Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Philly – Part 2 of 4 (The Race)

The time was just after 4:30 in the morning. The team is assembled in the hotel lobby surrounded by the congestion of a dozen other teams making their way down the elevators with bikes and backpacks of gear. Everyone is wearing their biking shoes with the exception of me who favored my flip flops to ride on top of my speedplay pedals (basically a pedal the size and shape of a tootsie pop) to the sure grin of my coach. With my team ready we set out to bike the 3 miles to the race. There is only a hint of light as we bike in the silence of the morning. We move freely along Ben Franklin Parkway passing the statues, parks, and fountains. We only encountered one car as the groups of riders cruise the open road finally arriving near the National Art Museum (Rocky steps) before heading down the river road. This led us to a site that I have replayed in my mind over and over. Along the river are the boat houses all lit up glistening along the river as we continue our silent approach to the race site. This stealth like procession was such an amazing way to start a day that I hope to return to Philly just with the purpose of rising early to relive this epic ride and start to an amazing day.

We finally left the boat houses and arrived at the race site. We all dismounted and proceeded to get our bodies marked before heading into the transition area. I take plenty of time setting up my transition area. Chatting with a few other racers and asking about the water conditions. The first report is that the water is 80 °F so no wetsuits. I’m a little bummed about this, but brush it off. A few minutes later we get the announcement that the swim has been canceled. I glance around to see the disappointed looks on people faces as they hear the news. My thoughts go to my team and the let down they must be feeling at this very moment. I walk over to where all the girls have their transition areas and see the sad looks on their faces. Some take a few minutes to themselves, but all returned with a more focused looks and start preparing for the duathlon that is about to take place. I talk with Eric the other mentor about strategies for the start of the race. We all gather together for a few pictures before its time to get back to business. More time passes as I listen to my pre-race mix and start my warm-up.

After what seems like an eternity I find myself in the starting chute. I make my way towards the front as I had discussed with Eric. With the change to the format the timing mats weren’t available so it was best to be at the front and not take a couple second hit. The race announcer finally gets us ready for the start and we are off in a very fast sprint out of the gates. The idea was to get out in the first group to avoid the crowd and then settle back into my own pace and let the faster racers pull ahead or pass me by. My idea was to race the first 5K pretty fast with the hopes of letting those muscles recover somewhat on the bike. I felt really good during most of the first 5K. I grabbed a couple sips of water at the stop on the fly and pushed on. Towards the end my stomach started mush a bit. This told me that I was pushing things and running fast which was actually a good thing. I buckled down for the last stretch and looked down at my watch as I passed close to T1 19:40. A moment of glee passes through my head as I know I’m running well, but only a moment as I prep for T1. T1 goes by without much of a hitch. I did turn in one row too soon so I ran underneath the poles to get to my area. I drop my shoes and race belt while snapping on my helmet. I grab my bike off the rack and make my way to the bike exit. I hear Eric’s booming cheering voice as I make my way out. Cheering me on for such a great run and encouraging the same on the bike.

I run with my bike to the bike exit of transition and hit the road. I push off and jump on my bike as soon as I’m off the grass. I find my shoes and place my feet on top of my shoes as I start to pedal. Once I’m moving I actually put my feet inside my shoes and strap them in for the next 40K. The course has been described as a very fair course. It is full of both flats and hills to balance the ride out. Within the first couple miles I was going to experience how “fair” the course really was. The first hill caught me by surprise as we hadn’t ridden the course before. It ended up being on the two longer hills. The problem was that I was caught in my big ring. So I ground on the pedals to continue my forward progress for what seemed like forever. Wow that was hard was the thought that rolled through my head after I was up. After the hill I regained my composure and found my cadence. I kept the pace on the high end and taking advantages of the downhill portions only to have to go up another. The slow grinders hurt more then the short technical climbs. Just before the half way point I felt something that started to alarm me. My calves were starting to spasm. What is going on? Soon the spasms turned to cramps. You’ve got to be kidding me. It seems like the fast 5K and the hills were starting to have their affect. I pushed on slowing a bit, but that really didn’t do much good. They never locked completely up, but they were close. I tried to stretch them on the downhill portions, but they were not budging. Then around mile 17 I come across another problem. I’m almost out of fluids. WHAT! I have never run out of fluids in a race before and I’m shocked that this has happened. I slow my consumption, but soon I’m bone dry. I only had a couple more miles to go, but with my legs I wanted to get as much fluid in them as possible. Finally I approach T2 and I’m not sure how things are going to go. I try to focus on each task as I approach. I slip out of my shoes and slow and finally dismount. My legs respond, somewhat, as I run/jog with my bike back to my area. I quickly drop my helmet, slip on my running shoes, grab my race belt and I’m off again.

The start off the final 10K as best I can. My legs feel like crap as I start the figure eight run course. Within a mile my legs are in full rebellion. This time it is not my calves, but in my quads and hamstrings. I push on telling myself “come on legs, you know what to do.” Towards the end of the first mile I hear Eric again and it flushes out the pain for a bit. I make it to the first turnaround and have no idea if I’m actually going to be able to pull this off. Again I pass Eric who continues to urge me on. The first half of the figure eight is the short part and I make my way pass the finish line and out for the 2nd half. The entire time the cramps would move from one quad or hamstring to the other. I did my best to focus on my form and find something to think about besides my ailing body. Positive in positive out was my mindset as I took one painful step after the other. I make it to the 2nd turnaround and want to die. Every step I figured was going to be my last. I was convinced that my muscles would just lock up and I would fall over. Nothing like gummy legs where you just sort of collapse. We are talking full stride seizure. At one point I even found myself saying my key words out loud. This has never happened before and it was kind of funny looking back at things. Finally I start to hear the cheer of the crowd as I start to approach the finish. This spurred every ounce of energy that I could must as I started to pick up my pace for the final push. With every step came a grunt and a very painful expression on my face as I made my way down finish chute. The cheers and yells all flooded over me as I pushed with one last stride over the finish line. I hit the timing mat breathing very hard and one of the medics quickly grabs my arms and said lets walk together. My breathing slows and he lets me go. Somehow, someway I finished the hardest 10K I have every run. I’ve never felt pain like I did during this race which made finishing all that more enjoyable.

I collect myself a bit as I grab fluids and a bit of food and search for my coach and teammates. Only one has finished ahead of me and we spend the remaining time recovering and cheering on everyone until we are all across the finish line.

Final Race Stats
5K Run - 20:48 pace 6:43 min/mil
T1 – 1:44
40K Bike - 1:17:17 pace 19.4 mph
T2 – 1:39
10K Run - 49:34 pace 7:59 min/mil
Finish - 2:31:00

Overall – 340/1344
Age Group – 33/83
Males – 302/960

To be continued…


Blogger Jill said...

Awesome job!! You did great!! I am sorry about the swim, but getting a 5K PR helps a little.

1:30 PM  
Blogger SafetyBob007 said...

Nice Race, GREAT JOB. Man I know that had to hurt. Again great job. See you tonight.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Audrey said...

Hey...way to push it in the face of pain. Truly awesome.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

love that you were wearing your flip flops at 430am as you biked to the tri area. bummer about the swim, but you certainly pushed your way to the max with the rest of the race. great job!

5:16 AM  
Blogger SafetyBob007 said...

Oh Man holding my breat for part 3 :-)

8:10 AM  
Blogger Nic said...

So... I'm a little behind on my blogs, what with spending all of my time in an airplane lately. BUT - CONGRATULATIONS! I don't know much about triathlons (duathlons?), but I think I am right to be impressed with your stats!!! Great job!

2:54 PM  

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