Thursday, October 18, 2012

Me vs Lance

It's been, oh, nearly 6 months since I last posted anything here. To be honest, I just didn't have the heart. I still don't. But, I just kind of need to get some thoughts written down.

I guess the last thing I wrote about was the REV3 Knoxville race. From there, things went downhill. Fast.

I raced at Columbia Triathlon, my time-honored tradition, and it didn't go great. I did swim the fastest I've ever swam there, which was a positive, but I rode pretty slow. And my run wasn't very good. It just wasn't my day. But I moved on, and tried to put in a solid Memorial Day weekend. The weekend after Memorial Day was the REV3 Quassy race in Connecticut. Mike, Courtney, and I headed up to my parents' on Friday night in an absolute deluge. Alyssa met us there and we continued north in the rain on Saturday. Sunday the rain held off for the race, which was legitimately one of the hardest courses I've ever done.

The swim was great, very clean water, but the bike was just hard. I'm not even sure why, but it was. I rode something like 2:40 and outside of the Hunterdon race in 2010 (road bike), my first big race since getting injured, I've never ridden that slow for that distance. I got onto the run and that was just as hard. Up and down, steep, very little in between. Of course for me, I really struggle running downhill, so I was just in pain. I think I ran around 1:35, which in retrospect I guess isn't even that bad. Alyssa and Mike did really well, and Courtney finished her first half. We drove back to MD that night, again in the rain.

But no rest for the weary, as just a week later I toed the line at Eagleman. This time I was off from the very beginning. The debatable water temperature was allegedly cool enough to allow wetsuits, and since everyone else was wearing one, I did too. I wouldn't say that wearing it is what devastated me, but it certainly didn't help. I exited the water and reached my bike, and had to lean on it for a second so I didn't faint. That wasn't a good sign for the day to come. Out on the bike, I was riding slower than I ever have and just wishing for it to end. The back half wind slowed me down even more, and it ended up being a slow, slow ride. I should have stopped there. I went out onto the run course and within feet it was evident I was in for a long day. By the turnaround I was in serious trouble. I made it to mile 10, where Alyssa was waiting for me, and I couldn't hear and could barely stand up. We began walking towards the finish but the ultimatum came: either start jogging, or you've got to stop.

So stop I did. It was my first DNF, excluding the planned DNF at IMAZ 2010 when I could only swim anyway, and it was tough to swallow. Even tougher that I still had to walk back to the start, so I probably only cut off a mile. But I couldn't put everyone through another 30 minutes of me walking.

After that day I was pretty fried. I had one more race on the schedule - Philly Tri two weeks later - and I was not looking forward to it. Something was wrong with me, but what? Mike, Andy, and I went up to Philly that last weekend, and I was pretty relaxed. I had low, or no, expectations. When Alyssa, Pat, and I had gone up to watch the year before, the race looked so awesome, so I figured it would just be cool. On the bus ride to the swim start, we sat next to Andy Potts, which was neat, and then the water was about 82 degrees so it was at least comfortable. I floated down the river and came out, and as the story has been this whole year, just had a subpar ride. I got onto the run and was really struggling, and finally managed to get across the line. The highlight of this one was talking to Matt Reed, one of my favorite pros, for a while after the race. We got to talk to him in Knoxville and Quassy, but this was a full-on conversation. He was having a tough year himself, so we comiserated in that.

On the same day, Alyssa was out crushing Ironman Coeur d'Alene, finishing 2nd in her age group.

As bad as the first 6 months of the year were, I was definitely not prepared for how much worse the 2nd half of the year was going to be. June seems like a lifetime ago now.

Since 2009 I have had some tough months of July, but this one took the cake. I lost the most important person in my life, and didn't have an outlet. I felt so fatigued and exhausted all the time I just couldn't do anything. I couldn't run, couldn't ride, couldn't swim. I was down for the count. My idiosyncracies finally got the better of me. I let things consume me, and paid for it.

July passed, and then August. I proudly watched as Alyssa knocked out great race after great race. Even though I hadn't been riding, I attempted to mount up for the Church Creek Time Trial in August. The last time I went out there was 2008, so I figured it was my Olympics (London Olympics, by the way, were great). I rode okay, finishing just over an hour for the 40k. With just about 4 weeks until the race I'd been looking forward to for years, I was pleased.

I had hoped I would spend most of the summer swimming and running in preparation for the Survival of the Shawangunks. This unique race is an 8 leg triathlon that consists of a 30 mile bike, 4.5 mile run, 1.1 mile swim, 5.5 mile run, 0.5 mile swim, 8 mile run, 0.5 mile swim, and 0.7 mile run straight up a mountain to the finish. It was so hard, but so cool. I did it with Mike, Benda, and OJ, and Mike killed it. I made a few poor choices throughout the day, but more than anything, I just wasn't in shape to do as well as I thought I could. I might do a little write-up separately for this one as it was pretty cool.

That was September 9th. Under my original plan, I was going to use my amazing base of running over the summer and this race to help propel me towards NYC Marathon. But there was one more triathlon I was looking forward to - the REV3 Half Full Triathlon here in Columbia.

Alyssa had won a free entry as an award for her high finish at Quassy, but since she was heading to Kona that weekend, she couldn't race, and had given it to me. So thanks to her for that.

Again, I hadn't been riding or swimming much, but I did have one day of glory in the pool where I knocked out 30x100 on 1:40, which is kind of my marker. If I can do that, I'm usually okay. Of course, I don't think I swam the two weeks leading up to the race, so it probably disappeared. I hadn't been on my bike in at least two weeks either. Running had been up and down, but I was really looking forward to this race because...

I got to race Lance Armstrong.

If I had written this last week it would have been much different than writing it this week. I will no longer discuss the topic, but no matter what, I was excited to get to race with him. It was my third REV3 event of the year, it was basically Columbia Triathlon x 2 (and in reverse), which means it was close, and it supports a good cause, so I was pumped. What I was not pumped for was the weather. 45 degrees and rain are not my favorite conditions. The water was a balmy 67 so that felt good. I thought the time trial start was a little weird for the size of the field, but I didn't think much of it once I started, because I just ripped through and over people. It was the best I've felt in the water all year. I may not have swam super fast, but I didn't swim horrible, and I got out feeling good.

So good, in fact, that I opted to not put on arm warmers or anything that would keep me dry or warm. I simply had a jersey and my shorts on. Hindsight, this was a bad idea. Everyone else, including Lance, had jackets, gloves, arm warmers, leg warmers. Within about 30 minutes I was soaked - and frozen - to the core. I was shivering and having trouble staying upright on the bike. I couldn't ride in my aerobars because I was shaking so much. I was having difficulty getting to, and eating, my food. I took in a mere 300 calories on the 2:51 bike (yikes - again, the slowest I've ever ridden, fortunately, everyone was that slow).

Had it not been for Mike and Grace appearing at mile 45, I would have called it a day when I got back from the bike. My feet were blocks of ice, I was just so cold. I saw Suzanne Hurst, who was running the relay, in transition, and talked to her for a second before I took off. This time cost me the chance to get to run alongside Lance, because when I got on the path everyone was yelling "he's just ahead of you, you can catch him!" and sure enough, there he was. I was running quick, he was running quicker.

I settled in with 6:45-6:50 miles and felt good about that. I had hoped to run faster, but it was all my body was giving. And it was comfortable, and I was wearing just my green speedo so everyone out there was appreciative of that. I saw Mike and Grace in a few spots, which was great. Then around mile 8 (2 loop course) I got really, really cold again. I began to slow down, and made it across the finish line and everyone was commenting on just how blue I was. Lance, for what it's worth, crushed it. I'm sure he got in his helicopter right after the race, because I didn't see him anywhere afterwards.

Again, without Mike and Grace, I probably would have died. Just too many extremes for me - extreme heat at Eagleman, now too cold at Half Full. I went into the med tent, where my temperature was 93 degrees. It wasn't pretty.

I warmed back up, had a brief chat with Richie Cunningham, who raced the whole REV3 series this year, and then heard my name called for 2nd in my age group. It's the first time I've gotten any award this year and while normally I wouldn't be worried about it, it was really cool to get something at this race. I'll post a picture of the medal maybe.

And that was that. The Orioles made the playoffs so I got to go to a game, which was really cool, but kept me pretty cold again. Baltimore was a pretty nice place to live for a few days, before the O's lost and then the Ravens had some players hurt. Now it's back to regular Baltimore.

This past weekend was our Marathon, which is always a fun and busy day for me riding around to spectate, and the biggest triathlon event of the year took place too - Ironman World Championships. I was so proud to watch Alyssa cross the finish line (online), and you can read her race report here.

The other thing that's been keeping me going is the radio show, The Runaround on ESPN. I've been doing it since April, and it's been a lot of fun. I am pretty sure only my mom and dad listen to it though. It may not exist into the new year, so if it goes away, I'll have enjoyed my time as part of it.

I only had one race left on the calendar, the New York City Marathon, and I'm going to have to scratch from it. I just don't feel like my body has a marathon in it right now, part of it is my heart not being in it, but I also don't want to be out there and have another tough day. I've had too many of those.

So if this is my last post for a while, it's been quite a journey, and thanks for following.


Dart said...

You've found light in your darkest hour. Be advised: you're still alive. Recharge, and then fight on.

BP Merewether said...

This is such an inspirational story to share...

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Keep on keeping on, we're following you