Monday, October 1, 2012

Atomic Man 70.3 Race Recap


It was an in water, wave start with the young men starting first, then the masters men, then all the women.  As I started swimming, I knew I was going out WAY too fast.  The director made a point to caution us against that.  Instead of reverting to breast stroke a bit to catch my breath, as I have done so many times in the past, I just made a conscious effort to calm down and to keep on swimming.   I had the urge to look behind me to see if I was the last one... but before I knew it, I was passing a man!  Then another man!!  I told myself there was no way I was the last woman.  As I was headed back to the beach it felt like my timing chip was coming off my ankle.  When I got out of the water, before starting my second swim loop, I was trying to fix it when the course marshal came to my rescue and re-strapped it for me.  I know a few people passed me then, but at that point, I didn't care.  I believed fully I wasn't going to be last out of the water, and that I could in fact do another loop.

When I got out of the water, both times, I heard someone cheer for me!  What great motivation to be called by name at a race!  I was very discombobulated coming out of the water.  I wasn't thinking well.  I knew I needed to get my wetsuit off, but my brain wasn't fully functioning.  Running up the hill to the transition area I was trying to remove my watch so I could strip off my wetsuit, while taking off my goggles and swim cap.  The timing mat was at transition so that's where I stopped my watch.  I finished the swim in 48:13 (for comparison, my OLY was 45:17 so I have improved!).  ((Looking at the results, it appears there were only 4 or 5 people behind me in the water.))


When I got to transition, instead of focusing on speed (as I usually do), I was focused on being comfortable.  I had arm warmers out, but decide not to wear them.  On the swim I wore my tri shorts and sport bra with the wetsuit, so I put on a bike jersey for the rest of the race.  When I put on my sun glasses, they were fogged up already so I stuffed them in my pocket.  I also had a Bonk Breaker*** that I had planned to eat on the bike that I put in my pocket as well.

When I'm in transition I don't typically even notice if any other bikes are there.  I don't look around to see where I'm at in comparison to anyone else, I'm usually just focused on getting out of there as fast as possible.  This day was no different, but about the time I was getting my helmet on two of my friends were leaving with their bikes.  I knew they had gotten out of the water before me, but I was THRILLED that I was as close to them in the swim as I was.   My T1 time was 2:00.  That's a "long" time for me considering where the mats were and how small the area was.  It's not a bad time, but I really felt like taking the bit of extra time to calm down was going to be helpful in the long run.  I don't think it mattered.  I think I'd rather be fast and then calm down on the bike.  :D


Because Coach Eric MADE ME bike out of the transition area the day before the race, I had my bike gears exactly where they needed to be to help me get up the hill we had to start on.  I would NOT have been in that low of a gear if I had not practiced this.  So, when I got on the bike, I knew exactly what to expect.  We had ridden the first couple of miles and I knew the course was hilly, but I didn't know to what extent or for how long.  I have the tendency to freak myself out about hills (I know, shocking, right?) so I decided this time that it didn't matter what the course looked like, I was doing the race no matter what.  I knew Eric was preparing me for what was to come.  I knew I had just ridden a CENTURY (109 miles thank you very much...OH MY GOSH...I haven't written about this yet!!...well, it had a 3.5 mile CLIMB at about mile 40).  I knew I was going to be able to ride up anything that could be on that course.  Well...I'm not going to lie.  It wasn't easy.  However, it wasn't nearly as hard as the climb on the century ride I just did a few weeks back.

Bike Course Elevation from my Garmin data

As it turns out the first seven miles or so where the worst, but none of it was "flat".  It was basically a big "T" where we went out 7 miles (did I mention they were hilly?), turned right for about 3 miles, turned around for 17, back again for 17, then turned right after 14 to go back to the start on the same 7 (still hilly) miles.  At the first turn around I really needed to go to the bathroom.  I didn't want to stop, even though they did have a por-o-potty.  I tried to make myself pee on the bike (yes, I really did), but ...that wasn't the only reason I felt like I needed the latrine.  I hoped the feeling would pass, or at least wait until I got started on the run.  By the time I got down to the second turn around, I thought I was about to bust....but there was no port-o-potty there (there was a convenience store, but NO WAY I was going to that much effort).  So I rode 17 miles wondering if I would make it back in time and beating myself up for having bodily functions I couldn't control!

Just before I got to both turns my IronMan friend, who was just ahead of me, yelled out that I better hurry up if I was planning to catch up to her.  As bad as I wanted to catch up--and pass her--I HAD to stop.  I don't know how much time it cost me because I wasn't willing to look.  Let's just say, the stop was well worth it no matter how long it took.  When I got back on my bike there was a guy I had played a serious game of leap frog with earlier just in front of me, along with several other people I had already passed.  So I started picking people off, in search of my friend.  As I passed the guy I said, "tag you're it" to which he replied, "fair enough".

As made the right turn to head back up those hills I didn't have anyone in sight.  It was just me and the road.  On one down hill section (not a steep one), I saw a big, beautiful doe standing in the middle of the road.  About that time I could hear a car coming from behind me.  I was scared to death.  The deer might run for me, the car might swerve to miss the deer, the car might hit the deer, throwing it onto me.  I started yelling, "RUN DEER RUN!!!" and waving my hand up and down like a crazy person.  Thankfully it ran off (away from me) and the car slowed down so no harm was done to anyone!

As I was headed up one steep section.  I was huffing and puffing, scared to death I would slow down and fall over (and hurt my bike).  I rounded a corner and came upon a man walking his bike up the hill.  I couldn't speak as I passed him.  I'm sure I sounded like an asthmatic trying to take in oxygen.  He smiled at me and said, "you are stronger than I am".  I couldn't speak.  I wanted to say, "no, I'm just afraid if I tried to stop I would hurt my bike so I have to keep going!"  I was rewarded when I got to the top with the thrill of getting to go DOWN!!  (Although I haven't quite gotten used to going down full speed so I do brake a little bit and I sit up a little which also slows me down.)  My top speed during the whole race was "only" 32.9 (I've ridden faster than that before, but not many times).  My fastest average mile of the race was 23.6 (not the same mile).  I rode 19 miles in the 19+ range but my average over the whole 56 miles was only 17.3 (it was 17.4 in NOLA...but it was flat there).

When I got back to the dismount line I was actually a bit scared to stop.  The day before in practice I grabbed my front brake a bit too hard causing my back wheel to come off the ground-a good bit actually!  The dismount area was down a little incline so I knew I might have a hard time stopping well.  So I slowed down a good bit, remember to stay on my back break more than my front, and didn't have an issue.


T2 was rough for me.  My stomach was giving me fits, I knew if I had a good run I would be well under my expected finish of 6:30, but I also knew the run was hilly.  I had only taken in about 100 calories on the bike (EFS Liquid Shot) and I could feel a spot rubbing on my ankle (I thought it was the timing chip, but it was my shoes).  It was hot by that time, but I didn't want to take off the cycling jersey and there was a man standing in transition putting on sun screen (something I did not do before I got on the bike...I did have it out but I did not want to take the time).  My thoughts were JUMBLED to say the least.  I knew going in I wasn't going to focus on speed so I didn't change my laces speed laces, and I took the time to put on my race belt and hat in transition (things I usually do on the run).  I usually go into both transitions very clearly focused but not that day.  I do NOT like feeling like that at all.  T2 ended up being 2:56.


As soon as I started the run my left shin muscle (the anterior tibialis) started hurting.  Bad.  I've had this happen before and I knew if I stopped and stretched it that it would stop hurting.  I didn't want to stop because the run was a two loop course (two out and backs) so I knew Eric had to be coming back from his first loop any second.  I did NOT want him to see me walking!!  AND, I wanted to catch, and pass, my friend.  But, in those three miles I ended up stopping a few times to stretch it out.  I also used this time to take in some more Liquid Shot***. 

I LOVED this run course.  You get to see everyone at least once, but most people twice.  It's country back roads that are really neat to run on.  There was VERY little traffic out there to contend with, and everyone was driving super slow.  And...I do actually like to run on hills much more than I like to run on flat road.

As soon as my leg loosened up, my stomach started throwing a fit.  I prayed for a port o potty, and asked several people if they knew if there was one at the turn around point...until I got a definitive "no"!.  I seriously contemplated going in the woods...but I had a bad feeling toilet paper was going to be necessary.  Just before the turn around I saw my friend.  I told her I was coming for her and she told me I wasn't going to catch her!

Just before the second turn around I saw my friend again and told her, "I'm going to go to the bathroom then I'm going to run you down!"  To which she replied something like that wasn't going to happen because she was running really fast.  About that time a sweet kid asked me if I was going to want Gatorade, water an energy gel or some chomps at the aide station.  I said, "no...but I need you to see if there's anyone in line for the port-o-potty and if so, I need you to beat them up for me!!"  This sweet boy ran up ahead of me and then yelled out, "you're good, it's open!"  I yelled back as I ran in, "THANK YOU--I LOVE YOU!"  I wish I could say when I came out I was ready to go again...I wasn't.  My stomach did NOT feel good.  (This is a result of a lot of different factors, not just race day nutrition...), but I knew I didn't have long to catch my friend.

Run Course Elevation Profile from my Garmin Data I stared running again...there was that guy I played leap frog with on the bike again!  He was doing a walk run thing, but his run was pretty fast so I was having a hard time catching him.  I did try to "run my own race" and stay in the moment, but there is something about RACING someone that really motivates me.  (Someone I can see.)  As he started walking again, I passed him and said, "you'll catch me when you get your run back on".  He laughed and said, "oh, no.  I'm coming right now!"  We chatted just a bit, basically he said he was cramping and I said my stomach was giving me fits.  I told him I was trying to catch a friend and I really needed him to stay in front of me so I'd have a rabbit to chase at least until I caught up to her.  I told him I expected him to make me hurt because I had been trying to catch him for a while and he was a much faster runner than I am.  He played his part well...I only managed to pass him once when he was getting Gatorade, and only caught up to him one other time after he passed me again.

At the last turn around I saw my friend.  She was getting water and told me, "you are out of time".  At that point she only had about 3 miles to go, I had about 4.  I started giving it all I had (that was my fastest mile at 9:11).  I wasn't able to maintain that pace, but I kept looking at my watch trying to do math.  I wanted to finish under 6:30 so bad but I knew I had to run those last 2 miles under 10 minutes to make it.  (I hadn't been running that strong up to that point and still had a hill to climb.)  Thankfully my rabbit was in front of me so I mentally grabbed on to him and held on.  The finish is mercifully down a nice hill.  The whole time I was running in I was scanning up ahead, hoping against hope, to no avail, I would see my friend.  My rabbit found another gear, as did I (but his was turbo charged).  As he crossed the finish I heard the announcer call out his name.  I had to laugh.  With a name like DeBardelaben, there's no telling how they were going to say my name.  (Dana Deb-a-deb-en...uh...Dana D!!)

After the finish line

Eric was waiting to give me a big first words, "how long has (my friend) been here".  He told me only a couple of minutes.  It's funny because her first words as she crossed were, "I beat Dana!!"  She not only beat me for the first time, she beat me by SIX MINUTES!!!  It was almost all on the swim and some on the bike.  Although I made up some time on the run, it wasn't enough on that day.  I told her I wasn't going to let it happen again!  We love each other.  We were cut from the same competitive cloth so it's GREAT that we both get it and can be like that with each other.

As it turned out...because it is such a small race, made up of mostly men, I won 1st in my age group, and my friend won first in her division!  The prize was a super cool transition mat!  No more towel for me!

It was funny, the guy I was playing leap frog with, my rabbit, was telling someone after the race he saw me come out of the bathroom from the bike and he intended to hang on to me, until I got to the first hill and (he said) I "took off like a bullet" and left him behind.  That, coupled with the comment from the guy walking up the hill really gave me a boost.   But the truth is, it will always come back to what I'm choosing to believe is true about myself.

Post race thoughts

All in all...this was a GREAT race.  I'm very pleased with my performance.  Yes..I said it, and this is the day after the race (although it hasn't been a full 24 hours yet, the depression hasn't set in fully...maybe reading this will serve as a reminder).  I was a little slower on the swim that I had hoped to be.  I had hoped it would be 45 minutes but when I tack on the time it took to get out of the water, get my chip restrapped, get back in and the time it took to get from the swim to the transition area, 48:13 doesn't seem too bad.  Although my transitions were slow for me, they weren't slow comparatively speaking.  I'd really like to have a power meter so I could have some hard data to compare, but since I don't, I'll just have to remind myself NOLA was flat (but windy) and my average speed was basically the same.  I'm just going to continue to get faster on the bike as I get more comfortable riding it. (BTW, another thing I haven't written about...I got a new bike!!)  The run was slower than what I would have liked, but I did run negative splits, and, even with the hills and the leg and stomach issues I only ran it about 4 minutes slower than NOLA.

This time next year I will be in full recovery mode from IronMan Lake Tahoe.  That is very hard to believe!

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon! 
***A note about race nutrition.   I do not have this figured out yet.  I haven't had many REALLY long training days to practice this and there are so many factors to think about with food/hydration and electrolytes, I don't think I've ever gotten a good handle on it.   Consequently I usually have a variety of ideas.


  1. Congratulations, Dana! That is such an amazing thing to accomplish and not only did you do it, you did it well! The part about your name cracks me up. Announcers always get mine wrong too and it makes me laugh to hear the different ways they pronounce it. :)

  2. Great job, Dana! Very proud of you! :)


Don't hold back, tell it like it is....