Monday, May 10, 2010

Knoxville Part Deux, aka Race Report

Wow, what a weekend! That is the first I've ever driven that far alone, and while I enjoyed the trip down, the return trip was somewhat brutal! Fatigue, exhaustion, and anxious to be "done" all makes for a difficult trip. I will definitely need to re-strategize for my next 3 races away from Cleveland.

I went to bed early Saturday night - 9 pm I believe. Yes, I'm a good time! I slept well and awoke at 4:30 am ... Ready to roll!

Pre-race routine went smoothly. (Look for another post soon on the crucial PRP!) I loaded most of my luggage into my car because I didn't want to worry about being back in time for check out. Then me and my two triathlon bags headed out for the 1 mile walk down to transition. First stop: body marking. Then into the transition zone to lay out my gear and prep my bike. A trip to bike support for air in the tires. A little note on that: I was totally ignorant about tire pressure. My friend Steve inflated my tires for the first time for one of our rides together and I believe they were around 40 psi. Felt fine to me! Well, apparently not!! Minimum pressure should be 100, max 120 for my particular tires. I don't think I'll ever live that down. Yes, I have to admit, I have no pump. I HAD a kid's bike pump, without a manometer, but that broke so I am at the mercy of my colleagues, friends, and team mates. Maybe I'll ask Santa for a pump??

Re-racked the bike and than took a 2 mile jog just to loosen up. That was a first for me and I'm DEFINITELY incorporating it into my routine! I didn't have that sudden HR surge I usually have. Maybe it was the jog? Then I returned to my rack real estate to chat with neighbors and stretch, check my pre-race BG. BG=148 two hours post-prandial. I was good with that - no insulin for me!

Next the donning of the wetsuit. This is not pretty ... ladies, think of putting on pantyhose - which I refuse to wear! Once on, I'm a bit warmer. It was chilly and I was wishing I had another layer on top. I had no flip-flops (in the same bag as the goggles, wouldn't you know!) so I wore old shoes and socks, fully prepared to lose them forever if I wasn't up to trucking down to the swim start, another mile away!

It was finally time to head down to the river. I secured a nice seat in the sun and warmed up a bit. The stretching continued, but the adrenals were in overdrive. I hate that. There were even times when I said "why the hell am I CHOOSING to put myself through all of this?" Those moments are rare, but always part of my pre-race jitters.

I saw an older couple there watching their adult child race. I approached and asked if they wouldn't mind dropping my shoes near transition. They were happy to help! Bless them!

Now it's time for my wave! Big prayers that my goggles don't leak! PLEASE GOD, DON'T LET THEM LEAK! I wear contacts to race. I entered the water and really wasn't cold at all! Tested goggles ... YES!! Winner!!! Off goes the horn and I'm off! I chanted: I have an attitude of gratitude throughout most of the swim as my swim was probably my most perfect open water swim to date! I felt strong, no panic, as has happened in the past, and I was passing swimmers along the way, which gave me additional confidence. I felt like the swim went by in a breeze. I started my watch at the horn and ended it when I was pulled out at the dock. 25 minutes. I had swam in 34-35 in my past races, so I was very happy. Apparently the timing chip was at the top of the dock climb b/c their split for me was different, but not significantly. I know that my SWIM was, horn to water exit, 25:03. Very pleased!

Feeling good allowed me to do a fun little run into transition where pulling off the wetsuit went as good as it can. Socks, bike shoes on. Helmet on. Sunglasses on. Insulin in a SPI belt and snapped on. Grab the bike and out to the mount line. No problem clipping in the shoes ... how is this going so smoothly for me??? Early on is a little steep climb and I struggled with it, but then I picked up steam and was holding a good pace. The first big hill was rough on me. "I presently struggle with hills" (Coach Andrew won't let me use words like "I suck at hills" or "I'm a hill wimp") I did the best I could, lost a little ground with the folks I was pacing with, but made it up on the descent. I was even passing a few people!! This is unheard of for me. I usually bike ALONE. Like NOONE. For miles. In this race there were other athletes and I was even passing them. Boy I've made some good progress on the bike! Next I hear an ambulance ... Oh no. (I end up meeting the "victim" - more on that later). A race vehicle (golf cart!) was in the car lane going MY EXACT SPEED. I tried passing, but they'd pull up. I even slowed and let them go. Nope, it's taking away from my best effort. They kept flagging me to pass, but I was at maximum intensity. We just had to share the road. I got a bit annoyed ... but then came back my mantra: An attitude of gratitude. I finally lost them when they turned to the route for the Half distance and I proceeded onward with the Oly distance. Played a bit of cat an mouse with a girl in PINK. Like ALL PINK! She was in my age group too. I'd pass her on the straights and descents, but she'd pass on the climbs. This held true to the bitter end! I entered T2 before her and we were right there for most of the rest of the race.

T2 went okay, but this was a ground rack with our names on our real estate. My "neighbor" decided her race was more important than mine. She racked in my spot, and her wet suit was in hers. I had no where to rack :( I moved her bike and put my bike in my spot. That was a frustrating waste of my time. On with the running shoes, the do-rag and the number belt and off I went. That first mile is always tough, as your legs are changing from spin to impact. I held a respectable pace and felt strong. I was resolved to NOT WALK at any point. I took small amounts of water at aid stations. By mile 3 I had to pee. UGH! There was a porto-potty and I opted to sacrifice the time because I was sure after I was done I'd be more prepared to push a little harder to make up any lost time. Well, porto-potty had "occupied" in it. I wait 30 sec. 60 seconds, 90 seconds. UGH - this was the wrong decision!! By 3 minutes I'm calling into the thing - hello, gonna be a while?? No answer. No one could tell me how long it had been occupied. Hell, now I have 3+ minutes invested - damn it, I've gotta pee!! Finally a guy knocks - no answer, pulls the door open to reveal an EMPTY porto-potty!!!! OMG that SUCKS!!!! Grrrrrrrrr. I'm in and out in a flash and now am energized by that frustrating experience. I pick up the pace because of it, and because I feel so much better after peeing. Almost to the turn around and there's the girl in pink. Man, she's made some progress, dang it. Can I get her? I try to get her in my sights and she's way up there. I decided to focus on the people around me - chunk them off one by one. I think I passed 8 people, but don't get me wrong, I wasn't setting any land-speed records at this point. I was hurting. My tank was nearly empty. I knew if I could hold strong until the last mile, the energy of the crowd would energize me ... and I was right. It was an amazing feeling to have such a personally strong race. I crossed the finish line and my final time was 3:09. I was proud of that!! I had hoped to go under 3, but on THIS course, that was too lofty for me. At least for this year! I'd love to do that race again!! I think I can still aim for under 3 hrs in some of the local olys I have planned. No regrets, though. Well, maybe the porto-potty incident. I'd knock right away if I could do it over. And girl in pink beat me. By 2 minutes. She found me after the race and said "Great race Tiffany" - what a nice feeling that was. Next year, girl in pink, I will be beating YOU!

Medic tent had no glucometer. :( They really should have a glucometer. So, I headed back to transition (~ 1 mile away) to check my BG. 151. NOT BAD!

On the way back I ran across a guy in his 50s with blood all over himself. I asked if he was okay ... he said yes. What happened?? He was behind a vehicle that stopped suddenly and he was thrown over his bike. The brunt of it? His chin. Tons of steri-stips holding together skin that no doubt needs further care and likely sutures. He was in good spirits. AND, he finished the damned race!!!! WOW. He was the recipient of the ambulance I heard.

What an amazing feeling that race was!! I can't believe that I questioned my decision to put myself through that ... it's always just a fleeting thought entwined with nerves. But the reward is AMAZING!!! I feel proud. I feel happy. I love the fact that I'm able to do these things! I definitely have an ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE!!

The drive home was difficult. GI distress surfaces from the adrenaline. Fatigue. Exhaustion. Couple that with the fact that down south the speed limit is 70, which has traffic going at 90! Whoa. Scary fast. In my state, I don't feel like my reaction time is on spot and that could be a fatal mistake. So, I try to balance a speed I can handle while focusing. I will definitely re-think that for future races. Boy was I happy to get home!!!

What an amazing experience. And, while at times I wish I had someone there with me to enjoy it, it didn't diminish the experience for me. It's one of those personal experiences that when you look back on, you realize was really good even though I was alone. I had friends from Facebook "there" with me most of the weekend! The support I get from those friendships, both IRL and cyber friendships, makes me feel truly blessed!

Thank you!!!

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