Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Walk of Pain ( I mean, shame)

I'm done.
I HATE triathlons!
I'm out.
When does the "fun" start?
I quit.

That was my thought process on Sunday as I miserably and painfully trudged through the 13.1 mile "run" portion of the South Carolina Half Iron man. My worst ever run a reality.

I texted Ryan after finishing: Horrible-worst race of my life. Never again!

But now with a few days distance-- but mostly because I can now walk without shooting pain from my feet and think I have not suffered permanent injury-- I can talk about the race in a better light.

Make no mistake.

I am utterly devastated by my performance. I absolutely want a do-over but sadly that isn't going to happen anytime soon because as soon as my feet are better I am going to dive head first into marathon training and pray and keep my fingers crossed that I get to have good race sometime this fall.

My silver lining is that you gotta have a bad race to really appreciate the great ones. Right?

And me? In retrospect. I think I've had more good races than bad. I just don't race enough so when that bad one comes along it is a bit harder to mentally get over it.

And if I don't have a good race then I am done racing. Maybe it just isn't something I do well and while not always the brightest Crayola in the pack I am smart enough to not keep up the motions of the Sisyphean stone.

Whatever. I so totally not smart.

Remember: Moth to a flame.

Damn me for writing this crap down. Ink is so freaking permanent and it always stains.

Okay, so here are the basics:

1.2 mile swim: 35 minutes 48 seconds. 1:40 per 100yds
T1: 2:26
56 mile bike: 3:07:43 17.9 mph
T2: 2:20
13.1 mile run: 2:22
Final time: 6:10:14

As the physical pain from the race fades I am able to get back to the fact that until the run I was having a PREFECT race. And yes, I knew it during the race too. And I was VERY, very happy about it.
This was only my second triathlon ever. My first a women's only sprint over a year ago.

But oh boy.The run. Did it ever disappoint.

You know. The only part of the race that mattered to me and where I really had expectations--expectations that I trained hard for, have experience in and expected without a shadow of doubt to meet them--was so awful I don't know if I will ever be able to get past it. It was by far, hands down the absolute worst, most painful and frustrating run of my entire life. The experience has left me seriously questioning my abilities as a runner. And because of that I am having a hard time getting past my disappointment. I am just embarrassed and sad about it.

Having said that I will now move on to bore you to tears with all the tiny details of a "race report." Read on, or move on to another blog where the blogger is a successful and happy triathlete. Me? I'm bitter and bitchy and a total Debbie Downer.

The weekend began Saturday where I completely lost my shit because one of my tires was flat.
The one that I changed.
I insisted on having new tubes put on both wheels. I wanted to take it to a "professional" but Ryan took offense and insisted he could do it. You would have thought I told him he didn't have a penis or asked him to hand over his man card the way he was so adamant about him changing it. I wondered out loud if it was going to bother him that it would be his name that I cursed out loud on the course if I got a flat and he said he wouldn't mind a single bit since he wouldn't be there to hear it.

After new tubes and packing up Ryan and the kids dropped me at Steph and Doug's. Ryan warned Doug about how awesome I am on a car ride and told him to not let me have any water. We made the 3+ hour boring ride to Greenwood, SC and as it was Steph who had to pee first so we didn't have to stop because of me. Just saying.

Upon arriving in Greenwood we went first to packet pick up. I was really sad to be given a purple swim cap. I really think purple is just such an unfortunate color but what can you do--all the girls were purple (well except the really fast ones. Must work on being really fast so I will not have to don the purple. Lots of work to do.).

We scoped out the transition area and the swim.
Steph and I poked our toes in the water.
It felt about 80 degrees to me but magically by that evening the water cooled to 73 degrees to make it wetsuit legal. Didn't matter for me since I had no wetsuit.

Then we went to check out the transition area and figure out where our racks would be. I was smack in the middle. Doug and Steph were near the swim finish. Steph was just happy to be near the johnny on the spots.

I practiced running from the swim finish to my bike rack and then to the bike/run start from my rack. I really think that made a HUGE difference in my transition performance. Not. Though I did not have any problem remembering where my bike was--it being one of the onlies without aerobars and all.

After Steph made Doug drive the run course so she could know where all the johnny on the spots were we went straight to Outback Steak's for dinner. Steak and sweet potatoes and, of course, beer.

After dinner we checked into our hotel. The Clarion. Clean. Nice and not so quiet. I was very aware of what everyone was doing all nice. Apparently everyone else needed to get and pee a million times too.

I got in bed at 8 pm and read but I don't think I really fell asleep until after 9 and then, of course, I woke up and pee'd every hour until 4 am when I got up to get dressed.

I forced down a whole wheat bagel with some peanut butter and ate a small bowl of dry Uncle Sam's cereal. Then I drank lots of water and a cup of coffee. After stretching for a bit it was time to go. I met Steph and Doug in the lobby and we drove to race site. I took my picture in the car on the way there. See how smart I was to bring a headlamp? See how happy I look?

What an idiot.

I don't know why I thought we would be early but we weren't. At all. We got there just before 6 am (when transition opened) and had to park what seemed like a million miles away from transition. Kevin, a fellow blogger, happened to park right next to us. Be sure to check out his blog for more race pictures. I am coming in right before him on the bike.

I went to work right away setting up my transition. I was all business (read sarcasm). I was the second one there on my rack so I had the opportunity to ask the poor guy next me lots of questions. He was really nice and patiently and politely answered them. There was a girl trying to meditate near me and I saw her try to muffle a laugh a few times at some of my, I am certain, very intelligent questions.

Wow! Look how much stuff I have.
There was lots to do: body marking, getting chip, pee (a lot), and worst of all get weighed! It was awful. I weighed 8 lbs more than I had the week before when I was at the doctor for a check up. Talk about carbo loading! Needless to say I could have done without knowing that. Immediately I felt way fat in my spandex, cause, well, I was. Ugh. Reality is a beotch.
I spent the rest of the time obsessing about my fatness and trying to burn some of it off by chatting with fellow triathletes, zipping around transition and dancing to the blaring techno music.

Finally at 7:20 it was time for us to make our way to the swim. I took this picture right before walking over there. Goggles. Pretty, I know. Just wait for the next one for what I look like after I take the goggles off. . .

Walking over to the swim I thought about all the other things that might be more fun than a half iron man; backpacking for 3 days without toilet paper, toothpicks under the fingernails, a week in a Peruvian prison, a 50 mile trail run in an ice storm . . .

I got to watch everyone finish struggling into their wetsuits and counted the 20 or so of us that were braving it without one. I tried to listen to what the director was saying but I couldn't hear anything--I think I had my purple swim cap pulled too tightly over my ears. But some guy managing the swim explained the course for me and I am so glad he did because I totally would have been swimming in the wrong direction. I am sure I would have figured it out.

The first group to go was all the professionals and then I had to wait for 3 or 4 other groups to go. All us purple caps were told to get in the water. We had to walk down some stone steps and then jump off the wall into the water. Then we had to tread water for what seemed like 5 minutes. I am sure it wasn't really that long and I didn't care anyway since I was thrilled that I didn't have to touch the creepy lake bottom. Already off to a good start! I wasn't cold at all either--another bonus and I was totally ready to swim. Yay swimming.

The foghorn went and we all started swimming. I purposely reigned it in since even in the pool I have a tendency to go a little crazy on that first 100. Well before I reached the first buoy I was well in front of the main pack and definitely behind the super speedsters. I was in a nice little empty pocket by myself. After I made the turn at the first buoy I caught up with the stragglers from the wave that had gone 4 minutes before ours. I never felt particularly crowded but I definitely made an effort to avoid the swimmers doing breast stroke. Nothing like a leg jab to the flank to ruin a good swim.

After awhile I didn't see any purple caps but only bright blue and light blue and then white caps. I did see one guy with a snorkel and I had to lift my head up and make sure that is what I really saw. Yep, guy with snorkel and swim mask. I didn't know that was allowed! Gave me a good laugh and was glad there were other non hard core athletes out there too.

I picked it up in the final 500 and was elated to be done. Time had flown by and upon exiting I heard someone say "Wow! And she doesn't even have a wetsuit." I certainly wasn't the first or fastest girl by any means but I think I was probably the first purple cap girl out of the water sans wetsuit. It ain't much but after how the run went down I'll take whatever compliment I can get.

I ran to my rack and I took this picture. Brace yourself, it is a little scary.

I put my helmet on first and then socks and bike shoes (no flying mount or dismount for me), glasses and gloves, grabbed my peanut butter crackers and ran out of transition. I waited until they told me I could get on my bike and then I was off.

And then I got passed. A lot. By everyone. Only one girl passed me in the first 5 or so miles but after the ten mile point lots of girls passed me. And then people kept right on passing me until around 45 or so miles and then at the end I did start passing people that had passed me--but not many and that was only because they slowed down. I was very even paced the whole time.

It was really, really depressing to get passed so much but there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. No one believes me but I saw 2 different people snicker at my bike. Now, I don't know for a fact they were laughing at my bike but they looked at my bike and then me and then chuckled. So I am pretty sure it was either the bike or my fatness. So I was a little sad on the bike. It was lonely. 56 miles is a long way with no one to chat with and no music. So I ate a lot of snacks for entertainment: 2 packages of peanut butter crackers, 3 gu's, HEED and water. Lots of water.

Luckily the bike was for the most part uneventful but also, unfortunately, quite boring. I kinda was holding my breath the whole time and was just saying please don't get a flat, please don't wreck over and over again. It was by far the easiest 56 mile course I have ridden as far as elevation goes. I never once had to get out of the saddle. The road itself was quite bumpy but so long as I didn't get a flat I didn't care.

The only thing that perpetually annoyed me--besides just getting passed by everyone--was having someone pass and then whip right in front of me and put me in a draft zone; thus forcing me to drop back and go slower to avoid getting a penalty. Then they would decide to eat a snack and would slow down. So of course I would pass them knowing that in a few minutes they would pass me again. Why in the world would you not wait until after your snack to pass someone? I just found it very obnoxious. Not to mention there were several times it happened when the penalty lady was going by so I had to be very vigilant and drop back. Last thing I needed was a 4 minute penalty for drafting when I was already getting my ass handed to me.

I did pick up the pace a tiny bit at the end because I was so excited to be done. I was feeling good and was eager to get off the bike and run. Not that I necessarily was dying to run but I knew that I would be that much closer to being done. Which was what I really wanted.

Here is the picture I took right before heading out for the run. I think this might be the last time I smiled all day.

I ran out transition with so much optimism. I reminded myself I could run no faster than an 8:30 pace until mile 3--as I had practiced in my mini triathlons I've done for the past 5 Fridays--and then I could continue to pick up the pace. I felt pretty good for the first quarter mile and then I hit the tiniest of uphills. My calves immediately locked up and I slowed it down to 9:30 miles. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and vowed to keep running through it. It hurt so bad! A minute later I was walking. I just absolutely cannot run when my calves are locked. I was so, so mad! But I decided I would stop to pee as I did kinda have to go. I figured that would get my heart rate down and I would feel more comfortable and could maybe better run. I knew time wise I would good.

So after a bit of the walk/run shuffle a potty appeared and I ducked in. I came out and gingerly started to run. I was into the second mile and out on the stretch of the course that was in the blazing sun. It was hot but not really all that bad. My calves were starting to relax and I tried to run and find my pace. I thought I was doing pretty good and then I looked down: 6:56. Damn it! Didn't feel like that so I reeled it in and I checked again still in the low 7's. I realized then that I wasn't feeling either of my feet. So weird. My calves started hurting and I had this crazy shooting pain in my hip. So I started walking. Everything below the waist just hurt.

By mile 3 I was ready to quit. Doug passed me at this point and I told him as much. He said "whatever" not at all believing me. I continued to struggle with my numb feet and did the run/walk shuffle. And believe me, I wasn't the only one. There were more people shuffling that actually running. And I saw so many people pass me in compression socks that I started jonesing big time for mine. I don't think they would have made a difference but at the time maybe.

In the fourth mile I stopped and took off my shoes. I wanted to check my feet. I still could not feel them at all and it was totally freaking me out. The feeling in the right was starting to come back but the left one I could not even feel my fingers touching it. Everything below the ankle on the left side was completely numb. (Right side just the toes.)It felt from the ankle down like I had a wooden block for a foot. And well, that is a little scary when you actually still have a foot there and not a wooden block.

Everyone around me, despite their apparent discomfort, were so amazingly encouraging. Keep going forward. You can do it! You look great! Keep it up! I wanted to smack them all.

What the hell is wrong with these people, I thought. Clearly they look as miserable as me, some even more so--especially the ones that I passed puking or limping worse than I was-- but they were all so much more determined. I just wanted to quit. I started trying to form a plan on how you quit.

By mile 5 my feet were still numb and Steph caught up to me. She was the biggest ball of joy you have every seen. I started to tell her all my maladies and she exchanged with me about her GI issues. I told her I was going to quit but she didn't believe me either. She left me when I stopped yet again to take off my shoe and look at my foot.

So puzzling. I could move it but not feel it. I kept trying to run but it was so awkward and uncomfortable and really made my hip and other leg hurt. I guess from the awkward stride. You really do need to feel your feet to run I think.

By the end of the 6th mile the feeling was back in both my feet and it was like little knifes were stabbing me and sending electric shocks up my leg. I have never ever, in the 6 marathons I have run, 11 half marathons, and countless 10k's and long training runs ever experienced anything like it. There were a few times it was so painful I started to cry. Then I would walk and chide myself and curse that I was having such a terrible run. I was so, so angry because I had trained so hard and so specifically to be able to run well. It was really the focus of my training. It was like having studied hard for a test and you get wrong all the material you studied and right the stuff you'd never even seen before. Really, really pissed me off.

I hated every second of the run. I so very very much wanted to quit. At every aid station I looked for medical personal but saw none. I just felt completely abandoned on the course. I kept up with the forward progression but I walked most of every single mile. I don't think managed to run at all for more than 3-5 minutes at a time. I could never get a rhythm, I couldn't divorce myself from the pain and all I could do was obsess and worry that I was doing permanent damage.

I honestly have no idea how I made it 13.1 miles but I did. I ran across the finish line and went directly to the medical tent. But they made me get on the scale first. Oh the insults never ended. Guess what? I had lost half a pound. They all seemed so proud of me. But I pointed out to them that I was swollen:my fingers looked like sausages in casings. My legs had no muscular definition and I knew my feet were badly swollen. That gained me entrance into the tent and I went straight to a cot in front of a fan and laid down.

They kept asking me what was wrong but all I could say was my feet hurt. Some very kind and brave lady took my shoes off and commented that my feet were very swollen and put ice on them for me. Ah, happiness. . .

I don't know how long I laid there but after my feet were cold and numb I put my shoes on and left the tent. I found Steph and Doug and then told anyone who would listen how that was by far the most miserable experience of my life.

And you know what? It still is. That run was just horrible. But the knots in my arches are almost completely gone and I can stand on my feet without pain. Yesterday I ran and there was some tenderness in the arches and on the outside of my foot but no numbness and today they feel pretty good. So while I am sad about my race I am very happy I made it through it without serious injury and can now move onto marathon training.

I don't know what marathon to do. My plan had been Chickamuaga as a training race and then Rocket City in mid December as my "A" race but that seems far off and quite honestly I don't know if I want to spend the money to travel and then have a bad race. I think Chickamuaga might be too soon for me to pull out a good race. So then I think about doing the Atlanta full instead of the half on Thanksgiving. But oh boy, that last 10k uphill is just setting myself up for a bad race I think. Suggestions? Just give it up???

At the very least I am officially signed up for the Silver Comet half marathon at the end of the month. I typically have a good race at the Silver Comet races so I am cautiously optimistic. . .

Lastly, congrats to all my friends that did South Carolina. I am so proud of all of you and I again apologize for being such a whiner.


  1. First of all, i think maybe a race like this is what will make you a great competitor in the long run - the fact that you wanted to quit and didn't, the fact that you hurt and you finished anyway, the fact that now you know what the worst run of your life is like and you know that you can finish anyway.

    Second of all, you look better with goggle eyes than I do.

    Thirdly, i love purple.

  2. Yeah, you fast swimmers are gonna get passed on the bike! At least you're fast on the swim!

    Good times on the run, eh? Runners have a tough time with triathlon runs because they know the feel of a good run. That, obviously, falls off the back in a triathlon. Non-runners know to hate the run no matter what so a little extra pain for them doesn't disrupt their hatred much.

    They've taken 2:20 marathoners, put them onto a bike for five hours and watched them explode on the run... like 5 hr marathons. So you're in good company. And I've certainly had my share of 13.1 mile death marches with screaming fans and spandexed hotties passing me all over the place. Not fun.

    The feet? Gotta figure out what happened there. The fluid/swelling issues often have to do with salt. Too much water. Too little (unlikely.) There may have also been something about biking harder in a race. Even if you thought you were conservative you probably went harder than in training. There's a very thin line between comfortable post-bike legs and shelled post-bike legs.

    Overall, congratulations! The first attempt at any distance is never easy because your brain can't internalize it. Now that you've recorded the experience you'll have more to work with next time. In six years. When you forget about this race!

    Good luck with the marathon training. Just think about all of the swim and bike aerobic non-impact base that you can now convert into pure asphalt speed!

    Thanks for the great race report! Always enjoy your blog!

  3. you are not doing much to banish my opinion of your mental stability when it comes to your weird obsession to get in a bunch of people and participate in group torture. Lala

  4. Just wait until you see the photos of me with my tummy showing. And I'll post them.

    I have to agree with Reger about the bike and the electrolytes. Something went awry there which made you swell. If that hadn't happened, you'd have been blowing sunshine the whole way home instead.

  5. Yeah. I think it had to do with the 5 endurolytes I took. That was really dumb. I think in training the most I had taken was 2 maybe 3 on that 5 hour training day and I never take them during a run (had 4 on the bike, 1 around 4 miles on the run). I have a tendancy to retain water anyway so I don't think I lose as much as some people do.

    Joe you are absolutely right. Running after bike is just completely different. No matter how much I practice it still sucks--which doesn't exactly make me want to practice it.

    At any rate thanks for the words of kindness everyone and I am going to work on my attitude. I am glad that most people just ignore me when I get like that.

  6. Reger and Steph are smart, what they said. And no matter what, I will always think you are a rock star. Even if you are pissed at your performance, you pushed through it and crossed the finish line.

  7. You've ran only two tris, hence you're still a newbie, no need to be too hard on yourself. I don't run tris, and your report certainly scares me to try!!

    Yup, we're not professionals, and we race so rarely, and when we do the disappointments are huge because we know it's going to be a long time to redeem ourselves.

    You've accomplished something on Sunday that most people, myself included, can't even imagine!

  8. Ditto sarah and robison, and everyone else. I don't comment often, but had to tell you that I think you're amazing. I read your blog regularly and am always in awe of your accomplishments. Knowing that you had a bad race is actually so helpful to me, too (selfishly!), because if an awesome athlete like you can have a bad race, anyone can. I know you'll go on to conquer the next one!

  9. Great finish despite the hellacious final half-marathon. I also am not sure what happened to you out there - I would have bet that your run would have been by far the strongest segment. Perhaps you were faster on the bike than you expected?

    I think you have a swimming background, but WOW what a swim. 1:40/100m sans wetsuit is incredible. I can't even swim that for my max pace for more than 200m! The day I can toss that pace off casually is the day I'll feel like a legitimate triathlete.

    Keep up the great work - I think you'll smoke your next run race.

  10. For this being what your 2nd tri at all, that was a rock solid performance. Yes, you could have obviously done better had your feet not bothered you, but you still put in an impressive performance. You looked strong on the bike. You did not give up no matter how bad your feet felt. Well done! I plan on going back next year and exacting my revenge on that course

    OMG! That T1 pic is scary. J/K

  11. Congrats on not giving up-like anyone actually thought that you would! Weird pains will appear in the run portions of triathlons. Most aren't explainable and peeps don't even feel them when they do bricks. Did you lose any toenails?

    Purple is a great swimcap color.

    You stopped in transitions for pictures? Funny!

    Once you stop sniveling you will be alright. You will come back and do another tri again. In the meantime keep kicking ass in marathons!

  12. Listen, woman - I don't really know you (I am a friend of Jen Weimer) but I read your blog for motivation because I am training for my first marathon and you are so awesome...do NOT beat yourself up - my husband is a great biker and he did a mini-tri and said it was so hard because combining three very different sports is TOUGH! You did a HALF IRONMAN! And even if it was your worst run- time ever, it was still better than most of my half-marathon times so I think you did great! Your transition times were great and your overall time was very good. I'm sure you are disappointed because you trained so hard, but keep in mind that you are very inspirational to others because you finished, and overall did VERY, VERY WELL so you should be very proud of yourself...Next time, you'll know what to expect and to not eat all those elctrolyte thingies...and you'll probably be the first purple cap across the finish line! (I realize you take your cap off after the swim, but you know what I mean...) Be Proud! You are an AWESOME runner and whatever marathon you do this fall, I know you'll kick ass! I will be thinking of you when I am running Disney in January...

  13. Great report and pictures Ms Natalie!

    Congratulations on successfully completing you HIM! You never quit...You Rock!

    I also think your numbness in your foot was from swelling and lacing up your shoes too tight. I've had numbness and just keeping the laces loose seemed to help a lot.

    Enjoy the moments and keep those races coming!