Thursday, October 29, 2009
TOO MUCH SUGAR, NOT ENOUGH SALT
That's the big lesson learned by this gourmet chef wannabe...salt brings out the fullest flavors and best results, whereas too much sugar is overwhelming and makes you feel sickly in the long run. Literally. I learned this lesson after a meltdown around mile 6 on the run course of the Longhorn 70.3 race last weekend. (70.3 is the number of miles in a half ironman, it just sounds catchier as the marketing experts have discovered.) Anyway, back to the race. I traveled to Austin, TX last weekend for the Longhorn race, an event I was really looking forward to for a number of reasons: 1) I had never OFFICIALLY been to Texas before, 2) I've been working on my run and was excited to test it out, and 3) who wouldn't be excited to race after being laid up most of the season with an injury?! Things went smoothly and I took care of the pre-race details; locating hotel, finding the race site, checking out the bike course, pro meeting, packet pick-up, etc. The weather the day before was a little nippy in the morning and I found myself wondering if toe- and arm-warmers were going to rule the day. Nope: race morning temperature was 66 degrees while we were still setting up the transitions in the dark! The race organizers did a FANTASTIC job with the event, right down to timing the start of the first wave for when dawn just began to break and the sky went black to gray. The swim start was a bit silly for the pros because it was a deep-water start at one buoy, and everyone kept creeping forward before the gun actually went off. Despite generally being a strong swimmer who can deal with a bit of physicality at the start, I'm still a bit protective of my collarbone, so I positioned myself a little off to the right side so as not to get my arm yanked off in the melee at the beginning. The crowd counted us down and off we went! I was able to initially grab the feet at the back of the first pack, but I lost them after the first turn buoy and ended up swimming essentially on my own. I felt good but it's always disappointing to lose a good set of feet, and mentally I was a bit down on myself for that. I reminded myself that in the half-iron distance the swim is the least significant of the three disciplines so losing a little time there was okay. As it turns out I was actually the third female out of the water, behind uber-swimmer and defending 70.3 World Champion Joanna Zeiger and this year's 4th-place finisher at the Hawaii Ironman, Tereza Macel. Not too bad! I think my snazzy BlueSeventy Helix wetsuit must have helped because honestly the swim has been the hardest thing to get back after the accident. In any case, off to the bike! My transition was a little slow because my feet got a little stuck in that snazzy wetsuit (cut the ankles higher!) and because in WTC rules you have to wear your race number on the bike and I started to put my helmet on my head with my race belt/number tucked inside of it...oops! You'd think I was a rookie or something! So that took a few extra seconds. Once on the bike the biggest thing was keeping my eyes on the road to navigate the numerous potholes and wheel-eating cracks in the road, while remembering to eat, drink and be merry. The course was a nice rolling tour of the Texas farmland, but by mile 40 I was ready to be off the bike and onto the run. My shoulders were tightening up from being in the aero position for so long, and I could tell I was favoring my left shoulder a bit and the right side was beginning to pay for it. I know that I hadn't quite put in the big bike miles for this race, but I split a decent time (2 hours 30 min) and came off the bike in 5th place. This race was logistically a bit tricky because it included two separate transition areas, but Utah actually has a lot of races like that so I was okay with it. T2 went smoothly, and the coolest thing was getting to start and end the run with a run through Luedecke Arena! The crowd was great, and kudos to race director Keith Jordan for coming up with that design. The run course itself was TOUGH. There wasn't really a flat section anywhere, just continuous up-down rollers. I was ready for that though, and really excited to run. However, I knew within the first mile that something wasn't right. I felt heavy and just couldn't quite get into that nice ticking rhythm that I've been working so hard on. Mentally it was definitely a gray patch...or rather, pitch black! I was having a real battle with myself to keep going, but then the first lap was over and the crowds were cheering and I just couldn't stop right there. So off I went on lap #2. I trudged along for a couple of miles, then came to an oasis of Greek gods and goddesses...an aid station! The volunteers were AWESOME. They pulled up a chair for me as I wobbled to the side of the course and plied me with coke, salt tablets, and pretzels. I felt a little dazed sitting there, watching the other runners of all shapes and sizes stream past in their bright spandex outfits. By this time the course was getting crowded with age-groupers and I saw some people who probably felt worse than I did...it was getting hot out there! I thought about how quickly my fitness had come back after the injury, how lucky I was to be able to spend a Sunday morning celebrating life this way, and how shameful and disappointing it would be to tell all my friends and family who were rooting for me that I hadn't been able to hold it together and had simply given up. I'm not sure how long I sat there with these thoughts...at least five minutes, maybe ten. Somewhere in there I won the mental battle and talked myself into getting up and running at least the rest of that lap. My Greek god helped me to my feet (that camp chair was LOW!) and off I went to re-join the herd on the course. As I went along I started picking up steam and suddenly realized...I felt GOOD! REALLY good. The type of good I'd been training for. So I went for it, even though many places in the women's race had passed me by while I was sitting at the side of the road. By the time I finished the second lap I was cruising, and I glanced down at my watch out of curiosity to try to get a final lap-split. The third lap was by far my fastest; I was running the pace that I had trained for, which would have put me in the neighborhood of 1 hour 30 minutes had I been able to start out that way. As it was, I spent 1:47 out on the run course (boo!) but some of that was sitting, and I was able to pull myself out of that dark hole and finish strong (yay!). Although the run was disappointing, I'm overall very pleased with my effort and I learned a way more valuable lesson than I would have if I'd had one of those magical everything-goes-your-way races for my first big race back after the broken collarbone. Eat more salt! In my post-mortem, I realized that everything I ate on the bike was sweet; I was so focused on calories that somehow I failed to consider what TYPE of calories I was eating. I've never experimented with salt intake before, but will I now? As a rather infamous former vice-presidential candidate would say...YOU BETCHA!!! And boy, I can't wait for the next chance to apply my new-found knowledge!