How Bad Do I Suck at Triathlon?
Time to Start Blogging About Something Else
Wow! What a let down. I knew my time wouldn’t be great, but c’mon man!
Last Sunday I participated in the Branson 70.3 Ironman race. I say ‘participated’ because I didn’t ‘compete’. I was present. I, in fact, finished the race, but only after several others finished ahead of me.
My goal was to do just a little better than last year. In 2011 I finished in 7:10, and it took 4:05 to get through the bike course. So I thought I’d push it just a bit more on the bike and get done that much sooner. Everything went as planned, until I started running, my strongest event.
The day started early at Moonshine Beach. Normally it’s an Army Corps of Engineers park, and the water is surprisingly clear. The water was also surprisingly warm. At 74 degrees it was warmer than the air, but still wetsuit legal. I got my transition all set up and got my wetsuit on and decided I should hit the port-a-potty once more before my wave started.
Normally urinating in a port-a-potty is uneventful, if not really smelly. You don’t expect to be put on display when you’re in there. There were about fifteen port-a-johns lined up but there were only five or six lines of people taking turns to get into one. Everyone was standing 10-15 feet back from the doors and nobody was going into a john unless they saw someone come out. There was no one going down the line knocking on doors looking for an empty one.
So with that knowledge I stepped into the head and didn’t feel it necessary to lock the door. About midstream I hear a knock. “Just a second!” I say. Knock again. “Just a second!” At this point the door opens and a young lady is standing there (mid 20s?). If I opened a port-a-potty door and there was anyone in there I’d probably get that door shut in half a second and be embarrassed. This girl lingered! I tried to keep my back to her but I turned my head around and looked her in the eye. She did not meet my gaze. I swear to you it seems like she was trying to get a look at my johnson. It’s like she was trying to see what I was holding in there. And it’s not like she was, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” and then slammed the door. It was more like, “Oh, let me see what this guy is holding over there. What is that? Oh well, he obviously doesn’t want me to see. I guess I’ll close the door and go wait in line.”
So with that out of the way, I decided to go for a swim with a few other guys 40-44 years old. I finished this 1.2 mile swim in 48:04 in 2011, in 2012 I finished in 48:12. Lost a few seconds, but consistent, uh? Pretty slow, too. I don’t know why I swim so slowly, but my wife diagnosed my stroke and said I’m “methodical.”
On to the bike. Last year I had no idea about my pace, speed, or anything while riding. So this year I brought my Garmin just so I could make sure I maintained some sort of minimum speed. I calculated that if I averaged 17 miles per hour I could finish in about three hours. After the first loop I could see that wasn’t going to happen. There’s about 3,000 feet of total ascent. If you don’t believe the hills in Branson are steep and long, read anyone else’s blog that did this race. I haven’t read one where the blogger says, “There were hills, but they weren’t that bad.” Up hill I’d hit 7-9 miles per hour. Down hill I’d get up to around 38 MPH. Others say they went much faster (50+). I’m too much of a wuss to stay in the aero position on those down hills.
I finished the 56 mile hilly, non-flats, bike course in 3:44! That’s 20 minutes better than 2011. I was happy getting off the bike. I started running, and my happiness ended.
As soon as I got off the bike and started running pain went through my midsection and around to my back. Not my lower back, it was all up around my ribcage. At first I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I’d never experienced this kind of pain before. My first thought was I had eaten too many goos and my gut was reacting, but it wasn’t that kind of pain. After probably three or four miles I finally figured out what was going on.
For whatever reason the muscles in my back started to spasm. When they did it constricted my ribcage and it got hard to breathe. I would literally have to force myself to take deep breaths, but when I did, more spasms. So I would slow down and walk until things calmed down. Then I’d start running, and with each step I could feel the muscles getting tighter and tighter. As they’d tighten they forced these little grunts out of me. So as people ran by they’d hear, “Huh, ugh, uh, erh.” Finally I would have to walk again.
I really thought I’d get through this after the after the first few miles, but it persisted the whole race. I had to walk several times. I stopped and bent over a few times. At one point I crouched down and some dude told me not to stop and to not sit down, so I kept going. Once while I was walking a girl walked past me and said she didn’t know if it hurt more to run or walk. I said walking hurt my pride but running hurt my body.
I finally finished the 13.1 mile run in 2:55. In 2011 it was 2:06. I was disappointed to say the least.
Well, this is long enough already. I have more to talk about, like the tallest guy ever to ride a bike and other observations while racing. I’ll have to save them for another post. Sorry, no pics. My wife and I didn’t even think to take the camera.