IM Chattanooga is less than three weeks away (eek!), and it will be here before I know it! As a long training weekend I participated in an event put on my by coach’s company – The Endurance Company – called ‘EPIC’. A quick summary of the EPIC weekends events:
Saturday: 10k swim in a 50m outdoor pool, followed by a 60 mile bike from Quincy, IL to Bowling Green, MO
Sunday: 150 mile bike from Bowling Green, MO to Columbia, MO
Monday: Heart of America Marathon in Columbia, MO
…which is a grand total of 243 miles of swimming, biking and running over three days. I did this event last year, but due to my hip injury I didn’t sign up for the marathon and figured if my hip was feeling ok I would run some miles while the rest of the group raced. Fortunately it felt ok and I got in around 16 on a nice flat shaded trail. This year I haven’t had any hip issues, however doing a hilly marathon a month from IMChatt didn’t seem worth the recovery time or risking injury, so this year I signed up for the relay and would run around a half marathon instead (the relay option was new this year).
I am not going to lie, I came into EPIC this year with some expectations, and maybe I shouldn’t have and would have enjoyed the weekend a little bit more without having the added pressure. However I have been swimming more than last year and my times are improving, so I assumed I would have a faster swim this year. Also, I have been riding stronger and had high hopes of having strong rides as well. I had no expectations for the run though, just get it done injury free 🙂 So short spoiler, swim was slow, bike had some meltdowns and run went just fine.
Saturday morning was chilly… overcast and high 60’s. The outdoor 50 meter pool felt pretty cold too, and I was hoping I would warm up after a few 1000’s but that never really happened. My hands and feet would go from numb to semi-warmed up, back to numb. I also ran out of steam around 5k and was so sad I still had 5k left to go, and meanwhile everyone around me seemed to be staying strong while my pace was slipping to a slower and slower rate. I now know I should have just focused on my own swim and not paid attention to those around me, but I let it get in my head. Also, after the 5k I could see I was already on track for a slower swim than last year, which also got into my head. After what seemed like forever I finally finished, about 5 minutes slower than last year and feeling totally wiped out. I had trouble climbing out of the darn pool! The thought of riding after sounded awful (and cold!).
I took a hot shower after which helped, put on my dry biking clothes, ate some food and started to feel a little better. Also my coach said his time was slower than last year which made me feel better, we guessed the cold water took up some extra energy for our bodies to stay warm while swimming.
At 1p we were off to ride our 60 miles. Overall the ride was pretty uneventful, I tried to just stay with the main group and fortunately no one was really hammering the pace, so we were all able to stay together. The whole ride I was soooo hungry, and just kept thinking about what I was going to eat for dinner. A big burger and fries. Swimming really builds up my appetite! When we finally pulled into our dinner spot (one mile from the hotel, we would finish off the last mile after dinner), we all ordered right away and my burger and sweet potato fries were amazing. I ate all of it. After dinner we all settled in for a very early bedtime, ready for an early wake up call to be rolling out at 7a.
Sunday morning we lucked out again with overcast and slightly chilly weather, I will take that over HOT any day! Similar to the ride on Saturday, we all mostly stuck together and were able to ride as a group which was really nice (and huge thanks to those pulling up front, I am guilty of not taking a turn). One thing I didn’t anticipate on the ride was my nutrition and how my stomach would react. By hour 5 I could hardly stomach any more Infinit. I had planned on mostly drinking that as my main nutrition, and had packed 3 bags with 3 hours each in it, for 9 hours total. I did bring some other gels, bars, etc just in case, but that really was the main nutrition plan. I was gagging by the end of the second bottle, but still decided to mix my third bottle, however I hardly drank out of it (regretting that now, Infinit isn’t cheap!!). I think because it was pretty warm when I was drinking it (mixed with not cold water) and also since I drank it the day before for four hours (which I’m not used to drinking that much on back to back days), my stomach was just wanting real (not healthy though) food. So, instead at the various gas station stops I had a twix, snickers, fig newtons, a base bar and of course the usual lots of coke and some potato chips. I never eat like that on my training rides, although I also don’t ride 150 miles usually either. I knew my stomach would probably pay during the run the next day since I knew Infinit would have been a better choice nutritionally, but at that point, I was just worrying about finishing the ride and would deal with my angry stomach the next day.
Also, around mile 125 I fell off the back of the group during a downhill and for the life of me, I could not catch back up. I think I was starting to bonk because I started to cry and was just starting to lose it. I was tired, I was wondering why was I doing this, I wanted to be done. Logically it was only 25 more miles, there was one more stop to regroup and the roads would be marked, but I was just upset to lose the group and ride alone. I just didn’t want to ride alone! Fortunately I was able to catch up on a hill and at the next rest stop I got a large coke (SUGAR!), which seemed to help improve my mood. No more meltdowns after that and I was able to keep up with the group, phew. When we rolled into the hotel parking lot around 153 miles I was SO HAPPY to be done. I just don’t remember it being this hard last year, and I also didn’t have any meltdowns (that I can remember) either. Although I have a way of forgetting painful things, hence why I keep signing up for Ironmans… so maybe it was just as bad and I don’t remember. After we showered, we ordered pizza and then went to bed early for a night of once again, no sleep.
Monday morning my alarm went off at 4a, I ate a banana and headed downstairs for some coffee. The first thing I noticed was that my stomach was off. Coffee might have been a bad idea, but I think I was hoping it would help get whatever was angry resolved before the ‘race’. That didn’t happen. Also I was pretty darn tired and needed all of the help I could get. We all piled in one of our teammates cars to head to packet pickup/race start and get ready for the last event of the weekend. I was a little bummed to not be doing the full race (and say I did the full weekend event) again, but I knew 26.2 miles on a hilly route after a tough training weekend was asking a lot of my body. Also I knew I could get in a few miles before the relay handoff, which also made me a little more ok with my mileage, especially since this might be my last ‘long’ run before the taper.
I hung out at the start line until the shuttle buses came to take us to our relay spots. Also, it was FREEZING. I didn’t take into account it being chilly while waiting around for over an hour, so if I do this again next year, I will remember to wear a throw away long sleeved shirt. Once I arrived at the relay spot, I took off to run the course backward to get in some extra miles and also try to warm up. I ran the course backwards to make sure I wouldn’t accidentally miss my partner, which also happened to be running down (and therefore got to run back up) the biggest hill of the course, Easley. It was all and more that everyone had said about it, boy was that a big hill. About 2.5 miles in, I turned around and hoofed it back up Easley and back to the handoff, just around the time Joe was approaching. He handed off the bib and I had 11 miles left to go!
After the first 2.5 miles warming up, I was able to stick with my planned race pace of around 9:15, and the plan was to keep up with it the remaining 11 miles. The only trouble I foresaw was that my stomach was angry, and I knew there weren’t many porta potties on the course. I just took it one mile at a time, and tried to not push the pace too much so my stomach wouldn’t get angry. I finally gave in, and around 8 miles in I took a gel since I could feel my energy starting to fade. My stomach did ok, but I wasn’t sure for how long that would last. On another note, it was a nice course and had good amounts of shade, which I appreciated. Also, it was weird being so far up front in the race. Since Joe is super duper fast, he handed off our bib with us around 6th place overall or so, which meant I was getting passed a lot by people that made me look like I was standing still, lol.
Around mile 21 I had to take a short walk break up a hill in order to keep my stomach from resulting in an emergency situation. Then at the next water stop I asked volunteers if there were porta potties…and there weren’t. Lot of deep breathing and trying to keep a controlled pace. Then when I got to the part of the race where there was an out and back around a lake, nice and flat, my stomach seemed to be doing ok again, hooray. I was thrilled when I passed the miles 23 mark – I was wiped just trying to do 16 miles on this course, I couldn’t imagine 26.2, I was ready to be done! As I left the lake path I made the decision to duck into the park bathrooms to finally give my stomach a break. I am glad that I did, it added 2 minutes to my mile split, but it was necessary. On I went, starting to break things into .25 miles as I was really fading. Mile 25 went by and I saw our hotel…boy did I want to stop…but I kept going, finally reaching mile 26 and thrilled to be running the downhill to the finish. I crossed the line around 3h45m…someday I hope to actually cross a marathon finish line running all 26.2 miles in that time! (but never on a course like this though! A flat one 🙂
Once I crossed the finish line I felt pretty bad- my legs decided to feel crappy, my stomach was angry, I was thirsty, shaky and wasn’t sure what to do. I hadn’t ‘raced’ those miles, but I had run them hard, so I guess my body wasn’t thrilled. I drank some water, ate a lot of watermelon and then had a popsicle and started to feel better. Soon the rest of the ECO teammates were crossing the finish – what a feat, I was definitely impressed in their ability to run a full 26.2 after our weekend and on a tough run course. Once everyone finished we headed back to the hotel to shower, check out and load up the truck.
We had a team lunch before everyone departed to chat about the weekend and celebrate everyone finishing what goals they had set out to accomplish. I really enjoy spending time with this group of people and couldn’t have picked a better group of people to swim, bike and run with all weekend. I’m not sure if I will be back to do the full (marathon too!) event next year, but I’m not crossing if off my list either!
That said, I’m putting my head back down for three more weeks (thank goodness the big stuff is over with though) until my A race of the season!