Here we go (race day and report)

so don't sit back and watch the days go by
are you ever gonna live before you die
and when things fall apart
the world has come undone
leave it all behind
leave the loneliness alone
you wait forever blind

so come on and leave the years
when you watched the days go by
come on and leave the fears
that you were afraid to find
cause while you wait inside
the days go by

so all the memories fade
and the days go by
forget the lonely yesterdays in mind
I know it's never gonna be the way you like
I know you don't wanna think about the endlessness you find
you wait forever blind

Lifehouse -- Days go by

Well... The day you've been waiting for is finally here. It's about two hours from wake up time and the beginning of the roller coaster that is race day for me. I don't know how I feel: part of me is scared shitless and another part of me is eager to go and get this puppy over with so I can look forward to IM Arizona with the Iron Team.

It is also time to slow down and remember why I'm doing this. For all the honorees I met in California: Eric Robinson, Doug, Jim Delaney, Todd, Karen, Carol, Don Flemming, all the other California honorees and all the honored patients in Georgia you guys continue to be a source of strength and inspiration. Steve Ybarrola, my college professor and friend, who I recently discovered was diagnosed with Leukemia, you're always foremost in my mind, thoughts and prayers.

This race is also important from another reason. It's the first race I've done without the direct support of friends and the team in California.  I moved to Georgia right at the time of recomitment and while I was sure I wanted to do a 70.3 race I wasn't 100% sure that I was ready for such a drastic switch. It was never about whether I could do it or not; I knew that I'd finish even if I had to crawl across the finish line but it was all about finding out if I was really as passionate about triathlons and the challenges of endurance sports as I thought I was while in California. It's easy to be passionate about something when it's easy to do it and you have tons of people pushing each other to accomplish the same goal but it's a completely different story when going to group track or swim practice means a 1 hour drive each way (particularly when you don't have a car) or you're pulling 30, 40 or more miles on the bike on your own.

I got myself to Atlanta and carpooled to Augusta... I was already sick with anticipation. Were my long runs long enough? Will the swim be too difficult even in a river swimming downstream? Will my legs cramp up as they did for Big Kahuna last year?  Will I be able to hold on in this humidity? There were hundreds of questions running around my head.  At some point I had to remind myself that the answers were on the water and the road, I was just going to have to wait and find out.

Race Report

The morning of the race is usually one where I don't sleep much and tonight wasn't any different. I was up by 2am and tried to go back to sleep... fat chance, I think I started reading instead. Room mate and I had agreed on a 4am wake up call.

The setup for Augusta is very different than any other race I've done. The swims a down stream river swim so the swim start is far away (1.2 miles)  from transition. I'm also not used to having to drop off the bike the day before... Guess I'm too possessive 🙂 I also realized that I carried my only pair of  (prescription) glasses with me to the swim start...  time to get creative and swim with them on my jersey pocket under the wetsuit (thanks for the idea, Chris)

The Swim

Friends an I walked to the swim start to find that mother nature had decided to so spice up the race with rain. I was hoping that it wouldn't last long but I also knew it wasn't going to make a difference... This was my race and my time to prove to myself that I could do it. To me there is something so liberating when you realize (again) that this is not about anyone but yourself.

We jumped in the water and had a minute or so before the wave started. The current started pulling us and I found myself far further forward than I wanted. Then the horn blew and we were off. The swim felt really slow and sluggish... Thought I had really blown it. When we got to the end I looked at someone else's GPS (he had started about 2 or 3 waves behind me) and it said 31.51... Which meant my time was under 40! Now it's a downriver swim but it's still faster than the 43:26 that I got when did 1500 at Pacific Grove.

Legs cramped a little when in the water but it was manageable. The swim felt like it had taken an  hour, not the time it did. It was also the first time I had to deal with wetsuit strippers (get your minds out of the gutter, please) and it was weird to have people getting you off the wetsuit and being faster at it that you ever hoped you would.

Now onto the bike

Bike

I'm so thankful to have done the bike course before... That, among other things, saved my ass. The rain didn't stop, quite the opposite. It felt like hard spring rain in California while training for Wildflower. It rained really hard and I don't think there were many people who were ready for it... I know I wasn't.  I've rode in the rain before, in California during Spring it's impossible not to, but I was only wearing a singlet and tri shorts, that's new.

The course felt a lot shorter than it did during practice weekend. It may what felt like 10 to 18 degree difference between practice weekend and race day. Or it may have been the fact that I did do the cycle course earlier during training.

The colder temperature may have been the reason why I was cramping really bad at about mile 30. Managed to bike through the cramps but I was kinda worried about what was going to happen on the run. It didn't help that my legs locked up when I dismounted the bike, painful enough to make me stop and spend a few seconds questioning my mental sanity.

The guy at transition told me to walk it through and, as painful as it was, he was right; as soon as I started walking my legs came back, sorta.

Run

I'm always scared of the run. Not to the point of not doing it but to the point where I'm wondering how much pain it'll cause this time. Training runs are starting to be comfortable but I'm not comfortable transitioning from one long workout to another and then to another (which is essentially what a triathlon is)

My quads and hamstrings were so tight that it was painful, but not finishing was not an option. Can't remember where I saw it but this is one of the things that kept me going was if you think that triathlons are painful, try chemotherapy. I also kept thinking about how lucky I am to be able to do triathlons: I'm healthy, have the resources and have the desire to do it... The only person who can stop me fro achieving my goals is me.

I walked/ran the best I could. I'm stubborn enough and prideful enough not to accept defeat lightly or gracefully. Even if I had to fucking crawl the run I was going to finish the event. It got close but the thought of Steve finding out he has leukemia and all the encouragement I felt during the 13.1 miles made it worth the effort.

Usually during runs my mind wanders all over the place. It amazes at being in a run course for a triathlon and the fact that I've made it so far. It groans at the fact that we are not done and it's grateful when we run across the finish line...

I have to thank Darren for jogging with me the last few yards before the chute. I don't think I can put into words how much it means to see your teammates waiting for you to come through and how loud their cheering really sounds when you're tired and you've asked yourself for about the 100th time why did you agree to do this.

I actually ran down the chute... if I was going to finish I was going to do so strong and proud. I can't begin to describe in words how much it means to have teammates who are cheering you when you're at your lowest... And how much it lifts your spirit up when distant friends take the time to keep track of your race and send so much support that you can feel it clear across the country

After The Race

I felt strange after the race. My body was cold after being in the same, wet, clothes since the swim started a little before 8 this morning; My mind was giddy, I actually completed an Ironman 70.3 race, now I can goof off before starting the next stage of my endurance sports career... more on that later.

I did things ass backwards. After I finished the race I went to the hotel, took a shower and only then I went to pick up my stuff from transition and the day bag. Then it was to say thank you and have my beer to celebrate the team's accomplishment and then a drink to celebrate my birthday 🙂

I was so tired that I was a party-pooper and went back to my room before the after peaty really got started... I was in bed by 8(!) and only woke up once before actually waking up a little after 5am on Monday where the picture below was taken as I haven't gotten my medal yet (apparently I took so long in finishing that they had ran out 🙂 ) so my friend let me borrow his for the picture.

Lessons Learned

There's alway something to take away as lessons learned. The list is much shorter than I thought it'd be... I think I'm finally learning.

Bring a jacket even if you don't think you're going to need it. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. You got this awesome TNT alumni ride jacket.... Use it.

Shot Blocks are a good nutrition base... You do need something solid like a couple power bars or bonk breakers to go along with it.

Next bike is getting a speed fill bottle in addition to the one in the aero bar and the ones in the bottle cages. You can never have too many water bottles in a a long ride 🙂

Even though they would have gotten soaked at about mile 2, arm warmers would have been nice. Don't know if I can get used to having something around my wrists while cycling but it's something worth trying.

Continue working on your run... You will break 7 hours in a 70.3 race.

Thank You

The way I see it, I have nothing to prove, nothing to fear and nothing to lose. I nailed my peak event for 2010 – .... To cross another finish line 9 weeks later is the gravy. Gravy is good but not necessary. I’m out here racing because I want to, because I get to, because I can.

Can you think of any better reasons to race?

. . .

If you ever think you can’t do something, just look to your peers to prove you can – chances are someone is out there doing something that makes the impossible seem possible.

Elizabeth Waterstraat

It definitely takes more than one person to run a (half) Ironman race.

To all the coaches in California both past (Tom and Jill) and present (Drew, Larry, Tate, Jana, Jenn and Ivy) thanks for giving me the initial push and not letting me slack when I wasn't feeling like training or when I quit when close to the goal.  Thank you for motivating me to push further and harder than I ever thought I would.

Thanks to the TNT staff and coaches in Georgia (Mary, Mike,  Darren and Beth). Thank you Jessica for not laughing at me when I emailed you right after recomittment saying "hey, I'm moving from California to Georgia and I want to join you guys for your half-iron distance event."  Thank you for all the support before, during and after the event.

To to all my TNT teammates.  You've made the past year as part of TNT in both coasts an experience that has shaped me and made me grow in ways I wasn't expecting but most certainly welcome.

As I said earlier...  all the TNT honorees I've spoken and shared with have been and continue to be examples of courage and determination.  We will help find a cure!

To my mom who, despite all her complaints, called me on Sunday and then again on Monday and both times her question was how did you do? How are you feeling? Mom, you've always been the enabler and the one who pushes me to do things when I'm not feeling like  it. Now that we're no longer next to each other, I have to take some of that initiative for myself. Thank you for being the model that is worth following.

And finally to all my friends who have been so supportive, particularly to the triathlon ladies in California (Sue Ellen, Marci, Laura Breiten and Katy Robinson), Drew, Stephanie, Sara,  Laura Planting, Whitney, Mark Hopkins, Peter, Keeley and anyone else who I may be forgetting (and I deeply apologize for any omission). Thank you for all your support at a distance.... It means the world to know you still care enough to write and cheer me up.

What's Next?

Right now I'm at the chill stage. Scheduled a 90 minute massage for 10/10 and intend to go back to working out with a trainer to (re)build core strength and flexibility.

I'll slowly start picking up distance swimming, running and biking.... not too hard or too far but enough to keep my body from going to hybernation before January 8.

January 8th or thereabouts I'll start training for IM Arizona 2011! I am still determined to do an Iron Distance (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycling and 26.2 mile run) race before my 40th. May as well start doing it now 🙂