Well, it came. The day when I was supposed to do a Half-Iron Tri. Had I trained enough? No? Had I lost the weight I had planned? No? Was I scared out of my mind? Well... Not anymore. I came into the day feeling really calm. I figured I would do what I needed to do and what happened happened.
The day started ok. Got up, dressed, ate, drove 2 hours... the usual. Then things got a little weird. Unlike most triathlons instead of doing waves, they decided to have everyone start at once. This was most likely because there were less then 100 people there, including those who were signed up for the Aqua-bike. Normally, I in wave 5 or 6, and with 5 minutes between waves, that means I have 20 to 25 minutes after the actual start time before I have to be ready. I didn't realize just how important those minutes were before. Now I know. On top of having to rush my pre-race, just as I was finishing laying out all my stuff, a volunteer came through and told me I was racked in the wrong spot and needed to move! Geeze, you couldn't have told me that 30 minutes ago?
So, I moved all my stuff, started putting on sunscreen and then realized I had less then ten minutes to the start and I hadn't even taped my knees!
I did manage to make it to the start in time, but I hadn't really warmed up, and as I realized later, I hadn't finished putting on sunscreen (missed my face and part of my back). Still, the swim is the easy part for me so I was calm.
The race started, we were off and something was immediately, off. I don't know what it was - maybe it's a 'first wave' thing but the water was SO CHOPPY. There was no way that I could turn my head and not get splashed when breathing. And it wasn't that I was surrounded by people slashing - it was just choppiness from people passing. It's never been like that before and I've started with groups just as big in the past--- strange. About 100 yards out I lifted my head to site, breath and a little wave came up and hit me right in the kisser. I inhaled the water and immediately started choking. Not the mild, cough, cough, but the cough - GASP - cough - GASP that makes you feel like you've never going to be able to breath again. My trachea felt like it had completely collapsed. I didn't panic, but I didn't really know what to do either. My brain was going, SWIM SWIM, but my body was going, BREATH, we must BREATH! I finally flipped onto my back and did the breast stroke until I could take a deep breath without coughing, but by the time I was able to focus on forward motion again, I had lost about 30 seconds. 30 seconds that I never regained on the front runners.
By 1/4 of the way through I passed the slow people, by 1/2 way I had caught up with some of the back of the pack, but I never made it back to my normal place behind the front runners. But that didn't bother me, I knew there was a lot of race in front of me still.
I climbed out of the water feeling great. Even after a 1.2 mile swim I ran easily to T1, something I couldn't have done a few years ago. I quickly changed, grabbed my bike, and headed out. I hit the mount line started to mount and issue two became apparent. Somehow, somewhere my chain had gotten knocked off the front gear. Again, the compressed time pre-race had caused me to miss my normal checks and I had to climb off my bike, fix my chain and jump back on. Luckily that didn't take me long and I was OFF! Then issue three...
As I started on the bike I was feeling good. I was easily holding a 15MPR pace (faster then goal) and I decided I should take the first of my bike nutrition... only... there was none! I remembered that I had just started unload all my nutrition for bike and run when the girl had told me I had to move and I had never gotten back to it! CRAP! Unfortunately, that turned out to be the least of my worries. Although legs, lungs and heart felt good, about mile 10 I started to have some serious issue with my stomach. Rolling waves of nausea started assailing me. I would roll for a while feeling fine and then the next second be sure I was going to need to pull over. I pushed on hoping it would pass - as I said, I felt great otherwise. It didn't pass. At mile 20 I hit the first nutrition stop. I stopped to refill my water bottle and was shocked to find that I couldn't stand up straight due to cramps in my stomach (above the navel). I was also a little disappointed to find that the only nutrition they had at the stop was shot-blocks. I was hoping that I could get a little 'real' food (like a banana) in me to calm my stomach down - it wasn't to be.
I continued anyway. At mile 28 I had to stop - water wasn't staying down anymore. SAG eventually came and picked me up and my day was done.
So, what have I learned?
1 - don't change my diet a week before a big race :) I don't know if that had anything to do with my complete meltdown, but it is a question.
2 - That 20 'extra' minutes I get before my wave starts is time well spent. I need to plan better if my wave is starting first.
3 - A DNF really isn't the end of the world. Not even close
4 - It's ok to listen to my body. It doesn't always lie to me to try to get out of doing something. Sometimes I really do need to stop.
5 - I'm going to have to do a Half-Iron next year after all! :)