Thursday, September 2, 2010

Chicago Tri Race Report

After two recent races that didn't go as well as I had hoped, it's been a bit hard to focus and stay on track this week. The thing about triathlon is, you can't judge an athlete by a single race. Some days things just happen, and the only thing you can do is stay positive and keep after it. Some tell me I am hard on myself, and I do hold myself to high expectations, but I think that's necessary to continue to climb to the top. After coming home from Canada, I had two days in Denver, then packed up the time trial bike and flew to Chicago to race the largest race in the world, with over 10,000 athletes, and visit my cousin Brandyn. The pro race was absolutely stacked, with a few former Olympians, world cup ITU athletes, 6 members of US National teams, the winner of St. Anthony's, and some Ironman 70.3 winners. My goal coming into the race was top 15, after seeing the list. By the end of the bike leg I was in 14th or 15th, and finished 18th on the day, but it turned from a race into an episode of Survivor.
The swim in Lake Michigan was nice. I wore a swimskin for the first time, since it wasn't wetsuit legal, which helped a ton. I learned my lesson at Boulder Peak, being 1 of only 3 pro's not wearing one, and as a weaker swimming compared to these guys, I need the help! They aid you about 30 seconds in a 1500m swim (as tested in the pool a few months ago). I swam well the first 1000m, and was in a great position for me. The last 500m I fought through it, but drifted a bit mentally, as well as literally too far left against the seawall, which made me lose contact and the ability to draft of off my teammate Jordan, and into choppier water as waves were bouncing off the wall. The run out of the lake to transition was almost a half mile I bet, on cement, by far the longest run-out I've done. I passed 4 or 5 people on the bike leg, and entered the run in 15th and feeling strong.
It was about 95 degrees out by 1:30pm when we entered the run, and extremely humid. That's when people started dropping like flies, myself included. My first few steps off the bike didn't feel good already, and unfortunately that never changed. Long story short, if you could get through without heat exhaustion, you'd have a great race. There were about 5 or 7 of us that it hit hard. Cameron Dye went from 1st onto the run, to finish 12th I believe. Olympian Matt Reed ended up 7th. Stephen Hackett ran a 44 minute 10k (or shuffled/walked), and Ethan Brown dropped out in front of me on the run, as I saw him sitting under a tree along the course. People were suffering out there. I was struggling at mile 2 already, just from pushing it hard for the previous hour in the water and on the bike. Running in that heat & humidity isn't usually a problem for me, but I don't test myself much after an all-out swim and bike. I was forced to walk some at about mile 3, my body was shutting down early. I wasn't cramping which was great, so my nutrition has been working, but my head was pounding, and I felt like I was in a furnace, and I was very very weak. At each aid station, I forced myself to drink 4 Gatorades the last 2 miles, or I knew I wouldn't make it across the line. I poured cups of water on my head every mile, but after 10 seconds later my body was screaming for more. I nearly dropped out many times, and debated what was the right thing to do. I ran/walked a 44 minute 10k, 9-10 minutes slower than usual : finish slowly and trash the body, or drop out and come back stronger in training this week. I flew to Chicago, which is a long ways, so knew I needed to finish the race. I stumbled across the line, onto the ground, was hauled to the medical tent on a stretcher chair where they took my vitals. My heart rate and blood pressure was very high, so they made me take an IV in my right arm. I told them I don't need it, since I'm not a huge fan of needles, but they ignored me and said, "yes, you do!" 10 minutes later I was told I should probably go to the hospital, and was asked if I wanted to. I refused of course, knowing I don't have the health insurance for that, and once I got an IV in me I'd be fine. The hospital was not necessary and would be going way too far. I had heat exhaustion, and knew it. Lying there with ice on top of me and the IV in my arm, I didn't really know what to think. I wasn't really mad, but just simply sad. I was having a strong race, and if I could have run my usual 34-35 min 10k run split, that would have put me in 9th or 10th, and 1oth place took home $600. 10th in a race this competitive would have been a great result. Usually I'd be very frustrated, this time I simply was very bummed, probably because I don't really know what I could have done differently to avoid this. I felt hydrated coming into the race. Sometimes there are answers and things you can learn from, other times you simply don't know why it happened and how to prevent it for next time.
I have two more races left for 2010 for sure: Malibu and Pro Nationals in Alabama, and will finish the season strong and with confidence. I have a plan for next season already, a different plan from this year, which I know if I stick to it, I'll reap the rewards. It will take more discipline, training, and planning than ever, but now know what it takes to compete at the top.

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