Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rev3 Run-The Hardset of my Life

Let's get to the finish line of this race....

I love running. And I really love running in Triathlons. For several reasons. First, it means I'm off the bike. Not that I dislike the bike so much but I'm always afraid of mechanical issues on the bike leg. I like to be in control. I am not in control of things like mechanical issues on the bike so---I ride as fast as I can so I can end that helpless feeling and get on with the race. Sort of warped but it goes through my mind almost every single race. Second, I can hold my own on the run, {usually} so I feel confident. And confidence feels Good!

I was very cognizant of the fact that this particular course was Not easy. "It's a tough run. It's very hilly." they all said. Fine. Hills. I run hills every single day. I don't love them, but I can do them. I was confident. And ready. Unlike my usual approach, I even swam today with the run in mind. I held back a tad. I rode smart and in control. My heartrate was never sky high. I had saved myself for this run.

Given all this you can imagine my disgust when I headed out on mile 1 and felt horrendous!
At that point it was just a feeling, because I was running really fast! I had to fiddle for much too long to get my race belt snapped and then my visor on. The velcro came undone and I spent most of mile 1 stuffing my gels down my shirt and messing with my ponytail/hat situation. I really didn't look like I knew what I was doing. Finally, I was put together and able to check in with Mr. Garmin.
It toggled between 6:23, 6:30, 6:15, 6:40. Cool! But a tad too fast. Slow down Ange. {I later realized mile 1 is downhill...the ONLY real downhill I remember I must tell you.} So, hence the fast times.
But despite my nice 6:xx on the clock, I had a problem.
I could. not. breath.
I wasn't breathing heavy like I was running too hard....I just couldn't get air. I was wheezing. It was very unsettling.
I slowed way way down and concentrated on easy deep breaths. It didnt' work.
I gave a mediocre thumbs up when I saw my friends Erin and Stacy go by. (Girls!! So sorry I didn't wave and cheer and yell encouragement to you!! I was dying!)
I'll admit I was even a little scared. I immediately started getting very distressing negative thougths in my head. Where was my song? Where was the song I sing over and over to myself to assure myself I will Rock the course? It's what I do!!! I brainwash myself mile after mile of every race. I KNOW I can do it. I can push harder than anyone. So why why why these self-defeating thoughts??
I became seriously annoyed with myself for losing my posititve focus. ON MILE 1!!!!!!
An aid station appeared at that point. I stopped (!!) and put my hands on my knees. I really needed to get a grip and get some air. I took methodical deep breaths and felt slightly better. (of note: I do not have diagnosed asthma...but I have had issues several times with this type of breathing problem such that they have prescribed an inhaler for me. I usually have it at the end of races and only occasionally need it. So, I was a little familiar with this feeling. However, I had Never experienced it During a race before.)

Time to go on. I turned the corner. And swore. Probably out loud. Let the fun begin. The road went up. It went way way up. And up up up went Ange. (ok--I just couldn't resist. You all remember the children's book Are you My Mother? If not, just ignore the last few sentences. )

I put my head down and shortened my stride. I just kept climbing and knew I'd eventually get to the top of hill #1. After all, it's just a hill. Right? I always run hills. (just keep telling yourself that Ange.)
Except, this hill didn't end. It really didn't. At least I don't remember it ending until about mile 5. (if you're reading this and you raced on I delusional or was this the case?) The road turned to dirt (which is fine...) and it just twisted and turned and continued to ascend into the heavens of southwestern CT. There was an aid station along the way and I asked, "when do we go down?" The guy said, "ohhhh I'm sorry. You still have a ways to go." Grrrrr.....

The air was so so humid and I could not get enough oxygen. I had dreams of someone carrying me off with an O2 mask on my face and that sounded just lovely. Please? Anyone? Oxygen?

My body felt weak and useless. And this made me angrier and angrier. Why WHY couldn't I run?
I became sad and upset with myself. I started giving myself excuses. "You had a great year last year. It's ok. YOu can't have a great race every time. Maybe you need to take the summer off."
WHAT???? Was that ME?
No...I don't know who it was. But it wasn't me. Because I am sitting here now and I am EAGER as a Beaver to race again. Just skipping ahead a little in the story.

On and on I ran. Or I shuffled. All the while holding my handful of gels. I had 4 with me. One every 3 miles. I might not need that many...but I should at least have 3!
Ha...did I take them? Nope.
Every time I got to the aid station I poured water on my head and drank some. I avoided the Cerasport because I hated the taste the one time I took a sip.
I felt sick and couldn't get air and a gel just would not settle right. I knew it.
Or was I again, delusional.
You are probably starting to see that this was not my best run ever. In fact, it might have been my worst run ever.
I stopped a handful of times and walked up some serious hills. I felt like I was faster that way and it allowed me to regroup. Every time I ran, I was holding a semi-decent pace. The problem was those breaks to walk and stop for breaths.
This run course was amazing. It was tougher than any run I have ever done. No question. I can honestly say that I struggled more on this run than I did on my 26.2 through Kona.
There was one woman that passed me early on, but we stayed within sight. She had on a 1 piece tri suit that was pulled down around her waist! She looked nice and cool with just her jog bra on but I kept wondering...will she pull it up and get dressed before she finishes? Despite my stops, my walks, and my shuffles, I managed to hold of most of the women. I only remember 2 or 3 going by me while on the run. I guess that I wasn't the only one suffering out there.
The first 8 miles were torture for me. The climbing was truly relentless and I felt devoid of all energy and zipp. I had finally managed to take in a gel around 4.5-5. Clearly, not soon enough. Nor was it enough to get me all the way. I believe I should have had more. Perhaps that was part of my problem out there. I am still analyzing the day.
It is not an excuse because there is no excuse. I have control over my intake and I dropped the ball. More calories on the bike (I had ~400 for 3 hrs) would have set me up for a better run. I've never been a girl who can live on bird food or portions so I'm foolish to think I can start now.
Back to mile 8 and beyond. I broke the run into segments in my head. It was a 12 mile run...because the last mile is just the last mile and that's always Fun! The Last mile is Fun! (right?)
Now, I'm at mile 8. I will run to 9. At 9, I just need to get to 11. At 11, it's just 2 miles. Anyone can run two miles. That's how fuzzy I was...I had this run broken into all sorts of little chunks. Rather than just RACING like I was supposed to, I was busy breaking it into manageable little pieces. Silliness.
After mile 8 the road mellowed for a short time. I was running with a man and we made eye contact. Big WIDE eyes at each other. He started with, "I train in the Adirondacks! I have NEVER ridden or run on more hills in my LIfe!" wasn't just me. "I know. I train on hills. But this is absurd." We trotted on. We got close to the park where the finish line was screaming out to me, but instead, we turned left. And ran further and further away.
I was breathing again at this point. And I was running. The garmin and watch I had so carefully turned on and prepped pre-race, were being ignored. I Refused to look. My goal pace was OUT the Window!!! I was now there to finsish the race. I fantasized about the finish. About collapsing into my family. I would make it. Of course.
The constant self-talk and actually, self-yelling was exhausting.
This road was an out and back segment. I saw my friend Mike heading for the home stretch! He looked Great! He said otherwise but I could tell he was lying. He was just trying to make me feel better. :) Shortly behind Mike, was our friend Tim. He looked a tad less peppy...but he smiled and he was moving forward which meant success to me!
Mile 11!!!!!!!!! Allelujia!!!!!!!!!!
TWO MORE MILES TWO MORE MILES!!!! Anyone can run TWO MILES!!!!!! yahooooooo!!!!
I made the turn at a timing mat. There was a lady cheering there and over and over again she kept saying, "way to go! Kick ASSphalt!" She was so proud of her pun. cracked me up. And then, I smiled at her and she said something else to me.
In a different Language!!!
I know my expression said just that. She responded, "Are you from Norway?"
omg no....... too funny. I am sponsored by Norway Savings Bank from Norway, ME and my shirt has their name and logo on the back. She only saw the word Norway. What an odd little misunderstanding. It gets funnier every time I think about it.

I continued to run. I was getting my stride back for a few steps. I know my pace wasn't That bad...but I was hanging on for dear life.
I started to stagger. There were big folding road signs marking the course and miles. One was in front of me. On the road. In my way.
Crash! I ran right into it. I am sorry but I had lost control and could no longer go side to side....I was moving forward only. I knocked the sign down and just shrugged. A girl on the other side of the road laughed.
I ran on. I saw a girl going the other way--walking. She looked like me. Wiped. I yelled, "You can do it! only 2 miles!!" She rolled her eyes and began to run.
Now Ange...take your own advice. GO!
I came upon Brian. His race belt said Brian. "Hey Brian, let's get each other to the end.."
We were stride for stride and this felt good. But then he dropped back and told me thanks....I assured him I wasn't going too far!
In fact, just past that we hit mile 11.9. And the cruelest thing ever. The final mile of this "race" was UP HILL!! And I'm not talking a roller people. NOne of these were rollers. This was a bad a-- hill. A climb. Again, I uttered are you kidding me????
I tried so so hard to run. To keep my turnover steady and just DO It! A gang of men eased past me like it was nothing. They were chipper and full of flowery helpful words.
And you know what happened to me?
I fell to my hands and knees!!! Just like that! COMEON ANGELA!
I have no idea why I fell apart so badly. But I did.
At that moment, I had a SERIOUS talk with myself and reconvinced myself that I am Strong and Tough and to get my sorry self OFF THE GROUND!
That was it. I ran in . I ran and ran and ran and wanted to cry and laugh and smile and fall down all at the same time.
I entered the finisher's chute to this:

Ahhh....My little people. They do rock I must say. They were happy and excited and somewhere in my head I hoped they were proud. They had No idea what their Mom had just gone through but they were there with enthusiasm that only little children can give you. My two littlest boys ran ahead of me (just before this) - on a mission to BEAT MOM! Cameron, my wise 10 yr old was chatting with me instead. "Mommy..the only reason they're beating you is that you just raced 70 miles." Yes, Cam. That's it. (For now...we'll talk again in 10 yrs.)

The announcer said my name and then said, "And a mother of 3! wow! Way to go! " And that made my day. I was looking for all the kudos I could get at that point since I had just truly disapointed myself with my sluggish zippless run. I crossed the line and hit the ground.

"Are you ok??""
"Do you need help up?"

I hobbled to a chair and proceeded to hyperventilate a bit. My husband was more than jubilant with my performance. Huh? Mark...I died. I truly died on that run. But but but!!! You still beat everyone!!
I didnt' beat everyone but it turns out that I did hold my own to the field that day.
I was 1st in my new age group and 9th amateur woman. 20th when you add in the pro field.
My run 1:51. (8:29 pace)
getting my award: free running shoes, $ from Cannondale, a free race entry and a plaque. Not bad!

I walked away from that race feeling disappointed. My day wasn't a complete bust but you know...I made some errors and it really cost me. I am not 100% sure where it all went wrong or what happened but I know that I should have been able to do more with that run. I let thigns get to me and that is a sure way to break down.
If you want to race well.... you must train hard and train consistently. But you also need to believe in yourself and hold that positive outlook for the ENTIRE RACE! If you back down in your head, your body will follow.
That said, I am very proud that I was able to hold off most of the women despite my troubles. That gives me even more confidence heading into my next races. It was a tough day out there for almost everyone and I am really proud of myself for hanging on by a thread and working hard all the way to the finish.

The day's drama was not over. More to come.....


cheryl said...

Ange - great race on such a tough course. And that photo of you and the boys running it in is priceless! Awesome smile. congrats!!!!

Running and living said...

Ange, you ran a smart race. I don't really see the errors you mentioned, I see that you were strong and had a great race. You were first on a tough course, the time does not matter, really! Great job!!!

Laura said...

Ange you so rock! I am inspired and scared reading this. Let's hope that I have 1/2 the guts and grit that you have in a month! Love love love the photo of you and the boys! And love that they acknowledged that too!

Beth said...

Sounds like a massive bonk Angela!!! (I know this only because I've been there :) I just read an interview with Kelly Williamson (2nd woman pro at the race you just did) and she said she took 11 gels during that race (in addition to her sports drink w/calories) because she knew that tough of a course was going to require a lot of calories. CRAZY!!! Regardless, congrats on finishing it up and STILL winning your AG!! Amazing!! :)

Michelle Simmons said...

Have you read Brain Training For Runners? Matt Fitzgerald. He writes in that book that our brains run on glucose and that when we're running low on glucose, the first thing to happen is that your brain gets those signals and then generates those feelings of fatigue... all that negative self-talk is your brains way of trying to shut your body down when it senses you're low on glucose. So next time, force down the gel and think about it in terms of keeping your head clear so you can make good smart decisions while you're racing. :) Great job out there pushing through though, Ange!

Marni said...

I can't believe that race report..and the course!! Way to dig deep!! you will remember this race forever and every race will be easier from this day onward :) should be proud of how you overcame obstacles. Don't worry 'bout times..based on your finish place, your time is not "slow". This was a tough course and you are inspiration for many!

Michelle said...

I'm with Beth here - do you usually race with so few cals on the bike? 400 over the course of the ENTIRE bike leg??????? I took more than that during the Oly the day before, girl!

Even so, holy crap, what a run!!!!!! That really is a testament to your talent - still smoking the AG! Woot!!!!!

Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) said...

What a great race report! I have to tell you that I got a little teary eyed at the end when I saw the picture of you running with your boys! :)

I also think it's a great strategy to break portions of a race down into little pieces. When I did my first HIM and I got to the run, I would just say, "get to the next mile, then you'll only have x miles left." And it worked! For me, I think it just makes things more manageable.

GoBigGreen said...

Oh boy u are hard on yourself ( I know, so am i...sigh) But just think you did it! sometimes you have to break the run into chunks like that, i mean otherwise you would walk or quit or stop and cry.
And serious cool shwag you got, free race entry is awesome! Hope you are recovering ok.

burlgirl said...

Nice job Ange! Great report - love reading about your races!

One of my friends told me a few years ago - that when you start to lose focus - you're bonking and get some calories NOW! I've found that when I'm bonking, I'm not thinking rationally enough to choke down that Gel! Catch 22..

Wishing you the best of luck in your next race!

Mary IronMatron said...

You did so amazingly well holding it together---. Oh boy--the hills, the lack of calories...
I find that when I start to get low on fuel I first get irritable, and then apathetic. It's like I can't get smart enough to remember why I ever wanted to work hard in the first place! It sounds like your lack of calories really messed you up--and yet you pulled out such a great race. Your placing says it all.

Rural Girl said...

I can totally understand your feeling regarding fear of mechanical issues on the bike. Me too! Man, that was a tough run in more ways than one. Nice smile across the finish line!

Melissa said...

I wish I could recall everything so clearly like you do. It was such a blurr to me.

I thought I had made a mistake at that left turn at the park. Like I chopped off 3 miles somehow. I was freaking out. lol.

I wish someone was at the beginning of that last hill recording everyone's comments.

Was that a free entry to next year's REV3?? Makes me want to try it again :)

I love what Michelle S. Says about the glucose. I just bought that book and can't wait to read it.

Great photos. You did awesome!

MaineSport said...

You just defined "survival mode." Great work. And a free entry??!! How generous of them (Boy, I can't wait to go through that torture again;). I'm sure you'll find it's a good primer for the really big race this weekend.

Pam said...

Wow! Way to gut it out. I love that your boys ran into the finish line with you. I think that is my favorite part of your race report!

goSonja said...

Just found your blog from a comment on Brees. I was at Rev3 too! Whew that is a tough, yet rewarding course! Way to take the AG win, and my goodness what a great swim! Awesome job!!

IronHoosier said...

Sounds like you have to die out there on the run to be a true champ and you proved it..congrats!!! I need to think more like you!! I'm going to try it this coming weekend.