The Good: It was a perfect morning at a beautiful venue. Sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky, and I was feeling race-ready. I swam a very short warm-up in the lake and waited on the beach for my swim wave to start. It was a run-in start, and I was smart to position myself off to the side so that I wouldn’t try to get caught up with the swimmers I had no business being near 😉 My plan for the swim was to go out at my own pace and settle it. The gun went off and I stayed relaxed – got right into the water and swam at a pace with which I was comfortable. The plan was working – I felt strong and I even started passing some girls in my wave by the first turn. The back stretch of the swim was a little tougher as we were now swimming into the sun and sighting was tough. I just tried to power through this section, knowing that after the next turn I’d be on the home stretch.
The Bad – Before hitting that 2nd turn, the wave behind us started plowing through our field. This is nothing new to me – if I’m not in the last wave, you better believe I have people swimming over and around me during the final leg of my race – so I’m comfortable with this. What I wasn’t expecting was for someone to grab my ankle, which had my chip attached, and it pull off. It was one of those slow motion moments – I could feel it happening but couldn’t stop it. I immediately stopped swimming and turned around in an attempt to recover this chip. Of course, this was a lost cause – I couldn’t see anything, and more swimmers were coming through. I gave up on trying to recover it and realizing there was nothing else I could do at that moment, continued to swim. So many scenarios were going through my head – was my race over? Should I continue to race even though I wouldn’t have any times recorded? Should I just make the rest of the day a training day? Or just cut my losses (including the $110 fee for a lost chip) and go home? At this point I was swimming at a leisurely pace as I’m trying to digest what just happened. Rookie mistake – this is why you always prepare for these things – so when they happen you can continue “racing” without much thought. Then the idea came into my head that hey, maybe they can get me a new chip and I can keep racing. So I finished that swim like I meant it 😉
I got out of the water and told the first volunteer I saw what had happened. He said he would go ask somebody if there was something they could do for me. We went through transition together, and I gave him my bib number and showed him where I was racked so he knew where to find me. I got to my spot and started to transition like I normally would, but the whole time I’m watching this guy to see what was going to happen. Slowest transition ever, but when I saw him running towards me with another volunteer I knew my day had been saved! They gave me a replacement chip and I was on my way. Kudos to the Rev3 staff coming to my rescue!
I headed out on the bike feeling totally energized – I had some time to make up but I was still in this. The bike course was challenging but beautiful. I was powering up the hills and passing girls by the handful – one advantage of being late onto the course 🙂
The Ugly – I decided to try a different nutrition strategy for long course racing. Although I had been practicing it during training, I never had a chance to train in this kind of heat, which is what I believe complicated things. About an hour into the bike my stomach was cramping, but it wasn’t a major concern. It was feeling worse as time went on, and right around mile 40 on the bike is where things started to get ugly. By this point I had cramps, was nauseous, and felt like I couldn’t get enough fluids in me. In addition to the 2 bottles I carried, I took a bottle of water at each exchange. Some was squirted into my helmet, some onto my body, and the rest I drank. After the last bottle exchange I was wondering how I would make it in without more fluids. My body just didn’t seem to be assimilating what I was taking in. I skipped my last sleeve of Clif bloks because I was sure my stomach wasn’t going to handle them, especially without more fluids. In the last 10 miles I was passed by 2 girls – both in my age group. I couldn’t even keep them in my sight – I was fading fast. But I still had the run, and that’s my strongest leg of the race.
I came into transition, dismounted, and as I started running with my bike it was like I ran into a sauna – I felt really dizzy, which I had not been feeling at all on the bike. I was a little concerned, but was able to pull off a decent transition and head out. Since having the heat stroke in 2007, I am now hyper-vigilant of my condition in this kind of weather. Perhaps that is holding me back… As I ran out of transition I decided to check myself – I recited my name, address, and telephone number to myself. I passed – I was okay. Running out of the park is where most of the spectators gathered to cheer on the athletes. Normally I feed off this energy and it gets me pumped. Today all I wanted is for the yelling, whistling, and cowbells to stop – my head felt like it was going to explode. I was barely able to slap the hand of the very-enthusiastic guy on the course who was encouraging every athlete – he was standing between me and the aid station and I had a one-track mind. 2 cups of ice down my top and 2 cups of water to drink. I told myself that once I hit that 3 mile mark I would be settled in and ready to race. I felt like I was barely moving but I kept thinking things would shake out. I hit mile 1 at 7:46 – ouch. I told myself I could easily make this up later in the race. I wasn’t willing to admit that I was kidding myself.
I was having a sharp pain deep in my abdomen when I ran, and each step felt like I was being stabbed. It wasn’t cramps, it wasn’t a side stitch – I didn’t know what it was. I got to the first rest stop and decided I should walk through it and make sure I got enough fluids. That walk turned into a walk/shuffle for the next mile. I stopped alongside of the road at a turn – there was shade and I had a decision to make. 2 spectators were there and told me I needed to sit for a while, and offered to call someone for me. I was ready to turn around and go back, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I starting walking again, telling myself to just keep moving forward. If I had to walk 13.1 miles that’s what I had to do. Many of the athletes were asking me if I needed help as they passed, and one guy told me he was doing a 12:30 pace, and that I should join him. The camaraderie of triathletes always amazes me. I thanked him for his offer, but I knew I couldn’t hold on to his pace. I hit mile 2 and hit my lap button (habit) – 12:24. I passed another spectator and asked her where the next aid station was. She told me she didn’t know, but that I could have her water – so awesome of her. I told her I could make it and thanked her as I kept walking. Finally the rest stop was in sight – I arrived, grabbed a cup of water, and collapsed into the grass behind them. Mile 3 wasn’t happening, and mile 13.1 certainly wasn’t.
There was another racer there with the same issue, and he told me they already called for a vehicle to come get him. The volunteers at that rest stop were amazing – with tons of athletes coming by they kept making sure that I was okay and had everything I needed. It was along wait for the car to come get us, which meant a long time of thinking about the decision I had made. And the irony of my day – losing my chip, thinking my race was over, getting another chance with another chip, only to fall apart later in the race. Another athlete joined us with the same feelings of disappointment along with a small sense of pride in making the tough decision. The car took us back to transition and as we passed that finishing chute I felt even worse that I didn’t have the chance to run through it. Next year…I will be back!
It was a huge disappointment not to finish my first 1/2 iron distance tri in 4 years. I was really looking forward to this day, the course, and the feeling of finishing. But I am still lucky to be able to race, and that I had the sense to use my head instead of waking up in an ambulance having no idea what was happening. The thing that bothers me most about my heat stroke was that I had no idea it was coming. Most people know that I am a control freak, and that feeling that I had no control still haunts me. I believe I made the right decision to stop at Quassy, as mentally painful as that is. No one wants to be a quitter. Kudos to everyone who raced – it was a tough day. Now I just need some heat to train in so I can better prepare my body…
Even Uglier – A few days after the race a huge patch of poison ivy appeared on my stomach. Do I even get poison ivy?!? The next day it showed up on my right leg. Then the left leg, then my right arm. A week later and I’m still covered in poison with new batches cropping up daily. A not-so-pleasant reminder of what happens when you DNF and then proceed to lay in the shady grass on the side of the road 😦