Saturday, August 14, 2010

Triathlon Recap Post 4

Run, Amber, Run!
Throughout my training, my goals for race day changed. At some point the goal was to finish in less than 4 hours. Then it was just to not finish last. Right before the race though I decided my only goal was to finish. Period. I did manage to pass someone on the bike course. It happened to be one of my Team in Training teammates so we gave each other a little pep talk as I caught up to her but then I took advantage of a pretty steep downhill and passed her.

As I came back into the transition area though, I was really wishing that I could have been done at that point! Just as there was a sign instructing the cyclists to mount their bikes, there was another sign indicating where to dismount. I was nervous about this because this is where people tend to crash. They can’t seem to unclip from their pedals or they run into someone else. Lucky for me, there was NO ONE around to run into and I successfully got out of my pedals. Then I had to get back to where all of my gear was. Naturally it was on one of the furthest racks so I had to run/walk/shuffle while in my cycling shoes (very slippery on concrete!) and pushing my bike. This is when I noticed just how many people had already finished the race. They were already starting to tear down the racks and I hadn’t even started the run yet! I was a little discouraged at that but I kept going.

When I got to my rack, there were several large, beefy triathlete dudes packing up their gear and blocking the rack. I yelled “Excuse me!” but they didn’t seem to hear the urgency in my voice right away. I pushed my way through anyways (I may or may not have run over someone’s wetsuit with my bike), changed into my running shoes, threw on my hat, another quick spray of sunscreen to my shoulders and I was off again. I think the large, beefy triathletes dudes finally realized I was still in the race and they felt bad so they all got out of my way and started to cheer for me as I ran back out. I also had my own personal cheer squad waiting just outside of the transition area. My parents, boyfriend and his parents were all there for me. I later found out that they were all very concerned because I had been gone so long on the bike. The bike ending up taking a good 20 minutes longer than expected so they thought I had crashed into a ditch somewhere. I was pretty close but survived!

Just as I left the transition area, I immediately realized just how hot it had gotten. It was about 11:00 am and the sun was intense. The first part of the run course was in the shade but it was uphill so I didn’t get much relief. I struggled during training with going from the bike to the run. Your legs feel like lead when you get off the bike so when you try to run, it’s almost like you have forgotten how to walk, let alone run! During training though, I always forced myself to run at least a mile before taking a walk break. I think I only made it about a half a mile before I started to walk. There were still people out on the run course but they were all finishing up their second of two laps. There were a few people that cheered for me as they passed me and yelled out “you’re almost there!” Now, as a marathon coach, I have learned to NEVER say this to anyone unless you can SEE the finish line. I really wanted to trip these people but instead I just mumbled something about still having another lap to go and yelled to them that they were a lot closer to “almost there” than I was!

I had already made it through over three hours of racing at this point but the hardest part was still in front of me. I managed to get through the first lap (3.1 miles) and did a combination of running and walking. I came back towards the beach where my entourage was waiting for me. They had multiplied! Some friends and teammates had now joined and cheered me along.
For some reason though, in that exact moment, I felt dead. I honestly felt like I didn’t have another step in me and I really wanted to cry. I completely credit Team in Training, all of my marathon training (and learning how to push through “The Wall”), and thinking about our team hero, Seth Jenkins, for getting me through that last lap. Even though it was amazing to have so many people out there to support me, I don’t think there is anything that any of them could have said to me to keep me moving forward at that point. I could hear them all yelling but it was almost like an out of body experience and something other than me was making my feet move. I headed back up the hill (and into the brief shade) and starting what was probably the SLOWEST 5K I’ve ever done. I walked almost the whole way but it was now close to 90 degrees and I felt like my skin was on fire. Over two miles of that 3.1 mile course was on top of an old levy next to the lake. It was a narrow, gravel trail with overgrown grass on one side and large rocks on the other. It was challenging to navigate but it was also in full sun. The only good thing about the run was that it was an out and back course and one of my teammates was about a ½ mile in front of me and the other was about a mile behind me so we passed each other a few times and did our best to both encourage each other but to also blurt out the obvious, that it felt like we were running at the gates of Hell.

With less than a mile to go, my coach appeared out of the trees and I was so glad to see him because I knew that hadn’t died on top of that levy and that I was slowly but surely getting to the finish. I really wanted to run the rest of the way in but my stomach was starting to cramp up and I just wasn’t sure how much energy I had left. Then I saw one of my teammates that had done the sprint distance race at the bottom of the hill and she was cheering for me but more importantly, I saw that she was waiting with COLD water for me. I started running towards her then! She handed me the water and started to run with me. Then a few more of my teammates joined us. I was so touched that they had not only waited for me but were out running with me even after finishing their own races. They ran with me until just before the finish shoot where they split off and let me have my moment as I crossed the finish line in four hours and 12 minutes. My whole entourage was cheering for me right from the finish line and my mom was waiting with a bottle of cold water that she poured right over my head. Always my mother, she probably realized by looking at me just how close I was to having some serious issues with the heat.

Everything was a blur for a little while after I finish and I have to apologize to everyone there if I didn’t seem quite coherent! I knew you were all there and I certainly appreciated it! It took several minutes after being ushered into the shade and having the water dumped on me before I started to feel a little more “with it.”

Final times:
Swim: 39:11
T1: 3:41
Bike: 1:49:05
T2: 2:28
Run: 1:59:58
Total: 4:12:48

I had achieved my goal of finishing but I also achieved my goal of not finishing last. But that also meant that one of my teammates was still out on the course. Having just finished, I could appreciate even more than most of the others just how brutal the conditions had gotten and I could feel for her. The same people that ran in with me headed back out onto the course to run in with our teammate. I had gotten some much needed sugar by that point (Thank you to my coach’s kids that magically appeared with a can of Coke for me!) and was feeling a little better so I went out with them. Team in Training isn’t about the individual competition. We are a Team out there with the mission of finding cures for blood cancers. We support each other until the end. The race organizers had packed everything up with the exception of the actual finish line and the announcer was anxiously waiting for us. As we all rounded the last corner, he yelled out that the “purple monster” was wrapping up the 2010 Caesar’s Creek Triathlon. We are indeed a purple monster when a pack of us wearing our purple jerseys gets together. And the entire purple monster finished!

Continued in part 5

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