Monday, August 20, 2012

TImberman 70.3 - Overcoming obstacles

Every once in awhile, for reasons you can't control, you find yourself in a situation in less than ideal conditions. Whether the situation is a crucial business meeting, a huge presentation, a daily chore, or a race, sometimes things come up that pose a significant risk to your well planned intentions for that event. Maybe you can't find a crucial document in time, have deleted part of your powerpoint presentation, bought the wrong mutual fund for the wrong client, gotten a flat tire or the stomach flu. We've all been there. What do you do in these circumstances? Of course your first reaction is to panic, then you try to get yourself out of the situation (postpone it?), then your brain kicks in (hopefully) and you find a way to deal with the problem and carry on so to make the best out of the bad situation. Of course, the outcome may not be what you wanted or hoped for, but no matter what, you learn something and are better prepared for the next time you are faced with such circumstances. I was faced with an "unfortunate circumstance" during my race this Sunday.

On Friday we drove down to New Hampshire. I wasn't feeling too great, but I thought that was just the effects of the long drive. It was 10 hours to get there, plus more driving once we got there: running errands, picking up the race kit, driving the wrong bike course (there are two Laconia Roads!). It was almost 12 hrs after starting our journey that we had finally settled into the very nice hotel (Hampton Inn and Suites, Tilton, NH - they had free coffee and cookies all day long!). I must thank my title sponsor, Turner-Tomenson and Asssociates, for helping to offset the cost of such comfy accommodations. After unpacking, I went for a run on the treadmill (it was thunder and lightning outside) and then lounged a bit in the hot tub. I had a small dinner (still wasn't feeling great) and then we were asleep by 8pm!

I woke up Saturday feeling refreshed after an 11 hour sleep! Yes, that was exactly what I thought I needed. However, after only being awake for 5 minutes I realized that I did not feel better, much worse actually. I will spare you the details, but basically I felt the effects of some type of stomach illness. Later in the morning, I was able to get on my bike to ride the last 25km of the bike course (thanks Enduro Sport, my bike was perfectly tuned up!) and did a short run and then a swim (I actually felt OK, but it was just zone 2 stuff). Then more "stomach issues" hit during the pre-race Pro meeting :( After that I did start to feel better, maybe I still had a bit of a weak stomach, but I didn't know if that was nerves or not. I ate regularly and tried to eat a lot for the rest of the day. Although my stomach felt completely fine by the evening I felt an odd sort of feeling, that I really did not want to do this race. That is usually not the case. I am usually eager to race and tackle an event. Nonetheless, I had a good sleep - except had a dream that my bike seat was not tightened properly and kept falling down on me! haha.

Race morning started at 4:45am (a bit of a sleep in compared to Rhode Island!) and I woke up feeling really hungry. I literally scarfed down my usual pre-race breakfast of bagel with peanut butter and banana, coffee in record time. Unfortunately, my breakfast made it's way back up later that morning :( Usually the morning of a race I feel slightly full, and I find comfort in that. I know I will have plenty of fuel for the swim and bike and will feel good by the run. I definitely didn't feel that way today. I felt empty.

I did manage to get in a good swim warm-up and take in an energy gel, and to my surprise, at the start of the race I felt super ready to go. The pace seemed to start off slow compared to other races and I was actually in the lead off the start, before Cait Snow and Heather Wurtele pulled ahead. The three of us swam together for a bit, and then we dropped Heather at some point and I stayed right behind Cait for the next 1500m of the race. This was great! Even better, was that I had no hip flexor issues like in my previous 3 races this year. I must thank my Chiropractor, Bill Wells, at Urban Athlete for that (he treated me for this issue a few days before the race. Unfortunately, with about 300-500m to go I just felt all of my energy go. It was a struggle to pull myself through the water and my legs felt super heavy - especially my quads. By the time I exited the water (I still managed to come out of the water seconds behind Cait and in 2nd) all I wanted was to sit down for a steak dinner. Not a good sign for the rest of the race (not to mention the fact that is was only 7:30am)!

I had a super quick transition (the 2012 full-sleeve blue seventy helix is a breeze to take off!) and was off on my bike, still in second place. I knew on the first climb that I did not have the amount of energy in me that I would have liked. My quads were still burning from the swim and it was taking all my strength just to pedal, let alone pedal with any sort of power. I was overtaken by 1,2,3,4...7 girls in the first 5 miles and another at mile 10. I was in an "unfortunate situation" that I really didn't have any control over - under-fueled, heavy legs, low self-confidence. My first thoughts were to just pull over and pull out of the race, but then I thought back to the pre-race article I had read about Timberman. In that article, Joe Gambles (who actually won the men's race) had mentioned something about the best sort of training coming from racing, because it pushes you to a level that you can't get to on your own. This is actually what kept me going. It didn't matter anymore whether I was going to have a good race or not - I didn't want to lose out on a potential training session. So I sucked it up, fought through the pain, biked to the best of my ability on the day and not one person passed me from mile 10 to mile 56.

I had no idea what to expect from the run part of the race. I knew the course was hilly and if my legs were burning during the bike, there was no saying how they would do on the hills on the run. The first 2 miles of the run I think I did way too easy - my heart rate was in Zone 2 territory (and it was uphill). I didn't feel too bad so I pushed a little harder after that. I don't really remember much of my thoughts during the run. I know that I was hungry, but not for gels - for steak! I remember the volunteers being incredibly friendly, I remember Ming cheering me on from his bike, I remember being inspired by seeing Cait Snow's incredibly fast run pace and I remember moving into 7th. All the rest is a blur.

I finished the run in 1:28:55 (the 5th fastest female run split) and completed the race in a personal best time for the year - 2:38:56. I was happy. It wasn't the podium finish that I would have liked, but I had pushed through an "unfortunate situation" and I think I came out a stronger triathlete. I did the best I could, which is sometimes all you can do in such a situation. If you misplace an important document before a crucial meeting or delete part of a presentation, maybe have co-workers help find the missing document while you continue the meeting, improv the missing part of the presentation, etc. It may not be the ideal way to do it, but it gets the job done and you learn from it.

I am not sure whether my poor bike split was due to low energy (it certainly didn't effect my run too bad) or too many hours in the car on the Friday, but I hope to get to the bottom of it and be at top form for my next race in Muskoka on September 9th!

Thanks again to all my family, friends and sponsors for your words of encouragement. You guys are what keep me going in the best of it and in the worst of it!

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