Where do I even begin? This first blog will be the physical story of my race in Clearwater. The next blog will be the spiritual side of the story.
By the numbers
Best 70.3 Kansas 6/09
Swim 38:50, Bike 2:59:54 Run 2:13 Total 5:56
Buffalo Springs 70.3 6-27-10
Swim – 33:23 Bike 3:02 Run 2:22 Total 6:04:13
Swim 30-33 Bike 2:30-2:40, Run 1:55-2:00
Swim 33-35 Bike 2:40 – 2:45, Run 2:00-2:10
Total ranges 5:07-5:25
Swim 38:57 Bike 2:48 Run 2:27 Total 6:04:24 (T1 4:20, T2 4:59)
Facts going into the race:
I trained hard all year and especially after Buffalo Springs. I rode long each week with my training partner Julie. I also ran and ran and ran. More than I have ever run before a 70.3. Biking and running were feeling quite good. I didn’t do nearly as much swimming as I’ve done in the past b/c I felt I’d have a greater ROI on my biking and running.
In early September I started feeling tired all the time and had a hard time completing higher intensity workouts. So I cut back my training going for quality over quantity. Mentally tough to do, but I knew rested was the way to show up for Clearwater.
I caught a respiratory infection about 6 days before Clearwater. Went to my awesome Doctor, Lorraine and she prescribed antibiotics. It took a few days, but I started feeling much better the Wednesday before Clearwater. Side effects from the antibioitics were nausea and diarrhea. I felt good, but didn’t really know what to expect on race day given that I’d been sick and the antibiotics were still bothering me (not nearly as much, felt really good on Friday).
In Clearwater I swam twice in the Gulf prior to the race. The first swim was a bit stressful as I adjusted to the slight waves and the intense flavor of saltwater. Once I got the wave rhythm and surrendered to salty taste, I was fine. The second swim was awesome. Felt great to swim in a huge body of water and see the beach. Loved it. Water beautiful both days. Chilly about 64 degrees but felt refreshing not cold. I also did a short brick on Thursday and took on one of the hills I’d do on race day. I felt great on both the bike and run. Friday, I did a short run with some slight interval work. Legs felt good. I know these were short, but I felt rested, loose and ready to race. Friday I also tested what I planned for breakfast on Saturday and my stomach happily obliged. So, I felt like I was in good shape to go race like a crazy woman on Saturday!! Of course, I didn’t know if or how the infection or the antibiotics would impact performance over hours instead of the 45-60 minutes I’d done Thursday and Friday. But, I let the unknown go. Went into the race ready to seize the day and give the glory to God!
Swim – I planned to start on the right so I’d swim along the buoy line. This was a clockwise course which is highly unusual. Becauase I was at World Championships with fast women, I decided that I shouldn’t start in the front of the pack but in the first 1/3. I planned to swim hard the first 250-300 then settle into a rhythm with the hope of the opportunity to draft in the swim.
Bike – In my last 2 70.3’s I’ve held back on the bike to save more for the runs. However, I don’t feel that it has helped my run that much so I decided to return to my prior riding intensity on this race and count on all my running training to support a good run. The goal was to average over 21.5 and near 22.0 mph. I had trained a lot on hills, but also on flats. Clearwater is a mostly flat course and that sounds easy, but there is no rest for your legs, just constant pedaling. I felt confident that I had trained to pedal on powerfully for 56 miles.
Run – This is where I really hoped to shine. To really show improvement. All my running felt good and my bricks felt good in training. I was going to take it easy for 3 miles, push the next 8 a little bit then let it go the last 2 with everything I had. There were 4 big hills on the run course over bridges – long and 12% grades. I would run up the first 2/3’s then kind of hike the top. I would run a 7:30 and then walk :30 throughout.
Nutrition – 2 botttles of lemonade on bike along with 6 fuel bites and then 1 bottle of lemonade and 3 fuel bites plus water on run.
I woke up feeling pretty good. Had decided to skip the morning anitibiotic just to hold off issues. Showed up at transition, finished what little I needed to do. Then, just hung around stretching, listening to music and using port a potties. I went in for a warm up swim about 6:30. It was dark and that was kind of cool and scary at the same time. Warm up felt good. Water seemed to be just like Thursday and Friday. Good to go.
Swim – I lined up in the front 1/3 to the right. Women were a bit chatty but focused. Our gun went off. We had to stay on the sand and then run in. We had to run in pretty far. I didn’t want to look at my watch, but I think we ran a good 20-30 seconds before it was deep enough to dive in and start swimming. I thought, wow, this is a long time. Dove in and started swimming. Arms, legs were flailing and women were everywhere. I sited, ah buoy to the right and started swimming slightly to the right to get in my line. It was a bump and grind chop fest and I thought it was because there were just so many of us and I hadn’t started up front. But, once I broke free a bit, holy cow!! This water was rough. Had to settle myself down a few times and I struggled to find the rhythm and stay on top of the chop. I kept repeating part of Isaiah 41:10 – I will strengthen you and help you. I told Jesus to just race through me. Finally about 600 yards in I got to actually swimming and then hit the turn. It was only about 200 yards across and the waves were a full frontal hit but this was easier than the sideways stuff going out. I found a pretty good stroke and then hit the last turn to head to the beach. Only about 1000 yards to go!! I looked and saw lots of clear water and put the hammer down. Oops..swam too many strokes without siting and was drifting to the left. Crap. How can the waves be coming from the left and I’m swimming to the left? I had to adjust and site about every 2-4 strokes just to try hard to swim some kind of straight line. I started noticing other color caps and thought, “get a move on, get out before these men run you over”. I really didn’t care what the time was. I swam as hard as I could, did the best I could in the chop and remained pretty calm after the first 600 yards. Whew. I looked at my watch after the strippers pull my wetsuit off and after I went through the showers they had for us on the beach (like a car wash! felt great to get the salt water off). My vision was totally blurry and I felt wobbly getting to transition. But, I didn’t worry about it. I waved to Robert who knew I was behind schedule by 5-8 minutes. I hope he knew that the swim time was not a problem for me given the water conditions. I was ok with it!
I grabbed my swim to bike bag and headed to the changing tent. There the volunteers helpfully unpacked and repacked my bag for me. I felt dizzy and my vision was blurred. No worries, go to the bike, settle down and ride.
Bike – little jog through transition. Got on my bike. Headed out and got about a 1/2 mile out and decided to just start settling down and finding my groove. Stomach was not happy. Darn, could the salt water have upset it? Vision still very strange. I wiped my eyes thinking it was the salt water. Nope. Just weird vision. I kept riding. My heart rate was higher than I wanted but my speed was where I wanted it..so I decided to let Jesus race through me and I’d go with the higher HR. I’d pray and ask Jesus if I was ok. I felt that I was. As I continued to ride, the nausea and GI issues (I’ll stop calling it the “d” word) continued on. I tried to drink water. Ick. I tried my lemonade – super ick. Kept riding, kept trying to hold my pace. What happened quite quickly is that instead of heart rate or speed, my ride became dictated by how fast I could push without feeling light headed, nauseous or like a port a potty stop would be beyond a dire emergency! So, I kept noticing my HR, speed and time..but they were just data points. My efforts were guided by managing these 3 physical sypmtoms. In terms of nutrition, I drank 1 bottle of lemonade only because I knew I HAD to and after each sip I’d slow down and let the tummy handle it. I kept praying for strength and help. Strength and help. Jesus was with me the entire way. Jesus knows physical pain and he encouraged me to keep going and I’d be fine. I’m so glad that Jesus knows how we feel!! I drank one bottle of water. Nothing else. So about 1/3 of my calories is all I could take in. I was pleased that I forced myself to take that much in. I love to ride my bike. I really do. This was the most miserable, uncomfortable ride of my life. I couldn’t wait to get off my bike and run. I’ve never, ever felt that way! After nearly 3 hours of being miserable on my bike I was thrilled to pull in to transition.
In transition, I handed my bike to a volunteer who would rack it (how cool is that?) and then ran(I use the term loosely) up to get my run bag. Headed in to the changing tent and decided to just slow down a bit, let my HR drop and see if that would help me regroup. The wonderful volunteer took my shoes out of the bag, rolled down my socks and handed me each sock and helped me get my shoes on. I was ever so grateful. She put all my bike stuff in the bag, got me a glass of water which I chugged. I then headed straight for the port a pottie. Ok, I’m going to be honest. My goal was total evacuation so I could run and not have that “feeling”..you know what I mean right? Ok, ‘nough said. Into the port a potty I go. Not a shred…not a partial piece of toilet paper…nada, nothing, zilch, zero. Oh, there is no dignity..none whatsoever. Really, just none. I wondered if I should get up and get into another port a potty..nope, just deal with the situation and move on the clock is ticking…
Ran by Robert and pointed to my stomach. He thought I had a side stitch..if only!!
Run, well, I was behind 8 minutes in the swim, nowhere near 2:30 on the bike. Now what? Well, I decided to take it one mile at a time. I decided that the voice in me that said “this isn’t worth it. No toilet paper. You are sick. What are you doing?” wasn’t going to take control and run my race. I once again prayed for strength and help and asked Jesus if I was ok. He said I was. So, here I go. One mile at a time. Dizziness has faded and I’m not seeing blurring. Good. GI issues are big though. So, again, pace became dictated by the GI issue. I’d go as fast as I could without prompting my body to evacuate. Got to the first aid station. Drank water, suffered after. Ok, not doing that again. Took a sip of my lemonade in my hand held bottle. That was even worse tasting now than on the bike, plus the bottle felt like it weighed 5 pounds. Walk? nope, felt worse to walk. Slow run felt the best. Next aid station – coke. Walked and drank the coke. That went down the hatch. Ok, 2 miles, I’m not going fast, but I’m moving forward. I prayed Isaish 41:10 over and over. Strength and Help. Strength and Help. Can I tell you at least 1000 people passed me on the run? Seriously, I know it was 1000. I lost count about 750 though :-).
Banana? I’ll try one b/c I must get something in terms of calories but gu sounds awful. I handed the volunteer my hand held bottle and told her to throw it out. Took a banana. Not bad. Stayed down. Ok, coke and banana’s it is!! Hey, that’s something right. One mile at a time. Ok, I’m in to the turn around. Second loop!!! It isn’t fast, I’m not having fun but I’m going to finish. I’m going to finish. When I started the run, I didn’t know if the GI issues would stop me..but Jesus gave me strength and help and told me I was ok and yep…I am going to finish.
I continue to manage by how I feel and try to look at pace to just keep moving and not let it get too slow. I don’t look at my total time. Too depressing. I look at my run time and decide that I would rather just die than go 2:30 on this run. Mile 7, 8, 9…getting close. Now, I just have nausea and I’m completely exhausted. I know I’m dehydrated and undernourished. The last mile was my slowest I think but it went by the fastest. I just wanted to see the finish line, Robert and be D-O-N-E.
As I cross the finish line, I know I smiled b/c . I have finished. It ain’t pretty. It’s so not what I had hoped or wanted for a World Championship race. Then, there is Robert. I hug him and start crying. I don’t mean tears, I mean sobbing. I am so physically and mentally exhausted. He just holds me tight like only he can do. I love that man. I tell him I know I’m pretty dehydrated and need to probably get some attention. I pop into the med tent (never done that before). They give me water, cover me in cold towels, take blood pressure and heart rate and ask me all kinds of questions. I look around at people unable to sit, people with IV’s and oxygen on. After about 15 minutes I decide I’m safe to get out of there.
So, why was I so sick? I believe that the water was so rough that I got motion sickness! I have never had motion sickness in my life. Who knew? Combine that with GI issues caused by the anti-biotics. I definitely feel that the motion sickness played the larger role in all of this. So, next ocean/gulf race, I’ll be taking some kind of medication to prevent the motion sickness in case the water is choppy!! I don’t think the salt water upset my stomach like it did when I raced Cancun. This was a completely new experience of sickness for me.
What did I learn?
I learned that I was very fit going into this race and that quality training over quantity training always pays off. I am just thrilled about that.
I learned that you can take in hydration/nutrition when you are sick if you do so in small increments and prepare to slow down a bit afterwards to keep it down.
I learned to not give up on hydration/nutrition but to keep experimenting. I tried the new powerbar drink perform – yucko. spit that right out. Then tried a coke.
I learned that sometimes the races we are most proud of don’t show up in a fast time. They show up in the effort it took to finish.
I learned that when you are sick like this, there is absolutely nothing “fun” about triathlon.
I learned that the suffering is worth the price to finish. (I’ll qualify. I was sick. I wasn’t pushing my body and risking an injury or any real damage. I wouldn’t push to the point of that b/c that’s just stupid)
I learned that when you go to a race like a World Championship it is a bit more disappointing to not have your race time reflect what you may have really been able to do than it would be for a regular race
I learned that if I have an athlete on antibioitcs, I can let them know to be prepared for some possible performance impact on race day.
I learned how to give up the “numbers” but still stay moving forward and managing by symptoms
I learned that coke and banana’s are GOOD when you have GI issues
Do I wish I could have had a PR (personal record) at a World Championship event? Heck yes. I DO wish I had that. I DO wish that in 10 years I could tell the story of how I tore it up in Clearwater. That’s not my story for this race. But I don’t. I am tougher now. I am more confident now having battled the way I battled.
and now, here comes that spiritual piece of this entire experience. You may want to take a break at this point….coffee, water, potty?
My next blog, I will share just what God taught me and did for me through this entire experience of Clearwater.
Thanks for reading thus far.