On July 16, 2011 I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to a peaceful chirping of my cell phone alarm. It was the day of the ChelanMan Half Ironman and over the night I didn’t get much sleep… This was partly due to pre-race jitters and partly due to a fellow racer/friend having car problems, getting into town very late, and then not being able to find my house. At about 11:30pm he stopped communicating with me so I left my phone on in anticipation of him calling, but he never did. After my early morning wake up I made my eggs and oatmeal, double checked my transition bags, pulled on my tri shorts, mixed my Jack3d, and headed to the ChelanMan race start.
It was a cloudy morning with a chance of thunder showers, and there were talks of the Half Ironman swim getting cancelled if the lightening got too close.
Upon arrival I headed to the transition area to put my goods with my bike. At the transition area there were race staffers ready with HUGE black sharpies ready to mark us up with our race numbers and ages on our arms and legs. The pre-race energy of a triathlon seems to be a bunch of people checking their transition bags over and over until they have to head to the start. With about 15 minutes before the start I pulled on my wetsuit and asked my Dad to zip me up.
Once zipped, I trudged into the cold water for a quick 20 yard out and back warm up. Then it was just waiting for the start. I decided to put in ear plugs for the first time which muffled the sounds around me.
At 7:05am it was time to go, and after a 10 second countdown the horn sounded and we all rushed into the water. My strategy was to start in the front of the pack and swim for my life to stay there. That strategy didn’t work so well for me. After about 50 meters I was feeling discombobulated and having trouble breathing. I knew I was in trouble! I had to come up and take 3-4 full breaths with my head out of the water before being able to take a few more strokes. I was PISSED!!!!!! I realized that I wasn’t warmed up enough for my body to be efficiently using oxygen. I struggled through a few hundred yards before I could get my body to use oxygen efficiently. At about the half mile mark I was feeling good and able to put my head down and push through the rest of the swim.
As I was getting to the end of the swim it was hard to decide if I should keep swimming all the way in or run through the water to the shore. I opted to swim in and start my run once my hands were digging through the sandy bottom. Getting out of the water I felt a little dizzy but managed to stay on my feet.
The transition from the swim to the bike was pretty funny. My wetsuit came off fine using the patented stomping method, but when I went to put my riding and running top on it was tight and my wet body wouldn’t allow it to pull past my arm pits. It was so stuck that I almost asked a fellow racer to help me out. Finally I got it to pull down and I put on my helmet, grabbed my bike and ran out of the transition.
My legs felt good as I was cranking through my first miles, and this was great because I knew I had a lot of time to make up from the swim if I was going to be happy with my time. The first 35 miles of the ride were pretty uneventful, but around mile 36 I started to hear a pulsating whoosh sound. Like, “Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh,” as my wheel spun around. I instantly knew that something was wrong and saw my front tire quickly becoming flat. I hopped off my bike on the side of the road and looked around for the “sag wagon” to help me get the tire changed quickly. There was no help in sight so I started the changing process myself. It had been a while since the last time this tube had been changed and the valve was stuck to the rim. Earlier I had been joking about having to run with my bike if it became unrideable and now thoughts of having to do that were running through my head! That would have added another 20 miles of running (in bike shoes) onto my half marathon. Not super cool! As the panic was running through my head the valve popped free and I pulled the tire and tube off of the rim.
It’s proper technique to check the tire for the piece of whatever popped your tube so that it doesn’t pop the new tube after installation. I quickly found the piece of whatever and unfortunately it was a big diamond shaped piece of glass that sliced into my finger as I found it. Not worrying about a little blood I continued changing the tube and put the bike back together. As I was putting my tools back in my bike bag I noticed a pretty good sized blood stain on the cement and realized that my finger wasn’t going to stop bleeding on it’s own. I needed a band aid if I was going to continue riding. As I was changing my tire a car pulled over on the other side of the road to watch the race and asked if I was OK. At the time I was fine, but now I needed a band aid that I should have had in my own kit, but didn’t. I caught the driver’s attention, and to my surprise, she had a perfect sized band aid, and wasn’t at all scared of the blood pumping out of my finger. She said, “Where do you need it?” so I held out my finger and she strapped on the band aid. I thanked her and was back on my bike spinning away at the last 20 miles.
These last 20 miles of the bike course were a series of steep ups and downs that took me from a slow 5-10 MPH to a blazing 50-60 MPH. One highlight of this part of the ride was getting to pee on my bike for the first time. I’d heard about this being done, but had never actually experienced it myself. It was pretty cool in a disgusting sort of way. Very efficient! On the downside, my lower back was getting very tight and keeping my from being able to get onto the arrow bars. It was just a dull nagging pain that kept getting worse and worse, similar to a migraine headache, but in my back. Because all of my training was designed around CrossFit Endurance, my body didn’t have much time to get used to staying in weird positions (aka leaning forward in the arrow bars) for long periods of time. My legs were great, but my none moving parts hurt! For the last 10 miles or so I was going back and forth between being in the arrow bars and sitting up as straight as I could to take pressure off of my back. I couldn’t help but think that all these years of working hard to have great posture was actually hurting me here. I rode into the transition area, racked my bike, changed my socks and shoes, and ran toward the road. My legs felt like they were full of goo! Heavy goo!
The run was pretty uneventful. It was weird because I couldn’t keep my heart rate up in my training zone which is 130-145 BPM. It had been a long time since I’d done a race on a road, and I was quickly remembering why I was a trail runner. The road is soooooo boring! I don’t know how people do it. I was running next to one of the most impressive lakes in the United States, but because I was running on a flat, long, road, there was nothing interesting going on. One nice aspect was that the weather was cool instead of blazing hot like it could have been. I ran good and hard until the 7 mile mark when my stomach started rumbling and tumbling. The gels had caught up with me and my stomach was trying to get rid of the sugary mess that I’d ingested. Fortunately, before I’d reached the point of no return, I saw a port-o-potty at the aid station. About 5 minutes later I was good to go and back on the road. Usually when I get stomach problems on the run I’m good to go after one bathroom (or woods) visit, but this time was a little different. The stomach churning came back within about 3 miles. At this point I started chalking up the ChelanMan as a pure learning experience. I was able to tough out the last 3 or 4 miles without any embarrassments, but I may have run faster after crossing the finish line to the bathroom than I did in the whole race. These races are fun! Right?
I was very unhappy with my performance at this race because I’m looking to set an example for the people that I’m working with and my readers, but I hope that you can learn from what happened to me and make adjustments with your training and racing so you don’t have to go through the same things. Smart people learn from their mistakes until they succeed, and really smart people learn from other people’s mistakes and go straight to success.
Please leave me a comment below if you enjoyed or got anything from this post and also let me know what you’d like to hear about.
I just got done testing Progenex Recovery protein powder and loved it, so I plan on writing a review of that product very soon.
Now get outside and have fun by working hard! 🙂