Tuesday, September 14, 2010

IMMOO: Taking the Good with the Bad

I had a fantastic time in Wisconsin this weekend racing in Madison.  Friendly people, beautiful weather, breathtaking landscapes - and lots of cows.  The race itself didn't go as I wanted, or as I predicted.  But I'll get to that in a minute, first I'd like to point out how great Madison was as a host city.  I've done three IM races now (and a LOT of other races) plus spectated a few - and Wisconsin wins hands down as my favorite.  The city of Madison is a college town, it's a little funky and quirky - kind of like Leucadia is wishing they were - and filled with nice people.  The surrounding areas, where most of the bike course lies, are gorgeous and pastoral - especially with the late summer weather.
Now to the race stuff.  First I have to say: I did not do well.  215th in my age group.  Out of 293.  Ouch.

As I said above, the people I met in Wisconsin were very friendly.  However, much like gremlins, apparently they get nasty when they get wet.  I have never had such a rude experience during an IM swim.  The start line was crowded with 2700 athletes, so you expect to get kicked and elbowed and head-butted and generally beat up - you get that at any mass swim start.  This is the only IM I've done where it went beyond that - athletes actively being a-holes.  I had my ankle grabbed and pulled multiple times.  I was punched in the calf (I'm certain it was not an accident - who swims with a closed fist?) which caused me some cramping issues for the next 13 hours.  Someone even put their hand on my shoulder and actually pushed me down under the water.  It's the only swim I've ever been in where I was actually gasping for air, I just couldn't stay calm and get a good breath very often.  Luckily, most of the a-hole swimmers were also slow, and the second loop went much more smoothly - just the usual bunch-ups at the turn buoys.
Predicted time: 1:05 to 1:15
Actual time: 1:09

Nothing much to say here.  IM transitions are hard.  This one required running 1/4 of a mile and up 4 levels of a spiral parking garage ramp.  I'd like to be quicker here, but this is no big deal.
Predicted time: 5-7 minutes
Actual time: 10:35

The bike course is a 17 mile "out" followed by two 39 mile loops around the countryside, then returning the 17 miles "back" to town.  It's breathtaking scenery, glad I was there.  It's also hilly.  Super hilly.  I've never ridden anything like this - it's not crazy mountainous hills (St. George), but there is no respite.  It's undulating the entire way, with one or two sustained climbs in to wear you down a bit more.   However, the climbs are manned by an army of locals cheering you on - it felt like a scene from the Tour de France.  Plus, the city of Verona which we passed through twice has a big festival and huge crowds cheering us on.  For me, this included my parents, grandmother and aunt - who endured just as much as I did to get there and get through the tough day.  It was great to come up the last hill into Verona and see my Dad on watch for me.
My plan was to do 170 Watts average, which would put me somewhere between 6:00-6:30 for the bike course.  I also planned on drinking 20oz of water (one bottle) and eating 300 calories each hour.  Looking at my data now, it's a disaster.
I felt great for the first 17 miles, though I went out a little too fast.  187 Watts, 19.7 MPH.
First Loop I felt good too, 172 Watts 19.4 MPH.  Perfect.
Second Loop, everything fell apart.  I felt tired.  I couldn't speak, I was dehydrated. 148 Watts, 17.1 MPH
Last 17 back to town - I was dead.  120 Watts.
Predicted time: 6:00 to 6:30 (170 Watts)
Actual time: 6:10 (156 Watts)

I hopped off my bike to find, I had sprained my ankle.  How do you sprain an ankle on a bike?  It didn't hurt while riding, maybe I twisted it while dismounting?  I hobbled into the Frank Lloyd-Wright designed transition area (how many of those are there?) and took my time getting ready to run.  I remember saying to my assistant "I have never felt this bad in T2 before".
Predicted time: 5 minutes
Acutal time: 6:48

Calling this section "Run" is a bit of a misnomer.  There wasn't very much running in this marathon.  I had worked so hard on my run, I really wanted to show it off in Madison.  However, nutrition trumps fitness - and without fuel I was left with few options.  I ran the first mile in 8:35, faster than I was supposed to.  My legs felt OK for that first mile (other than the sprained ankle, calf still tight from the swim-punch, and a little bit of crampiness), but I was fighting hard to overcome serious breathing cramps and dizziness.  I gladly walked through the aid station and filled up with four cups of water and IM Perform.  I tried to run the next mile, but it was a struggle, a little bit of walking resulted in a 10:33 mile.  I can live with that - except that I felt like death.  I fought for two more miles (12 and 13 minutes respectively) and literally started seeing stars.  At this point I knew I was dangerously dehydrated, despite having 6 bottles on the bike and at this point 16 cups on the run.  New plan: drink as much as possible, go slow, recover, comeback on the second half of the course.  I started walking, and drinking 4 cups each mile.  Occasionally I would attempt to run, but it wouldn't last long.  This went on all day (and into the night).  I drank 120 ounces of fluid on the bike, and around 300 more on the run over the course of 12 hours - and never had to urinate once.  That is over 3 gallons of water without peeing, /that/ is some serious dehydration.  I actually didn't go until the next morning, after consuming another gallon or so in an attempt to recover.
So this was my slowest run ever.  It was my most painful run ever.  It was the second most sick I've been from dehydration.  My list of "Dehydration Moments" is getting long, and I'm running out of ideas as to the problem.  I don't know what I did wrong this weekend, I drank the same amount I trained with - but it failed spectacularly.  I only performed well for 4 hours, after that it was a long slow decline into misery.

Predicted time: 12:27
Actual time: 13:39
I'm not happy with my time, but I'm pleased with the experience.  I had a great long weekend in Wisconsin with KT and my family, and got to drink in the wonderful atmosphere in Madison.  I'm still a little dizzy, nauseous, dry-mouthed, and headachey two days later, but that will go away eventually.  I need to figure out this hydration thing, I can deal with it - but I don't want to put everyone else through the worry they went through this time anymore.


Rachel said...

Chris, you did awesome! I would love to do that race as it's my alma mater. What's your next race? I need to get back into training after several months. I've been AWOL since Utah.

Chris said...

Hey Rachel, good to hear from you! I've been AWOL since this race in September. That's 0 meters swimming, 40 miles biking, 5 miles running in the last 12 weeks. Yikes. I'm doing Carlsbad half marathon and CA 70.3, so I've got to get going - but being lazy is awesome!