Sunday, May 26, 2013

Iron Fail

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away, know when to run...

Okay, admit it, now you've got the song in your head...and I've got your attention!

Those lyrics are surprisingly apt when applied to my experience at Ironman Texas last weekend. It was my 5th iron-length triathlon and my first DNF at the distance. I am not proud of this and I don't plan to make it a habit---I've always been one of those "old-school" athletes who looks somewhat scornfully at other athletes who drop out and "save it for another day" when they're not having a great race. I always thought I had too much respect for the sport to treat it so flippantly; besides, an Ironman is such a long day with so many ups and downs that you never know what might happen so you might as well keep going and see it through to the end. However, I realized last weekend that sometimes the body simply doesn't cooperate and as a professional you have to decide whether it's worth carrying on and potentially doing more damage, or if it's better to take the long view, fold your cards, and wait for the next round. I knew by Mile 60 of the bike that running probably wasn't going to be a great idea, which meant I had a good 50+ miles to make peace with that decision. I HATED dropping out but I know it was the right thing for me to do. By the time I rolled into T2 and handed off my bike it was surprisingly easy to step off the course. Figuratively, that is----literally it was actually quite difficult! The pavement was burning hot, my back was in spasms, and once I sat down in the change tent I discovered I couldn't stand back up on my own. Luckily the volunteers were great and the sponsoring hospital Memorial Hermann had wonderful massage/PT personnel on hand to help straighten me out and get me walking relatively normally again.

Despite not putting it all together on race day, I really enjoyed the trip to Texas. The Woodlands is a unique setting for an Ironman including swimming in a canal, riding in the HOT lonely rolling Texas countryside, and running along the Waterway. In a way I had the best of all worlds: I was in the thick of things as a participant, put in a good swim-bike training day, then I had a lot of fun cheering at the finish line and being a spectator---with the added bonus that I wasn't sore and hobbling around the next day! Plus my rental car was a lot of fun to drive! It's the small things in life...right?? My homestay, Katie White Reynolds and her family, were really great down-to-earth hosts with a "no muss no fuss" attitude. Thank you for adopting me, trying to teach me how to use a GPS (unfortunately a fail), and showing me how to set my phone so the alarm sounds but everything else is silent---priceless! I made some new friends in Texas and spent some time with old ones. Thank you to Ashley for passing the hours spectating with me, to April for the Gatsby movie date, and to BJ & Chrystel for the VIP banquet seating. Thanks also to my fellow athletes for the overwhelming support in the wake of a disappointing race. Congrats to all who finished on a steaming hot day in Texas, particularly Kim & Ian for their breakthrough performances, BJ for punching his ticket to Kona, and to Todd for persevering and putting one foot in front of the other to get 'er done. And of course, thank you to my sponsors and supporters for sticking with me through thick and thin: Powerbar, Rudy Project, Blueseventy, Reynolds, Fezzari, Recovery Pump, REV3, Maxxis, CycleOps, and The Bike Shoppe.

So what's next for me? I'm not exactly injured, I just have some "issues"---and I have every intention of maintaining my planned race schedule while working through things. I have some underlying structural imbalances that I suspect were exacerbated by trying to do too much too quickly in preparation for an early season Ironman. Lesson acknowledged, and hopefully lesson learned. With the help of my massage therapist and some work with a PT to re-train my body how to move correctly I should be good to go...and it's off to Connecticut next week for REV3 Quassy!

Since I didn't have much of a race to report on, here are some pictures to illustrate the experience:

Swimming here made me feel like a real swimmer again!

Setting up the day before.

Banners along the Waterway.

Cows on course!

Ghost town.

Great for spectators & for runners alike.

So close...just a downhill followed by an uphill to the finish line!

Water features at night.


Anonymous said...

love the song reference- and it is totally applicable. As hard as it was to not finish, it was the right decision from the sounds of it! I hope that you are recovering & healing up and getting ready to rock Quassy.
LOVE the pool porn too, made me want to race TX one day...then I saw the pic of the canal ;)

Michele said...

I'm so glad you made the comment about respecting the race and not wanting to DNF. I'm new to the sport of triathlon and I've watched a lot of youtubes of the ironman races and so many times they show Pros dropping out because they were passed and were not in podium position. It made me sad because I will probably never end up even on an age group podium! To drop out just because you won't win? Others in the videos walked to the finish if they had to walk because they wanted to finish. With that said- I certainly agree that there are times when a DNF is totally acceptable and yours was. You are a great athlete and someone I look up to. You get it, you get what racing is about!