***I wrote this last week, but did not get around to posting. In the name of being authentic and transparent in sharing my experiences and feelings it remains unedited***
I really wish I could be writing something positive, upbeat, and exciting about Timberman, but unfortunately the day did turn out to be what I was hoping for. Perhaps my expectations set me up for failure, maybe I did too much hoping and not enough physical and mental preparation. Honestly my anxiety levels in the weeks leading up to the race were through the roof, and I really did not think that I would do well based on my training, which had been a great struggle. Each workout was a battle, draining me physically, mentally, and emotionally. My motivation tanked, but I still got my butt out of bed to go to the pool in the predawn hours, and I dragged myself out the door for rides and runs. I tested my mental fortitude and did long rides in the pouring rain, and long runs in 100 degree heat. I was getting it done, which counts for something, but is clearly not enough. Though I was finally starting to see some progress since my last race in Williamsburg, I still was not feeling like I was gaining fitness in proportion to the work I was putting in, and I was left scratching my head wondering what I need to do differently. I went into this past weekend with a lot of self-doubt, but had faith that I might be able to put it all together on race day. I did not.
Race day conditions could almost not have been more ideal; near perfect weather on a beautiful course. The only thing that would have made things better for me was if it had been a wetsuit swim. My swim was essentially on par with what I have been doing this year in the pool. I have not been swimming consistently and that was evident on race day. I also made some poor tactical decisions during the swim portion of the race, and hopefully I will not make the same mistake again.
The bike rack was empty when I got to T1. I am getting accustomed to seeing an empty rack, and in fact I would probably be concerned if it had not been empty. Since I did not exert a whole lot of energy on the swim, I was feeling good early on in the bike. With the rolling hills to start and all of the adrenaline, I was overshooting the power goal set by Brian very early on. I did not panic about this and tried to ride by feel, assuming I would settle in and be more on target. Though once I was out onto the flatter part of the course I was still averaging 12-14 watts higher than the race plan. I said to myself “eff it” I am feeling fine right here and kept cruising along hoping that it would not come back to bite me later on.
It was a very lonely ride. I was passed early on in the first couple of miles and after that I had no one in sight until I was passed again around mile 25. Being all alone, and trying to ease my nerves and the awkwardness of it all, I started to pretend that I was on a training ride. Seriously it was so great to be chilling at tempo pace for 56 miles, and having sag support along the way; it really does not get much better than that! Then just past the turn around, I started getting some agonizing neck and upper back pain. It took tremendous effort to say down in aero, but I was resolute in not wasting precious seconds sitting up. By mile 30, I was looking forward to the climbs going back toward transition so that I would be able to change positions and sit up.
Before the end of the ride, I was beginning to have some GI discomfort, and did my best to troubleshoot by cutting back on nutrition and increasing hydration. But at that point it was too late. In the last miles of the bike I knew that I was going to have problems on the run, it was just a matter of how bad it was going to be.
I’ll spare the details, but things fell apart after the first couple of miles. Before long the run was a test of how far I could make it before I needed to stop, instead of how fast I could run the next mile. I fought back tears, and luckily I could mostly hide my emotions behind my sunglasses and visor. It was a truly awful experience.
This had never happened to me before, and not that there is ever a good time to suffer from colitis, but there really could not have been a worse time. I am honestly at a loss for why it happened, but have a couple of theories. One, I may have over-fueled/hydrated for the conditions of the day. Though, I have been using the same fueling strategy for the last 3 years and it has worked before in a range of race-day conditions, so why this day it would not work is beyond me. Secondly, I did have a GI virus two weeks ago and in the week before the race continued to have some lingering issues, so maybe this was the cause. I am just not really sure.
Despite the total implosion and meltdown, and weighing a permanent bad result to my name versus a DNF, I resolved to finish. Feeling down on myself, I was so glad to see fellow pro, Julie Patterson, waiting for me at the finish line. She also did not have a great race and struggled on the run, and I felt uplifted by her support. I was so thankful to see her there; her thoughtfulness is a true testament to the community among some of the pro triathletes that I am just beginning to become a part of.
Not sure what to do with myself, I wandered around after the race, and was glad to see some of my friends and familiar faces from Philly. In his first race back since battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Josh White had an impressive race, which earned him second place in his age group. Josh was diagnosed shortly after Eagleman in 2014, which was the last time we raced in the same race together, and during his treatment he continued to run and even completed a marathon. My spirits were lifted when I reconnected with my new internet-turned-real-life-friends, Amy and Alyssa, who I stayed with in New Hampshire. I had a blast spending time with them, and was thrilled to see Alyssa finish on the podium in her age group. Though it made for a long day, I was glad I hung around for the award ceremony.
I am still trying to wrap my head around what happened and move forward. There will be other races. Perhaps there is pride in just finishing the race. Many people have told me there is pride in doing your best on any given day. I truly appreciate these kind and supportive words, and I am trying to take them to heart and forge ahead. It is difficult because I feel like I am giving so much to something that is not giving me much of anything in return. I feel frustrated because I pour my heart and soul into this sport, and am taking a big risk to pursue this dream, and I am falling far short of my expectations.
So back to the drawing board to come up with a plan to move forward. I devoted this time to be the best that I can be, and hopefully when this endeavor comes to a close, I will have achieved that and this won’t all be for naught.