||Friday, May 23, 2008
||Triathlon - Other
||Female 30 - 34
|Age Group Place:
||14 / 14
||Back from defeat!
My race reports are narratives on life through the eyes of a triathlete. They are long. You may want to pack a lunch for this one. : )
Race Report American Triple T 2008
Shawnee State Park Portsmouth, OH
Race 1 Friday May 23, 2008 5pm
Swim 250m 8:07
Bike 5 mile 16:39
Run 1 mile 10:07
Race 2 Saturday May 24, 2008 7:30am
Swim 1500m 32:57
Bike 25 miles 1:51:31
Run 10k 1:22:56
Race 3 Saturday May 24, 2008 3pm
Bike 25 miles 1:55:30
Swim 1500 39:42
Run 10k 1:34:34
Race 4 Sunday May 25, 2008 7am
Swim 1.2 miles 50:28
Bike 56 miles 4:51:34
Run 13.1 miles 3:19:19
Triple T is a special race for me. It is where triathlon began for me. 2007's event was my first race, and though I DNFd, I was hooked on the sport. That is why I returned to complete the course this year.
Triple T is an ironman distance event split into four races in three days. The course is set in the scenic albiet, very long, steep hills, of southeastern Ohio. This was a test of my physical and mental endurance for Ironman USA that looms in the not too distant future.
The weekend began for me with a trip to Reston to pick up RATS' bikes in the RV. With everything secure in the bus, I headed west on 66.
The first gas stop was in Tom's Brook. I learned a lot about RVs on this trip. Lesson 1, the pay at the pump only authorizes $75 at a time. Lesson 2, $75 doesn't go very far in the RV. After a few rounds with the gas pump, I was back on the road. The bus is surprisingly easy to handle! I sat back in my cushy seat behind that expanse of glass called a windshield, cranked some Dar Williams on the iPod, and rolled south on 81.
There were a few times I wished I had a travel companion. This mostly came up when I was thirsty. I guess what I really wanted wasn't a companion so much as a drink bitch, or auto-pilot, so I could run to the fridge! : ) I got sleepy and hungry, so I stopped at a rest area along westbound 64. I made a salad in my mobile kitchen, ate and flopped on my bed for a quick nap.
Refreshed, I hit the road again, only stopping once more in Beckley, WV. Why? Because, I LOVE BECKLEY!!! It's the world's best whitewater. I also needed to get some things at the grocery store, and I needed another nap. Naps happen when you have a bed in the back of your vehicle... the vehicle that you were up till after midnight packing!
With some navagational help from Les via cell phone, I rolled into Shawnee State Park. I decided to set up camp in the far reaches of the lodge lot at the top of the notorious hill that would be part of race 1's bike course, and many athlete's daily commute to transition. After a walk down to the race site and back, I had a smoothie, played some tunes, read Inside Triathlon, and retired to bed.
My alarm clock consisted of raindrops pounding the roof of the RV. I began to wonder if this was going to be Kinteic Sprint round 2?? At least the TTT transition area is paved! The rain stopped and the pavement dried. I was nervous, but I knew I needed to lounge around as much as possible, so I picked up a magazine and read.
In the middle of that, a van full of RATS pulled up! YAY! It was good to see friendly faces. They invited me up to cabin 2 later. I hadn't seen or heard anything from my RAT roommates, so when the time came, I headed down the hill, making my trip a walking meditation.
I checked in and got my race packet and mandatory singlet. Race packet was thin this year... just ads. No Inside Triathlon issue, no HFP Racing water bottle... My bib was pretty though.... It was all printed with my name, number 322, and had the TTT logo on it. Yes, I do scrapbooks, so I am concerned with these things. OK, more accurately, I plan to do scrap books, and collect the things that will eventually go in them, if I ever get time between workouts to do them!
Every year, TTT provides racers with a singlet that you must wear in each of the events. There are a few issues with this. The first is that not everyone finds the same thing comfortable, especially in an event of this distance. The second is that the damn thing stinks by the time you finish Sunday... even if you wash it in between races, but really, who has time for that when there are naps to be taken and coaches that are chasing you around trying to force feed you gels? Lastly, this year's singlet had no pockets. I love it as a running shirt, but what the heck was I supposed to do with my stuff that lives in my bike jersey pockets??
I got a ride up the hill from the park ranger. I was worried about getting scolded for parking where I did, so I had him drop me at the lodge. I hid until he was out of site, then went back to the RV. It's best to avoid park employees when you are using the better to ask forgiveness than permission method with respect to your chosen campsite. Don't want to have to ask forgiveness too soon! Most importantly, I didn't want us to be homeless for the weekend.
Once I was safely back at home, I busied myself gathering my gear. I checked it and rechecked it. I lubed my chain. I inflated my tires. I took pictures of the bus, myself, the gear... I was trying to overcome the butterflies. I decided that the best thing to do was go up to the cabins and visit the RATS.
The comapny certainly took the edge off my nerves, as did the gas station coffee Shawn and I went to get. Ok really, that stuff just gave me a buzz and made me eager to get on with the race!
About 3, I returned to the RV to find my roomies unloading their gear. We got things roughly in order in the short time we had, and prepped for race 1 of 4.
I stuffed my transition gear into my backpack, put on my race clothes, and rode Contessa down the hill to the race site. I was early. I found my rack, set up my gear, and set off for the WheelieFun tent to see Bob and meet my coach, Ryan. Bob greeted me with compliments on my improved appearance. It's so great not to be sick and on steriods this year!! I told him, this is what happens when you get off steriods, and start training for Ironman! I was enjoying looking like a legitimate triathlete instead of some kind of newby poser like last year. lol
I found Ryan, and we talked race strategy. He warned me to take it easy in the early races, so I'd have enough left in the tank to finish the half on Sunday. He also drilled me about food. This was a major theme in our conversations over the weekend. He'd ask about food, I'd avoid telling him how little I ate. He'd chase me around with GU telling me to EAT!!! Of course he was right. Somehow napping was just more urgent much of the weekend. I think what I really needed was a feeding tube, so I could sleep and eat at the same time.
About 20 minutes to race time, I got into my wetsuit. I was struggling with the zipper when Ryan offered his assistance, along with the most blissful wetsuit adjustment ever. When someone picks up up by your wetsuit in the front and then the back, you are guaranteed not to feel shoulder fatigue in the swim. aaaahhhhh!
I had been considering doing race 1 sans wetsuit, since it's only 250m, but I changed my mind when they said that the water was 56 degrees! As I lined up on the beach with the cold sand stinging my feet and raindrops starting to fall, I was happy to be in my neoprene cocoon! Being 322 in a time trial start was torture. I knew I wouldn't calm down until my face was in the water and my body was gliding around the bouys. Here I was stuck waiting on the beach. I talked to the RATS until they disappeared into the water. Then I talked to Ryan, who was 350.
Finally lined up between 321 and 324, I made my way to the front. The orange flag lifted from in front of me with a snap, and I took off running into the water. My feet were already numb from the sand, but I definantly noticed the water temperature as the waterline crept up past the zipper on my wetsuit and began to seep slowly through the teeth, carving what felt like icy gashes into my skin. If ever I wanted to pee in the wetsuit, it was right now!
I pushed off the sandy bottom, put my face in the water and headed for the first turn, a right around a yellow buoy. The swim felt like forever, but was apparantly just 8 minutes... I ran up the beach, struggling with the wetsuit zipper pull, because my hands were so numb. I paused to rinse my feet in one of the washtubs of sandy water that was provided for that purpose, and I headed into T1 to find Contessa.
T1 was 2:44, most of which was spent trying to get my cold numb hands to cooperate! I discarded the wetsuit, slipped on the bike shoes, race bib, and singlet and rolled out to the mount line, where we took off on a 5 mile journey!
We covered the course in 16:39... a blistering (for me) 18mph!! This was largely due to the long descent from the lodge back to transition. Being that rain was still falling, I was more cautious than I would have been had the pavement been dry. I was struck by how easy the climb was compared to last year! I guess that is the difference between training for a year and 2 months, as opposed to just 2 months!
T2 was over in a minute and 26 seconds. I sat down to put the shoes on... I didn't want to take a chance on falling, breaking something, and cutting short my TTT dreams in the first race!
The grassy part of the run had more traction than I expected. I left T2 to the cheers of Ryan and the RATS who were, of course, finished and eating pasta. I don't remember much of the 10:07 I was out there. I was just focused on "taking it easy." I wanted to go all out, but I reminded myself that I had a lot more miles to cover before I could take my medal and go home.
The finsh line loomed in the distance, and I couldn't help but sprint. Hey, 2008 TTT is only my fourth race, so I still get all giddy crossing the finish... My total time was 39:04, more than 20 minutes faster than last year! Talk about a PR! : )
In spite of being totally disgusted by the thought of food, I ate GU and pasta and salad. Lovely combo, right? I think that there is a time in the life of an athlete when you simply eat because food has calories, and calories are the fuel of your obsession.
After a brief pow wow with coach, I made plans to move the RV down the hill. We ended up parked about 200 yards from transition! We couldn't have asked for a better spot! As soon as we were leveled with the slideouts extended, we made beds and stashed gear. I retired to my room, and fell asleep to the rain tapping on the roof. I awoke sometime in the middle fo the night to HFP's generator. It ran for the rest of the night, but I think I slept anyway. That part is really a blurr.
The morning was dry!!! Coffee was on, and I was thinking of Thompson's hill. It's a notorious steep climb in the middle of race 2. I was anxious to get out there and get started. With a smoothie in my belly and caffiene in my bloodstream, I headed out to set up transition. I picked up my timing chip and got body marked. I hadn't been marked the previous evening, since I picked up my chip early. I also wasn't expecting it, since they hadn't marked anyone last year. I remember being disappointed that we weren't marked last year, as I still find it to be a novelty of triathlon!! I know, I am silly. I slid into my wetsuit, got my zip and adjustment from Ryan. Got my last minute instructions. "Take it easy (a theme here?), and don't get your heart rate above 160, except on hills if you have to."
The swim was two cold loops for a total of 1500m in 32:57. The time makes me think that the course was short, as I am usually a 40 min miler, but I'm just gonna take that as a good thing. Either way, it was less time in the COLD water!!
T1 was 3:26... Yep I was stuck in the wetsuit again with numb hands! Once I was out of it, things went smoothly though! I got my bike gear on, stuffed two LARA Bars in the legs of my shorts, and took off with Contessa to do battle with Thompson's hill again!
The bike started off a little rocky. I lost the chain twice, both on uphills. I have a feeling it was due to the fact that I rather carelessly removed the rear wheel the night before to change the tire, (the whole tire not the tube - thank God for KK's help on that one)! I hadn't ratcheted to the small cog and I hadn't paid attention to what chain ring I was on, and I'd accidently let the whole chain slip off during the reinstallation of the wheel in the morning. In fixing the chain on the course, I didn't want to waste time getting the gloves out of my seat bag, so I ended up just getting greasy. So much for white bar tape, and white paint, for that matter.
At the beginning of the course, I thought only of conserving energy for the next two races. I checked my HR a lot, especially on the hills, but it got old, plodding through the wooded course like that, so I let it rip. (Yes, I also had some frustration at my mechanical difficluties to work out.) I started hammering for all I was worth on the hills and straightaways, using the descents, which were very technical and treacherous to rest my legs. Thompsons showed up faster than last year, go figure. I made the nearly 180 degree turn to head up the steeply graded road in front of me. There was a delicious burning in my legs as I tried to keep my cadance as high as possible. I came to the top and relished the victory for a moment. I passed the cemetaries, some landmarks from last year... This year I breezed by them without wishing I was in them! The most trecherous descent in the whole weekend was just ahead. This year, I settled into my drops, feathered the brakes, and looked through the turns. It was a stark contrast to last year's run where I was on the hoods with a death grip on the brakes trying to muscle the handlebars to get me safely around the curves without face-planting in a rock wall. 1:31:51 later, I rolled into T2.
2:14 was spent in transition, racking my bike, almost knocking over the rack, correcting that, changing shoes, grabbing my hat, and pulling my second LARA Bar out of the leg of my shorts. I took off to the cheers of the RATS and Ryan, who were, once again, done long before me!
I walked the hills and some of the more washed out places in the road. This was in the interest of energy conservation, as I had to run this three more times this weekend, and injury prevention, because some of the ruts in the road could have swalloed my Jeep! Ok, I exaggerate, but they were still nothing you wanted to loose your footing on. I started to see Ryan's point on the whole food thing. I was gettting hurgry, and LARA was not appetizing. I came to an aid station aka banquet table. I made a meal out of the bananas, pretzles, and Hammer Gel. mmmmmm Starving athlete food!
1:22:56 later, I sprinted to the finish. My time was 3:53:06, about 1 hour faster than last year! Instead of cheering, I heard Bob screaming, "slow down!" I yelled back, "why??" His reply, "you have two more races!" He had a point. I gotta get over this finish line thing... I just don't see it happening though.
I made a smoothie, rolled out my yoga mat, used the TP massage rollers on my legs, and proceeded to fall asleep with my legs propped against the RV steps. I woke with some time before race 3, so I moved my nap inside to my bedroom, where I slept until 2:15. That was when Casio called out to me saying , "45 mins to race time!" I staggered into the main living space in the RV, blinking through my hazy eyes, saying, "we have to race again?? In 45 minutes?" Luckily, Dempster was hard at work making some high freakin octane coffee! A cup of it, and I was practically bouncing down to transition!
Race 3 is interesting, since it is out of order. We started on the bike. I took a little extra time to ensure that my transition area was set up to accomodate me transitioning from bike to swim instead of the other way around. Once I was sure I was ready, I grabbed my bike and headed out of transition to line up. I stood in the line for a long time waiting for the time trial start. This was a race I had not done last year. I remembered driving the course, an out and back along Hwy 125, but I couldn't recall detail they way I could in race 2. I knew that there was a looooong climb in the second half though.
I waited out the time to the front of the line talking to Ryan and some others back in the 300s with us, as 80s hair bands blasted from the speakers... ahhhhh the soundtrack to 6th grade!
I finally wheeled Contessa up to the start line. The orange flag snapped up, and off I went! After some easy rollers, I was surprised to find my legs feeling pretty strong. I came to the top of the big descent, and I relished the feeling of leaning forward, getting aero, and rushing down the hill cleanly following the curves in the road. It was a gorgeous ride, as I could see all the way through the curves. I must have coasted for several miles. Of course it was a bittersweet downhill, as I knew I'd be climbing it on the way back. Most of the rest of the way out to the turn around, was flat. I just let my legs spin, but was careful to keep the HR down below 160. On the return trip, I ate a LARA Bar on the flats. I finished chewing the last bite just before the road started to pitch upward. I knew once my front wheel hit the incline, I was climbing for awhile. I geared down and let gravity take up the slack.
The hill wasn't as bad as it looked on the way down, but I was being very conservative. I knew that there were more killer climbs for me tomorrow morrning, and that the bike course in the half was 2 loops, so whatever we did once, we'd do twice!
1:55:30 and I was back in transition, slathering myself with Body Gilde so that I could pull my wetsuit over my sweaty arms and legs! I managed to get the zipper done, but I sure missed my adjustment. I think I'd pay Ryan extra if he'd come to every race and pull my wetsuit up like that... 9:08 in T2 - look, you don't appreciate how hard getting that wetsuit on is after biking until you do it!
For once, the 56 degree water flet good! There were also warm spots where the sun had been shining all day. I was a little discouraged to find that there weren't very many people in the water anymore. Most were either done or on the run course by now. Oh well. It just meant that my chances of getting kicked were decreased! At 39:42, I may have been wrong about the course being short! lol
T2 was 3:53, and I was off on the run. I was pretty tired and extremely hungry! I was salivating just thinking about the aid station banquet! At the first aid station, I drank water and HEED, ate a handful of pretzles, a banana, and 4 Hammer Gels. At the second, I did it again. I cheered and waved to the people I saw running towards the finish. I kenw I'd get there, but I wasn't going to push too hard and jepordize the half. I was, however, really really ready for a shower and some dinner! 1:34:34 and I crossed the finish... this time very conservatively... just in case Bob was looking. ; ) Don't want my coach's boss yelling at me again!
The RATS were cheering me on all the way, and I was extremely grateful for their support. It felt really good to know that my accomplishment of just finishing these events was important and genuinely celebrated... Well, it was either that or they were glad I was done so we could get some food! After all they'd waited 4:22:47 for me!
My roomies cleared transition for me while I took a cold shower. That was one RV lesson I never figured out.... how to turn on the hot water heater. We headed up to the lodge for dinner and to take advantage of the cell signal and check in with the fans back home. It took us forever to get a table and beyond forever to get our food. I inhaled my salad, and thought I was going to die waiting for my spaghetti and sausage minus the sausage. When it finally arrived at nearly 10pm, I inhaled it. It was some of the best sauce I'd even had, but I'm also willing to bet that if you gave me a saltine cracker, it'dhave been the most delicious thing ever right then too! It was nice to eat in the company of other athletes. Conversation ceased and food was the focus. It was devoured lightning fast. I wasn't even first! These guys are really elite athletes!! I could have eated 3 more servings, but at $15, I couldn't afford to. I had to feed the bus on the way home, ya know.
I think I was asleep within miuntes of returing to the RV. I was, however, keenly aware of the remaining hunger pangs. The last thing I heard before drifiting off were echos of Ryan's voice telling me to EAT!
I slept hard, and was woken by Dave Casio knocking on the door saying it was 6:25. I thought for a minute that meant an hour till race time, but I quickly remembered that meant a half hour till race time. I was STARVING! I had no time for breakfast though, so I drank the leftover less than half of a smoothie from yesterday. The temperature had dropped the night before and KK had started the heat to get us going. The warm air flowing into the RV made it hard to step out into the air, but I grabbed my bag, picked up my chip, got body marked, and set up transition. Everyone was dragging. Transition was full of hollow-eyed athletes wavering between trying to delay the start and just wanting to get it over with. As I donned my wetsuit, I overheard a guy saying, "If we won't leave transition, they can't start the race! Who's with me?" A halfhearted laugh rolled through the crowd as we began plodding towards the beach for the last start of the weekend.
Ryan zipped and adjusted me, and asked how I felt. I told him I was exhausted. He said, "No you're not!" I found that amusing. I knew I wasn't spent yet too. I started this race without a doubt that I would cross the finish line. I came out with two goals. Finish and don't be last. Everything I had done over the past three days was a step towards making those goals a reality. At no time did a shred of doubt come into my mind. At no time did my desire to complete this fade in the least.
I walked down to the beach. I hung with the RATS and with Ryan, but I was really inside my head. I was feeling the moment. I saw steam rising off the water. I knew that meant that the water was warmer than the air for once. Who knows, it might even feel good today. I stood with my numb feet in the cold wet sand stepping closer and closer to the water. I watched as athletes that had bounded into the water on Friday were now walking, some out to the first turn buoy. The orange flag lifted with the same sharp snap as Friday. I guess the flag girl's arm wasn't feeling as fatigued as my body was. I walked into the water, and I was grateful that it was, in fact, warmer than the air.
It is difficult to stay positive on the last day of this race. I tuned my mind into the positive though. Last race, look how far we have come from last year. The goal is just one half-ironman away! I put my face in the water and started swimming. Sometime in the second loop my right hand was so cold and numb that I couldn't straighten my fingers. I am sure this did nothing for the efficiency of my stroke. I had trouble sighting, because I was tired and the sun was glaring off the water. I ended up zig zagging my way through the two loops, but I finally made it out of the water in 50:28.
I walked to T1, rinsing the sand from my feel along the way. It took some serious effort to get the wetsuit off, since my right hand was still not fully functional. I was hoping the feeling and function would return before I needed to brake on the bike. 4:35, and I was rolling out for a 56 mile ride on the prettiest course all weekend.
I rode out of the park remembering last year. I remembered being on this very stretch of road in my lowest gear wondering what I was going to do on the first incline, as I had nowhere to downshift! I rode past the spot where I turned around and admitted defeat. I smiled and laughed out loud! I was doing TTT! The whole TTT!
The course was hilly... there were some near misses with squirrels and chipmunks. I was kinda aggrivated with them on the descents. I was also really COLD on the descents. I was wishing that I was dry or that I had changed into long bike gear. I was wishing for a hill to climb so I could get warm. I got it! The climb was long and pretty steep. I dropped into the granny gear and started peddling, feeling warmth spread with every stroke! I reached the top, thanked the photographer for documenting the fact that I made the climb, and began the descent. It wasn't quite as chilly as I expected.
I told myself that everything I was doing, I'd have to do one more time before I could run. I felt ok with that. I enjoyed the scenery along the way. Wildlife, butterflies, and greenery were everywhere! I passed a little church just before a left turn onto Rt 73. That was where I encountered the only negative race staff in the whole weekend. The deputy stationed at that intersection yelled to me, "you got one coming to your left." He never moved his lazy butt off the car! I was appalled! Having worked a lot of road races as a cop, I couldn't fathom shirking duty like that! I let it pass though. I'd give him another chance on the second loop.
I moved on through the rest of the first loop, refilled my bottles at the aid station, got food, because, yes, I was still starving!!! I felt good as I headed out on the second loop. I took the long climb again without complaint from body of mind. I was riding very conservatively, but I was happy to be making progress. I reached the intersection with the lazy cop again. He was chatting with some friends on the side of the road. Traffic was coming in both directions, and he made no move to stop it. I stopped and yelled, "You are supposed to stop them and give racers right of way!" His reply, "They won't stop." I was hot!!! It was all I could do not to park my bike, drag him out in the middle of the road and SHOW him how to stop traffic. Had I ever trained him, he'd have been off the street for that! I though better of disciplining the cop. I didn't want to get this far and DNF due to getting arrested. Though, that would have made for a GREAT race report and a hell of a war story!
I used the anger to fuel my legs back to T2. 4:51:34 on the bike, 2:45 in T2, and I was ready to run! Ryan and the RATS were cheering from their already finished positions. 13.1 miles to the goal! I knew in every fibre of my being, that I had this in the bag!
I alternately walked and ran. I cheered people passing my in the other direction and gratefully received their cheers. I saw Shawn Clarke coming down the last 2 miles for his finish. He said they'd see me at the finish! I felt good to have a team to come home to.
I ran the last ahalf of my first loop with, Kelly, a girl who was on her second and on her way to Lake Placid as well. It was a good boost. I headed out on my second loop, met up with two women who are also doing IMUSA. One is a vetran of the race. She said TTT is much harder than IMUSA! What a relief! If I can do this, I can do Ironman!
We kept each other motivated. Aid stations were mostly unmanned by this time. We ate and drank and ran and walked. We talked and encouraged. We finally approached the finish line. We ran the last mile solid. My feet were sore and I knew I had blisters and at least two toenails that were going to abandon me in the coming weeks, but I ran! I picked up the pace and came off the grass, just 100 yards from the finish. HFP volunteers cheered. I looked towards the, now empty, RV for RATS, but I only saw Ryan. He was yelling and clapping with a huge smile on his face!
I sprinted! I corssed the line, collected my medal and my t-shirt. I gave Ryan a high five and a huge hug. I did it. TTT was complete!
A few minutes later, Reid and Shawn showed up. They had underestimated my speed in the second loop and missed my finish. It was ok though. I was just happy to have finished. All that mattered in that moment was another stake in the heart of all I had defeated to get there. I was another 140 miles farther from illness, doubt, and negativity. I was 140 miles closer to healing! I was living proof that the human spirit is resillient beyond all that we think can stop us. It didn't matter who was there to see it, because in the end, it is my journey. What matters is that I was there to live it.