!!!"  But I remembered that "WE LOVE HILLS" and I reminded myself how happy I would be if I stuck with my plan of only walking at every other aide station. 

I used all kinds of mental games during the run...I intentionally wore pink Yankz to remind myself of my 91 year old grandfather who is currently kicking breast cancer's butt, and my mother who has won that same battle twice.  ("I mean, come on, if they can both have a boob cut off and go through radiation every day for weeks on end, I can surely run a measly 13.1 miles...this is nothing.")  I prayed.  A lot.  I pretended I was only running a half marathon (and forgot about the other 54 miles).  I reasoned it was a lot easier than when I ran the marathon (and it was even though the total mileage was higher in this race ).  And, yes, the competitor in me picked people to pick off (I can't help it).

One of my favorite things to think about was the tri suit I was wearing.  I intentionally picked this suit because it's a I imagined myself with wings, coming out of the chrysalis for the first time and how amazing that would feel!  ((Funny story about of the aide stations was playing that annoying Miley Cyrus song "Butterfly Fly Away" as I was running by.  Yes, I ran a tad faster for several reasons!))  ((I'll tell you more about my tri suit later deserves its own post!))

At some point in that first loop (I think it was), one of the guys from Huntsville came running up behind me.  I was surprised he hadn't passed me on the bike...until he showed me his shoulder and arm and leg.  He had wrecked as some point and had pretty bad road rash.  I tried to hang at his pace (or what's probably more true is that he held back at mine for a little bit) until I realized I just couldn't keep up.  I told him he obviously wasn't hurt as bad as it looked because he was running pretty darn strong as he easily left me in his dust!

All those mental exercises worked pretty well until I came around to the beginning of the second loop.  See...I really DON'T LIKE loops.  That's one of the MANY reasons I picked this race-no loops.  Thanks to storm damage on the route, the course had to be changed.  I can't say it was a bad change because there is something to be said for knowing what's coming the same time, that "something" might not always be good!  On the second loop I walked a little more than every other aide station.  Not only that, I saw several familiar faces...all of whom I thought were in front of me.  I got very depressed thinking I was moving at a snail's pace.  I intentionally didn't wear my watch because I wanted to give 100% regardless of what my Garmin said.  I knew if I had worn it I'd have been too focused on what it had to say instead of what my body was saying.  Unfortunately, on that second loop I wasn't very focused on anything for a period of time.

As I got closer to being finished I reminded myself how upset I was going to be if I didn't pull myself back together.  About that time I saw a tri shirt that said "work is speed entering the body".  I read it out loud and reminded myself I was still running a RACE and it was time to WORK...not time to moan and cry about how slow I thought I was, not time to think about "unicorns and butterflies"...not time to do anything except decorate my pain cave. I worked, speed entered my body and I passed the guy wearing the shirt!!  I told him  how much I liked that saying, "work is speed entering the body".  He said, "she says as she's passing me!!"  I laughed and told him he inspired me.  I saw him after the race; he came up to me and said I had proven to be a great rabbit for him to chase to the finish!

As I got about a mile from the finish line I told myself it was about to be all over and I knew I only had one more mile to give all I had...but I was tired.   I came up on someone who was walking in front of me and, in an attempt to be encouraging to her, and to me, I said, "ONE more mile to go!"  She turned to me and said, "oh how I WISH I could say that!"  Not only did I realize she still had 8 miles to go...but it was a friend of mine-a multi-time Ironman finisher friend!!  She told me another one of the girls we had come to the race with had a bad bike crash at the beginning of the course. 

....Remember the girl I thought had a flat tire on the side of the road??  That was my friend who had wrecked...and my other friend who was helping her remember her name and where she was!!  Come to find out the gal who wrecked had to be taken to the hospital via ambulance and we had no idea where she was.  (She had a concussion and some road rash on her shoulder, but was returned to the race site about the time I was loading up my bike and was back to about 80% as of a few days ago.)

All I could think of was how I had seen her and didn't stop...but I didn't know.   Now on top of being tired, I was feeling guilty, too.  Another guy apparently saw my energy flagging and he sweetly offered me a piece of candy (a wrapped up wintergreen starlight) saying, "it will help" I took it.  Yes...I took candy from a stranger.  Shoot me.  And, he was right...somehow it did help.  I shot by him, thanked him for the magic candy and then I gave all I had to sprint to the finish line.  I heard someone say, "WOW...What a STRONG finish!!"  (I have no idea who they were talking about, but in my mind at that moment, they were surely talking about me!)

It was bizarre because after I crossed the line, there was a person handing me a medal and a hat and telling me where to turn in my timing chip.  I wasn't emotional as I have been in the past when finishing such an important-to-me race.  I wasn't exhausted.  I wasn't hurting.  I felt strangely normal.  As if I did that sort of thing every weekend.  I really didn't feel like I had just done anything special.  I also felt very wrong for accepting a medal and had that said "70.3 finisher".  Yes...I know, I didn't have control over the race and everyone there got the same medal and hat...and they had no way to make up "67.1 duathlon finisher" medals and hats.  But, still...

I ran the half marathon in 2:18:51 (My second fastest half out of the 5-including this one-that I've done), good enough for 42/70 AG and 846/1133. 

My overall time was 5:40:05.  Remember how I said transitions really do make a difference??  Well...if you look at the fact I finished the first run 40th/70, the bike 47th/70 and the final run 42nd/70 in my age group ((968/1133, 936/1133 and 846/1133 OA) might be surprised to find out I finished 40th out of 70 in my age group and 809th out of 1133 over all!!  That is from transition times!!!  That shows you how important they can be in the scope of a race (if you are racing anyway...not everyone is, and I get that, and that's completely okay).

Naturally I have more to say about the race....but I wanted to go ahead and get this posted since it's already been two weeks since the race (only 2 weeks, but already 2 weeks...).

Thanks for stopping in...come again soon!

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