Background: I have a history of Achilles Tendonitis injuries. Determined to arrive at the 2010 EMan healthy I barely ran but was able to compete at my lightest weight yet of 206 lbs. Unfortunately, a lack of training, combined with losing all my food on the bike contributed to a serious "Bonk" on the run.
Swim: 49:01; T1: 2:48; Bike: 2:49:34; T2: 4:35; Run: 3:09:47
For 2011, I arrived in my best shape, having lost an additional 15 lbs (191 on race day). However, I suffered a significant tearing (MRI) on my lower left Achilles (behind ankle) just 6 days prior to the race—I was tapering, no less!! On race day I was still limping. The only thing that hurt more was explaining my condition all the time (sound like a whiner)... and receiving the occasional response of "If it hurts so bad, then why are you competing?" It is a very fair question. Well, I knew I could always turn the race into an unofficial Aquavelo by simply stepping off the run course.
I was fresh off a 24:30 swim at Columbia so I felt comfortable lining up front. Mistake. There were some real athletes in this field. I went out fast but was still getting climbed over. Don’t these guys know it’s a 1.2-mile course? I soon settled in and found a steady pace that required no heavy breathing. When I caught the previous wave far earlier than in 2010 I knew my time was going to be decent. At 6'2" my long arms were soon hitting the bottom as I neared the beach. Had to pop up what seemed 100m out. Lost additional time walking in through the surf (now THAT made me tired!). At the timing mat I noticed I had PR’d by 8 minutes… good start to race.
Same time as last year. No hurries here... I only race against myself and I knew I was significantly "ahead" time-wise.
Bike: 2:38:42 (21.17 mph)
Bittersweet. PR’d by 10:52. Yea! However, I know I significantly underperformed based on training and recent racing. Things happen. Shortly into the EMan race I realized that my left Achilles was going to be an issue... pain on each downward stroke of the pedal. I expected problems on the run—not the bike. The least painful solution was to alter my technique (do more pulling/less pushing) for the left leg and have my right leg bear a greater workload. Of course, my right leg was soon pissed. I often stood and coasted to give each leg a break. On a positive note, I did have a great nutrition plan going, and when I saw the 50-mile marker I knew I was going to PR the bike... so all-in-all not a total loss.
T2: 5:48 (1:13 slower than last year)
This transition time is telling. As I walked, limping with my bike to the rack I was 99% sure I was done for the day. Then, I simply could not find my rack location. My short-fused nature soon got the best of me. When I realized I was in Row "M", not "N", I quickly jogged to my spot... and realized it hurt less to jog. I decided then to just give the run at try. I could still step off the course at any time.
Run: 2:46:22 (12:41/mile)
At much cost, PR’d my 2010 run by 23-minutes. I actually hit the first mile in 9:57, and when I hit Mile 2 in 20:13, intentionally pulled my pace back. I reasoned I was already going to PR the race so why add additional stress to my injury. I managed to reach the turn-around averaging 11:53/mile; the return was 13:30/mile as the tendon became very inflamed and enlarged and even jogging was painful. I had seen club member Mike Petersen throughout the run... our walking breaks were at different times so we passed each other frequently. Following one walk break near the end he passed me and I just assumed he was gone. However, I managed to catch him with less than a mile to go as he was walking (said he had a sore back, since the bike I believe). Since my PR was in the bag I offered to walk and/or run with him to the finish. Unfortunately, he chose to run to the finish. Argh! So, two cripples gingerly made their way across the line, high-fiving each other as if we had tied for the win as pros. In the end, in spite of all physical ills, I managed to PR the course by a respectable 41:06... but that finish with Mike made my day. I can’t wait to see the race photos.
Final thoughts: The only thing harder than the race was the drive home.... pressing a clutch down a thousand times in Bay Bridge traffic with a messed up tendon is sheer agony. As far as the race goes I honestly did not have a boring moment on the course. Focused on pedal stroke (bike) or foot placement (run) the race seemed to go by in a blur (unlike last year). Next year I age up to the 50-54 age group and simply hope to arrive at EMan healthy and go sub-6. I discussed my Achilles problems with club member Mike Matney and he provided sound advice. In short, I plan on taking a significant step backward (months of rest) before thinking about a resumption of running. For Savageman 70.0, I have already put in a formal request to downgrade to the Aquavelo. I will return to EMan next year and finally lay down a run that has no "Excuses" attached to it. I just want one crack at this puppy on healthy legs.
P.S. It was great to finally meet Mark Yost (and a few other club members) for dinner the night before the race. Lots of serious experience at the table... great people!