Monday, October 8, 2012

She packed my bags last night pre-flight...

Rocketman Olympic Triathlon
26 August 2012

Well... the plan for the year had this as my last triathlon of the 2012 season... an Olympic distance... and although I was fired up to compete I was also somewhat apprehensive as I knew I was not 100% prepared due to my training falling off in the weeks leading up to it due to some neck issues. The day turned out to be filled with some very valuable lessons that will fuel my efforts for 2013.

I drove up to Huntsville on Saturday after getting up early to drive up to Auburn for one of Colby's travel soccer team games. He actually had 2 games that day but I had arranged for one of the other parents to bring Colby home as I had a nearly 5 hour drive from Auburn to Huntsville and needed to make packet pickup before 6 o'clock. The drive was uneventful as was packet pickup and I headed over to Redstone Arsenal to check into the lodging there. This was really convenient given the event was being held on the base. I headed out to the Straight To Ale Brewing Company (READ: lesson #1) and despite my best effort to "only have one beer"... I ended up in a great conversation with one of the Assistant Brewers and as he gave me a personal tour of the brewery he poured samples of their "house beers" for me to try. Two and half hours later I left there and headed out for some dinner... Carraba's for pasta... after dinner it was back to lodging for some restless sleep and last minute preparations. 

After a really good night of sleep I got up and went through my usual pre-race routine... hydration, breakfast, unpack and repack, etc. I then headed down to the Tennessee River at the South end of the Base where the Transition Area was staged. Everything with setup was perfect... no issues... I got in the river for a warm-up swim... it all felt great.... then I made the long walk down to the swim start... as I stood on the banks looking out at the buoys it dawns on me just how far 1500 meters looks when it does not involve laps in a 50 meter pool. I strike up some conversation with fellow racers all while contemplating how far the swim looked... I am actually really nervous at this point... and convince myself to just swim my own race... stay calm... swim smooth... go easy... relax... I have swam this distance in the pool a bunch of times... 

As I make my way to the end of the pier for my start... I remind myself... just relax and enjoy the event (INSERT lesson #2)... it is my turn and I jump off the pier into the water... BBBLLLAAAMMM... okay... it is only about 5' deep and my feet impact the bottom hard which throws them instantly into toe cramp mode... but I press on anyway and just try to swim my way through them... now.. if you have ever had toe cramps you know what I mean... and sitting on the couch with one is WAY different than trying to swim in a river with them... on BOTH feet! But after about 75 yards they subside and I get on with my smooth, relaxed swim plan. Before I know it I am at the first turn buoy... make the right and quickly hit the 2nd turn buoy.... which starts the 850 meter straight shot to the boat ramp exit. For the first time ever, I am able to draft off a guy in front of me... we are swimming exactly the same pace and I am in his bubbles (INSERT lesson #3)... I occasionally check the siting but by all accounts it is perfect... so I settle in and just enjoy the draft. As we approach the slight bend to enter the channel to the boat ramp I feel awesome... and as I stand up to make my exit... for the first time ever in any triathlon... feel spectacular... relaxed, not winded, calm and smiling... as I cross over the T1 timing mat I push the lap button on my Garmin.... WHAT???? That cannot be right... 27:15 (14/22)... 1:40/100yd... how can that be... that was the easiest and most relaxed stroke I could have ever done and yet I hit my target ON THE NUMBER!!! (INSERT lesson #4)

T1 was quick (3/22) and I was now out on the bike... now... the one part of my training that had been solid was my biking as I had just completed the Southeast Time Trial Championships for the same 40K distance... so I was not concerned about the bike portion. As I headed out on the bike I started to take on fluids... I had 2 bottles on my bike... 1 with water (INSERT lesson #5) and 1 with Fluid... the bike was going great except I was sweating a ton... it was already in the 90's and really humid... but my stomach was not doing so great and given I had zero appetite I chose not to take on any nutrition thinking it would just make it worse (INSERT lesson #6). I reached the halfway point having passed a lot of people and having only been passed by a couple of strong bikers and I was on my target power. As I made my way back on the out and in course... my legs started to feel heavy... weak... I felt I was giving the same effort but my watts were slowing falling off... I developed a slight headache and was starting to get really irritated as I watched people I had previously passed go by me with relative ease. Despite the situation I press on... 1:16:45 (9/22) with a 19.4 mph average... having hit the halfway point with a 21.6 mph average...

I make a quick T2 (6/22) and take off on the run... as I start the run I realize that the one area I have the most concern about for this event was the run as it was what fell off due to my neck bothering me... and I have on my fairly new Skechers GoRun shoes... (INSERT lesson #7)... I have a mental discussion in my head about where I am at in the event... and realize I have never run a 10K in these new shoes... only a couple of 5K's... oh well... I press on... the first 1 1/2 miles are on a nice trail in the woods and at the first mile mark my watch beeps and I realize I am right on pace... I seem to have recovered somewhat from the disappointing finish on the bike... I feel pretty good but I am still sweating like a madman. I depart the shade of the woods out onto the blacktop and into the searing heat from a cloudless day.... the watch beeps... Mile 2 and still on pace... I just might salvage this race after all... as I hit the first water station I take on a full cup of water and dump one on my head... now... somewhere between that water station and the next mile marker I start to feel really crappy... and for the first time ever in any race... I walk... then I run... then I notice my heart rate skyrocketing... I walk... I run... I walk.. I run... I hit a water station and drink several cups of water... and back to the run-walk... I hit the final water station and take on more water... at this point I am sweating so badly that I am leaving wet footprints from my waterlogged shoes.... I rally with 1/2 a mile to go... I cross the finish line... 1:03:50 (19/22) for the run... my worst 10K ever... for a whopping total of 2:50:30 giving me a middle of the pack 11/22 overall.

After crossing the finish line I get a bottle of water and begin to wander around confused... in a daze... cramps set in... first the calves then my back... after about 20 mins of wandering around I decide to go back to Transition and gather up my stuff... I load everything up and make my way back to my car... on the way back I decide I am really thirsty and I know I am dehydrated so I stop at the gas station and pick up a huge bottle of Powerade... I down the drink and head back to lodging for a shower so I can hit the road. About halfway through the shower I start to come out of my funk... the spasms stop... and I go from feeling hungover to feeling somewhat normal again... for me anyway! So I pack up, check out and hit the gas station again on my way to the highway.... I pick up a Monster Rehab and a Coke... I down the Coke in the parking lot and hit the road for an uneventful 3 hour drive.

Along the way I drive in complete silence as I try to put together the pieces of the day... so many things to think about... some highs and some lows... I am not disappointed in my overall effort and just write it off to my training falling off... I wanted a peak performance without the peak training effort required to get it... (INSERT: lesson #8)

On Wednesday I hit my PT for a session on my neck... he is a triathlete... and a damn good one to boot... he asks how the race went and I give him the details... to which he responds... Hyponatremia... huh... Hyponatremia... turns out I was suffering from this condition... all the classic symptoms if you know about it... Hyponatremia is a metabolic condition in which there is not enough sodium (salt) in the body fluids outside the cells... Sodium is found mostly in the body fluids outside the cells... it helps to maintain blood pressure  but also is needed for nerves and muscles to function properly. And it turns out that the more water I drank on the course the worse I made it.... had I stopped and consumed the Heed drink I might have been able to fight it off... INSERT final lesson!

So... from my perspective... I had a PR... ON LESSONS LEARNED! I will chock the entire event up to just that... an opportunity to learn some things not talked about in the books or magazine articles... and I am already looking forward to Rocketman 2013!!! 

This is what misery looks like...