Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Stranger Things Have Happened: White Mountains Triathlon Race Report

Nobody has ever accused me of being all that smart. I'm walking, talking proof that just because someone has a doctorate degree, it is not a reflection of their total overall intelligence.

To prove this point: so, I had what is known as a vasovagal response at Rev3 Quassy. This is, to put it bluntly, like the CONTROL-ALT-DELETE for your body. Somebody pushed it for five seconds. I shut down. And just like a Windows Vista computer, it took me a while to reboot. And even when I did reboot, it took a while for all the systems to re-stabilize and get to a point where I was actually useful again. (We're a Mac household, in case you can't tell.)

Well, naturally, I had a big old chip on my shoulder coming from it. So I went and raced the local Pirate Tri last weekend. First ever sprint race. Had a blast.

But still, it gnawed at me that I hadn't been able to set out and finish what I started at Quassy. There wasn't anything on the Rev3 schedule that would fit in for me, as I'll be working at Williamsburg and the next race through them that I could have put on the schedule would've been Rev3 Maine. Which is already on the schedule. And I didn't want to sit and wait that long.

There were two events on the local calendar that intrigued me. The first was the New England TriFest in Vermont at the end of the month. The second was the White Mountains Triathlon. Both are first year events, but the timing of White Mountains made more sense for me (as, when I go to Williamsburg, it is unlikely I'll be able to get much done in terms of training.)

The other key component: its near Hannah's family, set at Cannon Mountain in Franconia, NH. Absolutely stunning overall.

On Monday, the decision was made: I was going to White Mountains.

On Tuesday, my throat started to get a little sore. No big deal.

Wednesday: congestion sets in. You must be kidding me.

Thursday: sinus headache galore.

Friday: Go and get myself some Claritin. Feeling a bit better.

Saturday: Claritin continues to help. But now I'm starting to cough.

Saturday night: Feel like ass. I tell Hannah that tomorrow will depend on how I feel in the morning.

Sunday morning: Alarm goes off at 4:00. Wake up and immediately hack out a whole bunch of stuff. But the congestion is pretty much gone. Take some hard, fast breaths to see if it sounds raspy/congested. Nothing. The question I had to ask myself: would I go out and try and train if I felt this way? I answered yes, so I said that we might as well go for it.

Drove to Franconia, had my breakfast in the car, got my gear together, and ready to rock and roll.

Got down to the swim location and OH MY GOD THIS IS THE COLDEST WATER EVER. It *might* have been 60 degrees. Emphasis on the word might. This is probably the only time I ever would have wished for my blueseventy Helix to have had thicker arm panels.

We got down onto the beach for the swim start. One sign of a very unique race location: you could see a black bear climbing up the slopes of one of Cannon's ski trails.

All of a sudden, the countdown was on.

One minute to go.

10 seconds to go.


Swim: 33:34
Out of the gate, we got up and got going. There was a good sized lead group of 4-5 guys. I tried to get on their feet and put on the chase.

All of a sudden I looked up and there was a 50-meter gap between us in the chase pack and the lead group. And not only that, but we were WAY the hell off course. The whole pack had gone to the left. I immediately put in a hard cut right to get back on line for the turn buoy.

This was a two-loop swim. I got out of the water for the first loop in 15:34. Pretty solid start to the day. We ran across the beach, and got back in...

...and I got disoriented really quickly. It's the first time I've ever done a two-loop swim, and it's evident that quickly going from horizontal to upright to horizontal in 20 seconds isn't exactly an ideal way to put some work in.

I got to the halfway point of the second lap and had my first coughing fit of the day. The internal dialogue went something like this:

This sucks.
Shut up.
If it gets much worse, you probably shouldn't keep going.
Yeah, I know. We'll keep an eye on it.
You sure?
No. But well, are we going to quit right now?
Absof***inglutely not.

By the next sight buoy I had perfected the art of blowing my nose and coughing into the water without slowing down at all swimming.

I got to the last sight buoy and decided to put in a push. I knew I needed to keep myself on the gas overall. I got up and saw 32:xx. Knew it was slower than Quassy, but that it wasn't a terrible swim, either.

T1: 5:06.50
Unlike last weekend, this was not a case of me having a picnic lunch.

Instead, this was a run up from the water. Get the wetsuit, goggles, and swim caps off. Stuff them into a transition bag. Put on your old running shoes (in this case, my old Pearl Izumi IsoTransitions). And run the four-tenths of a mile up to transition. Take those shoes off. Put the helmet on. Sunglasses on. Grab your extra flask of nutrition. And roll to the mount line.

Bike: 2:52:49
The bike course immediately started with a 10% grade downhill, screaming towards Franconia. The road conditions were in pretty rough shape, so the race directors had given us instructions to take it easy till we got about two miles into the course.

To put in perspective, I listened, and still was at about 35 MPH+ for the first two miles of the course. Not bad.

Started spinning my legs out and had a very lonely feeling. There wasn't anybody anywhere near me. I had no idea where I stood; I had no idea if I was going the right way. Somebody in a Boston Tri Team kit came up soon, so luckily I knew I was headed the right way. OK, head down, do work, and just keep going till you can't go anymore.

I was testing out a new nutrition plan, and felt pretty darn good. More carbohydrates and more electrolytes per hour. Many thanks to Christine Lynch for putting it together.

I got to the halfway mark of the bike and did a systems check. Still felt good. Didn't feel like I was pushing too hard, watts were below what I wanted to average by a good bit.

I knew the course had a fairly decent amount of climbing. What I didn't realize is that the last 18 miles of the bike course were flat out insane.

I knew it was going to be a long second half of the day when I got to the first climb (King of the Mountains stage) and I had nothing in the tank.

Uh oh.
You didn't overcook it.
Yeah, so why do your legs feel like they're lead?
Couldn't possible be because you're sick?
True. So, what's the plan?
Keep on the throttle with everything you've got it and go till you've got nothing left to give.
Roger that.

Kept on trucking along. I knew I was still in OK shape because, even though the legs felt dead, they never cramped on me. So I wasn't in an overbiked situation; instead, I just had to work with what I had.

At about mile 54, the course headed onto a bike path to get over the Interstate. I couldn't push the pedals over quick enough. Had snot/foam coming out of my nose. Couldn't get above 15 MPH.

So, killer, you going to bag it now?
Can I at least try and run first?
Don't you remem...
SHUT IT. We're running.

Mercifully, we rounded the bend and transition was in sight. Get me off of this thing.

T2: 1:42
I rolled into transition, got my stuff set back where it was supposed to, and got my socks and shoes on. Went to tighten the lace on my right shoe...and the speed lace lock came apart in my hands.

I couldn't help but laugh. I luckily had enough lace left over to be able to tie it. And away we went.

Run: 1:56:12
I tore off down the hill to start my first run loop. This was a modified two-loop run course; you went down, turned around, came just about all the way back. Turn-around and head all the way back out. Then on the loop in, you took a different route around the lake to head to the finish.

I clipped through the first couple of miles. Had to hit the port-o-john, which also gave me the opportunity to blow my nose and finally breathe out of the darn thing for the first time all day. 

Got out and started climbing the first hill of the day...and started coughing. Hard. Stopped me in my tracks.

You must be kidding me. 
It is what it is.
So, what's your plan?
Run as hard to the border of coughing all day as I can. And hope I don't cross it.

Luckily, the remainder of the run to the turnaround felt good. It seemed like, outside of those couple of climbs, it was pretty flat to gently rolling. I made the turnaround...

...and realized that all of that "flat" was actually downhill that I'd now be running.

Epic failure of gradient judgment.

Made it through the first run lap in 51 minutes. Felt strong. Felt like I was on pace to be able to mirror it and have my best run split ever.

And then the coughs came again.

And again.

And again.

I was doubled over, just unleashing every ounce of lung capacity to expel whatever it was in my chest. I was pissed off. I ran pretty pissed off; my pace whenever I wasn't busy hacking away was somewhere between 6:55 and 7:20.

I got to the last mile. I knew I hadn't had my best time on course; far from it. But this was my best effort. I had wrung everything out of myself that I'd had on that day.

No nutrition failure. No mental mistakes. I had done everything I could.

And for that, I felt like I'd won.

I came up the hill to the cross the line and pointed to the sky. This race was right in Hannah's backyard, so naturally I thought of Peter.

And then it was over.

I got over the line and gave Hannah a hug. Saw some friends from Maine and celebrated their days. And made my way over to the results table. Hey, might as well see how I did.

Well I'll be damned.
21st Overall, 4th in M25-29, bumped to 3rd as our AG winner was the Overall Champion.

Podium time!

As always, thanks to all of my family, friends, and sponsors for being along for this journey. Couldn't do it without you.

So what's next? Not sure yet. For now, just going to reflect and enjoy.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Another great "comeback" after Quassy! Congrats on the AG hardware.....