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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

IMLP 2006 Race Report

As I entered the water for the start of the race, I felt myself getting emotional when I thought back to all that I went through to get to this day. This year was definitely not easy and the accumulated stress displayed itself with a tear running down the corner of my eye. I can’t say exactly what I felt whether it was joy, sadness, relief or combination thereof. However, the race was about to unfold and I quickly got myself together.

The swim was absolutely brutal. It started out being nasty even before the starting gun went off. Everyone was treading water in the same place and I was constantly being kicked while I was waiting for the race to start. One bastard apparently forgot to clip his toenails and I could feel them scratching into my feet from time to time. I could only hope it caused him to form a blister underneath it on the run.

From the very start I was knocked around by other swimmers. It was impossible to find clear water to swim. A one point I got kick in my eye so hard, I thought my eyeball would pop out into my goggle lens. I probably should have lined up somewhere back from the starting line to avoid getting trampled on by faster swimmers, but I didn’t want to waste any time. Several times I had a mouth full of water splashed into my mouth as I turned to breathe. This caused me to gasp and choke as my trachea closed up and my lungs struggled to get air.

As bad as this was, I was glad not to be the swimmer that I saw during the turn around point at the far end of the lake. This is area where there is a mass of swimmers congregating as they try to cut the turns as short as possible. This swimmer was for some reason treading water, facing the wrong direction, with his goggles off. He appeared to me as a battle field soldier trapped in the middle of a firefight with rockets and grenades exploding all around. Other swimmers must have been kicking and elbowing him while he floundered in the water.

It was also at this point where I questioned whether I was having fun doing this race. It wasn’t a pleasant experience so far and I just wanted it to be over. I thought about bailing out, but figured that the second loop of the swim would be better as the field further strung out. It was a struggle to push myself to make the second loop faster than the first. I did, but I could tell I didn’t really want to do it. I had an easier swim the second time around, but not by much. I still had my goggles kicked in (same eye) several times and had to stop a second to empty water from them.

I took my time in T1 to collect myself and think through what I needed to do on the bike. I was glad to be out of the water and headed onto my strongest discipline. It was cloudy, humid and raining when I entered the changing tent. My Rudy Project glassed were completely fogged over and I couldn’t see a thing through them. I yelled to a volunteer to point the way out of the tent and ran blindly outside it.

Once I started moving on the bike, the wind mostly defogged them. I felt mostly ok on the bike, but I could tell my legs were not completely with me. It was like they didn’t show up for the race. I rode relatively strong for the first two hours of the bike. After that my heart rate suddenly dropped and it felt like I had no more strength in my legs. I knew I was in trouble at this point, especially when I started to get passed by other cyclists. I realized that qualifying for Kona was out of the question and that if I was going to survive the race, I was going to have to adjust my racing strategy and go into survival mode. I seriously considered stopping after I finished the first loop.

I took my time through Special Needs (this is where you can pick up extra gear you stowed at the midpoint of the bike). I took a nice long drink, replaced my water bottles and decided to head out for the second loop. During the climb out of Lake Placid, I had the split second urge to turn around and quit. I was wondering the point of continuing if I was not even going to come close to any of my goals; qualifying for Kona, breaking 11 hours or setting a PR. I guess I didn’t quit because I didn’t want to hear anyone say that I went through all of this preparation not to finish the race or have my son ask me where my Finishers Medal was. Ultimately though, I really just decided that quitting wasn’t an option. I wasn’t injured and I didn’t have a major mechanical failure. I was just afraid that it would take me 17 hours to complete the darn thing.

Many times during the second loop I had spectators encouraging me to keep it up and telling me I was looking great. For some reason this reminded myself of the time I bailed out of the Staten Island Half Marathon because of an injury. I had received a 4 mile ride back to mile 12 and had to walk to the finish. While walking to it I felt foolish having people offer me encouragement when I had already dropped out of the race. I guess in my mind I felt like I quit, even though I was still going through the motions of completing the race. I knew I should be a lot better and I felt like I just didn’t show up to the race.

Despite feeling terrible on the bike, I still finished the 112 mile course in less than 6 hours (2:47 first loop, 3:09 second loop). I jogged into T2 and leisurely got ready for the run. By now it was sunny outside and fortunately there was plenty of sunscreen available that was applied by the volunteers in the tent. I felt ok as I began to run, but knew I had absolutely no speed in my legs. My HR was only around 70 percent and the fastest I could muster was a 9 minute mile pace if I didn’t stop at the aid stations. My 26.2 mile journey would be slow and tedious.

Once I got started on the run, I knew I wouldn’t quit. I’d come too far and too long to stop. I guess I had nothing better to do and really didn’t want to have everyone I know disappointed in me for stopping. It wouldn’t have been a good example to set for my kids. I didn’t want to hear my son ask where my finishers’ medal was. I took walking breaks at the aid stations and helped myself to chocolate chip cookies. At one point I saw a Tri-Life cheering squad and stopped to ask to use their cell phone. I wanted to call my father to let him know I would be much later than expected. They said I could as long as I wasn’t quitting.

The best part of the run was the climb back into town, where you make a left onto Main Street. They had someone on a loud speaker offering encouragement and he seemed to make a point of remembering me and cheering me on the 4 times I passed this area. Since I was also no longer competing and just going for completing, I would slap the hands of the kids that held them out. They seemed to enjoy that so I figured the least I could do was make the race fun for someone.

My father somehow missed me as I crossed the finish line. It took me about 15 minutes to find him. I was desperate to see him as he was holding my recovery drink. I felt much better after I found him, sat down and had my drink. He was very worried that something happened to me since I came over the line so much later than expected. He understood when I told him I just had a bad day. I told him one of the reasons why I continued on was so I didn’t have to hear him tell me “you came up all this way not to finish the race”. He replied that he wouldn’t have said that and I believed him.

There is not much more to say about the race. I got a post race massage, grabbed my gear, went to the hotel, showered and ate. I went back to the finish line to wait with my friend Larry for his daughter to cross the line. However, it started pouring rain and after about 30 minutes I was getting a headache sitting hunched under a Mylar blanket so I went back to my hotel. I was very glad that I wasn’t one of the athletes still out on the course.

In the end and 11:39:48 finishing time is not too shabby especially for having a bad day; or so what everyone is telling me. I guess in the end I am happier for finishing than quitting. Now I just have to decide whether I want to do this again next year. I have until August 15th to decide.


Blogger Brooklyn said...

You once wrote to me, after I'd had a bad race and written about how I wanted to DNF it, that I should never drop out of a race unless I was in danger of injury or death. I expect no less of you. You did a good job out there, even if you don't think you did.

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Karin said...

It takes a bad race to experience a good race - it might not be a nice experience having a bad day during an IM though.

Well done for finishing!

2:48 AM  

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