Friday, January 15, 2016

Los Cabos IM....The Race that wasn't

I've been struggling to put pen to paper for this update and report but figure it has to happen sooner or later so here we go.  Where to begin is difficult enough, as quite a bit has gone on in my life over the  since my last blog entry.  This blog was set up to be about the steps and the journey and the chapters of my life.  Though the vast majority has had something to do with racing and my venture into the world of Ironman triathlons.  Well, my life has had some absolutely beautiful turns and some fantastic steps have been taken along my path.  My training, my racing, my Ironman journeys on the other hand not so much.  Which do I write about and what direction do I go? A large part of me wants to forget about the #Drive4Five, IM Cabo part of this journey.  But, that stop over in Cabo part of my path is where she said "Yes"and the beginning of truly having someone to walk besides.  I can't deny that.
A bit of magic was made in Cabo
A lot of what I would write about leading up to IM Cabo would be "bitching".  I don't do bitching very well.  I'm not typically a complainer.  The stars were definitely not aligned for me to have a good race and I could not will myself through this one.  I was and still am nursing this damn hip, hammy, glute lower back injury that occurred prior to Boulder.  I figured since I was able to suck it up and make it through Boulder,  my body would be able to do the same in Cabo.  I trained pretty diligently and followed the game plan in those 2 months between races.  I sat in steam rooms and saunas to acclimate myself.  Spent hours doing "The Foundation" to strengthen my ailing muscle groups as prescribed by a therapist.  The normatech boots were almost a daily ritual and hours were spent with Darcie pounding out the knots.  In my head, I did what I thought I best could do to be ready for race day.  A week or two prior to leaving for the race, I went out on an easy run with Jess and her Dad.  My back really started to ache about 3/4's into the jog.  The following day my quads were as tight as could be and hurt.  This was a new one as thus far all my discomfort was felt on the posterior part of my body.  I ignored this pain as I wasn't really sure if there was anything I could do about it at this point.  Continual sessions were scheduled for me to lay out on the table so that Darcie can help get rid of what was going on.   I landed in Cabo 2 days prior to the race with a buffer in hand to continue to try and keep my muscles firing and not shutting down. 
Nothing like a little butt buffing to stimulate the glutes
I spent two days running around to get myself registered and take care of the race logistics.  I would have to say this was the worst organized IM race that I have seen.  There appeared to be more questions then answers for many of the racers regarding race logistics, the actual race course and the entire registration process.
Tradition of wearing last IM Finishers Shirt to Registration

One of our favorite places.

Packed and ready to go

Putting Bella in her spot for the night
As I walked around from gear drop to swim practice to bike check in, my body and hence my mind were really not in the game.  I felt like I was on my feet a bit more than normal pre race, I was sweating quite a bit as it was hot out and it felt like there was always something to do.  For those distractions I made sure I ate well, slept well, packed well and took care of those things that were within my control. 
Had to alter the traditional pre race meal in Mexico
I was organized and ready for the race in that sense and with exception for an upside down 3 on my arm all appeared to be good to go from the outside.  
What the?? 
As I stood on the beach watching the 70.3 race take off, I was in pain. (The full and 1/2 both took place on the same day) My lower back hurt and I wondered and thought what was I going to do.  Suck it up and gut it out is what came to mind.  You got all the way here.  You raced Boulder IM injured, surely you can handle this race.  Perhaps the swim and water would loosen up my back and I just needed to get moving rather than standing around, I convinced myself of that.  Just work out the kinks and you'll be fine.  Except I wasn't.
Hanging Loose....Tight
I spent my typical 15-20 minutes to try and get my watch ready for the race.  Making sure it was on multi sport.  Making sure all the screen displays are as I want.  Making sure that I have the GPS satellites all aligned and making sure I press the right buttons to work it.

Where is Kenny when you need him??
Jess and I took cover in any shade we could find until it was time for those racing the Full IM needed to line the beach.  One last kiss and away I went.
Breaking waves at the start
The gun went off and I timed my departure from the beach into the crashing waves.  Memories of a growing up on the ocean and boogy boarding and surfing went through my head and I was off without a hitch as other struggled running into the crashing waves and the tide.

A nice day to be out in the ocean
I took off without much concern.  I had my line that I was going to follow to get out to the buoys.  I looked for open space to get a rhythm and started strong.  I then eased on my kicks and concentrated on rotating my body.  I kept waiting and shifting around for my back to loosen up but it never happened.  After the 2nd buoy I seemed to spend the vast majority of the swim with this rather large man to my right.  With the entire ocean in front of us, I had to share much of my hour plus with this herculean young gun.  I took a shot to face at one point and was happy I didn't loose my goggles but it pushed it into my eyeball and I had to work against that suction to free myself up a bit. Keep moving and don't panic.  Thoughts of an "accidental" retaliation came to mind but Coach E came to mind in keep moving.  "Be the Distraction, don't get distracted"  Undeterred I continued to hug the inside of the buoys and only found myself perpendicular to the rest of the swimmers a few times.  I ignored the pain in my lower back for the most part and concentrated on breathing and moving.  I'd look for feet so that I could hang off of and then if the pace wasn't right I'd move along.  A few left turns around a couple more buoys and I was on my way back to shore.  The exit out of the water would be as important as entering the water.  As I was spotting ahead I could see more than a few folks have their knees taken out from under them from the crashing waves.  Back to 7th grade, in my mind and I was body surfing along the coast of Long Island at Atlantique.  Yes, I've caught a nice one.  Wheeeeeee ride it it.  Hop up and don't let the undertow pull you back out.  Sweet.  That was fun and I was right in stride.  Let's do it again, Let's do it again I thought.  This was fun!!  Out of the water and towards the transitions area.  I spotted Jess and was able to get another quick kiss in.  
I did have some fun!
I grabbed my gear bag and headed into the changing tent. I made sure to ingest a decent amount of fluid as it was warming up out here.  My new Rudy Project helmet on.  Glasses on.  Lotion on.  Desoto Sports Wings on.  Dang, I noticed people putting their race bids on.  Mine was in my running gear bag, oh well. Glide on.  Eww it was already melting and with all the sand around, I lathered the glide paste mixed with sand on my feet.  I was certainly getting plenty of that sand in my shoes.  Shoes on.  I ran out for my bike realizing that a ton of sand was now entering my shoes and all over my feet.  
"Hi Jess!"
I looked around at the other racers to see how they were handling it.  Did they have their shoes and socks on?  Yep.  Ok let's go.  I grabbed Bella off the rack and carried her as I did not want sand on her chain to the road.  I then leaned her against a wall and sat on the ground.  I took my shoes off, as I have a history of having chopped hamburger meat feet in tropical climate races, Take the 5 minutes to correct an issue that will cost you potentially hours later I thought.  I continued to wipe my feet off best I could and literally poured the sand out of my shoes.  I didn't understand how there wasn't a line of people doing the same thing.  This was seriously mind blowing to me.  Oh well, I can't worry about them and continued to dump the sand out of my shoes and off my feet and finally I peddled away.

Coming out of transition was a steep hill from the water to the main highway.  I granny geared it and took my time looking to make sure I was on top of my power and not blowing up.  Well, that was my intention.  I looked at my watch and like in Fortaleza, I was not showing any power readings on my watch.  Here I am 2 minutes or 1 mile into the bike and I have no reading for my power.  Sh*t.  Here we go again.  It's crazy that we learn to use and trust technology.  I spend hours upon hours of training on Bella always being mindful of my power.  At the right power, in theory, you can ride forever.  I get to the top of the hill, pull over and hop off Bella.   I give a quick inspection to my power meter.  Yet everything is aligned and on the bike.  I open the cover and remove the battery and replace it back in.  This battery is less then 6 months old.  No reason for the meter not to be working.  I get back onto Bella and ride away.  I then peddle backwards to try and reset the meter but to no avail.  Not much I can do at this point.  Looks like another Ironman of riding blind and just going off of feel.
Rollers most of the ride
The bike section was a course of rolling hills.  From the swim we peddled to Cabo San Lucas turned around and back towards San Jose Del Cabo.  For much of this section, I was feeling ok.  Not great but not horrible.  I was definitely in work mode and managing the pain I was experiencing in my back.  I would shift around in the saddle alot.  Especially heading back from San Lucas.  It was at this point I could see all the racers that were behind me, coming at me and then eventually passing me.  

Several out and backs allowed you to see where you stand
The time it took for them to hit the turn around and ride by we was getting shorter although I was peddling away from the turnaround.  My power and speed seemed to all but disappear. 14mph.  I then got off the bike for my first time to try and stretch out my lower back.  Soon after my first bit of stretching I saw fellow Coloradoan Wendy ride by.    I got to the Y intersection where I saw Jess and Karen rooting and cheering me on.  I crossed over my fellow racers for yet another kiss and then decided it was time to get off the bike again for a stretch.
Left changing lanes blinker on, I'm coming in for a kiss
I laid on the ground under a few palm trees and again tried to twist out the back.  This seemed to relieve the pain for a little bit.  A quick out and back to the Y and another kiss.
Here I come
The next section of the race was not fun and nothing like I've experienced while participating in IM events.  The next section of the course was a long desolate stretch to the airport and back with a decent amount of climbing.  I noticed in this section that less and less people were passing me.  I realized that I was starting to slip to the back of the race.  I was now averaging close to 11MPH.  With every underpass that I came upon on this stretch, I would stop to stretch.  I would run into other racers that were done, seeking protection from the hot sun in the shade from the road above.  Some were crying, some almost incoherent, some with just a blank desolate stare on their faces.  I almost could not believe that I was here witnessing and experienceing this.

At the airport turnaround, I came across another male racer and we shared a few stories.  He told me how he was out on the side of the road for close to 30 minutes and was feeling a little better to try and push on.  We rode together for a spell when I noticed that we were starting to get passed by racers.  I realized that these were racers that were on their second lap of this two lap bike course.  I wasn't even finished with lap one and the leaders were now passing me by.  I then noticed several ambulances out on the course on the other side of the highway, picking up the scattered bodies, I had left behind seeking shade.  We came upon the next water station and that is where my partner for the last few miles remained.  "I'm done" he said.  "I'll wait for the meat wagon to come get me."  We bid each other farewell and off I went.  Every water station, every chance of shade, I was off my bike and trying to work my back out and in.  I rode standing up.  I rode tucked.  I rode sitting upright. I altered my body in every contortionist position humanly possible to make it a few more feet then I'd alter my body position again as to best not have this pain in my lower back.  I started to do the math  I was approaching the 1/2 way point on the bike and I was in and out of the saddle for 5 hours.  I had slowed down to single digits and wasn't picking up any speed any time soon.  That meant lap number two would be 6, 7 hours??  No F*cking way.  I was all alone and I believe the last bike riding on the course.  I have never been in this position.  What has happened?  What is going on? What do I do? I approached the Y intersection again where Jess and Karen were nervously awaiting my return.
All Alone at the end of the ride.
I got off Bella.  I didn't know what to do.  Karen is a coach, Wendy's Coach and an IM Competitor as well.  I was hoping their would be some pearls of wisdom she could share with me.  Or some magic secret that perhaps I didn't know about that could get me through this race or maybe I was lookng for someone who could give me permission to drop out.  The numbers just did not add up.  Meaning, there was no way, I was going to make the cut off from the bike to the run. I found out I had 3 more hours until the bike cut off yet it took me 5+ hours to complete lap #1.  How was I going to do lap #2 in 3 hours????  Virtually impossible.  I kept trying to trick my mind that it could work but the numbers didn't lie.  Jess the ultimate supporter, was a champion in supporting me and whatever decision I would come to.  I ran through the numbers for the billionth time and it didn't change.  3 hours till cut off.  It just took me 5 hours to complete one lap.  Can I cut two hours off of what I just did??  As we were standing there trying to figure out what to do, the race personnel put cones across the road and the course just behind me was closed.  I was 5 minutes ahead of that cutoff. Seriously, I am in last place, the last man standing.  I was the last person on the course and anyone behind me was officially done.  I've read articles about this.  An ambulance passed us by with the carnage of people I spent the last 3+ hours riding and talking with.  Our hotel was a block away from this Y intersection or I could start the long out and back toward Cabo San Lucas again.

I went over to the race personnel and gave him my name and bib number.  I was taking myself out.  I know a lot of family and friends were following me and I am sure many were nervous with my times and could figure out something was wrong.  I went back into the hotel room and took to social media

Ummmmmm.....What happened??
FaceBook post: time for a first......I took myself out of a race. Many of you know the woes I have been having with my leg, back, hip and glutes since before IM Boulder. I have been giving them all a ton of attention to try and ready myself for IM #5. I went into the swim with my back hurting but was hoping it would loosen up. It didn't. A decent swim and then onto the bike where it seized up on me at about mile 15. My pace was as slow as a snail. I had to get off the bike a few times to try and stretch it out but it just would not work itself out. Just past the midway point on the bike I made the cutoff by 5 minutes. Quick math showed there was no way I would finish the bike in time to begin the run at the pace I was going. So after 5 hours of struggling on the bike to get it together, I realized today was not going to be my day. I pulled a Rinny and dropped out on the bike due to back troubles. So now I will take the rest of this week to enjoy myself with Jess and be thankful for all the wonderful things I am blessed with in my life. This burns and I am sure it will for some time to come BUT that is life and just another step along my path. I appreciate all the love and support you all have bestowed on me and as Coach Eric just texted me" This race doesn't define who you are". So now I will rest up, heal and #5 will happen soon enough. Looking forards to the off season to come back stronger than ever. We've got some work to do ErinAmyDarcieEric and Heather.

What to do next??  I showered and went to lunch with Jess.  My traditional post race Bloody Mary was replaced with a Captain and Ginger.  A smile and appreciation was on my face and in my heart.
When life hands you limes, cut them up as a garnish and put them in your drink!
The outcry of support was intense for me in the minutes, hours and days following the race.  The bottom line is I fell short of my Drive 4 Five and 5 complete Ironman races in my first 22 months of triathaloning.   I am not sure I ever quit or pulled myself out of anything in my life before.  I certainly never even gave it a thought that this would happen to me.  After I did I first IM in Cozumel 22 month earlier, I thought there would never be a reason why I couldn't finish a race.  To date, I still struggle with that idea.  I didn't finish.  I pulled myself out.  That's not me, that's some other guy.  I think that may be the reason why it has taken me soo long to sit down and write about it.  If I don't write about it, it didn't happen right?? did happen and it definitely doesn't define me as a person.  I know that and I'm ready to move on.

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