It's been a while since I posted. After my last post I went to a duathlon, and I hate to write this because of how it sounds, but a duathlon I could and probably would have won. Instead, my left calf locked up 3/4 of a mile into the run and I somewhat shamefacedly dropped out of the race, limped back to transition and worked the first run in and the bike in. Eventually I was able to do a three mile warm-down with a friend at the race.
I did not run after that until Thursday, just three days before the race on Sunday. I went out for a forty-five minute run and confirmed two things. The first was that the calf was in good enough shape to stand up to half-marathon pace on a board flat course. The second was that my right knee was injured.
I'm not someone who talks about aches and pains as an injury- I consider an injury to be something that potentially stops you from racing or training. I'd hit a wicked pothole about a week earlier and my knee had smashed into the stem of my Elite. I forgot about it the next day. Because my calf was so sore, and because I had not been running, when I again noticed the knee felt sore a few days later I'd dismissed the pain a by-product of favouring my bad leg and driving hard on the downstroke of my pedal. For the second time in as many weeks, I was wrong.
I started icing the knee three times a day, and hoped for the best, but what was I really thinking ? I was going to go and complete a half-ironman with a bad knee a week after a few measley calf spasms had knocked me out of a duathlon ?
Yeah, I was thinking that. We got there early enough Saturday for me to shake hands with Coach Troy, get my bike tightened up by the guys from Elite, test ride, swim, and then run. The best part was the swim. I spent more like 20 minutes in the Choptank, swimming out to the first buoy and I felt like it hadn't been 7 weeks since I'd been in the murk of open water. However, I was doing more knuckle-dragging than Tyrol. On Saturday the Choptank was more like the Walk-tank. I got of the water and ran and my knee hurt for 10 out of 10 minutes.
Since there was no refrigerator in the room, icing the knee was out. I put some ironman ointment on it.
Race day- I went down to the race with Steve. I found my bike, which I had racked at about 2 PM, had been moved from where I'd placed it to the opposite side of the rack. I never did figure out why. There was no good reason for it. Call it the Amy Rice effect...
I was able to get in the water about 7 minutes before our wave went off. Avril Lavinge's Girlfriend was kicking around in my head because out the 142 songs on my iPod shuffle I could find that one but I couldn't find Evanescence's Lithium. Try having that crammed in your skull for 4 hours and 39 minutes...
The swim was different than any other race swim that I've had in that I was able to settle in and swim with the same group of guys for the whole 1.2 miles (or however far it was, some of the swimmers seem to think it might have been short). I felt like I was herding people who were not online with the buoys (I had a remarkably straight swim). Until Kenny and some of the other blue caps came roaring over me, I felt pretty good. I even passed a few white caps (men and women 55 and up, who has started 10 minutes before me). I climbed out of the water and saw the clock and my hopes for the day just crashed around me, however. 54:20.
I multiplied that by 2 and was horrified. That would be a 1:48:40 Ironman swim. What had happened ?
I have to admit to not really paying much attention to the wave schedule, and after more than half an hour in the water, I was not thinking about anyone but myself and the people around me I wanted to beat to the mat. About halfway to my bike, I realised that the clock had started well before I'd started swimming. So I subtracted 15 minutes and that left me with 39:20. Not good, as I'd done 37 the other time I'd done the race, but that was slow Ironman pace and to be honest I pretty much swim at the same speed whether it's a sprint or an ironman.
Transition was quick enough. Putting socks on wet feet is always a challenge, and I only crammed one finger in each hole in my gloves, confident I could finish pulling them on with my teeth once I was going. I beat most of the guys I came out of the water with to the bike mat and was off. Eventually I realised I'd started swimming with 20 minutes on the clock and had pounded out a 34:20 swim. Psyche !
At first I was passing a lot of guys in my age group and more than a few guys in their 30s (who had a five minute advantage being a wave behind me). I was feeling good early. My knee initially loosened up and the wind, if there was any, was at my back. I will admit to getting a little annoyed by the drafting. I really lost it when this one overweight 42 year-old who I'd easily passed went by me in a pack of five guys. I sat up, let them go- getting that 'are you all right' look you get from people who draft as they go by and you don't jump on- waited about ten seconds, and then went on a 30 mph sprint that made me feel oh so good (and then maybe not so good). My heart rate must have soared, I was breathing like, well, a sprinter, and I realised that I was being stupid. Here I'd said the previous day that I was just going to go out and have a solid race, that given the fact a week earlier it hurt to walk and also wanting to bounce back from Arizona, I was just going to try and re-establish a positive track. I was angry, and I ride fast when I'm angry, but I was probably 35 miles from the finish.
And of course the same group went by. I asked the overweight guy if he knew the rules and he ignored me, which is exactly what I should have done. I memorized his singlet, because I planned to see him on the run. Don't get mad, just run fast. Then we headed into the wind. I swear, there was wind- I would look to the side of the road and the tall grass was not moving, the leaves on the trees looked painted, but there was wind. I probably lost 3-4 minutes in the wind, but I was determined not to blow myself up in the wind. I'd needed about 1:40 to run the half-marathon last time I'd been here and that was just silly.
Oh yeah. My knee also was hurting. As I continued pushing forward, I didn't feel like I was losing any time- I was at the cadence I wanted to be at. But the pain in the knee, which was below the kneecap, had spread to the outside of the knee, the quadricep and my groin. Ow.
Then I was out of the wind. I was able to pick my cadence up. This was a good thing. While riding into the wind, I was starting to be passed by some fast 30 year olds (I have to say it, in groups of two more often than not). I was also passing exclusively 55 years old plus men and women. This is not as ego-boosting as you might think. I was saying 'You're doing great, keep it up' as I went by them, but where were the other 40 year olds ?
I found them in the last ten miles and started passing them regularly again, but I still kept it steady. I wanted to have a good run.
As I headed in the final stretch, in the last mile, I saw the overweight 42 year-old draft king running out maybe half a mile into the run. I noted where he was, tucked that information away, and headed back into transition. My second transition was really good, about two minutes. I left 4 cliff block shot packs in the back of my singlet. I never touched them...
I looked at the clock, finally knowing exactly where I was in the race, and with a stated time goal of 'under 4:40', I knew I'd have to run under 1:30, which meant being in the sixes. I thought that was going to be hard, and I would have to be patient to do it.
The first mile was good. Yes, the knee hurt and everything around it hurt. But some pain reduces function, and some doesn't, and this didn't. I kept it simple, started passing people that had passed me late in the bike. I caught the draft king before mile three and didn't acknowledge him. I just went by. After that, it was just run, although at about 5 miles, I got passed by a 40 year old who really made me feel a little embarrassed by how well he was running. We caught up in the chute after the race and he actually complimented me, and I told him in no uncertain terms that he was the one who had a great run.
I saw Mark Foster first and he was flying. Joe Whelan came soon after, then Kenny, and a little later, Bill.
The run was uneventful, which was what I wanted. I took endurolytes twice. I stopped eating, and by eating I mean drinking Gatorade, after 8 miles. That was probably too soon, but I had drank well on the bike and eaten lots of blocks. I was still passing people, although a couple of 30 somethings did slip by.
I caught Bill at 12 miles and I could see that he was having a good race and pushing with everything he had. I didn't want to interrupt him, so I just said 'hey, Bill, keep it up.'
Matt and I hooked up soon after that. We ran down another 40 year old, but he was saving something and passed us at about 12.6. Matt wanted to chase him, but I told him I was done, and I appreciated his offer but he should go. The guy was a little too much for either of us, and I was able to get back up to Matt and we did finish together...
Overall, this was not a bad race for me. I was able to come back from something that really aggravated me, overcome probably the worst pain I've raced with (and I'm sure it pales compared to what other people go through) and PR the course. My overall standing was not what I would have liked, but I think this was a good race that kind of puts me back on the road towards where I want to be.