Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Eagleman 70.3-- My day to Fight back

I had some great blog posts written in my head before I left for the race last week. Training has been going really well in the big picture,  but not without some true highs and lows. If I get into all that, this race report will be much too long. Instead, I'll stick to my June 8th stories and I guess write my own prequel since that seems to be a thing these days. 

Eagleman 70.3 has been a race I've thought about for a number of years. I've always known people racing there and heard stories about the flat but oh so windy and hot course. In addition,  they have a few coveted Kona spots,  so it's also super competitive. I have been drawn to new experiences and races over the past few years. I'm a bit tired of some of the great places that I started racing so to keep my passion and excitement for the sport, I've chosen to stray away from home to locations with challenging terrain and weather. 

Maine has been cool and wet this spring. I think I had one hot run ( over 80 degrees ) leading up to this. And on that very short T-run, my HR was sky high and I felt way way off. Alright! haha... not a good sign Bub! ( inside joke. )   In addition, I live in the foothills of Western Maine.... I don't think I can string together more than 2 flat miles in one place around here. But besides that, I was ready to go!  Bring on the challenge! Seriously, I wasn't all that concerned. A race is a race in that each one offers Something hard that we might not be used to. It's part of what makes it worth trying! 

We left early Friday morning after the crazy morning scramble of getting the kids to school, saying bye, packing up the cars, and closing up the house. I decided I have "Pre-Race OCD" and it really makes packing and leaving a total PITA at my house. I just Can NOT leave laundry undone or the counters dirty in anyway. ugh. I drive myself crazy sometimes!! 

The flight to MD was easy and uneventful. We also traveled with a friend who is a Pro Triathlete here in Maine.  It was fun to have a fellow athlete with so much experience and fun stories to share. Friday and Saturday were smooth for the most part. I had a small hiccup with my bike that resulted in the need to stand in a line for mechanical help for a while but that got resolved. Mike talked me through the course, we rode the run course, we ate, we relaxed, we ate more, and I got nervous. I don't think he did. :) Normal pre-race stuff....

I laid down and looked up at this tree for a little while to relax on Saturday. It was a Gorgeous day. 
Saturday afternoon, I finally bumped into Jen!! I was coached by Jen Harrison several years ago and have remained friends with her since. Jen has inspired me so much along the way. I found her blog a long time ago before I hired her & knew from her stories that we had a lot in common. There have been times I felt like I could have written the words she wrote.  However, Jen and I have never raced since she lives in Chicago and I'm way over in Maine.  This would be a fun first. Jen and I met in the hotel lobby and got to say hello before we both headed off to chill until the race start. 

The night before the race is brutal for me. I hate the feeling of the nerves that are truly part of the process ( for me! ) and yet so uncomfortable. Lots of deep breaths and routines get me through. Lights were off by 9 and the alarm was set for 3:40 but I was awake a long long long time before that. Sigh.... 

We hit the road by 4:15 with Mark as our helpful and always willing Sherpa. Thanks babe. You just never squeak a word of complaint at my early morning antics and needs on race day.  

I was happy to be with calm pro- Mike and then to bump into some more familiar faces when we got there. I saw Jen H. again, said a quick hi to more pro friends Kim Schwabenbaur and Amber Ferrerra both of whom have inspired me so much along the way with personal racing together and then with me watching from afar. 

My wave was Late! 8:05 was the  scheduled lift off for the 40-44 Women.  The downside was the potential for more heat and more wind on the course, more people to swim through at the start and loads of people to bike around and with while out on the ride. It was going to be a hectic few hours.  But the upside was that I had plenty of time to go in and out and in and out and in and out of the porta potty all a.m.! Yes, potentially TMI but if you're involved with this sport, you Know what I mean!!!  And, really, it is significant to the day sometimes.  I was nervous and I just got in and out of lines all morning. 

I thought I was finally ready to go so  I stood with Mark and  1000s of others on a hot pavement parking lot waiting for my wave and sort of watching those who had already started swimming.  As I put my cap on, I was Stunned to look over and see a PBM kit. What??? Anne??? No, Anne, Sarah AND Jen! There were 3 of my fellow Maine athletes right there! I had NO idea more of us were coming! So, time passed from that point on because  I got to chat it up with some girlfriends. (And, new competitors! Those ladies are FAST! ) 

All of a sudden, it was time for me to split. I had to be alone. I need those last 10 min to just focus and get back inside my own head. I said "bye" to Mark and headed to the corral for starters. 

I had some time to gather myself and then right at the start, I stood with Jen. We commiserated with our nervous bellies and smiled and reminded each other that it was Good because it meant that we still 'cared.' Indeed. 

Ange & Jen at the race start

I spent the next 5 minutes adjusting my goggles. I always do. With about 2minutes to go before we were instructed to get in the water, SNAP! #$%**(^@!!!!!!  You know that word? Yup. Me too. My goggles BROKE!!!! 
LUCKY for me, Mark was Still standing right there by the fence with my bag of 'stuff' that he likes to tease me about. I may have pre-race OCD and an over-packing disorder but I am Prepared!!!!  After 10 panicked seconds, I raced over to Mark and grabbed my spare pair of goggles. There. Crisis averted. Back to business. ( hint to all-- always have a spare pair. And, maybe have them WITH you at the start!! :)) 

Race time!!! Ah Finally! I know!  Enough yapping about all the boring pre-race stuff.  

Swim time!! 

That morning, they announced NO Wetsuits and I was of course, thrilled!!!  I dislike swimming with my shoulders all constricted and it is a bit of an advantage for me as well. I lined up out front and felt Great in the cool-ish water of the Choptank River. The water was brown, there was no visibility, but it was at least moving brown water and not warm with snakes like TX so I was fine with it. Plus, I had goggles. The salty water would have Killed my eyes if I hadn't been saved by Mark standing there. 

We were off before I knew it and I am happy to say that once again, with the starting gun comes the complete and total disappearance of my nerves. NOW I can just do what I do all the time. Swim, bike and run and fight 'til I fall down.  
our wave 

I was off ahead of my group for a little bit. I can always sense where I am in the swim from the beginning. Nobody came with me to start. But about 200-300 yards in, a zippy woman came up next to me with a turnover rate like a young college girl. Hmm... I can't make my arms turnover like that anymore! I tried to grab onto her 'cadence' and go with her. I hung on her feet a bit but as I knew would happen, we swam upon the waves ahead of all  ( all 15 or so of them ) and I lost her. The brown water made it hard to see feet until we hit them. I just did the best I could and swam on.... 

It was uneventful honestly. I just swam. I wasn't swimming HARD -hard  but I was trying to.... I was "alone" so it was hard.   I made every effort to keep pushing and stay focused with a strong stroke. As Mike told me it would be, the water was VERY Shallow for the ~500 yards or so and Most people around me were walking in. I kept swimming with an occasional dolphin dive. 

Other than walking in a hobble with my legs collapsing from time to time, this is what I have left to show from the race. A pretty impressive chafe spot on my arm from the salt water rubbing the speedsuit. It hurt a lot that day! 

Onto the beach, goggles off, smiled at my name being yelled ( not sure who! Jerome? Kari? thanks for the yell! ) and off to the bike. My swim split was a good 3-4 or so minutes slower than my "normal" half ironman swim but it sounds like most people's were. I didn't give it another thought. Some swims are fast, some are slow. Doesn't matter at the end of the day. I was out to race the person next to me. Or in front of me. Or to stay ahead of the ones behind me. Not to stress or think about a minute or three on any of the legs. Let's see who crosses the Finish line first, that is all. 
Heading out of T1

The bike-
I was excited to ride. I never ever get to put my head down and hammer on flat roads. I knew I'd be challenged to stay in that position for so long and I knew the winds were going to potentially get us, but I was still feeling ready. I've been working really hard in on the bike this season with my new awesome coach, Jeff Capobianco at BPC, so my confidence was 100% on this ride. 
I took off and settled in. 
Ahhh.... it only took 5 minutes before I knew Plan B was going to have to be pulled out of my pocket. Shoot. I took a few sips of perform and had instant PAIN in my gut. Ugh. You know, all morning my stomach was off. ( remember my pre-race portapotty dance ). Yup, I knew. I gave it a few minutes, settled the HR a bit more and tried again. Ouch. :( I didn't panic or get too worried but I was sad. I have had so many workouts with my nutrition being spot-on. Why now? What did I miss along these past few days...??
I spent 20 min trying to eat/ drink. It wasn't going to work. I was going to cause myself more issues if I didn't seriously act. What I've learned along the way-- stomach distress-- slow down and / or stop taking it in. I decided to back off the power a hair and give myself until 60 minutes to settle things. I did take a few sips of h20 at an aid station. I didn't want to risk getting dehydrated. That could Certainly come back to haunt me if I hit the run on the low side. 
The clock hit 1:01 and my pace and power were good. I was where I wanted to be. I was having a lot  of fun passing loads and loads of people. And, the belly was better. I hoped. I took a few shot bloks as planned. All good. Started to drink. So far so good. Ok..back on track. 
Only 1 girl had passed me. I had expected her in fact. She won our age group last year and I Knew she was a kick a-- biker. Indeed she was. Wow did she fly by me. When I grow up, I want to ride my bike like that. Unreal. 
Until... about mile 30 all was good and uneventful.  But at that point,  I sat up to drink, certainly don't Remember hitting a bump or anything, but when I got back down into the aero bars, something was wrong. The right bar and pad for my arm were askew. They were angled off to the right. What?? I was confused. I tried to twist it back. Nothing. It was tight. I shifted. All was fine. It baffled me and ticked me off, of course. 
Well.... it was time for me to either lose my focus completely and all upset or to just count off the miles and ride it in. 
:) You know what I picked. 
The bars did move and get worse and worse as I went. My right shoulder was sore and uncomfortable but it was 'ok.' I knew the faster I kept making forward progress, the sooner I'd be running. Head down, just ride. 

I had rallied with nutrition though I could feel an ache and dull pain in the gut. My right quad was 'talking' quite a bit and I was pretty warm. And yet, I felt strong. My power was nearly the same as when I started and I hadn't lost any speed. One more girl passed me though. I think we had about 8 miles to go. I was able to see her the rest of the way in and wondered about her run legs. And, I wondered about mine.... 

The Run- Where the race Really begins. 

For me, the first few steps off the bike on the way to the rack almost Always feel BAD! But, once I change shoes and hit the road, I often surprise myself. My run training has been solid lately. I have had some challenges and some 'scares', but I have also had some moments of "I want to race Right Now!" I was excited to get out there. 

The sky was clear and full sun was on us. There is NO shade on this route. None at all. Not a single tree.  I have no clue what the temp was, but it was hot. That being said, I know it wasn't as hot as other years. And, it was nothing like a few hot races I've done recently.  I train consistently and I train honestly. I work very hard and I take care of myself. But, those things aside, I think one of my biggest advantages these days as a ahem, masters age grouper, is my experience. Running in hot mid-80 degree sun on Sunday was really hard after our cool wet spring, but I have raced in temps near 110 degrees with Much higher humidity a few times lately and that memory, of surviving those races, helped me keep my cool ( pun intended) the other day. 

I was off and running and felt pretty good. My pace was under 7 or just above and it felt somewhat easy. I did still feel that spot in my right side.... and I just crossed my fingers that it wouldn't come haunt me at some point. 

I made a plan.  Keep this even keel... don't overrun, just keep the effort steady and strong, manage the heat with fluids and ice and then, with 4 -5 miles to go, I could drop the hammer if need be. 
It was time to race. 

Honestly, the first few miles are blurry. I felt pretty good, I know that.  Within the first mile, I caught the girl who caught me at the end of the ride. I thought I was in 2nd at that point. I was running at a fairly fast pace, but I was brainwashed, once again, at the aid stations. I don't think it's a bad idea to walk the aid stations, in fact I often recommend it to others. But, I have become a little too dependent upon that habit. I did it during a few really great Ironman races I had and now I can't get off that mode. I see the tables and something just Makes me stop and get 'stuff' in. I did this from the first mile.... ice in shirt, water on head, drink down the hatch. Onward. I'd make it quick, keep walking, and run immediately but still.... that took a toll on my pace in the end. 6:55 min  miles became 7:20s.... it adds up.  Again, like pre- race, Sometimes I drive myself crazy and that was one example. I didn't WANT to stop but my body just seemed to have it's own plan each time I hit a table. 

The miles ticked on and the head games began. I started and stopped conversations like this, "You know, I think this will be the last race I do before Hawaii. I'm not sure I have much more racing in me. I really hurt. I don't have anything to prove. I've done the best I can so I should feel good about that.... STOP!!! HAVE THIS CONVERSATION TOMORROW!  NOT at mile 5!" Yes, I would talk like that ( in my head ) to myself while racing. My head goes ALL over the place out there. And that is Not the time to make decisions! 

I shut off the brain and shut down the voices and just ran. My right quad started talking again. I was limping a bit. Oh oh.
I took a salt. 

I grabbed a gel. 
Things were getting long. The road went on forever. I hadn't seen any other girls my age. I had passed lots of women.... but there were no signs of my age group ladies. I wanted and needed to race if I was going to ignite the fire in me. I was getting tired of just being alone with my tired brain.  

Finally, and I really can't explain how oh very long it takes to get to that 6.5 mile turn around spot, I made the turn and slowly trotted around the cone to head back! Yay!!

And yet now it was the moment of truth. 

What would I see as I headed back....who was there. Was I was ahead? Was I being chased? If someone was there, would I care? Did I have any fight in me today?? 

Time would tell. 

I ran a bit but wasn't fully focused on those coming towards me. Things were getting real. It was hot, I was hurting and I had a really long way to go. 

And then, out of the corner of my eye almost after she went by, I saw Jen. I hadn't seen her until he was basically next to me so I turned back a bit to see if I was right. Yup! She looked super strong and was moving fast. Ok! I knew we'd be close together.  At that point, I thought I was in 2nd with that wicked fast biker ahead of me, with Jen a bit behind, but not far! I wasn't sure how far but I think 1/4 mile? Maybe not that far. Probably about 1.5-2 minutes back. Who knows.... 

I ran a bit and tried to have some little talks about how I felt and what I would do now. Did I have it in me to pick it up? What was the plan.... 

Next thing I knew, I was at an aid station doing my walk fast and grab stuff shuffle. ( GRR!) 

And before I could even grab my cup of ice, SHE went by!  A girl with a 43 on her leg! HEY!?! WHO are you  and where did YOU come from??? Jen was behind me, who are you?? I was totally frustrated and threw my arms in the air a bit. I guess, in some ways, I had a moment of giving up. 
oh oh.

She was very tan and running really well. She didn't look tired. why wasn't she tired like me? I didn't get it. I was mad for a few minutes. I decided that her tan meant she was from the south and used to the heat so of course she was running well. Nobody from Maine has a tan like that yet.  I gave myself an excuse. 

NOT a good idea. Excuses are Not how we win races. 

I ran on for a bit longer but something happened. I stared at this woman's back as she moved further and further away from me and I had yet another little talk with myself. 

"You know Ange, 99% of the time, if you get passed on the run, that is it. Maybe 100%.  Can you be that person that fights back? Can you go back after her? Can you? How tough are you? Are you just an ok athlete or are you the one that doesn't let someone take it from you. Who are you today? Take a risk girl, what's the worst that can happen? You're really really tired for the last 2 miles? Well, you are anyway! Seriously, get tough and do this right." 

After all, Jen and I had stood on the water's edge and agreed we were nervous because we still cared. So, it was time for me to act like I still cared and RACE! It was time to hurt. Time to bring it home. 

I picked up my pace and found my fire again. Races can be such mind games. You can be so revved up and then lose it all without warning. 

I was suddenly on a huge high because I made the decision to go after it again and I knew I had it in me. 

I could feel that I was slowly but surely closing the gap. It took a few miles...this wasn't a quick deal. I just stared at her back and kept the faith. I could see her shoulders look weaker. I think she thought I was left in the dust. She had no idea... 

I never ever took my eyes off her. 
The gap was continuing to grow smaller. And then she veered off to the left to run under a tent with water spraying in it. Ahh...a weakness. She's hot. She let her guard down. I ran straight and gained even more time on her. 
I think we had about 4 miles to go now....and without hesitation I slipped right behind her and tried to quiet my breathing so I could run in stealth mode-.Yah... that didn't work. I was pushing hard and my breathing was what it was. And, she was now going slower so I had to step to her side. We were only inches apart. Running shoulder to shoulder.
I had the Hugest grin on inside, but my face showed Nothing. I kept my eyes straight ahead and I hammered on. I felt her turn to her left and look at me. And then she did it again. I knew what she was thinking but I didn't let on at All.  SHe wanted to yell, "What?! I PASSED you! And you gave up when I went by." 

Ha! tricked ya! 

I was having a blast. What's that song Michelle? Click here to listen:  Ever since my friend I read Mama Simmon's blog last week about her Honu race, I've been singing this song. And I was singing it at this moment too. ( thanks MIchelle. :) :) !!! ) 

I ran so hard. I never looked at the garmin again. I just focused on my race and my love of the sport. I falter sometimes, I wonder why  I am still bothering, I wonder if it's silly of me to keep trying to get faster as I get older but then, all I need is a little kick in the butt and the whole reason I do this comes back to me. I. Love. To. Race. Period.
Those last few miles that hurt SO SO Much. I mean, I was in agony. I wanted to LAY down and there sometimes felt like a force field was going to pull me from the ground right down to the ground. But the will to race and not let anyone else get me was way way bigger than the pain. 

I saw the finish arch from a long ways away. I heard the announcers. A spectator or two yelled my # and some great comment like,' Wow TriMoxie! Your form is awesome great pace!!" Just what I needed.... 

Someone else yelled, "Around this corner, less than a mile, let the screams pull you in...." 

I was on high focus mode. I was all business. Nothing was going to stop me. 

And then.... down the long chute. High five with Mark, a cheer from Mike, I heard my name a few other times and Bam! DONE!!!!!!!

Hands on knees, breath, breath, water, down again, then I stood up, turned around and there she was... 
maybe 15 seconds back... and she nearly collapsed. I held her arm and told her great job. I helped her get help and then I wandered away. 
Jen was just moments behind her. 
Ahh...what a race. Never ever count us 40+ year old women out. We mean business. 

And with that, I felt happy. I fought back. And I will never ever give up after getting passed again. Age 44 and I have a breakthrough. The fun continues!! 

Two days later, and I hurt so bad. That to me = a job well done. I worked to the point of misery for the next few days. haha.. I left my heart, soul and legs out on that course. Just as it should be. 

3rd Age group for Eagleman 70.3 

Someone else snuck in there!! I never knew she was there. :) 

Time to recover! Off for ice creams with my boys...( they love my post-race weeks... ! ) 

thanks for reading!!!!