General Smallwood Olympic Triathlon, 9/22/07

(OK, it only took me 7 months to post this… so I’m slow, nothing new there)

(1500M/T1/25miles/T2/10k – 31:52/5:29/1:19:59/2:29/1:07:40) Total time – 3:07:26

Surviving Smallwood, 9/22/07

Drove up to VA Friday afternoon, got there around 1930. Had my wheat pasta & veggies, talked a bit, slept on the couch. Up at 0500 and on the road to Smallwood State Park. Had my tea & PB&Banana Sandwich on the way. It was just getting light slowly when we got there. We were able to casually get our race packets and chat (Dan and Shan knew quite a few people; a lot of Team Z-ers there, I guess). Apparently, they moved the swim just as they had to do the year before, because of seaweed and algae. I had wanted to get the rented wetsuit on and swim a bit in the water before the race began, but trying to time it right was an issue. Thank Crom there was a real bathroom in the building at the park, because my usual pre-race weight loss routine rapidly became a necessity. When I got to where the swim was rumored to be, there was nobody warming up, so, naturally, I didn’t want to get in there first and look the fool. So soon all participants waddled over in their funny rubber suits, and we wished each other good luck. I had forgotten to take off my rings, and so had my friends, so Shan put them all in her bag. Dan was in the first wave, I was 2nd, and Shan was in the 3rd. Missed most of the pre-race talk, so had to ask people what exactly we were doing. Swimming out and around the buoys without coming back in to land after the first lap, apparently.

‘Twas getting mighty hot in that wetsuit – must’ve been over 80 degrees and high humidity (it had rained earlier). We had to jump in; the start was in water about 5 ½-6 feet deep, with horrible, tangly, and slimy stuff underfoot. But, damn, it felt so nice and cool as it slid under the wetsuit. And then it was time to go, not much time to dwell on my nerves and apprehension about a .9-mile swim in a branch of the Potomac. But it wasn’t too bad, except for the carnivorous seaweed, attacking at every turn. It didn’t feel longer than the last sprint tri I did, which was half of the distance. I was able to keep rhythm much better than last time. I guess the wetsuit also helped, and the fact that the water was cooler and cleaner than Lake Crabtree. Not hard to do, I suppose. Suddenly it was time to get out. Guys were helping people out onto a little platform, from which we climbed up the stairs and began the long run to transition. I had felt a cramp threaten in my right calf toward the end of the swim, and it threatened more on the run. I ran gingerly, considering the bare feet on concrete, the burgeoning cramp, and trying to strip off the wetsuit. The worst and most feared part (for me, and for most, I think) was over. Finally got to transition, which must have been at least 300 meters away. Wetsuit came off with little difficulty, but got a little flustered because I kept thinking I was forgetting something. Probably wasted a good minute or even two in T1, with my slow run to get there and my dawdling. But shit, I’m just aiming to finish, I ain’t an elite athlete.

Set out on the bike, immediately consuming a gel, which of course, tasted nauseating. I knew on the way in that nutrition would be my problem, because I’ve yet to work that out. The bike was very pleasant, a nice country route, many trees, little traffic, not difficult at all. I passed quite a few people, but tried not to push it too hard. Finally got to a few going my speed and we swapped off leads. No, we weren’t drafting, I swear. There was a thin girl with long, dark hair who seemed to be laboring profusely, whom I passed, and I said something encouraging to her. Of course, I was embarrassed later when she passed me again and left me in the dust. It was a nice enough ride that I didn’t start wishing it would end until around mile 20 or so, when my lower back started to stiffen, and quads and calves to tighten up. I had been drinking regularly, but still not enough, I suppose. Now I realize that I probably should’ve been taking in a bit of salt here and there, but live and learn. My calf really started to cramp right before transition. Not good, I thought, worried. Haven’t even started the run and my calf’s cramping.

Tried to drink, drink, drink, but after I left an uneventful transition, shirtless because the heat was coming on, I had to pee like a madman. But I couldn’t find a decent place to stop, then somehow I forgot about it as the pain increased. Long hill out of transition, and I couldn’t even get up it without walking. The gels were starting to make me sick again – I think I’ll be staying away from those. Legs cramping. 6.2 miles of this? Crom’s stone balls, I can’t do that, I thought. But I didn’t want a DNF in my first Olympic tri, so I would walk or crawl the damned thing if I had to. When I got off the bike, I had more than an hour to spare before the 3-hour mark, which was my goal, and I thought, ah, excellent. If my fastest 10k is around 48 minutes, no problem. Yeah, right. I watched that goal fade as I jogged-hobbled-jogged-limped. I thought for sure the friends I came with would re-pass me (I saw both of them in the out-and-back parts), but it turned out they were hurting and slowing, too. The last mile was the longest of my life so far, even longer than the last mile of the Shamrock Marathon I ran in 2004… fucker just wouldn’t end!

Walk. Jog. Stumble. Hot. Walk, job, stumble. Finally to the slight incline and I could see the finishing area. And my mom and dad ready with the camera. It just wouldn’t do to have pictures with me walking with my jaw scraping the ground, agonizing and exhausted. So I had to pick it up a bit, no matter how much it hurt. And smile. And so I did. They didn’t come out half bad.

I sat in the grass, conversing with my folks between labored breaths, and waited for my friends to finish. I tried to get up several times and found the world spinning and nausea encroaching. I hadn’t experienced that yet after a race. This went on for 20 or 30 minutes before I finally had it under control, with the help of four or five bottles of Gatorade, pizza, and salt tablets from my friend (thanks Shan). We hung out at the Team Z tent for a while. Nice group of people, if I lived in the area, I’d definitely join.

An adventure? You bet. Masochistic and a bit crazy? Of course. Would I do it again? Absolutely. But not until I figure out my damned nutrition issues! More salt, more salt, no Gu, more liquid, and piss when I have to, no matter what the situation.

The lunch my parents bought me was sorely needed, but the 4-hour drive home was NOT. I was surprised I made it home without passing out, but it was one of those “body tired but zoned-out” drives. Back to home and the routine.


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