vegas 70.3 world championships: the house always wins

okay, i caved and decided to write up a race report. TREAT YO’ SELF 2012 was officially declared over yesterday when i realized i had one too many P.S.L.s and the excess sugar was making me feel crabby and miserable. or maybe it was the back-up of crazy emails and other requests in my work inbox driving me nuts, but that’s another story. vegas…. vegas, vegas, vegas. something on sunday gave me the itch to go for it and take a big gamble – maybe it was being around all the slot machines and poker tables, or maybe it was the blaring “world championships” signs adorned everywhere, or maybe it was me feeling inadequate about being around so many fit, perfect, body fat-less people. anyway, i made a big gamble by pushing too hard in the first half of the bike and, well, learned the hard way that the house usually wins.

the house this time was the blazing hot las vegas desert that sucked up every ounce of water in my system and spat me out somewhere around mile 40 where i had a meltdown of epic proportions. but before we go to that dark, dark place, let’s back-up some first.

let's get it started

i woke up bright and early as the 3:50am wake-time felt late given i was still mostly on east-coast time and had crashed about 8pm the night before. it was a quick drive to T1 and a rather anti-climactic set-up of transition. thanks to the transition bags, all i really really had to do was put my bottles on my bike and pump up the tires. transition closed at 6am; my race didn't start until 7:50. as a result, the next two+ hours were spent sitting cross-legged on a blue carpet around a ton of other anxious athletes. surprisingly, people were friendlier than expected and got to chat with quite a few other participants and cheered on the pros as they ran past us and around the monstrous t-1. after what felt like an eternity, my wave finally started to line up and get corralled into the water.

the waiting game

i should have known i was in for a thrash-fest when even the swim to the pre-start area was rough. each wave would basically get set in the water for several minutes while waiting for the wave prior to go off. and since i didn't feel like treading water for 10-minutes, when our wave entered, i beelined for the pilings that surrounded the bridge we were starting under. i managed to get there early enough and seat myself on a ledge to avoid exerting more energy than needed. a few girls clung to kayaks but for the most part we were lined up along the shore and on the bridge.

when the wave ahead of us was sent off and they announced 3-minutes, people SPRINTED to secure a good line on the start. i was slightly ambitious and went farther right than normal to line up with the buoys and got pummeled a few times before the (what seemed like) interminable wait for the gun to actually go off. they gave us the 30-second countdown and girls were inching forward about a meter every 10 seconds. by the time they finally sent us off, the course had nearly been cut to a 1.15 mile swim...

getting violated in lake las vegas

and we were off! i got jabbed in the ribs, an elbow to the face, some girl insisted on continuously shoving her hand up in my biz-ness. SERIOUSLY? i was NOT having this swim. it was a much faster pace than used to for the first 500-meters or so but that was the only way i could keep with the pack and avoid getting swum over completely. maybe i just need to toughen up but these girls were mean - i accidentally/barely grazed the foot of a girl in front of me and she kicked the daylights out of my left hand - so hard it's still sore four days later. sheesh.

somewhere around the final turn back home, i lost the feet of the fastish main pack i had been tailing and instead spent some time swimming off the shoulder of another girl until she slowed down and i decided to forge ahead alone. the only thing that kept me sane were the evenly spaced buoys every 100 so i knew exactly how much suffering i had left. near the end all i could think was GET ME OUT OF THE WATER! and i actually found myself looking forward to the terrible, terrible t1.

t1

i say terrible and here's proof: the swim exit is on your right. transition is on your left.

when i took this photo, i was standing on a bridge that has more elevation than on the entire eagleman course alone. you had to run out of the exit, run up and over this hill, down through some smushy grass destroyed by the 2,000-plus people that had exited before me, before you ran down into the racks to find your bike. but, wait.... there's more! once you found your bike, you had to scale a mountain that was so steep it required not one but two switchbacks to get up it. may i remind you that you're hauling a bike and either barefoot or wearing clunky-ass bike shoes? yeah, not fun. okay, rant over.

biking on mars

my HR was out of control coming out of transition. i knew about 400-m in that the bike was not going to be a pretty affair. something just felt off - either in my bike fit or in my ability to generate any sort of watts at a respectable effort. despite the ominous feeling at the start, i put on my best poker face and attempted to bluff my body -- deciding that i may as well stick to my initial goal watts and soldier onward. (might i add that my "goal" watts were self-inflated heading into this since i hadn't had my quarq for about two-months thanks to some pesky battery issues so i might as well assume that my numbers had improved, right? apparently wrong.) 

let me describe the scene to you: imagine mars. now imagine mars got knocked out of orbit and was, say, somewhere right between mercury and venus so it was a billion degrees. that was the bike course. of course i'm exaggerating slightly since it i felt like death out there but see for yourself here:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rimk6m1eaFk] so somewhere around mile 20 or 30 i must have blacked out. that's really the only explanation because i went into the valley of death with enough gels for 3-hours of biking and managed to come out with two extras despite thinking i was very on top of my regular nutrition. i don't remember people passing me - although approximately half my age group passed me somewhere out on the martian terrain (not really - it was "only" sixteen people - but i did feel like i was moving backward).

i also almost forgot to add that the road was VERY narrow given the number of cyclists out there and, no, it was not closed. a lot of the traffic was boat traffic as people went out to enjoy lake mead. one truck pulling a boat, in particular, did not realize that the boat he was towing was wider than his Ford-something-or-other. as a result, the boat was about five inches from hitting my bike. i screamed, swerved out of the way and one of the women behind me was like "HOLY S&!T are you okay?!" obviously i was but, man, was that scary.

the implosion, followed by crying in a desert

at approximately mile 40 of the bike, i imploded. i could barely hold my low Z2 watts and was sure i was going to careen off the next corner, no one would find me and i would die a slow painful death in the desert. seriously though, i did worry about passing out on my bike, which is one of the most unpleasant feelings when you're alternating between going 40mph down crazy windy descents or crawling back up them at .08 mph.

i may or may not have had a moment of ugly crying where i was like "W.T.F. IS WROOOOONG with me?!?" simply put, i have never felt that bad (or weak) on the bike. my back was killing me, my saddle was rubbing in all the wrong places and i started having trouble holding aero. the last 15-miles were terrible. my pace says it all: 13.94 mph. ouch. the only people i had left to pass were those also eligible for medicare. i have never wanted to get off my bike and throw it into a sane dune more than last sunday.

t2

i don't know what happened in t2 except i ran around in a few circles because i had no clue where to get my bag or where to go next. the chair in the women's tent was so cruel - you sit down to change your shoes and then try to get up... but that's the last thing you want to do. but i peeled myself off of it, tunnel visioned toward the course (missing the sunscreeners - d'oh!) and joined the parade of carnage that was the three-loop run course.

running with zombies

riding past the running zombies as i biked into t2, i questioned whether i would be forced to shuffle-walk the entire 13.1 mile course and hate every second of it. that's why when i emerged from the changing tent, i was so surprised to actually be running. the first and last miles of this course absolutely were the saving graces of this run course. i was able to get moving and rediscover that, yes, my legs still (kind of) worked. loops one and two were decent but nothing to write home about. basically, you would do a segment at a good clip on the downhill, but then you'd have to go back up wherever you came and then i'd spend the entire uphill frantically searching for that damn turn-around (three loops and i could never figure out where they each were) or the next aid station.

at the mandatory meeting, they had promised aid stations "oh, definitely every mile or so." THEY LIED. there must have been a few magical aid stations i missed because there were only three on the 4-and-change mile run course, meaning there were some stretches with nary an aid station in sight. but even when they *did* appear, my late wave and pitiful bike meant three things: no ice. hot water. hot perform. do you know how nasty it is slurp down sticky hot perform? i do.

 dicking around in aid stations

the only upside of the dearth of aid stations was that it kept me from wasting more time on the run as i have the horrible HIM tendency to take my sweet time making my way through the aid station. so even if i was clipping off mid-7-minute miles, i was chucking all that time away as i walked through each aid station like a college kid at their first open bar. water. perform. coke. water. perform. perform. perform. water. at about mile nine or so, i managed to grab an entire bottle of hot perform and forced myself to chug that stuff on the run, meaning i didn't have an excuse for walking through the next aid station.

magical final mile. 

lap three was probably my best because the end was near and i knew i would finish without ending up like one of the many people doubled over puking in the bushes. or laying sprawled out on the concrete. or sitting in a lawn chair with 3 bags of ice on them to cool down their core body temp. at that point in the race, as it was 100+ degrees and on a furnace of a hot hot blacktop, about 1/5 people were probably walking. yes, i definitely felt like death - but at least i could see the light at the end of the tunnel finish line.

i passed a lot of people in the final loop, including at least several of the 17 girls i would re-pass during the run.

the last mile or so is downhill and you can basically see the finish line that you've been oh so cruelly forced to pass two times before thanks to the three loops. once i made it to the top of the hill, i decide that i was going to run until i blacked out. i opened up my stride and demolished the downhill. seriously, my last mile was averaging 6:11/mile.

i came into the finish with a grimace and collapsed as a volunteer held me up. i was completely incoherent and felt like my legs were going to give out so the volunteer was basically strong-arming me to keep me up and moving as someone ripped off my chip, they threw medal/hat/tee at me and then put me in this giant stuffy tent with food that only made me want to vomit. some people were, mere feet away from the trays. i fetal positioned next to a stinky trashcan before i realized that the tent was only making me feel worse.

i got up, stumbled and lay down on the concrete outside the tent for quite some time before i realized i still felt terrible and dizzy so i went to the med tent for ice and water since there was none to be found elsewhere. thankfully no IV but just peeking inside the med tent gave some serious perspective on how miserable the conditions were out there.

final thoughts

i debated whether or not to even bother with times but for the sake of full disclosure, i struggled through the following:

  • Swim: 33:59 (non-wetsuit)
  • Bike: 3:15:16 (OUCH - 45-min slower than my last race)
  • Run: 1:57:38 (again, not that pretty)
  • Overall: 5:53:06

i never expected to PR on such a hellacious course but to be a full hour off of my best time was certainly discouraging. if you couldn't tell from the novel above, it wasn't just the time but my overall performance that left me feeling so crummy. i continued to be a baby about it and cried on my walk home back to the hotel. i had left my phone in the car back at t1 (honestly, logistical nightmare) so i showered and dialed my parents from the hotel.

thank god my parents are more sensible than i am because they reminded me that this was only my second 70.3 ever and that i've only been racing for two seasons—which meant (in my mind) that most of the other girls likely had years and years of endurance to rely on. in all, i ended up 31st in my AG, or in the top 50% of those who qualified, which does leave me feeling slightly better about sunday's performance.

i'm looking forward to having fun in my next two races (rev3 half-full and rev3 florida, see previous post) and then spending the off-season building up strength and endurance so i can head into 2013 stronger and faster than ever. onwards and upwards!!