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Friday, August 26, 2016

Timberman 70.3 race report-carry on

  I made it through another race.  Like all of my other races in the past almost couple of years now (sigh), perhaps the bigger battle was even making it TO the start line.  As I had written about in my last post, between Racine and Timberman, I'd really spent minimal time on the bike thanks to my stupid left knee, and my groin and butt were taking turns in flaring up while awaiting their next round of injections.  As late as 1.5 weeks before the race, I was half looking into plane tickets to head out to Coeur d'Alene to watch Dave race instead.  But, I was instructed that I was still going to be ok to race, and as those last 1.5 weeks progressed, the cortisone injection into my knee seemed to kick in a bit.  I managed to get through a few 2 hour rides, with each one getting slightly less painful than the last, and although my hip (well, mainly butt this time) wasn't great running-wise (although I did hit a 30 mile week for the first time in 2016-not much, but more than I'd done), I could tell that I was going to be able to get it to hold out through the race until the injections this week.  Plus, if nothing else, my decreased land training meant that I began to at least feel a bit sharper in the water, where I'd been struggling and very frustrated for some time.  So, off to Timberman I'd go.  Obviously, I was heading there in a far from ideal situation.  I could probably count on one hand the number of times I'd biked 90min-2hrs in the past four weeks heading in, all on the trainer in the fear that my knee would give out, with no real intensity, and a bunch of 10-12 hour weeks weren't going to do much to get me back into shape.  But, I had no real reason not to race, and I knew that I could at least pursue the elusive smooth day, I was going to go through with it.

   In Dave's absence, I travelled out to Timberman with my mom for a fun little mother/daughter weekend.  This ended up working out very well, as we had fun and it made everything flow much more smoothly (plus, she didn't Sherpa whine like Dave, haha).  When I got in on Friday night, the biggest issue of the weekend came into play-I went to put my front race wheel on my bike, and the brake was rubbing.  I hadn't touched the adjustment on the front brake since Racine, and since my outdoor riding had been limited to one 50 minute ride which ended up with me crying in a yard holding my knee while Dave fetched the car, I'd barely even used the brake.  Why it was off, I don't know.  I probably was a little bit more frustrated over this than I needed to be.  I called Dave and he tried to walk me through some adjustments to no avail.  I spent some time freaking out and throwing minor tantrums about why is this NEVER EVER EVER without incident before deciding that I probably should look into bike shops with actual mechanics to help me.  It then dawned on me that pro triathletes are pretty awesome at helping each other and I was in Amber Ferreira's home territory.  Despite the fact that she was getting ready to go rock her own IM, she was able to direct me towards her bike guy (Ryan) who was working the event, and gave him the heads up on my situation.  Once again, fellow athletes came through for me when I was having a crisis-this sport is the best, thanks Amber!  I got my bike to Ryan as soon as I could the following AM.  Turns out my brake cable was shot, which is entirely a reflection of the wear and tear I've put on the bike without enough TLC throughout the past year or so, but after a couple of adjustments, him and the MC cycle guys were able to still get the brake working perfectly, and also adjust the derailleur that had given me the chain drop issues in Tremblant.  Once my bike was racked all was set to go (albeit slightly later than planned, but that's life), I was able to breathe a sigh of relief and get back to normal pre-race business. 

Sadly, my picture taking game wasn't strong on this trip-I don't have much.  Here's one of the lake the day before the race because it looked nice.  I also took a picture of the Dave port-a-potties and my bike on a rack, but I'm pretty sure everyone's seen those.

  Finally, onto the race!  The swim was non-wetsuit for pros, which was actually ok with me, even as a non-swimmer.  I'm not really sure why, other than maybe the increased time in the pool over the past couple of years and the myriad of swim meets I did, I almost felt more comfortable without a wetsuit on.  I hadn't done a non-wetsuit swim since the cutoff for pros got lowered, but thankfully, the water temp felt comfortable enough to me, as air temps were mild.  Anyways, swimming totally alone in Tremblant hadn't been all that fun, so my main goal was just to avoid that.  When we were sent off, I gave it my best effort, and after the initial scrum cleared, I found myself with another woman.  I planted myself next to her hip and proceeded to just hang on there, feeling like I was putting forth a decent enough effort to stay there.  We passed another woman, who stayed with us, and the swim proceeded.  A couple of times I tried to pull up a bit and see if I could get ahead, but it was pretty clear that those attempts were going to be unsuccessful.  The swim continued to progress uneventfully until we neared the second turn buoy.  The buoy before the second turn buoy was orange after all yellows to that point, and the woman leading me mistook it for the turn buoy and turned there.  I, too, was mildly confused, but was able to see and hear the kayak volunteers shouting at her, and continued on in the correct direction.  I led for a bit before the woman behind me took over; eventually our former leader joined back up.  I ended up getting out of the water in 31:35.  Not fantastic by any means, but it was just a few seconds off of my wetsuit swim in Tremblant, and relatively closer to some of the women in the field who had also raced there, so relatively better.  Plus, I felt a whole lot better getting out of the water.

   For once in my life, I managed to transition somewhat less remedially than normal, and exited around the same time as the women I had swam alongside, even clipping in without standing there for 3 minutes (not really, but it feels that way).  Due to my lack of outdoor riding thanks to the cranky knee heading in, I was admittedly quite nervous about descending, bike handling, etc.  But, once on the road, I was fine.  With the exception of a few brief stretches, the roads were in great condition, and winds were calm.  Due to my limited bike training heading in and my lack of confidence on a variety of levels, I didn't really have any major pacing targets in mind.  Jesse had shot out a power number earlier in the week when discussing whether or not my knee could handle riding it for 2.5 hours, and I naturally just pointed out that I'd be unlikely to ride that high anyways, given I'd biked exactly 0 minutes at it in the past month.  Well, lo and behold, once on the road I was kind of maintaining it, so, well, I decided that I'd just keep that gig up as long as I could.  My HR was pegged at what I know is a sustainable 70.3 level, so I just went with it.  I'd dip lower on descents and bring it up on climbs, but my main goal on the descents was just to stay upright and controlled enough to not freak, so I was happy enough to be successful on those accounts there. 

   Once I turned out onto the longer, flattish highway stretch, the ride progressed uneventfully.  Pedal, fuel, keep numbers where I wanted them.  I was feeling better than I had in previous races about my ability to stay relatively even and get the numbers where I wanted them, even though it was taking effort.  Mind over matter.  Other than a few twinges on some of the steeper climbs, my knee was quiet.  If nothing else, I finally felt like I was riding somewhat happily.  Even my dreaded bottle handling went relatively ok for me-the cooler (than what I had raced in this year) temperatures meant that I was able to get away with three bottles for the whole ride, so two refills and one handoff.  A couple of gradual climbs on smooth road meant that the refills went without major freak outs, and although the handoff was totally remedial, the volunteers (who must have sensed my deer in headlights look) actually encouraged me after success.  I like encouragement for what should be simple tasks when they're kind of harder than they should be for me.  Anyways, every time tech support drove past me, I internally smiled a bit, grateful that I wasn't having to flag them down for something.

   After the gloriously uneventful highway stretch, I turned back onto the hillier final ten or so miles of the course and set towards the bike finish.  I knew I had a couple of longer descents before then, and decided that I really had no great desire to bomb down them (not that this is anything different than normal)-I'd made it farther into a race without incident than I had at every single race I've done since 2013 except IM Chattanooga, so I was pretty keen on just keeping things that way.  I distracted myself from fear on the sketchiest descent simply by trying to execute the bike pee that had been brewing since the first hour (unsuccessful-one of many skills that's rusty).  The average power was dropping a bit on the downhills, but that was ok enough by me.  Somewhere in there (I think possibly because of the pee distraction), I did manage to neglect to put my bike back into big ring after a climb.  Oops.  I'm not entirely sure how long I pulled this trick, but I got passed a couple of times like I was standing still while thinking I was spinning out in my highest gear before realizing my mistake.  Well, I'd lost some power and a bit of time, but really, in the realm of the bike issues I've had of late, this I'd take that.  Once I was actually applying pressure through the pedals again, I was somewhere around mile 53, so although I put a little time back into one of the women who had passed me, it certainly wasn't worth burning matches with just a few minutes left to try to get ahead again.  I rolled into T2 just happy to have finally, finally made it through a bike leg without having to get off my bike for something.  I love my QR from the fit to the handling, so I was thrilled to have gotten the dumb luck issues out of the way before the race.  Well done, trusty bike.

   T2...well, my bubble about my relatively ok T1 got burst there.  Since I hadn't managed the successful bike pee, I pulled the "pretend I'm sitting in the grass pretending to put on my shoes but really I'm hiding that I'm peeing" move.  This was priority over helmet removal.  So was putting on my race belt and starting towards the run out.  Halfway there, I realized I probably didn't need the helmet anymore.  Or maybe I did.  I turned back to return it to my bike, but not before I was spotted by the race announcer.  I was already laughing at myself as he called me out-welcomed comic relief for sure!  I then proceeded to get lost trying to find the run out.  I finally managed to figure it out and get out of there as the announcer pointed out that he was glad I figured out I wouldn't need my helmet on the run.  Thankfully, apparently laughing at myself is a great distraction from my normal thoughts of holy geez running feels freaking awful and I want to lay down coming out of T2.  I mean, I still didn't feel great, but I also didn't feel like I was walking or like I was so close to passing out that I couldn't comprehend running a half marathon, so there was that.  I smiled for the people cheering for me and relayed the helmet story to Becky as I ran past, because I knew that would be right up her alley.  This time around, the off the bike leg finding was happening at ~6:45 pace rather than ~20sec/mile slower than that, so the first couple of miles were slightly more encouraging than they've been.  Nothing was cramping yet, either.  After that, I don't remember a ton from the first loop.  Gradually, I was reeling in the woman who had entered T2 slightly ahead of me and exited a whole lot further ahead of me, but based on where I was at the turnaround, I could tell I wasn't really putting any time into anyone else.  No matter, nothing to do but continue on.  I exchanged encouragement with Chris as he lapped me, on his way to the podium.  The course was sort of gently rolling so I knew splits weren't going to be completely even, so I concentrated on keeping the HR climbing a bit and just did my best to keep the miles under 7:00 pace, my baby step goal.

Picture of me running out of T2, courtesy of Nick Gough.  Notice that my helmet has now been removed-although, a small part of me does sort of wish that someone had captured those moments in transition on film for my own bemusement.

   Shortly before the end of the first lap, I managed to pull in a couple of women, but correctly figured that any forward movement in the field would end there.  I still felt decent enough, though, and smiled for my cheering squad to break my normal race pain face.  I don't remember too much of the second lap, other than snippets here and there-occasional weird left hand cramping that never progressed beyond there, mile splits still holding up, thinking I felt ok, thinking I didn't feel ok, and wondering why it was taking me so long to get to the turnaround again.  I went into coke survival mode, and tried to spot friends and teammates for a quick attempted (not always successful) smile, trying to convince myself that I was ok still, and appreciating the cheers and boosts even if I was rather unresponsive in return.  Around miles 9-10, I started to calculate what I would need to do to sneak under 1:30, a time I once took for granted.  Keep it under 7:00.  Mile 10 was under.  Mile 11 broke even.  Mile 12 was over, but that was up and 13 was down.  I spent the last couple of miles hating life in the best possible way, putting what I had into it, hating it but at the same time, remembering my last few miles of Racine, how my body had just shut down.  Despite the painstakingly long minutes, I harbored some gratitude that at least my increased effort seemed to result in some sort of increased speed from my body.  I had seen at the turnaround that I wasn't all that far ahead of one of the women who I had passed earlier, and even though it didn't really matter for much place-wise, I knew that psyche-wise, holding someone off would be nice.  As the final mile progressed, I could tell that the park just looked too tauntingly far away for the course to be 13.1 garmin miles, and I didn't have enough cushion between garmin miles and real miles for the sub-1:30.  I still wanted it over with as quickly as I could, though, and I got myself to the finish while watching 4:40 juuust pass me by, too-not that that was anything I'd had in mind, because I don't put a ton of stock in times, but being just over something is always sort of a bummer (thanks, T2).  But, overall, I was relieved to be done, and just glad to have gotten from start to finish feeling like I had remembered how to race and get the most out of myself, without any major calamities (just a few entertaining moments of stupidity).

   After the race,  I spent a little bit of time at the race site, chatting with my mother and friends.  I was certainly happy to have had a day where everything had gone smoothly, and I had felt like I had finally been in race mode.  My nerve level (high enough to indicate that I cared) heading in, my ability to control the controllables (nutrition, etc) and have the confidence to maintain pace and execute appropriately, and my willingness to put myself to the limit to chase a run time (even though it proved unsuccessful) were all steps forward for me.  From start to finish, I had 100% been in a good mental place.  I raced happy and enjoyed it, even when I was mentally tapping into the deep dark places that I now have to spur myself along when the normal sucky hard parts inevitably came.  What I'm not all that thrilled about is just where my fitness level is at the moment.  I just want to be better, plain and simple, but I've been met with frustration after frustration as my body keeps fighting back at me, preventing me from being able to do the work required to get to where I want to be.  Some of this is certainly on me-although it's not something that I like to obsess over, because I've had struggles throughout my entire running career over how I view myself with it, I'm the first to admit that my current body comp is high enough to be a large (pun maybe intended) limiter on my run.  Sure, low training volume doesn't help, but my self-control could be better, and beating myself up over it only adds to the problem.  But, even with that, when despite all of the work I've done to try to get and stay healthy, things like the knee pop up and the hip gets cranky, I can't help but to feel a full range of sometimes less than helpful, but very real emotions.  I miss weekend hammerfests shelling myself and walking (or laying on the couch) away stronger.  But, I can only take things one day at a time, continuing to troubleshoot and put my best foot forward despite what my body may have to say.

Speaking of feet, I at least managed to gross them up pretty good out there.  I already lost a couple of toenails, and I had to paint some skin before getting my eyebrows waxed today, because the my eyebrow waxer also does pedicures, and I'm always concerned she'd be horrified if she saw my feet in their native state.

   In the days after the race, I also let comparison (having one of the slower run times in the field repeatedly doesn't make me happy) and something rather juvenile that happened (or, more accurately didn't happen) steal some of my joy of the positives unnecessarily.  I began to judge myself negatively because my outcome wasn't brag-worthy, rather than focus on all of the myriad of positives that came from the weekend.  Feelings of inadequacy and insecurities about being an outsider ruled me for a bit, and I retreated into myself.  In the time since, though, I've had to remind myself that although the peaks of my triumphs right now are much lower than they once were, I'm starting from deep in the valley, rather than on level ground.  So, I'm climbing further, even though I'm not ending up as high above the ground as I was a few years ago, and I have to take the positives from this.  Maybe I'm not standing on stages holding pieces of metal, but so many have taken time to make me know that I'm worth more than that as an athlete, and as a person.  I don't even know how many people took a minute or two to tell me that they were glad, inspired to even see me out there, regardless of my time or place, and to me, that's even more valuable than a piece of metal on a shelf (not too helpful to my bank account, but that's ok too).

   So, the journey continues down the totally uncertain road.  Despite my excitement with how my knee felt during the race, it became clear to me a couple of days later that I'm far from out of those woods, and I'm not entirely sure what's going to happen there.  I just had the injections I had done to the former fracture areas in my butt and groin (that helped to get me started again earlier this summer) repeated in the hopes that I'll get another few good months out of them.  I'm mostly hoping that the butt pain will become quiet again, as that was what had taken me out at the peak of my training last winter-the groin pain, while not pleasant, has for the most part been train-throughable.  So we'll see.  For now, my focus is getting these things under control again best I can, trying to maximize my fitness while doing so, and doing my best to keep my emotions and thoughts in check in the meantime.  As much as I sometimes try to look at how far I am from where I was at my peak, I can also look back and see that actually, I have come pretty far from my lowest points, too.  It's admittedly hard to see sometimes when the pain is there and real still, but just because I'm not where I thought I'd be a year ago doesn't mean that I'm not incredibly grateful and happy to be able to at least race to my fullest current fitness still.  Timberman was a step forward on several levels for me, and although I'm still dealing with some things orthopedically, I can take those positives with me.

  So, to wrap this up, thanks again to those who have gone above and beyond to continue to support and back me through the bad and the good, and who celebrate the small things with me while caring for me regardless.  Special thanks on this trip to my mom, for being a fantastically accommodating and agreeable race sherpa as I dragged her through all of my race shenanigans and perfect travel partner.  I appreciate every kind comment I receive, and I can say that I've been carried along many, many times.  Let the fight continue.

It's national dog day, so, puppies!!  They're carrying on, too.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dog days of summer-Racine race report and more bumps

   Well, I started a Racine race report shortly after the race-a month ago.  Then, life got in the way, as well as some other stuff that caused me to retreat into a hole, not really wanting to talk about much.  But, that's how it goes sometimes.  So, I might as well report a bit on the debacle that was Racine, and then touch a bit on the bumps that have marked the time since then.  From start to finish, everything about Racine was one of the biggest messes of my racing career.  A few days before Tremblant, I had registered for Racine, figuring that I might as well put my name on the list to get my feet back in the racing water.  I knew that the three week turnaround wouldn't be long enough for miracles to happen, but after so long off the racing circuit and with nothing else reasonable for over a month after that, I figured that I might as well just go for it.  I did see some improvements in my bike numbers in that time, and I hoped that a few more runs would result in a slightly better result.  In that time, my hip toyed with me a bit with some on and off crankiness that's been making me question the whole idea of that sports hernia surgery, but when push came to shove, I ended up missing all of 30min of bike cool down on one ride because of pain.  So, Racine it would be.  My goals were pretty simple-build upon Tremblant, have a swim that I felt was more indicative of the amount of work I've put into it the past 1.5 years, have a solid ride where I did NOT have to get off the bike for any stupid mechanical issue, and run a couple of minutes faster, hopefully getting under 1:30 this time around.  Well, none of that happened, but life experiences are only failures if nothing is learned, and I do feel that this race ended up having value, even if the result on paper was pretty ugly.

   The drive out to Racine took forever, but we made it eventually and I got dropped off at the airbnb room where I was staying (with four black cats...I sort of felt like this might not be the best of luck there).  The next morning, I went to go get ready to go for a jog and get in a swim set at a Y when...where was my transition bag?  It contained my wetsuit, goggles, bike shoes, bike helmet, and run flats, among other little things (body glide, sunscreen, trislide, blister shield, etc etc).  This was a problem.  After some frantic searching and phone calls, Dave confirmed that I had indeed left it in my car in Rochester.  Well, ok.  He packed up the crucial stuff (helmet, bike shoes, wetsuit-I actually had extra run flats in a different bag), took it to his brother's packing and shipping company, and sent it on its way overnight-supposedly-via FedEx.  After everything, I remained rather rational and carried on with my day.  I did back up my idiocy by proceeding to go out the wrong locker room door at a random Y post-swim, winding up locked in an incredibly creepy, dark hallway of abandoned squash courts with no exit.  Thankfully, I found some phone with the front desk's number written on it, and was able to call for rescue.  I then confirmed my airheadedness by leaving my swim equipment in the locker after leaving, and having to return.  Anyways.  This is not all that relevant, but it all just contributed to the general theme of the weekend.

   Fast forward to the next morning.  FedEx tracking said that my stuff was supposed to arrive in Racine to be picked up at their facility at 9am.  Well, 9am rolled around, and no package.  I talked to Jesse somewhere in there, and when I mentioned the FedEx situation, he advised me to start putting plan B (scrounging around to borrow the key items) into motion.  Dave started hounding FedEx, and I went to work hounding my eventual savior Kelly (and her dad).  Long story short, FedEx sucks and had no idea where my stuff was, but Kelly was able to hook me up with bike shoes and a wetsuit, and then I was able to pick up another wetsuit thanks to the friend of a travelling nurse who was staying in the same airbnb as me.  Go figure.  The other small stuff (number belt, body glide, etc) was picked up at the expo.  So, although the whole situation was less than ideal, I somehow never felt all that stressed by it, and I was incredibly grateful to those who stepped up to help me out and went out of their way for me.  The triathlon community is great.  Later that night, once I had the chance to breathe, I started to realize that I really just sort of  I couldn't put my finger on it exactly.

  Still, the next morning, I woke up feeling ok enough, so all was well enough.  I got to the race site, got my borrowed gear settled in transition, and was starting to pull on my borrowed wetsuit to walk down to the swim start and get a good warm up in the extra unappealing sounding 57 degree water when we were told not to leave transition.  Apparently some weather was on its way.  While we waited out the storm, the swim was cancelled (I wasn't upset).  We returned to transition at 7:30 as instructed, and were told that the race would go on as a shortened bike and a run, which would start at 10:30-come back to transition at 9:30 for the final announcements.  I went back to where I was staying, relaxed, ate, and wrote a few training plans.  When I left to head back to transition, I knew that I was looking at a 31 mile bike, and a run.  Secretly, I sort of celebrated that the bike length minimized the need for bottle handling, and I didn't have to swim, but felt a little bit sad that this wasn't happening while I was actually sort of in run shape.  Once back at transition awaiting the race start, the clouds had burned off, leaving behind a humid, sunny, rapidly warming, very windy morning.  My warm up jog felt like crap.  I brushed it off, and soon enough, we were being released on the bike TT style, 30 seconds apart.  I managed to not do anything too uncoordinated clipping in in front of people up a hill, and was off. 

   The first few miles of the bike, I actually felt like things might go ok.  I was hitting my somewhat ambitious wattage target, given my lack of anything higher-end in training, and although I wasn't thrilled with the rough pavement, the wind wasn't freaking me out too much yet.  Then, somewhere around mile 4 or so, one of the bumps in the road caused the zip tie holding my aero bottle holder in place to snap.  Of course.  The bottle flipped upside down, spraying its contents everywhere.  I had a few moments of trying to figure out what to do about it before I decided to just let it hang there.  Unfortunately, my bottle had ended up in that exact same position after my crash in Cozumel, and I'd ridden with it like that there, considering just tossing the damn thing at an aide station before deciding not to because my garmin was still attached-the garmin that ended up totally busted anyways.  The flashbacks of that, along with the realization that I was either going to have to deal with drinking from my downtube bottle repeatedly in harsh winds if I didn't want to get entirely dehydrated, was enough to completely screw with me.  I told myself that I could stop at the first aide station, though, see if they had zip ties, and get some fluid while stopped.  Not ideal and not pro, but the most appealing solution I could come up with at the time.

   The course soon thereafter turned off of the bumpy road onto a smoother one, but with open fields and fierce crosswinds.  My anxieties over wind continue to cripple me at times, and I honestly spent a good portion of that ride more frightened than I've ever been on a bike, out of the bars, just wrestling to keep it on the road.  Around mile 10, I did see the tech support van up ahead.  Tech support!  I slowed up when I got to them, and asked for a zip tie.  The mechanic quickly hopped out, and zip tied my bottle holder back into place as I refilled it and thanked him profusely.  Getting off of my bike during races (both voluntarily and involuntarily) is seriously starting to get old, but at least I only lost a couple of minutes this go around, and I actually sort of welcomed the brief reprieve from the wind.  Once back on the road, though, the fear didn't really decrease.  Stopping caused my power meter to cut out for the next five miles (I don't know...), and I felt myself start to mentally crack there.  Whenever I was hit by a wind gust, I just wanted to stop, until I thought of everyone who had assisted me before the race.  I spent the rest of the ride (with some help from Jodie's words as she passed) just attempting to keep upright and not panicking entirely.  I cornered horribly as per usual, and spent maybe 5 miles total actually in my aerobars.  As I had said after the race, I didn't even feel like I was racing-just trying to survive on a bike.  I was frustrated at my fear and my ability to get over it, and I was beating myself up as a result.  Eventually, I got to transition, not even caring about anything (like my growing thirst) other than getting onto firm ground.

   In transition, I did grab another bottle I'd thrown on the ground after realizing the bike was shortened, and downed that while running to the exit.  Once onto the run course, I didn't immediately feel horrible, but my feet started cramping pretty early on.  Well, that wasn't good.  Additionally, I realized that I was running pretty darn slow, but my HR was pretty through the roof, sitting at around 175 while running a pace I'd normally see around 155.  Once past the mile, I started to feel legitimately awful, and questioned my ability to keep going even more than normal.  I had lost an entire bottle on the bike, so I did what I had to do on the first loop.  I made myself let go of pace, I accepted the freakishly high HR, I grabbed a vial of salt from the base guys on course, and spent the aide stations doing everything I could to get fluid in and heat off.  I wasn't running well, but I was putting one foot in front of the other, and the aide stations were helping immensely-I'd get through one, feel better for a few minutes, and then survive until the next.  I continued to think about everyone who had gone out of their way to make sure I was even able to race, and I knew I owed it to so many to just tough it out, even if my result wasn't going to be anything to talk about.

   Once onto the second lap, still feeling crappy but moving forward, the course just got super crowded.  I began to have trouble getting as much as I needed at the now packed aide stations, and just hoped that I'd gotten in enough to that point.  By mile 8, I was still hanging in there.  Mile 9 started to get rough.  By mile 10, not only were the cramps that had been on and off the whole run on, but they were on the verge of taking me out.  I've never experienced anything like that in a race before, not even a full-with every step, my feet and calves threatened to just seize up entirely.  I wanted to try to pick up the pace so I'd get to the finish line sooner, before the cramps did me in entirely, but every time I tried to put any extra effort in, or even did something like step a little funny or go around a turn, the cramping got sharp.  I was relegated to a helpless shuffle, just thinking again of everyone that went out of their ways to get me to the start line.  I felt like I was one misstep away from collapsing entirely.  Yet, despite my much slower pace, my HR was stuck at the unnaturally high levels I'd seen right at the start of the run.  Finally, I somehow managed to trot my way through the final few miles and get to the finish line.  I crossed honestly in somewhat of a daze, some combination of upset at my horrible run time and just relieved to have gotten through it on my own two feet.

  Once across the line, I told the volunteers that I was badly cramping, and I let myself get taken into medical.  I was having trouble finding words, just pretty out of it in general.  They let me sit while fetching me fluids (I was SO thirsty by that point).  At one point, I could tell that my stomach was off, and I asked for some anti-nausea meds.  The volunteer told me they didn't have any, and I'd been able to get my shoes off and cramping down, so I left to go gather my gear.  I made it back to the bike rack area when I just started to feel REALLY not good.  I found a spare pepto in my stuff, took it, and sat next to my bike for a bit, waiting for the feeling to pass.  It didn't.  My body was doing the cold clammy sweat thing as I baked in the sun, unable to move.  One thing about me is that I HATE throwing up with an absolute passion, and I'll do anything in my power to avoid it.  I texted Dave and Jesse that I felt like I was going to barf.  I went through a fair share of moments of questioning why I'd missed making myself that miserable for so long.  I had no internal answers, but I somehow was still ok with it.  The low point was spending some time in the port a potty, cold sweating and just praying that I wouldn't end up barfing on my feet while other things happened ( is glamorous).  Darby-bless her-came over when I was out and then sitting on the curb miserably.  She fetched me sprite and pretzels, which I tried to get in but just couldn't.  She had to leave to go coach, but before she did, she told one of the race directors nearby to keep an eye on me.  I thanked her for being so sweet, although I was too nauseous to fully express my appreciation. 

  The race director then came over to me when I didn't move for a few more minutes.  He asked if I needed to go to medical; I told him that I couldn't get anything in and really needed something for nausea, but I didn't think that I could get myself over there.  He then joined the list of people who seriously deserve like 15 batches of fresh-baked cookies from dealing with me that race, went to medical, and came back on the gator to fetch me.  Once in medical-the triage area this time, not the chairs I had sat in right after finishing-a PA handed me the most glorious little quick-dissolve tablet I've ever taken for nausea, and as soon as that had miraculously kicked in and I could lay down, the IV was attached.  Once I had that combination in me, I felt approximately ten million times better.  I was released, and finally returned to transition to gather my gear for real this time.  The race director who had helped me was there; he commented that I was upright, and I was thankfully able to tell him that I felt a TON better and thank him before leaving that less than fun adventure behind. 

   Over the course of the next few days, I did continue to struggle with some GI/heartburn/general malaise issues, which I don't know where caused by what had happened during the race, or that had lead to what happened during the race.  Who knows.  What I did know was that I really would prefer to never feel that awful on a run course again.  I never have been, nor I never will be the most talented runner.  It's not that I'm completely talentless, but for me, consistency is key, and my main ability isn't in speed, but in the ability to train myself to just hold a very high percentage of maximum for a long amount of time-outlasting more than outrunning.  But, I've had several very prolonged layoffs from running in the past couple of years with only brief spurts back into it in between, and so, as a natural consequence of this, I don't expect my run to be what it was a few years ago.  I'm realistic.  Even with that, though, my run in Racine was so far from what I want out of myself that I was disappointed.  I have never run that slow in a 70.3.  It wasn't even a good IM run pace for me.  Maybe it's more PC to talk about how happy I was to just be back out there and that I could run at all, and while that's obviously still the case, that race was just a poor performance that I'm not happy about.  I'm not going to sugarcoat that I'm capable of more, and I should be able to get it out of myself. 

   So with that, I licked my (thankfully only figurative) wounds from that race and decided to turn my focus to the next one on the schedule-Timberman.  I told myself to focus on the details, take off the kid gloves in letting myself off the hook with glaring imperfections, and get to work.  I had several weeks to get in consistent training and see what would happen.  Well, as usual, my body had other plans.  I made it a week, managed to string together one of my longer, more solid training weekends in a while up in Lake Placid, came home, and a few days later, out of nowhere, found myself cutting a bike ride short because of some random left knee pain.  I brushed it off at the time.  It stuck around, letting me know it wasn't going anywhere on the one year anniversary of my hip surgery-not the best for the mental game there.  I could run, but not bike, but I couldn't run too much because my hip and butt pain were flaring up, and that left swimming, but I was just angry, cranky, upset, and completely burned out of spending more time in the pool because that was all I had.  Plus, my on again, off again left shoulder pain (possibly a crash consequence, but I've never had it investigated) was on again.  Needless to say, it's been a bumpy (to put it nicely) few weeks of questioning and complaining and pain.  I've said it before that past misfortune doesn't guarantee future good luck, but at some point, I think it becomes natural to just wonder, when is this sport going to throw me a freaking bone?  What does it want from me?  That thought had already been in the back of my mind following the Racine debacle of a race, so adding a completely unnecessary knee injury and more hip questioning on top of that pushed me back down into the valley, staring at the climb out, wondering if I even wanted to attempt it again.

   Then, in lieu of riding my bike one Saturday, I painted a lounge chair while waiting for Dave to get home.  And sure, the lounge chair looked better afterwards, but I finished it thinking about how really, it just didn't give me any great life pleasure to have a freshly painted lounge chair on our front patio.  I'd rather ride my bike.  So I got in with my surgeon's PA to get some cortisone thrown into the knee to try to get it back under control.  I made a massage appointment with Tiffany to get my cranky adductor and butt worked out.  I got my next round of hip and butt injections booked, and re-committed myself to the simple strength work that I know my body needs.  We mapped out a plan-try to get through Timberman, for better or worse, get the hip injections (same ones I'd had back in May that had given me good relief throughout June and early July), try to get to another 70.3 in September, and then reassess what road to take in October.  I went on family vacation to Cape Cod, I remembered that last year I'd been on crutches freshly post-op there, and I got in some runs that revived my spirit a bit.  My goal at the moment is to try to get through October still training and racing, whatever that looks like, so I can at least feel like I sort of had a season, however slow and imperfect it may have been.  I don't know if that will happen, but nothing is ever guaranteed anyways.  For the time being, I'd still rather live in some degree of pain in order to be an athlete, even if I do get days where I question the sanctity of that.  I could easily read into it all as signs that I should give it up, take a break, and seek out answers, and honestly this would be "easier", but my heart is stronger than my hip, and so that's what I'm going to follow for now. 

  So, that's that.  For now, not too much I can do other than continue to try to work within the realm of what my body will give me orthopedically, and to continue to try to do everything I can on my end of things to get it to cooperate.  Continued thanks to those who have supported me unconditionally, and have kept me moving/sane/in less pain/smiling/sort of racing/putting one foot in front of the other.  I wouldn't still be clinging to some degree of faith and belief on my own, so my gratitude continues to be with those who have helped along the way!