Monday, May 23, 2011

Lake Carlyle - Epic Olympic Fail

I will preface my race report by stating that I have MILD seasonal allergies and a touch of exercise-induced asthma. So mild in fact that I ditched the inhaler a couple of years ago, feeling that the slight improvement in breathing wasn't worth the anxious jittery sensation and high heart rate.

Sometime during the night before the race, I woke feeling like I couldn't catch my breath. It was a scary, suffocating throat-swelled-shut sensation. I got up and paced around the hotel room and guzzled some water. The feeling passed although my throat felt strange and raspy. There was a strong smell of fresh cigarette smoke, perhaps from the room next door.

Crawled back into bed and slept for a couple more hours. At 5:30, my voice was raspy and my throat sore. Chest felt tight. I'm no doctor, but I'll guess that exposure to the smoke triggered some kind of allergic reaction.

Mary and I loaded up and headed to the race site. Weather was good, clear blue skies and warm. It was almost too warm.

Transition spots were assigned by your bib number. Being Number 8, I was in the first row, near the bike out. This meant that once out of the water I would have a longish hike up a hill and then go all the way across the transition area. It also meant I didn't have to worry about counting rows of racks, or losing my bike as I did in Petersburg the month before.
Got set up and went down to the water for a warm up swim. Wearing the full wetsuit in the sun was HOT. We stood in the water and I immediately recognized Derek from the Running Center, who had decided to drive down that morning. Felt pretty calm and composed.

There were three waves and Mary and I were in Wave 3. Watching the two waves before us go off, I started to get nervous. For the most part, however, the swim went very well. I forced myself to hold back and focus on just breathing and not worry about keeping up with anyone. Just took long, easy strokes and moved from buoy to buoy. I caught up with some of the women in my wave who had gone out too fast and even passed a couple of men from the prior wave.

Got pretty tired on the return and took a few breast stroke breaks. Chatted it up with a gal who was not only doing her first Olympic distance, but her first open water swim. Yikes! Kudos to her for bravery!!!
I came out of the water feeling extremely fatigued but pleased that I had met my goal time of 35 minutes for the 1640 yard swim. Walked to the top of the hill peeling off the wetsuit. The warm sun felt good. I jogged across transition and saw Steve and Carol O'Connor cheering me on. This perked me up considerably and I got out on the bike and took off.
This is where things started to go to crap.

I was cruising at 20-22 mph and it was feeling way too easy, which usually means there's a tailwind. At mile 8 I came to the first of a couple of good hills and noticed that my throat felt really dry and scratchy. I was taking water and GU and chewing gym, but by the top of the hill I was even wheezing a little. That is a definite first. I watched my speed drop to 7 mph on the hill and I wondered if maybe I should unclip in anticipation of falling over.

At the turnaround, the headwind blasted me. Nothing pisses me off like a sturdy headwind. After the rainy, cold and windy spring we have had, I am so over the wind. I pedaled grimly back, pissed off about the wind and mad that I couldn't breathe. I was just so pissed off. I had trained really hard for this day and my allergies/asthma were teaming with the wind to screw it all up. Passed a couple of people who were having just as much fun as I was. Comments ranged from "this wind sucks" to "this fucking wind sucks."

It seemed to take an eternity to get back to transition and by then, I was done. Instead of the 1:15 I was hoping for, my time for the 24 mile course was 1:35. 20 minutes is a lot of lost time to make up, especially for someone whose weakest sport is running. My legs felt great, no fatigue at all, and despite the bright sun and temps close to 80, I did not feel overheated.
I just...could not...catch my breath. My throat was closing up and my lungs were burning. It felt like I was breathing through a tiny, tiny straw.

And that is how the entire 6.2 miles went. Pollen and the ammonia smell of fertilizer being sprayed on a farm field nearby only made the sucktastic run suck more. On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the worst run, this was a -2. I crossed the finish line with a 10K time of a blistering 1:29:41. Total time was 3:40

Still, on the upside I had finished my first Olympic distance and by virtue of having a bad day, had set the bar so low that there was nowhere to go but up. I had entered the Athena category, and since there were only three women in this category, I won a great beer glass as a trophy.

Mary had a great race day, coming in just a hair over 3 hours. She is smoking fast!

After the awards ceremony, I drove home alone (Mary's husband and daughter had come down to watch and she rode home with them) and splurged at the drive-through McDonalds in Greenville. A fish sandwich and chocolate shake really hit the spot.

The allergy issue turned into a nasty respiratory infection, so three days later I am coughing up pieces of lung. I did manage to get a new inhaler prescribed, plus now I'm on Zyrtec twice a day. When this crud clears up it will be fun to see if the new meds help.


Mike said...

Great job out there battling through the asthma and allergy issues!

Anne B said...

Thanks Mike, I feel like I learned a lot from this one, most importantly to carry an inhaler during times of high pollen!