Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Effingham-THE EFFING WORST RACE-My story of Survival!

Effingham Illinois. Funny name to people. Also can be used as an adjective. Especially after the 70.3 triathlon race this past Father's Day weekend.

June 20, 2009.

My roommate Tom was going to compete in his first Half Ironman ever and was pretty excited, despite some painful body parts preventing him from training as he would have liked. "Effingham" was my first 70.3 last year also and I wanted to go back and better my time on the same course. We were both pretty excited as we loaded up the car on Saturday and started our 2 hour trip to... EFFINGHAM!

The drive down was fairly uneventful. Both bikes remained on the rack, no accidents happened, no one won the lottery. Just a normal, noisy, 2 hour drive in my Jeep with no music. We arrived at our hotel and waited a few minutes until our room was ready for check in and while in the lobby met two other competitors, Jay and Dale who were also waiting for their room. We discussed training, and events and found out that we were all doing Ironman Louisville this coming August. Rooms were ready, we got set up and headed out to the beach site for a quick swim, packet pick up and to drive the bike course.

When we got to the beach we ran into a few other athletes from St. Louis and talked about how warm the water was. 80plus degrees would not allow for the swim to be wet suit legal. Some were bummed, but it didn't bother me much since it would be just one more thing to slow my transition time down. Tom and I jumped in the lake and were totally discusted by how much seaweed there was. It wasn't like the slimy sticky seaweed either. It was like a flippin strangulation rope, and it was EVERYWHERE! It grabbed ahold of your neck, arms, legs! It was relentless! That part, I did NOT like. I MEAN.. HOW WOULD I KNOW IF IT WAS SEAWEED OR A SNAKE?....ewwwww. When we got out of the water, Tom even had a piece stuck between his toes that wouldn't shake loose.

We got in line to pick up our packets and overheard some of the event staff discussing the road conditions on a few miles of the bike course. They had blown up a big map of the course and had it largly noted.. GRAVEL for a large stretch of the course. I took a picture of this so when we went to drive the course, we would have a map. The guys from Terra Haute IN, our neighbors from the hotel were there and we all discussed going to dinner together. We made plans with another few friends and included them in our dinner party then set out to drive the bike course before dinner. HOLLLLEY MOLEY was the pavement in bad condition. Tom and I were kind of shocked when they just put GRAVEL on the map instead of BRING 6 TUBES AND YOUR MOUNTAIN BIKE for this course. Not only was it gravely for a looong stretch, but the pavement itself was cracked and bubbling with tar and crumbly and uneven.... and ATE UP. ( I said that for my mom's benefit because she thought I meant to say Eaten Up... silly English teach.. doesn't she know slang?)

When we were driving the bike course we had my back window rolled up and behind us came this man, with a mullet, on his 4 wheeler keeping up with our 55mph pace. It looked like one of the scenes in a Terminator movie when he comes up behind you and has this total evil-like posture and glare in his eyes like he is 'gonna get you'. It was hilarious-kinda and I swear that lil machine he was on could go 70mph. We snapped a pix of him and then let him pass us as he waved. This guy was FRRRIED. It seemed he was in the sun ALLLL day on that thing becasuse his poor back looked like the Hollywood red carpet.

Back at the hotel we gathered our group of 8 and headed to dinner. Right after we got there, the darkest clouds came over and I sank in my seat. I had left my jeep window rolled up and everything would get SOOOAKED. One of our 'neighbors' agreed to take me back to the hotel so I could rainproof everything. (that was so nice)

Dinner was fun and lots of training stories exchanged. We made some new friends and that is always a good time! It was just about everyone's first Half Iron distance tri and it was really neat to see the encouragement and comraderie that was already forming with our little group. Tomorrow on the race course, we would all have cheerleaders to high five us and 'way to go' us as we competed.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel, cleaned up our bikes, got our transition bags all ready, checked swim wave times and water temperature ONE LAST TIME, and went to sleep.

JUNE 21 2009:
The alarm went off at 4:30am and I couldnt figure out how to turn it off and was fumbling with it for about a minute until I just started hitting everything.. literally. Then our wake up call came right after that. There was no hitting snooze now. We were up! I opened the door and looked outside and saw rain.. booo. This was going to be another race in the rain?? Boooo! Last year it poured! It POURED on the marathon. I guess I was used to racing in the rain eh? Fortunately it was just stopping and the sun started to come out soon after breakfast and dry everything up. Tom and I filled our bellies as much as we could and loaded up the car and headed to Lake Sara for the EFFING-WORST-RACE. I mean, Effingham 70.3.

I was trying out a new one piece tri suit this race and had it only pulled up half way with a tee shirt on so after I got body marked I would pull it up the rest of the way and get ready. Well what I forgot was, this thing had a kind of shelf bra that now was behind me and I had to pull it somehow over my head an over the front where it needed to be. In doing that, (with assistance of a girl nearby) I smudged the permanent marker used for body marking alllll over the front of this light aqua colored tri suit. Now streaked with black marker. Wonderful.

We snapped a few pix before the start and headed down to the beach for the pre race meeting. Hugs were exchanged and since I was in the first swim wave, I made my way down knee deep in the water and ... THE GUN WAS OFF. Man there were some fast swimmers in my heat!!! The swim is two loops where you have to exit the beach, run around a bouy and yell out your number, do a Baywatch dive back into the water and start swimming for your second loop. I hated this. When I exited the water I was so tippy from just going from horizontal to vertical. I felt like a drunk girl running on the beach. My second loop took a while to get my heart rate under control and I guess I dove right into a seaweed patch because I had to stop at one point and remove it from around my neck. On the back side of the bouy's on the way back to the beach, I felt my hand on somthing hard and kind of big. I kind of shuddered because it was either a big log, or a body and I said as much to the race official as I exited the water. GROSS.

Swim down.. a few minutes slower than what I had planned.. but no worries. I still felt pretty darn good. I had a decent transition, not great, but not bad. And made my way out to the bike. 2nd girl. Whoo Hoo. I'll take that. I passed one girl out on the bike fairly early, but then was passed by 2 more. So I was 3rd girl. At mile 15 the road came to a T and up ahead running from left to right was a herd of horses that were quickly galloping as if it were a stampeed. I had time to count them all. 15, and the 13th one was a baby colt. I looked around.. no one was around me to share this moment with. But it was truely a gift from God. How cool was that. mile 15. 15 horses.. hey.. horse power.. gotta get goin girl....so I cruised on. I was feeling pretty darn good about my bike and was probably holding about an 18-19mph average surprisingly. I wasn't having trouble on the hills and was keeping my cadence up. I was on track to break 3 hours on the bike.

UNTIL MILE 50. The fast boys all passed me.. and I was keeping a good enough pace to stay ahead of the rest of the girls so for the most part, I was riding alone. The other two girls sped off ahead of me and were no where in sight. I came to an intersection and there were no course official around anymore. There was a blue arrow in the road pointing to the left.. so I turned. I flew down this hill and as I climbed the other side of it, something didn't seem quite right. Things didn't look so familiar and I instantly had a sinking feeling I was in the wrong place. I slowed down and waited a bit to see if anyone came up behind me. No one. I debated pressing on and thought I should so I went forward a while longer.. and then decided on turning back. I must have missed the turn somewhere. So I backtracked back down, then up a hill and turned left at the first street. That INSTANTLY didn't look right. OH CRAP! Where the heck am I? A few cars passed me and I looked probably like I was going to cry. I was almost at a stop and I just about panicked. I had no idea where I was. What if I was out there for 4 hours? What if I got a flat. Was I totally off course? Where did I go wrong? What should I do? I almost chocked up some tears but quickly pushed them down and pulled myself together. I turned back to where I turned at that blue arrow and as I went back up the hill I 'flew' down, I saw a bunch of cyclist . Phew.. I found the route again.. BUT DANGIT.. THEY WERE ALL GIRLS.. ALL OF THE GIRLS I WAS AHEAD OF.. AND NOW IM SO STINKIN FAR BEHIND THEM!!! NOOOOOOOO!!!! I had moments that I thought, 'just great.. my race is totally over.. this is so bad.. I'm probably totally dead last now.' Then I thought.. 'hey, what if I had a flat.. I would STILL be out there changing it. Keep going! Don't give up." Then I saw my RIP, L.N. on my hand and I got kinda teary and emotional and cranked my lil arse into gear. I WAS going to pass at least ONE of those girls now. I had 6?..well?.. I dunno.. how many miles I had to go? I had glanced at my watch just before I had turned and noticed that about 10 minutes had passed. I had to make up 10 minutes. GRRRRRRRRRRRR

Back in transition I saw my friends who were cheering me on from the sidelines and I yelled over to them what had happened. They tried their best to keep my spirits up but I was just so dissapointed by that point. Part of me really wanted to give up at that point, but then fortunately the real competitor in me took over. That would have been so unsportsmanlike to quit. I'm not a quitter. Shit happens and it's all about how you deal with it. So I told myself to DEAL WITH IT.. SUCK IT UP, AND GO RUN... damnit!

When I started running I just couldnt let go of my anger about the bike and it showed. My energy level depleted and I found myself walking fairly early on. Man.. and it was HOT. I just started to notice how stinkin hot it was. On the bike there were a few spots on the road where the tar was melting on my tire and the gravel stuck to it. But now on the run route, the same thing was happening to my shoes. OH MY GOSH WAS IT HOT. I'm going to need water stat! Fortunately, they had aid stations at every mile. Unfortunately, they ran out of water and only had hot gatorade. I sooo don't like gatorade. During the first loop of the 2 loop, 6 mile run, I noticed many people suffering badly. So many were red faced, breathing heavily, and more people than not, were walking. There was ABSOLUTELY NO shade on this run course and the pavement was melting the rubber on your shoes. In addition to that, the tar on this gravel road was seeping through and sticking to everyone's feet. You could hear the sticky sound of everyones shoes as they ran or walked by. People literally looked like DEATH OUT THERE. The ambulance sped passed me around mile 2 apparently with someone in it who had gotten pretty sick.

Mile 3 was my savior. They had ICE. And SPONGES. I grabbed 4 cold sponges and put two down my chest, and two under each shoulder strap. Grabbed a cup of ice and started back. THANK GOD! I felt a little better by the cold water and ice and started running comfortably again. Mile 4, I ran into a guy we had met the nite before who was not doing so well at all. I gave him two of my sponges and got a cup of ice at that aid station and poured it on his head. He said he was cramping each time he started to run. I felt so bad for him. Man.. this was not a race to be won today. This was a race to SURVIVE. I started to change my attitude about the event today, and decided to just take it one mile at a time, and if I felt good, keep running, if I felt bad.. take a break and walk. Apparently only 1 in 5 people were even starting a second loop on the run. WOW.. and someone said the heat index was 110. GEEEEESH!

Mile 6 was a loop around the transition area and I was going to try to force myself to pee at the only bathroom on the run course. I don't think I have ever tried so hard to pee before. But luckily I did.. kinda. Kinda made me feel better. My friend Leslie gave me a few water bottles with cold water that she brought and I chugged one of them and she filled the second one up and gave it to me to take with me on the run. I didn't know how I would do on another 6 miles in the 100degree heat with no water. I walked with her a while, or she walked with me until I cooled myself down enough to start running again.

Something happened that second lap. I felt really good. I ran just about all of it with the exception of the part where there was a sprinkler from someone's lawn that was moved out onto the road for us. I stopped there for at least a minute drenching myself with the cool water. The aid stations finally got a new shipment of water and ICE. OH ICE!!! I stopped at each mile marker and shoved handfuls of ice down the front, back and up each leg of my tri suit. I put a handful under my hat too and wow that felt soo good. Because of that ice, I was able to keep running with what they call the ironman-shuffle. But I was passing people left and right. THATS RIGHT.. I WAS PASSING PEOPLE ON THE RUN. I kept filling up my water bottle with ice and everytime I saw someone that looked like boiling death, I squirted them with cold water on their head and neck. I think I liked the feeling that I was hopefully helping. I was feeling great! Tired, hot, but great. At one point tho, a woman in front of me staggered as if she had tripped on a rock.. stumbled a bit and then went DOWN. I ran over to her as other people did.. fortunately by an aid station. She had passed out. I poured cold water on her neck and wrists and the medic/nurse type person took over. SOOOOO OK.. just finish! I quit totally looking at my watch and just decided to even tell myself I liked gatorade. MMM gatorade.

I saw the last mile marker and was so relieved. The boys were handing out cups of ice and it looked like they were starting to pack up????? hmmm.. But as I got closer to the finish, I heard my friends cheering me on. Leslie ran in her sandals with me to the finish encouraging me to pick it up and sprint to the end. WHICH I DID.. I always do. No matter how tired I am, something happens about 100 yds from the finish line. I GUN IT BALLS OUT! I looove that feeling! When I crossed the finish line, I just had to sit down and let some guy pour cool water over my head. I amazingly, kind of wanted to do a third loop just becasue I felt ok.. and Louisville would be 2 more loops.. in this type of heat... in these types of conditions. I kind of wanted to prove it to myself that I COULD.

I FINALLY looked at my watch.. and groaned a bit. I added a half hour from last year's time.. but in the grand scheme of things.. WHO GIVES A RATS PATUEY! I FINISHED.. and I SURVIVED. That was the most EFFING HOT HORRIBLE race. Geesh.

Come to find out, that shortly after I finished, they started closing down the aid stations on the run. Ron was still out there, as were a few other people I was rooting for. I guess the event staff thought that since the drop out rate was so high, they didn't need all that support? That bothered me because those were the people who were out there the longest in the worst heat and needed the support the most. Booo on that!

We waited and cheered in the last of the racers, and were amazed at some of the times. 8 plus hours out there.. man oh man.. that's hard. I learned that several people from St. Louis had not made it to the finish either. There were over 50 competitors that were a DNF, did not finish and more numbers were still being tallied. That must have been hard to do. Train all this time and not be able to finish the race. Man was I glad I had a change in attitude. I was thankful that my body held up and my nutrition and hydration training was on track.

(ok.. so then they posted the results.. had I not gotten lost.. I would have probably gotten 2nd in my age group... booooo)

But.. that's not what it's about.

I finished. I helped people out there. I learned a lot. And I endured the hardest triathlon I have ever competed in. It gave me some hope that I am more ready for Louisville than I had thought. I still have a long way to go and many many more miles of training to endure, but.. I'm GOING to do it!

I can do anything
I did 'EFFINGHAM'...........

(scary music played here)

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