Riding with the wind. When I'm sad, she comes to me.
With the thousand smiles, she gives to me...

Fly on my little wing.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

IMCDA: My Race Experience

 I guess I should mention that all these accounts were posted on my facebook page and I'm just re-hashing them here for posterity. Anyway here's the post-race note. Skip below for race only details.

Update: Pre race info.
Well…that was an interesting experience. So we arrived on Wednesday morning and I drove up to Metaline Falls, WA to visit Walker, who is working as a park ranger. Once I got out of CDA city proper, the drive had much nicer scenery and the roads got more fun to drive. If only I had the WRX…instead of a Chevy Aveo (with no power locks. I didn’t even know they still made new cars WITHOUT POWER LOCKS [except Wranglers of course], what is that like a $20 option?) Anyway I hung out with Walker, spent the night and drove back to CDA the next day.
My bike had been shipped to Walker from MI, thus I had to assemble it in our really classy motel room. Dave said it was probably the smallest room he’d stayed in. We made it work but it did have a few notable characteristics worth mentioning. 1) The bathing apparatus I characterized as a “Nipple Shower”- (n) A shower in which the faucet is placed low on the wall as such that when any person taller than 5’ 10” attempts to wash themselves, the stream of water will contact their body at a point no taller than their nipples. To wash one’s face/head it is necessary to squat in the shower which is of course awkward and uncomfortable. This wasn’t the first time I’d encountered such a shower, however it was the first time I’ve named the phenomenon. This shower didn’t’ have any kind of bar for the curtain and there was only one hook to hang towels. Thus for two people, with wet towels, wet wetsuits, wet swimming attire, etc. it didn’t work very well. They didn’t even supply the tiny bottles of shampoo/conditioner. Even the MOUNTAIN VALLEY did that! Enough about the hotel and more about the race.
I checked in for the race and went for a short swim Thurs. afternoon. The water was cold, but didn’t seem any colder than Walloon a few weeks ago, so I wasn’t too worried for the swim. Dave and I drove the bike course Thursday evening. We stopped at a Pizza place called Garlic Joe’s and ate one of the most delicious pizzas I’d ever had. Bacon, tomatoes, roasted garlic is a super combo. On Friday I went for a 20ish mile bike to preview a part of the course, ran over a small stick while flying down a hill; heard “pfffffffffffff woOOwoooWooo” and pulled over with a flat front tire. Upon inspection I had a pinch flat, which made sense since I had only used a small hand pump to pump my tires. Oops. But I changed it and went on my way, back to the motel. Claire Kafer lives “only” about 5 hours away from CDA and she wanted to come visit for the race and she arrived later Friday afternoon. She was staying at a campground a few miles out of the city so I went with her to check it out.
Everyone I talked to said CDA was “sooooo pretty” and to be honest, I wasn’t that impressed so far in our journey. Claire and I decided to go drive some forest service roads, and this changed my mind. While they’re not mountains like Colorado mountains, they certainly aren’t mountains like Boyne/Crystal/Schuss ‘mountains’. Lots of green, lots of views over lake CDA. It was pretty cool. On Saturday we drove another forest service road to Mount CDA, which is apparently a local kids weekend party spot. There was a firepit, with half burned four wheeler mag, a large tree which they appeared to have attempted to shoot down with shotguns and such, and of course a bunch of broken glass. But it did have a great view. We continued our adventure by driving down 97, which is a road that goes around lake CDA, which again made me wish I had the WRX. I would have been equivalent in “funness” to driving the Poudre Canyon road that goes from Steamboat to Fort Collins (ask Chino about it). We turned around in Harrison (pop 237ish), where apparently there’s a bunch of heavy metals in the dirt and there was a sign warning of this. It also suggested that you didn’t let your children play pretty much anywhere and also discouraged them from making mud pies. What a crappy place to be a kid. On Saturday morning I had to check in my bike and transition bags so that was all taken care of. We had eaten IHOP for breakfast, Subway for lunch and went and got some pizza for dinner. I was carbo loaded and ready to rock. I went to bed at about 8:30.


Sunday arrived bright and early-at 5am. I woke up, had my traditional pre race breakfast of ensure and pop tarts, got my stuff ready and drove to the start; arriving at 5:45. I went and inflated my tires with a borrowed pump and then stood in the pre-race porta potty line, which is always the longest part of the morning. Dave and I watched the pros start at 6:25 for the two loop swim. I then got my wetsuit on, Dave wished me luck and I went to the beach and he took my stuff back to the car. I got in the water at 6:40 and did about 5 minutes of “warm up”. The sun was out and the water didn’t seem too bad. I was standing on the beach at about 6:50 just trying to stay warm and waiting to go. The course was a beach start counter clockwise rectangle and I lined up almost to the very far right, as to stay clear of the “washing machine”. I was one row back and the gun went off. The row in front of me didn’t move very fast so I jumped in between them and was out in front of most people near me. The long side of the rectangle was the first part of the swim and I didn’t have to much trouble with other people crowding me as most of the decent swimmers had lined up to my left as to take the shortest route. About 500m out I was struggling to find my rhythm as the water seemed to be pretty choppy. I rounded the first buoy, staying wide and still avoided the majority of the washing machine. The way back in seemed easier and I found a little bit of a rhythm but still felt like I was fighting with the water. You have to exit with water and go over a timing mat and then make a left turn and head back out around the buoy for the second lap. I saw my split time was 33ish, which was a slower pace than in WI but I wasn’t too concerned. The second lap was more challenging, especially on the way out. I was still fighting the water and couldn’t get into a relaxed rhythm. I even felt a little panicked around the far buoy as the chop seemed to make grabbing a breath a challenge. I just told myself to try and relax, “you’re almost done.” I made it out of the water with a 1:07 and was just glad to be out of the water. I got my wetsuit off and headed for the changing tent. As I was getting my bag and starting to get my biking stuff on I felt like something wasn’t right. Inside the tent I was cold, moving slowly and almost felt like I was drunk. I knew I was probably slightly hypothermic and just needed to get on my bike and warm up. I ran out of the tent to get my bike and Dave was working transition so he had it ready to go. Latter he said I looked slightly out of it and, “a little blue”. Swim over…on to the bike.
I got on my bike and headed out the main downtown road as spectators lined the first part of the course. About a quarter mile into the bike I suddenly I heard “pfffffffffffff” and thought it was the rider right in front of me for a second and though, “that sucks”. About a half a second later I felt my front tire going “woOOwoooWooo” riding on the rim and was like well this is “SUPER!!!!” I pulled over to the sidewalk and got out my flat kit and said outloud, “must not be my day.” A spectator offered condolence that, “it was a long day, just shake it off.” I was still cold and not all with it, but got the flat changed and got back on my bike. I slowly warmed up and would guess that at about mile 20 I was back to “normal”. The course was a two loop course with the first 8ish miles following the water, mostly flat with one climb, out to a turnaround. You then head back into town and head north where it is mostly flat until about mile 25. The next part of the course is pretty hilly and there’s a sweet twisty downhill section along the lake. I passed quite a few people on the hills and then some huge dude would blast by me on the downhills. I got done with the first loop, stopped to pee at mile 60, since I still can’t pee my pants and continued on my second loop feeling strong. As I was finishing the flat section and almost out of town I heard “pffffffffffffffffffff woOOOOwooo” and said some choice words as I now had another flat. I didn’t freak out or anything I was just kinda pissed, maybe just a little bit or so. I plopped my self down in a nice sunny grass section to catch some sun while I methodically changed my back tire this time. With no spare tube I had a patch kit so I had to find the pinhole and got it taken care of. After this second delay I got back on my bike and proceeded to pass a ton of people over the next 25 miles, feeling strong. About mile 95 I was ready to be off the bike and was kinda cruising with the same people back into town on the flat section. Over the last hour and a half of the bike I made sure to grab gels as often as I could so I would have something for the run.
I got off my bike and thought, “well here’s my strongest event, we’ll just see what happens,” my lack of training and recent injury pressing to the front of my thoughts. I got into the changing tent and wasn’t about to make a similar mistake like I did in Madison, so I asked an attended if they had some Vasiline. He grabbed a tub of it I was able to make a preemptive strike against the chaffing monster, who I felt was approaching swiftly. I took another stop to pee and was on my way on the run. Again it was almost a “reward” to be off my bike. I passed a lot of people with my first mile right around 7, like I said I’d probably do. Knowing that wouldn’t last I tried to force myself to go slower, but I got a little caught up and didn’t slow down a ton. I was pretty warm so, in order to show of my incredible sense of style to all the ladies, I rolled up my singlet into what some may call a “man bra” style. I then dumped ice down the front, as I had done in WI before, to stay cool. Then I also had “ice chips on the go” in case I got thirsty between aid stations. Around mile 5 I felt my hip start to hurt and thought to myself, “this isn’t a good idea.” I was heading along the water on the path for my first lap and Andy Potts was leading the pro race, coming in with about 2.5 miles to go. I gave him a thumbs up and said something to the effect of, “nice job Andy.” He looked like he wasn’t having a ton of fun, but he was crushing the competition.
Around mile 7ish I came up on a pro guy who, from the looks of his attire, was sponsored by Gillette. I passed him and didn’t think to much of it. About a mile later my hip was hurting so I thought I’d try and stop and stretch it out. I stopped and stretched for about 20 seconds and was considering just stopping because I didn’t want to hurt myself further and get set back in my training. I didn’t do that and started running again. I saw this pro-guy had passed me again and decided to work my way back up to him, so that’s what I did and caught him in about a quarter mile. I decided it’d be good to just try and run with him and hopefully that would distract me from my hip. We made a few comments to each other. His name was Rob and he was from England, he’d been a pro for two years, worked a day job for Speedo and didn’t want to get chicked by the first pro girl because they had the same coach (I think, maybe the first two pro girls had the same coach). I told him that we wouldn’t let that happen, which he appreciated. Anyway we continued running together at about 8-8:10s, every now and then saying words of encouragement. We got to the turn off where he headed for the finish and I went to do my second lap. He said good luck and that he’d look up my results. I told him good luck with the rest of his season and we parted ways as I wished I could be done right about then.
During this time my hip pain took a back seat and I hadn’t really thought about it, but without any further distractions it jumped back in the front seat. Since stretching didn’t’ work I thought of something else to try. I took my elastic race number belt and slid it down low around my hips/butt and at the next aid station I dumped ice down the left side of my pants so it settled around my hip area. I don’t know if it actually calmed the muscle down or if it was just psychological but it seemed to help. After that the pain never really got worse, it just was constant. I headed back out along the water on my second lap, still passing a lot of people, including some from my age group, but really didn’t know what place I was in in my age group. I was guessing I was close to the top 5. On the way out the second time, with no one to run with, I needed another distraction so I was trying to encourage everyone I passed with a “hang tough” or “stay strong” etc. Then I got to thinking that that was so typical so I tried to be creative. Depending on their age I encouraged by announcing that, “there’s college girls at the top of the hill up here” or a “free beer at the finish line” or if they had the m-dot tat, “hey you’re ALREADY an ironman!” and most seemed to like this encouragement. One guy named Joe, who got the college girls bit said, “I’m 46… but I appreciate the encouragement.”
With 10K to go my hip wasn’t getting more painful, but my quads were starting to shut down. I was trying to be positive thinking, 10K that’s nothing, and then, “5 miles, that’s only 8K we did that all the time in college.” It just started to go downhill from there. At about 3.5 miles to go some other guy caught up to me and we ran together for the next mile. He was retiring after this IM and ya…I don’t really remember but we lost each other at an aid station, when I stopped to grab some stuff. He probably was annoyed with my incessant rambling about just sucking it up, 5K is a piece of cake, etc that I was trying to keep myself distracted. Anyway if you look at the splits online they pretty much tell the story, although I’m not really sure how accurate the entire run splits were. My quads shut down pretty much with 2 to go and I kind of “schlogged” it in at 10+ pace. I turned the corner to head in the last half mile downhill finish stretch and didn’t have anything left. While my quads (and everything else) were pretty much blasted, in reality I think there was a little bit of the “screw this” attitude, in that a few places or a seconds, didn’t really matter in the course of how much time had been wasted earlier in the day. I think 5 people passed me in the last ¾ mile, including Joe, who said something encouraging as he passed. About 400m out one guy went past me and said, “come on! Under 10:30” I still didn’t really pick it up much and got to the finish shoot in a much less celebratory fashion than in Madison. I slowed to a walk about 5m from the line, gave a meager thumbs up and smile as I walked across the finish in 10:29.51. I was bombarded by two volunteers who I think were prepared for each finisher to start stumbling, vomiting and convulsing. I got my finisher’s medal and shirt, got my picture and told them I was fine several times before they let me go. I saw Dave and I think the first words out of my mouth were, “that was stupid” in reference to the fact I thought I’d defiantly messed up my hip further. He still congratulated me and I went and at a piece of pizza, got some ice and left the finish area. We went over to a bench and I called home and told them the details. They said I was 4th in my age group and 145th overall. I was happy to be done. I wasn’t disappointed, but I wasn’t super happy. I would call it more of a “satisfied as long as my hip isn’t really messed up” kind of feeling.
Dave and I drove back to the motel, where I had to get my bike packaged up to ship out the next day. I really just wanted to lie down and close my eyes, but I knew if I did that I’d fall asleep. At this point my stomach felt bad and I wasn’t hungry. I had my bike mostly packaged up, and I told Dave that we should probably go get some food, even though I didn’t really feel like eating. Dave said he was pretty much ready for bed but he could walk over to Arbys and get some food. I think then my face lit up as I thought about mozzarella sticks and deep fried food. Dave asked me what I wanted and I told him mozzarella sticks, curly fried and some chicken strips. He said he wasn’t real familiar with their menu so I tried to explain the chicken and he said he’d better just write it down. I said, “Dave just bring me back some kind of chicken and I’ll be happy.” About 22 seconds later he returned and the food was delicious. I finished boxing my bike up and had everything mostly ready to leave at 4am the next day, since my flight was at 6:15 out of Spokane. We awoke at 3:30 and we got the car packed and drove to Spokane. Dave had a later flight so he just dropped me off.
I made it on time, was waiting at our gate to board and got a “random patdown” from TSA people. At the time I was wearing sweatpants and my Beastie Boys hoodie. I think they were just profiling. Luckily I had an isle seat so I could stretch out a little. I slept and arrived in Salt Lake City to catch my next connection to Minneapolis. After a 1:30ish layover and a 30 minute nap I got on the next plane, with a window seat. Arriving in Minneapolis we were delayed and as we were sitting on the tarmac I realized I had 25 minutes to catch my flight to TC. Knowing you’re “supposed” to be on the plane like 15 minutes early or something I was thinking it’d be real close. When we finally got off the plane I had 15 minutes to get there. I asked the slightly ticked off gate lady what gate the TC flight was out of and she said A6 or something. We were in C terminal so I knew I’d be a bit of a hike. So I got exactly what any next day Ironman would want…an opportunity to run through the airport to catch your flight. I tied up my sweatpants, put my wallet and Ipod in my bag (so my pants didn’t fall down) and took off on my way, probably averaging a good 6:15 pace over the half mileish it was to the gate. While it didn’t feel good, I was surprised my legs would run that well. I arrived at the gate and there were still two people in line so it wasn’t as the doors were closing or anything. I was sweating by now so I removed my hoodie and tried to cool off, a little before boarding the cramped hot cabin. It was a small plane and I was in the second to last row by the window, thus no room to stretch my legs. With all my hurrying we didn’t even leave on time, more like 15 minutes later. I was just glad I made my flight. So now 18 hours post Ironman, I had just hustled through the airport, and then immediate sat down in my “anorexic bucket seat” only to have my legs start to cramp up. It wasn’t really bad, but defiantly not the best plane ride I’ve ever had. Now back in Petoskey, I’m still walking like an old man, granted not as old as after Wisconsin. My hip doesn’t feel terrible, but I’m going to take it easy for a while. My plan is to take one week entirely off and one week really easy and see how it goes from there. Hopefully I’ll be ready for the big one come October.

Thanks to everyone that was following me online and cheering me on back in MI. Super special thanks to Dave for being an awesome support crew, and making the experience much less stressful and letting me concentrate on my race. You rock!

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