Monday, June 10, 2013

Italy 70.3: Race Report

I am checking in from Italy, about 24 hours after my first European race, Ironman 70. 3 Italy. We are currently driving from Pescara to Tuscany. I will be in Munich Wednesday and Thursday, but return to Tuscany for a little mini-training camp starting on Friday! Before I get into the details of the race, I would just like to thank everyone who followed me on race day and I am sorry that I could not walk away with a better result. I am deeply disappointed and will let that fuel my training and future racing.

Checking in the bike

Enjoying the day before the race

Race day started out as usual. However, the race did not start till 12pm though, so the pre-race routine was a little bit different. I had my usual breakfast, only twice, and the morning was much more relaxing than normal and included a lot of waiting around. At 12pm it was VERY hot and equally humid. Much much more so than I had experienced in Florida 3 weeks prior. This was not expected as the weather had been forecast to be high teens to low 20s. By the time the race started it was a scorching 30 degrees, but with the humidity it felt much much warmer.

Race morning

Warm-up: I warmed up as usual, with some activation exercises, some swim tubing and some PowerBreath to warm up the lungs. I got in about a 10 minute swim warm up and I was feeling good. We were called to line up on the beach about 20 minutes prior to the race start. They didn't let us get in the water again until 10' to start. I was just stifling standing on the beach in my wetsuit for 10 minutes. We finally got into the water and the cool water was a welcome relief. We swam out the race start, which was just past the breakers and about 400m away from the beach. The first thing I noticed while we waited for the gun to go off was the HUGE rolling waves. Was this good, because I'm a strong swimmer or was is bad? I didn't have too much time to think about before the race started.

The Swim: The male and female Pros started all together in this race and as soon as the gun went off, I was immersed in the usual washing machine that consists of various limbs, kicking and punching to make the lead pack. I don't panic when this happens anymore, I just put my head down and go as hard as I can. However, what was incredibly frustrating was that every time I almost got close to a pair of feet a huge wave came and pushed me back. This happened several times in the first 5 minutes and eventually I couldn't waste anymore energy trying to surge for the feet ahead and I settled into a more manageable pace. No one was around me as I battled the huge waves that crashed into me one after another. I had no idea was position I was in, no idea if I was swimming well (it was survival swimming), I even questioned whether I was heading in the right direction! It felt like forever before I was finally inside the breakers again and into calmer waters. I followed the buoys into the shore...but as I approached the beach there were tons of people in the water, blocking the swim exit! I thought I had gone off course and started swimming back the way I came, before a volunteer helped direct me towards the beach. I did dolphin dives until it was too shallow and then ran through the water to the exit. Wow! That takes a lot out of your legs. Eventually I made it onto the beach and ran towards my bike. I had never seen so many people at a race. There must have been thousands of people cheering me on. I didn't know what place I was in, but I though I heard a lot of "tres" somewhere in the mix of cheers. I had a huge smile on my face. My transition couldn't have gone better and eventually I was out on the bike.

The Bike: I started off on the bike and I felt a little big sluggish. The combination of the hard effort I had to put in to survive the swim, the heat and the effect of the water running and long run through transition were taking their toll. My heart rate was soaring close to 190...somewhere it very rarely gets to on the bike. Usually my heart rate is pretty high (never that high!) coming out of transition and then it quickly drops within the first 15km. This was not happening today...I took in a gel, downed about 500mL of fluid...and finally I started to feel a bit better at around 15km. I think the eventually 2nd place finisher caught me at that point as we were climbing a steep grade. She was much stronger so I let her go. Soon after another girl caught me, but we were closer in speed and we rode together for the next 15km. She was stronger on the uphills, but I was stronger on the downhills and the flats. I was handling the switchbacks very well for me: keeping my weight back in the saddle and on the pedals, not breaking during the turns. This was the most enjoyable part of the race. It was still hot going uphill, but the downhills were cooler and allowed for much needed recovery. At the first aid station, about 30km into the race, I was in 4th place. I knew that I needed to cool my body temperature. I grabbed a bottle and poured some on myself and then went to fill my aero bottle. This is when everything came crashing down, literally. I have no idea how it happened, maybe I hit a pothole or maybe I just lots balance...but one minute I was filling my aero bottle and the next I was sliding along the surface of the pavement with my bike on top of me. It's weird what your muscles can do to protect your bones. I felt my hamstrings, glutes and calves all seize they were cramping...probably as some sort of protection mechanism. I stood up and felt pain, but I could still walk. I checked the bike...two fully inflated tires and the handlebars were pointed straight forward. I could shift and brake and there didn't appear to be any damage to the bike, other than a few scrapes, . I guess my muscles protected the bike in addition to my bones :) I was a bit wobbly for a few minutes after getting back on the bike...I stopped and started a few times...and watched as the 5th and 6th place female passed me. I probably lost only a couple of minutes before I was back in race mode. Carefully descending the next set of switchbacks. Could I make it another 60km? I honestly remember very little of the remainder of the bike. I remember trying to grab fluid at the next water stations and pouring on myself and my wounds. I remember seeing another bike on the side of the road, with a girl being helped by ironman support. I remember the roads were full of puddles in the last 30km - I think it did rain at one point. I remember realizing with 20km to go that I had no fluid left in my bottles. It must have fallen out when I fell. It is all a complete blur. I have no idea how I road my bike in that state. When I got to transition I felt like giving up, but seeing all the spectators and my family cheering I thought I should at least attempt the run.

The run: I hobbled through transition and out onto the run course. My hip was tender and I was very thirsty. I was really hoping for an aid station coming out of transition as I had not had any fluid for about 40 minutes. I had no such luck. It wasn't until 2km into the run that I could get some water. I was done at this hip was aching and my heart rate was soaring. I managed another 3km and to somehow run my way into 5th before I saw my family and collapsed in Rikki's arms. I just could not go on.

Overall, I am very happy with my swim and even my bike split. Both showed my improved fitness from last year. The fact that I could still have a strong bike (6th!) and was in my state is very exciting. I am also happy that I have experienced crashing and a DNF. Both were a learning experience. I know I need to practice bottle exchanges now :) More importantly, if I were to crash in a future race I know what I would do differently. Mainly, I would check that I had enough nutrition! A DNF comes with a very horrible feeling. The feeling of letting yourself down, of letting all your supporters down, the fear that you aren't good enough or strong enough. That is a feeling I want to avoid at all costs in the future and I think that will make me a better, smarter and stronger racer.

Stay tuned on twitter and here for reports on my mini-vacation to Munich and my Tuscany training camp. Thank you for reading and endless thank you to my coach, my family, my RMT (Diego) and my sponsors: Turner-Tomenson Wealth Management, Raymond James Financial, WattsUp, eLoad sports nutrition (so sad my eLoad spilled all over the road, yesterday), Urban Athlete, OUTWET High Technology, Enduro Sport (the P3 is indestructible and fast!).

My indestructable Cervelo P3 still looks good

Post race scars: Swollen hip and scraped thigh

Post race scars: elbow

Post-race day breakfast...mmm

Twirling on the beach in Pescara, forgetting my worries

Last glance at the beach. Looking forward to smarter races.

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