Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Blogger Triathlon: Race, Off-season and Injury Reports

First: Saturday’s race. We made it to Portage Lakes by 8 a.m., and that’s when the madness began.

The parka and flip flops As previously mentioned, I’m writing a feature story about Fran, a 59-year-old retired teacher who raced her first tri on Saturday, so I had to put my bike together, check in, find safety pins, set up my transition area and then catch up with Fran and friends for pre-race talks. All in a bulky swimming parka and flip flops.

You would know even if you looked outside on Saturday morning that it was cold. Neil and I guffawed as we drove past a highway-side car dealer on OH-8 whose lighted sign read 50 DEGREES. Not bad, I thought. It could be colder. In winter.

Amid the cold and rush for non-existent safety pins (they ran out right before I arrived; I had to tie my bib to my shorts and begrudge myself for not taking advice and getting a racing belt!), I never made it into the water for my planned warm-up. But I did make it into the 72-degree water for a quick wade. I was relieved to feel the water was warmer than the air. Until I stepped out.

I'm the first one in and second one out!As I walked down the beach to the start, my toes started to burn with cold. Flocks of tri-ready women waddled down the beach wondering what they were doing on the beach in this weather. And all I wanted to do was get back in that warm water… which explains why I was far and away the first body in the water!

It was only my second triathlon, but I think I can dig these in-the-water starts. No swift kicks to the face, no slaps to the jugular, no punches in the back. The only downside was that I had to tread water for 5-7 minutes before the start while most everyone else could stand (they said it was “chest-deep water,” but they apparently weren’t measuring it for a five-footer).

In-the-water startAs I treaded water, I saw the 2006 open water champion and tried to position myself behind her. She would be my guide. The starter explained the water course a number of times, but the 29 and under age group was a sea of chatter and “whats?” Despite the constant repetition of the directive “swim toward Adam; he’s the one waving,” I had a hard time deciphering my path. I could see Adam, but there were buoys and kayak between us.

But I didn’t have time to worry because we were off before I knew it. The 2006 champ propelled ahead of the crowd immediately and bolted way toward shore. I stayed right with her (albeit not so close to shore) for the first 100 yards, spotting with her yellow cap, before she pulled ahead and I lost my course orientation.

Just keep swimmingBreathing on all sides, I could see shore to the left, champ and kayaks up ahead and nothing on my right. I was doing all right. A yellow lane-marker confused the bejesus out of me, but once I caught sight of champ’s yellow cap again, I could see the shape of our entry to shore. I took the final turn and begrudgingly got out of the water.

Swim time: 4:25

So, I ran around the beach in my frozen delirium trying to make it up the hill to the transition area. It was quite a trek! And when I arrived, the champ and I were the only people in sight. It was a rush to know I finished second, but I was terrified to jump on my bike and be one of the first on the course. Why? I have no idea. So, I took a tad longer to wash my feet and get myself together—long enough for 2-3 people to mount and ride. Then I took off.

T1: 2:25

What I didn’t do during that extra time in transition was grab my sweatshirt! My summer of muggy days had me convinced that I would warm up on my bike, but it never happened. I was frozen from the get-go. Two miles into the ride I was wheezing with freeze-burning lungs, my throat was soar and I was too cold to drink my Gatorade. My fingers were numb and my knees were turning funny colors. Finally, I started getting really dizzy and rode into the grass a couple times before I realized things weren’t going well and I still had 3-4 miles to ride! I stood up on my bike and just tried to pedal hard, stay afloat, do anything to overexert myself and get some body heat boiling. Oh, how I longed for my sweatshirt! Lucky for me it was only a 7-mile ride.

Bike time: 33:57

There's really no happier moment for me than leaving T2 and my bike behind.All I wanted when I entered T2 was to jump in the water again. Instead I swigged a touch of cold Gatorade that made my chest burn, bundled up, pulled back my hair and took to the road.

T2: 1:21

But not until I twisted my ankle. The left calf was acting up only slightly during the race, but my inability to follow arrows and waving hands was running on all cylinders. What’s been with me the past two weeks? When I took the turn into my 2-mile run, I misstepped, rolled my ankle and used colorful language to, umm, express my pain. Sorry kids!

My legs were already warmed and beginning to recover by the time I hit the first aid station, but I was parched. I grabbed a cup of water from the first aid station, but couldn’t take it down through my swollen throat. Of course my mind flooded with dehydration fears, but it was only two miles. And that’s what I kept telling myself.

After just a half mile my legs were totally ready to run. Perhaps I had been a touch distracted by my treacherous inability to ride a bike, but my head cleared when I realized I was again running the final leg of a triathlon. Ahh, I hope that novelty never leaves me!

I was operating at about 75 percent with a parchy throat and wheezy lungs, but I focused on stretching my legs and enjoying the run. But not too much. I’ve never really run a cross-country type course, but this was more like an obstacle course. Divots, sink holes and tree roots galore. Thankfully, the race organizers did a fantastic job spray-painting each of the obstructions and accidents-waiting-to-happen bright orange! My peripheral vision was enough to keep me on the up-and-up as I weaved in and out of runners on my way to the finish.

Run time: 17:16 (8:38/mile)

On my way to the finish!No confusion about the finish for this race. I ran right through to the finish with a final time of 59:24.

If you check the results, you can see that the women’s triathlon had quite the crowd. Fran and her friends finished with flying colors. It was an awesome event. And I stuffed my face with PB+J until peanut butter actually oozed from my pores. Yummy.

My only problems are a) the place results have changed since they were first posted on Monday; and b) there are 29 & under age groupers listed with faster swimming times than they could have had. Not only were they not on the beach or in the transition area by the time the champ and I made it, but the spectators and race coordinators noted we were first and second. Odd. But perhaps they started late? I have no idea. I’m just happy that my times look right and met my goals.

The real star of the tri: Fran!What’s next? Well, I dismantled my bike and tucked it away in the garage for the winter. I’m going to keep my eyes open for some secondhand tri-bikes and train in the off season. Neil and my mom might be happy if I actually know how to ride a bike next summer!

I also have to decide very soon on my rec. center membership (it ended last Friday) and make sure this swimming off-week doesn’t become something bigger.

And then there’s the Akron Half Marathon on Sept. 29.

Half training half continued today: my left calf isn’t doing well. I tried to test my idiot IQ by jogging on it for about 100 yards before my brain kicked in. I took my workout down to a 14:00/mile fast-walk that was pain free over four miles.

Today’s “workout” will replace Saturday’s 5-6 miles, and then I’ll push my tempos to Thursday and Saturday. For now I’m icing, resting and yogaing in the hope I can make it another week and a half.


Papa Louie said...

Congratulations on your triathlon race. My problem when I get too cold is I have a hard time getting my helmet off after the bike ride. Maybe you didn't have that problem.
I hope you recover well and you have a great half.

The Salty One said...

You are doing so well!! Woohoo, look at you go!! Again kicking booty on the swim. I'm also glad your ankle was ok. You had me worried for a sec! Wow. You make tri's almost sound like they might be fun!!!

Oh, and mom is too cute!

B Bop said...

Well done! Once you start putting in some time on the bike.....look out!!!!!

Hope the calf heals up quickly. Those nagging injuries sure are a test of patience....