After having a horrible run (aka walk) last year during this race, I knew I was going to sign up for this race again this year for redemption. I was going to bring my enduralytes and come off the bike feeling great and crush the run! Well, that was the plan. However mother nature had a different plan up her sleeve, not only was it going to be hot, it was going to be super HOT, as in a heat index of 101+. I tried to not freak out the week before the race because really, what was I going to do? It was too late to try to acclimate to the heat (from what I have read you have to do that several weeks before), so all I could do was stay well hydrated. I still had my sights set on redemption despite the ridiculously predicted temps for the day.
Saturday afternoon JMR and I arrived in Effingham around 3:30p, checked into our hotel, and then I headed to the race site to meet my coach and a few other team ECo racers for a course recon. We first headed down to the ‘beach’ to check out the lake water temperature. It was not very cold at all. Uh-oh. Last year it was hot during the race, but the swim was still wetsuit legal, so I figured that would be the case again this year…however… we have had quite a few hot days leading up to the race which had really warmed up the water. I wouldn’t care about not wearing a wetsuit, except that I had it all planned out in my head that I would be wearing a wetsuit, and would wear my arm coolers under it for sun protection..and, well, that was the plan. Trying to put those things while wet after a swim was a no-go (In a non-wetsuit swim, your arms can’t be covered). Our non-wetsuit swim was confirmed when we went to pick up our packets and saw a sign was posted stating that the water temp was currently 80 degrees. Oh boy. So not only was I going to have to put a crap ton of sunscreen on in t1, but I would have to wear my tighter tri top (I brought two, one when I am more fit and the other when I’m a bit less fit and isn’t as tight) because I’m a moron and forgot to pack my swim skin. Grr. That thing has only gotten used one freaking time, at IMLOU. I don’t know why, but forgetting my swim skin bothered me until I finished my swim. I have issues letting the little things go, even when I have no control over them (we were NOT driving back to stl to get it)….but I do know that I won’t forget to pack it again (the same thing happened with my race belt for Redman in 2012. I have never forgotten to pack it since!).
After packet pickup and going over the bike course, I picked up JMR and we met everyone at Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner (because steak and sweet potatoes before a race is my thing :)) I think JMR was surprised at how much the conversation wasn’t related to all things tri. The vibe of this group was definitely different than my local tri club (neither are bad vibes, just different), and it was just what I needed before the race. Chill and laid back. After dinner we headed back to the hotel where I got my gear and nutrition out and ready for the next morning. I was starting to get sleepy around 8:30p and dozed on and off until 10:30p when JMR turned off the tv and it was officially time to go to bed. However, I think I slept a total of 3 hours, I just kept waking up, tossing and turning, but that is nothing new to me and pretty typical the night before a race (I even dreamed that it was a dream that I forgot my darn swim skin, I was sad when I woke up and realized it was not a dream).
At 4:15a I was up, ate my pre race breakfast, got dressed, applied a crap ton of sunscreen, prepared my bottles and by 5:15a we were headed out the door. Once we got to the race site I loaded Lola up with my bottles and nutrition, pumped her tires and then headed to set up transition…which took a total of 10 minutes at most. Then… we had a whopping hour and 15 minutes before the race started. So we hung around transition, talked to my coach and his significant other, C, and finally it was time for the pre-race meeting at 6:45. I waded in the water during the meeting to get used to the temp (it still felt a little cold), and before I knew it we were counting down the start, 3-2-1, and we were off!
Because it was such a small race, the swim start wasn’t too crazy and I was able to find some clear water right from the start. Even though I don’t swim bilaterally when I do my swim workouts in the pool, it works really well for me during open water swims. I keep my head down when I breathe to the left and then after a couple of strokes, before I breathe to my right, I look up to sight and make sure I’m headed the right way. So on I went and time really seemd to fly because after what didn’t seem so long, I was headed back to the beach to finish my first lap, shout out my race number and then head back out for lap 2. As I was approaching the beach I saw C, and knowing she is a good swimmer, I was pretty pumped at the pace I was going and thought that maybe not having my swim skin didn’t ruin my race. Back out for lap 2, I ran into more sea plants than I did the first time and actually had to stop because I had a huge one stuck on my head and face and I couldn’t see. I laughed out loud as I pulled the huge nasty plant off of my head. Then it was back to work, I focused on lengthening my stroke and after what didn’t seem very long, I was heading back to the beach to finish my second lap. Once I hit the beach (I always feel so dizzy once I first get out of the water) I walked/jogged up the hill to T1 and when I saw the clock I shouted to JMR (who was running alongside me), ‘Holy crap! That’s like a 4 minute PR for me!’
I ran into t1, put my socks and bike shoes on, then my helmet and sunglasses. I did a quick spray of sunscreen on my arms/back and then I was off on the bike.
As soon as I got situated/comfy on my bike and was a couple miles into the ride I noticed my heart rate was crazy high and the effort seemed harder than it should for the speed I was going (I know, I really need a powermeter because speed/HR aren’t great indicators of effort…still working on getting one) then I noticed the leaves on the tree next to me slightly blowing and realized we had a little headwind. Lovely, I thought there wasn’t going to be any wind today? Guess that’s not the case. It wasn’t terrible headwind, but it was still annoying. I was so happy once I reached the first turnaround and then was in the hardest gear pedaling away and flying, and my heart rate had also dropped a little, settling in around 160. I guess that was going to be my planned number for the day, since 155 wasn’t happening. The first loop was pretty uneventful, I drank my Infinit every 20 minutes followed by a couple of sips of water and took an enduralye every hour (starting with the first one when I got on the bike).
Soon I was nearing the end of the first loop and was right on the planned time (I was hoping to ride around 3hrs or a bit under) in 1:30. A few minutes into the second loop, I have no idea what I did, but I somehow had bumped my watch’s lap button and was now in t2. Oh no. I tried to switch the screens to see if total time was listed on one of them but apparently my t2 screen doesn’t have much information, so I hit the lap button again and was now in run mode. I could still go off of the time in run mode to make sure I was on top of my nutrition every 20 minutes, and I could see HR, but I couldn’t see speed. Argh. Also, in run mode, it laps every mile and beeps, so that was extra annoying to have it beep every mile…28 miles of beeps when it’s usually every 5. At that point I was pretty frustrated and irritated that I was riding blindly. I know stuff like this can happen in a race so you can’t be 100% dependant on electronics but it still brought my mood down. I felt like I was still keeping the same pace I was prior to the whole hit-the-lap-button-incident, however I was getting passed. A lot. Like six girls passed me on that second lap. Grr. However, I was giving what I thought was a good effort, and kept remembering that I had a long run ahead of me, so I kept going with the same perceived effort. Soon I was rolling into t2, around 5 minutes slower than planned and just overall feeling annoyed and defeated because of my watch issues.
Once I got into t2 I hit reset on my watch and just went into run mode so I could see my pace for each mile (which…didn’t really matter as it turns out). Running out of t1, I ran into a porta potty for a quick pit stop (peeing during the run just didn’t seem worth it) and then I was off.
.5 miles into the run, all I could think was…’This sucks’. The heat was horrible, and the sun was just beating down on me (and everyone), and I felt just as crappy as I did last year getting off the bike…hmm… maybe it wasn’t all about the salt tabs, maybe I’m just not prepared for HOT this early in the season. After the first mile I had already started taking walk breaks as I felt nauseaus and dizzy. Such a bummer. I found it humorous that I thought I was going to be running 8:30/min miles on the run. More like 12 minute miles with a walk/run combo. By mile 2 I just thought, ‘why the heck am I doing this? This is pretty stupid. I really want to quit. At this rate it’s going to take me 3 freaking hours to finish….no thank you.’ Then I did more walk/run shuffling and finally made it to the turn around at mile 3.25. After the turn around I saw my coach, who was on his second and final lap and he shouted something to the effect of ‘Come on! Come on! Get moving! You can walk it during the next aid station!’, which motivated me to get back to running. I ran to the next aid station and then decided I would walk the hills (which were teeny tiny hills, but still hills). So that was the plan, there were a few more walk breaks included as well, but soon I was almost done with my first loop.
Once I approached the turnaround, JMR was running with his camera, and all I could think was ‘oh man please don’t take video of me looking this awful’, fortunately he was just taking a photo and then he walked with me during the small loop portion of the turn around. I was not a happy camper. JMR picked up on my mood and said that a lot of people had dropped out and it was hot, and to just be careful (pretty sure he said the exact same thing last year). I asked him if it was hotter than last year and he said ‘Oh yes’. That made me feel a little better. So, after more ice , water and sponges filled with ice water from an aid station, off I went to finish the second lap.
The second lap was pretty much the same as the first… walking ‘hills’ and a little bit more and then trying to do a run-shuffle so I wasn’t out there for three hours. Every aid station I took water, ice, gatorade and had my sponges soaked in ice water, which did help, but the beating sun was relentless. The tar on the pavement we were running on was melting so I could feel my shoes sticking the the ground every time I took a step. I’m pretty sure that happened last year too. Soon I was already past the turn around and knew I only had 3ish miles to go. Thank goodness. I could handle 3ish miles. On I went with the walk / run combination and I was finally nearing the finish.. Oh man. Once I crossed the finish I looked at my watch (using time of day since my watch was all jacked up). Slowest 70.3 ever. Last year was my slowest but now, THIS was the slowest. BUT I crossed the line and finished. While I was out on the course shuffling a run / walk I figured a DNF due to not toughing it out would be worse mentally for me than a slow finish time and that is what kept me going. However, if I was overheating and suffering from symptoms of heat stroke I would have definitely stopped, better safe than sorry, but with all of the ice, water and sponges, I just felt uncomfortably hot, and could suffer through it.
My coach was very positive when I finished, I expected more of a lecture or, I don’t know… a ‘what happened?’ type of question, because darnit, that’s how I felt. All this time I blamed my crappy race last year on not having salt tabs, but that wasn’t the case this year and I had just as bad of a run (1 minute slower than last year, lol). But he and C were very congratulatory (which btw C finished 2nd overall, running a freaking 1:55 and my coach finished in the top 10, with an even faster half time… I asked them if they had trained in the sahara desert for this race, lol), so I stopped my whining about all of the things that didn’t go well and just said thank you and congratulated them on their pretty darn awesome races. I did manage to snag 2nd in my age group (OUT OF THREE), but hey, I won’t turn down a trophy, lol.
Overall Time: 6:15:52
Lessons learned…. oh so many. Well, my swim is really improving so hooray for that. I usually dread every time I have to drag myself to the pool, so seeing that those sessions are paying off will definitely help motivate me to get my butt there more often. The bike, well, I really do need a powermeter to ensure I’m giving the right effort and not overbiking, however I don’t think one is in the budget this year, so I am going to just have to learn to really pay attention to how I’m feeling and what effort I’m putting out so that I give the effort needed without overbiking. Also, as annoying as it is, I’m going to have to lock my Garmin screen before the bike so that I don’t have any more button pushing mishaps. The run, was, well, pitiful, but seeing how my Go! and Quincy half’s both went I know I’m capable of doing better than a 2:32 half marathon during a 70.3, I just need to suck it up and get more used to the heat (sauna protocols, here I come!) So I’m sad at how the race went, but I’ll take it as a learning lesson so I can do better in my next 70.3 (Steelhead!)