May has been an 'interesting' month of racing so far. It started off with a little trip out to Cali for a go at the "Woodstock" of triathlon, better known as Wildflower. And this past weekend headed to Tennessee for Memphis in May. I decided early this season to race only the events I really wanted to do instead of chasing points to one championship race or another. So Alcatraz, Wildflower, and MIM were on the top of my to do list. The history behind these iconic races is something special and I think too many triathletes, especially the pros, don't appreciate where our sport has come from and the people who have shaped it. So 2013 is my season of paying homage to the history of triathlon.
|Santa Barbara Beach|
Wildflower went exceptionally well for 2/3 of the race. I lead out of the swim (the timing mats don't lie) even if I did get nicked ouf the swim prime. I rode strong and kept my position in the top 3 for most of bike. But then everything started to shift. I couldn't keep down any food or liquid. It just wouldn't stay in my stomach. I knew this would be bad for the run but I figured I could manage. Wrong. Riding the last few miles into T2, my body started to crumble. My legs were going through phases of getting really hot, then cold, then numb. I knew deep down this was going to be a problem, but like any other blindly stubborn athlete, I told myself that I'd come around on the run and everything would be ok. Wrong.
|Yearly routine of feeding these guys some apples.|
Only a few miles into the run I seriously cracked. I cracked worse than I ever have before. My eyes went blurry, the world was spinning, I was barfing every time I tried to drink something, and my hamstrings were cramping. I had to walk up most of the hills because every time I tried to jog my hamstrings would cramp again. I sat down on the side of the trail at one point determined to quit the race. I was in about 7th or 8th place at this point and so I made myself a deal that once I was out of the money (top 10) I could quit the race. But by the time the 10th place women ran past, I was at mile 8 or 9 already and the fastest way back to transition was to just run the mf race. So I hobbled the last few miles into the finish at a pace no faster than a jog to take a disappointing 15th.
|Post Race Mental Recovery|
I have to admit I was pretty upset at the finish of the race. Everything had been going so well and then it just blew up. Beyond frustrated, I took a little time to reflect and with the help of Nick and Grant I was able to find the positives in the race. My swim and bike were actually pretty darn good. Things were progressing pretty well at least in those two disciplines. And the run is a work in progress. It always will be for me. But this race was taken down by nutrition, hydration, and heat issues.
I forgot to mention that the temperatures at Wildflower were crazy hot. This was the first year in history it was a non-wetsuit swim. Up at the lake the temps were in the high 80's and down on the bike course it was mid-90's I think. This doesn't sound too out of control right? Well considering it was still snowing at home on the Tuesday before the race, I don't think I was well prepared for the heat. I've never given this stuff much thought, but it really can make or break you if you haven't had time to acclimate to warmer temperatures. I think my body was freaking out from the heat and just wouldn't take in any food or liquids which is why I died so bad. But this stuff is always a guessing game. There are no clear answers. It's all about reevaluating after each race and learning what you can do better next time. So while Wildflower didn't turn out how I was hoping, I used it as some fuel to the fire and came home ready to get prepared for Memphis...
Memphis in May
|Mountain Bike Training = TT Training right?|
Memphis is another race I've always heard great things about but haven't had the chance to race. It has a rich history right along with Wildflower and it was great to be a par of that this year. Memphis was Cam's first pro win (I think) so I was determined to go out there and represent for the Apex squad and try and take the W. I knew the race would play out like any other, I'd need to get as much time on the swim and bike to hold off those speedy runners.
The swim was awesome. It's a time trial start so they sent the pros off every 10 seconds alternating female/male/female/male... I was in the middle so I had some people to chase and knew there were some fasties coming up behind me as well. The swim course was actually pretty technical with some deceiving corners that had to be set up well in order to hit the fastest line. I used some advice Emily Brunemann, US open water national team member, had talked to me about early this season. It seemed to help quite a bit because I had a huge split on the swim with the fast time in the women's field by over a minute and I beat most of the men as well. I was stoked and ready to get out on the bike to continue building my lead.
The bike course is crazy flat and super windy... just how I like it. I stayed tucked up in aero position the whole way trying not to waste any time or energy against the wind. I rode near a few of the men for most of the bike and it felt like a solid effort but not really awesome. My legs and body were just feeling off again and I was disappointed because I wanted to break an hour on the bike finally. But on the long straight shot back into town I couldn't get my power numbers up and my legs just wouldn't respond. So I watched my hour goal tick away but figured I must have put a little more time into the field so all I'd have to do was put down a solid effort on the run to bring it home.
|A little Moto fun between training (New Helmet!)|
But once again the heat and my body failed me. I couldn't keep anything down on the run and the dizzy, blurry, sickness came over me. By mile 2 I was having a hard time running in a straight line. I came too close to the side of the road once and nearly fell over into the weeds. I actually had to argue myself out of lying down and closing my eyes in this nasty little runoff stream next to the road. Again, I just wanted to turn around and walk back to transition. But I managed to convince myself that I'd made it through 13 miserable miles at Wildflower so I could get through 6. So I kept going. I refused to walk for any part of it because I knew if I stopped jogging I'd be done. So jogging slower than I do in warm ups I made it through the finish in 3rd. Disappointed? Yes. But happy to have made the podium even after the disastrous run. This is my best placing in a pro race yet so I'm trying to focus on the positives and remember that not all improvements are huge leaps. In fact, they are mostly small steps that are hard to see sometimes. But it's the accumulation of small, steady improvements that lead to reaching goals. So that's what I'm doing my best to focus on these days. That and trying to find a race in a cool climate :)
All in all, things are going pretty well on the racing front. I have no grand illusions that one day everything is just going to click and I'm going to be super fast. It's going to be a long journey of small improvements and there will be setback and breakdowns. It's all about finding the positives in these to help move yourself forward. At least that's what I think. I'll let you all know how it turns out...
|My latest creation - rhubarb souffle|
In the meantime, I'm trying to work out these nutrition and hydration issues. I know the heat probably has something to do with it all since we've had such a cold and snowy spring but I feel like there is something more. As athletes, we are so in tune with our bodies and when something is off we can feel it. I feel like something is off right now but I just don't know what it is. My blow ups at races haven't felt like a typical 'bonk'. They're so much more painful and debilitating. Maybe I'm finally pushing my limits harder this year and this is just what happens when you cross that line. But now it's back to work and back to a big training block. Thanks for all of the support and encouragement out there. I can get caught up in this stuff and feel like I'm in a tough spot, but really, taking a look around I realize just how amazing all of this is, meltdown or not. Hey, I got to visit 3 new states this trip! Onward. Further.