Ironman Countdown

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Eagleman 70.3 Race Report

Pull up a chair, get comfy, and maybe grab a glass of wine... this could take awhile.

As you probably well know at this point, I was able to compete in the Ironman Eagleman 70.3 on Sunday, June 14, 2015, in Cambridge, MD.  I had originally entered as an individual, but due to the bike accident at the end of April, and my broken collarbone, there was no way I could fully compete.  My recovery from collarbone surgery went very smoothly, and it was also much faster than I could have hoped.  I was able to bike, at least on the trainer, after two weeks post-op.  And I was able to start back to running one month post-op.  Because my body felt good and strong, I decided to see if I could still do Eagleman, at least the bike and run portions.  I was able to switch to a relay, and James agreed to swim for me, since that was the leg I just couldn't do yet.  I was, and am, so grateful to him.

On Saturday, June 13, we headed down to my parents' house to drop off the kids and the pup.  My Mom and Dad are always there to help me out with things like this, and are always so willing.  It gives me such peace of mind knowing that Jack and Julia (and Camden) will be having the time of their lives in our absence.  My parents are simply the best.  More on that later.
parents on the loose - Cambridge bound

We arrived in Cambridge to pick up our packet and swag, and check-in my bike, Marney.  The last time I had ridden my bike outside was the day of the accident.  So, I kept getting a little sick feeling to my stomach whenever I actually thought about what I was about to do.   As James said, this was going to be total immersion therapy... just get on the bike and go.  I kept thinking of the scene in "Top Gun" after Goose dies, and Maverick doesn't feel ready to take a shot at Jester during training... and the higher ups say to keep sending him up.   I was stilling having bad dreams from time to time, about crashing on the bike, reliving my own crash, or being unable to stop my bike or my car due to faulty brakes.

I knew I could handle 56 miles.  I had done enough "catch up" work on my trainer over those last four weeks, but being on the road again scared me a little.  I was counting on a total adrenaline kick to make me just go and do it, hopefully without thinking too much.

selfie with the Cambridge lighthouse in the background




transition area... 2500 bikes, plus or minus!


Marney at our spot, Bib  # 3041
 We walked over to the swim start, and looked out over the course.  The water was a balmy 78 when we stuck our toes in; the Choptank looked pretty calm and no jellies.  As we looked out at the buoys, it started to sink in more what James was taking on for me.  Sure, he's a good swimmer and does his laps in the pool in the mornings.  But he had never done open water swimming in a large race, let alone for a whole mile.  It can be crazy out there, getting kicked in the face and all that.  But he seemed calm about it, excited for the challenge.  I was never worried that he couldn't do it.  I just had concerns for all those factors out of his control, and how he would handle them.  I needn't have worried.
the swimmer

follow the yellow buoys, out towards the bridge

perfect shirt

transition selfie

ready to rock!
We stayed in Salisbury for the night.  It is about a half hour further east of Cambridge, but it is cheaper and away from the noise and the fray of the race.  When I did the race last year, I actually liked having the half hour drive in on race morning, as it gave me a chance to wake up some, listen to good music, get some coffee and just relax and take in the day.   It worked well, so we did that again.  We also had a "date night" dinner at the same place as last year:  The Market Street Inn.   Yum.  I am not a person who takes or posts photos of my meals, but I had to take one of this meal.  I ordered the scallops over blueberry and goat cheese risotto, with broccolini.  It was fantastic.
look at the purple rice!  never thought those flavor would work!

We got back to our hotel, and I started the ritual of laying out all of my gear.  I took the required "Flat Colleen" picture, and added James's MD flag swim suit to the mix too.  Aside from all the gear pictured here, I had to remember to pack my nutrition, water bottles, electrolyte drink mix, sun screen, sports glide, chamois cream, hair bands, etc.  It really is a lot to think about.
"Flat" James and "Flat" Colleen

I woke up one minute before the alarm, at 4:44 a.m.  I slept pretty well, considering it was a strange bed and I had raw nerves... my choice to have more than one glass of wine at dinner had paid off!  I puttered around the room, making my drinks and getting some food down.  I have learned that I need to eat a huge dinner, because I just can't get much food down on the morning of a race.  So, that morning, I had my peanut butter/dark chocolate protein bar and a banana.  I drank a full water bottle on the way to the race.

When we stepped outside, it was humid.  Like full Maryland humid.... smack you upside the head humid.  There were clouds and a slight drizzle, and I hoped that the cloud coverage would remain.  Last year, while it was hot, we had an unusual break from the humidity.  That was not to be this time around.

James parked at the local high school, and we took the free shuttle to the race site.  It worked out great for us.  We got our bodies marked up, and we added our own tattoo for our friend Stef, who is fighting ovarian cancer... she is the epitome of strength, so we put her name on our biceps.
Strong for Stef!

As usual, the transition area was buzzing at that early hour of 6:15.  James's start time was 7:04, so we had plenty of time to walk around, use the port-o-pots, and head down to transition.  I was wearing my gorgeous Swim Bike Mom Ambassador Team kit, and got a few yells "Hey Swim Bike Mom!"  While in line for the port-o-pots, I met two other SBM's wearing their kits, so that was super fun.
before the start

so proud to be wearing this!



James's wave was called forward.  It was too crowded for me to see his actual start, but I heard it.  I was able to walk over to the side, so once the group cleared the starting area, I could see them all swimming.  It was so shallow and calm, some guys were standing and walking!  They looked like zombies.
can you pick out James?
the swim course
I wandered back over to the transition area.  Based on James's pool time, I estimated he would be done in about 50 minutes.  He had a race cut off time of 70 minutes.  The relay competitors had their own "pen."  We had to wait there, and the swimmer had to cross over the timing mat into the "pen," with the timing chip on their ankle, transfer the chip to the biker's ankle, and then the biker could head out.  I watched a few of the faster swimmers run in, and their respective biker head out.  As it closed in on 50 minutes, I watched anxiously as people were running into the transition area out of the swim.  Next thing I know, he was there, with that MD flag suit on, and I hooted and hollered at him... and he just grinned.  He ran in, I took the chip, he kissed me for luck, and off I went.
James's post swim selfie
 

(James would later tell me he thought the swim was great.  He was surprised with how aggressive some people were, clawing at him a bit, but he felt strong and had a good pace.  He said sighting, meaning following the buoys and looking up once in awhile, was a challenge, but he felt good.  What a guy.)

I walked my bike out of transition to the mounting area.  I started mumbling out loud, "please God, whatever happens, please please please don't let me crash.  Please let me be safe."  And that was it.   I honestly never had another thought about my safety on the bike; "instinct" or whatever just kicked in.  And off I went.

Here's a map of the bike course:
pancake flat

The clouds, naturally, parted after the swim.  And the sun was upon me.  I would like to say it was smiling down on me, but really, it was just baking me... melting me.  The bike, since I am moving and there's some breeze just from that, is never too bad in the heat.  But early on, I knew the run was going to be a tough one.

One of the things I have repeatedly heard from more experienced triathletes is to never try anything new on race day, particularly your nutrition.  You should practice what you are going to eat and drink, so you  know if its enough calories and that your stomach can handle it.  Because I never actually got around to riding my bike outside in a more race-simulated environment those last few weeks, I never tried out my nutrition plan.  I knew enough to add more water cages to my bike (a sweet new rear mounting cage that sits below and behind the saddle) because I ran out of water last year (and didn't know enough to grab re-fills on the course).  And I know that I can handle eating gels pretty well.  But I needed to eat something more substantial.  I read that peanut butter and jelly is a good biking snack.  I decided to try it.  I bought a box of those pre-made Smuckers PB&J rounds (each one is 200 calories) and froze them.   I had two stashed in the back of my tri top.  I had a few gels in my Bento box on the bike.

Last year, my bike split was 3:24.  Not great, but it was my first time.  I really did not put in the work for the bike last year, and sort of winged it.  Even with my month of surgery recovery, I was hoping I could improve on that.  I had aero-bars this year, and a bike computer.  And I had a loose plan on how I could mentally break up the mileage to help pass the time, mostly centered around sipping my drink every 5 to 7 miles, eating a PB&J at mile 20 and 40, and eating a gel at the halfway point.

I felt really good on the bike.  More importantly I was happy.  The first 20 miles went so much faster than last year.  My pace was faster.  I kept smiling, because every once in awhile it would dawn on me:  I'm actually doing this!  47 days after surgery!  Around Mile 30, I ended up chatting with another "relay" woman for a few minutes... she did the swim and the bike.  But she couldn't run because of foot issues.  So I told her my story, and she said "And you are here doing this so soon?  Today is a good day!"  I shouted "Today is a good day!!"

The bike winds through the wilds of the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge.  While that sounds interesting, I have only ever seen turtles, more turtles, dead turtles, a bald eagle last year, and a turkey vulture.  It is desolate, and looks very much like the scenery in "True Blood" or "The Walking Dead."  That does GREAT things for my over-active imagination!!!  The bike is pancake flat.  While that sounds easier than going up hills, it has its own challenges.  When you have hills, you have downhills and coasting.  When its flat, you just pedal... and pedal... and pedal... to infinity.  There is no "rest."  There is also a lot of tedium; you never have to shift gears or focus on your environment very much.  So you have to find things to think about.  Here's a sample of my string of consciousness, at least some of it that I can remember:

Starting with first grade, name all my teachers through high school... look at that turtle... hey jerk, you pass on the left dammit THE LEFT!... hey I'm catching up to this girl... and she's 21!  I'm twice your age little girl... look at that turtle... how do people get pizza delivered out here?  wait, who even lives out here?...  are those dueling banjos?  is this Deliverance?.... wonder what the kids are doing... wow, giant snapping turtle look out... how do people love biking so much?... I need a new saddle... this saddle hurts... why am I riding on the shoulder of the road?  That's how I crashed in April.  Shoulders break shoulders!  haha, that's funny, I have to remember to tell James that... Shoulders break shoulders... still funny... is this even Maryland anymore?... when can I get off this infernal bike... what does Meatloaf even mean when he says he'd do anything for love but he won't do that?... o.k., let's sing favorite Broadway musical songs... the water stop! Should I try to grab the Gatorade out of his hand without stopping like my SBM sister Sheri did?... wait, I've never done that before but it looks easy... hey I got the Gatorade and kept going... orange Gatorade is the best thing ever.

By Mile 40, after my second PB&J, I was starting to crumble.  I had 16 miles left (about an hour), and my ass (sorry Mom) and my "queen" (sorry again, that's the nice way of saying "lady parts") were KILLING ME.   At Mile 45, I seriously almost stopped so I could throw my bike down and kick it a few times.  I was slowing down because I was just so uncomfortable.  I will be shopping for a new saddle immediately!

As I headed into town and closer to the transition area to start the run, I was starting to get desperate.  I wanted off the bike so much, but I could feel the heat even with the breeze.  I wanted to run, but I also DID NOT WANT TO RUN.  When I pulled into transition, I came to a stop.  Like a giant smack in the face, there it was:  heat and humidity like you could not believe.  I was dismounting right next to this guy, and we looked at each other, and he says, "Oh my god the heat."  I immediately said, "Don't think about it!  Don't think about it!  Just go!"  And he laughed and off we went.

I racked my bike, and James was right there.  He told me later he was actually holding his breath a little as 3 hours drew closer.  He was more worried about me on the bike than he thought he would be, so he was relieved to see me.  He called out to ask how I was.  I knew my split was faster (estimating around 3:15, can't get an official time yet) so I was happy.  I switched into my running shoes, grabbed my hat, and chugged some more Gatorade.  I turned to run, and James yells, "Well, let's finish it!"  Yes, LET'S FINISH THIS!

heading out for a little 13.1 mile run

fighting stance while running
Here's the run course, also pancake flat... there are no trees or shaded areas on the map because THERE ARE NO TREES OR SHADED AREAS ON THE COURSE!!!!
I told myself to run the first mile, and then I'd assess the situation.  I was sweating profusely.  I forgot to start my watch so I was a quarter mile off.  It was brutal.  When I cleared the neighborhood and got out on the more open part of the course, I could see the runners on the return to the finish.  And they were walking.... even those who were obviously tough competitors.  That was not a good sign.  I got to the first mile, and to the first aid station just after that.  I walked, drank Gatorade and water, grabbed the ice cold sponges and squeezed that everywhere... and I got the cups of ice and dumped that down my front and under my hat.  I started to run again.  I was doing alright, but it was just so very hot.  I found out later it was 95 deg, with a "feels like" temperature of 114.  Holy hell.

I chugged along.  It became a survival of oasis to oasis, in other words from one aid station to the next. At one point, I said out loud to some random person, "There's no better sound than that of ice jiggling around my sports bra."  He cracked up.  I came across 2 or 3 pukers.  I saw two people get taken by ambulance.  Whatever tiny amount of expectation I had about a possible time split was completely gone.  Surviving the heat was the name of the game.  I couldn't even think to eat anything.  My Huma gel stayed in my pocket; all the food on the course looked wholly unappetizing.  I was only ever moments away from puking.  I never ate a thing during that run, and ended up being thankful I had two of those PB&J's on the bike leg.

I chatted with a few people.  As a relay person, I had the scarlet letter "R" emblazoned on my calf.  I did have one nasty woman yell out as I passed her, "Must be nice to only  have do to the run."  Um, didn't you volunteer and sign up for this race?  So I called back to her, "Actually I did the bike and the run."  A guy piped up, "Oh, you drew both short straws!"  "No," I said, "I had surgery for my broken collarbone 7 weeks ago, so my husband did my swim for me."  The guy looks back at the nasty lady and says, "Oooooh, take that!" 

And so it came to pass that 13.1 miles came to pass... ugly, gruesomely hot, and gross.  I had a lot of time to think, and I spent that time thinking of all the people I know who need some prayers right now.  I was thinking about Ironman and what I need to get done these next 16 weeks.   I thought about life, my children, my family, my friends.... I remembered my Swim Bike Mom teammates.  And I got through it.  I rounded that last corner, and there was the finish line.  I started crying, hyper ventilating and clapping.  A finish line, any finish line, is a happy sight.  I couldn't believe I was there.  I crossed it and jumped! Run split:  2:43.  Yuck, but yay!

They had an amazing spread of food for the athletes, none of which I wanted to eat.  The volunteers on the course, in transition, and at the finish were just amazing.  Everyone had smiles for suckers like me enduring that heat.  It was a tough day, but a great day.

Oh, and for those wondering, my kids had a grand ol' time.  They went to the Baysox game Saturday night, which happened to be Star Wars night.  They got to have McDonalds, stay up late, watch fireworks, draw and play games with their amazing grandparents.  They are some lucky kids
Julia, checking out the shifty Stormtrooper
a creepy Darth Mal



 I am very glad that I went ahead with my Eagleman 69.1!  It was a cool experience to do it with James, and to be able to see part of what is in store for me in October.  Thank you so much for all the well wishes and good thoughts.  It is going to be a busy summer!


6 comments:

  1. You are amazing! This report brought a smile to my face. Good job my friend, good job!

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  2. Love you girl. You and T were in my thoughts a lot during the bike... My tough biker chicks!

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  3. Wow! You are tough as nails, lady!! Congratulations to you and James! And way to not let a little thing like SHOULDER SURGERY derail your 70.3 plans!! Proud to be your teammate!!! You are awesome!

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  4. You rock, Colleen Jam! Just wondering, does the little man swim and bike too??? Do you ever see him out there on your courses???

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    1. I have seen him Pam. he's a sneaky little guy!

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