The 2011 season was a good season for me, a return to the world of UltraTriathon. I learned a lot, and more importantly I am energized and charged up for the next part of the journey.
At the end of September we headed to Sicily for the DecaIronman, 10 races in 10 days, and when we arrived I was immediately reminded why I love this sport. It was like a huge sweaty family reunion, and it was awesome being around people who don’t think the things I try to do are abnormal, or insane… because they are the same way. These are “my people” and from the first night’s 25 person wine and food fest at a local restaurant to the smaller dinners towards the end of the trip I had a great time getting to know them. When we left we did not say goodbye, instead it was until we meet again… and we will see most of them again at races in the future.
The swim for the race was at a pool in Enna, about 4 miles from the hotel so each morning we met up in the lobby to shuttle to the pool. It was a nice way to touch base and see how everyone’s race was going each day. The pool was a 25m pool, with high walls (about 2 feet above the surface of the water). I was fortunate to have Tony (from Canada) as my lane-mate since he was just a tad faster than me but stopped frequently, so we would always finish within a lap of each other. The pool was cool, so I was comfortable swimming in tri-shorts, a sports bra (thanks SturdyGirl), and a sleeveless wetsuit. The swim was a nice way to stretch out, but 1:20-1:25 is a lot of time to spend in my head each morning. After the first day Drew started to do a poolside dance every 1000m which really helped break it up for me, and gave me a feel for where I was (I tried lap counting, but 76 laps is a lot to get right). My swims got a bit faster each day… though my arms felt heavier. I really struggled with the turns, since I couldn’t grab onto the wall (TRAINING NOTE 1: Make flip turns a natural part of swimming). The first few days I just stripped the wetsuit, threw on a jersey and headed for the bike after I got out of the water, but after the weather got cooler and my bum got sorer I took the time to change into dry shorts.
After the swim was a nice 4 mile trip to the Pergusa Autodrome. The road had a couple of long climbs that gave me a chance to spin, spin, spin and also to eat a Gu and drink some Clip2. The first day the bike course was on the roads around the track which had a few small hills and pretty sweet surface. This was my favorite day on the bike since the hills gave me a chance to stand up and coast down. After the first day we went in and rode on the race course, which was a 5K loop with a few fun chicanes, some rough surfaces, and a nagging headwind on the backstretch. The biggest problem on the bike was boredom… which allowed time to focus on the pain in my bum, my aching feet, and the odometer. I would settle into my “I can ride this pace forever” pace, and it often seemed to go on forever. Occasionally I would catch up to, or be caught by, another competitor and we would spend a lap or two chatting which was nice. We also passed the crew area every lap where Drew would hand me some food or drink or just a few words… but this was on the tailwind stretch and all too quick. (TRAINING NOTE 2: Need to do some shorter, faster bike rides with intervals and work on getting back some bike speed… TRAINING NOTE 3: Aerobars. Learn to love them. Seat adjustment? Core work? Do what it takes so I can ride them all the time).
The first few days the run course was also around the track, a 2K out and back and then 8 laps. It is amazing how spread out 21 people and their crews can get, it was often a lonely dark place to be. I had Drew run laps 4,6,8 with me which gave me something to look forward to. On Day 4 Giorgio changed the run to be 2 out and backs which helped a lot as it concentrated the runners, let us go by the crew pit twice as often, and helped with the common ankle problem from running a cambered course. I was pleased at how much I “ran” although much of the time my running speed was the same as Drew’s fast’ish walk. TRAINING NOTE 4: Work on run “speed”. 10K’s, half marathons. Build the ability to create a cushion. Love the run.
Day 1: Started really nervous, but had fun. Tried to stay quite relaxed. 15:30
Day 2: First day on the real bike course, no fun. Bum hurt, feet fell asleep. 16:11
Day 3: Felt really happy on the bike, though the winds picked up. Was just a slow day. Did not eat as good as I aught. 16:41
Day 4: Tried to eat better. Started raining with 3 to go on the bike, then hail, then furious downpour. Walked the 2Kn with flipflops on waiting for the rain to stop then got on the run. 17:48
Day 5: Swim was fine, bike was fine except the rain the last couple of hours. Started the run in the rain. The weather made it hard to eat, and I wasn’t too hungry so I did not do a good job of it. Did the first half of the run and then I started to shiver. Badly. Became incoherent and dry heaving. Jan (Wayne’s wife) and Mario (race volunteer) came upon me and walked/carried me back to the crew area where they wrapped me in towels and forced in some electrolytes. I couldn’t stop shaking, and was freezing, though they say my skin was burning up. Sat in a car with the heater at full blast and eventually (maybe an hour all told) got under control. Drew gave me a new set of shoes and socks and when I could control my hands enough I changed, got out of the car, and said I was ready to walk. Giorgio (the RD) made the call that I had to stop. I argued a bit, promised Drew would walk with me and I’d keep a blanket around me, but he was firm and I do understand his decision. I was officially DNF. (TRAINING NOTE 5: Learn to listen better to my body. If I was able to see the signs earlier and correct for them, even if I sat down and rested/ate for awhile, I would have had a slow finish but a finish. I did not get the cues before I was in full implosion).
Day 6: Slept in. Ate a ton. Slept some more. Went out and walked the laps I missed the night before. Felt a lot like I was recovering from a bad illness… just weak and tired.
Day 7/8: Went sightseeing with Drew, and Mary and Steve (a great couple from Canada… he DNFd with ankle issues early on). Had a great time playing tourist.
Day 9: Did the swim, and 30miles on the bike until the weather got unfriendly. Decided I did not need to be out there, so took a shower, cheered folks on, and went out for a great meal with the other DNFers.
Day 10: Cheered on folks at the pool, then on the course. The weather was MISERABLE the whole day, and I was kinda grateful to be on the fun side if things.
It was really a great experience and I learned a ton from my fellow competitors. Each person taught me something, from the other DNFers and their whys and wherefores and what to do now plans, to Kim who averaged under 12 hours to win the race, to the middle of the packers and the pains and tough patches they overcame, to Vincenzo who averaged 20 hours and took a nap each afternoon.
So… there ya go. Once again I did not meet my goal, but I would rather stretch for something just out of my reach than play it safe. With Kari and Steve’s input I put together a great plan for the next two years. Until July I will do shorter and faster workouts, work on bike and run speed. No long slogs. August on I will build back in my endurance and do the Quintuple in Mexico in November. I will state my goal here and now… average UNDER 15 hours for each day of the race. Then in 2013 I plan to challenge for the IUTA World Cup which will entail doing well at a few doubles (including the World Championship), perhaps a triple, and definitely the DecaIroman in the fall.
I’ll end this rather long summary (it was a long race) with some big thank you’s:
Drew, who always believes in me and supports me in any plan I come up with,
Hilary, SturdyGirl Sports, who really does support me (the best bra’s in the world for endowed gals),
Debi, who coached me through this comeback to running and swimming without injury,
Gu, who made Rocktane… ,
The competitors, it is awesome to have found “my people” and be taken in as one of the family,
And, to all of you who believe in me… thank you for reading!
And, the journey continues…