Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wildflower Weekend - For real

I have so much to talk about that I don't where to begin. How about:

I finished the Wildflower Long Course! I am Half an Ironman!

But before that lots of stuff happened, some cool and some not so cool.
The week before was my taper. I started with a "heavy strength day" on Sunday. The idea is to take advantage of your body's ability to generated HGH (Human Growth Hormone) and get it to spike for the race. But since it was my first time doing that, we weren't sure exactly when I'd spike.

I was kind of nervous when I felt great on Monday. Did I spike too soon? Tuesday, I had PT and my calf was sore enough that I skipped Track. Wednesday was Podium (swimming) and I was supposed to only do it if I could keep it short and intense. I did an easy warm-up, then the requested drill which included negative splits and then a fast 100 to fill up 30 minutes (half my normal time). I felt strong while doing that but not as good as on Monday.

Thursday was our group ride. People doing Wildflower were only supposed to do an easy out and back along Foothill. But my plan called for a 12 min. time trial and not doing as much biking as going out to Alpine would entail. So I did an easy warm-up to Arastadero and turned around early and hammered for 6 minutes. Then I had to slow down for a traffic light but it turned green when I got to it so I kept going. At 11 minutes, a light turned red right in front of me so I made a quick right turn on Magdalena and finished out the last minute that way. I felt strong, just like on Wednesday. But I was farther out than I expected from the start point (because of my detour) so I did a really easy bike back, not pushing it at all, as a cool-down.

I was just making the left-hand turn into the Lucky's parking lot when my calf spasmed. Man, that hurt! I put ice on it as soon as I went home and figured it would be fine. But on Friday it still hurt. So I iced it all the way down to Lake San Antonio. I even iced it while hanging out at the campsite. But it hurt like the dickens, especially when I walked down to the Expo to pick up my packet. I was getting worried that Wildflower Long would be another disaster like The Big Kahuna. However, I noticed that even though I was in a lot of pain, I didn't feel like there was that much actual damage.

I decided to concentrated on pain management. Out came the Aleve. I had been avoiding NSAIDs because they interfere with fitness gains, but at that point I knew I it was more important to get through the race. I had two Aleve for dinner and Tylenol PM at bedtime. I woke up the next morning and I felt pretty good. The pain was mostly gone and the HGH must have peaked because I felt INVINCIBLE! Also, my "no fiber for four days before, followed by high fiber the night before" plan worked perfectly.

I was stoked all around.

I got down to transition at a reasonable time, set up my area and went off to a corner to do my warm-up. I had worked out with Coach B a way to warm up without running. I jumped rope alternating with things like lunges to kind of loosen things up without jarring anything. (I jump rope on my toes so it doesn't bother my calf.) It worked out so well as a warm up that I think I'll keep it as my normal warm-up.

Then I got into my wet suit and made my way down to the boat launch. We were able to get out in the water for a few minutes after the wave in front of us went off and before our wave went off, but it really wasn't enough time.

They had combined the Young Thang wave with the Old Lady Wave so I actually go to go in the first woman's wave and that was interesting. I tried to place myself appropriately but it was kind of hard to judge. I kept trying to get behind Harriet Anderson, because she's always winning her age group, so I figured she was fast, but she kept moving back. I ended up abandoning her and putting myself in my usual spot: behind the eager beavers and in front of the hanger-backers with nervous looks on their faces.

Then we were off! And immediately I was tight in my chest. This is the second time this season that I have had a tight chest in the beginning of the swim even though the water wasn't all that cold. I am going to have to figure that one out. I was struggling in some ways, but I also got to use some of the techniques that we learned at our Triathlon Clinic last weekend and that helped.

I started out keeping my head up just like we were taught. Then I tried to draft people. I drifted off course at one point and got water up my nose and went through a period of "what was I thinking that I could do this distance?" In fact, the negative self-talk got a bit to be a bit much. I finally I had to tell myself to SHUT UP. Luckily I listened to me because all that arguing (you can do it, no you can't) was getting annoying.

I then found someone to draft off for the entire long part of the rectangle we were swimming. I didn't realize how much it was helping at the time, but I was happy because I was drafting someone who could sight really well. (I always have trouble sighting at Wildflower.)

At the turn, I tried to "make my move" and pass my draftee, but that was a mistake. I ended up off course twice more and I also got caught in a group of very fast people from the wave after me that I couldn't keep up with and very erratic people from my wave who were not draft material in any way at all. So I was on my own for the back part of the course.

I couldn't remember which mat was the timing mat to end the swim so I didn't look at my watch until I entered the transition area. It said 47 minutes! And, since the actual timing point was at the bottom of the boat ramp, not the top, that meant I had gone even faster, probably 46 something. I was in shock! (I only trying to go under 50 minutes.)

So thank you nameless swimmer I drafted off of and thank you Gina Kehr for teaching us how to do that.

I was pretty stoked at this point and also when my wet suit just popped right off in T1. There were a lot of bikes gone from transition but it wasn't a vast wasteland with only my lone bike as happens sometimes when the Old Lady wave is the last wave so I was happy. I ran my bike out of T1 using the "hold onto the seat" technique Gina also taught up and had a decent mount. (Sometimes adrenaline gets me there and I have trouble clipping in.)

I headed out of the transition area and towards the beach area. I tried to keep my heart rate under 150 like I was supposed to but it was hard doing that on the hills. I did my best to take it easy and just concentrate on getting up Beach Hill without dying. Somewhere in there I got paced by a club member who I know started many waves after me, but I didn't mind (and normally I hate being passed). I was a bit shocked to be caught up to so quickly but I was keeping to the plan.

I got out of the park in one piece and with only one chain drop. This time my chain dropped when I shifted UP from the small to the big gear. (But it was still a cross-chaining situation.) It took a while but I was able to coax it back onto the big ring without having to get off the bike or falling over. I noticed that the miles were just flying by too. This was not my experience when we did the training ride when the first 7 miles felt like 70 mostly due to the head winds but also because I fell. There were head winds this time too, but they were gusting and it was warm so they didn't demoralize me. Plus, I was still feeling invincible.

Even when people passed me. Every time I got competitive and tried to pass them back, my Garmin would beep "HR too high" and I'd have to back off. My cadence sensor wasn't sensing so I had to fake that part of the plan but every time I felt like I was mashing my gears, I'd back off as well. I got passed by a few more club members early on but then no one else I knew.

My coach had told me to imagine it was just a training ride. Only with spectators. And aide stations. I don't usually get nervous on the race (just beforehand) so I hadn't actually planned to do that, but by the half way mark, I realized that's exactly what it felt like. I was letting people pass me without getting upset and talking to people as I passed them or they passed me and just having a grand old time.

I wonder if the longer distances are always this casual and chatty? Sprints definitely aren't because people are hammering as hard as they can. I just love the 70.3 distance! (Chrissie Wellington told me I would, but I wasn't sure I believed her.)

The coolest part is that I was making great time. I guess sometimes you do have to go slow to go fast. I was going much faster than during the training ride and using a lot less energy to do it. At one point, I thought I might actually finish in four hours! (Alas, the last 1/4 of the course was a bitch and that didn't happen.)

During our triathlon clinic, Gina had shown us her transition area and it has NOTHING in it. She doesn't wear bike gloves, no fuel belt, etc. Even for an Ironman. She said at the longer distances, you really figure out what bugs you. I found this out as well. Normally I don't wear bike gloves for the shorter distances to speed up my transitions, but I feel like I have to at the longer distances because my left hand goes numb eventually. But in the race, my gloves really started to bug me and I ended up taking them off. Then, I was just careful. If I found myself mashing down on my left hand, I'd ease up. I didn't miss my bike gloves at all so I guess I won't be using them in future races either, no matter the distance.

I felt pretty good for the first part of the ride. Then, we got to Nasty Hill, which is right at the 3/4 mark. The first 2/3 of the hill was okay -- I actually passed a lot of people who were going so slow that I was afraid I'd fall over if I went that slow -- but that last 1/3 is killer. Luckily there was a guy beating a drum and when I got to that part, he sped up his beat and my legs just followed suit. Thank you drum-beating guy!

Although I was fresher than I'd been during the training run, mentally that last part and also Polar HR Hill immediately after were tough. The only reason I didn't stop was because I had gotten up them before in worse conditions and also because I figured my other "first-timer" friends weren't going to stop and I wouldn't be able to face them if I had. (Later I found out one did stop. Glad I didn't know that at the time! Peer pressure, even if it's imaginary, is an amazing motivator.)

After the big hills, there were rollers. Normally they'd be nothing. But after Nasty and Polar HR Hills, they were hard. I just hung on until we came to the big descent. Dreaming of that descent was the only thing that kept me going really. I was determined to brake as little as possible and, in fact, only had to slow down twice. Once to pass someone who looked like they weren't in control and might drift to the left at any second and another time because I was in danger of drifting to the left myself. But I did get up to 38.8 mph on that descent and it was awesome.

Then I hobbled back to T2.

I had been following my nutrition plan perfectly. I stopped eating on the bike when I figured I had 30 min. to go and only drank water from that point on. But I think I drank too much water or maybe I need to stop eating 45 min. out because I ran out onto the run course and my stomach immediately started sloshing. Plus, my legs were all rubber. The rubber is to be expected, but I hadn't done any brick training this season and it caught me by surprise.

I attempted to put my run plan into action but it was not working at all. So I went into survival mode. I ended up walking all the uphills (as planned) and most of the flats (not planned) because running those hurt my calf and I was afraid I'd get to "that point" (i.e., the point where I'd not be able to even walk) too far from the finish. I was able to run the downhills though. Or at least most of them.

I did my best to "race walk" the parts I walked and to really run the parts I ran. As a result, I was able to keep up with a bunch of people who were walking the uphill parts and running the rest. I did have to back off of the fast walking a few times, but I did my best to hug that line between discomfort and pain.

I also went a bit nuts with the Advil. I'd been doing one (sometimes two) an hour on the bike, but on the run, that wasn't enough and I started taking them every 30 min. I also started doing 2 every 30 min. instead of one. That was probably not a good idea. I also couldn't really drink the way I needed to as my stomach was queasy and sloshy. I threw a lot of water over me and walked through the hoses and drank as much as I could.

I was still having fun though. On the bike, people were asking me about my Rock-it tape (yes, it really works) and one gal came up to me on the bike and told me she'd been trying to catch me for miles. That felt good. People don't usually say stuff like that to me. I also had someone say that on the run. Plus the volunteers were a hoot. At one aide station, they made an arch for us to "run" through. I decided to high five everyone as I went through and they went nuts when I did that.

And then the second best thing of the day happened. I caught up to Harriet (who had gone flying by me on the bike earlier in the day). Okay, she's 75 and I'm 53, but she's one of my heros. (And, apparently, a better biker than I am in spite of my 20 year advantage age-wise.) It's still cool to pass someone you admire, even more so because I was getting through this run by reminding myself that, if she could finish Kona with a broken clavicle, I could get through this race with just a piddley calf pull.

I also kept waiting for my other "first timer" friends to catch up to me. But I got to the half-way point and didn't see them. Then I got to the turn around point and still hadn't seen them. I was starting to think they'd passed me on the bike without me noticing or else something really bad had happened to them on the bike (like a flat tire). I didn't see them until on my way back from the turnaround!

One of them did catch up to me at mile 11 but the other one never did! Of course, since they started a few waves back, they actually had better times than me, but I was still kind of impressed that I'd held my own that much. (That was the first best thing of the day.)

Then, we all ended up in the medical tent. Oops.

In my case, I had figured out I'd taken 12 Advil in a 3 hour timeframe and 18 overall and was afraid I had to get my stomach pumped. But the doctor said just to eat and drink a lot and I'd be fine. (But, if I threw up, I was supposed to go to the hospital.) Two of us also got ice packs and one had to sit down and eat pretzels because she was shaky. Then my right leg started twitching.

We were probably a sorry sight but we were all so happy that we didn't care.

We ate and drank and laughed about how our medals said May 2nd Olympic distance (our real medals are supposed to be mailed to us) and then we went down to the water and stood in it up to our hips for 20 minutes. It really helped. I wasn't sore for the rest of the day, in fact.

Queasy, yes. Very queasy and I kind of felt like I had the flu -- the intestinal kind -- because I also felt like I had a fever.

The next day I was still queasy, my calf was bothering me a bit, and the sun was VERY hot. I also realized I'd gotten a bad sunburn on my shoulders and arms and the part of my hands that normally wears bike gloves.

I was feeling lazy, so I didn't go down to cheer on the swimmers for the Olympic race as I'd planned. But we cheered all our club members as they passed our campground on the bike. They passed us both ways so we got to see everyone at least once.

One of our guys is in his 60s and has done Ironmans, but the Olympic distance is his best distance. That was pretty obvious when he came FLYING up the hill on the way into T2. We went nuts for him and some young dudes behind him were pointing to him and giving him (well deserved) props.

The Olympic distance was interesting. There was such a variety of everything -- body shapes, bikes, people flying up the last hill vs. wobbling so bad I thought they might not make it. We got some interesting reactions to our "bacon up ahead" sign too. For the most part, the women would smile or determinedly ignore the sign while the guys would yell "Go BACON!" and give us a fist pump. One gal did say "Bacon? I want a beer!" Heh.

After our last club member came back through the bike course, I decided I was beat. So I packed up and I went home. I had to have help to pack my car as the sun was just killing me and I kept thinking I'd throw up. But, as I got farther away from the hot, relentless sun, I perked up and I was feeling pretty good by the time I got home. Weak, but not as queasy. I even managed to eat a real dinner though very carefully.

The next day I woke up sore in a good way -- quads and glutes -- but my calf felt fine. Mostly. I mostly could eat real food too, though I still had some moments of finicky stomach.

So that's how my race went from my point of view. Here is how it went according to the numbers:

Swim: Projected time: 0:48:00 Actual time: 0:46:21
T1: Projected time: 0:03:00 Actual time: 0:04:25
Bike: Projected time: 4:32:00 Actual time: 4:13:03
T2: Projected tiem: 0:02:00 Actual time: 0:02:30
Run: Projected time: 02:37:12 (dream time, but hoping for at least under 3 hours) Actual time: 03:13:11
Total projected time: 07:42:12 (dream time, but hoping for under 8 hours) Actual time: 08:19:21

Rankings: 25 / 28 in my age group, 425/ 457 among the women, 1243 / 1726 overall. (These number are based on finishers. 1860 started the race.)

Very much back of the pack, as expected. Plus my run, on paper, looks pretty crappy.

But, when you consider that I was worried on Friday that I'd have to DNF, I was actually pretty happy with all my numbers, even the run. I'm not quite sure what is going on with my calf, but I am determined to heal it up this month so I am in full health for Barb's Race. I want to have a MOP finish for that one. I think I can actually do it!
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