Monday, November 10, 2008

At long last, my race report!

Sorry for the delay, I know you were all DYING for my race report! Ok, so....

The morning of the race I woke up at like 4:15 am (which is 7:15 California time, so not really that early) all jittery and nervous about racing. I tried to be quiet and not wake anyone else as I got up to pee a million times (from the nerves) and rolled around restlessly in bed, and managed to make it until the alarm went off at 6:00 or so before anyone said anything to me. I worked on choking down some food while my stepmom went to get me some goodies from the coffee shop in the lobby. I tried really hard not to hyperventilate since I had that really fun elephant-sitting-on-your-chest feeling. Damn nerves. I packed my Camelbak bladder with ice and CarboPro (more about that later) since I knew it would be hot and we headed down to the transition area around 7:00-ish.

My stepmom had asked one of her Ironman-racer friends what she should do for me to make things easier and her friend had told her to carry all my stuff around for me. I told her that it wasn't a big deal, I didn't have that much stuff, but she insisted. She carried my bags and my dad pushed my bike. My dad wondered if people would think the hot pink bike was his and was kind of disappointed when I told him they probably wouldn't. Halfway to transition my dad stopped and freaked out that I didn't have my stuff. Ann proudly showed him that she had it. I mentioned that I WAS in fact carrying something (a tiny bottle of sunscreen) and Ann threatened to karate chop it out of my hand. Once we got to the transition area I convinced them that they would have to give up my stuff since they weren't allowed in, and went to set up.

I was racked next to some pretty cool people. Everyone was laughing and joking around like we were old friends. The only amputee woman was racked right next to me (Megan from Montana) and she was cracking us all up about not stealing her leg. Awesome. I got all set up and went to body marking early enough that I didn't have to wait in line (score!) and went and hung out with my people. About 45 minutes before the race I got really excited. No more nerves, just really freaking happy to be there. Fun!

A few minutes before transition closed I grabbed my swim stuff and headed down to the water where I found Swimmy Timmy and his lovely wife. My people found us too, and we all talked while I donned my speedsuit (non-wetsuit wetsuit). I zipped it up and told them I would be back in a minute. They asked if I was going to zip it up. Crap. Broken zipper. A couple of them started to freak out a little and I told them to see if it would go back together. If not I planned to take it off and stash the Gu packets I had in my pockets back in transiton and just swim in my tri suit. Happily we got the zipper to stay. Eventually I made my way down the beach to the start area, and waited. Because we were so far down the beach we couldn't hear the announcers and (I at least) had no idea when we would actually start, so I spent a lot of time standing around in my goggles trying not to have them fog up.

Finally the cannon went off and we all got in the water. The swim was 1500 meters total, broken into two loops with a beach run inbetween loops, because they like to make it hard. The first loop was pretty standard (and I saw a turtle!) with some contact right at the start and rounding the first buoy, but nothing crazy. I felt good! The run on the beach was a bit longer than I expected and they made us run high on the beach in the loose sand, but it went well. I went back in for my second lap happy with how it was going. As I was coming up on the first buoy again a small pack of swimmers came up behind me and one girl started climbing all over me. As we rounded the buoy she grabbed my right shoulder (even though she was coming up my left side) and pulled hard enough that it spun me around on my back. I paused for a second, stunned, and then kicked her as I flipped myself over and got moving again. There was a person about three feet to the left of me and no one on my right, yet she still kept climbing over me. It pissed me off to the point that I yelled at her underwater. I have no idea if she heard me, but I think being pissed made me swim harder to get away from her and may have contributed to my fairly fast swim. I got out of the water at 24:46 (ish)! Sweet!

I trotted gasping up to transition and got all my bike crap on. It was only 9:30 in the morning but I was already fairly warm (since warm water swimming doesn't tend to cool anyone off) when we started rolling on the bike. The first part of the bike was a pretty steady fire road climb and I got passed by a crap load of guys and some pretty fast women. It was kind of cool hearing about the whole course at the pre-race meeting because when I came up on particularly hard sections (Heartbreak Hill, etc) I knew why people were getting off and knew how to handle it. I spent a lot of time pushing my bike up the really steep short hills, and just tried to keep moving the rest of the time. The first extended downhill scared the crap out of me so I got off and ran down that. It was not crazy steep and was about five feet wide, but it was entirely composed of fist-sized chunks of lava. There was no dirt, as I'm pretty sure the lava chunks were about ten inches deep. Technically it was little different than riding in sand, but watching people crash and thinking about the skin that would be lost to the lava didn't sound like fun so early on, so I played it safe.

By the time I got to the first aid station I was having daydreams about a cold bottle of water and was not at all happy to hear that they only had Gatorade. I was carrying fluid with me in my pack, but I wanted plain water to help with the sticky dry feeling in my mouth and to dump all over myself to cool down. Shitty.

I reluctantly kept rolling and was happy to find we were pretty much done with the constant climbing. The terrain was rolly with plenty of hidden lava chunks to make you pay attention and punish you if you didn't. At one point the clouds passed in front of the sun making it feel a million times cooler and everyone around me cheered. They stayed there for quite some time, making the heat bearable and taking my mind off the water situation for a while. Any time I saw someone pulled off the trail I asked if they needed help, because I have needed help before and am still grateful to those who have stopped for me. Most people said they were ok, but one guy didn't. I stopped and asked him what he needed and he shouted something in German. Ummmm...yeah...I had no idea. Another woman riding by asked if he was ok and he said no again. She stopped and he yelled in German again. We looked at eachother a little helplessly, and started pulling out flat repair stuff as that seemed to be the most likely problem. I happened to get my tube out first and he ran over and thanked me, making note of my race number. Once we were satisfied he was set, the girl and I continued on our way. As I was coming up on the second aid station we were all warned to be careful as someone was crashed out and waiting for medical right around the corner. Been there. Hate to see that.

The second aid station had water!!!!!!!!!!! Sort of. The actual aid station only had Gatorade, but there was a man and his kid handing out bottles of water from the back of their minivan not far from the aid station. A bunch of us pulled over and grabbed bottles. I dumped one over my head and torso, into my gloves, and chugged what was left. I grabbed another to bring with me, but it was a screw-top bottle which would be impossible to drink while riding. I dumped out a Gatorade bottle and filled it with water, thanked the man and his kid profusely, and went on my way. The section between aid stations two and three started with more rolling but also included "Ned's Hill", a mile-long hill that's not very steep, but is enough to break your spirit a little. Towards the top it is paved but gets steeper, and I ended up walking that section (with pretty much everyone else). I made sure to keep drinking my water and ice-cold (still! yay!) CarboPro to stay hydrated. After Ned's Hill we reached "The Plunge", a long descent that I was thinking would be good to recover a little on. Wrong. I was able to get up a considerable amount of speed, but there was so much loose or embedded lava that my arms were dying from all the arm pump, and the focus required was exhausting. At one point someone yelled something and I lost focus a little, getting off line into some really loose stuff. I over-corrected and ended up going down, landing on my left knee and my right elbow. As soon as I stopped sliding I looked back to see if I was in danger of getting hit, saw a guy about three feet away from running me over, and threw myself onto my bike to get out of his way. That would have sucked if it didn't work out.

I got back on and kept rolling, hoping to get a break since we were done with all the big climbs. There seemed to be more lava on this part of the course than the rest, making the descents challenging. Even the flats were hard, as the chunks of lava sucked up any momentum I had, making coasting even for a little bit ineffective. The third aid station had no water, only Gatorade. Miles 16-18 were the hardest for me mentally. I was hot, bleeding a little, tired, and thirsty. The course had doubled back on itself and we were headed down the sections we had come up early on. I checked my watch at 12:25 and had a little freakout. I wasn't moving very fast and the bike cut-off was at 1:00. I was afraid we would have to climb up the loose shitty lava-chunky section we had gone down early on. I pulled over under a tree and freaked out for about 25 seconds. Then I got back on my bike and kept going. Happily we didn't have to go up that section and the last couple miles were a fast gravelly descent. I came into transition with about 20 minutes to spare.

As I was getting my run stuff on one of the race volunteers asked if I was quitting or if I was going to keep going. Ummm HELLO! Totally not stopping! I asked for ice, he asked if I was hurt, I told him I was hot. There was an aid station inside transition so I dumped water all over me and grabbed a cup to drink. I left transition with a very talkative woman. We both had to pee, so we ran off the road (we weren't even in the dirt yet) and peed. She waved at people while she did, I was slightly more subtle about it. Once we got running I figured out why I didn't like CarboPro.

Aside from the whole I-really-want-water-not-sweet-sticky-sports-drink thing, I messed up my nutrition. I went with the CarboPro because I don't think I eat enough at races if I rely on Gu alone. From the keeping my blood sugar in check standpoint the stuff worked great. Unfortunately, I wasn't absorbing much by the time I got to the run, and had a big sloshy unhappy belly. Yuck. I ended up walking most of the first three miles (all climbing) because any time I ran I felt sick and unsure of whether I was going to puke or poop. Good times. I only drank at every other aid station (water only) because I didn't want to be more sloshy, and I dumped water over myself at every opportunity. One aid station had a big beautiful bucket of ice, so I took the opportunity to stuff my bra and hat full of ice. When I did run, the cubes clinking together was comically loud. My stomach was settled enough at the top of the climb that I started running down the descents, and managed to run more than walk from then on. I caught a few people and got caught by some too. Around mile 5 we had to run a half mile (?) on a beach. I ran low by the water because the sand was packed and ended up running in the water because I didn't feel like moving. I passed a handful of people here. After that we ran through the "Spooky Forest", a section through the trees (shade!!!) that included a bunch of stumps and logs to climb over and under. Then we ran on another much shorter beach, over a bunch of slippery lava, through some chunky sharp lava, and towards the finish. I continued to pick people off over the technical stuff and was incredibly relieved to be so close to the finish. Being that close was also the hardest part. I wanted to throw up and to cry and to walk, but wouldn't let myself. I crossed the line running.

And I ran straight to the food tent. It was shady and they had chairs there. A woman came up to me almost immediately. She was the wife of the guy I had given a tube to and she thanked my for saving his race. They had come from Austria and he had gotten three flats and didn't think he would finish. I told them it wasn't a big deal and tried to cool down. I had gotten fourth out of four in my age group which isn't particularly good, but i finished the hardest thing I had ever done. After getting settled down I meandered over to the med tent asking for Band Aids for my wounds and ended up getting my knee stitched up (only one, no big deal).

Shower, lots of phone calls and text messages, lounging on my bed.

Before they started the real awards I was called up on stage for giving the guy the tube. They were so grateful they bought me chocolate and had it given to me in front of everyone. Slightly embarrassing, but cool.

I lived. And I want to do it again.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

yay! amy!! good job. sounds like a great experience! :)