November 14, 2019

Black Diamond Half-Ironman Triathlon

So my summer of triathlon ramped up pretty quickly.

June - Did a sprint triathlon thirteen years ago.
July - Sprint distance - .5 mile swim, 14 mile bike, 3.1 mile run
August - Olympic distance - .9 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run
September - Half-Iron distance - 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

As under prepared as I felt for Lake Meridian in August, well you can pretty much double that feeling for Black Diamond. Since the swim was the newest element, I had spent most of my mental energy, if not time, on that discipline so felt OK there. I had some running training in the bank from earlier events, but I wasn't exactly ready. What I really hadn't made enough time for was getting on the bike. And as I mentioned in the previous post, this would only be the third time riding on the new tri bike. Like my marathon in Big Sur earlier in the year, I just planned to do the best I could, and focus on enjoying the experience.

The day did not start out great. Well, really the day before. I had some shall we say, intestinal issues the day before. This did not bode well for being squeezed into a wetsuit for an hour, or out on a bike for 56 miles. Then I couldn't find my swim goggles when I was packing up the gear the night before. I fortunately had bought a similar pair that were tinted and mirrored for sunnier days, but had never worn them. One more thing to go against the adage of "nothing new on race day"

I drove down to the start area early, but you actually had to park about two miles down the road from the event. They offered a shuttle and you were allowed to take your bike onto the bus, but they encouraged people to ride to the start to try and eliminate a logjam. Though I had my gear in a backpack so I could ride to the start, I hadn't thought ahead that it would still be before sunrise and the country roads would be dark. Luckily I found a headlamp in my car, so I followed the little circle of light down the road to the park.

The early arrival meant that I found a good spot in the transition area, had plenty of time to wake up, pee, chat with other runners, pee some more, and just get in a good frame of mind. As I wandered around I saw Kathleen and a few other friendly faces in the volunteer tent, and was early enough to see them setting up the swim course.

My watch has a countdown timer for my next event. It counts down for weeks and months, and then suddenly you are there with just minutes to go. Time to start.

The lake was small enough that we had to do two loops. There were different colored buoys for the different events/distances, so you had to keep aiming for the right color. It was another crowded start and I tried to stay to the side of the main pack, but I found myself crawling up on people and having to steer around to find a lane for much of the swim. Overall the swim went pretty well. The goggles worked fine, if a little dark for the overcast day. Other than steering around people I didn't wander off course too much, and I came out of the water feeling pretty good.

I ran/shuffled to the transition area. I am always surprised how awkward I feel walking out of the water since I feel like I barely use my legs during the swim. I somewhat clumsily stripped off my wetsuit, dried my feet, put on my socks, shoes and other bike gear and ran to the exit. Ann was there cheering me on, encouraging as she always is, and snapping some good photos.

When transitioning to the bike you have to run for a bit to a specific area before you can get on and start riding. After crossing the grassy area, cutting down a trail we found pavement and the place where could start. I hopped on and started pedaling.

And my legs felt...empty.

They weren't sore, there was just nothing there, somehow already completely spent.  I tried not to panic, but I had more than five hours of riding and running ahead of me. I stayed in a low gear and started spinning, hoping they would wake up and come back online.

The bike route was another two loop course. I had looked at the elevation profile ahead of time but that doesn't always translate. With riding around it twice we got to scout it out on the first lap, and decide where to be conservative and aggressive on the second lap. Well that was the theory. I just did not have anything in my legs for the hills. I took them slowly and tried to make up for lost time on the downhills and flats. I tucked into my tri position and it really felt like I moving faster than my body was capable.

As a follow up to the discussion about body position and wind resistance in the last post, here are photos from Lake Meridian on my road bike, and from Black Diamond on my tri bike.

Even feeling pretty weak I was encouraged by my average pace in the first hour, around 17 mph. I continued to try and ride conservatively, knowing there was little juice in my legs, and that I had a half marathon to run when I finished riding. I did a better job of fueling during the ride than I had in the past, but I still think I needed to take on more calories. There were a couple of water stations and I managed to grab a bottle and squeeze it into the container on my handlebars without crashing. I was not feeling completely at home as I would have on my road bike, but I am still surprised at how quickly I felt comfortable on the new bike

I rolled into the transition area after 56 miles and a little over three hours on the bike. Time to swap out for running shoes and then back out to take on the half marathon. As I hit the pavement once again I headed left. Ann was there to tell me I was going the wrong way, but I assured her I was not, pointing to the porta potties. Apparently I had hydrated well on the bike because I had needed to pee for the last hour of the ride. Very fortunately, none of my intestinal issues from the day before resurfaced.

After the quick pit stop I was back on course. My legs, feeling dead on the bike, actually felt pretty good on the run. I mean I was definitely tired, but they absolutely felt better than during the bike-to-run transitions on the last two triathlons. Man I love this new bike! I checked my pace on the first mile out of curiosity but did not check it for the rest of the race. I just ran by feel. The route certainly wasn't crowded, but there were generally a few runners up ahead to encourage you on.

As I said I ran by feel, and for the first half I felt pretty good. Then after mile seven the wheels started coming off. I was pretty done in physically. I started walking up sections of hills, and then I started walking at regular intervals no matter if the road was pointing up or not. Like in Big Sur, I just took it as it came. I tried to find a comfortable pace when running, and walked when I needed to. I find that running at near my normal pace and then walking is easier mentally if not physically than just running really slow. I smiled, I waved, I pressed on.

The route returned to the park at about mile ten. The course then took you around the lake twice before reaching the finish line. I saw Ann again as I started the first loop. She encouraged me on, telling me I was doing great, but I told her I was struggling. She would have none of that and had me smiling as I ran past.

The route around the lake was groomed trails and was quite lovely. I was walking more often with each mile, but staying in the moment. There were a couple of volunteers near the end of the first loop to make sure we went the right direction, and soon I was passing by the finish line, teasing me as I made my way onto the next loop. More trails, more trees, more run/walking. As I approached those volunteers for the second time, I started walking. They encouraged me on, telling me it was just around the corner, and I smiled and said, "I know. I'm taking my last walk break so I can run across the finish."

And then there it was.

Ann was there chatting with her trainees and I got to debrief a bit, sharing the experience of the day. Soon though, a wave of nausea and stomach cramping hit and I had to walk away. There was food at the finish, but I couldn't stomach anything at that point. Though spent, I had felt pretty good crossing the line, but my body was rebelling soon after.

About ten minutes after I finished, Joe and Jenica arrived and they brought with them the thing that would turn my day around - an ice cold Coke. I don't drink it all that often anymore, but there is something about the sugar and carbonation that revives me like nothing else. It has saved me before during a hot STP, and has brought me back to life after burying myself on a couple of marathons. The Coke revived me once more, and soon I was feeling human again and I could enjoy the fried chicken Jenica brought as well.

After chatting and regaling in the day, we packed up and headed back to our cars so we could find a brewery and share more stories over a cold one. The two mile bike ride back to the car were the hardest miles of the day. I really had nothing left.

At some point Jenica asked if I had cried when I crossed the finish line. It was a great question. After decades of stoically keeping emotions in check I am more of a crier these days, and nothing gets me like seeing someone cross a finish line, whether it is me or someone else. Even though this was a big accomplishment for me, one I was not entirely prepared for, emotions did not overwhelm me this time. It might have been the two loops around the lake, knowing when the finish was coming, and the rest break before rounding the corner. Maybe it was the state of mind during the day. Maybe my mind was just empty, not even thinking about what I had just done.

Emotional or not, I am pretty proud of what I did that day. Some stats for those that are interested in those things:

Swim: 43:06, 1:55/100 yards
Bike: 3:07:28, 17.9 mph
Run: 2:12:39, 10:06/mile
Total time: 6:10:35

Triathlon season is over, but I already have the next one on the calendar. Sean and the other Sean will be back together again, headed to Oceanside in April for the Half-Ironman. I can't wait.

No comments: