Saturday, September 20, 2008

Duke Liver Center Half-Ironman

What have I gotten myself into? You idiot! Why in the world did you sign up for a stupid Ironman? I wonder if I can get a refund? If I ever get off this stupid bike I'll never do another triathlon.

These are the things I was saying to myself( censored version of course) as I approached the 45 mile mark of the bike portion last Sunday.

The day had started off well as I met my wonderful friend Margo once again to share the ride out to Jordan Lake. We were able to find a good parking spot and quickly pick up our race packets and begin preparations for the start. Looking out over the lake we saw calm water but unfortunately the forecast was for a hot humid day with highs in the 90's.

As the first wave started out I got in the lake for a little warm-up swim. The water felt perfect to me and soon enough it was time to take my position in the water at the end of the pier. I had no trouble finding room to swim and settled into a nice easy pace. Last Saturday I had done 1.2 miles in the pool and that went well so I was hoping things would go well this morning. I just had to relax and not be in a hurry. With the calm water I was able to site the bouys easily and before long I had made the first turn. A couple of hundred yards and then the final turn back towards the boat ramp. I was still feeling strong so I picked up the effort a little and with no problems and soon reached the swim finish. But as I stood up to walk out of the lake my right hamstring cramped and I had to stand still for half a minute for it to relax before continuing on. Dan Yeingst a fellow competitor from my age-group years ago when I first started doing tri's was there encouraging me as I came out of the lake and headed to transition one.

I was very happy with my effort on the swim and now I quickly prepared to head out on the bike. I was in and out quickly and soon rolling down the road. The first part of the bike course was fairly easy and the sun was still low in the sky so we were in shade for a while making it very comfortable. I was glad to have mostly flat terrain with a good road surface early so I could get my legs warmed up for the bike. Up until today I had only done two 30 mile training rides so I was worried about pedaling for 56 miles on the hills I knew were coming. At 10 miles I checked my pace and was a little surprised but pleased at the speed I was going but already the sun was beginning to bear down and it was heating up quickly.

Between miles 15 and 20 is an out and back spur and as I was coming back I saw Margo behind me and just a bit further back was my buddy Jerry who along with Margo will be doing the Iron Distance Beach to Battleship race on Nov.1st. I guessed they were maybe a mile behind me at this point. Both of them have been biking a lot more than me and Jerry has always been a stronger bike rider so I was expecting them to both pass me within the next 10 miles or so. I checked my pace at 20 miles and it was about the same as at 10. So far so good.

Over the next 10 miles I would began to come back to reality. The course was beginning to get harder and it was getting hotter. To make matters worse my neck and upper back were already tight and hurting making it very uncomfortable. I was still doing ok though but at 30 miles my pace had slowed down about 1 mph average. Now as I pedaled into new territory I was still feeling ok except the neck pain was getting more and more unbearable taking away a lot of the pleasure of riding. My pace stayed about the same over the next hilly 15 miles which brings us to the beginning of the story.

By now I felt miserable I was tired and very hot and ready for this to be over. I struggled on until finally around 52 miles in Margo finally passed me. I had expected her a long time ago, especially as much as I was struggling. And then at 54 miles Jerry came up on me. He asked if I was "toast". I just muttered something that meant yes and as he passed by, my right quadricep cramped on me. Now I was really in a foul mood. I was already going slow enough and now I could barely pedal. The last few miles seemed to take forever and as I neared the transition area I was ready to to call it quits. Dan was there again volunteering at the bike dismount but I don't think I had the energy to even acknowledge his cheering. I think a turtle could have beaten me to my bike rack from there. My legs would barely move and I was dizzy from the heat and dehydration.

I sat down to change my shoes determined that I would at least try to finish what I had started. I slowly headed out stopping at the aid station to get some cold water to pour on my head and to drink. Then I started walking. The first half-mile is flat on pavement and then turns uphill on a gravel road. I walked until I reached the top of the hill and another aid station. They had ice cold towels so I took one and began to run. By now I was feeling a little better and I hoped I could just do an easy run/walk and get through this thing. The run course had a couple of out and back spurs so I was able to see Margo and Jerry as well as Thomas Asta and Kara LaBella out on the course.

Things went OK for a few miles but it was miserably hot and humid. As I left another aid station around 4.5 miles suddenly my right hamstring felt like I had pulled the muscle. I tested it out a couple of times over the next half-mile but I knew then it was over for me. As much trouble as I've had all year with my injuries I was not going to ruin myself today just to finish in a slow crawl for 2 more hours . So I slowly made my way back down to the transition area and turned in my chip and then after grabbing some food and drink I found Kara and we made our way to the finish to watch for our friends. Kara had a great race and was happy and excited. Margo came in soon looking strong and 30 minutes later Jerry came in. Thomas had finished before I came back in and was already gone.

Yes, it was a brutal day and disappointing to have to drop out but the day wasn't a total loss. I hopefully learned a few lessons out there and I did get to spend some time with some friends. And as you can see in the photo at the top of the story I got a hug from a pretty young lady.

On to the next one

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