Let's go back, shall we?
So, last weekend was the first "significant" race of the year. I say significant only because of the distance. It was only my third race at this distance. I wasn't expecting greatness per say, but I was curious to see where I was sitting at this point in the year. I didn't train crazy hard in the off-season, but I was pretty consistent and I was hoping to be ahead of where I was at this point a year ago. I had been working on the
We drove down Saturday morning after running some last minute errands, about a 2 hour drive, fairly uneventful. Drove straight to the venue for packet pick up and a quick ride/run - it was a GORGEOUS day. Got the bikes put back together (though, lets be quite honest, I supervised the re-assembly of bikes) and went out for a quick 20 minute ride. Immediately, my right quad cramped up and I felt like I was getting zero power out of that leg. Both legs felt cramped, like my seat was too short (and it was put back exactly where it was at before), but the right quad was hard as a rock and really tight. The hills were rough with the state of my leg and all I could think about was "I have to do FIFTY-SIX MILES like this tomorrow?!" The end of the ride involved a short steep hill and I was too busy thinking about my leg to consider shifting at a logically appropriate time that I started up that hill in a huge gear and proceeded to almost stop short. I tried to shift, apparently failed, and then my quad said "OH HELL NO" and seized up into a ball of angry muscle. I came to an abrupt stop on the hill as all these cars were descending and I felt like every single one of them watching was thinking "look at this amateur who doesn't know how to ride a bike." And, quite honestly, they were totally correct. I looked like an idiot. Seeing as this is my usual state of being, I shook it off and made two valiant attempts to continue up the hill but with no momentum, I was looking even more foolish so I headed down the hill only to turn around and head right back up. Get this girl a cookie, she just won the day...
Set out on a short run and immediately, my right leg went alarmingly numb. My quad continued to be ridiculously tight and now my toes were tingling and losing sensation. WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON WITH MY BODY?
I tried not to dwell on it. I tried to enjoy the quick jaunt around the course but scrolling through the megatron in the back of my mind was "tomorrow is going to be an epic failure. you're a hot mess and the lower half of your body just went AWOL so tomorrows going to suck."
We had an internal chat. It went something like this: "Listen here self. I'm confused by our current predicament, but we know we're going to finish the race tomorrow even if we're cursing every mile. We know we're giddy to be racing again so let's get ourselves together and have a little fun."
Back at the hotel, I rolled my leg for awhile, I alternated between the stick and the foam roller. I grabbed the diclofenac cream and slathered it on. I drank water, then gatorade, then more water. I stretched. If I sucked tomorrow, it wasn't going to be because I ignored this new weird little injury.
Dinner was delicious. I had the pleasure of dining with the Snapple team (goal: get on this team next year). I had linguine with clams in white wine sauce - the usual go-to. Drank one beer and approximately 7 gallons of water.
Slept decently. Proceeded to wake up and feel completely out of sorts.
Thankfully, I had all my stuff packed from the night before. Put on the new SOAS team kit for the first time (Love it). Got my drinks together, my nutrition in a bag. I was as ready as I could be. Angry quad was no longer screaming at me - it was holding steady at a dull roar that I knew I'd be able to deal with. Pleased with the improvement, I was ready to head out. Once we parked and put the bikes together (still rocking the supervisor role mind you), I headed down to transition and realized I had left my banana and the majority of my blueberry bagel in the car. Jogged up to the car only to realize I was on the wrong street. Found the car only to realize that Lee was gone.
Repeat after me - YOU ARE A HOT MESS.
Rechecked my transition area, thought about applying sunscreen and immediately forgot, which proceeded straight into thinking about applying body glide only to see Lee and forget about that too. He graciously ran to get my banana and life was good again.
Wetsuit on, check. Head to water, check. Oh, everyone's out of the water and I don't have time to jump in. No problem! Who needs a warm-up??
Luckily we got to hang in the water for a few minutes before starting. Water was a good temperature, but I knew my feet would be numb pretty quick (those poor puppies are sensitive to cold).
Swim swim swim swim swim. Followed a girl going exactly the speed I wanted to go who was holding a remarkably straight line. Its always a crap shoot when I try to follow someone - sometimes its hard to sight when you're a few diopters away from being legally blind and your contacts suck. But I won the drafting lottery with this girl. She had a great straight up right arm stroke so she was easy to keep in sight if i sat just next to her. I tried to pass her a few times and speed up but each time we cruised into a sea of orange caps (the men ahead of us) and it was easier to sit behind her and let her find a line through the mess of men.
Finished the swim in a decent time, nothing spectacular, but I was satisfied since I didn't feel tired. Tried to have a quick transition (my usual downfall) and headed out on the bike.
Nearly immediately, I knew it wasn't going to be a spectacular ride - my neck twinged as I rode up the first hill and that's always negative predictor for the rest of the ride. Considering we were at mile 3 or something, I got a little nervous. Every weird feeling in my neck (though not entirely painful at this point) made my stomach a little queasy. 56 miles isn't incredibly difficult. 56 hillier-than-I'm-used-to miles isn't too much worse. However, 56 hillier-than-I'm-used-to miles with a messed up neck is pretty damn miserable. Around mile 10, the painful neck reared its ugly head and quitting crossed my mind. I'm not a quitter, I've never quit a race and very very rarely do I quit workouts, but I thought about it. While I did the incredibly difficult equation that is 56-10=46, I thought about how the next 46 miles were going to feel if I already wanted to pull over and cry.
Suck it up baby.
So, I stretched as best as I could without stopping. I stopped using the aerobars. Nothing was helping. I popped more ibuprofen. No relief. I tried thinking of funny things that make me laugh. I tried smiling (thank God, none of this is on tape). This part is funny only because after the race a woman commented about how happy I looked racing near the end of the second loop. If she only knew.
We quickly arrived at my favorite point in the downward spiral of this neck pain (about mile 26)- the point where it starts to hurt to use my right arm. I'm talking about the part that involves trying to extend my right arm to the end of my aerobars to shift. This is also the part where tears pop out of my eyes without warning and where I audibly grunt from how ridiculously awful I feel.
Approached the halfway point. This is where it got a bit hilly again. My legs got a workout from my lack of shifting, screw trying to save my legs to run - those suckers were gonna work those hills because I was not about to start shifting like a normal person. I was trying to keep my upper half in some sort of position that I could maintain with less pain. It was hit or miss with that one.
Mile 40-ish, I tried aero again. OH DEAR MOTHER OF GOD was that a terrible awful no-good very bad idea. It felt like 100 burning needles jabbing into my lower neck/upper back. Back to that upright position.
I kept zoning in and out of race mode. Id think about something completely unrelated to the race, slow down, get passed, realize what I was doing, re-pass that person only to fall back into the dreamy mind-set where I wasn't painful and was off the bike. I was practically drooling over the time when I'd get to put on my running shoes and RUN while forgetting about the past 3 sad hours.
Finally, FINALLY, it was over. I tried to re-rack the bike and epically failed. It took me 2 or 3 attempts because i could get the baby raised more than two inches off the ground thanks to my stunning lack of strength from the right side of my body. Shoes, visors, race-belt. check, check, check.
Run time... happy time. This is the part I knew I can do. However this came to be, I always make up time running. I think thats probably my strong suit now. I can usually run off the bike pretty well, at least compared to many in the age group. I felt better, though incredibly stiff in my neck. Standing upright made much of the pain disappear but I wasn't totally comfortable. First mile was 7:36. Slow down Prochnow. I ended up pretty consistently at 8:15-8:20/mile. Slower than usual, but definitely the hilliest course I've ever done.
Just before the turn-around, I approached a guy running a touch slower than I. I passed him going into the water station (I walked all the water stations since I knew I wasn't going to PR-ing and it was a refreshing little break), and he caught up to me. The next 4 miles were Iron-war style running. I'd speed up a touch, he'd stay with me. He'd speed up, I'd pick up the pace to hang with him. With three miles to go, I had a flash of Mark-Allen-like inspiration at a water stop and grabbed the water and went for it. When you can't have the race you were hoping for, its the little victories that matter, right?
The final miles were uneventful, just kept the pace to finish. I wanted to see my friends, I wanted to collapse in a heap on the grass... I wanted to be done. It wasn't a fun race. It was test of my mental fortitude and a glimpse into a dark place that I'd prefer to avoid from now on.
I ended up third overall, a real shocker considering the mess that involved the previous 5 1/2 hours. I got a pint glass and a decently nice duffle bag as a prize (sweet free stuff). Minutes later, in true Heather fashion, I dropped the glass on the pavement and it busted into 75 pieces. Are we surprised? They nicely gave me a replacement glass since I had gone all of 100 feet from the boxes containing the extra glasses.
Drove home. Saw Avengers. Lovely way to end the weekend. Actual racing aside, it was a really good weekend...