Monday, September 15, 2008

Nation's Triathlon 2008

Another race, another recap. Up until yesterday I'd only done sprint triathlons so I was eager to see what I could muster in an Olympic. Today, I'm thankful as I learned a very important lesson, despite the fact that it's something I've been told my entire life.

The race start/transition area was a bit tough for easy access, especially after a bit of plan shuffling on my end. The shuttle from the expo hotel turned out to be extremely helpful and proved to be much less of a hassle then I expected. The early morning drive down New York Avenue heading parking was beautiful with a huge bright orange moon behind a few passing clouds to distract my tired eyes and mind from the task ahead. (USC vs Ohio State was on late Saturday night and I'm a USC fan... :)

Once down to transition I got my things set up at my transition spot, row 12 2nd bike from the main artery... sweet! Grabbed my wetsuit and goggles and set out to wait in the forever lines at the port a johns. Jumping into the Potomac for my 7:20 am wave start was hardly as eventful as I imagined and aside from the feeling of being drug and clustered into a large pack along with the rest of my wave I felt good waiting for the start.

People were pretty courteous in my start group since we were so smashed together and went easy on the kicking until things cleared out a bit. My swim was by far the best I've had, a testament to my thoughts that the longer I swim the better I feel in general. The Sprints don't tend to be long enough to really get into a grove. Also for the first time I was able to really work on drafting, finding someone right around my speed or slightly faster to chase. I've also worked a bit on my sighting since watching the Olympic tri swims which was evident until the final buoy which I couldn't spot along with the rest of the swimmers.

Swim: 28:08

T1: 1:25

The bike route was so great and my worries about the sharp turns were completely unfounded. Totally flat and fast, my legs felt good and my average speed was staying strong. The shade along Clara Barton Parkway was great and everything was very easy to navigate.

This is where the lesson began. Usually when I first get onto the bike in the sprint tri's I eat my first gel however this time I jammed one down between my cage and water bottle so I wouldn't have to start on the bike with it hanging out of my mouth. As I biked and continued to feel great I didn't want to lose my momentum by slowing to grab and eat my gel and so because of that I also never took my water out and drank from that bottle. I had one bottle of water and one of Accelerade which I drank most of. On a sprint course I generally down most of 2 bottles of liquids so the longer course and my insanely high sweat rate called for even higher water intake which obviously didn't happen. On a day projected to reach the mid to upper nineties this was about as big a mistake as I could possibly make.

Bike time: 1:06:26

T2 time: 0:59

Now starting the run I was feeling thirsty, even after gulping a bit from a spare bottle in my transition area. I found myself actively looking for water stations for the first time in my life in a race. I finally remembered to start my watch on the run and felt pretty decent to start clocking my first mile at somewhere around 6:45, just a bit off my usual sprint pace. My second fell quickly to just over 7 minutes and I turned in a similar time for my third. That however was where any good news ended. I started to seriously struggle to keep the legs moving and my splits dropped to near 8 by 4 miles in. At this point I started running over in my mind how I'd be talking about myself imploding around mile 3 or 4. Mentally and physically I was beginning to break down.

I continued to struggle along watching runner after runner pass me including a number that I'd passed convincingly on the bike and even earlier in the run. I felt completely deflated but I kept shuffling on determined not to let myself walk. I don't particularly remember feeling the heat as an issue but I know it didn't help. The last two turn arounds were hell, especially the last on Pennsylvania Ave where the finish was just right there but you still had to run all the way down the other way first.

Running the final stretch I caught a glimpse of my girlfriend on the side cheering me on. She wasn't supposed to be able to make it so that was a big help. I trotted in the last 2 tenths and stumbled through the finish area; never in my life having felt so happy to find cold water in my hand and down my back.

Run time: 48:54

Overall: 2:25:50
Overall Rank: 112
Age Group Rank: 16

Valuable life lesson rating: 9.8 out of 10

In the post race festival area I stood around just feeling aweful. I could hardly do much of anything such as put together a coherent thought or figure out what to do. My skin was covered in goosebumps and I was almost certain I was going to throw up what ever water I had left in me. Watching people eating the pizza provided almost did me in. I down a few bottles of Powerade and some more of water. 5 Hours later and multiple bottles of water later I was still dehydrated and still struggling to force myself to eat anything. Even this morning after about 15 hours of sleeping I was still dehydrated.

While it was a pretty crappy thing to put myself through, I'm extremely happy I learned the lesson out the yesterday. With the Jerseyman 1/2 IM coming up in less then 2 weeks it was a very valuable lesson. I know that had the run been any longer yesterday I likely would have been headed to the hospital with heat stroke or worse; better hydration and nutrition is a must for a half ironman.

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