Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Horrible Race--OR--Steve in a Speedo was chasing me in that Grim Reaper costume!

Well, sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men go awry. I went into the Austin Triathlon super relaxed with a few good nights of sleep under my belt and no itching from food allergies. i was feeling positive and all I wanted to do was match last year's time of 2:48 or do a little better.

That was not going to happen!

Yesterday morning, I got my transition area all laid out and and I had a great spot on the end of the bike rack with my bike in the direction of the exit. I saw my buddies Terry, and Mari in transition. I had a long time to wait since i was the second to last start out of ten waves so I walked my bike pump and bag back to my car. I put on a spare pare of shoes to do a little run to make sure I had a good bathroom break. I went to take my three puffs (huffs, lol) on my Proventil inhaler and NOTHING. I shook it, and there was still stuff in it. I took the canister out and plugged it back in. I took another puff (huff) and again, NOTHING. I took one more and something came out but I came away hacking and sputtering. O.k., so I just need to pace myself on the run and not panic. I did my little 1/4 easy jog and made a good bathroom stop at the FLUSH toilets in the Hyatt and then I headed back over to the swim start with my wetsuit, goggles, and cap.

As I was waiting, I had a few extra rubber bands and I had some of my hair that was falling out of the little pony-tail braids I had put in earlier that morning. I redid my hair and got everything squared away. I cheered for Ryan as I saw him run out of the swim exit and into T1. Go Ryan! I started getting my wetsuit on and took my gel 15 minutes before the start. I was ready to go! We jumped in the water and swam out to the start line and when the gun went off I tried to find a pair of feet to draft off of. I was doing a great job of staying on line with the buoys and I found a few pairs of feet to follow for 25 to 50 meters at a time. I was feeling good and in control of my breathing. I was a little tired but for the most part I felt good! I had lots of snot coming out of my nose, but that is bound to happen when you swim. It was kind of gross, but that's life. I should have taken note of the copious amounts of gopher guts coming out of my nose since it would come back to haunt me later, but at the time I wrote it off. I reasoned that it was logical to be tired. This swim was only the second one that I have done since the Switzerland 70.3 back on June 1st. HA, that is less than one swim a month! After swimming under two bridges, it was time to turn around. The water was clear enough that I was seeing things under me. Close under me! I was a little freaked out only because I have swam in Town Lake many times before and I have never seen this underwater debris. I was afraid I was going to hit it if I extended my hand down. Weird! I made the last turn to the swim exit. i had caught up to the stragglers three swim groups ahead and I only saw one cap from the wave behind me. Yahoo! I swam in as far as I could and the volunteers hauled me up. Whoa! I felt like the kid who has the blindfold on and has been spun around a few times before they smack the pinata. I stumbled up the stairs like a drunk and tried pulling the zipper pull on my wetsuit. No go. I tug again. Nothing. I figure it is stuck so I slow down and stop to pull it up and un-lodge it. SPROING! WTF!!!! I pulled the whole zipper pull and pull cord off! I am standing there dumbfounded as people are running past me. SHIT!!! I keep running and start grabbing at my neck. I finally started to get the zipper to pull apart but I felt like The Hulk trying to bust out of my wetsuit! Run! Run! Run! Pull off that cap and goggles! Fumble with the cap some more. Almost run into the photographer. Climb some more steps as arms are getting yanked out of a wetsuit without any water left in it, ARGH!!! Swim time--28:37.40 for 1.5K. 12th out of 51 in my age group. Not bad for no swim workouts in a LONG time.

So now I am struggling to get the wetsuit off my legs. The whole transition area is a mix of scrubby grass, dirt, and sand. So guess what is all over my wetsuit and my feet now. It looked like I the world's worst pair of dirty feet that were caked with dirt and dried brown grass clippings. Crap! I have to stick that in my cycling shoes??? I popped my aero helmet on, grabbed the bike and started running, but I was totally out of breath. This was a huge transition. I heard the announcer say that T1 was one kilometer long. Thanks race directors! We love stuff like that! My T1 time was over 4 minutes long. Dang it!!!! But how many other people have to claw themselves out of a wetsuit with a broken zipper that is zipped all the way up? Huh??? You tell me!

I really like this bike course. It is 3 loops and it has hills. If you have ever been to Austin, TX you realize fast that it is not flat like Houston. From transition you loop under a bridge and then climb the ramp onto the bridge to go over Town Lake. You take one block east and then take the next bridge back over Town Lake and head south on Congress Ave all uphill for a good mile where there is a U-turn to rocket back down hill. Once back over the bridge that crosses Town Lake, Congress Ave. goes uphill to the Texas Capitol at 11th St. where there is another U-turn and then a fast downhill back to 1st St. and a sharp right turn to head west towards Austin HS. This portion is partly downhill and flattens out by the school. Before 1st Street splits to Austin Lake Ave. and the Loop, the course goes off on an exit ramp and loops under the road to head back the other direction. From there the course turns into a drive that goes along the high school sports fields and the shore of Town Lake for almost a half of a mile. To get headed back in the other direction, the course makes a sharp right turn with a steep, short uphill to get back onto the ramp to merge back onto the end of the Loop and back onto 1st St. This is down hill and is a great time to catch your breath after that climb. Remember you were coming down hill on 1st street when heading west so now it is uphill going east and back to Congress Ave. to start the next loop.

So by the time I get on the bike course it is crowded. All of the men and all but two of the women's waves (mine and the 40-44 F group) are out on the course. I was hoping that the officials would be understandable about some of the drafting that you just could not help. There is only so much room and lots of different speeds and everyone is going uphill. I had to stay out of the way of the insanely fast men, jockey for room with the men and women who were my speed and try to get around the slower people...and stay 3 bike lengths away from people in front of me or pass in 15 seconds. HA! I get to the first U-turn on Congress Ave. at Mary St. and I realize two things. I am gasping for air. Gasping. This is not normal. I use the downhill to try to catch my breath and grab a drink to start getting the Accelerade into me. The second thing I notice is that my head feels like it is in a vice grip. Crap, when I redid my hair before the swim, the position of the rubber bands and hair was different than when I checked my helmet fit when setting up my transition area. I tried to relax and ignore the pain and focus on hydrating. After my first gulp of Accelerade, my stomach did a flip flop. NOT NORMAL! Damn! I had Shot Block with me as well but thought I had just better focus on fluids. My gut felt yucky. And I was still gasping for air. Double Damn!!! With one loop down, my head was ready to crack open across the back and spill my brains out along the course it hurt so bad. On the bridge I reached up under the pterodactyl tail of my aero helmet to fiddle with the adjustment knob to loosen it. Time is off the essence here. The grind uphill was only 50 meters away. I give the adjustment knob a crank and YOWZA!!! it got tighter! FUUUUUUDGE!!! (what I said is worse than that). So now I am grinding up hill past people since most of the fast guys were finishing up the bike with my helmet grinding into my skull and my Accelerade grinding holes in my gut. UGH!!! Breathe. Focus on the bumps in the road to avoid them. Give the smack down to some men who thought they were pretty bad ass to pass me on the down hill after I passed them on the way up to the U-turn only to have me smoke them on the way up to the U-turn at the Capitol building. Gasp for air. Have my vision go cross-eyed as I look down the road. That's not good! Gasp for air. Keep cranking. The second loop is still crowded with all of the sprint distance people on the course now. I find myself wanting to coast some of these downhills so I can catch my breath. I force myself to keep the pedals moving as much as possible. On the third loop it is time to fix that helmet. I reach up in the tail and give the knob a crank the other way and my head gets the most awesome relief that I have felt all morning long. Oh Yeah! It even seems to make my stomach feel better! I finish my 24 oz of Accelerade and start on some water. I think about the Shot Blocks but I don't want to mess things up. I am still gasping with my breathing, but now on the third loop, I am smoking people on the bike. SWEET. I feel like the aero-helmet is somewhat justified and I don't look like a poser with a Kuota, Zipp 404's, and no speed. I get my sun glasses on as I prepare to finish loop three. I had not put them on earlier because of the head pain and you can't get that Rocket helmet on with sunglasses on because your ears stick out too much. As I put them on I quickly realize that I cant see out of the left lens. Huh??? All my brain could process was that it was condensation that would dry out and it would get better. You know, like when you have your glasses on your head and you are out running and you put them on and the lenses are all foggy. Little did I know at this time that the lenses would never clear up. More on that later.I start to get my feet out of my shoes as I hit the ramp to go under the bridge to go back to the dismount line. Off the bike and straight into the transition area and run all the way down to the second to last rack. SUCK. My feet are filthy! Bike leg--1:17:04.15 , 19.3 mph, 15th out of 51 in the age group. Again, not too bad since I have not been able to get out for very many rides with the kid off for the summer.

I try to squirt water on my toes as I hold my foot up off the ground so I don't make a mud puddle where I am standing. It was a pointless effort. The first sprint distance finishers are coming across the line. PUNKS!!! Oh well, socks and shoes on, Fuel Belt/race number belt/hat grabbed and I run for the exit as I start getting my stuff on. WTF! Steps. I caught myself before I banged the hell out of my knee. There was a friendly Team in Training water station right outside of transition where I got some cold water but there was no ice. I kept running and felt miserable. I felt like I had a steel band wrapped around my rib cage and I deep knifing pain in my lower left abdomen just to the right of my hip bone. I stopped to turn my shoe pod on and walked a bit to catch my breath. Now I was doing more than just gasping. Everyone is very aware of how little kids snivel and take in hitching breaths when they cry. i was doing those hitching breaths. Three and four in a row at a time with a big exhale. How can you run breathing like that??? You can't. SUCK! I would try to run for 75 to 100 yards and then I would have to stop just to breathe. I hated that I had to walk since I have been doing all of this good run training. I saw my buddy Erich on an out and back and I had to pick it up and get running! It hits me that I cannot breathe through my nose around the one mile mark. I am totally clogged up. For that matter, my ears are all plugged up as well and it sounds like everyone is talking under water to me when I ask for ice at the aid stations. WTF! I took my antihistamine and my decongestant. I finally find some ice and dump a cup in the front of my top and down the back so the heart rate monitor strap can keep it up around my heart and chest. It feels awesome. i grit my teeth and get back to running. I am doing better but it hurts in my lungs and I cannot take a deep breath. I get little prickly sensations in my cheeks. I see the sign at the turn off for the finishers and the start of the second loop. I look up at the electronic sign on the special events center and catch the time and temp--10:28 AM 88 degrees (it got up to 97 in Austin yesterday). Time to soldier on. I get back to the first part of the run loop that is on trail and my now wet shoes become very dirty, grassy shoes. I run with another Team in Training gal for a while, but I have to stop and catch my breath again. I get going again after a guy tells me that I have to get going. I start moving further and further down the road. Again the zone is not really reachable, but I try to grasp for it. As I run back past the finish chute, I hear Terry, Mari, Ryan, and Erich cheering for me. Crap! They are all waiting on me. It is not fun to hear them shouting "GO COACH!" I'm sure that the other spectators and wondering, "She is all of you guy's Coach??!!?? She is not very fast is she..." ARGH!!! THE HEAD GAMES!!! The aid station where I scored sponges and ice only had sponges on this go around and the water was not very cold. It would have to do. I had been running through all of the sprayer hoses and cooling stations so my shoes were really squishy by now and I was just adding to it by dumping the water over my head. One more u-turn at the Congress Ave. Bat Bridge statue and one more time across the 1st St. bridge and back and then I'm almost done. It is really thinning out, but at least the chick with the big boobs and who is hoofing it has not gotten any further ahead of me when I see her at the turn arounds. The kids the the water cannons are firing on me, my friends are yelling at me to pick it up, the volunteers are directing me into the finisher's lane, and all I can see is that my sunglasses have not cleared up and I can barely see through them. How did I not step on a cat or trip over the wheel chair of the CAF racer??? Run time--1:09:29.50, 11:12 per mile 36th out of 51 in my AG...SUCK.

A volunteer asks for my chip and I start to topple over when I bend down to take it off. "Oh, would you like me to get that for you?" No, I just feel like falling on my face smart-ass. Sorry, thank you for helping here in the hot sun, yes, would you be so kind to take that off my ankle??? My buddies come over to congratulate me. I guess my worst Oly finish time needs some recognition. Erich asks me why I sound funny. I am still all plugged up and congested and I can't hear well because my ears are still plugged up as well. Ryan gives me some of his banana and tells me to go get some food. His plate of watermelon, fresh pineapple, grapes, strawberries, and oranges looked good. I get to the food line and there is pizza (can't eat it), bags of Famous Amos cookies (can't eat 'em), packages of cheese and crackers (can't eat those either), Pure sports drink (can't drink it), Ice Cream sandwiches (ARGH! CAN'T EAT IT!!!), and Fat Tire Beer (Can't drink that either! WTF can I eat and drink around here?) I get out of that line and see the fruit line that is 40 people deep--SUCK! I look at what they have to see if it is worth the wait. All they had were oranges and watermelon left. The bananas were gone. It was not worth standing in that line. My bottle of water they gave me at the finish was already getting warm so I am guessing that they had just dumped it in the troth with the ice and it was on top. I pulled off my sunglasses to wipe the lenses with the wet towel they gave us at the finish line and there was a huge dried glob of snot all over the left lens. No wonder I could not see out of them. I had my glasses in my Bento Box and I guess my nose was still draining on the bike. Yuck.

I high tailed it to transition to go get my bike and busted wetsuit and get back to the room for a shower before Ryan and Erich got to the room. That shower felt so good. I had a half box of raspberries, a half box of strawberries and a left over banana in the room and I grabbed those and headed back out to the race site. Ryan had won third in his AG and I wanted to see him get his trophy.

Ok, so what did I learn from this race??? My asthma is bad. I have to use my inhaler and I need to keep a spare in case one goes dry or does not work. I am very allergic to mold. The mold count was very high yesterday in town. I now have a good reason to buy a new wetsuit for next year. It was a poor race but there were some highlights. Mainly, I am now better prepared on how to prepare for the Longhorn 70.3 in one month on October 5th. Let's hope that race is better!

My chest stills feels tight today and it hurts when I take a deep breath. My throat is a little sore. My congestion eased up once I got into the air conditioning and ate some hot salsa and got the nose running again. I had to drive back to get my son at my Dad and Step Mom's and then drive to Houston since Hurricane Gustav missed us and I would have to work today so there were no margaritas on the schedule.

There it is in all of it's ugly glory. I looked around for the Grim Reaper and I did not see him so I have lived to race another day!

Later Gators,



Benson said...

Oh for hell sake! You were so descriptive here I could feel myself getting clogged up and wheezing too.
You really toughed it out and made it through some difficult issues. Longhorn will be tons better for you.
Rock on.

Kim said...

wow. what a saga. thanks for sharing your honest realities. encourages the rest of us mere mortals to keep plugging away!

Steve Stenzel said...

What a race! I knew when I got to the part about copious amounts of snot that it'd be a good one (meaning a bad one).

Glad you got through it and DIDN'T see the Grim Reaper!!!!

Jeff said...

Wow, Liz, I could defintiely feel myself out there pulling for you to make it through.

Glad you made it through and, the bonus -- a great reason to buy some new gear!

Spokane Al said...

This race definitely qualifies as one of Liz's most Amazing Triathlon Adventures. I can't think of much else that could go wrong.

Congratulations on fighting through a tough one.

I suppose if a non-triathlete read your post they would have a difficult time in finding the fun in the event, but we know it is there!