Despite my attempt at defeating this battle with my sinus infection, it appears as if I have lost. 5 days on antibiotics and now a full 12 days of sickness and my conditions have not improved a whole lot. Generally I don't feel terrible, as in I am able to do things without falling over, but I am really struggling breathing. Yesterday in the pool was miserable. Not helping was the fact the pool was kicking at around 86 degrees, and the air temp was 99 when I swam. I have developed a phlegmy cough over the last few days, which is not always present, but when it hits, it's hitting hard.
I'll get through Sunday, but I think it's going to be a tough day. But, it's Eagleman, it's supposed to be a tough day. When I did this race for the first time in 2008, I never imagine how bad things could go. After all, I stuck to the relatively safe Olympic distance events for the first 7 years of my triathloning, so the worst that happened was you had a bad run and ran like 40 minutes. It was around this time in 2008 that I ramped up this blog, writing daily updates before the race. It was a big deal for me. When the mercury started rising a few days out from the race, I didn't immediately get worried, because I honestly didn't realize how hard it would make it. The result was bad.
I swam slow, in what I don't think was a particularly slow year. I overheated in my wetsuit and got into T1 hot and flustered. I spent an exorbitant amount of time in transition, making a ton of rookie mistakes. Ultimately, I went onto the bike with no salt, I think maybe one or two Gu's, that was it. On the bike, I didn't drink enough, not taking water at the stations, and paying a painful price. At mile 47 I stood out of the saddle for just a second and crack - there went my legs. Both quads cramped up so hard I had to get off my bike. I tried to let them relax for a couple of minutes before soft pedaling in. I had been in good shape (had ridden 1:04:40 at Columbia earlier in the season) so when I finished at 2:28, I was disappointed. I thought I could turn it around for the run, but a half mile in, I was reduced to walk/jogging. And then just walking. For thir...teen...miles. 3 hours and 39 minutes later, I crossed the line, sunburned and delirious. When we got to the Wendy's in Easton, I nearly threw up when the smell hit my nose. I couldn't eat anything. When we got back to Baltimore, it was time for the Bay Cafe celebration party. Tried to eat some of the shrimp salad sandwich I love so much and nope, couldn't do it. Time to go to the emergency medical center.
Following that race I couldn't do anything for three days, I was so badly sunburned. By mid week I started peeling, nay - sloughing skin off. It did this again over the weekend. It was gross and that one day probably ensured that I will develop skin cancer. I was able to race a 5 miler at home the following Saturday, and didn't run too poorly, so I knew my failure had been a matter of poor race day execution. My legs were alright. So I decided to do the inaugural Providence half ironman just a few weeks later. The swim went much better, the bike went much better, and then run...well it went slightly better. Still was by no means good.
I was convinced that I was meant to do longer races, but apparently I was not cut out for it. I suffered again that year at my first marathon, and then again in the spring of 2009 at Boston. Another couple of days like that and I was ready to quit.
So Eagleman 2009 was again a pivotal day in my "endurance" race career. I went in with far fewer miles on the bike in my legs, and much less swimming, as a result of my focus on Boston that spring. At Columbia that year, I had gone about 90 seconds slower on the bike, but I found my form in the short time between the two races. I had a good swim (for me) and got onto the bike and rolled. 2:18:44 I think was the time, which was in line with what I thought I could do. I don't ride with a watch or a computer, so I never have any idea of how fast or slow I'm going. Coming off the bike I thought I could just tear off, and clipped the first mile in 6:03. From there it was mostly downhill, keeping the miles under 6:30 until mile 5, when everything was over 7. I finished with a 1:31:52, and was not thrilled. My overall time was 4:24 - slightly better than 2008's 6:47.
I felt like I was learning from each time I was out there, and that by November I would be in tip-top shape for Arizona. Of course, Alfred Terry had to interfere with those plans, and back to the ground floor I went.
After the full year off, I started up last year with simpler intentions. Do a race. Be able to run the whole thing. Do the Ironman. My own expectations were low, I was just happy to be out there again. 2010 was a complete mulligan year. But, once again, I find myself at a critical juncture with Eagleman. My day at Columbia didn't go great, but I rode decently quick - enough to give me the confidence that I can at least ride what I did there in 2009. The swim for me will probably be tough. I don't even care about the non-wetsuits, I actually prefer it because I would seriously overheat and probably die (the water is real warm). I'm concerned about my inability to breathe right now, and hope its effect isn't too considerable. The run, well, I know best that anything can happen. I do know that I plan on starting out MUCH slower/easier than years past. I had a pretty decent run at Hunterdon in October when I went out easy. At that time, I struggled with the distance, since I hadn't run that long in something like 15 months, so when I got to mile 8, I was out of legs.
This time around, I have at least been able to do runs of that length, and as long as I can get through the foot discomfort, I'll be alright.
It would be really great to be able to go faster than 2009, but the swim is such a question mark for accuracy, etc, that I won't worry too much about it. I'd be really happy if I could have a good run - something more in line with what I should be able to run. If I took my splits from 2009 and just went 5 minutes faster (1:27ish run), that would put me under 4:20 and I'd be happy with that. A few years ago the focus was on earning a spot for one of the two World Championships that you can qualify for via Eagleman, but a quick scan through the 30-34 age group shows that it's statistically unlikely. Just too many fast guys in this wave. It's seriously insane. Plus, in 2009 I was 4th and was therefore first loser, so I don't expect my luck to change. If there are say 8 spots to the two races, I would expect to finish 9th.
Mostly I just need to have a day I can feel good about, as that's been lacking from this year. Pat and I have both said it, the thing we look forward to most is going in the water after the race is over and just cooling off. And then, for me, hitting up Wendy's, and probably Sonic, in Easton on the way home. Since the Bay Bridge toll is going to go up from $2.50 to $8 by 2013, this may be one of the last times I race EM! (just kidding, of course, although that still makes me irritated).
Eagleman is far from my favorite race, but it's one I won't stop doing until I'm satisfied with a result there. And, since for the next 20 years I'll be in ridiculously competitive age groups, I'll probably never be satisfied, so expect to see me there. Plus it's close, and relatively less expensive than traveling to somewhere else that sucks to do a race there. I think that's one change I'll have for next year - race less. These entry fees are killing me. Much like the $3200 oil change I got yesterday. Yep, brought the car in for a 60k service, and left with a $3200 bill because my shit was all messed up apparently. Awesome. Should have sold it for $3200 less than I bought it, and then bought a new car. Or a new bike.