Monday, June 14, 2010

2010 Eagleman AquaVelo: The perfect storm for failure

The executive summary is that even though this was a difficult day to race made worse by a series of unfortunate events, I finished the Eagleman AquaVelo Sunday with times slower than I could have ever imagined.

First some back story. I arrived in Cambridge on Friday evening about 7pm after traveling 24 hours from Hong Kong. The early Saturday plan was to jump in the water for a quick recon swim (to get landmarks for siting, etc) and that went off without issue. Most noticed that the water was on the warmer side. I overheard someone say that the water temp was 74 degrees. I thought the water seemed a little warmer than that but I'm used to swimming in very warm water. All checked out good for me. Then off to the expo to check in and pick up the swag bag. They had separate AV shirts but didn't have any in XXL like I requested. They offered to have one sent to me later but I tried on the XL and it fit so I was feeling good about myself. The AquaVelo was the second to last wave scheduled to go off at 8:28 (last was the relays but there were very few of them). The first wave was scheduled to go off at 7:00.

My wave was assigned black swim caps and I really don't understand that. I only use a swim cap in open water and like a light colored one so that you can spot people quickly. Most of my open water swimming is done in the Long Island Sound and black just sort of blends in with the water defeating the purpose.

After the swim I took a short nap as I was feeling the time zone change. I got up and went shopping for supplies (Gatorade, Pop Tarts for breakfast, Uncrustables for during the race, $2 throw away flip flops, plastic garbage bags to wrap up the bike since overnight rain was predicted, etc). Did a quick bike ride to shake down the bike and checked in my bike. The air temperature was 90 degrees and my family arrived at about 7pm. I wanted to get to bed early since my friends were meeting at 430 AM to head over to transition. Eagleman doesn't have good parking at the race site so you need to get there early to park on the street. This year they tried to introduce buses from some of the local schools to help but I think they need to refine that idea (more on that later). Asleep at 8pm. All looking good.

Up at 10:30pm. Uh-oh. My body was still in the wrong time zone. I stared at the ceiling at the hotel until 3:30. I was exhausted, couldn't sleep and the day didn't even start yet. I thought about not racing at all and trying to get some sleep.

When we got there I saw a race official checking out the bikes and asked her what the water temperature was. She said 79.6. I looked at her like she was joking but she wasn't. Then the PA announcer said no wetsuits due to the water temp. The rules state that you can wear a wetsuit if the water is up to 84 but you couldn't qualify for Kona, etc or get any prizes. I asked the official about this and she said that only applied if they could segregate the wetsuit vs nonwetsuits participants. Since the couldn't separate us, none could neoprene up. This was the first time in 15 years that wetsuits would not be allowed for this race. How lucky were we?

I thought about not racing again. I've only raced one other time without a wetsuit and it was my worst race ever. My hip injury doesn't let me kick so almost all the swimming I've done has been with a pull buoy. People were leaving with their bikes choosing not to race at all. I doubted that I could swim the whole distance without a wetsuit but also figured I couldn't live with myself if I didn't try. I refocused my mindset to just go slow and steady, realizing I might not make the 1:10 cutoff.

The first wave went out at 7:15 rather than 7:00. I think this was due to too many athletes being hung up by the brand new busing situation. The later the morning went, the hotter the air temperature got. My wave went off about 8:45 and I found myself swimming toward the outside (I didn't want to get into the scrum and lose my chip like the last nonwetsuit race that I did). Later I found out Fran lost his 310xt during his swim as the pins fell out of the band in a collision. The going was slow (on purpose) and my hip was hurting a lot. I kept finding myself off course and then I realize I was swimming against a current (duh, it was a river), it kept moving me off course. I swam continuously until I crashed into someone standing up in a shallow part and my watch said I was about 53 minutes in. I realized I wasn't going to make the cutoff but I would finish so I gently swam it in. I convinced myself that my race would be over but wasn't that sad about it. There would be no dishonor if they wouldn't let me continue on, right? There were still many people behind me as I got out of the water finishing the swim in 1:17. My family was there cheering me on.

No one took my chip though. Since I already determined that my race was over I walked through transition to my bike. I was exhausted since this was the longest swim I did time-wise. Then I had the "bright" idea to refocus my ride so that it would be an easy L1/L2 recovery ride and maybe, just maybe, I would recover physically. I was wishing a wish that wouldn't be granted.

I started riding. I was passing a lot of people early on and felt I had some legs under me. I was drinking a lot and ate a PB&J. The wind started howling and the heat was rising off the pavement. I couldn't get my heart rate under control so I dialed it down. At about 20 miles, I felt like I was going to barf and that I was getting goosebumps all over. My left hand (my hand?) was cramping up. These are all symptoms of heat exhaustion. I was overheating.

I already drained 2 bottles, grabbed 2 more at the bottle exchange and poured some on my body to cool off. Now I started to see cyclists just standing on the side of the road anywhere there was shade. I kept going and started feeling a little better.

At the next station about 30 miles, I grabbed 2 more bottles and kept drinking and splashing water on me to cool me off. I wasn't getting better but still kept going. Of course, all the water they had was 95 degrees but I viewed it as medicine.

When I hit the 40 mile I got 2 more bottles and asked if they had any ice. They had a small cooler hidden and offered me some ice. I filled my helmet with ice, put it on and got back on the bike. The ice was melting and dripping down my face cooling me off a little. This was the last bottle stop.

At 50 miles I saw my friend Casey on the side of the road. I told him he only had a few more miles to go and he told me he was done. He looked like he was waiting to get picked up. Later when we were going to start the search party we found he finished the bike. I limped it in and finished. Bike time 3:29:09, 16.1 mph.

The only thought in my head was that I suck. I was an hour over what I expected and I was hurting.

I came back to life quickly after drinking a bunch, having a plate of pasta, and sitting in the river for a little red neck ice bath.

I talked to many of the people as the race was finishing. Carnage was everywhere. A lot of people got DQed from the swim or didn't even try. Many times were way slower than previous years. The temperature on the car when I loaded up my bike was 90. Runners were still out there. The news said the heat index in some parts of the area was north of 110.

It was a hard day for everyone even those who didn't have to deal with timezone changes and modified training. I learned a little about myself and just that sometimes is the criteria for a successful race. My time and performance was not in the galaxy of my expectations.

As BikeMike says, "All you can do is all you can do."


Tri Mommy said...

um, hi. This is your friend, the reality check. You came from 1/2 way around the world on an airplane that dehydrates the heck out of anyone. And the race was HOT... it sounded like you were in Florida, or the south armpit of hell, I'm not sure which. And yet, you completed the aquavelo. So it wasn't your best time. But under the circumstances, I think you earned your title - Rock Star!

Carly said...

Congratulation on your finish! I can't run 3 miles after being in a car for 3 hours, I can't imagine doing a half iron man after flying around the world. The heat is a killer too! You really did have the perfect storm but you made it. Congrats!

joyRuN said...

Good grief! I can't imagine even walking in those conditions, much less an aquavelo. Ugh on all counts.

But you finished the race despite such conditions, which is huge!


Kathleen said...

You gave it everything you had and never gave up. You could have thrown in the towel after the swim but you didn't. Jet lag, heat, no wetsuit and still you made it.
Be proud of that. Many would have never even attempted what you did.

Mark said...

Yo homeslice. that is a lot for ANYONE to overcome. Hopping on that bike after that swim is a terribly courageous feat of bravery, or—no offense—scorchingly obscene stupidity.

I have YET to swim sans wetsuit in a triathlon, and am in no hurry.

Congratulations to you for having the fortitude of a mule!

RunningLaur said...

Man, way to stick through. Some races are just meant to kick you in the butt and make you learn something - including just how tenacious you can be. Congrats on being hardcore and working through it!

Mike said...

Great report AND effort, RS.

Whitarican (White-A-Rican) said...

wow I can not even imagine swimming that long with no wetsuit...Way to stick through it and finish the race under those conditions after traveling around the world!!!

Caratunk Girl said...

Holy crap - so you fly half way around the world AND have to swim 1.2 miles with NO wet suit AND jet lag??? THEN you finish the bike (strongly) in debilitating hellish heat??? DID I mention the JET LAG? The dehydration and general leg crappiness that happens from FLYING FOR HOURS? And you are bummed about your time?? REALLY? I think you are pretty amazing.

Big Daddy Diesel said...

You still finished, thats all that matters

Jess said...

Temperatures around these parts were definitely pretty ridiculous this past weekend. Major props to you for being able to refocus your goals and compete after flying in from half way around the world!

Julie said...

Hi Rock Star,
It sounds to me like you toughed it out and finished to the best of your ability! You did it with time changes, heat and all:) Nice work!

Diane said...

My comment didn't post! Darn! Ok, I think I summed it up like this:
1) You are being WAY too hard on yourself Rockstar
2) Often it's the miserable events that challenge us the most and ultimately make us stronger
3) You're still a Rockstar in my book

Diane said...

My comment didn't post! Darn! Ok, I think I summed it up like this:
1) You are being WAY too hard on yourself Rockstar
2) Often it's the miserable events that challenge us the most and ultimately make us stronger
3) You're still a Rockstar in my book

Unknown said...

Dude -- tough tough race. The heat and humidity just drain you like you cannot believe. But you sucked it up and finished, so way to cowboy up! I've read a bunch of RR from this race and they were all pretty much like yours. brutal out there!

Al's CL Reviews said...

I thought you were crazy to do anything in MD in June as the heat/humidity is unbearable.
But add jetlag/flying around the world to that?

That's why you are a ROCKSTAR!!!

KC (my 140 point 6 mile journey) said...

You are beyond rockstar status in my book! Most mortals would have slept in. Congrats for stepping up to the plate and not quitting!

The un-Zen Runner said...

What a freakin' nightmare! You've earned my official bad-ass stamp of approval. I just made that up...for you. :)

Runner Leana said...

Wow, what crappy conditions you raced under! You could have quit, but you didn't and you kept going. That counts for a lot! Conditions on the day can really affect our results, so please don't be hard on yourself. You did what you could with the factors you could control, the weather you couldn't. And to do that after being in Singapore/Hong Kong? Wow!!!


Big Clyde said...

Geez, Rock. Pretend it wasn't a race to win or lose, but just something to experience. You travelled across the planet, were cheered on by family and completed something that 97% of the world's population would never even attempt. You are blessed. Kick butt on the next one, but consider this one a win, regardless of the time.

I think it was an awesome performance.

Sue Sitki said...

Congrats on completing the race!

I'd be terrified of a non-wetsuit swim! Way to go for giving it all that you had - especially noting the not-so-ideal circumstances before and during...

You didn't give up :)