>> Thursday, April 09, 2009
My previous post was about all the pre-race fun (with over 40 great photos). This post will be about race morning through the finish line. And I’ll be back later with a story about the other finishers and the rest of our stay in NOLA.
All 8 of us got up between 4 and 4:30 and got ready to go. Pharmie mixed her Carbo Pro with Gatorade:
I got my spot in transition all set up. Goldilocks was looking strong, and everything was ready to go:
Then a volunteer started yelling right next to us: “If you are at this point in line or farther back, you will NOT make the bus and should start walking now!!” OK. You don’t have to tell me twice. I’m ready to start walking. So Chloe, her friend, and I walked the 1.2 miles barefoot, while Pharmie and TriSaraTops walked together behind us. It was great talking with those 2!
We got to the starting area, and immediately jumped in line at the porta potties. Pharmie held my spot in line as I went to go grab my chip (they didn’t give the chips out the day before because it’s a point-to-point swim, so they want to make sure you ACTUALLY were at the start). I took a poo in the porta potty, and they were out of toilet paper. I considered using my hand. I thought Stu and his banana peel sounded pretty good right about then. But I just “shook” everything off with violent hip-thrusts (it’s how I imagine Danny DeVito in bed) and hiked up my Speedo Jammer. Gross. Squishy. Warm.
I threw on my wetsuit, kissed Pharmie one last time, and sprinted the last 200 meters to the starting line. I had made it with about 6 minutes before my wave started. I hopped in line with the other grey swim caps. We hit the water 90 seconds before we started. It felt good. I squatted and peed. That felt good too.
I was calm.
I looked at all the spectators back up the bank and smiled.
It was going to be a good day.
PR or no PR, it was going to be a good day.
I was ready to have a good time.
The air-horn sounded. We all took off. I was actually still peeing as the race started (I think that was a first for me). It only took me about 90 seconds to settle into a rhythm. I was feeling OK. When I would quick look up to “sight,” I was always headed out to sea. I kept veering to the left. Here’s the swim map with a red line that roughly represents where I swam:
When it was time to head straight towards shore at the final sharp turn, I, somehow, was way the hell out there (note the red line on the above map). I headed home. When I felt sand beneath me, I popped up and started stripping my wetsuit to the waist. I looked at my watch. 37:25, 37:26, 37:27... “What?! Sweet!!” I was hoping for a sub 40:00 swim, but I didn’t think I could PR in the swim (38:13 was my 70.3 swim PR, and I’m pretty sure that was on a short swim course).
I hit the beach in 37:53, and I was feeling great!
I took my time but kept moving. It was a BIG transition. Not everyone started, but they kept telling us that this was the largest 70.3 event on the planet! They had 3500 people registered for this event! That’s a lot of bikes! Anyway, I grabbed a quick bite, threw everything on that I needed for the bike, and I was off. Total: 4:40. Not fast, but that’s me in transition. (And as a lover, FYI.)
56 MILE BIKE:
The first half of the bike was pretty uneventful. I hopped on my bike and started riding. There were 2 pretty big bridges in the first 5-6 miles, but the rest was pretty flat. After going up and down both of those bridges, I checked my average. I was at 19.0 mph. Nice. A few miles later, I was at a 19.3 average. A bit farther, and I was up to a 19.5 average. I was trying to keep slow. I was trying to keep easy.
I think this is on top of the second bridge
Around mile 10, I saw Evotri buddy JP go flying by me. “Alright JP!!” I yelled. He turned his head over his shoulder - he hadn’t noticed it was me. “Thanks man! You’ve been spanked!” he shouted, and off he went. (Everyone in our group [Team Evotri, Pharmie, and I] made a deal to SPANK anyone else from the group if we passed them. And we had to say, “You’ve been spanked!”)
Around mile 8-10.
That’s a big levee behind me.
Here’s a tiny map of the bike course:
When I hit the first major turnaround point to the far east, the wind slapped us all in the face. It was pretty calm when we started the bike, but as we went on, there was a tailwind that had been building. After that turnaround, that tailwind was a headwind. I think my average was 19.6 mph at that point, and I knew it was headed down.
They had signs on the road to mark every 10K, and here were my splits:
You can see when we hit the wind, and when the wind was extra nasty. My 2 fastest splits were over 20 mph. My slowest split into the wind was around 15.8 mph. Ouch. The good news is that I was taking in my calories! By the end of the bike, I had consumed 1000 - 1100 calories. I was ready to run!
Back over one of the final bridges
This is when the shit in the fan. I jumped off my bike. Everything was OK for a bit, but as I was running my bike, I started to realize that my upper left hammy was SUPER tight. It almost felt like I pulled something. “Shit. Well, drop off your bike and try to stretch it out.” I racked my bike, and as I was stripping off my bike shorts, I realized my hammy was pretty bad. My mood started to head south. As I kept moving, I didn’t know if I’d be able to run with my sore ass. I finished getting changed, and then I walked over to the porta potties in transition.
I grabbed a porta potty and locked the door. When I went to sit down, my ass completely gave out and I collapsed onto the toilet with a yelp. The whole thing shook. I figured if anyone was outside, they would have been pretty impressed with the little scream and the small earthquake coming from my john! Ha! Anyway, I quick went to the bathroom and wiped my ass for the first time since my pre-race poop 4 hours earlier. Yuck.
I exited the porta potty, and quick sat down to stretch. I couldn’t really find a way to stretch it, but sitting down and standing up sure were tough. It was at this point that I considered stopping. I didn’t know if my butt would allow me to run a half-marathon on it. But I told myself, “You just said you ‘didn’t know’ if it would hold up. You’ve got to try this to know for sure.” I walked the exit chute out of transition, not knowing what the run would hold in store.
It was no longer about “PR.” It was now about “finish.”
13.1 MILE RUN:
I walked up the hill out of transition. Here’s the photo I took the day before that shows exactly where I was heading:
When we got to talk with the pros a few days before, Stu asked Chris McDonald in his interview what advice he had to amateur triathletes. Chris gave 2 pieces of advice, and the second bit was simple to remember: “Never, ever, ever give up.” During the first mile of the run, I was repeating that mantra out loud in sync with my breathing: “Never... ever... EVER... give up...” I was repeating it to myself, and I could hear Chris saying it in my head.
That first mile was rough. On a normal day, that first mile should have been around 7:00. When I was nearing mile 1, my watch was nearing 9 minutes. I decided then and there to not take any splits: I was now just in the race to finish. Only if my ass would let me...
“Never... ever... EVER... give up...”
The first few miles were scary. I didn’t know if I would hold up. I was getting a little emotional. (That’s “man talk” for “I was crying.”) Can you blame me? I quickly went from a possible PR, to nearly dropping out, to just trying to finish in whatever time I could muster. That whole series got me a little worked-up.
I somehow was able to slowly keep upping my pace.
Around mile 5, I was coming up on Evotri buddy JP. He was walking. I knew that meant his knees weren’t holding up. (The poor man got hit by a car on his bike 1 week earlier!) So I spanked him. He turned and smiled. I walked with him for a bit, and we shared our common stories: both of us nearly quit in T2. We were 2 bums: JP had 2 bum knees and I had 1 bum ass-cheek. JP said he could only run for a few minutes before having to walk. We tried it out for a while. I shared with him my mantra of “never, ever, ever give up” from Chris, and I got a little choked up as I was telling him. He said he didn’t want another DNF.
We both had the same goal: Finish. No matter what our time was. Just finish.
Suddenly, he wasn’t beside me, and I heard a quiet “go get em, Steve” from behind me. JP had to stop again. I stopped, turned around, looked him in the eyes, and said “Hang in there - I’ll see you at the finish line.” (That’s “man talk” for “I love you man.”) We high-fived, and I took off.
Soon I was at mile 6, which was nearly half way.
Shortly after, I was at mile 7, which was over half way.
“Never... ever... EVER... give up...”
Every mile marker was a milestone.
I was pushing myself RIGHT to the edge. And I was holding myself there. I have never gotten myself right up to the edge of stopping and been able to hold myself there like I was able to do on Sunday. I was running hard. It was a stellar mental and physical push.
Around mile 10, I realized that I had been running quite strong since T2. I hadn’t been taking my splits, but I WAS glancing at my watch every mile marker. My pace was quickening. I was somewhere around 7:00 / mile! Suddenly, doing some quick math, I realized a PR was possible! “No... am I figuring this right?... Am I REALLY keeping this pace?!?” I remember leaving T2 thinking I’d have to run a 1:38 half marathon to be able to finish in 5:30. And it suddenly became possible!
- Just over an hour earlier, I was thinking about a PR.
- Minutes after that, I considered not finishing the race.
- A few minutes later, I figured I could JUST finish the race.
- Now, an hour later, I was back to thinking about my PR!
- AND, I was pulling a SUPER PR RUN out of my ass!! My BROKEN ass!!
It was a freakin’ whirlwind of emotions. I hit the final left turn and heard someone shout, “800 METERS! TWO LAPS AROUND THE TRACK TO GO!”
I glanced at my watch.
Holy moley, I had it.
I started crying again. (I’m starting to get a little misty as I’m writing this again.)
I had my PR by a few minutes! I had a run split that was WAY faster than my previous best! It wouldn’t have been such a big deal had I not considered dropping out of the race. I think there’s a “life lesson” in here somewhere...
I sprinted like a bat outta hell down that final stretch. It was getting hard to breathe because I was so teary. I hit the line strong and hard pumping one arm in the air as to avoid yet ANOTHER finishers photo of me hitting my watch:
bib number: 1169
location: St. Paul, MN
place: 433 out of 2321
a.g. place: 50 out of 186
gender place: 356 out of 1672
swim: 38:44 (2:02/100m)
bike: 3:02:11 (18.44 mph)
run: 1:36:28 (7:21/mile)
I was thrilled. I was given my medal, and there was a photographer right there to take a photo. I made a point to take off my sunglasses to see if tears were visible. I’ve never ordered a race photo, but I’m thinking about getting this one:
At least if there aren’t any tears,
there are still plenty of nipples...