Alright. Where to begin.
A lot of weird issues led to my DNF. That’s part of racing. But right now they still don’t make sense. But we’ll get to those.
The beauty of this race venue is that it was right now the street (40 min drive), so I could sleep in my own bed each night. We got out there Friday night for packet pickup and the pre-race brief, had dinner and got back for an early bedtime. Woke up at 2:30, wide awake and ready to go. My alarm wasn’t set for another hour.
Good pre-race breakfast, taking in about 900 calories, so fueling wasn’t an issue from the start. Then we loaded up the bike and drove out.
It was a small race. They were running a 1/2 IM-distance and full-distance race simultaneously and had about 80 racers total (60 in the 1/2, 20 in the full). A nice small field. After a quick briefing, we were herded into the water, which was a comfortable 80 degrees. With a 20-second countdown, we were off.
All-in-all, a good swim. Right on target.
The course was an out-and-back, curving slightly to the left. Basically the same line that I swam last Monday when I wanted to get a feel for the lake temperature. With such a small field, contact was minimal. I found feet quickly, then realized that they might be attached to someone who’s doing the 1/2. So I found clean water and stayed that way the rest of the course. Finishing the first lap, I turn to see several swimmers on the wrong side of the buoy, apparently swimming the 1/2 and wanting to take the shortest line from the third or fourth buoy to the beach. I had more contact there, in head-on situations, than anywhere else. Total swim time: 1:14:38. I had set myself up for a good day.
T1 – About 6:15, changing into my cycling gear and getting out to the bike.
I’ve talked about the bike route before. I knew what to expect and kept things easy. With the first 2 miles climbing several hundred feet, I dropped it into my granny gear and just looked at the folks attacking the hill. Everything went well on the first loop. I pretty much ignored my HRM and kept my PE in the 2-3 range over the rolling hills. I’d glance at the HRM every once in a while and confirmed that I was doing just fine. Fueling was going as planned, with my HEED, Perpeteum, Endurolytes and water. At mile 55, I stood to make the left turn into the park and approach the turnaround. My quads cramped. I couldn’t figure that out, since I’d been drinking the HEED and taking the Endurolytes right on schedule. So I went straight into a OODA Loop and decided that I needed more electrolytes, so I popped a few more pills, then again 30 minutes later. By mile 70, all was good and I was back to normal and at mile 75 I was surging.
The turnaround at the far end of the second loop was at the 85 mile point. My Goddess and son were out there giving encouragement. All was good. I started back and they passed by (it was an open course). At mile 90, all of the sudden everything in my gut wanted to come up. No warning at all, no other signs of GI issues up to that point. It was as if someone turned on a switch. I took a few deep breaths, relaxed and slowed down. I kept the intensity real low for the next 10 miles, into the next break station. I got off the bike for a few minutes, drank more water and stretched. I then hopped on the bike and everything felt fine again, so I got back to it.
Flying down the descent toward the lake, the strap holding my Aerobottle popped loose, so I almost lost the bottle. Nothing like flying down the hill, in the aero position, at 35mph in traffic, holding on to a bottle so it doesn’t fly loose. I could finally pull off to the side and get it fixed, but I had lost all the momentum from the hill. Making it over the bridge and turning into the park was uneventful. But the final climb at mile 53.5 is brutal, running about 12% for 1/2 mile. I ended up walking it, since my quads had started cramping again. I could not figure out what was going on. Total bike time: 7:4030 with 7,158 feet of climbing.
T2 – About 8:15. Changing from my bike to running gear was interesting. As I peeled my shorts off, my left calf cramped to the point I couldn’t move. I finally relaxed and I could get changed. But that was going to haunt me the rest of the day. By the time I got out on the run, the race clock had just switched over to 9:10. I was doing good, considering the difficulties.
I’ll use that header very loosely.
Having run the loop a few times before, I knew I was going to walk the steep uphill for the first mile. And my body was going to make sure of that. My left calf was still cramping, but I could move on it. Even my son, who was behind me, commented on how he could see how cramped it was, just by looking at it. I was still in very good spirits, announcing I was going to finish even if it took me 8 hours to complete the course (there’s no time cutoff for this race). I made my way up the hill, taking drinks and grabbing bananas when I could. My Goddess had driven ahead and parked the car, walking back to meet me so we could walk together for a bit. That bit turned out to be the next 10 miles.
Every time I’d start to run, the calf would tighten up to the point I couldn’t run. Even on the downhills. It did loosen just a bit over time, but remained cramped throughout the night, even though I was inhaling the Endurolytes whenever I had a chance.
At about mile 4, everything got dark. Sure, it was approaching sunset, but it was me. My Goddess walked alongside, talking about the beautiful scenery. I could only muster a grunt. Before it got to this point, I told her that even if I collapse, as long as I can get up and keep going, I’m going to. She agreed, just as long as I could get going again under my own power. What a trooper! By about mile 6, I had snapped out of it and was starting to feel real good. I didn’t have my legs yet, but I could pick up the pace.
To give you an idea of how hilly the run course was, one racer headed the other way on a loop mentioned how he’d kill to have 100 yards of level ground. There were only two level spots on the entire route: the transition area and one of the turnarounds, which was a parking lot for the marina. Otherwise, it was continuous rolling with some pretty steep sections. This is definitely a challenging course. The picture to the left is the profile for the part of the run I completed. In that 15 miles, I climbed 1,950 feet! To say that it’s hilly is an understatement.
At mile 10, I was feeling really good and we had come up to the break station where my Goddess had parked the car and left the boy. So I bid farewell and headed out on the second loop. I felt good enough to get the shuffle going, stopping only to feed and hydrate in the next two miles. But the gut was not cooperating with the jostling. I couldn’t find anything that I could stomach that worked, so I was relegated to walking again.
It was a beautiful night. Out in the forest, I turned off the headlamp and enjoyed the view, even spying a shooting star. The moon was bright enough that I could see the road. It was much nicer to move without the light, since my field of vision wasn’t limited to the circle ten feet in front of me.
Heading back to the break station at the end of the second loop, it all came crashing down. I was lucky to shuffle. That at the realization that I had been out on the “run” for five hours and I was only about halfway done. I started doing the math and thought about the fairness of keeping my family out there until 2 or 3 in the morning while I slogged along; about how much more damage I was going to do to my body if I continued; about how my One Thing was to finish, but it wasn’t my everything. So I broke the news to my Goddess.
She did a wonderful job of talking to me, making sure that I was doing what I wanted. She tried to fuel and hydrate me and get me on my way. But once she realized that I was serious, she was extremely supportive. That’s why she’s my Goddess.
Driving back down to the transition, I handed my chip in just as the clock rolled over 14:10. At one point at the beginning of the run, I figured that would be the approximate time I’d see on the clock. Just not this way.
Despite all of the difficulties and the outcome, it was an amazing experience. I will do another, although it’ll be a flatter one, I suspect. I still have to figure out what caused the cramping so early in the ride, which I think started the dominoes falling. I will rest and recover over the coming weeks, then ramp up for a marathon in November. Then I’ll relax over the holidays and jump right into it again.
Are you ready, my Goddess?