Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Columbia Triathlon 5150: The race that almost wasn't and probably shouldn't have been

Executive summary: I didn't take very good care of myself in the two weeks between Richmond EDR and this race while I was traveling for work, and it caught up with me and I went into the back with a very tight back. I loved the course and had a decent swim, bike was horrendous, and run was tolerable all things considered. I was disappointed in my race, but more due to so many things being beyond my control. I didn't qualify for Hy-Vee (or even come close), but this was one race where I seriously considered dropping out but I am glad I didn't.
Pre-race: I left straight from the race in Richmond for the airport to fly out to, coincidentally, Richmond, CA for two weeks for a training class for work. The weekend in the middle of the class, while others from the class went into San Fran and to Tahoe and Napa Valley, I got on another plane and visited Bailey in Colorado for the last chance before she finished up grad school. I had pretty much no access to a bike in California, as the only stationary bike in the hotel was a recumbent. I could have tried a little harder, but I figured I was just "maintaining the taper" so it was ok to go pretty light. I was able to get in a couple runs and swims, and I did manage to get in a long MTB ride with Bailey in Colorado (where I taught her how to play in the dirt!) on a rented bike. I found my lower back was kind of tight the second week of class, but I mostly just attributed that to slumping too much in my seat, and I figured it would go away once I was back home and could stretch. It didn't give me any trouble running or anything like that. Well, when I was checking into the airport for the flight back to the east coast, my back just gave out and it was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. I hobbled over to a seat and caught my breath to try to process what just happened. I got through security somehow, finding that wearing my backpack actually relieved some of the pain.
24 hours, multiple massages, a flat tire on my car, and typical DC traffic later, I was up in Columbia for the race, still unsure whether I would start. I got my bib, re-remembered what riding on a TT bike felt like by doing two circles around the parking lot to make sure my back wouldn't totally seize up. It didn't so I racked my bike and went back to the semi-sketchy motel with Mike Pelechaty, fellow oversized post-collegiate triathlete who I'd met in Richmond a few weeks earlier.
Race morning it was a bit of a drizzly grey sky, but it wasn't that cold. I woke up extra early to stand in the hot shower and let the water beat down and try to loosen up my back, then I put on an Icy Hot and a ThermaCare patch and probably took enough Advil or Tylenol (I can't remember which) to cause renal failure in most children. I got to the race and warmed up as best I could, but was still wary of running much, so I kept that to a minimum. So really, I didn't warm up except running around to find a portapotty without a line (there's always one at every tri. Fortunately most other people don't find it), and splashing around in the water a bit before the race officials yelled at everybody to get us out of the water, despite never making it clear that we couldn't warm up.
Anyway, race started and as expected, I lost a bit of the super swimmers early on due to my lack of sprint, and I was clawing my way back the whole time, about what I expected. Nothing really spectacular about the swim that I remember, although that's probably the problem with writing race reports 2 1/2 weeks was a long run up from the water because it was such a big transition area. My back didn't feel the best, but I figured I would make my decision about DNFing when I needed to; now wasn't the time, and I could probably at least try biking. I got onto the bike and tried to start hammering, but I'm not sure what exactly was going on, but for some reason my seat height was all the way down and I was getting some SERIOUS pain. Fortunately there aren't any plans for little Ians any time soon, because I think I may have pushed myself one step closer to never having children throughout that bike ride. As a result, I could never really seem to get a rhythm and just felt like I was getting passed over and over again. I expected my bike would have taken a bit of a back seat with the draft-legal focus, but not this much, so that really sucked. I think I passed 3 people total on the bike, which is beyond unusual for me, especially on a fun, windy, curvy course like this. The climbs weren't especially grinding or steep or long, but it was kind of cool to never really have much flat ground. I hated that bike ride though, and I seriously thought about pulling out several times. I knew with my back the way it was that I would definitely have trouble on the run, so with trouble on the bike already I had nothing really going for me. Finally, I made it to the end of the bike course and got off and felt better than I expected to starting the run. Again there was very little flat ground and some of those uphills definitely sucked. I started to reel in a couple people off and on, sometimes they would surge back away and I would lose them, other times I got away. I finished I think 27th in the elite amateur division, obviously nowhere near where I wanted. A couple of years ago, I would have been elated with a 2:11 Olympic distance, especially on a course like this, but now I was just a bit dejected really. I had come into this race with the hopes of finishing in at least the top 15 to qualify for Hy-Vee, but preferably really the top 5 or 10, but my back and bike issues negated that entirely. All things considered though, I was marginally pleased with what I could control. I was by no means happy with my 41:something run, but sadly that's the best I think I've run in a while, and I did it on a difficult course with an injured back. Oh well, there will always be another race I suppose...

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