I went into the Lavaman season with one main goal, break 3 hours. I friggin’ did it, even with the bum foot. Of course, whack job that I am, I find myself dampening my excitement with the thought that, had I been healthy, I would have gone faster. How sick is that?
So there it is, under 3 hours and I’m barely sore today, except to say that my foot feels like it’s made of concrete and two of my toes have been numb since I crossed the finish line. The physical therapist I saw this morning says that’s normal, that my altered gait inflamed the tissue around the nerve bundle under my middle toe. Fixing this right leg of mine is going to be all kinds of fun, but that’s for another post.
Now to talk about race weekend. Settle into a comfortable chair, grab some hydration, maybe a gu…this could take a while.
On the flight to Maui, Laurie (our coordinator) gave the flight attendants the script to read about how TNT was on the plane and what we were doing and how much money we’d raised. It was really cool to hear, as it was on the flight to Pac Grove, except that by the time the crew got around to reading it, every purple jacket I could see was wrapped around a sleeping teammate.
Four hours later I got my first taste of Hawaii, stepping off the plane into sunny rain and humidity. We flew to Kona and there was no rain, only a 60 mile per hour wind along the Queen K highway, also known as our bike course. A little unnerving, to say the least. Following hot on the heels of this beginning was our first run/swim preview. We did the last mile and a half or so of the run, which is the off-road, lava rock, coral and deep sand portion. I could barely walk it, my foot hurt so bad, let alone imagine running it.
The mythical A-bay was no better. The wind had the water stirred up into a chop that just slapped you in the face every time you breathed and the visibility was about four feet. Not exactly what we’d been sold all season. I got nervous.
On Friday, I got an early start, thanks to the three hours we gained. I couldn’t run, so I skipped the mile 4 preview and rode with Laurie to unload tri bags. We were scheduled to pick up our bikes at 10:30 and they were waiting for us in the parking lot, but coach made everyone run and swim first. The wind was still up and the water was still seriously choppy, but the visibility was way better. An encouraging sign.
Coach finally let us get our bikes and there was much rejoicing. I did get a flat right after I reinflated my tires, but it turned out to be a blown valve on the tube. We took some time to get the team’s bikes situated and headed out on our bike course preview, which was interesting, because we didn’t have our CO2 cartridges yet and just had to hope no one blew a tire.
We only rode about half the course, since the turnaround tunnel was closed to us until race morning. We got back to transition, packed up our bags and headed out to ride the run course, at least the part on the road. This doesn’t sound like much, but then you probably haven’t been through a Gurujan course preview. We previewed just under a third of the course but it took about an hour longer than the slowest competitor ran the race.
Friday night was a trip to the infamous LuLu’s. I won’t record anything that happened there here, but if you ever stop by, look for our dollars stapled to the ceiling.
Saturday, another time zone induced early start, but this time with a hangover. We did mentor-led previews since the coaches and coordinators had meetings. I went on the bike ride, which was sparsely attended. This turned out to be for the best, I think, since the wind was actually moving our bikes laterally across the bike lane while we were riding. The headwind on the way back scared the crap out of me.
A couple of hours in line and I got my race number, goodie bag, lunch ticket and souvenirs.
The pasta party that night kind of tripped me out. It was the first time on the trip that I think being a mentor hit me. It was also where I destroyed my pants. I’ll get to that in a minute.
We started at the mandatory pre-race meeting where they were going to explain all the new course changes. Of course, we had to do red carpet and so we only got to watch the first 30 minutes of the meeting. This means we got to watch the race directors thank each other. Then we left to form up and do the red carpet for the participants.
For those of you who don’t know, the pasta party is for all the TNT chapters in the race. All the mentors for all the chapters form a corridor and whoop and holler and make noise as the participants go into the party. After about thirty minutes of banging bam bam sticks and shouting, I started to realize I was burning valuable calories that I would need for the swim. I had to slow down or risk a 35 minute mile. The last people finally piled in and it was time to go eat, except that it turned out we were missing a couple. Which brings me to destroying my pants.
Team San Diego’s mentors reformed in the hallway to ring in the stragglers and in the process, I crouched down. I don’t know why, but when I did, the leg of my shorts just split. Our stragglers got there, after walking through a different door, so they missed us and my shorts gave their lives in vain. I had to hand out my mentee gifts with a gaping hole in the ass of my shorts and then I took the car and went to change. By the time I got back, I had missed the food and the speeches had started so I had a powerbar and watched from the back. It was at this point that I realized, watching the coach from the Silicon Valley team talk about riding his bike home from his mom’s funeral in Colorado, that I was torn between wanting my race to go well and seeing all my mentees finish. I was more interested in how they were going to do and whether they’d enjoy it than I was with my race.
Sunday, 4/6 – RACE DAY!!!!!!
5:00AM, meet at hotel, get mentee bikes set up. Take pictures. Ride to transition.
6:00AM, get into transition, rack bikes, get body marked and pick up timing chip. Get team photo, last team meeting. Get psyched.
7:30AM, men’s wave start. Take off on extremely confusing swim. The course was M-shaped, with three 180 degree turns and serious crowd issues.
Seriously, who switches to breast stroke on the inside lane of a course and starts frog-kicking? After one or two of those in the face, I wound up grabbing some guy’s foot and yanking him out of my way. I still got stuck behind a lot of tangled up bodies, which slowed me down. I was encouraged, however, by the fact that I started passing women after the second 180. It took me a minute to realize the import of this, since I at first thought I was being passed the women’s wave that started five minutes after me. And I had been passed by some, but most of them were relay swimmers from the wave that was five minutes ahead of me. Very cool. Also cool was the fact that, in the middle of the race, I was watching sea turtles mack on coral heads. Trippy. I don’t know if I saw three turtles, or one turtle three times, but who cares?
Out of the water and into T1. The longest barefoot jog of my life. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get into transition and I was limping pretty badly by the time I got there. Good thing the bike is before the run.
I thought I was out of T1 pretty fast, but then, I screwed up my splits since I had no idea where the timing mats were. I just slapped the button on my watch arbitrarily and hoped I was close.
The bike, even though it’s a PR, started pretty shakily. The road from T1 to the Queen K was designated no passing. I got stuck behind a girl on a bike that looked familiar, but who was going slower than I wanted to. Some guy behind me kept pulling up next to me (illegal) and then deciding not to break the rule, grumbling in frustration, and dropping back (also illegal). Finally, we got to the highway entrance and I was able to pass. It turned out that the biker in front was a teammate, who is way faster than she was riding. Anyway, I hit the gas at that point and took off. There was no wind that I could feel and I spent most of the ride in my aero bars, chasing this 28-year old girl. Actually, we kept leapfrogging, until we got to the one long, gradual climb and I started to get tired, so I throttled back and she passed me, for the last time.
It was then that some guy from another chapter rode up next to me and taunted me for letting a hot 28 year old spandex-clad tri chick get away. For lack of a witty response, I let him pass. I had some electrolytes and a gu, and put the hammer back down. I passed the guy and never saw him again.
At the turnaround, I got screwed on the bottle exchange because the last guy in line, who I was going to take a second bottle from, was about 8 feet tall and was holding the bottle above his head. Lacking a vert ramp, there was no way for me to grab it, so I did the last half with one water bottle.
The second half of the ride actually went better than the first. I was stronger and more consistent with my cadence and speed. The highlight of the ride was toward the end when I slowed down a bit to take my last gu. As I did that, some guy rode by me and said “I’ve been trying to catch you for the last few miles. You’re really strong.” Then he took off while I was putting away the wrapper. I didn’t catch him again, but I was definitely charged up going into T2.
It didn’t take more than 300 yards or so on the run to realize I was going to have a tough time. Running out of the transition area, we immediately went off road and my foot immediately started to throb and stiffen. I decided to walk to the road and start running there. That was when the first teammate passed me. Once I got to the street, I was able to run, albeit slowly, until the end of mile 2, when I had to start the second hill repeat. I got my popsicle stick (don’t ask), ran down, put ice my hat (sweet, heavenly ice in the hat) and started back up the hill, which was when my foot went completely numb. I walked halfway up the hill and then ran past the volunteer collecting popsicle sticks.
I ran again until the course went off-road during mile 5. I had to walk-limp-run-hop-walk-limp until I hit sand. On the sand, with the finish in sight, adrenaline took over. I ran into the line, only to be passed in the chute by another teammate. He beat me by 3 seconds. He apologized, but I don’t know why. The whole point of a race is to finish ahead of as many people as possible.
And that was that. For the rest of the afternoon, it was free food, free beer and hanging with wiped out, grinning teammates, hearing stories and discussing results. Overall, just enjoying the day. The capper was that Captain Emily placed. She took fourth in her age group and got the biggest cheer of everyone who got called. I have pictures.
Eventually, we had to pack our bikes (and take a moment of silence) and go home to clean up for the victory party. For some stupid reason, I didn’t nap. So team, this is why most of you didn’t see me at the party. I bonked. I’ll do better at the finale, I promise.
I think that’s it for now. I’ll probably talk more about the PT process as it continues, and I’ll definitely report on Wildflower. Until then, alo…no, I can’t do it.