Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Donner Lake International Triathlon

No socks were harmed in the running of this race!

Well, it was bound to happen… my first disappointing race. I think it was the altitude. It didn’t impact my actual performance that badly, but it impacted my ability to think quite a bit and that led to many minor fumbles that added up. I got through it, but it was messy.

I’d list what went wrong, but it might be easier to list what went right.

So… I didn’t drown in the swim. I didn’t have a flat tire or crash on the bike. I didn’t bonk on the run (though I came perilously close). I finished the race with all numbers and all socks intact. My T2 went well. I passed people on the run. I got hit with no penalties.

Other than that… pretty much everything that could go wrong did.

It started in the parking lot – I was getting my stuff out of the car and dropped my bike! I don’t think it was permanently damaged but the front wheel did stick for a while until it worked itself out.

Then, setting up in transition, I forgot my last potty break. I figured it was no big deal and I wasn’t going to undo my wetsuit after it took so long to get on, but later on I was sorry for that decision.

I also didn’t do a 15 min. warm-up jog like I normally do. I decided to warm up in the water, but it’s hard to fully warm up just paddling around.

Then, as we got closer and closer to the gun going off, I realized I really needed that potty break. And not the kind you can do in a wet suit or on the bike, if you catch my drift. But, by the time I accepted it wasn’t nerves or gas, it was too late.

I started the swim in the middle of the pack, which worked well for me in the past. This time, I couldn’t really get going. I couldn’t breathe and my brain wasn’t working. A couple of times I almost breathed underwater because I got confused. I’m sure it was the lack of oxygen. I did eventually settle into a rhythm and I didn’t have a big problem with sighting as sometimes happens to me. But for the last five minutes or so, my calves kept cramping up.

I swam through it and the cramps stopped as soon as I hit dry land, thank goodness. I was somewhat distressed that my swim was so slow, though, as it’s normally my best event. I did manage to pass a few people from the wave ahead of us, reminding me that no matter how bad I think my swim is, there are always people who do much worse. There were even a few people hanging off kayaks, which I hadn’t seen happen before in prior races.

I told myself that the swim was over and my problems were mostly over. Then, I couldn’t get out of my wet suit!

First, the neck flap kept moving back into place when I tried to unzip it. I’d separate the velcro, reach around for the zipper line and pull and nothing would happen. I’d reach back up and the neck would be velcroed back in place. I did this THREE TIMES before I got smart enough to hold the flap open while I fumbled for the zip.

At this point I was back in T1 and still had my wet suit mostly on as well as my cap and goggles. I could NOT get the suit over my watch even though I had put my watch on under the suit. Eventually I got that sleeve back up, took off my watch and then got the suit off the top. I struggled with the feet to the point of panic. Someone offered to help me, but I was afraid of a penalty so I made myself calm down and get that damn thing off.

Socks and shoes went on super-quick and I was off. I thought about going to the potty, but with my horrible transition, I didn’t want to spend the time. I figured I’d find a port-a-potty on the bike route and it would be quicker than running so far off course as the bathrooms were.

Then, I dropped my bike again in the sand leading out of T1. I also didn’t mount at the (unmarked) mount line as I was looking for a sign or some chalk on the ground or something.

At this point, I figured my T1 time was going to be in the six minute range and just hoped it wasn’t in the ten minute range like some people do. I was thinking my swim could have been as long as 40 minutes too. Ugh.

But my bike computer said 8:41! Our wave was supposed to go off at 7:55 but it has been closer to 8:00 so the entire swim and T1 fiasco must have only taken around 40 minutes total. I’m capable of doing the swim in 35 min or less so I could believe that. Plus, I always think my swim takes longer than it does when the numbers get posted.

The first part of the bike course was tough as I expected. I had biked it the day before as a warm-up and I knew I could do it, though. I was going a bit slower than the day before, but I got to the top of Donner Pass and even passed someone.

I then moved on to the “flat” portion of the course. However, at one point I was going 36 mph because the “flat with rolling hills” part of the course was largely downhill. That part was cool. Coming back – largely uphill – was not.

In particular, I had a strong urge to go to the bathroom for the last five miles of the out part of the course. I was looking for port-a-potties along the way, but couldn’t find any. This having to go really impacted my power in my stroke, but I figured I could hold out until the turnaround. Surely there’d be one there.
But there was not.

So there I was off in the wood imitating a bear. Thank goodness for pine cones!

I realized on the way back that I was not taking in enough nutrition. I only did three of my four planned gels and I barely finished one bottle of fluid. So I started pushing more fluids, though it was probably too late and it probably caused me problems on the run.

But going back down the pass was awesome. I just flew. Not having to watch out for cars let me go faster than the day before. I did almost lose my number from off my bike helmet. I was relieved when I figured out what the noise was as I thought my brakes were failing!

I did my required “foot down” stop at bottom of the hill and ran into T2.

Where my husband was waiting asked me if everything was okay. Not a good sign. (And not the only person to say that to me during this race.)

My T2 transition went smoothly though. I did feel sluggish, but I knew from past experience that I was in and out in less than two minutes. I did have trouble finding the Run Out (it hadn’t been marked prior to the start of the race since it was also the Bike Out) but it didn’t delay me too badly.

Oh, my fuel belt fell off on the way out and I realized my race belt was hanging off my hips and not my waist because I’d lost weight since the last time I wore it. That actually cheered me up a bit, particularly as everything seemed to be staying on once I got it really fastened.

Then I got the urge to go to the bathroom again. Crap. But at least I’d run this route before and knew it was full of bathrooms and port-a-potties.

I staggered off and got my running legs back faster than normal. Yeah! I also started passing people. Double yeah!

Now, one was walking and one was staggering (I think he had something wrong with his knees), but it was better than nothing. Plus, one of those guys I had seen heading back on the bike route as I was heading out. So I made up mucho time on him and it couldn’t have all been on the run as we weren’t even a mile into it.

It was pretty hot at this point and this part of the run was mostly without shade. At mile two they sprayed me with a hose and that felt good. At mile three I found a port-a-potty and discovered that this time that urge was largely a mental thing, just like I’d tried to convince myself back when it wasn’t mental. So I wasted time on that for nothing.

By mile four, I was hurting. But I had passed more people, so I just kept going. I did dial it down a notch in order to get to the end without bonking. I also realized that, once again, I was not taking in enough nutrition. Whenever I drank from my fuel belt, it would make me a bit nauseous so I was relying on water on the course. They had run out of Heed so I wasn’t getting electrolytes. There were no more hoses passed the first aide station either.

So I made myself drink my drink and I just kept plodding along, passing a few more people. It helped to know that there were at least six to ten people behind me. When I got to mile six, I let out a whoop and started pouring it on. I was beat, but I figured I could maintain the higher pace for another half mile.

I staggered passed the finish line at about 4:47 and change on the race clock. Wait a minute! My wave left 55 min. after the clock started so that means I finished in under four hours just as I had hoped! Maybe my race wasn’t as crappy as I thought it was.

Most of the food and drink were gone by the time I finished and I was not feeling right in my tummy anyway so we went back to the RV to chill. I desperately wanted to nap, but the bedroom in the RV was too hot. It also turned out I had sunburn on my back.

Later on my family dragged me out to Reno for dinner. I think I was out of my mind to agree to that, but at least the casino was air conditioned. This is where I discovered some sort of weird blister on the ball of my foot. I still can't figure out how I got that. Unlike the sunburn, which was from not realizing my new tri top didn't cover that part of my back. So now my back is raw and my foot has a hole in it.

When we got back from Reno, I saw the race results were up. I was excited to see my times… but my name wasn’t listed anywhere. I emailed them to ask them to straighten it out. I got no reply, but the next day my name was on the list… as DNF! I was so pissed.

I wrote again and now I have times for everything, but they say my total time was 4:23, not 3:53 as I had thought. I guess that means the race clock was started with the first International wave and not the first Sprint wave. Which means I didn’t make my four hour goal. Bummer.

They also say my swim time was 40 minutes. It could have been, but my bike computer said it was 8:41 as I ran out of T1 and our wave didn’t leave until about 7:59. So, if you add my T2 and swim time to 7:59, it gets you about 5 min. past that. I suspect they started the clock when our wave was supposed to go off (7:55 am) and not when it did.

My bike time is a few minutes more than my bike computer said too, but the bike computer doesn’t run when the bike is standing still and I did have that potty break. I guess it could have been a full three minutes long even if it didn’t feel that long.

It really annoys me that I can’t trust the times, but it annoys me more that I had a crappy race and didn’t make my time goal. Because I suspect that 4:23 is “close enough” to what I did based on my informal clock watching throughout the race.

My age group results were 8th out of 10 – last of the finishers, 10 out of 10 in the swim, T1 and bike and 4th in T1 and 5th in the run. Yes, I ran better than I swam or biked! That’s pretty wild for me. Even if the two DNFs below me really finished like I did, I still had a great run.

Overall I finished 434 out of 446. I was 421 in the swim, 445 in the bike and 400 in the run.

Yes, that was 400 -- a full 34 slots above my overall finish – I definitely had a great run. I think training for the half-marathon is really helping me.

My swim was about normal for me and my bike was worse than normal though not out of line with my training run in Del Valle two weeks ago. It’s a shame because I’ve improved a lot on the bike, but this particular course didn’t show that.

I have to say that this is the first race where I questioned why I was doing this. That’s how tough it was. I’m getting over it though.

Now I’m back to my normal “I did it!” mode of thought. Plus, I’m kind of psyched about how well I did in my run. I’m really curious to see how I’d do at this distance with a less tough course and not at altitude. Too bad there isn’t room for another race in my calendar before The Big Kahuna.
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