As I lay here typing this, tears are forming and I’m getting that “lump in the throat” feeling. My emotions are so on the surface right now for many reasons. I’m tired, I’m sore, I’m dehydrated, but I’m relieved to have successfully completed the hardest race I’ve ever attempted in my entire life. However, my heart is truly breaking for the 40,000 Chicago Marathoners who were faced with evil 88 degree temperatures. It was so brutal that they called off the race and only about 4,000 people were actually expected to finish. To top it off, they had at least one fatality out there. A fellow Gazelle described it as a “war zone.” Very scary, indeed.
As for me, I had my own proverbial death march today at the Longhorn Half-Ironman Triathlon. You know it’s going to be a hot one when the water temperature at the start was 85 degrees! That’s practically bath water! And if the water is 85, you know the air is warmer.
My swim was…typical…no speed gain, but my endurance is improving vastly. I’m coming out of the water with more energy. A little more speed will come. The water was warm as hell as mentioned previously. I was afraid of actually dehydrating from the swim. Oh yeah, the algae at the beginning and end of the swim has to go. Talk about the heebie jeebies!
The bike…what do I say about the bike? I’ve ridden this course a few times and have gradually gotten better with each training ride. It’s a one loop course with a good variety of elevation and turns to keep things interesting. Just when you think you are flying like Superman, a hill knocks you in the face and brings you back to reality. There was also a combination of good and bad quality of roads. The fastest Katy and I had trained on that course was about 17 mph. Today, according to official results, I averaged 18.2 mph. (My garmin says 18.6. I like it better.) The ride went much better than anticipated, but I noticed two things: 1.) my nutrition schedule was a little erratic and 2.) my legs were cramping slightly on the bike. As you can imagine, neither of those would bode well for a 13.1 mile run in 90+ heat at Noon.
The Run: I hate to say this because it goes against what I believe about thinking positively, but I knew I was going to bonk on the run before I got off the bike. My legs were in trouble, especially my quads and inner thighs. There was a little part of me that just wanted to lay down in transition and have someone wake me when it was all over. (or until the red ants devoured me). Surprisingly, through it all, I was having no tummy issues, although most of it may have been resolved by the antibiotics I was taking that treat salmonella poisoning. I stopped thinking about my tummy and started focusing on my legs. About 5 miles into it, my calves and quads were seizing. It felt like little gremlins were sneaking up on me and grabbing my muscles. The little bastards would let go and then, when I least expected it, they would grab on again. If you’ve ever had muscle cramping and seizures during a race, you know exactly what I’m describing. I would start to walk and that just made it worse. I was taking in Gatorade, water and gels, but I know it wasn’t enough to adequately replenish what I had lost. I just had no flexibility in my legs; no spring in the step. I realized early on that it wasn’t going to be a PR day for me. My best is a 5:35 and that was on a flat, fast course. This course rolled from beginning to end, not to mention the fact that there was very little shade and it was oozing with heat and humidity.
One of the things that made me feel better through all of this was ironically the fact that EVERYONE seemed to be struggling. Obviously, the winners were done by that point, but I didn’t see one person who looked like they were having any fun. Most were just walking the hills and hoping that the miles would tick away.
The other thing that made me feel better was the support of my friends Stephanie, Richard, Cathy and Graham. They were out there for me and it made me so happy and grateful to have that support (here come the tears and lumpy throat again). Thanks guys so much!!!! (hubby, unfortunately, had to work yesterday) My tri group T3 was also out in full force with their own cheering tent. They positioned themselves so that we had to run by them four times…Every time they would see the familiar T3 Blue jersey, they were jumping up and down and cheering. Again, it’s things like that that kept my little fire ignited.
The last three miles were on uneven grass and they were basically a monologue and mantra of “Your legs feel great. Your legs feel great. Your legs feel great.” (followed by an “ouch” after every step) By this point, every step brought with it a pinch of muscle cramping. I can’t tell you how happy I was to make the final turn, hear people calling my name, look at my watch and realize that SOMEHOW I was still breaking 6:00 hrs!!
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I was going to give it all I had. I can honestly say that I did, especially since I was so sick this whole week. It was a very dignified way to end the season and, although it wasn’t a lightening fast time, it was still a huge effort.
Swim: 47:55 (convinced it was a long course, but I’m always convinced the course is long)
Bike: 3:04:34 /18.2 mph (this one irks me because I very clearly had 3:02 on my bike computer for an 18.6 avg)
Run: 2:00:11/ 9:11 avg (can you say, “Brutal???” I know 9:11s aren’t bad, but I can usually clock off an 8:00 pace in a Half-Iron. Not today…not today)
12th out of 45 in age group (still pretty darn respectable! I’ll take it!)