This was my second of a three race schedule for this year, Columbia being the first. I slipped backwards at Columbia by two minutes from the previous year. I attributed some of that time to my chain coming apart (one of the plates had worked itself loose). I nursed the bike portion...figuring the time hit would be less than stopping to repair. At the reservoir hill, the chain problem came to a head by coming off completely….twice. So I was not sure where I stood after Columbia.
This past winter and spring were very wet reducing my bike time significantly in the early part of the year. Once the spring weather broke, I settled back into my routine of biking in the morning and running at lunch which served me well last year. I kept it going through the high temperatures last week thinking that would prepare me for the worse. It turns out I needed more heat training than I thought.
Showing up Sunday morning at Northeast I was greeted with the news wet suits are not allowed. In itself, that news did not alarm me…but it should have. The water temperature was 85.4F and the Olympic race was starting after the Sprint…with waves leaving after 8:15. Heat was going to be an issue without me putting the clues together. With no wet suit, I knew my swim time would slip…but was shocked to see it 4 minutes slower than Columbia. This was not the best news as I was trying to catch my buddy Kiwi who had gone off in the wave 5 minutes before mine. Kiwi is a strong swimmer so I knew I was giving up a lot. Turns out everyone had slow times but I did not know that at the time. I tried to keep my spirits up and think about how I could make up time on the bike.
The bike part was when the heat started to become an issue. The bike course was nice with stretches of direct sun with shade from time to time. Since CGI is now running this event, the bike course is a bit different than the early days when another company ran the event. The course had a turn around right in the middle of the road in one spot….kind of strange but it seemed to work out ok. I saw Kiwi before the turn around so I knew I was far behind…perhaps too far to make up. I stuck with my discipline of staying aero whenever possible and “spinning the gears” (aka Bill Wheeler style) on the hills. Starting out easy and letting my body adapt, I knew the guys racing by me early would eventually get reeled in…which they did. Although there were times of self doubt, I kept with my plan and finished with my spirit intact. During the bike, I took in 1 full bottle of water in as well as 1 Cliff bar. All seemed to be OK…if slower than I hoped.
T2 went well, no problems. Then the run starts. Right from the start I did not have the energy I usually have. Not sure…maybe I put out too much on the bike. I had not put together the clues of the heat problem yet. Everything else seemed good. Once we got out on the main road (the run is an out and back) that is when the sun hit. No shade to be seen…and one rolling hill after the other. The time was about 10:15 and it was definitely getting hotter. Car traffic was stacked up along the road…adding to the heat and not-pleasant breathing air. I decided to hit most every water stop as I started to realize the extent of my heat problem. I tried to focus on keeping my body temperature under control while maintaining good posture. Around mile 2, I came across some road kill (Bambi) which was emitting its own fragrance for the day. Some birds were making a breakfast out of it…so who am I to judge? The scene did nothing to help lift the mood of the moment. As the heat and intensity built up, the level of discomfort was starting to get to me. I started to wonder if I could finish at all let alone with a time to be proud of. I saw Kiwi on my way out and knew there was just no way I was going to catch him. He had beat me fair and square…and he was coming off a 4 year break from racing! For me, the only thing left was to finish with some dignity. “Pain is temporary” kept ringing in my head (thank you coach Troy Jacobson :0) ) I did my best to keep my head up, back straight and feet below and behind me. I started matching pace with a woman from Philly and we pulled each other through. I started to consider running on the other side of the street where plenty of shade was. But I guess some would call that “cheating” so I stuck with the conditions everyone else was facing. I was hurting pretty good at the finish but I have been doing this long enough to know that the finish line area is where you put on smiles for the photographers and tell everyone how great you feel. Then you find a nice shady area away from medic area and collapse. Lesson learned…if you plan a race in August make sure to train for the heat.
I met some new MMTC folk Deborah and Mike (I apologize if I did not get the names right) who were just two of nicest people you would ever want to meet. I hope your race went well and I apologize if I was not the best conversationalist after the race. I was really concentrating on keeping myself together as the race and the heat took it all out of me. Looking back, I may have been teetering dangerously close to heat exhaustion but you know what they say “That which doesn’t kill me, blah blah blah.” :0)
So again I am not sure where I am at this year. For sure, I need to do more training in the heat to give my body time to adapt. I am looking forward to “Make a Wish” in September and hope the weather will be more kind. But I will prepare for it not to. And Kiwi…I am still gunning for you! :0)