Monday, June 7, 2010

Honu 70.3 - Let the race end, God, please let it end (unabridged) (part 3 of 4)

Ugh, finally on the flight home.

So, I successfully made it through the swim and bike and after almost taking out another racer and then embarrassing myself getting off my bike I am off to the run. I find the volunteer who is pointing out my bike slot and trot over to her. I throw my hat on and slip my right shoe on and then my left shoe. I was worried that when I pulled my shoe on my calf would cramp. It did but as soon as I trotted away it felt OK.

I made the turn onto the run course and knew I was going to have a tough run - at least to start with. I was sloshy and bloated and my legs would not turn over. I told myself it was the first mile, stick with it, stick with the nutrition plan and see if it comes back. Needless to say it didn’t come back. My running legs did not make it to the race.

I honestly do not think I overdid the bike. My legs didn’t feel sore or tired they just weren’t turning over. I resigned myself to the fact that the run would be a suffer-fest and I would do what I could/needed to do to finish.

The course is NOT easy. It’s on and off fairways and cart paths on a golf course. So there are just endless rolling hills, short but steep, up and down. There is little shade – certainly not enough to provide any relief. One “advantage” of the course is that there are a lot of out-and-backs so I could be a little distracted looking for people I knew.

I walked during the second mile. The uphills were just killing me. Not causing discomfort really, just taking way more energy than I figured I could sustain. I realized that I was totally cooking. During one of the Ironman videos I have watched like a hundred times, Torbjorn Sindballe talks about the Kona heat – “you’re running along and then ‘wham’ the heat just hits you like a hammer in the head” and that is exactly what it felt like. I resolved to walk up the hills as necessary and walk through the aid stations – you know, enjoy the scenery and free refreshments. This wasn’t the plan I had in mind, but what can you do? I made sure to stick with the nutrition plan so I didn’t have a complete melt down.

RR caught me a couple of miles into the run. She wasn’t blazing along either, so I was feeling OK that I was struggling. I kept seeing her on the switch-backs as she pulled away. Then I saw MM coming up behind me. I figured she would be running me down pretty quickly, but she wasn’t catching me nearly as quickly as I expected.

I kept looking for everyone else, but everyone looks like some stage of shit and I was merely concentrating on keeping the feet moving forward.

I was determined to run from aid station to aid station. At each stop it was water on my head, one cup of ice down the shirt, one cup of ice down the shorts (yes, it sounds horrible, but was actually incredibly refreshing) and Gatorade. I will say that fairly quickly the sloshy, bloaty feeling went away replaced by gassy but that went away as well (when I was in isolated areas – I’m a little modest about those things.)

I was taking GUs and salt tabs as planned and these certainly kept a tough run from becoming a miserable run. Don’t get me wrong it was a suffer-fest/death march but it was manageable – physically and, most importantly, mentally.

I made two minor mistakes/breaks in concentration. Some of the GUs I ate on the run contained caffeine. From past experience this is never a good thing for me. I had other options, but was too tired/lazy to find them. The aid stations were giving out Coke and it just got to the point where I could not say no. I had to have one. The caffeinated GUs and Coke quickly caught up with me. I recalled a conversation I had with my sister on the phone on the drive up that morning. “Todd, mom and I have one request. DO NOT embarrass the family by shitting yourself.” These words were screaming in my head as I was in the middle of mile 8. OH MY GOD! Am I going to make it to a port-a-potty or do I hit the woods?

Rounding a corner there was an aid station and – thank the Lord Almighty – a port-a-potty. Son of a bitch some guy just ran in there. FINE! Stand and clench. Stand and clench. Pray that no one recognizes me. Finally, dude comes out. It was all over in about 45 seconds. I felt so relaxed and hopped out with fresh legs. When I say fresh legs, I mean I could go back to the shuffle I was now calling "running."

I felt like the worst was behind me (literally and figuratively) and I could just concentrate on finishing, but in those last four miles or so I got double side stitches that forced me to walk. A lot. I tried to alter my breathing pattern and it worked for a while but they kept coming back. Again, it wasn’t cramping from dehydration or lack of salt (I've been there and recognize the signs,) I’m not sure what it was (in a restaurant the next day, I heard another racer talking about the same thing happening to them) I actually ran/shuffled more than I walked so I was OK with that, but it was maddening.

Back on the golf course I ran/shuffled to the finish for the last couple of miles. Suddenly there is a woman running beside me and she starts chatting with me. I mention how I am really enjoying my death march and she points out that we actually paid for this. At some point she got in front of me and I saw her number - #1060 – the woman I ran off the road at the bike-in. Holy shit, she didn’t remember me. I made a note to find her at the finish and apologize and buy her a beer. She finished like 15 seconds ahead of me and I never did find her.

So what was my take away from the run? That course is fucking hard and people who can train in that heat have a distinct advantage. I, however, never gave up, never really wanted to give up and actually felt good mentally and physically at the end. My mental attitude was still positive, was still encouraging, was still being nice. Even though the run took me over two hours, it seemed to go by pretty quickly - as I recall now and even when I was in the midst of it. After all, isn't that what it's really all about? Not quitting. Reevaluating and adjusting your definition of success based on conditions. Although I will admit to some disappointment that my time was not what I had expected and that my run was no where near what I was planning, I am more proud and encouraged by the way I worked the plan, adjusted where needed and never lost faith or the ability to really enjoy the race. Given the chance I will do the race again, without a doubt.

Next up: all the fun stuff that happened before and after the race with pictures. Stay tuned.


Question Authority. said...

Congrats on finishing and staying alive! The heat hammer must have been terrible. I remember a hot, hot RAGBRAI (biking) where we were on a highway and I felt like I was in a convection oven -- heat circling all around. And you were running on lava, huh. Whoa.

Mary said...

Nice work T-odd and the little guys on your shoulder didn't take you strong you have become.

Way to go.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Anonymous said...

I am really proud of you Toddler! Wish we could have been there to see you run/shuffle across that finish line!
It's a HUGE accomplishment and a life event! Yeahhhh!
(And thanks for not embarrassing the family with a crapfest!)
Mary V!

Beth said...

Way to hang in there!! It's hard to push through a tough run but you did it!!

Court said...

It's all about how you handle the ups and downs... way to go! Sounds like quite the trip, can't wait to see the photos.

ADC said...

Congrats on the race. You seem to have had a great time on the Big Island.