First of all, apologies for this being so late and so long. I’ve had some internet & computer problems along with a family emergency and am just getting caught up now. I think this became so long because I lost it a few times and by the end, I combined everything in every version into one incredibly long version. So here’s a summary:
- Compex! Compex Endurance & Resistance when I’m too busy with work to run and bike and swim. Compex Active Recovery every night so that I can train the next day. Compex Massage the day before the race. Compex Pre-Warmup on race morning. Compext Recovery Plus after the race.
- Friends, Tri-Club members, and members of my training program. It’s great seeing friendly faces on a tough day.
- Eagleman volunteers and people in the Cambridge community. They made hard conditions fun to race in. This may have been my slowest race ever but it was the most fun I’ve ever had.
- Swim courses that are too long.
- Bike courses without a lot of variety in scenery.
- Runs in 100+ degree heat!
Now here’s the long version:
Having not done a triathlon in 4 years, I was being a little more OCD about my preparation than usual. I was lucky to have gotten a hotel room for Friday and Saturday night from a friend who had to cancel his race when he got deployed so I was able to drive over and pick up my packet and check out the expo while most people were working. I worked for a few hours on Friday morning (running some Compex Endurance programs while I worked), then printed out my triathlon packing checklist, got all my things together, double- and triple-checked my list, and got into the car. Of course, I was so concerned about having everything that I needed, it’s a really good thing I have a big car. I had a transition bag for the race, a clothing bag for the weekend, a bag for race nutrition, a bag for weekend nutrition, a bag of bike maintenance supplies, a bag of work stuff, my regular bag, one bike, spare wheels, a work stand, and a wetsuit.
There were a few delays on the drive over but nothing substantial so I was able to get to the expo (which opened at 2) by 2:30. I picked up my packet, talked to some of the vendors, and spent some time at the Xterra booth to talk to some friends (plus, they’re giving me a free wetsuit (!) so I’ll be at their booth at a couple of upcoming expos). I finished there by around 3:00 and headed to the hotel to complete my work for the week. Settling in nice and comfortably in a chair in my hotel room, I ran a few more Compex Endurance programs while finishing my work. Then showered, dressed and, thanks to a good recommendation from the hotel staff, I headed out for a really tasty, filling, spicy dinner of Arroz con Pollo at a waterfront restaurant. Back to the hotel, I relaxed watching a movie, catching up on email, and using Compex for Active Recovery. As usual the first night in a hotel, I couldn’t fall asleep so was up until 1, but spent the time relaxing.
I was determined to sleep in late on Saturday morning but woke up at 6 am. I made myself go back to bed and slept until almost 9. The hotel has a nice breakfast buffet so I had some tea and oatmeal and grabbed a banana for later. Then I headed down to the race location for a pre-race swim. Swimming has always been my weakness - both because I’m slow and because I’ve had some confidence problems in the water - so I wanted to take advantage of the fact that the swim course would be set up and open for swimming. As I put on my wetsuit (which thankfully zipped!), I talked to people coming out of the water in just bathing suits. They told me that the water was more than warm enough for just a swimsuit but most were still planning on using a wetsuit at the race for the speed benefit.
I found the water to be just as warm as promised, just fine for a swim suit or sleeveless wet suit but not too hot for a long-sleeved wetsuit. There was a bit of a current and some chop after the first buoy but it was pretty mild compared to the last few open water swims I’d done for practice. I swam out to the 3rd buoy, taking about 10 minutes between each buoy, then turned around and swam back, taking about 6 minutes between each buoy. I felt good when I got out, did my own reporting to those on shore getting ready to go in themselves, then headed back to the hotel to shower and do a little more work.
I switched wheels and pads, lubed my chain, checked my bike (good thing - my derailleur hanger was bent and I needed to straighten it) and made sure that I was one of the first people to check my bike into transition. Was happy to find that my spot was near an aisle as it was a big transition area but did get a little concerned as I didn’t see either a bag check spot or a mechanics tent. The reason for my concern was that in the morning we had to park at a school about 1.5 miles away and take a shuttle bus to the start. Bikes weren’t allowed on the buses so to get back after the race, we had to bike back, carrying our transition bags. Additionally, transition would close at 6:45 and I didn’t start until 8:00. I wasn’t sure what I would do about pumping my tires (did I really want to carry a pump on the bike?) or what I’d do for over an hour while I was kicked out of transition.
Leaving the race site, I found a pub that was serving food and televising the USA/England game. It was a nice, quiet relaxing place and definitely not one that rushed diners - at least not during the soccer game. The game finished just in time for me to get to church (note: you know it’s going to be a different mass when the priest starts by saying “God is a triathlete” before doing the sign of the cross). After mass, I headed back to the race site to meet some friends who had just gotten in, including one of my clients who was going to share my hotel room. They were all heading out to dinner but having eaten a late lunch and preferring some rest, I decided to skip the meal (turned out to be a good decision, they had some service problems and were there really late).
As they headed out to dinner, I decided to head back to the expo to ask about bag check. Turns out there definitely wasn’t one - one member of the race crew was confused about why I’d want anything during that time as it would be too hot for sweats. But I ran into some other friends and found out that the tri club was going to have a tent set up at the race and I could leave stuff there. That concern relieved, I headed back to the hotel to relax and spend some time running massage programs on Compex. When my roomie finally made it back to the hotel after dinner, I spent some time showing her how the Compex worked, then we prepped for the morning (I used my checklist again) and tried to get a good night’s sleep.
Sunday: Race Day
Up at 4:30 with hopes of getting some tea before leaving and found that the hotel had set up it’s entire breakfast buffet 2 hours earlier than normal for the triathletes! Not that I was going to eat anything from the buffet but I did get my tea and took a banana for after the race. Put on my Compex tatoo, got everything into the car and headed off for the school parking lot and then the shuttle to the race. After a week of thunderstorm predictions, the sky was perfectly clear and cloudless which was nice to see.
Arrived at the race site with plenty of time to spare and heard the announcement - no wetsuits for the swim. Not even wetsuit optional. Just plain no wetsuits. Was I ever happy that I’d swum the day before and that thanks to the efforts of my swim coach Kirsten and friends Noelle & Tammy who’d been taking me into open water in surfable conditions, the smooth water I saw that day wasn’t that scary. Can’t say that others were feeling the same. There were several woman racked near me that were either doing a first tri ever, a first tri of this distance, or a first tri in several year. Later, I ran into a group from my club who were all standing around freaking out and spent some time trying to help them calm down.
I was able to borrow a pump for my tires then used my checklist to set up my transition area. I laid out every thing I needed in the order of my list but couldn’t find my spare Endurolytes for the run. I completely emptied my bag, looked through everything again, double-checked but never did find them (did find two packets of Wet-Ones which are the same color so I think I know what I did). After looking everywhere I could think to look, I gave up on the run Endurolytes and decided that the bike supply would have to do for the full race.
Left transition, dropped my stuff at the club tent and then got in the port-a-potty line which took far longer than expected. Then back to the club tent for some pre-warmup on my calves with my Compex Sport Elite. It felt great and was a great alternative to my standard warmup routine as I didn’t have access to my running shoes. I was able to explain the Compex unit to several of the club members - including one doctor who understood it right away. Finished and (after running back to take off the pads I forgot, oops!) got in line to start my swim wave.
The water was definitely warm enough to be comfortable without my wetsuit so that was nice. However, as we were waiting to start, the announcer lets us know that the current is moving the buoys off-course so just pay attention to the orange turn buoys and the swim finish and don’t worry about any of the other buoys out there. Great for those nervous swimmers - no wetsuit and a strong current. But I decided I wasn’t a nervous swimmer anymore and I was going to do well. Unfortunately, I was still doing a few strokes to get comfy and wasn’t quite in the right position when the gun went off. But I was able to start pretty well anyway. Had a little bit of banging in the beginning which triggered my nervousness but I stopped for a few breast stroke strokes and a mini-self-talk (“You’re doing this, so get going”) and off I went.
After that the swim was mostly uneventful. I felt relaxed, my endurance was good, and I even managed to get in a bit of a pack for a while. I’m slow enough that I’m usually caught by two waves and this was no exception. Of course, the timing was such that both waves caught me right at the turn buoys. A little bit more banging there including:
- one guy who knocked off my goggles. A quick roll onto my back to fix those and off I went. I understood that one.
- one guy who grabbed my left ankle and started pulling on my chip strap. Is this a new triathlon passing symbol I don’t know?
- one guy who put his hand on my bum and pushed down. Multiple times. My friends joked that he does triathlons just so that he can touch women’s bums.
But primarily, I felt like the swim was pretty easy and boring compared to the 10Ks I usually run at the start of a race. I did feel like I was fighting the current the entire way and not going anywhere at times - plus I never got that push into the finish that I expected from my Saturday swim. Total time 1:00 - no wonder I got bored! A personal worst by over 15 minutes.
T1: Pretty uneventful. Glad to be getting on the bike.
Bike: Early on in the bike, I learned from some others that the swim course was probably long. That made me feel a little better about my time. (Later found out the buoys had moved so much that it was closer to 1.6 miles than 1.2.) My legs felt good, nothing hurt, and my hydration and nutrition went well. The course is notorious for wind and has been pretty bad when I’ve gone out to pre-ride but it wasn’t this day. Then, I got to the 10 mile mark at about 30 minutes and, knowing how little effort I was putting in, I realized that that no wind I thought I’d had was going to turn into a pretty strong headwind on the return. The road’s pretty rough and I noticed a lot of road kill nutrition, water bottles, CO2 cartridges, even a bottle cage and a bagel. The last race I done, I’d seen a Garmin but was pushing too hard trying to qualify for worlds to stop so I told myself that if I saw one this race, I was stopping for it as I wasn’t trying to place or qualify for anything. Which is when I realized the main difference between this race and those I usually do. Usually, I’m pushing all out the entire way, as hard as I can go for as long as I can go. And usually I’m in pain the entire time - that good ‘you’re working hard pain’ but still pain. Because this race was just for fun, nothing hurt and I just had a good time on the bike.
That was pretty much how things continued until the last 10 miles. I’d taken a water bottle every 20 miles to refill my aero-bottle and still had that plus my original spare water bottle so I was fine still on hydration. But the bottoms of my feet had started to hurt - something I expected on the run but not on the bike. Previously, I’d stretched every turn on the course but now I started to stretch a little more often just to take the pressure off my feet. Then I took the turn that brought me into the wind for the first time (that I’d noticed!) all race. Plus, I was getting kind of bored. My hubby says I’m easily bored and a friend recently described me as being a little ADD but this course is completely flat with nothing to see besides fields and I was a little tired of it. I used all my Team Compex teammates as inspiration, telling myself that if you could run for 100 miles, I could bike for 56. However, this was my lowest point of the race. Then just after mile 50, I saw a woman on the side of the road leaning over her bike. I asked if she was alright and she said that she was dehydrated. As I still had my extra water bottle, I stopped, gave her my water and all of my Endurolytes. I made sure she was coherent, feeling better and then she told me I could go on, she didn’t need me to wait with her but her race was done. I got back on the bike and my feet had stopped hurting. I talked to a race official at the next turn and found out help had been sent and rode on in. Did notice a lot of people walking on the run (the course’s overlapped for a while) and was surprised. These people were all faster than me and I never walked on the run so why were they? Soon, I would find out for myself.
T2: As soon as I stepped off the bike, my feet were in incredible pain. So bad that I almost couldn’t put weight on them. I leaned on my bike and hobbled through transition. Forced myself to change shoes and took two Tylenol (which I always leave in transition just in case) then limped over to the water table and had two cups of water. Decided that I had to try running and headed out of transition. Slowest T2 ever!
Run: I had the most wonderful, fun time. I ran my slowest time ever. Happily, as soon as I started running, my feet stopped hurting. Saw lots of friends who were volunteering at the finish as I passed it on the way out - got cheers and high fives. I kept my pace pretty low and felt good. There was a water stop every mile and I hit the first at about 10 minutes. Because it was so hot, I had two cups of water and one of ice. Drank one, one on my head, than ice under my hat and off I went. By the second mile, I was at about a 12 minute pace plus I felt hotter. Two cups of water, two of ice. Drink, drink, hat, back. That became my plan - supplemented by a few chips for salt at the stops that had them. Then onto the third mile - which is when the shade ended. The heat index for the day was over 100. Direct sun, no wind (where did it go, it was around on the bike?). I started to think that next year, we need a white Team Compex hat. I started to want the thunderstorms that had been promised. Then I got so hot that my asthma kicked in and I couldn’t breathe. Slowed to a walk and could breathe again so created my plan. Walk each water stop until I finished my water, then run for as long as I could breathe before walking again again. But it was so fun. I was seeing friends, meeting new people, having a great time with the volunteers. The volunteers were so good that I think if I’d given them my chip and asked them to finish the run for me, they would have done it. I got a big hug from a friend at one point (she was flying!) and then from some random guy who saw us hug. Again, usually I hurt so badly during races that it’s hard to have fun but this time I didn’t hurt - I just couldn’t breathe enough to run.
Some time before the turnaround, I discovered the secret that changed my race. I’d ended up with two many cups to hold so temporarily put one cup of ice down my jog bra. As I went on, I realized that I wasn’t overheating - I was able to breathe! So now, I could run the majority of the time. I had to cut back on the water because I wasn’t walking as much but I still stopped to talk at least briefly to everyone that I knew. But when I was running, I was holding an 8 to 9 minute pace. Then, the second miracle of the race - proof that karma does work. I stopped to talk to one of the club members who wasn’t looking too good. He’d bonked at about mile 1 but said he didn’t need anything. He asked me how I was doing and I told him how I was missing my Endurolytes but otherwise okay. Turned out he had extra Endurolytes that he was able to give me some. From that point, I was set and didn’t have any problems the rest of the run. Finished strong although still an incredibly slow time - 2:33, about 40 minutes slower than usual.
Relaxed with some friends at the finish line - it was amazing how many of us all finished at about the same time. Got my massage, recovery nutrition, hung out with friends. Then packed up my stuff and rode back to the car; very surprised that I didn’t feel bad to get back on the bike. Then the 3 hour drive home in traffic, dinner and off to bed.
Woke up in the morning and the only thing that hurt when I got out of bed was the bottoms of my feet. Everything else was fine. Ran a number of the Compex Recovery Plus programs - feet, calves, back, quads, and traps. I had an ART appointment that morning and my doctor commented on the bruises on the bottom of my feet. (We think I need new bike shoes.) Other than that and some tightness he noticed in my traps, I was perfectly fine. Compex hadn’t just helped me get through a race I wasn’t prepared for without any pain or tiredness, it had helped me recover from that race without any lingering soreness or tightness.
The most interesting after effect was actually due to my Compex temporary tattoo. Because of the sun, I have a Compex suntan on my right calf and it’s become quite the discussion topic. A woman even stopped me in Starbucks to ask me about it. The guys at work took a picture a few days later so it doesn’t show up as well as originally but I’ve attached it anyway.