Sunday, June 20, 2010

Patriot Race Report: Learning the hard way

A little over a year ago, I took on my first half ironman. It was a challenge unlike other tris I have done. This year, I returned to the distance at the Patriot to try to learn from the difficulties last year and have a solid race. Well, I finished, and I learned more about this distance, but I don't think I can say I had a solid race. I finished in 6:08 - 18 minutes slower than last year. But I did come 8th in my age group (out of 26), so that's not too shabby. Still I wasn't out there to podium, I was out to master the distance, and once again, the half got the best of me. Here's what I learned.

Exiting T1

With temperatures in the upper-80s, I knew I'd need to take on more fluids. I'd even planned on stopping to pee, but as it turned out, I didn't have to. I have 2 water bottle cages on my bike, a front one with my sustained energy and a back one with just water. I usually only use my back cage to refill my front one in training, so when I went for my water 2 miles in, I dropped it. Crap. Well there's a water stop at mile 15, I'll just have to make it there. Bad plan. I should have stopped and picked up the bottle. Instead, I was without water for the first 50 minutes of the bike. I kept drinking my sustained energy, but it just wasn't doing it.

Then, of course, when I did finally get to the water stop, the water bottle didn't fit in my cage cause my bike is so tiny. Bad planning. I jammed it in on a diagonal. I wasn't going to go without water for the next 15 miles. I focused on drinking ever mile, to try to get the fluid back into me.

Finishing lap 1

When I got to the next water stop at 30 miles, I still had half of the water bottle and half of my fuel, so I decided I was good, I didn't exchange bottles. Again, bad plan. I ran out of all fluids at around mile 38, still ~7 miles to the next water stop. At this point I start developing a dehydration headache. Ugh. More water at mile 45, but it was too late.

On my way out of the run, stuffing my bike gloves into a pocket

I got into T2, put on shoes and ran to make a portapotty stop. By this point I had had 3 bottles of liquid, but only a thin stream of gu-like pee came out. Dang, my reflection in the mirror revealed swollen lips. Seriously dehydrated. I tried to remedy with some heed at the first mile water stop. But by the time I got to mile 2, I felt worse. I sat down, drank water, heed, had electrolyte pills, a gu. The volunteers offered to give me a ride back to transition. No way. If I'm gonna quit it's gonna be at mile 3. I start walking. After a few yards, I get up to jogging. At mile 3 I start the routine that will take me through the remainder of the day: splash myself with a cup of water, drink a cup of heed, walk a few yards and get to jogging. By mile 5, I actually felt good. More gu, more electrolyte pills and I was even banging out 9 minute miles there for a bit. Mile 10 didn't feel so good, but I made it. Total run time was 2:21.

Ok, so there are the lessons: pick up the bottle you dropped, practice with the exact mechanisms you will use on race day, don't rely on race provisions, explore other water options (bottle on the bars? camelback?).

Despite all this, there were some really good moments of the race yesterday too. I had the 4th fastest swim in my age group. I averaged 18.8 for the first half of the bike and 18.4 overall, giving me the 6th fastest bike in my age group. Once I got the hydration back in control, my run actually felt pretty good. I'm really proud of finishing the race. And finally, (and most importantly) my knee felt fine. Even a day later it's feeling ok. This was probably due to my absolutely amazing pit crew, Paul, who was ready for me with ice and saran wrap immediately after the race.

This morning I woke up still 4 pounds shy of my regular weight, so I've still got some work to do getting hydrated. But I'm now considering signing up for Pumpkinman. One more meeting with the half distance to tackle it.


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