Monday, September 13, 2010

FirmMan Race Report

After throwing a little pity party for myself this morning I am ready to have a crack at my race report.

James and I woke up Saturday morning planning to head down to Narragansett, RI first thing to register and drive the bike and run course. Instead we stumbled upon what sounded like a squirrel trapped in our chimney. This led to many phone calls and lots of rushing around. We still made it out the door by 9:30 and arrived by 11. Nice little expo and an athlete's meeting which provided lots of useful info (e.g. for the beach finish the flags line the shortest route but this is through the "death sand" and if you take a slight detour down toward the water the sand becomes firm and packed...much easier to run on). Then we headed out to drive the run course. I wasn't sure how much time we had before a work function of James' we needed to go to for a few hours so the run was the priority. It looked pretty good. A few rolling hills but nothing too bad (except on step hill around mile 10.5. When I saw that hill I gave myself permission to walk this hill without shame. I also started using this as a carrot/bargaining chip about running the rest of the race ("if you run to mile 10.5 you can walk this glorious 600 yards...").  The run route ended up not taking that long to scout so we headed out on the bike course. This ordering was probably a mistake before I was mentally exhausted from imagining the run and it made all the bike hills (rollers really) seem quite large and the hills seem impossible. The majority of the course is on Rt 1, a highway with a wide shoulder but a good deal of debris/gravel. I tried to minimize worry about flats but thought there was a good chance of one. We then headed to this work thing for a few hours and then checked into our hotel and out to Bertucci's for a earlybird dinner.

We got back to the hotel around 7 and I transitioned straight into sleep mode. James caught me practicing.
i love a good face plant.

I set my alarm for 4:00am and actually slept pretty well from 8pm-3:45am. I got up, got caffeinated, hydrated, and fueled. All systems were not go, however. I got a little worried about this. We were checked out and on the road (20 miles) to the race site by 4:55am. It was still pitch black when we arrived.

We headed to transition and I got my stuff set up, in the dark. Only then did my GI tract wake up and was I am to do my business. I immediately felt more ready to race. It was in the mid 50's and people were walking around with quite a bit of clothing on.

I was very glad to have my wetsuit and had a little trepidation about the ocean swim. I've never been in the ocean. The water and the waves don't freak me out. I figured I could roll with whatever. But it was chilly and I stayed in sweats until well after six when I changed into my wetsuit. Around 6:30 we started walking the mile down the beach to the swim start. It was a cool scene with a long line of athletes all making their way. The sun was also up by this point and the sky was absolutely gorgeous.

I was trying to stay calm and not get too riled up, knowing that it was going to be a long day of racing.

Actually I looked nervous (and tired).  So I decided it was time to get my race face on. I have two:

They played the national anthem, started the Elites and then it was go time. Older men first then women. It was a beach start (my first). I ran into the waves and dolphin dived into suddenly deep (SALTY) water. I swam a few strokes and then suddenly the water was shallow again. Stood up and high kneed it further in. The next dolphin dive and I was off and swimming. With my blue goggles it was impossible to see the orange buoy guiding us so I just went with the mass of people. It was tough work swimming out into the surf. When I turned the corner around the first (big) buoy suddenly there was a major current. The activity I was engaged in hardly felt like swimming at all. I couldn't see anything. I was breathing every stroke. I didn't feel like I was pulling at all. The waves were crazy. I'd be down below 2 walls of water one moment and then atop a huge platform of water the next. I did NO sighting for almost the whole swim. I couldn't see anything so it wouldn't have helped. At one point I couldn't see any other people and had to correct back toward the shore (I had gotten too far out). Throughout the swim people were bumping my feet and legs but no injuries to speak of (PHEW!). Only in the last 5 minutes did I settle into anything resembling a swimming rhythm and then I saw the final large buoy and started kicking and sighting up a storm to get there. Turned the corner back toward the shore and got carried in. As I stood up the woman next to meet looked at her watch, I asked how we were doing. She said 27 something? Wicked current. I can't swim that fast on my own. I'll take it. I scurried up the beach, undid my wetsuit zipper and got stripped!

Swim  30:35   2/7 age group 122/333 overall

I took my time in transition. Checked my list. Did everything carefully and headed out in 3:01

The bike ride was pretty crazy. I could tell there was a tailwind right away. I tried to get comfortable and just ride easy. My heartrate was totally under control and I felt comfortable. Miles were ticking by...FAST. My average speed for the first hour was 18.5mph. The second hour had all the hills and after driving it the day before I was hoping to hold 15mph for that hour. I ended up doing it at 18.1mph. I don't remember all that much from the ride. I dropped into my small chain ring on two of the hills to save my legs. I chatted it up with people as they passed and as I passed. It seemed like there were a lot of people out in front of me but I also saw a lot of people who were behind. There were stretches on which I saw nobody. I successfully grabbed water bottles at both water stations (miles 23 and 37). My main concern was that my right foot had gone numb at mile 30 or so and even being mindful of dropping my heel and "scraping the dirt off my shoe" on each pedal stroke it did not come back to life. At the turn around (mile 37) the tailwind turned into a headwind. I was a little worried about my foot. And all my lady bits were angry. I had not been on a long ride in my trisuit on Nimbus before and his saddle is clearly much harder than my dad's old bike. I wanted to stand just to give my crotch a break (but didn't). I also wanted to pee but when I tried (triathletes do this, I know they do) I couldn't make anything happen. I decided I must not have needed to pee that bad. At mile 40 I pulled out my swedish fish (calories 700-900) from my bento box. And...uh...uh..oh no!...they slipped out of my hand and flew away behind me. I was banking on those calories. A lesson for next time, bring more calories than you intend to eat. I slowed down quite a bit on the way back into town. I let people pass and dropped 2 gears. Without those swedish fish and with a numb foot (and strangely sensation free legs) I didn't want to push too hard. I wasn't sure how my body was doing. I watched as my average mph dropped below 18 more the first time right as I crossed 50 miles. I spun back into transition.

Bike:  3:09:52 6/7 age group   216/333 overall

I was in transition for a little over 2 minutes I think. For some reason no one's T2 times got registered and they were tacked on to our Run splits. But I think it was 2 minutes, maybe closer to 3. A woman on my bike rack who I had been passing back and forth on the bike was running around frantically - her running shorts had blown away! I saw her on the run course, she ran in her swim suit. Very brave.

On my way out of transition.

I felt pretty good for the first few miles. I ran 8:42's for the first 2 miles and 8:35's for the next 2.

My mom got this shot at mile 2. I know I was moving at this point. Looking at my stride just kills me though. I was thinking about bending my knees, I swear. The wheels started coming off around mile 4. Mile 5 was a 9:20 (slight uphill) but my perceived exertion was higher for this mile than the last 2 downhill miles which were each nearly a minute/mile faster. By the time I saw my mother again I was not feeling great. I remember shouting to her "My body is becoming displeased!"

Mile 6 here. At least my knees are bending.

I started bargaining with myself about walking. I told myself I needed to run through the first hour. See where I was and re-evaluate my desire to walk. I was doing well with fueling. Better than usual. I had a 24oz. water bottle I was sipping, I was eating a clif shot block each mile and taking pretzel sticks at the water stations. Around mile 6 I also realized I was getting hot so I started pouring cups of water over my head. The weather was actually perfect, high 60's I think. Since the course was a double out-and-back I saw the speedy women twice. I saw my age group winner and cheered her on both times, she was flying. Miles 7-10 were generally uneventful, just very slow. Each mile was slower than the last as ranged from 9:20-9:50. I also started to need to pee immediately after seeing the mile 6.3 portopotty and deciding I couldn't afford to stop. I was determined to pee while running. It proved somewhat difficult. Like the system didn't want to do it. Eventually the flood gates opened. It was good. I wondered how many others out there were doing it. Finally I came to that dreaded hill at mile 10.5 and as promised I walked. It was hard to bend my knees at this point. I was afraid (as I had been as I contemplated walking for the last 4 miles) that I wouldn't be able to start running again. But sure enough, when I crested the hill I started running (well, all the running was actually a pitiful jog, but whatever) again. Very very shortly after that I passed one of the main intersections and a volunteer yelled "only 1.7 miles to go!" I checked my garmin and there was no way this was correct but then again I had noticed that each mile seemed just a fraction short. I tried to find a groove. I realized at this point that I would be finishing. I had known this all along but when I tried to do the math ( 6 hours? ) I just couldn't quite wrap my head around it. As I turned back onto Rt 1A I knew I was less than a mile from the end. I tried to pick up the pace a little. Then I saw the 2 buildings we had to pass between to head down to the beach to run it in. I made the turn, someone yelled "looking strong" and I got excited. I took the long route on the beach. The "death sand" was brutal and I wanted no part of it. The wet sand was much better. I ran carefully. I don't know if I ran as hard as I could. I did not want to fall. I did not want to turn an ankle. I realized that I was passing two of the people who were ahead of me who opted for the death sand. I charged up the beach and saw James, my mom, dad, Cathy, Jon, Nick, and Nicole at the top of the hill. Into the parking lot, a quick 180 degree turn and through the chute! I looked at the clock as I ran through and it was reading 5:53:something. I had started in the 8minute wave. Math?? Math!?!!? 5:45?!?!?!?!?

Charging up the beach

Final turn to the finishing chute!

There was grabbing of knees and sucking of wind. I don't know how much time passed before I realized I needed to stop my watch.

Obligatory wind-sucking, knee-grabbing shot

Run 1:59ish  6/7 age group  184/3?? overall

Total:  5:45:11 5/7 age group  194/333 overall

How did I feel afterward? I don't know. Is that weird? I was relieved to be done. I was tired. I was overheated even though I could tell it wasn't hot out and those around me were all bundled up. I was glad to see so many people. I wanted to sit down.

I changed into warm clothes and hobbled around for a bit. I congratulated the woman who ran without shorts. I purchased a 70.3 sticker and an expensive but awesome windproof purple zoot shirt. I got in line for a massage but didn't end up waiting. We all made a picnic (thanks Mom!)

Around 2:15 we packed up transition and everyone headed home. On the ride home I gave James the blow by blow. I told him not to let me beat myself up after the official results were posted, not to let myself get caught up in how I did relative to my age group. I had hoped to finish 6:00-6:30. I went sub 6:00. I went way sub 6:00. Okay, so the swim may have been short and there was a crazy current. Okay, so there was a tailwind for at least 20 miles of the bike (but there was a headwind on the return ride). Okay, so the run may be have been .2mi short. Okay. Okay. Okay. But I did it. Start to finish. I didn't blow up. I didn't cry. I didn't give up. I stuck with it. I don't know if I could have pushed harder, but I pushed. I stayed within myself yet went farther than I have ever tested my boundaries to be. I also gave high fives to children, chatted with friendly strangers, cheered on those who were struggling (and those were who rocking it hardcore!) and made new friends.  It was a very good day.


  1. GREAT JOB!!! great first 70.3 time! :)

  2. I'm just catching up on your previous posts. You did AWESOME! To go sub 6 hours in your first half IM is amazing. Especially when you estimated your time at 6:15-ish.

    I can't believe you had to finish on sand though. that is just wrong.

    Rest up and enjoy it!

  3. Even if the current helped some, I can't image it "shaving" ~15mins off your time. You earned it, congrats!!