This morning I am sitting here stiff, sore, and injured (both emotionally and physically). Yesterday’s race was great… up until the run.
It started out the night before the race when I went to bed early, in the campground that we paid way too much money for, and was woken up by fireworks only one hour later. It proceeded from there: parties, bad music, dogs, people screaming, and a huge thunderstorm. At 3am my partner got up and went to yell at some people partying. He came back saying, “I’m a good support person.” Yes, he is. So after only a few hours of good sleep, I wondered how good my performance could be. I was hopeful, though.
My pre-race routine was dead-on. The lake was warm so I happily got in to do a few hundred metres to warm-up. I was excited to swim, which is a new feeling for me considering I used to loathe the swim. When the gun went off I was in the middle laterally and close to the middle of the pack, which I really think was the ideal spot considering most people were off to one side (I’m not really sure why). I immediately started drafting and did that through the whole race. The first lap of the 2000m swim was a big hectic, especially at the buoys. At the first turn, I literally had to doggie paddle because I couldn’t get my arms out of the water and I didn’t want to do breaststroke because I might kick someone (all triathletes should learn that breaststroke has no place in a triathlon!). My second lap was great because I hooked on to someone who was a bit faster than my pace speed, so I pushed my arms a little harder. I kept imagining I was a sea turtle “riding the wave” as per Finding Nemo. The whole time I was swimming so fast, I was thinking about how much difference a little training and a good wetsuit can make and how I should post on my local triathlon website about how a good wetsuit is worth the money! I wish I had known 5 years ago when I started this crazy sport.
I got out of the water at 40 minutes (approximately). My transition was smooth and I was quickly on my way after a quick shout-out from my partner yelling “Go Crystal, Go!” and taking pictures of me putting my gels in my pocket (I can’t find the box that goes on my top tube since the move, which is just one reason why one should never move while in the middle of the racing season). I knew that I was behind my 30-minute goal, which was a way lofty goal anyway, and my partner reminded me that last year the swim was significantly shorter due to a problem with the buoy.
On the bike I experienced something that I was not used to experiencing – I got passed. A lot. It was quite demoralizing. I remember a friend who was always one of the first swimmers out of the water saying that it really hurts ones spirits to spend the rest of the race getting passed. Now I understand what she meant. Very early on I could tell that my legs didn’t have the punch that they usually do. They felt tired and dull. However, I raced my race and it ended up being about the same as last year, coming in at around 3:15. My transition was fast, but I knew that I needed to walk off that bike ride.
My partner and my puppy, Clifford, were waiting on the run course, so I walked with them a bit and talked about how my knee was sore already. They were sympathetic, but let me go on my way with my sore knee. I had decided that I would run for 9 minutes and walk for 1 minute, but that quickly degenerated as my knee started hurting within minutes of starting. I went 8:2 for a while and then I just walked whenever I could. My knee was in pain, but bearable until the halfway point. At a water station I stopped running to take some sports drink and I almost fell because my knee gave out. I couldn’t walk. So I stopped at a tree and did some stretches. I laid down and did some more. It helped, but I knew the rest of the run was going to be a battle. At the turn-around point, I was at a point where I could have beat my previous half marathon time during a half IM. However, it was not to be. The only way I can explain the feeling that I had when walking or running through the last half of the half marathon was knives jabbing under my knee cap and twisting around. At times the pain was excruciating and I grimaced and just breathed through it. Later, my partner said that childbirth will be a walk in the park after this race. By the end of the race I was running like Terry Fox with a terrible limp, which I’m sure didn’t help my other leg. I’m not sure if it was that my mind was so focused on my knee, but no other part of my body hurt during the race and it doesn’t today, either.
Coming into the end was the worst part of all. My pain was shown in my face. I just couldn’t hold it back. Luke and Clifford ran me to the finish area and the whole time all I could say was, “It hurts. It hurts.” I couldn’t even sprint across the line, my signature move. It was all I could do to not burst into tears for my Finisher’s photo. After crossing the line and after getting my medal for the race I never want to remember, I started crying. Holding in my tears for over two and a half hours was just too much to bear. I let it go. Luke took my hand and asked me questions that I couldn’t answer. I laid on the ground and it only when Clifford licked my face that I laughed and could talk again. The only thing that stopped my knee from hurting was not moving it. So I laid there for a while, relaying the story to my partner, not moving because it just felt so much better.
My final time was 6 hours, 45 minutes… quite a bit behind my unrealistic 6-hour time goal. However, I have hope for breaking the 6-hour mark in the near future. I know that it is possible and I know that I’m capable of it. For now, though, I really have to work on my IT-band problems.
Things I learned at this triathlon:
- Camping, while being fun and my preferred way of spending the night before my race, is just not going to happen anymore. Sometimes a hotel is worth the good night’s sleep for.
- Never, ever camp at Mink Lake Campground.
- Cheering other people on made my knee hurt less.
- A 6-hour half IM is definitely possible for me.
Ready to Rock!
A Sea of Green and Yellow swim caps
Mounting the bike (yes, I said “mounting!”)