Monday, October 31, 2011

That's all she wrote!

Beach to Battleship Half

Patrick Farwell and his wife were super generous and offered me a bed in their house in Wilmington, NC for Friday night after I posted on Slowtwitch (see, it has it's uses...) to see if anyone had anything available so I arrived in town on Friday afternoon and after picking up my packet and dropping off my bike I met them and we headed to their house.  It was super convenient and they were so nice and accommodating that it definitely made a tough day that much easier.  The logistics of B2B are kind of a pain in the ass so to have people familiar with the area was fantastic.  Race morning dawned relatively early (but not bright) and after Patrick and I set up our bikes we walked to swim start.  It was cold (55ish) and windy (15-20 mph winds) and a light drizzle was forecasted until noon-ish.  Perfect race weather (not!).

Swim 1.2 miles in 23:45 (25th)

The current was ridiculous this morning and the water was a perfect 69 degrees so conditions for the swim were great (albeit a little chop at certain points made salt water intake a minor issue!).   The 25-29 wave was the 5th (I think) to go off and at 8:50 we headed into the channel.  The swim was pretty uneventful but it was very, very difficult to sight as there was a light haze or fog hanging over the water.  This was especially difficult at the beginning of the swim but as time went on it appeared to lift off a little bit.  I couldn't remember the exact direction the swim took but looking at a map would have been very helpful for me.  In my head I was thinking the swim was basically an "L" shape of down the channel, turn left and there's the finish.  Unfortunately it was more like a shape-to-which-I-cannot-prescribe-a-letter of down the channel, turn left (staying left), bear left, turn right.  Or something like that.  So I made the left turn and stayed wide right, basically adding an "arc" shape to what should have been a straight line.  Long story short, I made the swim course a bit longer.  Not a ton, but I should have swam a bit faster.  Oh well.  I got out of the water and didn't feel particularly taxed so that was a nice feeling.  Ran over the dock, past the strippers and across the mat into a very long T1.

T1 in 3:39

I stopped after the mat (and almost bit it) to remove the rest of my wetsuit (which went quickly) and threw it over my shoulders to run with it into transition.  The run was long and cold and my feet felt very weird slapping the pavement but there were a lot of people cheering so I couldn't appear to be weak!  It was nice to hear (and then see) Tara and Kurt and Bob.  Always good motivation to see people you know.  I had decided to put on a long sleeve jersey so as I got to my bike I put that on (clumsily, my hands were cold) and my socks and shoes then headed out onto the road.  Not the most efficient transition, but not horrible either.

Bike 56 miles in 2:29:58 (7th)

The first part of the bike for B2B half and full is a relatively technical series of turns to get everyone turned around and up off the staging area for swim/T1 and onto the real part of the course.  I made my way through and up and over the bridge and then buckled down for what would be (EASILY) the most frustrating 56 miles I've ever ridden.  It was immediately apparent that we would face an exceedingly stiff headwind (with an unpredictable mix of crosswind thrown in for good measure!) for the foreseeable future.  As with the swim, I couldn't remember exactly where the course went so I was blissfully (ignorance isn't really bliss in this situation...) unaware of how long this headwind would last.  Miles 1-5 were fairly uneventful and I kept passing a steady stream of people (this would continue until the half and the full routes parted ways at mile 35 or so) while dealing with feeling miserable.  Not miserable in the sense that my legs felt horrible (although they did feel not great; I didn't ride my bike a single mile last week...) or anything real like that; my problems were mainly in my head.

Before this race and while I was still out in CA I was excited at the prospect of my final race being B2B.  It's a well-run race with a lot of local flavor and you always get to see a lot of people you know and train with so the run course is always exciting.  After I got sick I still maintained some excitement as I was hoping that some forced rest might be a good thing so as race day approached I had a good attitude.  On race morning, however, it became clear that my mind was not really in the game.  I wasn't particularly motivated and the weather was definitely not helping.  This only got worse as time went along and I was mentally checked out most of the race.

This was especially evident around mile 10 or so as I was re-passing a guy that had just passed me (the only one all day) and I moved back over to the right and ran into a cone.  We were on I-140 at the time and in the left lane so were separated from traffic by some pretty large traffic cones.  Luckily I didn't go down but the guy was right behind me and I heard him say "whoa!" as I recovered.  He passed me as I collected myself and I couldn't make myself look at him I was so embarrassed! I realized that my brakes were rubbing so I pulled over to the left to adjust them and got back on track relatively quickly. DUMB.  From that point on the story does not get any more interesting.

I don't really know how to put into words what it feels like to ride into a headwind like we were experiencing on Saturday.  I think the best way to describe is to suggest going into the kitchen and grabbing a frying pan.  Stand about a foot away from a wall (preferably drywall, but I suppose brick would work as well) and as you slam your head into the wall (not too hard, not too gentle, but juuuuuust right) smack your quads with the frying pan each time (being sure to alternate legs!).

This process continued virtually unabated until about mile 35.  At that point we made a turn and had what might have been a soft tailwind.  Dear sweet baby Jesus, it was about time.  I had been taking in gels (I tried a new strategy this time: filling up a regular water bottle with 8 or so gels - much more than enough - and the rest with water, I liked it) regularly but inconspicuously absent was taking in much water.  When we split from the full course the route became virtually empty and we had the blessed beginnings of a tailwind.

From this point on the story was much the same; at mile 40 or so we turned onto whatever that road was and it became a true tail wind although 15-20 miles of tailwind wasn't enough to make up for 35-40 of headwind. As I got closer and closer to the finish I had a very good idea of what my bike split was going to be and I was annoyed.  Annoyed doesn't really begin to cut it actually.  I held similar watts (almost the exact same) to New Orleans and White Lake but there were two problems with this.  One was that the conditions were significantly harder (it was equally windy in NOLA but there was just as much tailwind as headwind so it evened out) and the other is that I should be able to ride much harder as I've gotten a good bit stronger over the course of the year!  Oh well, 'twas not to be.

Finished up the bike and ran over the mat.  End of the most difficult (mentally and physically, but mainly mentally) 56 miles I've ridden in recent memory.

T2 in 1:49

I handed my bike to a volunteer and began awkwardly running to grab my bag and head into the changing tent; I say awkwardly became it felt like I was running on stumps.  My feet were completely numb! I hate that feeling.  I headed into the changing tent and put on my running shoes and grabbed some gel.  Not a whole lot to do so not much wasted time.  It was a little slower than it should have been simply because my extremities didn't work all that well.

Run 13.1 miles in 1:29:17 (11th)

Heading out on the run I didn't feel too bad.  My effort level was high but I could tell I was running pretty fast (no watch today) and I made my way up over the first overpass and headed down the hill past the first mile. I was rolling along nicely and had just past the second mile marker when my left hamstring suddenly balled up in a cramp.  I pulled off to the side and immediately tried to stretch it out as much as possible.  It took several attempts of stretching and trying to walk again before the hamstring agreed.

I was finally able to get going again and didn't have any more real issues with cramping.  The rest of the way out to the turnaround was unremarkable and I kept a nice pace (I'd guess that excluding the cramping issue I went out in about 1:20-1:21 pace, which is what I originally hoped to run), taking in some water or heed at aid stations and a little bit of gel from my flask.  About a mile past the turnaround on the way back into town I began to fade and basically slowed down the rest of the way in until the finish.  The last hill was a bear to make up and going down was almost worse because my quads were so hammered that I could barely "run."  Blah blah blah the finish line was closing in and I walked across the line a little disappointed but happy that the race was over. Done and done!

Total time 4:29 something; I'm too lazy to open up the results page again and stare at 7th overall and a time over 20 minutes slower than I hoped.  Regardless of the outcome it was a good result all things considered.  I didn't have a lot of things going in my favor and I struggled mentally and physically most of the day so I have to be pleased with 7th place, right?  Anyway, last race of the year and now a nice break from any training for a week.  I'll post a season recap shortly once I can focus on the big picture, which should be soon enough!

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