Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Time for some R&R...&R

My race in Racine, Wisconsin this past weekend was a complete disaster.  It's time for me to take some rest, relaxation, and recovery.  In this week's blog entry I will write a little about what happened in Racine but I will also do something different than ever before by adding in what I was thinking during the race.  My "in-race" thoughts will be in italics. 

I lined up for the swim start with 17 pros in the field.  I need to find Patrick Evoe...the Little Caesar's guy.  He was 3rd here last year and is a weak swimmer like myself but always claws his way towards the front of the race by the finish.  If I can exit the water with him I believe I have a chance to hang with him on the bike and then run my way to a high finish.  When the cannon fired we began by running through some shallow water and then a few dolphin dives in I was swimming full-out like most of the pro races begin for me in the swim.  I had Patrick Evoe to my right and knew he was the only guy in a TYR Freak of Nature wetsuit so I would mark that suit and stay with him.  It was about 250 meters to the first turn bouy and I was right next to him as we made the turn.  I'm right where I need to be.  Stay on his hip.  The hip is the best place for me to draft.  I'll get ot see him every time I breath.  Stay there...don't let him go.  He is your ticket to a great race.  100 yards later I was on the hip of Patrick Evoe with a few pro guys behind us and the lead group forming up ahead clear of us now.  400 yards in.  This is easier than I thought.  I'm completely relaxed and right where I need to be.  I'm going to be there on his side when we exit.  This is so easy maybe I'll pull ahead of him before we get out of the water to make sure I get through transition before he does so I don't lose contact in transition.  I can't believe how comfortable this feels.  About 800 yards in I was still right on his hip.  I felt like he was getting tired of having me around and started to put in a surge.  I dropped to his feet.  No problem...the feet may be easier to draft off.  Crap, the bubbles from his feet seem to be going side to side.  I was having to lift my head much more than I did before to make sure I was swimming right behind him.  I knew I needed to get back on his hip or I was going to lose him because I wasn't swimming very straight.  Crap, I can't get back on his hip.  He's pulling away.  Swim harder damnit.  I can do this!  What is going on.  This was completely cake about 2 minutes ago and now I'm red-lining to find him.  I got dropped 1/2 way through the swim.  As I tried to push on and stay in a good rhythm I could tell he was slowly getting further and further ahead of me.  As I rounded the last turn bouey he was quite a ways up on me but there was another swimmer going by me.  Get on his feet.  Maybe he's a good rider.  You need to get with a good rider out of the water.  Get on his feet.  Damnit he's too fast.  I can't hang on to him.  Another blown chance.  We got to where the water was too shallow to swim and I stood up and started running in the knee deep water which was difficult.  It felt like I was in quick sand not going anywhere.  I tried dolphin diving but it was a little too shallow for that.  I would have to wade my way to shore.  I saw the clock at 28:10 but by the time I hit the timing mat and exited the water I was at 29:00.  God dangit that's barely faster than I swam last year.  I have put in thousands upon thousands more swim yards.  How am I barely faster than a year ago.  My workouts have been much more difficult and the long workouts have been way longer.  How many extra hours did I spend on my swim this year for what...20 seconds?  This is a waste. 
BIKE:  I began the bike portion and could see the guy who got out of the water about 30 seconds before me.  He was a long way up the road but at least I could see him.  I wanted to average about 25 mph and set my computer to average speed.  Pedal hard.  Bring that guy back.  Close the gap.  Watch out for those bumps!!  I nearly lost my special calorie bottle on some big bumps early on.  My buddy Zeb who came up from Chicago to watch gave me a time split to Little Caesar's guy at 65 seconds.  I doubted I would see him on the bike.  He's a great rider.  I felt like we were riding into a slight headwind going out and I also knew although the course is relatively flat the first 1/2 of it gains a few hundred feet in elevation while the second half loses those feet so it should be faster.  I knew if I could hold upper 24's mph the first half I could average 25 which is right about where I was last year.  I was losing ground on the guy ahead of me.  My average speed was only 23.8 and it was not getting any easier when we turned to ride west.  Why am I riding so poorly lately.  I've done a ton of work on the bike and thought I would be stronger than ever at this point.  This needs to get better.  At about mile 10 I was presented with the best possible gift I could ever have in a pro race.  One of the best riders in the field had been off the side of the road with a flat tire and he was just about to get back on the road when I went by.  I knew getting on with him would be the ticket I needed and could bring me to a great race.  I was ready when he went by.  Here we go.  How much more lucky can I get than this.  This guy is flying and I get to ride behind him.  Stay back a little more than 1 hash mark.  The officials who give us the drafting talk at the pro meetings always tell us to use the hash marks in the road as our reference point for drafting.  If we stay back a full hash mark we are good.  If we get any closer than 1 hash mark we must make a pass or be called for drafting.  I was would get to 1 hash mark and then he would open it up to 2 and I would work like crazy to bring it back to 1.  Stay with him.  We are flying.  My average pace is going up quickly and we are gaining on riders ahead.  This is not easy.  I don't know how long I can continue at this effort.  I'm completely red-lining with over 35 miles to go.  We passed Daniel Bretscher who was off the road with a flat.  I knew that was terrible luck for him.  He's racing incredibly well right now and I think he would have finished top 3 in Racine if not for the flat.  Either way that moved me up one more spot and we were just catching another rider.  We overshot a right hand turn and when we got turned around to go back on course I lost contact.  I worked as hard as I could to try to bring the 2 riders back.  I didn't have the power.  Are you kidding me?  I just had the most incredible opportunity I've ever had in a race and I'm not strong enough to stay with them for more than 7 miles?  What is wrong with me.  Why am I biking so bad this year?  I do not belong in the pro races right now.  I can't even compete when I get presented with the gift of a lifetime.  I'm going to be riding alone for the remainder of the race and get off the bike way out of it again.  I don't want to be here any more.  I don't want to do this any more.  This is not fun.  I just put in over 85 hours of training in 3 weeks so I could come here and get my butt kicked.  Why do I drop my kids off at daycare in the summer and go train when I get killed like this in races.  I'm a terrible dad.  I want to see my kids.  I want to get off this bike and go home and not train for a long time.  My piriformus hurts...my back hurts...and I'm out of the race.  I need a break from this whole thing.  I need to step away for awhile and let my mind get right and let my body rest.  Obviously with this mindset there is no chance to race well.  I completely lost it mentally.  All my motivation to race was gone and I just wanted to get off the bike, watch my friends finish, and get home.  I wanted to see my kids and give them a hug.  I began to question why I was racing in the pro field when I could be racing as an amateur having fun passing people or at the very least riding next to people when now I would have to face 35 miles of solo riding.  I sat up on the bike and just rode.  I didn't ride hard but still everything hurt with this mindset.  I kept looking back and waiting to get passed by people and wondered why no one was coming.  When I hit the 25 mile sign I couldn't believe I still had 31 miles to go.  56 miles goes by so quickly when your mind is in the race but when all you want to do is get off the bike it feels like an eternity.  I stopped at about mile 35 or 40 to get off the bike to stretch my back and piriformus.  I did not feel comfortable at all on the bike.  I stopped at aid stations to take bottles from a standing position to make sure I didn't run any volunteers over.  I stood there and drank a bottle and took another.  The remainder of the ride I had an internal struggle to decide if I wanted to run or not when I got off the bike.  I don't feel like running.  I want to start my break away from anything to do with this sport except be a spectator.  And later...I need to suffer my way through this run.  If this is the last pro race I ever do I don't want it to end in a DNF.  I need to put my shoes on and if I have to walk the entire thing so be it.  And then...No, you don't have anything to prove to people.  If you don't feel like running then don't run.  Just hand them your chip and put this race behind you.  Just get to the end of this bike ride and the break can begin.  That was what I was ready to do.  I actually almost stopped to ask a group of 5 police officers if they could help me get my keys out of my car that I had locked in it before the race.  They were standing about a mile from the bike finish and looked bored so I thought they could help me but as I was watching them I nearly crashed when I got my front wheel in a crack so I decided I just needed to get off the bike and then worry about my keys. 
RUN?: I got into transiton and took my chip off.  I racked my bike and was prepared to take a DNF but standing at my bike rack waiting was friend and co-worker Amanda Maurer who was in Racine to watch her husband Aaron finish his first 1/2 Ironman.  I told Amanda I wasn't going to run...I had experienced a complete mental breakdown and I was ready for a break from triathlon.  She said, "Put your shoes on and go run.  You are not quitting."  I tried to convince her that I should not be running and she let me have it.  She reminded me about students that I have in class...students that I refuse to let quit on homework assignments, class projects...etc.  The other spectators around her started chiming in that I should go run.  AHHHHHH!!!!  I don't want to do this but you are right.  I need to get out there and just make it to the finish.  I found my transition bag and decided to put socks on to make sure I wouldn't get any blisters.  This was probably a big mistake because I've never worn these racing flats with socks on and having them on for the first time is probably what caused me to get a huge blister that hurt badly the last 4 miles of the run.  I pulled down my Kiwami Konami jersey and put on a bright Live Uncommon running jersey knowing it would soak up the water I dumped on my head at all the aid stations a little better.  I threw on the Garmin and headed out to run not really knowing how it would go.  I just wanted to run comfortable.  I didn't want any more pain.  The first mile and half went fine running along at 6:25 pace but then I started getting some pretty intense pain in my upper torso when I took in breaths.  I stopped and walked a bit and tried to put my hands over my head and stretch out my diaphram.  At the next aid station I stopped and searched for some food.  I took some cola, ate an orange, drank some Perform, drank some water, had 1 potato chip and then dumped some ice down my pants and took off running again.  I ran relaxed at about 6:30 pace for the remainder of the first loop.  I got some encouragement from pro triathlete Andrew Starykowicz who was in Racine to watch.  If I thought I was having a bad day I only had to see Andrew on the side of the road to remember what a bad day really was.  If you want to hear about his crazy experience with terrible luck involving a bike crash, jail time, and being stuck overseas for nearly a month read his blog which I have linked from mine.  He gave me some positive encouragement which really helped and told me to just enjoy the run.  I did that for the rest of the run minus the blister that had formed on my foot and caused pain with every step of the right foot.  I went through the first loop feeling fine and I knew my friend and fellow QCer Jessica Imm was not far into the run course on her first loop.  I asked Matt Davison how far up she was and he told me she just left on the run course.  I said I would go catch her and run with her.  I took off running 5:40/mile pace and I could not find her.  It took me about 2.5 miles and I was glad I finally saw her because I was running out of gas.  She had an incredible race.  She told me she averaged about 22 mph on the bike and I knew she was running well because while I was running with her all we did was pass people.  There were maybe 3 guys who went by us but she was rolling by people at a very steady pace.  I ran with her until about mile 11 and then told her I needed to get finished before this blister broke open so I took off at a faster pace and finished the race. 
It was great seeing so many locals finish.  The conditions with the heat made it a brutal day especially for the people who started later in the morning.  I saw locals Seth Long (med tent), Jay Gates, Teresa Perisho, John Thompson, Josh Lederman, Jessica Imm, and Aaron Maurer (med tent) all finish the race.  I'm probably forgetting a couple other locals as well.  Jessica finished as the top female amateur in the entire race beating some of the women's pro field with an incredible performance.  I'm really excited for how fit she is as she gets ready for Ironman Wisconsin in September.  It's going to be a great day for her.  As for me I was just glad to get home and see my family.  I talked to Adam Bohach on the phone and he gave me some great insight on my much needed break.  I'm going to take at least 1 week completely off...maybe longer.  I want to get out of shape.  That is my only goal right now.  Eat whatever I want for a few days, put on some weight, get out of shape, get the fire back, and then come back and train hard.  I wans't sure I wanted to race again this year but that idea is already out the window.  I'm sure I do.  I have a few new ideas for training the 2nd half of the 2012 season.  I should have taken this break earlier in the year.  I've gone 29 weeks with 3 days off training.  In hindsight it wasn't enough.  I saw it coming.  My bike times have gotten progressively worse every race despite training harder and training more for each one thinking I wasn't working hard enough.  I learned a good lesson about the value of rest.  The athletes I'm coaching right now area all racing incredibly well...as a coach I know the importance of rest but my athlete self ignored the same advice I give as a coach.  I'm probably lucky to have won 3 races already this year with the direction I was going with my training.  I've had a lot of people call to make sure I am okay...remember this is my hobby.  I do it because it's fun, not because I have to.  I know to put things in perspective.  Although it means a lot to me at the end of the day it's just a race...it's the same thing my kids do up and down the hall almost every day.  More important than any medal, title, or ranking at the end of the day is the process of getting myself physically fit and healthy.  I went a little overboard with that but I'm much more fit now than when I got into this craziness three years ago.  I'm still a gambler and believe sometimes you risk big to win big.  I lost this recent gamble but I know all the training I did will pay off when I rest and allow my body to adapt to it.  What I don't know is how long that will take.  Thanks for reading and understanding that things don't always go the way you hope.  DREAM BIG!!  I will be back.  Branson and Arizona are on the schedule and on my mind as I type this...but for now getting out of shape is the most important thing.


Joshua said...

hope you enjoy your much deserved rest time and break from training. perspective is the key to success and you hit on that well in this race report. can't wait to see how the rest of your year goes. i'm excited to be doing my first 70.3 next month at the pigman. i'm more of a trail ultra runner and while this is only my 2nd tri (last year's chicago olympic being my first), i'm excited to cross the 70.3 off my list and see how i like the distance. keep living uncommon brother

Jeff Paul said...

Thanks Joshua and you'll be great at Pigman Long! Best of luck!!

Journey to 2012 Leadville - Byrne said...

You are still a total stud. You have set your standards so high that you are not satisfied unless you perform at the highest levels. That is good in a way because it helps to keep driving you. But you also need to be gentle with yourself too sometimes. You inspire a lot of people (and Jen does too) - more than you probably realize. This may be the fuel to light your fire even higher when you get back into it. Enjoy the break and you'll be back - stronger than ever. A lot of people have your back and will continue to do so. It's fun to read about what was going through a professional athlete's mind during a competitive race - enjoyed the post - thanks!

Jeff Paul said...

Thanks John! I appreciate it and I'd love to know what goes through your mind as you roar through leadville in under 24 hours!!

Journey to 2012 Leadville - Byrne said...

There is a lot that goes through my mind during a long run at Leadville. Surprisingly the time goes by quicker than you might think but there certainly is time to reflect on a lot (family, life goals, friendships). When you are at your highs you get excited, enjoy the scenery, feel good about yourself, and in the back of your mind wonder how long it is going to last because the next trough is probably around the corner :o) When you are in a trough, you try to figure out how to get out of it (eat, walk, change pace, stretch). I listen to music (that motivates me). During the first 50 miles you also get the opportunity to run with a lot of people you've never met before and it is amazing how you can get into some pretty intimate conversations with people you've just met - interesting how we behave differently when we are in the midst of a stressful situation. during the last 50 miles, if you are smart, you have a pacer with you the entire time, and you lean on them to tell you stories, keep your mind off your soreness and pain, tell you lies about how good you look and how close you really are to the finish. It is a whole different ballgame from what you do. You are pushing your body at such high levels from beginning to end. Leadville is more about strategy, stubborness, managing pain, digestion, and blisters. While I think it is tough, my guess is that most accomplished triathletes could do fine at Leadville if they wanted to make the commitment. It doesn't go in reverse however. I don't believe most Leadvillers would be capable of performing at the level that you and your wife do :o)