Training and Preparation
About three weeks before Wildflower, I had the opportunity to get a long swim in fresh water when Martha (Tri La Vie) hosted an open water swim event at Lake Mission Viejo. It was a good event, and I felt strong in the water. After that 1.7 mile swim, however, I had what I thought was “swimmer’s itch”. The information sheet on-line said that it wouldn’t have any long term affects, and would go away in about a week. I had a rash on my forehead, temples, and ears, and it didn’t go away for almost two weeks. Meanwhile, I had some other setbacks in my training due to some repairs I needed to make around the house and childcare issues. In other words, life got in the way. I didn’t think too much of it, and thought that my fitness would carry through well enough to this race. On the Sunday night before the race, I wasn’t feeling well, and ended up with a slight fever. I was a little off on Monday, but felt okay by late Tuesday. Again, I thought I would be in good shape for the race. Tuesday night, someone vandalized my front lawn by backing their truck onto the lawn and peeling out. Wednesday night, I hardly slept as every time someone drove down the cul-de-sac, I jumped out of bed to see who it was. (Sleepless night #1). Thursday night, I spent all night making lunches and dinners and packing clothes and camping gear for me and my kids to go on the trip. I finally got to bed at 1 am, slept with the windows open and blinds cracked to keep a vigilant eye on any would-be vandals, and woke at 5:30 to continue the trip prep. (Sleepless night #2). Friday, I rented the van, finished packing, picked my kids at school early, picked up my carpool athlete friend and her daughter, and drove to Lake San Antonio. We picked up packets, went to the camp site, set up tents, made dinner, prepped the bike and helmet for the following day’s race, and then went to bed. Camping in a tent at Wildflower is a challenge all by itself because of the noise, it isn’t your normal comfortable bed, and inevitably, the ground isn’t level. Then add twin 6 ½ year olds who won’t settle down all on a queen-size air mattress in a little tent. (Sleepless night #3).
All this time, I thought I had been eating healthy foods, and was giving my body the non-training rest that it needed. One thing I may have overlooked was hydration. I’ll get to that later.
I got up out of the tent with enough time to get a healthy breakfast for myself and my kids and get my gear ready. Manny Aragon and I went the two miles or so from the camp site to T1 together. Everything seemed okay. I saw several friends in T1, and wasn’t really paying attention to how I was feeling. All seemed okay. With about a half hour to go before my wave start, I started put on my wetsuit half-way, and walked down the ramp to the swim start area. With about 10 minutes to go, I put the sleeves on, got zipped up, and waited for the wave in front of me to go off so that I could get my warm-up “acclimation” swim in. I was calm, not nervous at all, and happened to glance at my Garmin. My heart rate was 95-96 bpm. My resting hart rate is normally around 58. Pre-race calm conditions, I am in the low 70s range. When I saw the elevated heart rate, I knew I was in trouble. Still, I didn’t panic, and figured I’d make the best of it.
Swim – 43:49
Michellie Jones was announcing the start, and it was cool to hear a familiar voice over the PA. The horn sounded, and typical mayhem and chaos began. I got punched a couple times early on, but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I was a little more winded than normal, and figured that I’d be able to find a groove after the crowd spread out. Then some jackass swam OVER me. His first had pushed my legs down. The next stroke, was a punch in the middle of my back, and the third seemed like a water polo move over my shoulder. I was completely submerged, and all I could do was avoid Mr. Jackass’ kicking legs. After he was gone, I coughed up a little water, and then kept on going. I thought the worst was over, and tried to find a groove. I slowed my pace a bit, thinking that it would alleviate the feeling of being winded. I sort of settled into a groove, but it didn’t feel right. I felt slow. I felt weak. My goggles were giving me a headache. I took them off, loosened the strap, and continued. I gutted out the remainder of the swim without incident, and exited the water knowing it wasn’t my best performance. When I crossed the timing mat, I looked at my Garmin to see 43:49, more than 5 minutes slower than last year, and more than 7 minutes slower than my swim split at Oceanside.
T1 – 5:52
I normally try to run as much as I can in transition, but couldn’t turn my legs over fast enough, so I walked the whole way up the ramp, and then jogged to my bike. Nothing went particularly wrong in transition, but I still wasn’t feeling “right”. I took my time, and figured that the extra 1:00 – 1:30 wouldn’t really hurt me too much overall. At this point, I just wanted to finish the race in one piece.
Bike – (Approximately 3:49:00)
I saw my kids as I got on my bike, which was a first. It made me really happy to hear my daughter cheering for me, especially when she yelled at me for not cheering back. I thought that was funny. Within the first mile, I dropped my chain, but that’s no big deal. I got off my bike, put the chain back on, and was on my way. Halfway up the infamous Beach Hill was a topless girl cheering. Unbeknownst to me, that moment would be the most energy I would feel all day. God bless her.
I saw Mike Hattan at the top of Beach Hill, said hello, then I got a little dizzy and almost crashed into him (Sorry Mike). I had a nice little break and went aero for the downhill, and pressed on.
After turning right onto Interlake Rd. outside the park, all I could think of was stopping in some shady area, and taking a nap. I thought maybe my electrolytes may be low, so I popped a salt tablet and hoped it would do the trick. As I rode, I noticed my mouth was drier than usual. I drank water at a faster rate, hoping I could get rid of this sensation. The aid stations were close enough together that I never worried about running out of water, but there was a problem. All of the water and Gatorade that was handed out was warm (or hot). I don’t know about you, but to me, hot Gatorade is not refreshing at all. I couldn’t seem to get my body temperature regulated.
By the time I got to “Nasty Grade” at Mile 42, I was done. I rode until I got to the aid station part of the way up, took a break, then walked the rest of the way to the top of the hill. I found that no matter how steep or shallow the incline was, I would be in my small ring in the front all the way back to T2. It was probably the most miserable ride I’ve ever had. When I got to T2, I racked my bike, changed into some shorts and a t-shirt, and that was it. A half hour slower than last my bike split time last year. It was my first (and hopefully my last) DNF.
Yeah right. I could barely walk. No running for me. I slowly walked up the stairs from T2 to the finish chute and turned in my timing chip. There, in the finisher’s area was more hot water and hot Gatorade. Yuck.
Aftermath and Analysis
We spend so much time and effort training for races, planning our race day nutrition, and prepping our gear, that it is so easy to miss a couple things that are equally important and crucial to the success of a triathlon. In hindsight, I was severely sleep deprived and was also dehydrated. To a lesser extent, the fever and not feeling all that well earlier in the week may have had a contribution. I got into the bad cycle of not sleeping, then drinking more coffee to get through the day (which dehydrated me), then not sleeping well, then drinking more coffee, and the cycle continued right up to race day.
From WebMD on dehydration:
Taking the pulse and blood pressure while the person is lying down and then after standing up for 1 minute can help determine the degree of dehydration. Normally, when you have been lying down and then stand up, there is a small drop in blood pressure for a few seconds. The heart rate speeds up, and blood pressure goes back to normal. However, when there is not enough fluid in the blood because of dehydration and the heart rate speeds up, not enough blood is getting to the brain. The brain senses this condition, and the heart beats faster. If you are dehydrated, you feel dizzy and faint after standing up.
From WebMD on sleep deprivation:
People who are sleep-deprived show less variability in their heart rate, meaning that instead of fluctuating normally, the heart rate usually stays elevated.
I recall getting dizzy after bending down to pound the tent stakes into the ground then standing up. The same thing happened when I put the lower half of my wetsuit on right before the race. The elevated heart rate was the final nail in the coffin. These symptoms confirm to me that no amount of training or race-day nutrition fine tuning could have gotten me through that race. I was doomed to “DNF” before race even started. Lessons learned.