I almost cried yesterday after the Chicago Marathon

Yesterday, I had a good day running the Chicago Marathon. The experience was not as draining or emotional as last year, but an accomplishment regardless. I plan on posting the Race Report later.

I was talking with my coach from nJoy Racing, Kimberly Shah, taking a chance to debrief about the race and the season. That whole conversation is going to be fodder for 3 blog entries, but I’m going to start with this one here.

Kimberly took the time to point out that I did improve massively over the past year, and it brought me into perspective. I didn’t realize it because I was looking at the minutiae and sweating the details. But that wasn’t the most profound moment.

Kimberly ended up calling me out on the carpet on something that I didn’t really expect. But at the same time, it was the same type of call that started this whole journey into endurance sports. The same one that got me into Triathlon this year. That insight, combined with the experience I had in the marathon this year, shook me to the core. But, I knew that she was right. I knew also, this could mean something special and extraordinary. When someone knows you very well, they also can see the truth that you tend to hide from yourself. They know what you are capable of, even if you don’t believe it yourself. But belief can only get you so far.

However, having this insight does me no good right now. For today, I have to keep this insight close to my vest.

If this comes true, I will re-post what she said to me in that moment. For today, this is just a time capsule. A reminder to my future self what is possible. And how blessed I am to know this ahead of time.

Race Report – Rev3Tri Cedar Point

If you guys were looking for a happy ending to this crazy year, I’m sorry I can’t deliver on it.

As I sit here at home, sore and kind of hurting, I’m just trying to come to grips with all that happened.

As a famous person once said: “Just start from the beginning”

I rolled into Ohio on Friday. Mind you I’ve never been to Cedar Point before, after hearing multiple reports of about the park and trips I’ve missed with friends. It was a bit underwhelming when I got there, and very contrasting to the old Sandusky, Ohio waterfront. It almost felt like Cedar Point wasn’t in town or at the very least the most popular thing going.

Regardless, checked in and made the trek up the beach to the expo. (Author’s note: I picked a hotel on the Cedar Point campus, but even that was a 20 minute walk. Next year, different hotel). The expo was all outdoors, much to my surprise and chagrin. Then the second shoe dropped. My rush to get in town Friday was that I under the assumption that we had to be in town for a meeting since I was doing a relay sprint leg on Saturday. It turns out that I didn’t, although it would have made it easier to check-in. Regardless, when I got in line for my half-ironman race, I found out I had the race number 666.

Now, I’m not superstitious by any means, but I would have thought SOMEONE would have at least skipped the number. And worse after all this drama over registering and everything I went though this summer, I was a bit miffed that I had this number. And everything as personalized as well, so number-switching wasn’t really an option. But it was the start of a very ominous day. First was the rain right after getting my packet. Then having to walk in the rain back to the hotel.

Then Saturday rolls around and a major storm was passing through. I woke up to find out that the Sprint Race was cancelled (or at least reduced to a 5k run for most participants). So I promptly went back to sleep. Not bad right? But the weather reports all pointed to something similar around the start time tomorrow. Also, the life guarded practice swim was also cancelled as well, denying me a chance to get into the water.

Transition was different this time around, because you had to check in your bike the day before (Saturday). I was more concerned about the rain messing up my bike so I tried to wait as late as possible to check in the bike. I also got a chance to do ART and such as well, enjoying a very painful experience but hopefully better in movement.

I had dinner at Breakers and tried to decompress as much as I could, but it wasn’t working. I couldn’t fall asleep and I found out waking up in the middle of the night that I had a sinus infection. It was blocking my passages and not letting me breathe. I thought at that moment in time that maybe I should drop completely out of this, because too many coincidences occurred. This didn’t feel right at all. But, I tried to get back on the horse and go to the race.

Sunday rolls around and starts off okay. Since I packed everything for transition (Read: new strategy, separate Ziploc bags with materials in them. Great stuff.) the night before, I knew I just had to drop everything off and get down to swim start. It was very cold that morning and I prematurely put on my wetsuit because I was shivering without it. (Author’s note: Better prep for cold weather, I think this contributed to things as well.) I saw the Iron distance mass start and went back into the hotel to try and relax before going in.

I did get a chance to warm up a bit in the water. A few notes, that most of the water was shallow, which shortens the swim a bit. I felt good warming up after not being in the open water since the Chicago Triathlon. So I got in line for the start of the swim.

However, there was another problem. As I got started, I realized that there wasn’t as many boats out on the water, and very young lifeguards just standing on the coast. So sure enough I started swimming for 100 meters and as I realized the safety net was going away, I didn’t see anyone close enough to help me if I had a problem. Then right after that I mentally went into a black hole, and resulting hyperventilation symptoms came back again. Not wanting to risk a heart attack in the water, I immediately turned around (Author’s note: I think I swam faster back than I had going forward.)

Yep, I decked out on the swim again. On top of this, I was severely cold and sick. Neither was helping me in my condition. The water was warmer than the air, which also I think contributed to the freakout cause I felt my body being shocked from the temperature change. I also noticed that I had to pretty much walk to transition and no one really noticed I had turned around or I potentially needed help. It was even more disconcerting to me.

I got back to transition to get checked out. I knew that I was okay physically but being cold and mentally going haywire I just wanted to sit down for a second. The person I asked for help took my timing chip and I thought that was it. Another friend of mines suggested that I go finish the other two legs, I mean who cares, right? I agreed with him and I paused for a second, thinking that if I was having this bad of a day I should just stop right there. But he was right, I came here to do this, so I should at least finish this out.

So I went into transition and suited up for the bike (Author’s note: again being cold, should have left my tri-top in transition.) I got rolling on the bike out on the causeway out of Cedar Point. All reports that I saw on the bike leg mentioned that it was either flat or rolling hills. And a few ‘steep’ climbs. So the first 10 miles or so went okay, I stopped because I thought my seat post was too high, and then I got back on the bike to the first aid station.

Mind you, I’ve also never done a bike aid station before and I was told a number of things. The first and craziest lie I found out is that nicer water bottles would be out on the course. So I planned on trading in a few water bottles I had. So, much to my chagrin the stations did not have said nice water bottles, just sports bottles with Gatorade and water. I was able to get the first water bottle no problem. I passed on the Gatorade bottle. I got one gel from a lady. And after feeling confident, I went for the second gel. .

And then I crashed on my bike. I felt worse that in actually was, but it turns out as I was getting the gel there was a bump in the road. The fall mostly happened on my right side, with road rash scars on my arm. My tailbone and right leg were sore from the bike landing on me. Regardless, I was down and my chain was off the rail. Again, trying to mentally recover from falling and what just happened, I didn’t know offhand how to fix my chain or if it was even possible. I then proceeded to try and help someone with a flat tire, as he didn’t have a spare, and I had one, and figured it would pass the time while I was waiting for a bike mechanic to show up. Over time I figured out get my chain back on, and thankfully I was also able to switch gears as well. The bike mechanic finally showed up to fix the other guys tire (in 5 mins or so no less). And I was off again to finish the race.

As I was going I started noticing that I couldn’t mentally focus on anything. I was by myself for most of the ride, and while I knew this wouldn’t count, I just couldn’t think of anything that would keep me going or help me enjoy this. This culminated in me going downhill at breakneck speed having to make a sharp turn but I had a car behind me that wouldn’t give me enough room to come to the outside. I was more upset about the car being behind me than I was about figuring out the turn. So I knew that I was done. I didn’t want anything else to happen to me that day, and I just couldn’t figure anything out. I had to remove myself from the situation. I waited at the second aid station to be picked up and dropped back off in transition. The volunteers allowed me to get my stuff and I promptly left Cedar Point for home.

Final Notes:

Before the race, my coach had joked that she fired her coach on the first half-iron that she did. I was trying to keep the pre-race jitters down but without any experience in this distance, or seeing the course, I couldn’t wrap my head around it at all. I felt worse than I did before the marathon, or before the Chicago Triathlon even. I don’t know what I could have changed or did differently but I do know the mental game kicked my ass hard this weekend. I was on the way home and honestly wanted to sell my bike and quit triathlon. That probably won’t happen, but I feel severely disappointed and I’m not sure how exactly to go forward. The hope is that I can find a way. I know it’s best not to make rash decisions in the heat of the moment

Weekly Update: The Story So Far

  • I finally purchased a bike.  2 weeks and $2,000+ later, I purchased a Scott CR-1 Team from Get A Grip Cycles.  I took the bike out for a few rides and had to get used to the clip pedals.  It takes pride to fall flat on my ass on Chicago Avenue in the middle of a busy street.   While it scared me initially and I stayed off the streets for awhile, I’ve learned to not fall, even though my courage to ride Chicago’s city streets on a bike isn’t up there yet.  Maybe I’ll get a steel frame bike for that.
  • I ran 57:08 at the Shamrock Shuffle 8k.  It was an unusually warm day compared to normal Chicago weather around March.  I had met up with my Chiropractor and received KTape on my left knee.  Also Pre-Race I got super stretched out by David Hardin and ran the race with no problems.  For a cold start and no training runs since last years Marathon, I felt fantastic and started looking forward to this years training season.
  • I nailed down the majority of my race schedule, which eliminated a few races and added others.  I have a full training plan up till my Rev3Tri Half-Ironman in September.  This is all thanks to Kimberly Shah at njoy Racing, whom I look forward to getting to know better as time goes on
  • I ran for redemption at the Race for Wrigley 5k.  Pulled out my best official 5k time to date at 31:26.   Even better? I capped my Heart Rate to 180 bpm and was able to sprint towards the finish.  Although my official time was about an hour because I started late, my runkeeper that day had me at about 41 minutes, which sounds about right.  I think I would have beat 27 minutes if I didn’t have to walk part of the race.   The race also seemed less staffed and very minimal camaraderie, but I digress.
  • Pulled an unofficial 35:10 the next week at the Sherryl Gaptka 5k in Lisle.  This was a new race and I wasn’t going for time, but I was able to yet again sprint at the end.  I had adjusted my run walk strategy to correspond with my heart rate.
  • My Triathlon Training Started (with nJoy) about three weeks ago, and while I’m trying to learn the ropes, I signed up with Chicago Endurance Sports half-ironman training.  This was so I have access to a coached swim, and I have options for workouts in case meetups with nJoy don’t work all that well.  That and Chicago Triathlon Club also has outings (I think mostly biking) as well.   The Triathlon Training has me working out 6 days a week.  Which is tougher than I thought.
  • Strength Training with David Hardin is the best decision I had ever made.  Not only does my body look fantastic after years of feeling ashamed, but it has improved all three sports as well.  I’m closer to the endurance-building phase with David, as the workouts are closer to not leaving me begging for mercy.  I puked for the first and hopefully only time in the Gym.  I’ve heard of this happening before, but experiencing it is quite different.
  • My first bike ride was fantastic. It was at Train Chicago Studios, found out that my Time Trial output is at 112 watts.  I was able to bike the entire time, only spinning for about a minute during the entire exercise, which shocked me.  I was also at 160 bpm as well after a stern warning from my coach.
  • My first swim however, was not so well.  I think that I have lost all memory of how to swim, because I distinctly remember being a fish, and finding excuses to be in the pool during the summers of my youth.  Heck, I remember diving to the bottom of the deep end of the pool to pick up weights, no problem.  However, all that has gone away and I can’t even move forward with a freestyle stroke.  So, this is the challenge before any of the other triathlons post Bigfoot.  At the Bigfoot Triathlon I can walk along the bottom so it’s not so bad, but I know that 70.3 will probably be in deeper water.