Sunday, June 19, 2011

DNF at Rockford

Reindeer Mary and I set out for Rockford at 10 a.m on Friday. Mary decided that her cold was probably allergies and was taming it with Sudafed. Blue skies and mild temps made for a nice ride although we did get stuck in some pretty serious traffic just south of Rockford. The last 19 miles took about 45 minutes to navigate, and for no apparent reason! No wrecks, no construction...just sloooooooooowwwww moving traffic. I don't know how people who commute in this kind of crap do it every day.

Stopped at the Holiday Inn Express to check in. Mary had booked a suite using her State employee rate and was disappointed and a little baffled to learn that this did not apply since we weren't actually on official state business. My AARP discount didn't help us either. Neither did USAT membership.

The hotel lady asked if we were there for the "BMX event". That explained all the cars with bike racks and teeny tiny little bikes in the parking lot. Our tri bikes were gargantuan in comparison.

We kept smelling something delicious. The hotel lady said she was "baking the cookies". Is this a Holiday Inn thing? A ploy to quell our discontent over the increased room rate? Whatever it was, it worked. There is nothing quite like a chocolate chip cookie still warm from the oven.

Drove up the street to Rock Cut State Park. The hotel was literally 3 minutes away from the race site. We scoped out the lake situation. There are two lakes in this park and the triathlon is held in Olson Lake, the smaller of the two. There is a very nice public beach that was pretty crowded. Not much chance of getting a practice swim in today. The terrain is rolling and the lake sat in a low area, with parking lots and the transition up higher on a hillside. Looked like T1 was going to be a long one, judging by the distance from the beach to transition.

We checked out the vegetation issue. Being somewhat of an aquarium/nature nut, I was impressed by the variety of aquatic plants that were absolutely flourishing in this lake. There is a healthy population of lily pads that were in full bloom, arrowhead, duckweed and what I think is cabomba. You can buy cabomba in aquarium stores, it's a cold water plant that goldfish like to eat. It also gets incredibly long, stringy and its tiny leaves collect poo particles and other unspeakable things. Ugh...that would be the seaweed people talked about. It did seem to be contained to the outer edges of the lake. The race crew had done a good job of chopping it back.

There were people fishing at a little dock and by the spillway. Wait, a SPILLWAY AT A TRIATHLON????? WTF???? The water had a tiny bit of chop to it, and you could tell there was some current down that way. Not sure what that round thing is in the water, maybe a lily pad? Or some toothed creature pissed about the weeds being chopped back...

We decided to bike the run course. It was all beautiful rolling, i.e. steep hilly roads winding through the pine forests. Mary held the bikes while I visited a rustic "aid station". I was impressed how clean the facilities were. No wasps at all! No poo on the toilet seat. It even smelled ok in there.

This has nothing to do with triathlon --- Pit toilets are scary things. I will show my age here by stating that pit toilets remind me of an episode of the Xfiles where a tapeworm/fluke thing somehow was crossed with a human thanks to Chernobyl. The "flukeman" made it over to the United States where it was captured and subsequently escaped to a park NOT UNLIKE ROCK CUT STATE PARK. Flukeman hunkered down in a pit toilet and went on to kill a whole bunch of unsuspecting people. Shudder...would Flukeman be in the weeds tomorrow?

We then drove the bike course. Very beautiful, mostly flat with some gentle climbs through gorgeous rural areas.

It was about time for dinner. We ditched the bikes at the hotel and drove up the main drag in search of pizza or pasta. Found a place called "Happy Joes'". This seemed like an omen since our coach is named Joe.

Happy Joe's was kind of like Chuck E Cheese for adults. The system whereby you actually order and manage to receive food was confusing to us. Blame it on a long day, I guess. There was about three people in the whole place at 6:30 on a Friday night. That is usually never a good sign. But we went ahead and ordered pizza and a glass of wine and it was pretty good stuff after a long day. We boxed up the leftovers and called it a day.

Race Day

In the morning we arrived at the race site around 6. The skies were clear with no indication of the thunderstorms that had been forecast. Humidity was a little high, otherwise it was perfect weather.

There were three waves and women were in the last wave. Unique about this swim is that you swim out from the beach, execute a roughly rectangular course, exit the water and run around some orange cones and then repeat this.

I never did find out what the water temperature was, but suspect it was just on the borderline of being too warm for a full wetsuit. A sleeveless might have been a better choice. One woman actually ran into the water at the start, then turned around, stripped off her suit and jumped back in.

The first lap went very well. You had to do a lot of siting, which was easy to do since there were a lot of volunteers in bright orange life vests at every buoy. Really, there were an amazing number of cheerful volunteers out there. Swimming near the spillway was kind of weird for me, I could feel the current and see the gates when I breathed to the right. Stayed with my wave pretty much and passed a couple of men from the prior wave. Things were going well.

I was a little out of breath when I ran out on the beach and I stood up in some seaweedy muck that felt really gross. Around the cones and back into the water. Halfway to the first buoy, I got too close to a guy who was breaststroking and got kicked in the side of the face. Not hard, but I was turning to breathe and ended up inhaling a full breath's worth of lakewater.

It was pretty much over at that point. I flipped over on my back to regain some composure and coughed. Then I puked lakewater and whatever was in my stomach. It was disgusting and awful.

I finished the swim but had to rest on a kayak twice. My time coming out of the water was something like 41 minutes. The walk up to transition seemed to take an eternity and it was hard to breathe. Got out of wetsuit and geared up and trotted over to bike out. At about a mile, I felt lightheaded and nauseous, was having trouble getting a full breath of air. Got sick again, nasty salty stuff.

I was done. I rode back to transition, turned my chip in and said I was dropping out. I have never done this before and it felt strange. I didn't know what to do with myself. Some people would probably have gotten emotional but I just had an odd sense of peace. This was not my "A" race, things had not gone well but it didn't matter in the big scheme of things. It was just a race, nothing more.

Since Mary was still out racing, I knew I had a couple of hours to hang out before watching her cross the finish line. I walked for a bit, tried to drink some water but it threatened to come back up. An awesome volunteer named Cat (Kat?) said I could help in several areas if I wanted to, and so for the next two hours I sat in a chair and helped with timing the racers coming across the mat. It was great to watch the fast people come in.

Wherein I Do Not Quit
So that's the story of my first DNF. I didn't take home a medal but I sure had a story to tell. I spent Father's Day kind of mulling around why I do this stuff, whether or not I will want to continue, and if it all ends this summer, what will takes its place. A big part of my identity is vested in multisport and I'm not ready to roll over, sell my bike and start scrapbooking (no offense intended for any scrapbookers out there), but today was hard, much harder than it should have been and mentally exhausting and I don't think I have another DNF in me.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gearing up for Rockford

My next race is the Rockford Olympic Triathlon on Saturday, June 18th. I am going into this with foolish optimism and uncharacteristic bravery. But really, after the beatdown my allergies dealt at Lake Carlyle triathlon, things have got to be better this time, right?

This race is held in Rock Cut State Park in northern Illinois. The swim is in Olson Lake. It is a flat swim, per the race director's informational email. The start is on a beach, and you complete a lap, get out and run across a mat, then repeat the lap. This sounds like grand fun.

Supposedly there is a lot of seaweed type vegetation in this lake.

I read a race report wherein the triathlete described nearly losing his watch to the plant life and having his arms "exfoliated" by the leaves.

The race director sent out an announcement to participants that they had used something called a chopper to cut the greenery back. It sounds to me like they hacked a swath through the seaweed, probably pissing off all of the sea monsters that lurked beneath. Not that there are alligators or pythons, but it's Northern Illinois...aren't there muskies in this lake? Those things have teeth. And snapping turtles. It's something about swimming in murky, plant laden water that makes my skin crawl. It makes me think of horrible, spiny reptilian things snatching at the swimmers from beneath and pulling them down under the seaweed.

Thank God we will all be wearing wetsuits. Whatever gets me will have to chew its way through 5/8ths of an inch of neoprene first.

The bike course is relatively flat with some rollers, and the run course has a bunch of hills. The forecast is for 'scattered thunderstorms". So it could be an interesting day.

Reindeer Mary reports that for the first time in two years, she has a cold. I hope it clears up, it would suck to have to deal with that. Also she is driving.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Nutrition Fail

Today's run workout was a 15 minute warmup followed by 3 x 10 minutes at 85% with 5 minutes at 65% in between. I was looking forward to something different. The temperature had dropped into the low 70s and there were clouds blotting out the sun, making for perfect running conditions.

I have been eating these little crunchy peanut butter Clif Bars on long bike runs, alternating with GU with success. They seem to fulfill the need for something solid and salty, while there is a somewhat sweet tasting gooey center. Sort of like a Payday bar except it doesn't taste as good.

I got home from work and slammed down a Cliff Bar, chased it with a big glass of water and out the door I went. The warmup went just fine, I eased into a slightly faster pace and started the first interval. It didn't take long to realize that I had forgotten to use my inhaler. Oh well, not the end of the world, it would just be a slightly uncomfortable run. And more like a 75% effort.

Judging by the math this should have been about a 6.5 mile run. At exactly mile 4, my stomach did that sickening lurch thing, you know...the one where you have to stop running or it will be too late. I was about a mile from home. Decided to walk a bit and maybe that would calm things down. And so it went, walk a little, jog a little, get that "oh shit" feeling. Walk again.

Ended up with 5 miles and invaluable knowledge about what NOT to eat before a run.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I Hate the Heat

Mother Nature must be really pissed off this year. We went from monsoon-like rains and dozens of tornadoes straight into 90+ degree heat with high humidity. I'm a little worried about how I'll do at Racine since I tend to wilt in the heat. If it snowed that day I would be soooo happy.

Last Friday after work I tried running in Washington Park, aiming for a mix of heat and hills. I chose a hilly two mile loop with a number of side streets and played a game wherein I had to run each hill twice. This was fun for about a mile, then it became torture. There is shade in the park but since much of the route is in a low lying area with ponds and a lot of vegetation, it is also rather humid.

I stopped at a water fountain to dip my bandanna in cold water and some people asked me if I was all right. My face was tomato red.

"Oh I'm fine," I tried bravely. They seemed unconvinced.

Made it to 4.5 miles and called it a day.

My schedule for Saturday called for a 70-mile bike ride. Steve, being the good sport that he is, agreed to tackle this epic distance with me. We opted to head out at 6:30, which, by the time I was done putzing around and procrastinating, turned out to be closer to 7. I loaded up Jack-the-tri-bike with two bottles of mostly ice, 4 GUs, some Triscuits, a handful of Saltstix and some gum. Our route was new and bold --- we would ride through the towns of Loami, New Berlin, Pleasant Plains and Salisbury. I knew the location of gas stations and/or friends/family so that we were covered for pitstops and water refills.

Things went pretty well for the first 25 miles. The pollen was pretty high, I had forgotten my inhaler and could feel my lungs burning, but my breathing felt ok. We got to Pleasant Plains and stopped at a gas station populated mostly by farmers and high school football players. I felt kind of silly stomping through the store in my clicky cycling shoes. There was no water fountain that I could find, so I slipped into the restroom to refill water bottles.

Noteworthy on this leg is that we saw a large animal at a distance trundling along the side of the road. Initially it appeared to be a groundhog, but it was barely moving. This was no groundhog, it was an enormous snapping turtle that had just crossed a two-lane county blacktop and was ambling down the embankment on the far side. I could see a pond about a quarter mile off the road, which was probably the turtle's point of origin. It appeared to be headed into a cornfield. To lay eggs? I have no idea. I have been known to stop driving or running or whatever to help turtles cross roads safely, but this monster didn't appear to want or need assistance, so we traveled on.

It was getting really hot. A road I intended for us to turn on near Salisbury had recently been white rocked and looked like a flat tire waiting to happen, so we stayed on Route 97, which is a little too busy and narrow for cycling.

In Salisbury we stopped in the shade of some huge maple trees and took a little break. Lo and behold, along came two cyclists, one of them the husband of a friend of mine. He also owns the Corkscrew, a very nice wine store in Springfield. We learned from them that there was some white rock on one of the popular roads ahead, but chose to ignore this warning.

Yup, Stagecoach Road had some fairly new, loose white gravel. There was really no good way to turn around and backtrack, so we just sort of slogged along and hoped for the best.

Steve didn't get a flat tire until we were about two miles from my brother's house. By then the wind had picked up, the ride was starting to suck. I was craving an ice cold Pepsi and wanting to get off the bike.

We made it to my brother's and hung out there for about half an hour, rehydrating and visiting. My legs were pretty tired and it sucked to have to get back on the bike and head out into the wind, which was gusting about 20 mph by this point.

We got home with 66 miles, 4 short of 70. I contemplated riding a few laps around the neighborhood to make the full distance, but decided I didn't give a crap.