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Monday, October 3, 2016

We rise, we fall, we carry on-Barrelman race report (and other stuff)

   Well, I've sat on this race report for a bit now, because it's turned into a bit of sweet and sour.  Sweet for the race, sour for what's come since (more injury limbo).  But, since I'm now in Kona for Dave's race, no time like the present to finish this one off, right?  So, here goes. After Timberman, I went through a little bit of a rough week mentally and physically (more hip injections, and my knee began to hurt on the run, not just the bike) before pulling myself together.  Ok, I trained 12 hours one week.  Maybe the next week I could make it 13.  If I didn't like how my knee felt but wasn't willing to rest it, then I needed to consistently rehab the crap out of it.  When all was said and done, I ended up putting together a few non-spectacular but consistent, relatively content weeks, and had made it to my next race-Barrelman.

   Barrelman, well, it probably sounds strange to say that I felt like I wanted redemption at a race I've never done, but that was the case.  Last year, Dave had finished out his season there.  I was about 1.5 months post-op at the time.  I clearly remember riding the trainer in a parking lot under a tree, not even clipped in yet, and then wandering around the park on the run course, hopping onto curbs and into grassy areas to do my rehab exercises.  My run envy game was stronger than ever, as I wanted more than anything to be tromping around Niagara Falls instead of standing on the sidelines.  Plus, the whole atmosphere of it had a friendly, affable vibe, and I wanted to take part.  Aside from that, Barrelman just made sense in terms of timing, location, and finances.  Dave and I had been wanting to race together for some time, and this was our best chance.  Also, I do love to support more local races when I can.  I've always felt that the organizers, directors, and volunteers at them put extra care into them, and it shows.  Barrelman was certainly no exception.  Everything about the race had a fun, personal feel, and it clearly shone through that those involved were dedicated to making it a great race experience for all.  For a point to point race, logistics were easy.  Dave and I drove out and took care of checking in on Saturday afternoon, and then spent the night in Orchard Park with Jen Brady, who was kind enough to offer up her guest room (and kitchen utensils).  For once, my race lead in was suspiciously low-anxiety, with my biggest issue being whether or not to run the disc wheel in potential winds (I ended up going for it).
The night before the race, we discovered that Dave's athlete bracelet said "Hans".  We thought that they had left out the "en" from Hansen, and laughed about it.  It's sort of a long story, but Hans is the nickname that Dave's brothers use when he's being a PITA and they want to make fun of him for it.
   Race morning continued to go relatively smoothly.  My pro wave started a minute before Dave's wave.  This had also been a source of slight anxiety heading in, as I had envisioned all 200 men and women in his wave physically swimming over me at once 2 minutes into my swim (similar to my IMLP 2012 experience when the mass start caught me swimming alone in DFL), followed by massive packs of age group males engulfing me and playing cat and mouse on the bike (similar to my IM Florida 2012 experience).  Turns out, this couldn't have been further from the truth, because A. 800 people is not 2500-3000, and B. despite the fact that I think I'm a terrible swimmer, in the realm of all triathletes, I'm not entirely awful, so a non-obscene number even caught me.  The swim was at the Welland Flatwater Center-think, giant pool, or manmade Mirror Lake.  Smooth water, easy navigation.  Knowing that a whole bunch of baller swimmers were in the pro wave and I likely wasn't going to be able to catch a draft no matter how hard I went out, my strategy was more to not burn too many matches in the first few minutes (because really, any excuse not to sprint is ok by me), and instead conserve something for when the next wave started to catch me, to see if I could catch a draft once the packs started coming past at a more comparable speed.  This worked out well.  Sure enough, I started to get passed early on, but a little before the first turn buoy, a larger pack more gradually engulfed me.  I made the first turn in the midst of that, and realized that I was literally swimming side by side with Dave.  How romantic.  I poked him intentionally a couple of times.  Once around the second turn buoy, he got away from me a bit and a couple other slid in between us, but I latched myself onto the back of his pack, and just hung on there for dear life for the rest of the swim.  By the time I got out of my water, my garmin (I don't bother with the swim mode, and triathlon mode screwed me in Tremblant) had gone into powersave (obviously), but I saw that it was 9:30 on the front screen.  So, I'd swam 31 something-officially 31:46.  The swim was a full 2k vs ~1.9 in a typical 70.3 swim, so, like 30 low-ish.  I've swam 30 low-ish a couple of times but I'm pretty sure that those swim courses were short, so I'm counting that as a good swim.  More importantly, although I didn't know it, I was less than 5min off of the lead, which wasn't atrocious in my world.

   After multiple fumbled attempts trying to get my wetsuit into a plastic bag for transport to the finish, I made it through T1, actually exiting at the exact moment as Dave (meaning that my horrible transition was still better than his, always important), and was off on the bike.  Dave was gone before I got clipped in.  Early on, it became apparent that my fears of giant packs swarming around me were stupid.  I was basically alone.  I also continued to fail at garmin operation, somehow managing to start the bike with my garmin was in "run indoor" mode.  I pressed a couple of buttons until it was showing me HR and HR only.  I decided that I could adequately pace on that alone, and use the markers every 5k to sort of figure out when to fuel.  Great plan.  This was sort of how the first 30k went.  I got passed and passed people here and there, but everything was well-spaced and clean (which, thanks for being honest, dudes!).  My HR was sky-high early on and I had some issues getting my first feeding down, so I ended up just trying to settle things down for a few miles.

   Around the 30k mark, the bike handling magic started to happen.  First, I refilled my front bottle going more than 15mph on a gradual, straight uphill with perfect road condition for the first time in 2 years.  Then I convinced myself to take a bottle handoff before I was uncomfortably parched (the Racine run has proved to be an excellent motivator in this department).  Then, bolstered by my successes removing a hand from the bars, I changed my garmin to a screen that showed time.  Oops.  Not shockingly, it's entirely possible that perhaps I wasn't exactly riding up to 70.3 intensities without any data yelling at me.  I managed to stop and save that and get my garmin restarted in bike mode.  I didn't like what the power meter was reading, so I told myself it wasn't reading right after not being calibrated immediately beforehand.  In retrospect, it completely could have been, but nothing good would have come straying from my choice in delusion at the time.  Honestly, I just felt a little flat on the bike-no excuses, that's just how it was out there.  Although I wasn't thrilled with my power, I tried to use time to motivate myself, knowing that the pancake-flat point to point bike with far more tailwind than headwind could lead to a pretty bike split for me.  Somewhere around 60-65k, it started to rain a bit.  Then a bit more.  I could tell that it was super localized, but it happened to be following me.  This made me a bit leery through the zig-zagging portion of the course from ~65-85k, but I didn't corner too remedially (I think), and I remained upright (more than my husband can say).  The rain actually felt pretty good in that it cooled me off a bit, and I came around a bit, reeling in and passing a couple of men back who had gotten away from me, and then laying into it a bit more, bolstered by a cop complimenting my pink bar tape, helmet, and shoes (that's what it's all about, after all).
Me, riding my bike, with a disc wheel, after a bunch of rain, staying upright. #winningenough

   I passed my parents shortly before T2, who told me I was in sixth.  That didn't thrill me, but what could I do?  Turns out, I was actually in fourth-one of the women ahead of me was last year's winner, Kristen, who was aquabiking due to injury (time out to completely acknowledge that she destroyed that bike course, and the outcome of the race would have been different had she been able to run), and I don't know about the other.  Maybe it was a relay.  Or a guy.  Triathlon can be sort of androgenous.  Still, I figured I was in ok enough shape heading into the run-I'd drank four complete bottles in under 2.5 hours, I'd been able to pick up the effort over the final 10 miles, and I didn't feel like the absolute crypt.  I made it through T2 in a relatively coordinated fashion (for me), and took to the run course a few hundred meters behind super swimmer (and super nice person) Sheila.  The first couple of miles were the normal amount of rough, but my pace was ok enough and my HR was in check.  My goal for the first lap was simple: run within myself, and if people came back to me, then great; if not, I wanted to still have something in me to feel like I could give chase.  A small out and back in the park gave me the first inkling of where the lead women were-about 3-5 minutes ahead.  Maybe a manageable amount, but I'd have to run.  Also at the out and back, I saw Dave limping a bit, and he told me he crashed.  I spent the next mile or so worrying about that until I caught up with him and had a brief exchange to ensure that he was ok enough.  I passed Sheila just after that, and we exchanged encouragement.
Me running during the run.  Enthralling.  Judging by the gel flavor in my hand, somewhere just before the halfway mark.

The full ambulance one ups the medical cart from my Tremblant run pictures.  Also, why does every number belt I own end up hiking itself up to my boobs?  I'll never get it.
   After that, I got to the far portion of the run course, which was really a highlight-scrambling up and down some stairs, running through some of the tourist-y areas past hotels, and getting a great view of the falls.  It also featured some nice downhill.  I forced myself to enjoy it on the first lap, figuring (correctly) that by my second pass through, even one of the world's natural wonders would seem less impressive than a finish line.  I passed made the for second in there, although I'd have to put another minute into her (she's a super amateur and had started behind me) in order to be ahead.  The trip back to the park along the Niagara Parkway really started to get sort of warm, humid, exposed, and gradually uphill, and I was really looking forward to the next aide station, but once I hit that, the final mile back to the park felt better.  My parents cheered enthusiastically when they saw me up a couple of places, and I was able to see that Miranda was about two minutes ahead.  Ok.  Head down, work on.  By the turnaround in the park, I'd probably gained about 30 seconds.  I thought of the race envy Jennie in the park last year, but I also worried that I was slowing down a bit, and I'd just run out of real estate, as Miranda was gamely holding onto the lead.  I could see her ahead once we climbed the hill out of the park, but I was starting to feel warm, cramping a bit, and at that special crossroads where I was debating how much I wanted it vs how much I was willing to put myself through.  I started timing the gap as we went past telephone poles or shadows in the road..50 seconds, 30 seconds, 17 seconds.

  Finally, just before the stairs, with about 5k to go, I moved into the lead, actually feeling a little bit bad that Miranda (a longtime competitor from back in our AG days who I've always had a ton of respect for) had been out front for so much of the day, but, well, a race is just that.  She still looked like she was running great, so I put a little extra effort into the downhill sections to gain a little bit of space, and then basically just held on.  The mist from the falls was actually rather refreshing, but after that it became a battle to the next aide station, as I could feel myself starting to get sort of low on fluid.  The gradual uphill seemed to take forever (and I refused to look when the mile split popped up on my watch).  The final few miles were the normal amount of countdown mode and time warping.  I had no idea what kind of a lead I had, and I was unconvinced that I wasn't going to be come back on, but all I could do was make sure that if I was, it wouldn't be because I'd let myself off of the hook because it hurt.  Finally, to the great delight of my parents, I was making it back into the park, veering off towards the finish, wondering why the final stretch seemed so much longer than it had looked initially, and grabbing a banner.  The next few minutes were a happy blur-Miranda coming in, a hug there, Dave coming in, hugging Irina, celebrating with Dave and my parents, a couple interviews.  The pain of the last few miles was quickly forgotten as we enjoyed the post-race glow.
Picture inundation time.  Me with a banner.  This is before I started doing absolutely bizarre contortion things with my body and the banner.

I'm not sure what it looks like I'm trying to do here, but it's awkward as per usual.

Finish line hugs

Here's a picture of me talking about myself to break up me writing about myself

With the birthday girl!!  Dave with the cleavage and man tuft.
Add caption

Obligatory podium pic

Obligatory podium pic of all of the second place AG and pro finishers.  Find Dave!

Obligatory Hansen pic with the Hans bib.  Since I mentioned Dave crashed, I should probably also mention that he was ok and finished the race 2nd  in his AG. 

And Dave with the REAL Hans.  Turns out they gave him the wrong race packet.  The real Hans's friend informed Dave of this before the race, so he was able to get it corrected, but he still raced with the Hans bib.  It made our day when actual Hans found him afterwards.
   Overall, I was just grateful to have had a day where I finally felt like, well, old me on a race course.  I can't really describe it.  It was just one of those days where I'd kept my head about me from start to finish, stayed in the moment, and even in my moments of doubt, I'd kept some sort of spark going.  Of course the win was nice, I can't lie there, but it was more the icing on the cake of knowing I'd done everything in my power on the day.  I felt redeemed, satisfied, all those good things.  But...there's always a but.  In the weeks since that awesome day that I have absolutely no regrets over, my body has again proved fickle.  Long story short, I had really wanted to keep going on the season.  I still do.  I had started to let my protective guard down and truly believe that a fall IM would be possible.  I tried to train through a chronically meh right hip and an acutely blah left knee, though, so I was playing with fire that something else had to give.  And it did, in this case, my left sacral/SI area.  The pain actually started a little over a week before Barrelman.  I had some pretty uncomfortable runs heading in due to it, but I've had a long history of problems with that area, so I did what I always did when it flared in terms of self-PT work and getting chiropractic work done, and figured that some rest heading into and coming out of the race would take care of the issue.  It didn't.  While I was ok enough on race day (although I did feel some pain), the situation only worsened afterwards.  I don't entirely know what's going on with it; my left SI joint was widened and rendered somewhat unstable (moving sit to stand is often noisy) in the crash, although that hasn't caused me any issues until now.  I also had somewhat of a left-sided sacral stress reaction show up on my MRI last winter, which I never really felt too much, either.  I was able to get in for a CT scan prior to leaving for Kona.  That showed nothing new, but wouldn't be able to discern between a cranky SI joint vs sacral stress reaction vs simply pissed off ligament/muscle attachments and resulting spazzed out muscles that need a little TLC.

   So, for now, well, I'm in Hawaii, so life isn't that bad.  I'd be lying if I denied that this place is dredging up a whole shit ton of emotion right now, but that's for another post.  I legitimately have no idea what the next few weeks are going to physically hold for me.  All I can do is take things day by day, do what I can (which is proving to be swimming with limited kicking, biking with limited amounts of time spent down in the aerobars, and strengthening), and see how it goes.  I have a "contacting medical professionals" algorithm worked out based on how this all goes.  Does it suck to have finally had a race that left me undeniably, no strings attached happy, that let me dream a bit again, that reminded me of what it used to be like when times were good with it, only to have it once again come crashing down again?  Completely, I've felt pretty torn apart at times here.  The higher you get, the harder the fall.  But, I've been through this before, and I'll go through it again.  If things turn around and I'm not done for the year, that would be fantastic.  I'm not letting go quite yet, without a clear reason to and with my heart still in it.  If they don't, though, and I have to call it quits for the season, then at least I had a season this year to call it quits on.  At least I ended on a high note, and at least I'll be able to take the next steps for getting things maybe a little bit more permanently better vs the unplanned living week to week, day to day, session to session I've been doing all year-because that does get old after a while.  Anyways, as always, thanks to my closest family, friends, and support crew on the never ending roller coaster that is my triathlon career!  I wouldn't have had this high point alone, and I was so happy to be able to share it with so many, and feel like I had finally been able to repay those who have kept faith in me a bit.  Thanks to the three people who made it through all of this, and for now, we continue on (and maybe go snorkel a bit in the meantime)!
You know how sometimes you talk about what you're going to eat before a race, and then when you actually finish the race it's totally not what you want?  That was absolutely NOT the case with shitty fast food Chinese.  This little hole in the wall on Grand Island was amazing.  My stomach kind of overpromised and underdelivered, but what it did deliver was extremely rewarding.

And, when worse comes to worse, there's always Bailey's peacock costume.  That thing is always a pick me up...for me at least.  For her, it means that she actually seeks out her sister for comfort.  Normally they try to act like they hate each other...unless Bailey's a peacock.  Then, Bailey seeks solace in the Moose, and the Moose lets her in gratitude that she's not being humiliated by her mother's Target impulse buys.

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