Longest. Day. Ever.
Ok, this is it, possibly the longest story ever…the tale of my Big Adventure and the days that led up to it. Please take this moment to grab a snack and something to drink because I can’t promise this will be a short story, yep, I can pretty much guarantee that it won’t be.
Friday – 11/5/10 Registration Day
I was lucky enough to have my brother Mike and sister-in-law Lisa show me the ropes since this was their third Silverman race. First stop was Registration – how exciting! I’m now official…I have a number and wristband that would serve as my ‘golden ticket’ for entry to all events throughout the weekend. It was fun getting told the official run-down from my friend Robin, who was volunteering with her daughter Sarah. For an event known for their swag, this year was no exception – a super nice backpack and visor were among the goodies that were too many to mention. Afterwards we checked out all of the booths at the Expo and did a little bit of shopping. =) Friday night was a pasta dinner at the Loew’s Hotel in Lake Las Vegas. Mike, Lisa, my husband Tom and I mingled with other athletes and filled up on yummy pasta and cupcakes.
Saturday – 11/6/10 Drop-off Day
A funny thing happened Friday night when Tom and I were doing some last-minute maintenance on my bike – I noticed my rear tire seemed, for lack of a better term, blistery. I don’t remember it looking that way before but it was late and I’d have to ask Mike to look at it Saturday. But before that, Saturday morning I met Mike and Lisa for a pancake breakfast that was sponsored by a local church, then we had to attend a mandatory athlete meeting to remind us all of the ‘do’s and don’t's’ on race day. Once the meeting concluded I decided to show Mike my tire – needless to say, his response made me happy that I didn’t notice it on Sunday. It looked like the outer shell of the tire was separating from the main construction and he was kind enough to show me with a little pulling on it. So, turning our bikes and transition bags in will have to wait until we have Starbucks then hit a local bike shop for a new tire.
Whew, with disaster averted we were able to head over to Lake Las Vegas and the Start/T1 area. This would be our first chance to check out swim start. This would also be the first of many ‘Holy $#!&, what have I done?’ moments. Here was the dock we would have to jump off and swim over to the starting flag line, the buoy’s we’d have to swim past until the turn around which was soooo far away, then back to the little dock that we’d have to pull ourselves onto then the long run thru the entire transition. In the pre-race meeting, it was labeled as a 5 minute transition (just in travel time). We wandered around for a bit, placed out bikes in their home away from home and turned in our transition bags.
Saturday night, after a delicious pasta dinner and frozen yogurt for dessert, my best friend Kathi and I headed to the Loew’s Hotel to spend the night closer to the start. Kathi’s primary goal was to keep me laughing and the panic attacks to a minimum. As always, she pulled through with flying colors. I would have been a sleepless, nervous wreck otherwise.
Sunday – 11/7/10 The BIG Day
I’m not surprised that I woke up before my alarm went off, luckily it was only about 10 minutes early. I mixed up a strong batch of, what I’d like to call, CarboRocket PURE EVIL for the bike and packed a bag with my wetsuit, bike bottles, goggles, etc. all while trying to choke down a protein bar for breakfast. My drink of choice for the bike was none other than CR’s new 333 Half Evil. Since I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make any new bottles of it while on the course, I doubled the mixture, converting Half Evil to PURE EVIL and decided to take a small drink every 10-15 minutes, followed by a bigger drink of water. It ended up being the perfect nutritional source to get me through the bike course without bonking. Sorry, getting ahead of myself…back to the swim…
Kathi dropped me off at the swim start around 6am, I wasn’t sure how I would kill 2 1/2 hours to the start, but somehow the time flew by. I quickly got in line and met a nice graffiti artist to do my body marking. Really, she made a small smiley face within the ’8′ of my race number – that qualifies as graffiti, right? Next was the timing chip table, then a careful walk down the hill to set up my bike, look for anyone I knew, find Mike and Lisa, pace, check out the porta-potties, wander around in amazement staring at the amazing athletes, pace, watch the full distance racers start, take pictures, put on wetsuit, pace, then finally heading towards the water so Christy’s Big Adventure can begin…
Sitting on the edge of the dock before jumping into the water, I thought my heart was going to burst out of my wetsuit. I think Mike said something like ‘Ok, let’s do this’ and into the water I went. After a short warm-up I made my way over the starting line to find a spot along the outside edge and wait for the start air horn to go off. After that, I took a deep breath knowing that whatever training I had or had not done didn’t matter at this point and I just had to go.
And so I went – keeping focus on my form, but then something happened, I couldn’t get a rhythm, I couldn’t get angry, I had no idea what I was doing and it showed. Honestly, that swim was so hard it took an eternity to get from buoy to buoy. I was extremely grateful to see one of my swim coaches Kara on the kayak, she was so encouraging, so I kept on going. Swimming slowly but surely, stopping when I needed to and didn’t need to, I kept going, kept trying, kept pushing through the leg cramps and eventually with no regard to my swim form (sorry Coach Kara and Coach Paul) I made it to the finishing dock. (Wow, re-reading this it sounds really bad…yes, it was. Even with all of the classes and lessons I had the form down, but didn’t have any recent practical Tri race experience. I had all of the tools, but didn’t know or remember how to effectively use them when it really mattered. Rookie Mistake and valuable lesson learned!)
With the swim done and as one of the last racers to finish, the next challenge was to get OUT of the water because there was a little dock that we had to almost jump onto. After that stressful swim I didn’t have much upper body strength left to hoist myself out of the water on the first try but after what seemed like an eternity, I was out and trying to get rid of my sea legs to get to the wetsuit strippers then over to the changing tent and finally to start the bike leg of the race.
As far behind as I was from the swim, I knew I’d have to work pretty hard to find other 70.3 racers on the road and I’d be lucky to find any to pass. The bike course started with a steady climb out of Lake Las Vegas before turning towards Lake Mead Recreational Area – I quickly realized just how zapped of energy I was from the swim but I remembered to drink a lot of water and CarboRocket and to find an easier gear than what I thought I should be using. The last thing I wanted to do was blow through any remaining energy I had 5 miles into the 56 mile bike ride. At approx. 4 miles in I approached a cyclist but I was too busy paying attention to the road I didn’t look to see if they were a racer or not, either way, I was happy I wasn’t last. It turns out she was also completing the triathlon because we leap frogged each other a few times on some of the climbs and we were both cheering on the other racers as they were flying towards us on the other side of the road. I was thrilled to see Mike, Lisa and my other SwimLV friends doing so well! At some point around mile 10, I heard the tell-tale sound of the police motorcycle – the sweeper, the baby-sitter, the reminder that you’re the end of the pack…I watched him check on a cyclist that had stopped just ahead of me and I found a good stretch of road and started to push towards the 15 mile turn around and first support area, leaving the woman I was riding with behind. At the support area I just had to stop, stretch my legs, use the porta-potty and get some fresh water. I thanked the volunteers, exchanged a few words of encouragement with the woman I had been riding with and was off and riding towards North Shore Rd. Five miles later I heard that sound and couldn’t believe my ears – he confirmed it as he pulled up next to me – the woman he was following had decided to call it a day at back at the support area and he was going to hang with me until the turn around on North Shore Rd. I may have said something that was inappropriate to say in front of law enforcement, but he stared at me through his aviator glasses and told in his best cop tone to not be so hard on myself and that I was ahead of everyone else that did not finish this race.
It took a moment to digest those words and from that moment on, I decided that I couldn’t feel sorry for myself and I needed to keep moving regardless of how much in pain I was, or the pain cave as I was referring to it, I could either be miserable, quit or do my best to make the most of the experience and have fun. So, race, but have fun…don’t complain, don’t listen to the negativity brewing…in the end, I needed to finish. I needed to finish because, well, because of this really cool team I’ve had to opportunity to be a part of, plus I bought a really cool hoodie and baseball cap that I won’t be able to wear unless I finish! That’s my rule, silly as it is, it was one of the things that kept me going.
Back on the bike course I was able to talk to my new motorcycle ‘buddy’ on the flatter stretches while keeping a decent pace. I laughed that I felt real special and he was almost like my own personal security. His name was Jim and all he was missing was a paparazzi on the back of his motorcycle. We even had an encounter with a fan in my friend Robin who had also volunteered to be on the bike course. It was great seeing a friendly, encouraging face. She was even nice enough to take an action shot of Jim and I. Jim was nice, warning me of fast downhill sections and how fast I was going (thanks for not giving me a ticket for going 42 in a 35 mph zone.) I could even tell he was getting tired and needed a break when I stopped at a support area…well, it sounded good at the time even though he didn’t believe me. After we turned on North Shore, Jim stopped to talk to some volunteers and I headed towards the turn around point. On my way back he passed me, making sure I didn’t cheat, I assured him I hadn’t and joked that he was moving on and tossing me aside. With that, off he went to find the last of the full distance racers and I was off to tackle the last 20 miles, starting with the infamous 3 sisters on the River Mountains Trail. These 3 beauties are set within a half mile of each other and are short, super steep, evil hills that top out at a 15-17% incline. They are brutal on fresh legs let alone these things I was trying to pedal with. With those out of the way, the next challenge looming was the wind, it wasn’t bad at the beginning of the ride, but now it had really picked up and was a full-on 20ish mph headwind on the trail. I was really struggling along with the other cyclists and it didn’t seem like it would ever end, but eventually that part of the trail ended and the route was now going downhill towards T2, I was almost 2/3′s complete!
As I turned into T2, I instantly started looking for some friendly faces. First I saw my friend Brian, then Kathi and lastly my friend Theresa, I looked quickly for my Mom and husband but I figured they were at the Finish Line waiting for Mike and Lisa to finish because it was around their estimated finish time and sure enough, Theresa confirmed they were there and would let them know I had just finished the bike course. I still had 13.1 miles to cover and I could hardly walk after giving my bike to the volunteer! Limping was more like it…my left calf was the worst and it felt like it had been ripped out, placed in a VitaMix then put back. I’m guessing because I never had a chance to really stretch it out after cramping on the swim then not moving much during the bike there wasn’t much I could do about it now. I headed into the changing tent and threw on my cap, running shoes and tied a long-sleeved shirt around my waist since it was getting cooler as the sun was setting. I grabbed a bottle of water and exited the tent to start my walking/limping/jogging adventure.
That’s exactly what I did, it hurt to walk, it hurt to jog so I compromised by jogging lightpole to lightpole, then from orange cone to orange cone because they were closer together. Unfortunately, the jogging intervals became less and less and I was left with a fast limp and the encouragement of the volunteers and other racers to keep me going. There were support tables set up a each mile where I had water then either Gatorade, warm chicken broth or Hammer Gel. At mile 2 I heard a car honking, cheering and some cow bell – it was my Mom, step-dad Gary and Kathi. It was great seeing them and talking to them for a few minutes while traffic backed up behind them. I told them to go home, have dinner, take a nap and come back in about 4 hours because my pace was just that slow…The next 4ish miles were pretty routine – walk/limp, jog, drink each mile, thank the volunteers, cheer on the other racers. Around mile 6, my routine was shaken up when I saw my brother Dave, sister-in-law Roseanne and their daughter Rachel do a drive by cheer and Dave jumped out of the car and ran over to me. We started walking together and talking about my day, the pain cave I was in and that I was determined to finish. I knew I was at risk for getting a penalty for having an outside ‘pacer’, but at the limp speed I was going, there was no chance of anyone helping me go faster without risking further injury, plus the prospect of a time penalty when I was already out there for so long, actually cracked me up. (Note to any race officials, I’m sorry for breaking the rules.) I almost felt bad for Dave because after no music (iPods are not allowed) and not having a true conversation with anyone for hours aside from thanking the awesome volunteers and police support, I’m sure I talked his ear off. Dave veered off before the last 1.5 miles so he could gather the troops and head over to the finish line. I couldn’t believe I was almost done!
I was so excited as I got closer and I could tell I was getting a little emotional. I pulled it together enough to jog through the finish line and I didn’t even cry (which I’m known for)! Actually, I told my family and friends that crying wasn’t an option because I didn’t have anything left in me to muster up a tear…I was beat!!
All in all, I was the last official finisher for the half distance race at 12 looonnnggggg hours and 24 minutes. My goal was 10 hours, but considering how I felt after the swim, I knew it probably wouldn’t happen…until NEXT time! I have to show that an old girl can learn some new tricks, because trust me, I learned A LOT!
Monday – 11/8/10 The Awards Day
The final event of the Silverman weekend was a breakfast at Loew’s Hotel followed by trophy presentations for the age group finishers in both the full and half distances. I felt a little relief that I wasn’t the only limper at the breakfast, LOL. Lisa and I had a great time swapping stories with the other people at our table and clapping for all of the award winners. I thought she was joking that they gave awards for the Clydesdale and Athena divisions (male and female racers over a certain weight limit) so you can imagine my surprise when they called me to get my 3rd place Athena 40+ trophy! I was just happy it wasn’t for being last! Afterwards, we said goodbye to our new friends and headed back to reality.
My adventure was over…well, until the next one, that is!