Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Race Report - Lavaman 2009 - The Race

I got to bed relatively early the night before the race and didn't have much trouble falling asleep. I woke up once to the sound of the wind howling, but ignored it and went back to sleep. I had set the alarm for 5:00 AM because we had to be down in the Hotel Lobby to meet the team at 5:45. If I'm well rested I have a pretty good internal alarm clock and sure enough I found myself waking up on my own, knowing the alarm clock was going to go off at any second. I rolled over to look at the clock and groaned to myself. It was only 2:00AM. Apparently my internal clock was still on Pacific time!

I didn't have any trouble falling back to sleep though and enjoyed those extra few hours.

When the alarm did go off, I was ready for it. I hit the floor 'running' It took me almost no time at all to get ready as I had done all the worrying about what to wear the two nights prior. All that was left to do was to put on the clothes I had laid out and eat.

The Bagel and cream cheese I had purchased the day before made a perfect breakfast. I chased that down my morning dose of caffeine, and by 5:30 I was ready to walk out the door.

I met the rest of the team in the hotel lobby and we all prepared to walk/ride down to the race start together. My transition bag was just a 'bag' and wasn't really fit for riding with so I chose to walk my bike down. Since everything in my bag was carefully sorted, and I didn't want to mess with it too much all I wore was my tri suit, TNT shirt and my running shoes. It never occurred to me that walking a mile in my running shoes without socks was a bad idea. I was about 1/2 way there when I noticed the 'rubbing'. About 3/4 of the way I felt a sharp pain that I knew was serious bad news! ^*(^*(^@!#

I tore off my shoe and sure enough I had a blister AND it had already ripped!

I thought to myself "Seriously!?" could anything else possibly go wrong!?

(11 days later and I'm still fighting with this fricking blister)

I limped the rest of the way to the transition area - one shoe on, one shoe off, pushing my bike with my large purple transition bag slowly sliding off onto the ground.  I'm sure I looked a mess!

I found my number in the bike racks and noted that the space was just as tight as they had warned us it would be.  I joked with the men on either side of me that I was glad they were there because it meant that their bikes would be out my way when I got done with the swim.  The both laughed and joked in return although the guy on the left commented that he expected me to be gone when he got back from the swim.  I laughed at that - assuming the 6 minute head start he would have on me would get him into transition well before me.

Then it was time to find a porta potty and then stand in line to be numbered.  Overall the mood was very relaxed and easy going.  It was good to finally be there and I was getting so much energy from the people around me I was pretty much 'buzzing' with it.

I happened to be a little 'late' to the marking line so I was standing in a bunch of 'locals' rather then TNT folks. It was cool to hear them chatting so casually about a race that was a 'really big deal' to someone like me.

Marked and chipped I was ready to eat my banana and then head down to the swim start.

Talk about wearing your age on your sleeve - I mean leg :) I was a little bummed when they told me I needed to move my timing chip to the left leg as that was the leg I would need to put a brace on, but I was pretty much rolling with the punches that point.

The energy levels kept going up as we all waited for the swim start.  Some people were getting really nervous and worried, some were really quiet and introspective and some seemed to be like me, in the moment and enjoying the hell out of it.  I tend to be like this for big events in my life.  Spend the days leading up to it worrying about all the details and the day of - just going with the flow.  I usually figure if there was something to worry about I had already worried about it and done anything I could to solve the problem if I could.  At this point it was in God's hands :)

And then the Pros and relay teams lined up.  We watched them take off with a big ol' WHOOP and the race was started.  

Then the red capped Men 

Next, the yellow - Men 40+

and then the pink capped women - <>

and then my group 40+ women were in
We were supposed to 'self seed' ourselves and frankly I had no idea were I should be so I hung out at the back.  The only time I had 'raced' with others I had been struggling with learning how to swim in my wetsuit and I was one of the last in, so I figured the back was a good place for me.

And then we were off...The water felt great, the temperature perfect and there was hardly any surf.  It actually felt much calmer then the day before - it was encouraging, maybe the wind wouldn't be that much of a factor after all...
And suddenly I discovered that the back was NOT the best place for me...  I wasn't even pushing myself and was passing about 1/2 the pack.  In fact I couldn't push myself otherwise I would have been running people over!  I kept a steady pace as much as I could, squeezing through when I found an opening and mostly trying to avoid people.  I have a pretty balanced swim stroke so swimming in a straight line isn't that hard for me.  I normally just have to make minor adjustments as I go.  Being able to 'site' on the bottom was real boon as well.  I would pick a pit of corral or plant and just swim toward it.  Unfortunately, not everyone was so fortunate.  I found myself constantly having to stop or slow to avoid being run over by people who were obviously (to me) going the wrong way!  twice during my swim someone passing in front of me going parallel to swim course! I have a feeling that I'm going to have to learn to swim more aggressively in future tris.  

Except for avoiding collisions the first trip 'out' was pretty uneventful.  I was swimming well, breathing well and felt great.  the practice swim the day before had taught me my lesson and I was keeping the water out of my face as I breathed and all was good.  I rounded the first turn and headed to shore.  It looked so far away!  but I knew I had felt good all the way out so it couldn't be as far as it looked.  Again, I kept my head down and just swam my pace.  I passed a few more people including a few 'yellow caps' and 'pink caps' from the waves before mine.  As I make the turn near the shore to do the last leg of the swim I had this rush of joy... I had done this swim the day before, this was a piece of cake!  I really got into it then, paying a lot of attention to what was going around me, watching for people cutting across my path and trying to work it so I didn't have to slow down to let them through.  I was squeezing through narrow and narrower gaps and generally being more aggressive (without punch, hitting, scratching or kicking anyone).  I  made the final turn and took a good look at the shore - there were two big palm trees to site on and I kept them firm in my mind.  I was pushing myself now, keeping a steady pace.  I had found my rhythm.  Every time I check my trees there were right were I expected them to be. At one point I spotted two sea turtles swimming under me and I raised my head and yelled - look turtles!  Then I realized what a dork I was being and got back to swimming

Suddenly there was someone pushing between me and another swimmer.  Ok fine, you want to go faster?  I let her push her way through and then got back into my groove.  Suddenly I was running over someone.  the swimmer who had pushed through was now stopped, head up, checking her sighting.  I swam passed her, only to have her sprint past me and stop again!  When I passed her the second time I realized I had had enough of this.  I started upping my pace, breathing was now every right stroke instead of every fourth and I was bearing down on the shore not willing to passed again.  I wasn't.  Coming into shore with the crowd cheering and music playing was just awesome!  I came out of the water with the biggest 'swimmer's high'!  

I couldn't help myself I ended up coming out of the water with both hands in the air as if I had just finished the race! :)

I saw my coach on the sidelines cheering me on.  He looked a little surprised to see me so soon.  I hadn't show the potential to be a solid middle of the packer at any of the practices.  I waved and shouted "That was fun - can I do it again!"  and I seriously meant it - which bodes well for some of the longer races I have planned for this year :)

There was a short run to the transition area that I didn't push on - I could have gone much faster - still I was pleased with my time:  under 40 minutes was 20 minutes faster then I had thought I would go! :)

As I hit the transition area they were announcing that the leader was headed back from his bike ride.  I kind of had to laugh at myself for being so proud of my swim when this guy was nearly done with the swim AND the bike already.   I was kind of shocked when I got back to transition and my neighbor on the left hadn't come back from the swim.  Turned out he was right, I did finish the swim first.  In fact the guy on the right of me was just leaving as I cruised in having just finished his transition from swim to bike.

I took my time in transition.  I mean - really took my time.  It wasn't that I had a lot to do, I just dawdled.  Luckily, when I had packed and put everything but the  kitchen sink in my transition bag I had thrown in a roll of athletic tape.  I tapped up my blister, put on a wrap (not my brace) on my ankle hoping it would help support it during the ride and save it for the run, put on my bike shoes, bike shorts and my tri top and then I was ready to go.    It took me over 10 minutes.  WAAAY longer then it needed to.  

I was finally on my way!  I walked to the mount line, mounted my bike and off I went.  Sorta... as I came out of the main start area and was heading toward the first turn I could see what appeared to be a traffic snarl up.  There was a line of cars backed up waiting to turn left (I was going to turn right).  As I rolled forward the shuttle bus from the hotel swerved over into the right hand lane blocking my (and other riders) way!  Volunteers were waving and shouting at the guy as he made his own way through the traffic holding up a clump of bikers.  I just kept going slower and slower.  I couldn't tell if this guy was turning left from the wrong lane or was turning right or what and I certainly didn't want to end my lavaman being run over by a bus!  But also knew I didn't want to stop!  After my mishap yesterday trying to unclip I would do almost anything to not have to put a foot down.  Finally they got everything sorted and I was REALLY on my way this time.

I quickly got into my bike rhythm.  I could feel the wind on the turn onto the highway, but it wasn't anything like the day before.  I just focused on trying to keep my cadence even and shifting when necessary.  I played a cat and mouse game with one rider.  He would pass me on the inclines (I carry too much extra weight to be a good hill climber), and I would scream past him on the down hills (That extra weight has to be goo for something).  I passed one of my teammates standing on the side with a flat waiting for the SAG vehicle.  That got me thinking about my back tire and I eyed it warily.  It had 'felt' full this morning, but was it really!?  I had also noticed that a muscle in my back into my glut was tight.  I was hoping it would work itself out as the ride went on and not get worse, but it was slightly annoying on every downstroke.

I tried to keep those worries out of my head as I continued.  I downshifted as I came to the 'big' hill.  Again I just focused on keeping my pedals moving.  If any spot on the 'out' side of the ride would be a challenge this one would be it.  

Suddenly there was a distraction on the other side of the road.  There was a pack of riders on the decent and they had gotten bunched.   Someone was blocking and I could hear the yells.  "On your left!"  "Get out of the way!"  "Move over!"  I shook my head and went back to griding up the hill VERY glad I wasn't caught up in THAT.  Near the top of the hill a man was parked with his truck.  He was sitting out on his folding chair in nothing but a speedo.  For some reason that struck me as odd and added a bit of levity to this long grinding hill.  As I got closer he shouted, "you're almost to the top, this is the worse one!"

I have to admit, speedo wearing old guy race fan, that was awesome of you and a great mood lifter for me.  Thanks!

Yes there were more hills after that, but he was right, that was the worse one!

A girl in blue had passed me on that hill.  Ok, no problem, but, I rolled down the decent of that hill, she started to get down on her areo bars and got wobbly - just as I was passing her.  This made me have to slam on the breaks and it killed my momentum for the next hill...  I got a little frustrated, but figured hey, it happens.  But I never seemed to get that momentum back again through to the turn around.

The turn around was as they described it, tight and fast and... speed bumps!? huh?  luckily I was already going slow when I saw it.  I laughed to the volunteers as I came on it, jokingly complaining "No one told me this was a cylocross race!"  They laughed in return, and I even hurt one of them repeating my comment to someone who hadn't heard.

The water stop at the turn around was a new experience for me.  It was probably one of the few things I hadn't practiced.  I grabbed an ice cold water from the first person and drank a bunch of it down.  I still had plenty of water on my bike so I tossed the 1/2 empty bottle to another volunteer as I exited and just kept on going.  I found out later that a few teammates had stopped and gotten off their bikes at the water stop.  The thought hadn't even crossed my mind.  I just rolled through.

As I came up the big hill from the water stop I realized that the way back wasn't going to be easy.  The wind had kicked up - a LOT and it was out to get me.  Luckily the way back was in total down hill, but it had some inclines too.  The worse thing about the wind is it didn't let you enjoy the decents.  I had to put as much energy into going downhill as I did going up!

My legs had started to feel a bit trembly at this point.  Nothing to worry about but I noticed it.  My bake tire seemed to be holding up, and that was a postive thought.  But, my feet had started to go numb!  I peddled on, wiggling my toes as I went hoping that this was just a passing thing.  It wasn't.  The numbness turned to pain, so that each peddle stroke felt like someone was pounding the bottom of my foot with a hammer.  I kept going.  I started curling my toes with every downstroke and that helped, but after a few minutes of that my calves started cramping.  I knew I needed my calves for the run later so I stopped.  Finally I curled my toes and jammed them agains the bottom of my shoes so they would stayed curled without my having to hold them there.  While painful to my toes it at least have me some relief from the hammer pounding.  Some.  What I desperatly wanted to do was to get off my bike and take off my shoes.  It soon became all I could think about.  I didn't want to stop though.  Again, yesterday's 'crash' was still fresh in my mind.  Plus my legs were trembling so bad I was afraid when I put my leg down it would give out on me.  What if I got off my bike and couldn't get back on again!?  Instead I found a point where I could coast a little and managed to coast and balance myself long enouch to undo all the straps on my shoes.  The extra room gave me a little relief.  So I kept riding.  Soon I found myself doing down the 'big decent'.  Even with the wind I was able to take advantage of this one and found myself coming up fast on blue bike girl again.  This time I wanted to give her pleanty of warning and I started screeming 'On your left'!  She stuck to the middle of the lane.  "On Your LEFT!"  I yelled again.  Nothing  "LOOK OUT!" I screemed as I passed her, and she drifted into meand I hovered with my bike tire rolling along the white dissqualification line.  I put on a burst of speed and got around her as fast as I could.  I needed that momentum!

The rest of the ride was just a blur.  I dutifly ate my energy gells, drank my water and peddled.  My brain took up a chant of "please stop hurting, please stop hurting, please stop hurting" as if I could will the hammers to stop pounding on my feet.  I reached the turn around spot from the day before and felt a little bit of excitment.  Then I was coming to the light to turn off the highway, and then I was making the turn into the beach and there was the dismount line.. OH GOD!! the DISMOUNT LINE!  I was going to have to stop.  In a panic I unclipped both feet.  There was no way I was going to do something stupid now.  Only I unclipped too early and I wan't going to be able to coast all the way to the line.  so I pedled a few strokes with my heals to make sure I didn't accidently clip in again.  And then the moment of truth, I stopped.  I leaned to one side and my foot hit the pavement and... my leg held!  In fact, it felt really strong!  Oh yeah!  I just just finished the bike!!!  I swung my other leg over suprised that the shaking I had felt early was just shaking, my legs were holding me up just fine!

I had hopped to do the bike in under 2 hours.  The wind and all the fiddling with my shoes and cost me time (mostly the wind), and instead it had taken me 2:10.  Later I looked at my watch and found out that I had averaged over 12MPR on the way out (uphill) and under 10 on the way in (downhill).  Some people out there estimated the wind was gusting up to 30MPR.  It certainly felt it!

T2 was even longer then T1 over 11 minutes.  I think I was just trying to put off the run as long as possable.  I sat down and rewrapped my blister, put on a pair of socks, put on my brace and put other pair of socks over that, hopping that would help cushion it.  Then I put on shoes, stripped off my bike shorts and put on a running skirt, and a visor and I was ready to go.  Again nothing that should have taken so long.  I just hung around :)  I listened to one girl who was streching having just finished the race.  She had been in the wave before me, had stepped on a sea urchin at the start and had had to leave the water to go to the first aid tent to have the spines removed - THEN hit the water and started her swim.  Here she was, done for the day and I was only 2 thirds through.

The man on my left came in as I was changing.  He had caught up to me during the bike.  He ended up leaving for his run before me.  I just couldn't seem to get myself out of transition.

Finally I bit the bullet and headed out.  It was time to face my nemisis - the run!

I trotted through transition to the start of the run... I didin't like what I saw.

But I had faced this lava path yesterday.  I knew it was coming I knew what I needed to do: walk and take it carefully.  And I did.  I knew the only way I was going to get through this part of the race was taking one mile at a time.  And that's what I did.  "Let's do mile one" I told myself, and I was on my way.

the first part of the run was along the 'resort' roads.  Nice and shady, little rolling hills.  There was lots of shelter from the winds and I agreed in retrospect with a lady who rolled passed me and commented "This is my favorite part of this run"

But, it was uphill - not my strength and I struggled to keep a decent pace.  I just wan't happening.  I had wanted to run/walk 15 minute miles but my pacing was closer to 17 - dang!

I kept at it.  The first water stop came into view and I congratulated myself for making it 1/6th of the way.  I grabbed tepid water and continued on my way.  We were climbing out of the trees and shelter now.  It was getting windier and hotter.  I could feel the waves of heat coming off the ashfault and I knew that I had better start taking in more then water on the run.  I'm a sweater and I would need all the electrolites I could get later on.  I kept chugging on other runners slowly picking me off one by one.  At Mile two I hit the turn off for the 'back' portion of the run.  I congratulated myself for making it 2/3rds of the way and had a gatoraid and a water, then kept on going.  Mile 2 to 3 was a bad spot.  the wind was horrible, there was not a spot of shade and the view none existant.  The only 'good' thing about it was now I was seeing runners on the 'back' part of thier 'out and back'.  Almost everyone I saw shouted encouragement and I shouted it right back.  I was running 1% of the time now and just wishing the whole thing would be over.  But I was walking - I didn't have my head down, I was trudging.  I was focused ahead, swingining my arms, jogging when I felt I had 1/2 a shred of energy.  Finally I hit the waterstop and turn around... 1/2 way!!! horray!

I turned around and found myself facing a down hill with the wind at my back.. YES!  the next mile was still hot and windy but I ran more and now I was seeing all the folks who were behind me.  I shouted encoragement to them as they passed.  I hit the turn off from the road and the mile four water stop and was greated with a hug cheer from the volenteers and the offer of ICE!

"Do you want Ice in your bra?"

Never did I ever imagine being so happy to hear such a suggestion!  "YES!!"

I dumped ice down my tri top, drank down a gateraide, sipped water to get the 'yuck' taiste out of my mouth and then dumped the rest of the water on my head, and I was off.  

the next mile was all through the hotel grounds and it was - wierd.  On the first leg it was ok... just a sidewalk through big grass lawn.  Then a turn with an ocean view - nice.  Then just as the crowds started to get thick the race route diverted down the side of the cliff.. WTF?  Oh - there's a trail here.  I single track dirt - OMG I HAVE TO RUN ON THIS trail!?

I picked my way along the dirt trail just praying I didn't fall off.  My pace had slowed to an absolute CRAWL.. At one point the 775 people who had ran the trail before me had caused it to break down completely and there was nothing left of it.  I just scrambled by and hoped for the best.  At last I saw the end and I was up on the hotel sidewalks again.  But now I was in the heart of the hotel.  I straighted my skirt and did my best to set a decent pace.  I wanted to look like I belonged in this race when I passed all these people.  Frankly 1/2 of them wern't even paying attention.  As I ran I had to dodge through hotel guests and at one point had to push a little boy as he turned around and almost ran smack into me!  There were a few guests who were cheering the runners as the went past and I appreciated that.  But man that pool looked good!  wouldn't it be nice to stop... NO!

Soon after the run route left the hotel and dropped into the beach.  I was at mile 5, the last water stop!  I grabbed more ice and put it down my top, grabbed a gateraide and water, dumped water on my head and then turned to do the last mile.   A girl I had cheered earlier had caught up with me, we turned to each other and assured each other, "last mile!".  "This is the last push" she told me

I nodded, and she asked, "Do you have any children?"

"Yes, three"

"Me too.  Remember in delivery, when you gave that last push before the baby was born?  That what this is, the last push"

I thought about that for a split second.  and then shrugged, "All of my children were born in less time then this race is taking me...."  was all I said before watching her back dissapear in front of me.

And then I faced the beach.  Yes, the lava run at the begining had been bad, and the hike up the hill into the wind had been too, but this... this was sadistic.

This was like the lava run at the begining, but someone had mixed it white bits of coral in with the lava.  Nice... There was no running this last mile for me.  I was almost defeated.  I was having to pick my way along unstable footing with shakey legs.  The black lava rock was collecting the heat and then the white coral would refect it back up at you.  I did the onlything I could do, put one foot in front of the other.  I could hear the celebration at the finish line now, but it did nothing for me.  I just wanted to stop moving!  My watch told me I had hit mile six and I felt something  new under my feet... Sand!  Oh yeah it's not rocks... oh crap it's sand!!!

My shoes sunk into the soft white stuff and every step seemed to drag the energy out of me.  I could hear the cheering.   There were a few spectators out this far and they were starting to cheer for me specifically.  I picked up my head and tried raising my feet higher.  "Your doing great!"  I heard.  "Keep going, you're almost there!"  "It gets better as you get closer, the sand is packed tighter"  was the one that finally got me moving.  

"It gets better..." I clug to that statement in my head.  I was running now, lifting my feet high to clear the sand, focusing on my breath.  Breath in one two, woosh out one two... "Just keep moving your arms - your feet have no choice but to follow"  I kept thinking.

And then I was in the chute and people were yelling and asking for high fives and I started smiling... I did it! I did it!

The funny thing - I wasn't as elaited as I had expected to be.  I was tired and most of all just GLAD it was over!

My coach was the first person to hug me, my husband the second...  

I had to wait to get my race metal but I got my TNT 'tri' pin.  I couldn't seem to get enough water, but was too hot/winded/tired to eat.  And I was certainly too tired to walk back up to the hotel just yet.

I sat in the shade, watching the awards.  Three people from our team were in the top three of thier class, and two of those were first.  That was pretty awesome.

In all - it was a great experiance and now that it's over - I can't wait to do it again!

My coach gave me my finisher's medal at the after party, and I caught up with my 'last mile buddy'.  I thanked her for her words out there.  An awesome day overall.


  1. Inspirational Shawn! Congratulations!

  2. Awesome! I'm so glad I got to read your perspective. I just signed up for my first Tri through TNT. I'm scared to death!

  3. Shawn - Congrats again! Stay proud about this. You did it!

    Hey I would have stopped for the turtles, too.

    I like the purplish hair - nice touch!

    I enjoyed reading all of your race and trip reports. Maybe I will get inspiration to do a TNT triathlon. One of the tri coaches told me if you can do a marathon you can do a tri. Hope he is right! :) It sounds like a cool experience. Olympic distance sounds tough enough - I can't imagine an Iron Man.

    Well done! Art

  4. Congrats Shawn! Yep, that Lavaman course is not easy but you finished and of all places, in Hawaii. Can't beat that!!!