The Wildflower Long Course triathlon happened nearly two weeks ago. I think I’m still in denial and still trying to forgive myself for signing up again. The aftertaste that lingers in my mouth is quite bittersweet. I don’t have a lot of pictures to share and I’ll keep this brief.
SWIM: 1.2 miles = 38:09 (2012 = 33:02)
As well as my swimming had been going in the pool, my one open water swim prior to the race proved to be slower than expected. I wanted to be optimistic going into this, but chose to be realistic. When I was sighting every ~10th breath or so and the buoys kept moving farther away, I knew I was right to be realistic.
I did try to stay “in the moment” during the swim and remind myself that this would be the most pleasant part of my day. I was in cold water, which was a welcome environment compared to the 95 degree day we all endured.
BIKE: 56 miles = 3:24:49 (2012 = 3:14)
Last year, it seemed like the bike was “no big deal.” It was harder this year. That’s either a function of me being less trained, the heat, or a combination of both.
I was again surprised at how hard the Mile 2 climb was, and saw many people walking it. My left foot started charlie-horsing at Mile 7 of the bike and finally let up around Mile 20. Right then, I knew it was a whole new ball game. As hot as it was, I told myself to drink at least two bottles of water between every aid station (which were ~45 mins apart). I did this and more, and still had no urge to pee at any point. I had no Nuun or salt tablets with me.
By the time I got to Nasty Grade (Mile 40), I was done. I wanted to quit. By the time I finished Nasty Grade, I had talked myself out of running. Seriously. I had nothing to prove — I had already done this course and had done a full Ironman. No need to prolong the misery. Right? RIGHT???
As I was riding back into the festival area, I was looking for Greg on the run course. There’s a spot where the runners travel on a trail that is adjacent to the road. Miracle of miracles, I saw him! I hollered, “G!!!! I haaaaate this!” He saw me and hollered back, “You look great, baby! I hate it, too!” He said that the runners near him laughed at our exchange, everyone hating ourselves for doing this. It was so good to see him; he was running and looked so strong.
There were only a couple of miles left back into the transition area and I thought about what I would do. If there was one aspect of training that I had actually focused on, it was the running. I had not focused on speed. I had focused solely on running hills. For the last ~30 miles, I had been talking myself out of and back into doing the run. I really really really just wanted to be done.
I thought of what I would say to Greg and Kidder, to our friends we were camping with, to YOU GUYS who read this blog. “Yeah, I quit. I just didn’t want to do it, so I didn’t even try.” That didn’t feel very good.
I pulled into the transition area and had a Really Big Decision to make: to run or not to run.
I am not a quitter. I would run.
RUN: 2:27:24 (2012 = 2:18:06)
I left the transition area with all kinds of caveats:
If I puke, I can stop.
If I cramp, I can stop.
If the apocalypse happens, I can stop.
I wanted any/all of these things to happen. I don’t pray, so I was employing every other possible tactic to give me a reason that I could forfeit (read: not quit). Last year, I walked within the first mile and adopted a run 3 minutes/walk 30 seconds plan (that did not work). This year, I RAN the first four miles. This was a huge mental boost for me!
Mile 4 is the Death March that everyone walks. It truly isn’t worth it to run it. I got to the top at Mile 5 and started running again. There had been ambulances all over the bike course and now there were rescue crews in the trails. I’m sure the heat was taking its toll and people were succumbing to heat exhaustion and dehydration.
At every aid station, I kept repeating all of the above caveats, assessing my physical self all the while. Do I feel like puking? Am I cramping? Do I see Jesus? The answer to all of these was no. Keep going…
At Mile 7 or so, there was Team Bourbon & Bacon. They were serving both. It was 95 degrees and they were frying bacon in a frying pan on a grill on one side of the trail while a teammate was holding a bottle of bourbon on the other side. I thought to myself,
“If I take a shot of bourbon, I’ll probably puke. Then I can be done.”
But alas, I was still running at this point. You might call it shuffling… but not walking. Not cramping. Not barfing. I kindly declined their offer and kept going. The next “out” was at Mile 8. Our camp was right on the other side of those bathrooms, you see. I could retire to The Van…
But I was still running/shuffling. Someone was offering Coke and Twizzlers. I had both. They were delicious and sugary; I kept running. The nice lady at Mile 8.75 had orange wedges. They tasted like heaven and I thanked her profusely, as I did last year.
Another decision point that I had been contemplating came at Mile 9. I could choose to do the mentally torturous out-and-back from Mile 9-11…or I could just go back now. This becomes Mile 11. I could just be done in 2 miles. Now. Just be done. Now. But… I’d made it this far. I couldn’t QUIT now. I wasn’t cramping. I wasn’t barfing. I must keep going. What would I tell the people? How would I feel about myself? I trudged along. Walked the hills, ran the downhills and flats. I saw stars when I was “running,” knowing that it was going to be a real race to the end to not black out.
As usual, our friends were at the top of the hill at Mile 12. Martz offered me a margarita shot. I wanted to partake and laugh, but I had been near tears since Mile 10 and had no extra moisture to spare, so I took a shot of apple juice instead. I hoped I would not lose it on the mile to the finish.
FINAL: 6:44:44 (2012 = 6:15:20)
I’m really proud of myself for finishing. I had talked myself out of even starting the run halfway through the bike. That said, I’m really dejected because I actually ran more of this race than I did last year. I walked far more of the course last year, and last year’s split was faster (my average pace was almost 1 minute/mile faster last year).
I know the heat was a factor. I remarked in last year’s race report that it was 81 degrees. It was 95 degrees this year, and that absolutely makes a difference. I peed at 7:30 AM and not again until 11:30 PM — after over 400 ounces of non-alcoholic fluids taken in.
Within seconds of sitting down after finishing, every muscle in my lower body started cramping — quads, hamstrings, calves, feet. Greg got me a Nuun drink and I tried to keep moving. Putting my legs in the cold water before picking everything up from the transition area helped.
As at Ironman Canada, the Kidder family was so wonderful in spectating and keeping Miles (14-YO Kyle Kidder did the Sprint Course!). It was so delightful to finish and see so many familiar faces. All of us dreaded making the famed trip back up the hill to our campsite.
After a couple of V8s, some chocolate milk, and a lukewarm shower, I finally enjoyed a glass of well-earned wine. Let the fun really begin!