Well it's official, I'm back to being a triathlete! On Sunday for the first time since July of 2010 I crossed the finish line in a triathlon; granted this time it wasn't an Ironman but the joy I felt when crossing the finish line almost rivaled that in Idaho a couple years ago. The short report - I loved every freaking second of the race, I was excited to get started from the moment I woke up and even though my legs felt like I had spent the past year in a prison torture camp when I got across the finish line I finished with a smile on my face. The long report - well keep reading...
It struck me the day before the race that I had never been more comfortable or more relaxed heading into a triathlon. I woke up at 8am to go for a morning jog, picked up some last minute necessities from Jack Rabbit Sports and then hopped in the car with Katie to head down to Princeton. Once there I picked up my packet and was so laisez-faire about the whole thing I didn't even have my race number memorized. After check in Katie and I headed to the hotel which was having major room change issues which forced us to wait 2 hours to get into the room. Historically that would have sent me off the deep end but this time around I simply said, whatever lets just grab lunch outside.
So either one of two things, or a combination of both happened. I've realized that old man sports should just be fun and a day out racing is better than about 95% of other stuff I could be doing. Or my girlfriend has finally rubbed off on me and I've started not to take every challenge so seriously - either way it's working. We finally got into the hotel and I was off to bed at 10pm with a 1/4 ambien to help me sleep.
I slept fairly well for the night before the race and woke up with a blood sugar of 62; on the low side but I had an infusion set issue the evening before so I wasn't all that surprised. I took in about 35 g of carbs with Ezekuiel cereal, strawberries and almond milk and left the hotel by 5:30 am. The race site was fairly empty at 5:50 am so I set up my transition area in a breeze and was off for a quick warm up jog. Post warm-up my blood sugar was a high 281, so I took in some extra insulin, finished listening to my warm up mix and was down to the water to swim - without a wet suit!
Although the race was just wet suit legal with the water topping out at 78 degrees I figured I'd over heat in my fat baby seal costume so I opted to do it in the tri kit. (By the way Pete, when you design the tri kit next year lets try and avoid see through white on the legs) I warmed up and felt pretty smooth in the water so was excited for my wave to go off. A complete 180 from the Napa disaster I was smiling with Katie before the race, posed for her camera shots and overall just felt really excited and happy to be racing again. I ate my clif bar, peed on myself as soon as my body was in the water and when the gun went off I was off, no freak outs, no nerves just a nice easy pace.
As I had mentioned last week, I was pretty nervous about completing the swim; while I knew I had crossed more than 2x that distance before I still feared my lack of training would catch up to me. Much to my surprise I excited the water in about 32 minutes, just about the median for the field and without a wet suit. I without question have a ton of work left to do but getting through this swim painlessly was a huge bonus as I work my way back into triathlon.
However, once I exited the water it was my time to really have fun. I've been working so hard on the bike the past couple years and wanted to finally perform in a race the way I do while I train. I had always felt like my training rides were vastly superior to my results in a race and just wanted to hold it together for one day on the bike. In transition I was happy to see a blood sugar right around 180 so I went out without hesitation (although my t1 took 2 minutes and 34 seconds!).
Once on the bike I knew I was in for a good day, I flew down the first stretch of the course blowing by a ton of people who had come out of the water before me. The course was perfectly suited for my riding style, mostly flat, some technical turns and 2 very small inclines - "hills" I could just power over. 3/4 of the way through the first lap I realized I was on pace to ride the fastest 10 miles I ever had and finished the first 12.75 mile loop in 34 minutes - by far the best I had ever ridden in a race.
The second lap was a bit more crowded as people who went off in an earlier swim wave were now on their first lap of the bike course. Thankfully the crits I've been racing prepared me to move in a pack as I nimbly weaved around people avoiding any drafting and maintaining my speed. Throughout the entire bike I believe I was only passed 3 times (all by discs) and ended up negative splitting the bike leg! My second lap I did in just about 33 minutes for a 25.5 mile time of 1 hour 7 minutes and 35 seconds for an average pace of 22.6 mph or 102nd best in the race! I could not be happier with how I performed on the bike; I've been working incredibly hard to have a solid race day performance and it finally happened now if only the transition after the bike didn't take me 3 minutes and 44 seconds (only about 30 people were slower than me!)
I'm thinking part of the reason transitions took me so long was the transition volunteer. A 40ish year old guy was the most energetic volunteer I had ever encountered. For each person who came into transition he had a personal message and hardly 10 seconds went by before he would shout some other words of encouragement. At times he did come across as a bit over zealous but really his energy and enthusiasm was awesome; I thanked him as I left transition but honestly I should have given him a hug, the guy is pretty much volunteer of the year!
Then it was time for the run... the last time I had run after a bike ride was February or March of 2011 so it had been quite some time and the last time I had run more than 2 miles after a bike ride was July of 2010. So lets just say I was anticipating some pain but thought I was in good enough shape to just power through it. I'm pretty sure thinking was my problem because nothing could have preparred me for how my legs would feel - but first the good part.
For the first 3.2 miles with tired legs I was rocking my run, the first 3 miles ticked off in just under 26 minutes about 90 seconds slower than I had hoped for but well within range of having an incredibly solid run. My plan was to run for the first 4 miles of the race and then walk as I drank water at the mile 4 aid station. At the mile 3.3 aid station that plan fell apart as I could no longer hold out for water and my walk started .7 miles early. Once I slowed the legs down they had no desire to speed back up and I was stuck for the next 2.7 miles of the race stuck somewhere between a fat man shuffle and a walk. While the first 3.2 miles took me 26 minutes the next 2.9 miles took me 45 minutes! My legs had never been so tired or mad at me before, but I finished.
With legs screaming and barely able to keep my head up anymore I finished the race with a smile on my face. I was so incredibly happy to simply just race and have fun, not worry about a time and enjoy everything the day had to offer. I gave Katie a quick thumbs up as I shuffled down the shoot knowing that all the work I've done in the past 4 - 5 months to get my blood sugars back under control, my weight back below 190 and a renewed focus on everything is paying off. It was a hell of a race and a tremendously fun day but the moral of the story is do some bricks before you hop back into tris or your legs will still be killing you 3 days later!