Monday, September 10, 2012

Triathlon recap #2

Once again I will start my triathlon recap by briefly going through the night before the race.

Friday night:  Left work early (and stressed out) to give myself plenty of time to get to the Olympic Basin at Parc Jean-Drapeau to scope out the event site and pick up my race kit. I walked around the transition area which was still not fully set up, watched the swimmers in the water and had a quick look at the exhibition booths set up. Double checked at the wetsuit tent that that was where I would need to go for my wetsuit pick-up on Saturday.  Attended pre-race meeting and then headed home. Managed to get home and get some food into me before Nick showed up. He let me flap around as much as I needed (and also reminded to breathe) and we said goodnight around 10:30pm.

Saturday, race day:  Was awake around 3am thanks to the drunken fools leaving the bar around the corner (and this with earplugs!). Possibly the cops showed up. I was just glad it wasn’t me that had to call. Dozed for a bit but by 4am I was really awake and really nervous.

Earlier in the week I’d checked last year’s race results and was astounded by the times. They were fast. If I did the same race this time as I did last week, I would place 28 out of 30 in my age group. This was hard to take. I knew I didn’t want to be last but I thought if I just pushed myself a little harder, maybe, if I was lucky, I could manage 25 out of 30. In all honesty, I just didn’t think I had it in me. I remembered the words of former IronMan Champion (several times over) Pierre Lavoie, who I’d heard speak Friday morning, when it gets tough, think of the people supporting you, even if you can’t see them or hear them. Do your race, not somebody else’s. So I said, OK, I know I can do a 1:40, and if I push myself the same way I used to in a dragon boat competition, I’m pretty sure I can do it in 1:30. Why not? I’ve been training. I have the distances down. I have no serious injuries (and my shoulder can easily be ignored for a few hours). I’m healthy. I can do this! So that was it, I decided I would do it in 1:30. I knew I would have no idea how I was doing in the swim but I could watch my time on the bike and run and push it when I needed to.

Forced myself to stay in bed until 6am and then got up for some coffee, another coat of nail polish and some kind of food. Nick got up an hour later and convinced me to eat a bagel. It was hard to get it down. I was so nervous I could hardly swallow. We left just before 8am and headed over to the Basin.

Just like last week, we scored a great parking spot. This time right beside the F1 track so we were able to see the first IronMan participants on the bike course. Nick was in awe. I was knock-kneed with nervousness. On site I picked up my race chip, got my body marked with my bib number and age, then went to set up in the transition area. Nick had a look at the expo and the pricy gear and accessories for sale. He was worried it would be an expensive day for him.

We walked around a bit. Watched the bikers at the hairpin turn and then had a seat in the stands for a bit. At 9:45am we headed over to pick up wetsuit. Next thing I knew it was time to get that on. Just as I was heading over to do that, we ran into an old dragon boat friend, also doing the Sprint Tri, and she told me a great tip for the swim:  keep to the right and watch for the cord that goes along the bottom of the basin, it’s attached to the buoys. By following this cord, I’ll be able to swim in a straight line without having to sight so much. Nice. At about 10:20am, Nick had just zipped me up and I’d handed him my flip-flops and was heading into the swim area when I heard my mom calling out to me. There, practically beside me, were my Mom & Dad! They each gave me a hug and kiss and it was time for me to go in. I warmed up my shoulders a bit and then got in the water. Did a short swim just to get some water in the wetsuit. The water in the Basin was so murky! And it was colder than Mooney’s Bay last week. They announced 2 minutes until start time. Kept moving. 30 seconds and then the horn blasted. I was off.

This time I made I started closer to the front of the pack and was determined to stay to the right side. I didn’t want to swim any further than necessary. The first few minutes were terrible. I couldn’t swim. Couldn’t get a proper full stroke in. Kept hitting people and got hit plenty myself. Not in my face, thank goodness. Couldn’t believe how murky the water was. Gross. The bottom of the basin just looked slimy, not sandy and clear like last week. Space around me was opening up now. Good. But the waves! What happened to the nice calm water? It was gone. There were waves all over. I choked down a couple of mouthfuls as I tried to breathe on my left. Tried to breathe on the right; same thing. Ugh. Kept swimming. Breathing on the right was better though because I could see the buoy beside me. It was close. Moved over to the left just a little. No need to get a penalty from the refs just now. Going around the first buoy to cross the basin, as I sighted ahead of me I could see there weren’t a lot of people ahead of me. I kept running into a woman in front of me. Felt bad, tried to keep myself straight. Swimming back down the basin suddenly it was so much easier to breathe. Felt good. Kept my eyes on the cord along the bottom of the basin and followed that. Coming up to the last big orange buoy, I remembered that Nick told me to start kicking hard here to get the blood flowing back into my legs. I would need it to get myself up over the bridge when I got out of the water. Last big orange buoy appeared and I started kicking. Crazy but I could actually feel the blood in my legs. My legs were feeling hot all of sudden. Wasn’t sure if I’d be able to walk. Who cares? Crawl if I need to, just keep kicking.

Came out of the water and my parents and brother Eric were right there in the corner shouting to me. Awesome! I’d finished the swim. As I crossed the mat after the swim, I started pulling down the zipper of the wetsuit but it got stuck. I saw Nick and shouted for him. He tried to help me and got it down as far as he could. He struggled with that and told me to get my arms out. Once I had that done, I kept going through to transition. Here’s where I got into problems. I managed to get the wetsuit over my hips and down past my knees but even though I was sitting down, I just couldn’t move it past my ankles. Took a deep breath and tried not to panic. Saw some women come into the transition area and get changed fast. They were off. I cursed to myself. A. Lot. But slowly, slowly got the wetsuit past my ankles. It was torturous. Now that it was off, I threw on my heart rate monitor (why I bothered at this point, I don’t know), t-shirt, race belt on, dried my now filthy feet to get some of the sand and rocks off, got my socks and shoes on, tucked in my laces, helmet on, gloves and sunglasses. Got my bike off the rack and started running with it to the mount line. Got on it and didn’t worry that my feet weren’t in the cages. Knew I could get them in without looking.
Finally, onto the track and hit my watch to track the time. Going up the reverse direction of the track was disconcerting at first, and keeping to the left also pretty disorienting but I quickly settled into the bike. Had a few sips of water and settled down a little. I knew it had taken me a long time to get changed and was frustrated no end. But I had to get over it and focus now on the bike ride. Going up the river side of the track it was windy but I was able to maintain about 25km/h on Nick’s bike. Wild. Maybe I’d be able to do this in 40 minutes! Came across the top end of the track after a short incline and then started going downhill. Picked up speed, more speed. Changed gear again. More speed. Hit 35km/h. Hit 40km/h. Wooohooo! Felt better now that I knew I could still have a good race on the bike. Coming down into the hairpin turn I hoped to see my family and I did. There they were! Shouting out to me, “Go, Stef, go!” That was awesome. Slowed down a lot to get around the turn (stay on the bike, stay on the bike), stay on the bike) and just as I thought I’d be able to pick up some speed again, the wind slammed right into me. Crap. No speed here. Maintained a steady 24-25km/h again on the second lap up the river side of the track. Pushed it harder going down the straight-away, got the bike over 40km/h in two spots. This track is incredible! This bike is fantastic! At the end of lap 2, my family were there again. Shouting out encouragement to me. Started lap 3. Again with the wind. Ugh. Really felt it now. Maybe the wind was picking up. On this lap I noticed small twigs on the track, along with the leaves that had already fallen. Started thinking about what would happen if it rained. Repeated my mantra:  stay on the bike, stay on the bike. Coming down the straight away kept pushing, passing people but no matter how fast I went, there was always somebody else passing me. Whatever. Just do my race, don’t think about them. Kept pushing. End of lap 3, see the family again and try to give them a smile, if they’re taking pictures. Not sure if they’ll see it. Start lap 4 and the wind is definitely picking up. Pretty sure I dropped down to about 22 or 23km/h. Yes, it was my last lap but I still had to run 5km and my legs were tired. Had a sip of water. Started worrying about the run. Bad. It was too early to think about that. Got my focus back on the bike. Noticed more twigs on the track. Some bottles that had fallen off bikes. Stay on the bike. Stay on the bike. Coming down the straight away decided to push it as hard as possible. Never mind what else was coming. Knew I’d hit about 46km/h but quickly got my attention back on the track. Now wasn’t sure if this was my third or fourth lap. Crap. Where was I? The bike computer said 17 something kilometers. My watch said 33 minutes.  33 minutes? But that’s not possible. Did I still have one more lap to go? Started calculating in my head but I knew that if I did another one I’d be over 20km and I knew that the course was short. Came up to the hairpin turn and shouted out to my family “Am I done?” My mom shouted back, “YES!” Taking her at her word, I pulled to the right of the track and headed back along the road towards the dismount area. Checked my watch. 35 minutes?!  Oh boy, I sure hoped I didn’t have another lap to do. But I’d made it, stayed on the bike. Started running with the bike through the transition area. Yikes, there people everywhere. Volunteers shouting to keep the path clear but I wasn’t sure if they were yelling at me or what. Made my way over to my spot. Got the bike on the stand. Pulled my run bottle out, got that into my race belt and turned it around.

My transition spot was as close as possible to the start of the run, so I immediately started running. Felt awful. Legs were like concrete. Might as well have been walking. Ugh. Running along behind the hangars there was dust and debris flying all over the place. Had to cover my nose just to be able to breathe. Up the small incline and onto the track along the top of the basin, beside the seaway. It was my first time running up there. I had no idea it was just a dirt and gravel track! Ugh. More wind, more dust. Kept running. Short and quick. Short and quick. Nick’s running advice was still in my head. Kept my strides short and quick. Don’t know how quick they were but I was passing people. Slowly but surely. Of course there were a few passing me too, probably just to keep my ego in place. Kept moving. Saw the casino across the basin. Knew I’d done 1km and that meant only 4km more to go. Thank God. Legs still felt heavy and I realised I never did any spinning on the bike before getting off. I didn't give my legs a chance to get that running feeling while still on the bike. That's why this felt harder than last week. Or maybe I’d overdone it by pushing so hard on the bike. Maybe I’d kicked too much on the swim. Kept running. Bad thoughts in my head. Couldn’t get rid of them. Somehow I kept moving and made it to the far end of the basin. Seeing the 2000m marker made me realize (duh) that I was more than halfway finished the run. I only had another 2km left to run. I could run 2km! Yes, I can do this! Checked my watch. Huh. It looked like my time was OK after all. Maybe I could pull off a 1:30. I would try. No pain, no glory – I remembered Chuck, my old dragon boat coach telling us that one night in the gym. Yes, dragon boat – think of all the people cheering me on for this:  Janic, TT, M-Pi, Anne, Annie, Panoy, Chuck. And my family. And Yvette and Cecilia. They would want me to push it. Nick, who’d told me to push it. Now was the time! My legs felt OK. Picked up my pace a little. Lots more people on the track now. Some people walking, some running fast, some slowly but everybody was moving. Yes, I could do this. Sip of water. Watched the markers on the side of the basin. 1500m, 1000m. That meant only 1km left! I really could do this. 500m. Picked up the pace again. I could totally do this! Just over 2 minutes in a dragon boat. I’d told Nick I would sprint the last 250m and when that marker came up I said (possibly out loud …) “In 3, 2, 1 – FINISH!” So I sprinted that last 250m and I gave it everything I had. There was a guy ahead of me and I gave it a little more just so I could catch him at that last stretch going into the finishing chute. I saw my family by the rails and they shouted out to me. There were right there! It felt like I flew past them and then I was through the finish and a volunteer was handing me a bottle of water and taking the timing chip bracelet off of my ankle. I was done! I did it!

Walked out of the finishing area and waited for my family to catch up to me. In a minute they were all there; Nick, Eric and my parents. They took some pictures and started telling me that I’d finished my swim in less than 15 minutes! Incredible! That meant that if my watch was right, I may have actually done it in 1 hour 30 minutes. Too much! We chatted for a few minutes and then Eric and my parents headed home while Nick and I picked up my gear. First I got my lunch from the participants tent, then picked up my gear, returned the wetsuit and we headed home.

At home Nick took the seat off his bike and put it back on mine while I had a shower. When I came out he asked me to look at something. He was looking at his computer screen and showed me what he had up. It was the race results. Are you ready for this? Because I wasn’t!

My final times:
Total:  1:25:16.5
Place:  313 out of 592 participants, 14 out of 28 in my age group (women 40-44) [Editor’s note:  who was worried about placing 25th???], 109 out of 264 (gender place).
Swim, 750m:  13:50.9 – 2nd out of 28!!! (I very nearly cried when Nick told me this)
Bike, 20km:  46:08 – 23rd out of 28 (thanks to all that time lost struggling to get out of the wetsuit *sigh*)
Run, 5km:  25:17.9 – 11th out of 28!!! (if I’d done a sprint from the 500m mark, I might have shaved 13 seconds off my time and finished the run in the top 10, but STILL, 11th place!)

I really don’t know how, but I managed to beat my own personal goal by a full 5 minutes. That is just incredible to me. Wow. What a day! Even with the wetsuit fiasco, I still placed far better than I ever hoped I could. Too much.

Now that it’s all over, I can say I’m proud of myself.  I set a goal and reached it. Good for me.

Special thanks to Nick for coming into town just for this, and of course for loaning me Eric’s old Peugeot bike. Huge thanks to Eric and my parents for trekking all over Montreal on the metro to come by and catch a few glimpses of me over the course of a few hours on a Saturday morning. It meant the world to me to have people I care for cheer for me and me alone. Because I’ll tell you, it’s just not the same when a volunteer at the race shouts at you to keep going. It made all the difference in the world to me. Thank you.


nickt said...

Love. It.
Great race, awesome recap.
It was great to be there and to watch you crush it.
Next year wanna race each other? ;)

Stef said...

Maybe ...