Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Swim

The tradewinds returned to the island yesterday. It was blowing but much cooler and the humidity much lower. I’ll take strong winds over heat and humidity any day. I’ve been lazy the past two days, lying on the beach and reading, occasionally taking a dip into the ocean, enjoying our last few days here in Hawaii before heading home. I’m pretty sore still – mostly my quads and calves. The worst of my post race pain didn’t even occur during the race! A friend came up to me afterwards to give me the bro-hug and stepped hard on my big toe (he was wearing running shoes, I was bare foot). Looks like I’ll be losing the nail.

The following is part one of my race report:

"It's not the distance that overwhelms people who race Hawaii's Ironman Triathlon. It's the relentless wind that blows across the lava fields. You're on one of the highest ridges, you see miles of repetitive road to Hawi, and you relize it's extremely hot and you're going straight into a 30 mile-an-hour crosswind. I've found that those who dwell on these conditions tend to fold.
I always train for adversity. I consider adversity an asset, Something to turn around to my advantage. One of life's most important lessons is learning to put your losses in perspective and to savor your triumphs by riding on euphoria's wave. Have High Goals and Expectations, regaurd defeat as stages on the road to success by remembering the little victories that have gotten you where you are."

Dave Scott

Kathy Salvo sent me this quote the day before Hawaii this year.

I arose at 3:45am and immediately downed a can of Ensure. I prefer Boost, but the supermarkets were all out of it here. Next, I ate a powerbar as I made some coffee, and then took a hot shower to loosen up. I sipped some coffee and stretched lightly as I analyzed my condition. My hamstrings didn’t feel tight which was a good sign. I usually run well when I do a certain stretch and my hamstrings feel loose. My shoulder hurt though, and I knew it was going to give me some problems. I drank another ensure as I prepped my nutrition for the day. I was using Infinit in two bottles. The remainder of my calories would come from powerbars and gels. I also had a container of Saltstick capsules, a small bag of Excedrin (which I had never used during a race before), and a roll of Tums. Lisa and I gathered up some last minute things like clothes to change into afterwards, and by 4:30am we were headed to the car for the trek to Kailua. I drank my third can of Ensure around 5am.

This is the worst part of race day for me and it’s compiled in Kona by waiting in long lines. However, this year, things went very smoothly. They really were ultra organized and had a great system down. I went through bodymarking in minutes, then went to my bike to remove the plastic bags from my saddle and bars that I placed on there the day before in case it rained. I put the right amount of air in each tire, and put my bike in the right gear. I made my way over to meet Lisa, apply lots of bodyglide, stretch a bit more and listen to my Ipod. It was already getting hot and humid. There was lots of cloud cover but it was still hotter and more humid than usual here. Even the locals were commenting about this during the week. As I sat and stretched, I watched some bizarre warm-ups by many of the athletes. One guy was doing sprints, like he was warming up for a 5K. One woman just paced back and forth, clearly showing the pre-race nerves.

Lisa worries about me a lot on race day, and because of this, I decided to not let her onto any troubles I might be going through up to and through the race. I downplayed my shoulder situation, but the reality is that it hurt quite a bit on Thursday and Friday. It hurt when I did my solo swim on Thursday, but I mentioned the swim was just what I needed because while I was out there, it came upon me that I can’t make Lisa any more nervous than she already would be, and this swim on Thursday allowed me to find the new stroke I would use on race day. I took two Excedrin (I mentioned I had never used Excedrin in a race before but it isn’t ibuprofen or something similar like Advil or Aleve. NSAIDS can really irritate the stomach on race day, especially in an IM event, and they place a lot of stress on the kidneys) and headed to the ramp at 6:30am to get in the water. In Hawaii, there is such a crowd getting in the water and you literally have to get in 30 minutes prior to the start to get a good position, and then wade near the start line for 15 to 20 minutes. As you wade, it get’s more and more crowded and athletes end up kicking each other quite a bit here.

The swim is an out and back that turns clockwise around a big sailboat at the halfway point, so I lined up far to the left so that I could break off from the pack if need be. My new stroke for this race was to throw my left arm forward and lightly pull back, while taking more forceful, correct strokes with my right arm. The rotator cuff grinds uncomfortably when I anterior rotate and reach. When I start my catch, it feels like someone’s sticking a knitting needle in the top of my deltoid. I just had to make sure I tracked right so that I didn’t end up swimming in circles.

The cannon sounded and there was the usual frenzy of people swimming on top of each other, but I found some free water quite quickly. I was doing ok until, about 15 minutes in, I swung my left arm directly into another swimmer. I went on to do this two more times. The bay still had a good amount of chop, and I think swim times were a bit slower in general, but I exited the water in 1:04 which was fine.

During long races, you have a lot of thinking time. Most of the time, we are self-evaluating, wondering if we could hold the current pace, smiling and riding high when we feel good, and worrying and overdwelling when we feel bad. And during a long race, you will have times where you feel good and times where you feel bad. During the swim, I focus on trying to feel smooth and loose, and then I zone out once in awhile and focus on the fish, the scuba divers filming the race for NBC. I try to get a good song in my head although usually the opposite happens. I think about work, or movies, or anything that may distract me for a bit. Later in the race, I seem to think an awful lot about food – like burgers or pizza or ice cream.

Coming out in 1:04, there were so many other athletes around me. I knew that the early stages of the bike would be frustrating, but didn’t realize just how frustrating it would be.

More to come…



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