Sunday, May 19, 2013

Laughing Causes Gastric Distress: Gulf Coast Triathlon 2013

Shay-Shay, Goose, Coug, Smiles
I have never laughed so hard before in my life. I mean non-stop, belly-busting, gas-producing laughter. Four full days of it. And it didn't take any effort to take it to that extreme either. The banter was quick-witted and absolutely hysterical. Hands down the best race weekend of my triathlon career.

It has become clear to me now the importance of finding a good group of traveling buddies to keep the pressures of impending racing away and to unite to just enjoy the experience. The Shock The Monkey team has become just this. We have come together to embrace the funnier aspects of triathlon, and we use this to keep the mojo flowing!

Even the ride to Panama City Beach was filled with training opportunities and team challenges. The Mobile Tunnel for example became an "underwater breath holding competition". Transitions were practiced at nearly every gas station between Baton Rouge and Florida as clothes were removed and replaced during toilet breaks, and every form of nutrition and hydration was sampled to determine toxicity and digestibility. Worst food combination that was discovered would have to be the pecan log followed by beer. Second would go to the Lime-A-Rita and bag of Ranch Dipped Hot-Wing flavored Doritos. The Lime-A-Rita was consumed on the run (literally) ...prior to purchasing (precedent was being set for future incidents). Apparently taste-testing your alcoholic beverage to see which size or quantity to buy is not highly recommended while in the quickie-mart, and in actuality is against the law. Who knew??

As it was becoming more and more apparent to us, food was going to be the theme of the weekend. If we weren't eating, we were talking about food, planning our next meal, or shopping for it. Upon arrival at the beach we immediately went for food at Pineapple Willies. Luckily we had thought ahead and the first thing that was packed were several empty refill mugs. We felt it was important to keep our sherpa hydrated. The rest of the FitBird team joined us and the family unit became one once again. As a group we hit the expo and registration and then we separated to check into our condos. Exhausted from all the activity, I settled in for a good 2 hour nap, woke to snack and then went back to bed for the evening loaded up on an assortment of chest medicine and inhalers.

Monkey Love

FitBird Crew - Layna, Boy Diva, Freebird, Kellie, Goose, Smiles, Shay-Shay

Calm Before The Storm
Trial Run On Monkey Jammies

Friday morning consisted of open water swimming, dance videos, and pancakes ~ after which we made a mad dash to Publix for more food (?) and subs. Publix had no idea what was coming when they let us in. Armed with six inch submarines, we claimed a bench in the front of the checkout line, pulled up our grocery cart, spread out our picnic, and proceeded to feast on all of our unpaid items - sandwiches, drinks, chips, and a box of cookies while the employees looked on in disbelief. Once our stomachs were full, we went back to shop for

In her element...

Talley Riding the Waves
A Wet Goose
Warm-Up Swim
Publix Dining A La Cart (literally)
Talley had to have her shirt scanned since she ate her sandwich already
Bike Drop Off
Pre-Race Team Meal
Bike check-in and constant radar updates took up our afternoon, and then we settled in for a pasta buffet at the pre-race meeting. Shay-Shay tried really hard to bandit the meal but was thrown out by an elderly ticket taker. Good effort, but rejected. The radar had been showing heavy thunderstorms sitting on top of Baton Rouge all day and the prediction was that they were heading our way just in time for the race. The race director reassured us that all would be well as far as the weather, so we accepted the line "control the controllables". I was pleased that I didn't let the thought of not racing, or having to modify the race, mentally demoralize me. I was ready for whatever 6am brought and would give it my best. If it meant just a run, then I was prepared to run hard. At dinner Layna threw down the gauntlet by teasing me with her newly borrowed 404 zip wheels that she hoped would keep her ahead of me on the bike and give her the edge she needed to pull out a victory. I knew it would be a tight race between us and I figured I'd have to work hard on the run to make up anything I lost on the bike. I was pumped for the duel and energized by the challenge!

Dynamic Warmup Monkey Style
Before returning to our condo we made one last stop to Walmart for window paint for the car and our dynamic warmup in the aisle. By the time we returned to the condo I was tired but had yet to get in my PRF run. We all rallied and changed clothes and hit Front Beach Road for our 20 minutes. It may have varied slightly from what was intended, but jogging through Alvin's Island and stopping to pose with monkeys made it more fun. I made the final adjustments to my transition bag, texted Coach, and headed to bed.

We Couldn't Resist
Slight detour during PRF run
I've been trying to improve my race nutrition these past few months. With that in mind I set my alarm for 2:30am and got up to eat a bagel and cream cheese and down 16oz of water. I woke again at 4:15am for an English muffin and more liquids, and quickly dressed to leave. The radar looked surprisingly clear but one glance out the window and you couldn't see past the chair on the patio because the fog was so thick. We shrugged it off and hoped for the best. I put a call into Coach for one last pump up and then we headed out.

Race rectangle: 900 out, 200 across, 900 back
Transition went smoothly with the exception that all of us left our bike pumps in the car. Within minutes I had borrowed one and set up my gear the way I like. For the first time ever with this distance race I was not nervous or afraid or had a sense of dread. I was excited and I was ready. I was comfortable in my routines and the time moved quickly but I managed it well.

Black Stallion
Freebird, Coug, Goose, Smiles

Wetsuit on, a gel downed, and my warm-up swim commenced. There were some moderate breakers but the water was surprisingly calm. I felt good and relaxed. I was slightly unnerved by my lack of nerves but associated it with my new found confidence and let it go.

Warm Up Swim
I got a last laugh when I saw that the butt of Layna's wetsuit had been accidentally ripped out by Trey. I figured the extra drag might work in my favor. I watched Talley go off with the first wave and started to feel excited. We moved into the corral and got ready for the start of our wave. I went to the front even though I knew I'd get swum over. I like thinking I'm with just a few people. When I'm in the back it just makes me anxious because I see the denseness of the group. When I heard the countdown hit zero I hit the start on my Garmin and jogged into the surf and started swimming as quickly as I could. I felt awkward and clumsy and couldn't get a rhythm. I wasn't panicked, but felt frustrated and I kept pulling at my wetsuit. I found myself popping up and breast stroking to calm myself down. I don't know what happened, if it was adrenalin or panic or just me being spazzy. It took about 3 bouys before I finally relaxed and began to swim. I was frustrated at my poor start but let it go and focused on finishing strong. The water was rolling but I could see the buoys unlike in past races here. I breathed and sighted every stroke and couldn't ever get into a three stroke/breath rhythm so finally gave up trying. I really need to work on that as it seems I'm wasting energy doing it my way. But for now it worked.

I swam until I touched the shore and then jogged up the beach to find Shay-Shay literally in the middle of the swim exit high-fiving me and cheering me in. It was awesome having a cheerleader and it pumped me up. Transition was clumsy and took longer than I hoped, but I wanted to make sure I didn't forget any nutrition or my inhaler. I realized my Garmin had not recorded my swim so I stopped to reset it and take it off multi-sport which seemed pointless.

If there were any nerves about this race it would have to be over the bike leg. I knew I could do the distance, but I didn't know how much discomfort it would cause me. I also had big expectations for my bike speed and really wanted to hit 17mph average. Up to this point I had never even held 16mph for this distance, but I knew I had it in me. I had to ride smart and maximize whatever advantages the course gave me. I focused on my cadence and didn't worry about other riders whizzing by. I was actually pleased to see how many riders I passed. I knew the course in and out thanks to training camp and past races, and this helped tremendously. I knew the halfway mark and I knew the out and backs. I gave a shout out to Andrea and a few other Fitbirds that I saw along the way. It wasn't until the half way point that I saw Sherpa Shan yelling to me from the side of the road and informing me that Layna was only two bikes ahead of me. That motivated me to speed up and whisper zip zip zoom zoom as I passed her. Ten minutes later and I'm out on the highway and hear Sherpa Shan beeping her horn and yelling out her window that "Coach says you need to hammer the bike!". I smiled and realized that Anne was monitoring the weather from states away and must know something I didn't know about the radar. Shannon confirmed this with a "it's about to open up on you guys, get back as soon as you can!". I nodded and upped my pedaling.

It wasn't long before the inevitable happened and I heard zip zip zoom zoom from behind me as Layna flew by. She shouted out encouragement that I would get her on the turn a rounds, and I knew she was right. We leap frogged like this for the second half of the ride. I wasn't looking forward to the bridge, but it was nowhere near as tough as it used to be. I was so grateful for all the hard spin sessions I had undertaken in Unleash Your Inner Athlete. I was well prepared.

I managed to come into T2 about the same time as Layna, Trey, Wendy, and Kelly. I pulled off my soaking socks and rung them out just to see how much water came out. I replaced them with dry socks but it was pointless as during T1 I managed to remove the plastic bag protecting my running shoes from the rain, so they were soaked when I went to put them on. Maybe it was just mental, but the dry socks even for a moment seemed to make me feel better. I looked over and saw Layna struggling with her race belt as it had broken and she was trying to figure out how to rig it. I would have loved to help her (grin) but didn't have anything that would have, and knew this was my chance to break away! I left out to gain as much of a lead as I could and think I was the first or second out of our group to get out of transition.

I held a good pace for my first mile and as I approached the aid station saw a crazy woman in pink blow out of someone's garage and head screaming towards me. I quickly identified the loon as Shay-Shay and got a good laugh at her antics as she tried to film me and get me motivated for the run.

I was feeling the need to make a pit stop and was trying to decide how and when to make the side trip. I hadn't gone all day as I'm not one to pee on the bike. I figured I'd hit the second or third aid station and when I made my detour I heard Diva Boy shout out to me as he passed. Damn! I knew they were close, but I just lost my lead! I kept them in my sites for a while but never caught back up.

The run was tolerable but I found myself struggling with my breathing. By this point my chest was tight and I was over dosing on inhalers. My legs felt okay but my energy was lagging. I was trying to stay on  top of my nutrition and felt like I had done a good job all day. I took another gel and did feel a bit better after about 20 minutes but still had trouble breathing. By the time I hit St. Andrew's Park I felt like I still had a long way to go, and I did. I hadn't seen any of my fellow FitBirds in a long time and felt like I could benefit from a friendly face. I'm not one to chat up a stranger, but when someone finally started running and talking to me I latched on. Frankie from Augusta got me moving for about three miles and I'm so grateful. He distracted me and I learned the importance of reaching out to people when you need the help. Wendy passed me towards the end of St. Andrew's and although I kept her in my sites, I never caught back up. She was having a stellar race and I was pumped for her! Frankie finally bailed on me as I was wogging too much, but another Georgian came to my rescue for the last few miles. We weren't  keeping as good a pace as I did with Frankie, but at least it was company. I managed to run most of the last mile in on my own and was greeted by energetic fans down the shute. And of course, most of my monkeys were there waiting on me! It was awesome having that cheer section and I flash-forwarded to IMFL and how that might feel. I crossed the line with a smile and was thrilled when I learned my PR had dropped over 23 minutes on this race! I had hoped to break 7 hours but considering all the "uncontrollables" I was stoked. I fleetingly worried about how in the world I would be able to double this distance but let the thought go and just enjoyed what I had done. I have six more months and plenty of time to get to where I need to be. A lot has been accomplished since November and I am way ahead of where I thought I would be. My confidence is soaring and my ability is so much better.

Trying to finish strong


There is something to be said for good friends coming together to support each other in their endeavors. They help to maintain calm, keep focus, and remind us to laugh and find humor in life. I am blessed to have a wonderful Shock The Monkey Team and Fitbird Family that does this for me. I look forward to what the rest of this season brings us all!

Until The Next Time...