Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Race #3 of the Season - Harvest Moon Long Course Triathlon

I talked a bit in a previous post how Aurora Reservoir riding is my nemesis, and quite often finds a way to defeat me.  So it only seems natural to race out there, right??  Riiiiiiiiight.

A couple days before the race, we found out the bike course had changed, and while I put on a brave face, I was actually very concerned.  Instead of doing a lollipop style bike course, we were instead doing a 4 loop out and back.  While that sounds good in terms of bike nutrition and staying close to home, it was actually going to be quite hilly.  But as I said, I put on the brave face.  Fake it til you make it?  

Also, the day before the race, I did my annual "proficiency check" with my airline.  I think I've described them here before, but for those of you who need a refresher, a PC is simply an opportunity for my airline to evaluate me in a simulator environment.  They throw some emergencies at you, see how you handle adverse situations, etc.  It's a stressful event, but can be lessened if you adequately prepare.  I felt prepared for this checkride, but until the ride is over, it's nerve racking to say the least.  But I passed.  Woo!

So putting aside the course change, the stress I was under with my PC, and the very hot forecast, I was actually excited and ready for the race.

Little did I know...

We got there quite early, early enough for me to capture a beautiful Colorado sunrise.  

We found a good trans spot, right next to each other.  I went over to actually pick up my packet, since I did race day packet pickup.  In trans, T and I got our stuff together and did the usual pre-race getting ready.  We found one of our fellow TriSports athletes, George, and had a good conversation and some laughter.  He helped us apply some TriSports tattoos to our legs, then we finished getting ready for the race.  Wetsuits on, we walked down to the water to warm up.

Getting in a decent warmup, we waited for the race to start.  T went off before I did, so I had about 5 minutes to kill.  I lined up on the outside of the swim wave, prepared to face the sun.

The Swim
I started the swim a bit more aggressive than I normally would.  There was a lot of bunching, and I figured I could push it a tad and climb towards the front of the wave.  It worked out pretty well, but it skyrocketed my heart rate and I definitely dialed it back.  My sighting was fine for the most part, very little drifting off course.  I tried drafting off people as I usually try to do, but it didn't work too well.  

The swim back to shore felt like it took forever, and I don't know why.  Maybe just not used to the open water right now. Who knows?

Time: approx. 42:34 or 44:30, depending

Climbing back up the hill to trans, I saw T's bike still on the rack.  Given that I started 5 minutes after her, I figured I'd catch her on the swim, but wasn't sure how much by.  I decided to be real leisurely in T1, taking my time to sunscreen and relax a bit.  After a couple minutes, I saw her.  I bolted while she was getting her stuff together and told her I'd see her on the bike.

The Bike
I started off feeling good.  I was actually excited to be riding.  

That lasted 1/2 of the first loop.

In the first half of the loop, I didn't ride hard or aggressive.  I dialed it back a lot, taking in Skratch and our Skratch bacon cookie bars.  The ride was sunny and getting warm, but not hot yet.  I saw T a bunch on the ride and that was pretty cool.  When I got to the turnaround point for the ride back into the res, I was feeling optimistic.  I was averaging nearly 19 mph and just feeling awesome.

Then the ride back happened, and my day was doomed.

The ride back was hot.  Hot horrible misery.  And mostly uphill.  It was not fun, and when I realized I had 3 more loops of this course, I damn near cried.  My head was still mentally in the game for the most part, and I knew if I just put it down, shut up, and rode, I'd be okay.

Loop two, I could feel my body start to heat.  It was getting warmer and I was intaking more liquid than I would have liked.  I also struggled to eat my nutrition (too sweet I think).  I was definitely slowing down, and realized that it was going to be a (literal) uphill battle the rest of the day.  

Near the turnaround point of loop two, I saw T.  She was miserable and let me know it.  I told her I'd wait for her and we'd ride the rest of the ride together.  Normally she doesn't let me do this kind of stuff, but that day there were no objections.  We rode loop three together, which for me was the most miserable I had been all day.  I was trying to stay mentally focused, and I was, but physically, I was falling apart.  My right quad was in massive pain for some reason and I could not for the life of me get a pedal stroke that didn't hurt.

Loop four was the end, in more than one way.  The course was thinning as the competition was all on the run.  There were us stragglers and that's it.  T was ahead of me for the loop and while I liked keeping an eye on her, I wanted to catch her.  But it wasn't happening.  My liquid was all gone and the aid station was not helpful.  I began shutting down mentally.  On the ride back in, I started dry heaving, and soon I vomited for the first time that day.  I saw T at the aid station getting her feet doused by the med staff.  She told me they were overheating and she was miserable.  I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade Endurance to just force liquid down me, and promptly threw it up.  I knew I was done, but didn't want to admit it.  T cinched the decision by telling me she was pulling me off the course.

We got back up to trans, and she took my chip from me.  At this point, it's fuzzy.  I barely remember walking down to the med tent.  I don't recall putting on flip flops or anything.  She said I was dry heaving in the grass which I don't remember.  

In the med tent, they gave me a pill to keep me from puking and some electrolytes.  It tasted like seawater, but helped me get clarity.  Then they gave me regular water and sent me on my way.  We trudged back up to trans, packed our stuff, and left, defeated.  Aurora beat me.

Post-Race thoughts
In the week and a half since, I'm much more clear on what happened.  It was a brutal day.  Hot and windy.  To be sure, everyone else had to deal with it, and not everyone DNFed like me, but I think a couple things played. 

Number 1 - I did not train for that course.  My bike mileage is fine, and I've ridden long to be sure.  But I was not used to long sustained climbs, to be rinsed and repeated over and over again.  I calculated that we climbed over 3000 feet that day.  Simply put, I was not prepared for that.

Number 2 - the stress of my PC caused me to lose mental focus.  It's often said/understood that you only have so much mental acuity and I think I burned most of mine up in the sim the previous day.

Regardless, I didn't finish a race.  It's leaving me hungry and wanting to prove myself even more.

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