Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The first race I have cried afterwords, Saint George Half Ironman 70.3

Over the last 2 year I have really transitioned from being a runner to a triathlete. I just found that I love triathlons more than running races and actually enjoy biking more than running as well. This has led me to focusing a lot of energy on biking and less on running the last couple of years and especially this year. Last year I did this same race and it was my first half ironman and was probably the single toughest race or thing I had ever done until yesterday. It was a train wreck of a race where I cut my foot on the walk to the start and then cramped for 69 miles gutting it out to just finish. I thought there could be nothing tougher that that and I was very wrong. After the race I spent several months melancholy wanting to get back on the horse so to speak but I could never find a race that fit into my training or travel plans (I only had one week of vacation last year and I used that when we had our second baby in October). So this years ironman was to be my redemption race.

I have put more miles in this year than I would have ever thought possible increasing my training volume in the same time frame by almost %75 as last year. Coming into the race I had logged over 2006 total miles doubling my bike miles from last year while keeping the same run miles and also increasing my swim miles. I had done a lot of extra swimming in hopes of making some good strides there on my way to a pr as well as a lot more biking. I figured if I just didn't have any cramping issues a run pr would be easy as I had a train wreck of run last year that resulted in me getting a 3:10 run time. My goal was to redo this race and I had picked a fall half ironman and then this race again next year as prep for my first full ironman Coure D'alene next June.

This year I have 13 days of vacation so I decided to use a whole week before the race as the wife really doesn't want to travel with the baby. I figured I could come in rested and relaxed for the race and just kill it with a great taper as by the end of training cycle I could feel my legs were dead. I didn't get in really big bricks like last year with my best brick being a 40 mile bike followed by a 6 mile run but I had way more of them this year doing a good sized brick about every three weeks. I had also logged three 60 mile rides in prep so I figured with having done the race and my training volume I would be ok.

It was nice having the week off I took a nap everyday and played with my kids and it was just really restful. I went to the expo Thursday as I really wanted to get a cycling jersey for this year races and didn't want them to be out of my size. But they didn't have any gear for this years race as they were behind and all you could do was order them to be shipped in like 4 weeks. They did have some of last years jerseys for half off but alas not in my size. I did go a little spend crazy having saved up some cash for this years expo as I got some 70.3 cycling shorts, 3 water bottles (one STG 70.3 official, and two red ironman ones that match my bike), a new 70.3 finisher name shirt, a ironbaby onesie for Mason, a new car sticker and a STG70.3 ironman glass.

I had been obsessing over the weather the entire 2 weeks leading up to the race. In Saint George we get a windy season and when I mean windy I mean windy. There were rides leading up the race in 35-40 mph headwinds that just brutalized you. Problem was the windy season didn't seem like it was going to end before the ironman. But the wind started to look better the closer it got but then everyday the heat index just kept going up and up with it showing it would be 94 that day so it was guaranteed to be a hot day. I started taking Scaps (sodium tablets) around Wednesday to try and help come race day knowing how hot it was going to be. I took one Thursday morning before one last swim in the lake before the race and it really upset my stomach on the swim (glad I did it Thursday instead of Saturday race day). I felt like I was going to throw up for an hour afterwords. So I decided to not take any Scaps the morning of the race and I think it really psyched me out of the swim.

On my way out I stopped and got a free chiro stretch out that they were offering. As he was working on my shoulders he commented that I had no range of motion in the one arm. This is the shoulder I had tendinitis in for several years and might be contributing to my slower swim times (only one factor though as there are others) he stretched it out and tried to give me some range of motion back in that arm and man did that hurt but I figured that it would be worth it if it helped on my swim. I didn't do much that night as I was going to go to another pro meet and greet but I had already gone to one on Tuesday meeting last years winner as he gave some really good tips that I planned to incorporate like setting up transition.

I woke up Friday more nervous than I had ever been for a race in my life, I felt like I was going to throw up all day Friday and all the way until the swim start on Saturday. I also made the mistake of kind of packing Friday a little to full. Friday morning me and Oliver went to the triathlon club breakfast and played at the park it was held out. We came home and had some lunch and then I took him to see the Amazing Spiderman 2. Once we got home from the movie I ran bike out to the lake to do bike check-in taking most of my biking and swim stuff so I had less to take in the morning. I ran through my initial checklist of what I needed 2 tubes, 2 Co2 cartridges in case of flats, nutrition on the bike (I go with shot blocks), my Scaps, bike helmet, gloves, and bike shoes, wet suit, goggles and my swim cap. Most of my clothing I would do the next day.

I got home grabbed dinner real quick and then we went and did the ironkids race with Oliver again this year. My wife talked me down from the 1 mile race and we just did the 200 meter race so he could finish with other kids as we were DFL last year. We then rode the carousel and my wife dropped me off at home where I put out the rest of my stuff for the morning. I must have gone over in my head a 1000 times a checklist to make sure I had everything I was so nervous, heck even though I knew I had taken goggles out with me to bike check-in I almost packed another pair I was that frantic. I set up everything I needed on the couch for the next morning cycling jersey, cycling shorts, race belt, run gear bag with shoes and extra shirt in case I wanted to change out of my cycling jersey for the run and flip flops I got from wal-mart for $2 that I could lose at the swim start so I didn't have a repeat of cutting my feet again like last year.

I finally forced myself to go to sleep around 9:15 am with an alarm set for 4am. I woke up at 12:30 needing to pee and after that I was awake every 45 minutes to an hour as my nerves still wouldn't settle down. So the only good sleep I got was that 9:15-12:30 they say that Thursday is the more important but alas I didn't get much sleep that night either as Mason is teething and he woke up 4 times in the middle of the night. Not much you can do so I grabbed my stuff and my wife dropped me off at the busses so she would have the car at the end. One of my friends was on the bus so I sat with him and we talked and it was a nice ride out to the lake. My nerves still wouldn't calm down so I could only get half the peanut butter sandwich I had packed down and I couldn't even look at the banana (I had been eating 2 bananas a day since Sunday though as I didn't want a repeat issue of cramping this year). I also had a cliff bar and a shot block so I figured I would be ok nutrition wise prerace.

I walked over to where the triclub was and talked to a few of them (for some odd reason I was the only one in our triclub that got a bib not below the 400 range but had some advantages as I was bib 1308 which means my bike rack was the very first bike rack to the left as you came into transition so I woildn't even need to look for my bike rack it did mean a long run out to the mount line but it would be nice to find my bike so easily. It also meant I had perfect access to the portapoties and I used them twice before the race). At 6:45 they kick you out of transition even if your swim wave is later like mine was being a 7:33am start. So we went down and watched the pro's go off at 6:50. Even they aren't perfect as we saw one pro keep getting outside the buoy line and almost hit a buoy at one point.

We finally made our way down to the swim start and I noticed that they moved the swim start out further this year. You swim to a swim start point and you have 3 minutes to do so, I watched the two waves go in front of us and in both those waves half of them didn't make it to the swim start before there gun went off. Last year I made it and had to tread water for a minute before the gun went off. I knew that wasn't going to happen this year and it was likely several minutes before I actually crossed the swim start point after my gun went off. I was ok with that as I had hoped to shave 10 minutes or more off last years time and figured that wouldn't eat up too much of my time.

Nothing felt wrong on the swim, I just didn't feel very fast. Up to turn 1 the water was pretty calm, we got some chop just minor chop on the way to turn 2 but nothing really bad. I didn't have any problems sighting and just stayed on the outside like I did last year until I had to make the turns. I might have gone a little wider than I should have this year as I did have to correct a few times and swim more into a beeline with the next buoy but it avoids me having to fight waves coming up from behind me me being a slower swimmer. It seemed to take forever to get to the second turn but finally we were on the last stretch and you could see the shoreline. This the part where I about lost my mind. 4 times on the way to the shore I had a kayaker park right in front of me so someone could hold on. They didn't go lengthwise but rather broadside so I had to swim around them and once he did it right in front me so I actually ran into the kayak. I was so frustrated that the last time it happened the swimmer swam right over the top me to get the kayak when he clearly saw me as he was backstroking that I wanted to scream. It also costs time to change direction like that constantly so I had no idea what my swim time would be. I didn't see the clock coming out so I didn't know until the end. I ended up swimming a 1:10:43 five minutes slower than last year and I am not sure where the time was lost if I was just slower or if its because I swam to wide or the longer swim to the start or constantly have to stop and start and change directions on the last stretch of the swim.

Like last year I had to pee on the last stretch but couldn't so I again just stripped off my wetsuit and peed in the portapotty since they were right by my transition. I got in my cycling clothes and shoes and hit the bike I thought I had a better transition but again slowing to use the portapotty made t1 a 8:11. Now after freaking out about the Scap because of Thursdays problem I decided I wouldn't take one until an hour into the bike which ended up being a huge mistake as I completely forgot to take them at all when things started to go wrong,

I felt pretty good on the bike and was doing really well knowing I was going to have a pretty big bike pr. I moved way up in the rankings 211 spots to be exact on the bike which meant I had to pass 211 (It actually averaged out to I was passing someone once a minute on the bike) people. Man that was excruciating at times it seemed I was constantly passing people and I swear some riders acted like it was there first time on a bike with zero bike etiquette like not staying to the right or riding side by side with someone where you were constantly yelling on your left to get past. But the bike was going well I was doing well on my nutrition and riding through the bike stops rather than stopping. It was at aid station 2 I started to feel a little warm and I took two waters one to drink and one to pour on myself. I shrugged it off knowing I was on the portion of the course I was the most familar with and I could really get into a groove here having ridden it hundreds of times.

At aid station 3 at mile 40 I actually got off the bike and filled my water bottle that was gone on my bike (I was using dr pepper in my second bottle for the sugars) and got two more water bottles one to dump and one to drink. I knew something was wrong at this point I was incredibly hot and I couldn't seem to cool down. Mile 44 is where the worst hill of the entire course is Snow Canyon and I was completely overheating just getting up to it miles 41-44 are a steady climb before before that one last climb for a mile at 44 on a %12 grade. I couldn't get into a groove anywhere on 41-44 and I was just overheating I was starting to pour water on myself nonstop I couldn't get it under control. I had to get off the bike for a moment before the last big climb. But still didn't feel right on the decent into town. I was still passing people frequently but I just couldn't see to stop overheating. Just before the last hill my wife and kids were there waiting to cheer me on which was a pickme up and helped me get through the last 2 miles as I was already going into a dark place.

I got to the last hill at mile 54 and had to again off for a second and pour the last of my water on myself and drink what I had left. I cruised into town just wanting something to drink so bad and something to pour on myself. I did end up setting a 5 minute pr on the bike despite the two stops and really slowing down the last 15 miles I was on my way to a huge pr before that my bike split ended up being 3:34:09 much slower than I anticipated and I was going for a 3:15 maybe a 3:10. I drank the last of my dr pepper in t2 and was kind of out of it I forgot everything in t2 didn't take my scaps with me didn't eat my apple I had left for nutrition in my run bag. All I could think about was getting some water. I was slow in t2 because of this I was in a complete and total fog and ended up with a 6:35 t2 slower than last year where I had to work out a cramp just to get off the bike.

They had some water coming out of t2 but it was a small aid station but I grabbed 3 glasses two to dump on myself and one to drink. As I was trying to get going a friend noticed something was wrong and asked me what was wrong. I told her I was overheating and couldn't get my temp down. She told me to drink lots of water and salt and that was when I remembered my scaps for the first time and now it was too late to go get them. I couldn't run much that first mile I couldn't get my temp down and I couldn't seem to breathe the hotter I got. When I came through t2 I saw the clock and subtracked my 38 minutes from the pro start to my wave and knew if I could just manage under 3 on the run I would pr and go sub 8 that became my focus my sole focus the whole run. I finally made it to aid station one which is led by my friends and I knew most of the athletes there they could see I was struggling got me tons of extra water poured tons of water on me got me soda everything I needed and I started to feel a little better.

I started to run a little more and started to focus on hitting my pace. I started to slip near the end though before aid station 2 as I began to overheat again. I was just hanging on at this point to get to the next aid station to get to the next water to get water poured on me. I unzipped my jersey half way down and my wife kids that I have a vneck sunburn as it was one of the few places I burned that and my neck and face. I finally make it to the second aid station get some more water I am taking as much as I can I dumping ice down my jersey so it will slowly melt in any effort to stay cool. After mile 2 is where the first really big hill is a %10 grade up I knew I couldn't run up it the way I was feeling and knew my time would slip but hopefully I could pick it back up on the descents. the walking helped some and when I got to aid station 3 I finally manged to cool down a little and feel a little better.

After mile 4 you start to go downhill for 3 miles and I was starting to get my temp a little manageable. I ran into a friend and he became my running buddy most of the run we would go back and forth when one of us had to walk but I finally started to whittle away at the pace I wanted to hit. And knew if I could just hang on I could hit it the last 3 miles which were all downhill. I did pretty well until the turnaround at 6.55 as not only do you have to go back uphill but the aid stations were further apart as they wound you around the paths up on the red rocks. I could not seem to get to an aid station fast enough and my temp kept rising and rising and rising again. I was suffering just to try and make it to the last downhill stretch. I couldn't get enough water when I hit the aid stations and I would only get a little ways away before I felt really bad again.

But I kept saying you worked too hard to not pr all you got to do is manage a 39 minute final 5k and you got this, you could run that in your sleep (I ended up doing it in 35 actually). It kept being just get to the next aid station get some water keep your times down. When we hit mile 11 on the run my wife was again out there with the kids my friend noticed and waved and had to tell me hey your wife is over there I was so out of it as I didn't even dawn on me who it was. I was completely lost in a fog I did my best to wave and knew I was so close to the finish it was great to see them. It was just finish keep your time down just finish keep your time down. My wife joked with me I checked my watch 10 times while I was passing them.

Finally hit the last aid station and my friends had a ice cold dr pepper for me and lots of water again. One of them ran with me for a half a mile and kept encouraging me. I knew I was close I knew I needed to keep running so I would do so in spurts there was nothing left all I could do was think keep your time down keep your time down. Run walk run somemore try and not think of anything but moving forward. Finally hit the last stretch and my wife was there again it propelled me across the finish. I didn't want a staggering finish photo like I got last year so I tried to keep my head up until I was past the photographer didn't stop my watch or anything as I knew I had hit my times. I knew I had pred and got sub 3 on the run and sub 8 for the race. Run ended up being 2:56:32 and the single hardest thing I have ever done and final time ended up being 7:56:10 a 12:18 second pr.

I had several volunteers try to take me to the med tent as I was staggering pretty bad and in a complete and total fog. But I declined all I wanted to do was find my family and sit down and then go lay in the splash pad (which I did several times). After laying in the splash pad and finally cooling down a little I told my wife I was going to go look for refreshments so I staggered to the refreshment tent. It was a long walk to the tent as it was half way across the town square. I began to fog up pretty good some people asked me if I was ok and I could barely talk. My breath was gone again I was completely and totally emotionally, mentally and physically spent. On the way back I started to cry as it was so far away back to the splash pad and I was never going to get there I was just so gone emotionally by this time. Finally made it back laid down again in the splash pad. And sat with my wife and she gave me the baby. I began to cry again because I had my baby I was just so happy to be done and have my baby it was just one of those moments.

After awhile I walked to get my bike out of T2 when my core temp finally came down a little after some ice cream or as much of it as I could eat and I almost started crying again when I posted on facebook what happened just bringing back the emotions of what I just went through.

I have heat exhaustion even today I still can't get my core temps where they need to be and I overheat even inside the air conditioned house. I took 3 cold showers when I got home and despite drinking over 100 ounce of ice water I am not peeing that much. I am drinking water non stop and can't seem to get enough. I woke up in the middle of night with charlie horses and at 2am my muscles hurt so bad I couldn't get back to sleep. So I was awake from 2:30-6am, I finally felt back asleep at 6am to be woken up with a charlie horse in the balls of my foot at 7:30. I just feel worn out.

I still don't know how I pred or hit my run times I don't think I have ever gutted out a race so much. I am happy for the pr but I worked so hard for so much more it has left me totally bummed at the same time. I am again contemplating when I can do my next race just to get out there well after the first bout of never ever ever ever again.

The final temp for the day ended up being 95 and it was that when I finished at 3:30. I will take the 12:18 pr that was for sure wore my medal the rest of the night because I earned that dang thing.

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