Friday, June 11, 2010

NEVER GIVE UP

“To forget one's purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.” Nietzsche always had a way of getting right to the point.

On race day I  forgot my purpose for, oh, about 30 seconds. But that was all it took.

I know this is a little late but I've been chillin' and trying not to think about the race too much this week. But here's my experience at the Rohto Ironman 70.3 Hawaii (Honu).

Frustration and stupidity! That describes how I feel about my race. Stupidity because I blew the swim and frustration because I let that dictate the rest of my day. On the good side, I gained a lot of experience in learning how to deal with emotions during a race.

This was the first race I haven't gotten a personal best overall time on since I started triathlons. I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later, though. It's also the first race I got emotional over at the finish. What's up with that?

THE TAPER
I actually tapered perfectly for this race. I felt strong and fresh on race day. I built up my training to a peak workout three weeks out from race day then backed off slightly the following week. I cut down the distance but kept up the intensity. Two weeks out I cut more distance but kept the workouts intense with some speed work and a little endurance. Race week I cut the distance even more with only one 40-mile ride and an hour and a half run early in the week then a day off, followed by short rides and runs on the trainer and tready with some interval work to complete the week. I made sure I kept hydrated all week and carbo loaded as well (my favorite part of tapering). I let coach Steve take care of the swim taper, which worked out perfectly. I think I swam 1,500 yards the day before the race with the last couple of 75s at race pace. All-in-all my body recovered nicely while avoiding shutting down all systems, which has been an issue in the past.

THE SWIM
I felt good entering the water and on the warm up. I was up front on the start line and to the left of center where I always like to start. That way I can grab some fast feet and tag along for as long as I can and get clear of the main pack that always seems to slow down about 200 yards out. This is where my stupidity begins: (Please, no lectures. I learned my lesson.) I was all set to push the start button on my Garmin watch when the cannon went off. My whole race was figured out in my head and I was depending on my watch to provide me with all kinds of info throughout the day besides just the time. Heart rate, pace, when to take salt, gels, etc. All I can say is technology sucks.


(A great video of the first turn of the race. Notice how many swimmers actually cut the corner and how violent it is on the turns)

Of all the times for my watch to fail, it failed on this race. The cannon fired, I pushed the button and ... nothing. I know, I know. I should have just forgot the watch and took off and everything would have been fine. Well, as I said, stupidity. Instead of swimming, as swimmers blasted around me, I spent a good 30 seconds (a lifetime in a swim start) trying to get my watch going. I finally gave up and took off. But it was too late. After about 4 or 5 strokes I hit a wall of flailing arms and legs and floating torsos. A literal sea of humanity. I had to crawl over people to go anywhere. People were trying to swim, as was I, but I couldn't even get my arms into the water. Someone was crawling up my back and threatening to push me under and panic was setting in. Panic that I would drown and panic that I was getting so far behind that I would never get through the swim.

My only choice was to crawl over the people in front of me. I honestly don't remember swimming more than about 50 yards the whole first leg of the swim, which was about 400 yards or so long. I mostly just treaded water as the pack inched along or crawled trying not to drown.

By the first turn I was minutes behind where I should have been. Just after the first turn the crowd started breaking up and I finally could swim. On the back stretch I opened up and swam as hard as I could for as long as I could. This was the first swim race I've done that my swim muscles were sore the next day, that's how hard I swam trying to make up time. When I came out of the water and saw my time, 37 minutes, 48 seconds, I was bummed, beyond bummed, and that's where the frustration came in.

(How frustrated was I with my swim? I think my look says it all.)

Climbing out of the water a good 5 minutes slower than I planned I lost all concentration and began dwelling on my mistakes in the swim. I made my way to my bike but still couldn't concentrate on getting past the swim. Even Karen and the boys said later I looked lost or confused in T1.

THE BIKE
On the bike and on Queen K. I found myself still fiddling with my watch trying to get it started. I nearly ran some poor guy off the road at one point. After that I accepted my fate of no watch, no pacing aid and just went on perceived effort. So with the whole swim and watch fiasco behind me I focused on the bike. I tucked down into the aerobars and took off. I pounded the pedals and pushed my pace harder than normal for the first 13 miles or so. I felt strong and was glad my taper worked.

Nothing exciting happened on the bike this year. No crashes, no pushing or shoving. Just riding. I had missed the pack I should have come out of the water with. The wind slowed me down some here and there. It was a head wind on Queen K that turned into a gusty cross wind but I stayed in the earo position and overcame my fear of being blown off the bike.



On the way down from Hawi, my quads started cramping just as they did during Ironman. I tried squeezing my leg with my hand and that helped stave it off some. I finally tried standing up and pedaling and that seemed to work to get rid of it.

It happened again just before getting back to the resort at the end of the bike course and standing up pedaling solved the problem. My time on the bike was slower than last year but I felt stronger and I felt like I was riding harder so I'm just going to blame the slower time on the wind. Bike time: 2:52:21 last years time was 2:45 but no wind.

THE RUN
This is where I really needed my watch. I had trained by using the watch to track my pace and heart rate. AS I ran out of T2 I yelled over to Karen that my watch wasn't working. She knew how dependent I was on using my watch for pacing and I needed a sympathetic ear, even if it was only for a second.

Since I was passed on the bike by one of my main competitors for the Ironman slot from the Big Island I figured I either lost my chance for Ironman or I had to HTFU and run as hard as I could for as long as I could, basically my theme for the day. Shortly after starting the run, I saw one of my Ironman slot opponents just in front of me and passed him in the first mile. Now all I had to worry about was the other 7 or so Big Island competitors in my age group vying for the coveted Ironman slot.

I only knew who one other guy in my age group was so I kept an eye out for him. Just as I entered the long "road to hell" section I saw him exiting. He was at least 3 miles in front of me and I had less than 5 miles to go. I knew then that if my age group were to get only one Ironman slot I wouldn't be the one to get it. A mix of despair, frustration, disappointment and anger swirled inside me. At times I felt like giving up and other times I felt like giving it my all.

(Someone once said, "disappointment is the nurse of wisdom," and I'm definitely a lot wiser after this experience) 

As I approached the finish line I remember wondering why, at that moment, I wasn't more upset that I probably didn't make Ironman. I just felt sort of numb about it. When I crossed the finish line, as you can tell from the photo, I wasn't happy about my race. Karen asked me if I was all right and all at once all the emotions from the day flooded out of me. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't talk. I was just glad I had sunglasses on ...

In the end, my run time was faster than last year but slower than my race goal. But again, I felt strong for most of the run and I was happy with that. Run time: 2:06:34, last years time was 2:13:45. I finished 14th out of 68 in my age group. Not great but I moved up a few spots from last year. 

Oh, by the way, I did qualify for the big show in October. We just happened to get two Ironman slots in our age group and I finished second. I guess the saying, "never give up" is my new motto.

“The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.” - Robert Kiyosaki


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