Sunday, April 8, 2012

Galveston 70.3: the good, the bad, & the funny

"While outcomes or results are always attractive, they are at the same time difficult to handle emotionally, because they are basically out of your own control. You never know if someone on the line is stronger and you can’t do anything about it if they are. There are always a thousand ways for a race to pan out and it is impossible to predict the actions of others, the weather etc. Instead I shifted focus to the things I could control. If I executed my race strategy perfect and gave absolutely everything I had in me, feeling completely empty at the finish I would have succeed no matter the outcome.” 
- Torbjorn Sindballe 
A week later, I have finally got around to finishing my race report for the Galveston 70.3. It’s kind of long and loaded with lots of pics, but I couldn’t help myself. Here goes... :)  We began the 12-14 hour drive from Northwest Arkansas to Galveston, Texas on Thursday afternoon. I was lucky enough to be road tripping with four other triathlete friends, which made the journey even better than I could have imagined. 
Jonathan was already in race pic mode with his #1
Our amazing friends from Skin Strong loaned us their trailer to haul our bikes and gear in...and the set up was suh-weeeet! We had plenty of space and our bikes were able to be mounted to the walls of the trailer. If you are a triathlete, you understand the strong attachment that you have with your bike. If you are not a triathlete, think of your most prized possession making a 14 hour journey in a trailer (like your Grandma’s fine china, your pet, or your kid...uh-huh, it’s that serious people!). It made us all rest easy knowing that our expensive toys were secure. 
How beautiful is this? Some of our babies all ready to hit the road! 
I was pretty pumped for our road trip, but I don’t think I clearly understood just how far we’d be driving!  My ADD and small bladder had us stopping about once an hour, but everyone didn’t seem to mind too much (well, that is what I’m telling myself... but I guess I will know for sure if I get left out on the next triathlon road trip...ha)
We arrived in Galveston really early Friday morning. I can’t tell you when exactly because I was delirious from no sleep and desperately having to pee. All I remember is that my eyes burned and my bladder was begging me to stop drinking so much water. Thankfully, we had the studly Jonathan (#1 guy) to sweet talk the lady at the hotel into letting us check in a room early. Ohhhhh yeah... Bathroom + bed = Road trip heaven! 
After getting some rest, making a few Wal-Mart trips, and inhaling Green Monster smoothies (thanks to our sweet ‘becca who brought her serious blender!), we checked in at the expo! Race expos are just...fun. You get to see incredible bikes, eat and drink race foods (carbs!), spot some pros (Lance? Lance?? Where?!?!?!), check out other racers and their calves (i might be the only one doing this), and find good deals on tri gear. 
HIGH FIVE F5!!! (check out the sick trek in the back...sheez!)
I got a sweet Lazer aero helmet for 80 bucks y’all. I don’t care how ridiculous it makes me look - that’s half off at least! Check out my aero modeling pics below with it on.... :) 
Getting ready to go aero!!! 
That’s hot! LOL
Okay, enough of my love for Tron-like helmets...let’s get into the subject of wetsuits. Although it is widely known that non-swimmers LOVE wetsuits because they supposedly help you float/swim better, I am the exception. I am not a great swimmer and I don’t like wetsuits. To quote my friend, Kenny, my swimming resembled “somewhat between a rock and juvenile turtle” last summer. I’ve definitely improved because now I am actually moving when I stroke (instead of running under water to keep up with everyone, failing, and flaring my arms everywhere in desperation). I don’t care how much wetsuits help me though, I still hate them...and their suffocating nature. Thankfully, our group went out for an ocean swim on Friday to get a taste of some open water action (we’ve been stuck in the pool all winter long...ahhhhh!) and I was able to get somewhat use to swimming in that wetsuit thing.  Wetsuit = Not Fun
Swimming in the ocean with my crazy awesome friends = Hilariously Fun
These things are a workout to put on! 
Getting serious...
Getting goofy... and demonstrating how the wetsuit helps us float
I’m far left...thinking... “get this thing off me” :)
Friday night we all got together for a great meal at a local Mexican restaurant so I could hit up a massive amount of veggies, rice, and beans (my typical, every day meal). I only mention this so that I can brag about my ability to consume an unnatural amount of food...and how that won me a bet that got me free lunch on Saturday. THANKS BARRY!
Saturday we checked in our bikes after we got in some more swim action, along with a little bit of riding and running. I felt great in the water. I felt great on the bike. I felt great on the run. I was ready to race and excited!!! 
And this is where the real race report begins (not just my road trip, food, wetsuit rambling)...
Fast fwd: RACE DAY! 
I woke up at 2:30 AM (not on purpose). After waking, I was unable to fall back asleep from all my nervous excitement, but I stayed in bed ’til 430 because that is when my roomy and I had agreed to get up. Upon waking and getting our gear together, I ate a weak breakfast that consisted of a half of a banana. Yeah, I was getting ready to race for almost 6 hours and I didn’t even finish the whole banana. That would be mistake #383,989,939,873 in my short tri racing life (right after failing to eat the night before). 
Our group was leaving the hotel by 530 to walk to transition. For all my non-triathlete friends, transition is the period where you change from swimming to bicycling to running. There are A LOT of triathletes and bikes in transition. It is a chaotic place! I was told that this race had around 3000 triathletes competing...and an expected 12,000 spectators. Something about this guy Lance brings more people around, I guess... :)
This is my spot before the race. My baby, Cujo, is the blue Cervelo...if ya can see him.
To give you a better idea, this is transition after the race when people had cleared out...
Yeah, LOTS of bikes...and LOTS of opportunities to get lost when coming into the area to change gear. 
Once arriving at transition, I nervously attached myself to some of the tri guys in our group so that they could help me with setting up my spot (and airing up my tires) so I’d have a fast transition. Yes, I already know how to do those things, but I was so freaked out to race my 4’th triathlon (and 2’nd half-ironman) that I had to keep reminding myself to breathe. Yup, this was serious people. 
After getting set up and using the porta potty one last time, we got together as a group and prayed. THIS MEANT SO MUCH TO ME! It is by the grace of God that I am able to race and train. I thank the Lord for my health and abilities every day. What better way to start our half-ironman race than asking for the Lord’s strength and protection and praising him for this amazing opportunity???
Our awesome team! (minus Kevin) together before the race
My wave started at 7:10, just 10 minutes after the Pro Men, five minutes after the Pro Women, and five minutes BEFORE the men ages 30-34. I was afraid of getting trampled by the guys starting behind me-- a fear that became reality--but I kept telling myself that my ice hockey background would not go to waste and that I could battle with some passion too!
I got warmed up by doing a little jog and then put my wetsuit on around 645 before making my way over to the dock. Thanks to Skin Strong Slik my wetsuit slipped on pretty well (and came off super fast too!). 
Barry was SO awesome in helping me get set up and preparing for this race! 
Mistakes #383,989,939,877 & 383,989,939,878 - not  knowing the swim course and not going to the pre-race meetings. Ohhhhhhh yeah, I am a guilty gal. I should have checked out the course the day before. I should have at least had an idea of WHERE I was supposed to be swimming, turning, and aiming for. By race morning, it was too late. I couldn’t see the course from the dock because it was still slightly dark when my wave was getting ready to swim. Plus, I’m kinda small...so it was impossible to see above the heads of the other triathletes. I literally had no clue where I was going to be swimming to! I kept jumping up and down on the dock before the race to try and figure it out, but I couldn’t see a thing. I asked a few women in my age group and they just looked at me like I was joking. 
Ummmmm, nope, not joking y’all. I knew that there was a big ol’ ship near the end of the course that we were going around, but I wasn’t quite sure how we were getting there. 
To start the swim, we jumped  off the dock and treaded water until the sound went off to start. Once in the water, I saw more of the yellow and orange buoys that line the swim course so that helped me figure out where I was going...a little. 
Mistake #383,989,939,890 - NOT practicing how to sight in training. 
Fact: when swimming in open water it is good to know where you are going. Actually, when swimming in any water it is good to know where you are going. However, in the ocean, you don’t have that nice, black strip like in the bottom of the pool to guide you along. In training, we are supposed to practice this “sighting” thing - the little maneuver of looking up quickly when breathing to check where you are. Well, in all my hours of intense training, I failed to practice this important part of the swim. The result of my mistake was that I had to stop every few minutes to guide myself back to the course, which wasn’t made easier by foggy goggles. 
During the swim, all I could think about was each stroke and where I was supposed to be going. I had some brutal kicks and swings to the head when the guys’ wave caught up with me (not cool, yo!), but the real challenge was just trying to figure out the destination. I figured out towards the end that the course was making left turns (after missing those turns quite a bit). I didn’t get too far off track each time before correcting myself, but it was still added time and energy to make my way back to buoys each time. 
I’m pretty sure the guys in the kayaks watching over the swimmers thought I was hell bent on making up my own swim course. At one of my moments of thinking, “stop, stop, STOP and see where you are going because you are alone and no one is near you!”, I looked up at one of the kayaks and got a friendly wave from the nice man. I think he was trying to tell me that I was going the wrong way, but I just smiled and waved back...then continued on. 
As I was getting closer to the shore, I kept telling myself to stay on track as much as possible because I didn’t want to embarrass myself by being the "wandering swimmer". It’s okay to wander when you are far off shore, but it’s humiliating to wander when your friends and family can actually see you. So coming into the chute, I didn’t think about my time. I didn’t think about my breathing or stroke either. Instead, I found myself thinking, “Crap, where am I swimming to?!?!? Oh, there’s a bright color on shore...is that where I’m supposed to go or where I’m NOT supposed to go? Where is that big ship now? Oh wait... it’s the chute, right? I go there! Crap, I hope no one is laughing at me...wait...where is everyone else going??? I just want to get out of here and on my bike!”. I was clueless, but I made it. :)
Running up to transition in my wetsuit was fun. No sarcasm there. I was just happy to get out of the water! I got out and saw the strippers, but decided against it. For those who are not triathletes, I’m not referring to people taking off their clothes while dancing. A stripper in triathlon takes off OTHER people’s clothes....well, wetsuits. You just lay down and they strip it off really fast to help you. But I was so nervous that I didn’t even want to attempt that move. I thought for sure they would accidentally take off my tri shorts too. 
Total Swim Time: 40min 56sec 
Hauling booty out of the water to transition
Once in transition, I stripped off the rest of my suit (I was all slicked up from Skin Strong’s Slik that my wetsuit just slipped right off!), put on my sweet tron helmet, sunglasses, and bike shoes...and then ran like heck out of there! I was feeling great and excited to be on my bike--it’s my strongest sport in triathlon. I feel so comfortable on my bike and was looking forward to busting out some wicked speed! 
Total T1 Time: 3min 8sec (No, I didn’t take a nap. It was a pretty good distance to run from the water to the transition area)
On my beloved bike, Cujo, I made sure to easy spin at first and get my heart rate down. The bike course at Galveston is really flat and straight, but there are quite a few turns at first so picking up speed isn’t really needed until getting out on the main road. I took it easy...and smiled...knowing the best was yet to come. 
Or so I thought...
Right now is a good time to mention that I have been worried about the saltwater in the gulf....for months! With this being my first ocean swim race, I was scared that the saltwater would burn my throat, nose, and eyes. But I was so wrong. My throat, nose, and eyes were perfectly fine...
But my tummy was not fine. 
Not even 5 miles into the bike, I felt so sick to my stomach! I tried to take a sip of my nutrition and some water and threw them both up immediately. I had practiced my nutrition in training and had no issues, but the salt water I had gulped down while swimming had done a number on my stomach. My tummy is super sensitive. I don’t do GU or any other gel packets, power bars, or really any kind of bars. The only nutrition that I have been able to handle while training and racing are CarboPro and Infinit. Both are high calorie and high carb mixes that stay like water in consistency so they are easy to take down. The Infinit has a bit more protein and electrolytes so I was planning on using it for the Galveston ride. Good plan, but just didn’t happen.  I was incredibly sick to my stomach.  I had the thought to get off my bike to throw up, but I didn’t want to stop. Heck, I didn’t even want to turn my head while riding because I wanted to stay in aero position! Yes, I realize that when my 21 mph spin becomes a 14 mph sickening slow push, staying aero should be the least of my worries. Rational thinking was long gone at this time though. I puked over...and over...and over....on myself and my beautiful bike. I puked until I had nothing left and was dry heaving. At one intersection, a group of kids were cheering for the athletes riding by. I did all I could not to throw up near and/or on them, but I was projecting salt water, drinking water, and nutrition everywhere. Gross, I know. Honestly, I felt horrible and was on the verge of tears for the first hour because of how frustrated I was with myself. 
When the times get tough and it’s hard to see any reasoning behind all the pain, it is easy to get discouraged. During those hard moments, there has to be something inside an athlete besides a projected race time to continue. There has to be a true love for the sport and a bigger purpose. I train and race because I love it, but what drives me to overcome and persevere through those times when I feel like quitting is my hero, Pfc. Josh Jetton. Every race is a memorial to him. I want to wake people and remind them about the sacrifices soldiers make for this country. I want all fallen soldiers and our Josh to be remembered every step, every day, and every race. 
Honoring Josh -- our fallen hero. Kevin and I have temp tats for every race in his memory.
When I get my IM tattoo after FL this November, I’m going to find a way to put them together.
My puking episodes were discouraging, but I actually started smiling to myself during that time (I must have looked ridiculous). See, Josh was a runner. A hard core runner. He would say, “If you aren’t puking than you aren’t running hard enough”. (yes, he was also a ton of fun). I thought about his drive, determination, and perseverance when I was pushing to just move. I thought about why I was racing--to honor my "adopted Schaller” brother. But I also thought about how proud he’d be that I was crazy enough to puke all over myself a dozen or more times in the race...and as weird as that sounds...that just made me smile. 
By this time, I was about half-way through the bike course. I knew my bike pace and overall race time was going down the drain. But I wasn’t going to stop. I wasn’t going down with a DNF. I thought I could just push on my bike until the run...and then I’d walk. haha. Seriously though, I went from wanting to hit a 5:33 race goal to just wanting to be able to finish the race. I couldn’t take in water much. I couldn’t take in nutrition. I kept trying to hold both down, but would throw up everything. I was depleted and dehydrated, but I was still thankful to God for the opportunity to be out racing. 
Side note: 
The new LAZER aero helmet was a huge life saver in the hot weather. Unlike a lot of aero helmets, I stayed pretty cool in this one because of the aquavent, which is a port on the top of the helmet that is made to pour cold water in to filter down and around the head to reduce overheat. The aid stations on the bike were GREAT about getting cold water to the cyclists. I could just grab the bottle while riding by and pour it through the vent (since I wasn’t exactly able to drink the stuff...haha). So the helmet was a wise spent 80 bucks. Woot woot! 
Ok. Back on track:  The Galveston bike course is an out and back. Right before I hit the turn around point, I started to feel somewhat better. It might have been because I stopped even trying to take in fluids so I wasn’t throwing up as much. I tried to push a bit more against the headwind. Oh yeah, did I mention there was a headwind? Not only was I sick, I was pushing against AIR. What?!!? The Galveston bike course is AWESOME, but since it’s right on the coast there is a lot of wind.  After the turn around...and knowing that I had a tailwind, I tried to push for the 20+ miles as hard as I could. My thinking was that since I knew I’d be suffering from no nutrition and a sick stomach on the run, I might as well demolish myself on the bike since it’s my strongest. Logical thinking?? I don’t know. But that’s what I did. As a result, the second half of my bike was much better. Tailwinds are as sweet as honey on the way back from a long bike. 
Slowly but surely! :)
For the last 5 miles of the bike I made sure to spin easy. Getting back into transition there are a lot of turns on the course so you can’t really go too hard anyway. I wasn’t going to attempt the flying dismount since I felt miserable, but I went ahead and did it anyway (those are too fun to pass up!). I was happy to successfully land off the bike in my delirious state without crashing.  Total Bike Time: 2hrs 53min Running into transition the second time seemed to be a whole different ball game. My legs were heavy, of course, but my body just felt SO tired! I knew that I needed some fluids and calories badly. When I got my bike on the rack, I dug in my bag to find a banana that I had brought “just in case”. I took a bite, drank some water, and then threw it all back up in my bag. Lovely. Then I slipped on my running shoes, grabbed my hat, and took jogged to the run course.  Total T2 Time: 2min 30sec  My first thoughts when starting the run were, “Oh crap, this is going to be a long 13.1 miles”. I was moving extremely slow, about 11min pace. I was supposed to be doing a 9 min mile according to my race plan, but I couldn’t move. I saw pro Kelly Williamson FLY past me on the course to finish up her run and win the race. That just made me feel even slower... haha. After the first mile or so, when I was able to get over the disappointment with myself, I just couldn’t stop smiling. I don’t care who you are, these Ironman races are epic! The run course is 3 loops so I was able to see all my tri friends as we all ran/jogged/walked past each other. I LOVED THAT! We were all wearing our Skin Strong kits so they were easy to spot. If I saw one of them far off in the distance and I was fixin’ to turn on the course, I made sure to shout out to them as loud as I could before one of us disappeared again. I’m sure the people running by me were entertained a little by my screeching enthusiasm while walk/jogging and waving my arms everywhere to say hi.
After my first loop of 4’ish miles, I stopped at another aid station to try to take in some more water. I sipped the cup and didn’t feel too queasy. I was thinking about trying to take in some Ironman electrolyte drink, but instead I just stared at the cup for a really long time. Just when I was about to attempt to run/jog again, I heard someone screaming my name. I looked up and saw my friend, Kim, cheering me on. She had the camera in hand so I made sure to give her a thumbs up. Then I remember announcing to her that I still had, “a couple more laps to go”. Counting down by laps seemed more doable than miles.
Photo ops are great excuses to stop!
I did have to stop a few times and throw up in the bushes, but I was feeling a whole lot better than I did on the bike. The aid stations were incredibly well-supplied and had awesome volunteers. I would always “hang out” at the aid station for a while. The volunteers would shove the cold sponges down my bike and pour water over me. I bet I looked sexy...
One step at a time! 
My run was slow, but it didn’t matter. I finished. And it isn’t all about my race time. Yes, I want to do good and get better, but racing and training means so much more than numbers. It is about overcoming, persevering, encouraging others, and doing the best that I can with the abilities that God has given me to glorify him. Total Run Time: 2hrs 14min 
All done! 
Overall Finish Time: 5hrs 54min 17sec  
Our whole team at the end of the race - love them!
Looking back, the whole race weekend experience was amazing! I got to travel and hang out with a great group of friends, be immersed in a sport that I have grown to love, and overcome some trying obstacles. I also learned a whole lot from the race, like--don’t drink so much salt water on the swim, know the course, don’t drink so much salt water on the swim, eat within 15 hours of the race (d'oh!), and don't drink so much salt water on the course. :) 
YAY! WE DID IT, GUYS!!! 
I’ll be back to Galveston next year!