This very strange day started in a van down by the lake...literally.
So, how's that for a set up? It was a strange day and it did start in a van down by the lake. I actually slept in my van the night before the race and my van was situated down by the lake where the swim took place. The accommodations were, strangely enough, not that bad. I hid all the back seats in my nifty stow-and-go van, inflated a blow up mattress, let the car running for the A/C and locked the doors. It was quiet and I had plenty of room. I also had a power outlet to run my computer allowing me to watch a movie and check email. But who am I kidding? It was kind of weird.
I didn't plan to sleep in my van down by the lake when I signed up for this race back in December. By the way, the race was the Memphis in May Olympic distance triathlon I've done for the past several years. It's unofficially the start of my race season. As mentioned, I didn't plan to sleep in my van; it just worked out that way in the end. Normally our entire posse participates in this event but for one reason or another our posse started dropping like flies in the kitchen of a determined mother with a fly-swatter. No Trey or Heather or Shannon or Troy or Ernie or Gary or Bird or Dean. It ended up being just me.
Many racers and their families camp out at the race site every year. This year Trey and I decided we were going to join them. He was going to bring his tent and cots and we were going to camp out. Trey started hinting that he may not be able to go this year because work had become very demanding...I don't know, something about this tiny oil spill in the Gulf...please! (Seriously, I'm just kidding, it's really overwhelming). When he started hinting at that I booked a hotel close by. I thought it would be too much of a hassle to go the tent route plus I thought Bird may join us in the hotel. Trey ultimately flushed the race and Bird took his entire family to Memphis with him. As much as I like the Birdwells I determined it a bit awkward for all of us to stay in the same hotel room. Not to mention that they got their own room...at another hotel. As a side note, issues arose for Bird and, as mentioned above, he didn't do the race even though he was in Memphis. When it came down to it I didn't really want to spend that kind of money for a hotel room by myself. So I slept in a van down by the lake.
I just laid a lot of groundwork to set up the fact that the day started abnormally. At least in the spirit of consistency it stayed abnormal the entire day. Not necessarily a good thing!
After waking up in my van down by the lake (earlier than my alarm went off...of course!) I ate about half a Cliff Bar and downed some GU2O, popped open the van door and began gathering my gear to get ready to head down to transition. Normally during this time you chit-chat with your buddies. However, as mentioned above, none of my buddies were there. I know, poor me, right?
Setting up transition most of the participants were waiting to hear what the water temperature measured so we could know if the race was wetsuit legal. According to USAT rules the water has to be below 78-degrees in order to be able to wear wetsuits. Because of the unseasonably high temperatures for this time of year it was touch-and-go as to whether wetsuits were going to be the order of the day. Twenty minutes before race time it was announced....the water temperature was....wait for it...77-point-7 degrees! The announcement was met with mixed reactions. Most folks appreciate wearing wetsuits because they simply help you swim faster. It makes you more buoyant. However, the combination of wetsuits and high water temperature can cause you to overheat during the swim and elevate your heart rate.
Fast forwarding a little...transition is ready, wetsuit, swim cap and goggles are on. Down to the water I go for the time-trial start. I get the tap on my shoulder and off I go. I'm not a 100 meters into the swim and I can feel my timing chip loosening around my ankle. Well that's no good! No timing chip, no time! So I had to stop and try to adjust this thing. It sounds simple, but not necessarily easy. I apparently didn't do it right the first time because about 200 meters later I felt it loosen again. Adjust, swim and it loosens again. Starting to get hacked off. Fortunately the third time it happened I was near a kayak so I was able to brace myself and secure it properly for good. At 29:05 my swim time wasn't my best but it wasn't my worst either. I probably killed a minute-and-a-half trying to secure that dang chip> So all-in-all I could live with the swim.
As mentioned above the air temperature was abnormally high for this time of year. It was humid as well. I don't do as well in the heat especially when it's early in the season and I haven't had an opportunity to train in the heat. By the time I transitioned to the run it was 90-degrees. My heart rate was up and I was cooked. I could tell right away that me and the run were not going to be friends on this day. I was right.
6.2 miles and an hour-and-13 minutes later and my race was over...mercifully. I walked as much, if not more, than I ran. But, dang it, I finished. Everything inside of me told me to turn back and stop. End the day. Make it go away. But I couldn't do it. I heard a great quote one time with regards to the Ironman World Championships saying, "you can quit and they won't care, but you will always know!" So I trudged the distance pouring as much cold water over my head, down the front of my shirt and down my back as I could.
I recognized that I wasn't the only athlete struggling. I could tell one of the few racers I passed was struggling as well. I put my hand on his shoulder and we commiserated on the day as we walked together. I think it fave us both a lift
I did run the last few hundred yards and near the end a runner encouraged me to finish strong. Little did he know that I was just glad to finish, though I appreciated the support.
When it was all said and done I crossed the line in 2:55:02. It was my worst Olympic distance time by far. But the story doesn't there. I really struggled once the race was over. Very light headed. I thought I was going to hit the deck a couple of times but managed to stay upright....until I was smart enough to sit down.
I made i home, checked my time on-line and it read 2:57:02! I was penalized 2:00 for "equipment abandonment". During the race I apparently hit a significant bump and lost a water bottle our of one of my cages on the back of my seat. I didn't notice until the race was nearly over. The bright side of that part of the story is....if ever I was going to be penalized in a race this was the one to have it happen...because I did not care. Besides, what's a pound to an elephant at this point?
Overall it was a tough day. But as I look back on it, I consider it to be a very good, hard training day and I now it will make me better in the future, if not smarter about racing. It was a miserable day but I'm looking forward to doing it again!