Tuesday, June 10, 2014

RR: Folsom Triathlon (aka Epic Mental Challenge in Extreme Conditions)

So, this blog is turning a little into  a race report blog.  I have all sorts of things to say but just no time to write them all down.  And, I’ve also felt a need to be more private with my life, not sure why but I’ve even considered deleting some of my social media, well FB, not really my blog or Instagram =).  BUT, for the time being, my posting may be infrequent but it'll still be present.

Before I get to the race report, I’ll do a little update on life.  Life has been busy.  I’ve probably been through the most stressful (emotionally and just generally) period in my life.  The last month or so has been an extreme period in my life.  My professional life has been busy, my personal life has been full of introspection and thoughtfulness (not a bad thing but a stressor) and I was peaking physically for this race.  I did the best I could with all of the stressors in my life—as far as workouts, I did almost ALL my workouts, I modified a few workouts to add in extra rest but all in all I still put in the work for this race.

This was my first long course distance tri since 2010 Barb’s race and my first tri since the IM.  Last year, I completed the halfRev aqua-bike in Maine but wasn’t yet up to the running.  I have been training well and have been having a stellar year so my expectations were high!  Well, they were until I started getting phone alerts for severe weather and drove the bike course.  Oh boy.  Foreshadowing…

Saturday I picked up my race stuff and my Dad went with me as we drove some of the bike course.  Couple of big climbs (for me), lots of rollers and some flats on the back half.  Driving the bike course a few things came to mind.  1) The course is going to be VERY exposed to heat, sun and wind. 2) Hillier than I was anticipating and hillier than I was really trained for. 3) Crappy pavement.  But honestly, none of that was a huge deal to me, I was staying positive, I’m stronger this year than I ever have been and I was only going to focus on what I could control.  As Saturday went  on and I kept seeing weather alerts for extreme weather, I got more and more nervous.  Temperatures were predicted to be over 100 degrees, topping out between 104-108, and wind gusts up to 20 MPH.  Well, it is what is--weather you can't control but you can control your mindset and how you respond to it.

Race morning went fine, got up got ready, ate my breakfast and my sherpas, aka the best family supporters ever.  Got to the race sight by 5:15am and it was already nearly 75 degrees.  Not wanting that to get in my head I calmly set up my transition area (first time since the IM and I had kinda forgotten what it is like to set up a towel transition area instead of a bag).  As go time got closer I put on my wetsuit and headed to the water.

Swim: Up until the horn start I didn’t even know which way  I was supposed to be swimming.  Not great race organization in my opinion (there were a few other instances of that on the course as well).  There wasn’t a loud speaker by the swim start and they hadn’t told us which way to go.  I figured I wasn’t going to be first so I would just follow the caps.  I have been doing some great swims but if I’ve skipped a workout it is usually a swim.  Readers here know that I’m comfortable in the water and the distance wasn’t at all intimidating. 

My goal: Hoping for sub-38 but really anything under 40 was going to be fine with me.
Actual: 39:14 not my best, not my worst.

T1: 4:10 – funny story here…I lost my bike!  I ran all the way to the end of the transition area IN THE WRONG DIRECTION!  Oops, rookie mistake.  Whatever, in and out, quick wave to the fam.

Bike:  My plan was to stay hydrated and wet to stay cool.  I wanted to stay positive on the hills, push the flats and generally enjoy the ride.  Total success with all of those elements.  I have been riding between 15.5 – 16.5 on average but haven’t done any real elevation, the biggest gain I’ve done this year, um, 700 feet.  Starring down a 2200+ feet gain profile I probably shoulda worked more on hills, oh well.  Despite my lack of hill training (not Jen’s fault, I just haven’t gone hilly lately b/c I’ve been enjoying SPEED on flats), I felt pretty good on the climbs.  The rollers were just fun and the flats I exceled holding 18+ for miles on end.  The roads were as expected pretty bumpy, lots of strewn water bottles on the course.  Parts of the course were just weird, like the part through the office park (though, I was happy to avoid the busier roads and the pavement was nicer), but parts of the course were just gorgeous the rolling golden northern California hills, with big oak trees and the scent of summer.  By about mile 20 of the bike course I was already pretty warm and continued to stay hydrated and cooled off by squirts of water from my water bottle.  The last 11 miles were on a bike trail with AWESOME headwind, not.  This is the only place I really saw egregious drafting and no marshals---sooooo annoying.  Oh well.

My goal:  My goal was 3:30 – 3:40.
Actual: 3:47 (elevation per Garmin 2265)-- given the heat, the hills and the wind—I’m happy with this but definitely room for improvement!

T2: 3:00—I call that a success for me.

Run: Oh good lord this was where my race unraveled.  I have been LOVING running lately, especially running off the bike.  My runs off the bike have been 9:40’s – 10:30’s and I was feeling really confident about this run.  However, by the time I got to the run it was upper 90’s and the temp was still rising.  I started off with a slow shuffle and about 6 minutes in my HR was outta control and I felt dizzy and the slow march of determination began.  From here on out I tried a 1 min run/1 min walk, sometimes this was fine other times I felt like was going to pass out.  As one point, I seriously thought CA was having an earthquake it looked and felt like the ground was shaking.  At that point, I started taking 2 salt pills, instead of 1 at a time.  I found the best strategy to be the following: at the aid stations, drink 1 water, 1 water dumped on me or spray from a super soaker some of the aid stations had, 1 cup of ice down my sports bra and a BIG thank you to the volunteers for being out there on a triple digit day.  For a few minutes with ice down my sports bra this made running bearable—so I would run out of the aid stations until my heart felt like it would beat out of my chest and I felt light headed.  When I hit the turnaround at 6.55 miles I was so close to calling it.  Temperatures were now well into the triple digits and I was only halfway.  I was looking at the slowest half marathon of my life.  You know those people that say they are going to walk a half marathon? Yeah, I’ve always though they were crazy---now that I basically have, I still think they are crazy!  On the second loop, there were points I felt absolutely terrible and points were I only felt mildly less terrible but I don't think I got above slightly less terrible on the second loop even with the aid stations being fully stocked with ice and water.  By this point all my time goals were out of the window and all I wanted to do was finish and jump (or crawl) back into the river.  Everyone on the course was walking, several with very dejected looks on their faces.  The heat was oppressive and unrelenting and unfortunately the course had little to no shade and even in the shade I'm sure temperatures were triple digits.  I saw at least 2 people get taken away in the emergency ranger wagon and my family saw a couple of ambulance bound folks.  I ended up finishing the last couple of miles with a really nice guy training for his first IM.  I kept telling him how much harder THIS race was than my IM experience and that finishing this race, in these conditions, should give him a big boost of confidence for the IM.  This race seriously was the hardest race I’ve ever done--mentally and physically to keep going in those conditions, I think I walked the line of determined and stupid but ultimately, I know my body pretty well and knew that if I walked it in I could finish.  I didn’t pass out and I didn’t quit.

My goal: 2:20 – 2:30
Actual: 3:23, a FULL HOUR slower than I had wanted

Total: 7:57  Over an hour slower than my original goal of 6:30 (my pie in the sky was as close to 6 as possible).  With the hills on the bike course I had adjusted to 6:40 - 7 hours but definitely did not think I’d be nearly 8 hours. The total DNF/DNS rate from what I counted on the website was over 50 people!  I counted 180 total finishers from the website and the number of finishers over 7 hours, nearly 70.

best part of the whole day--the after race water float

The bright side:  This is STILL a 29 minute PR from my one and only other half distance at Barb’s race in 2010.  This course was much hillier (1000+ feet hillier), DEFINITELY much hotter and probably windier, though, I don’t really remember the wind conditions at Barb’s race.

I know I have more in me at this distance and I know I’ll get there!  I mean, what’s the chance of doing another race in 106 degree temperatures?!?

Big shout out to my wonderful friend Kristen for driving down from the bay area, standing in the heat, while 9 months pregnant!  Also, just as big of a shout out to my wonderful family who are always there for me—both the highs and the lows.  They too, stood around in extreme conditions and had nothing but positivity for me.  THANK YOU—I am truly lucky to have such a great support crew.

Also a shout out to Jen, my wonderful coach, who has been pushing me to my limits this year and keeping me going with my PR streak.

As I’ve been saying, every race is a learning experience and this one taught me that the words on my bracelet (persevere, endure, believe) do really hold true for me.  I am not someone who quits, even if the day isn’t going as planned.  I am really proud of myself for finishing this race—now it’s time to recover and get back to training and pushing myself to my fullest potential.