Saturday, September 17, 2011

The End of the Race for 2011: Disaster Narrowly Averted

Coming into T-2, I was pretty excited.  I've worked hard on my transition from bike to run and have it down pretty fast.  I even have a little chant for myself:  "Helmet-left-left-right-right-glove-glove-fooddrinkhat-go".  It gets my helmet off, my shoes changed (that's the left-left-right-right), reminds me to take off my gloves, and gets me a snack.  Kindergarten was the best year of my life ever- due to snacks.  Snacks, I love thee.  Total transition was a little over 2 minutes which includes running in and out of a huge transition area the size of three or four football fields!

At the end of the race with my ice-bath towel given to me by St. Towel of the Ice Bucket, Patron Saint of Tri volunteers.  Look for his inclusion in the next Holy Women, Holy Men.  

Now the run... always the toughest part.  I was shooting for an under 1:00 10K, which I haven't gotten all summer.  I tried and tried and tried.  I thought that if I could hold down a 9:40 or better mile I could do fine.  My miles last year were 10:42.  At mile 1, charging down the Mall, I hit the first mile marker at 9:15.  So I was actually ahead of my pace, and feeling strong.  My dirty secret?  I hum Hall and Oates "Maneater" to myself for the first mile to help me set a pace.  It's a perfect pace song for me right now.  I understand if you just can't respect me ever again.  

I need insane amounts of motivation.  And because my soul is always so sad and lonely and alone and neglected, I need a ridiculous amount of coddling from total strangers who've never seen me before in their lives to make me feel loved.  So heading out of T-2, I started yelling to the crowd "Hey, cheer for Oregon!  Cheer like you know me!"  and people started cheering and yelling and that lasted me a while.

Then I saw a cop, and I yelled "GO EUGENE PD!"  which I would shake up with "HEY!  GO LANE COUNTY SHERIFF'S!"  and that usually got me a whine of the sirens and some cheers from the cops on the route.  Most of the cops seemed to be having fun.  I mean, shutting roads for racing is super-easy overtime and usually terribly fun, with lots of nice people running by you.  And we hadn't even swum this year, so we weren't covered in Potomac sludge!

Not the cops were fun, though.  At least two separate guys were just sitting in their cars.  I mean, come on, people, it's a race.  Sitting in your car is B-O-R-I-N-G.  Stand up and cheer on the racers!  It's way more fun than sitting in your car.  Chaplain Cuddles says, "Don't be a boring cop."  Trust me.  I care about your spiritual and emotional well-being.  

Sadly for all of us in the universe, disaster struck just after mile 3 in the form of cramps.  My entire abdomen decided that would be a great place to imitate wet rope.  The cramps were quickly followed by the queasies, which is a problem because at that point, you don't want to eat and drink anything ever again.

Best cure for cramps?  Taking in sodium and electrolytes!  Which means me overcoming my stomach which is curled up in a fetal position begging me to never make it digest anything again.  I was also well past the 3 mile aid station but had at least 7 minutes until I hit the 4 mile aid station.  I pulled out my Margarita shot blox and started chowing down, doing my best to run through the cramps and hoping like hell that the sodium would loosen something up.  It was a pretty miserable mile.  (This is all I will say in this public venue about my mindset during mile 3-4.)

At this point, I will point out the humidity.  It was pretty humid by now, and mile 3 was pretty sunny, so it's possible this was all a minor case of mild overheating.

As soon as I saw that Mile 4 aid station, I tore open my Clif Shot (mocha with 18X the amount of caffeine needed to power a small city) and sucked it down.  I walked that station pretty slow.  I threw two cups of water over my arms, a third over my head, sucked down a cup, and got two cups of Gatorade.

One person remarked on my right calf, which by this point was joining the cramp party.  The whole calf was cramping so much that casual bystanders could see it knot up.  Y.O.W.C.H.

This is probably what cost me that sub-1-hour 10K.  But I managed to find a pace again as I came out.  About 2 minutes out of Mile 4, the Shot Blox, Shot, and Gatorade worked their magic.  The cramps thankfully eased up and movement became possible again.

Lesson learned yet again?  Force the food and fluid on the run.  You don't feel like it, but you need it unless you want to suffer greatly.  I keep learning this one over and over and over.

Ultimately, I came in at 1:00:05 for the 10K. It means I held down a fast-ish sub-9:30 pace on the good miles, and slowed way down during the Mile of Misery.  

As I came out of mile 5, I saw a Bethesda firefighter ahead of me.  She was in my age group.  We'd chatted in the swim corral.  I hadn't seen her at all through the bike ride, but she had a stronger, steadier run pace than me so she'd caught me on the run.  She was slowing down a bit, though.  I called out "Hey, Bethesda!"  and she said hi, and we ran together and were within 5 seconds of each other down the finish chute.  I might never see her again, but I definitely had a friend for this race!  There's all sorts of cool people like that you meet in tri.

Coming through the chute.  The white things on my arms, by the way, are arm coolers.  They really do keep your arms much cooler, and helped a LOT during this hot run!
I came in strong through the chute. By this point I was definitely overheating- despite the arm coolers, my fingers were swollen up like sausages and the cramps were coming back.  I'm just not acclimated to this humidity anymore!  (Wanna know how swollen my fingers were?  Part of my right hand actually split along a scar line from the Bike Crash of '09.  Sure, it's only the size and pain of a tiny little papercut, but still.  I am hardcore suffer person.)  

The volunteer gave me my medal, the medics gave me the stink-eye (the one they give you when they are starting to wonder if they need to grab you and haul you off to medical), and someone who is now going to be enshrined in the Episcopal Holy Women Holy Men book as "Saint Towel of the Ice Bucket" handed me a towel and forced my hand and the towel into a large bucket of ice water and draped it over my head.

Two things of Gatorade later and I had cooled off enough to exist.

I got my time from the timing station and was thrilled to find I'd beaten a few goals.  Last year, I'd been in the 78% of my age group, and I was hoping to maybe move up to the 50-60% of my age group.  I also hoped to beat my bike time, and my run time.  I beat both of those, indeed, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was in the 32% of my age group AND gender.  Those Eugene hills have paid off in spades! 

It was definitely awesome to be "home" in DC ten years after Sept. 11.  Seeing my city back to normal after all this time, and having tons of fun made it the perfect full circle. 

But you know what else?  As we came out of the airport in Portland, we smelled the Oregon air and said, "Oooo, piney!"  It was clean and fresh, and I realized I'd missed the trees and the hills.  I was actually eager and excited to come home to my house in the Eugene hills.  The last time I was ever excited to go home... I was living in Arlington.  

I guess we've found a place to call home again.  And yes, Uber-Cyclist and SuperCruiser and TriJunkie and Fearless Leaders... I WILL go on a bike ride with you! 

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