Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dry Squall...the Raleigh 70.3

Dry squall is a term used in sailing when the seas and winds are violent and unexpected like that of a storm but the skies are clear.  Sunday morning the sky was clear the breeze gentle with only a hint from the barometer of the rain to come that evening.   As Alan Paton writes in Cry the Beloved Country, “out of a cloudless sky these things come.”
I spent Friday afternoon getting a tune up on the bike and relaxing in the good, calm company of Jim Hale.

  He generously lent me some significantly lighter wheels since climbing is not yet a strength of mine and the Raleigh course captured 1890 ft.  in elevation. 
Sunday morning came early but I was awake before the alarm – got out bed started prepping, getting plenty of TriSlide applied to me and my kit since I knew it would be hot and with an estimated finish time of 2:30 I’d be right in the heat and rising humidity.  Throughout training and previous races I’d start the morning with a bite of fruit some yummy Dreaming Cow Yogurt to get the juices flowing.   My rockstar friend Julie picked me up at 4:35AM to drive me downtown to where the shuttles were transporting athletes out to T1. 
Before the swim with Julie
Normally on race morning I’m jittery and easily rattled right up to the start.  However, this morning I was pretty calm and focused.  I got downtown in plenty of time set up T2 and hopped on the bus.  The arrival at the swim put me there almost 2 hours before I was supposed to start so I just plugged in some tunes and rechecked T2…. which is a good thing because at some point from Saturday to Sunday AM my cap and timing chip disappeared from my bike setup.  I got all that squared away and figured if that was the worst thing that happened I was in pretty darn good shape …famous last words.  I found Andrew Corbin who is always entertaining and we chatted while waiting in the “honey bucket” line.  
Waiting for my Swim wave with Andrew

 Forty or so minutes from the start I put on my HRM and watch, double checked the Velcro on the timing chip, chose the goggles appropriate for sun since it was getting pretty bright out on the water.  Julie again rocked it out – she was there to take my gear bag back to Raleigh and cheer me through the bike transition.

This is only my 3rd open water swim.  I find I’m pretty calm and it feels like I’m back at sailing camp trying to swim between boats.  After the athlete meeting I opted not to bring my wetsuit and the official temp was 76.  However, I’m slow in transition out of the wetsuit so no big loss there.  I think having to make the decision that morning would have caused some stress.  I spent some time watching the pros and waves before me but didn’t readily see any advantage to take.  I rookie’d it in the middle of the pack and then had to swim out to find some clean water – moments which were few and far between.  The first lap I was kinder about being swum over, slapped and kicked.  The second two I got a bit more aggressive about defending my territory.  We swam up to a boat ramp which for me made it tricky to determine when I “hit the bottom.”  I was roughly 1 minute off my anticipated swim time and since I’d allowed time for wetsuit removal in transition I was well within schedule.  Got my bike gear on – hit the Trislide again down the kit and in the shoes. Rolling out of transition I felt good.  My watch gave me some fits so I had to pull it out of multisport and reset to the bike.  Now, the first 3.5 miles is uphill and my coach wisely sent me out there to do hill repeats long before race day.  I knew what to expect and what my plan was.  I stuck to my plan as people pedaled by.  About 6 minutes in I looked down at my HR to check that the way I felt correlated to my zones.  SHOCKER – I’m clocking at  Z4.3 DANGER WILL ROBINSON, DANGER….  I should be in the high 2’s at most low 3’s.  In no other way do I feel like I’m in a Z4 – breathing is moderately tough but not gasping, no burn in the legs so I watch my speed – which was right around 8-9MPH – where it should be.  I finish the climb make the first turn onto a nice rolling downhill, smooth road.  Give myself a few minutes and check my zones again still a high 3 in a light spin – in that moment I make the determination that my HRM must be wrong – change the display to keep an eye on speed.   I also rode the course in full twice before race day and other pieces multiple times to give me an idea of what my pace should be.  I felt great  - thinking that my HR data was invalid I kept a conversation with myself, a little singing... Give Blood by Pete Townshend kept popping in my head - go figure-- to check breathing and MPH clocked where I thought it should be.  I certainly felt the hills but kept an eye on my speed. I also took into account the headwind and would drop back on speed being mindful of power output when there was a headwind.  For 56 miles I was the most disciplined athlete I think I’ve ever been.  I borrowed a strategy from a Rev3 Team member  - since there were just a few hills (ha, ha) and I haven’t mastered the climb, I made a point to pass people on the downhill where I could and force them to either pass me on the uphill or go my speed on the ascent.
Throughout the entire bike, ever mindful of the rising temps and humidity I’m taking in EFS and my PowerBar Energy Blends (how yummy is the strawberry mango?!?!?!)  on the off chance that HR Zone was correct I didn’t want to find myself low on calories for the run.   I slightly modified my hydration/nutrition plan from every 30 to every 20.   I probably over did the refill – taking water at every opportunity but the advice from my coach to pour any excess water from the aid stations was a huge help – I never felt overly hot. 

T2 left a bit to be desired running in bike shoes over uneven pavement and winding through what felt like a snake (it is the year of the snake though ?!?!)  course to get to my spot.  I get there and I’m pissed because some chic has racked her bike in my spot – I move it – get racked and focused back on my game.  Now, there’s a niggling thought in the back of my mind that I haven’t had to use the bathroom despite the amount of fluids I’ve taken in and on every other bike ride I generally have to go about half way through.  So while I’m right there I hit the honey bucket and do get rid of some fluids.  I cruise through T2 pretty pleased – I’ve got almost 20 extra minutes in the bank – I anticipated 3:45 for the bike and knocked it out in 3:25.  I made the switch on my watch to run mode in before exiting T2 .   The first part of the run was uphill and I notice I’m cruising at under an 8:30 which I can’t sustain so I take a step back, a big breath and move down to 9:30.  I know I’ve got some brutal hills between miles 6 to 8 and I don’t want to find myself out of whack.   The aid station at mile 1 I take a bit of water.  Somewhere between mile 1 and 2 my stomach starts to feel like a boulder.   And we all know how fun that makes a run.  Before I even get to the aid station at mile 2 I can’t get my HR regulated – I don’t know why I believed it was right on the run yet wrong on the bike but I did.  The numbers were all over the map –so I stop and walk over the EMS folks and tell them I can’t get my HR regulated – suddenly I can’t tamp down my emotions so I start to do that awesome cry, get mad, calm cycle (I’m sure this helped me tremendously - :P)  they take my BP and tell me its 78/49 – “dangerously low” and their “medical recommendation” was that I stop.  They ask if I’m dizzy and I say – “I wasn’t until you asked me to sit down,”  so I promptly stand up – which didn’t make me their favourite customer.  In retrospect they did a great job stalling to make me take some more recovery time.  I had to answer about 10 questions and then sign a form saying I understood their recommendation was to quit and I was choosing to go on of my own volition.  I have to wonder if you could argue that at that point I clearly wasn’t operating with full cognition… if you’re in the peanut gallery on this one you can save it.  haha
Enter in the dry squall analogy – I am at a total loss between miles 2 and 9 – the medics said my electrolytes were clearly off so I didn’t take any more endurolytes, I tried to get down a Energy Blasts (they are usually like candy to me) to no avail.  I’m looking for anything to relieve my poor stomach.  I also tried to remove any time goal and just focus on finishing. 
Around mile 6 I get my BP taken again and it’s moving into a more “normal/resting” range at 90/60.  I feel more alert but continue to walk since every time I pick up the pace my abdomen rejects that plan.   Again at mile 8 or so I get the Raleigh Fire Dep’t to take my BP again – its up to 110/70 or so.   At this point because they are measuring it I realize that my HRM is feeding good data to my watch.  So possibly it’s been right all day.  One of their firefighters walked a loop with me – which was great to have company.   At this point I feel like my BP/HR has “recovered” but my stomach is still giving me fits.  I periodically find child’s pose in some cool grass – I have no idea why but it felt good.  As I begin to head back towards the finish line I am willing myself to run the last 4 miles a good clip – yet every time I try it’s just not there.  So I decide to run the downhills and walk the uphills which worked out marginally well.  At mile 12 I am fed up with feeling like crap and decide to run the last mile (vanity’s a bitch with all those cameras isn’t it…..) As I’m finishing I start to realize I can’t really see anything so as I cross I slow and ask for the med tent.  My HR at this point is way beyond my “redline.”  They get me in a lounge chair, ice me down and start in on the BP/HR measurements again.  Good news/bad news – I tend to “recover” really quickly so while the numbers were still high they were moving in the right direction.  I was also able to take in additional fluids at this time too – and when the Dr asked if I’d used the bathroom it hit me that I never went again after T2.  

I don’t know what happened.  I don’t like not knowing.  I am a problem solver and I’m willing to work at the solution.   I am still in that place where I don’t feel like I accomplished anything despite finishing and that was ultimately the goal.  But having done the work and setting an attainable goal, I still feel a loss.  As another coach from the past posted today,  “A period of time is needed to alter the outcomes of your new beliefs.  The structure learns to adjust to the new preferred outcome ~ gestation periods.”

To paraphrase a team mate, many thanks to Rev 3, blueseventy, Quintana Roo, Pearl Izumi, PowerBar, Biotta Naturals and Compex – wish I could’ve give you a better race.


  1. Congrats on finishing the race despite such a tough day! Sorry to hear it didn't go quite as planned, but you are one brave warrior to finish it out! And regardless of what happened out there, completing your first half distance tri is a hell of an accomplishment! I'm sure I speak for all Rev3 teammies & sponsors when I say that we're incredibly proud of ya :)

  2. Congrats on gutting out that finish Rachel. Don't know that I coulda done that! I now it was hot at Quassy, could only image how it was in Raleigh. Glad you're OK though!

  3. Great job! I will say that it was great just chatting with you on the bridge of the Greenway b/c I was toast and needed some encouragement. Can't wait to do it all over again!!! How's the recovery going. I've been taking it pretty easy this week. No injuries before Williamsburg!

  4. Rachel - way to push through!! My name is Kenrick Smith (a fellow triathlete - you can find me at www.k17sport.com) I wanted to reach out to you and invite you to become a contributor on a new website I started called The Bruised Banana. Our website www.thebruisedbanana.com was started so that all of us as triathletes/runners would have a central hub to share our websites, blogs, race reports so that we could support each other and learn from one another. I've always enjoyed reading others race reports and wanted to centralize them so that if someone wanted to look up a certain race they were planning on doing they could look and see what others had to say and what their experience was. We have them organized by region and then by race. I also thought it would be wonderful to have a platform for triathletes to share their blogs, sponsors, etc. If you would be interested in contributing that would be great! You can email us at info@thebruisedbanana.com for more info. Contributing is fun and easy. Good luck with the rest of your season.