Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What Happened In Vegas... Raw.

Aloha... wow it's good to be home! So here's the deal... I had a long flight home yesterday and took some time to write out my thoughts about the race on Sunday. If I were writing it up today, I'd prob say something quick about how it just wasn't my day and I'm moving on... today is a new day blah blah blah. I've debated about whether or not to even publish this because it was written when I was still quite raw. Of course I'd rather put out there about how strong I am and how I don't fail and I'm not a mental basketcase or whatever... but the truth is, sometimes I am a complete mess! Unfortunately Sunday was one of those days. Anyway, today I am crawling out of the hole I was in yesterday... but in the spirit of being authentic, here's how I was actually feeling after that race...

I could wait like a week to write this race report… and maybe in another week I'll be able to think or speak about it without the overwhelming feeling of disappointment that I have right now. But that would make for a rather boring read. So I thought I'd write this out now when it's all still really raw. Honest race reports are always more valuable than the boring factual ones anyway.

I think the biggest disappointment for me is that my race yesterday was not representative of my training in the lead up to the event. And it wasn't just that I'd worked really hard and consistently (most athletes do that) but I'd say that I felt like the weeks leading up to the race had gone just about perfectly… I'd worked until I was tired; I'd backed off and recovered. Race week sessions went perfectly- I felt like I was on fire- and on Friday night at the race meeting I was twitching with energy. The last note I wrote in my Training Peaks log after my Saturday pre-race shake out session was "I have every reason to believe I will have my best day tomorrow." And I meant that. I don't make shit up in my TP notes- always 100% honest with those. I don't think I was kidding myself...

So maybe then the fact that my legs didn't show up on Sunday is more a matter of frustration because I just can't explain it? I look for reasons to explain why I felt the way I did… not excuses, but I'd like to understand mostly so I could do something differently next time to fix it. So the easy answer- and one that I heard from several athletes who know me better than most- was that I just had an off day. OK. But why?? I genuinely want to know? I don't *think* I was too tired, I don't *think* I was too rested, I don't *think* I was overly stressed… I just can't figure it out. I have no answers to that question of 'why'. 

Anyway, details of the race from my point of view… I felt good and ready and confident at the start. I put myself on the front line to start the swim, went hard when the gun went off, didn't really get touched… saw a couple gals swim by… tried to get on their feet but couldn't. OK so they are fast let that go just swim as hard as you can Michelle. I took a fairly wide line around all the buoys b/c men 40-44 started 4' ahead of us and I started catching them at buoy #3 (of ~12-15?). That water is really dark and its hard to see feet in front of you so I figured if I swam on the buoy line I'd end up on top of those guys really fast and would get kicked in the chin or something so that was my thinking with the wide line. For the most part I think it was good b/c I could put my head down and swim more aggressively b/c I had clear water. It did get a lot more crowded in the last 10' or so and I found myself looking up A LOT (like almost every stroke) to make sure I wasn't going to land on top of someone. That was a little frustrating but whatever.

I got out of the water and didn't know how many girls were ahead of me… I'd thought maybe 3… Reality was there were 6 but I didn't know that til I saw results at the end of the day. I'm glad I didn't know that b/c it probably would have frustrated me. That's the furthest down I've been in years coming out of the water in any race, including Kona.

T1 was long and muddy (as you prob know if you followed the race at all, it rained on us all morning). I wasn't happy that it was raining or anything, but I also wasn't very worried about it. I ride in the rain quite often so I just kind of had the attitude of whatever… Not my favorite conditions but I can handle just fine. The reality of it though was that I had some fear on the long fast descents. The Vegas bike course is actually pretty cool with lots of big rollers and I can see how if you had open dry roads, it be would awesome to just blast down those things. Our reality was that the roads were soaking wet, we were being pelted in the face with raindrops (I tend to not wear sunglasses when it rains because I can't see out of them at all… without glasses, while my vision is not perfect, I can see better than with them so that's my choice. I left my sunglasses in T1.) and there were a bunch of older athletes already on the roads ahead of us, traveling quite a bit slower. So it doesn't really feel great to go blasting by 70 year old men and women on a long descent in the rain… 

Anyway, I constantly reminded myself to Be Brave on the downhills, especially in the beginning… I felt a little like I was being a pansy but a lot of others around me were also being pansies about those descents and the reality was I was passing people on the way down, even though I felt like I was being a pansy. It was the uphills where I was getting passed. Where were my legs? Why did I not have any power? That was weird. I got passed by I don't know how many women- more than I anticipated. Like always, I was racing without any data only subjective feeling so I was trying to play it off with myself like Well this is the World Championships so duh these gals are going to be super strong… and maybe I'm fooling myself but I do think that on a good day I could hang with those girls on a bike. Yesterday I could not. 

A note about drafting (because no race report is complete without a note on drafting)… This is a course that does not lend itself to drafting. It's one where you would have to go out of your way to make a real effort to stay in a pack. In good news, I did not see a single woman drafting yesterday (YAY for a fair race, girls!!) However, damn if those top men in the 30-34 and 25-29 waves (who started behind us) weren't drafting their asses off. Everyone around me saw it and we all commented on it afterward… First a pack of ~5 went blazing by, then a pack of 4, then a pack of 10-12... full on peloton style. So those were in all likelihood your "World Champions" and future pros… Blatantly cheating. Congrats, guys. Hope you're all really proud.

Back to my race. I was trying to trust my fitness and hang in there even though my legs felt like concrete… and I'm glad I did because finally around mile 40 my legs came around and I felt more like myself. I passed back 3 of the gals in my age group who had passed me earlier. Of note, this is also where the course flattened out and I could just get in my big chain ring and aero bars and steadily gun it, which is a lot like how I train. The thought in my head at that time went along the lines of 'maybe these hilly courses aren't really my thing?' I do tend to have more access to my power when the road is flat and that's kind of been a trend so something to consider going forward. Anyway.

Onto the run. Ugh. (This is where it gets raw.) So I'm not like delusional or anything and I know I don't have an ace in my pocket when it comes to the run. I did think though (based on my training data) that if I had a decent day I could pull off a run in the 1:50-1:52 range, even on this course, especially given that it wasn't 100+ degrees. (OMG had it been 100+ degrees I'd probably still be out there, crawling to the finish.) Maybe it would have helped me to use a garmin and get pace- especially on the first 2 laps- because it would have told me I was not actually running backward like I felt like I was… 

But I'll tell you what. When you get off the bike 10th in your age group at a World Championship event, and it's a 3 lap run course out/back, and younger/faster waves start behind you, and you don't have World Championship caliber type run talent, it sucks. I am not exaggerating when I say that I got passed every 5" for 2+ hours. And not by like just one person at a time… but more like 3 people at a time swallowing me up from both sides just a constant stream of athletes running by me like I was standing still. I tried really hard to just put myself in my own little bubble and do my thing and ignore all that but I completely failed in that regard. It was impossible for me to block out that many people running by that fast and I just felt like I had no business being out there at all. So for 2 hours I just beat myself up mentally telling myself over and over, "I DO NOT have a World Championship caliber run…" Nice, huh? And it just got worse and worse and my legs filled with more and more concrete. I took 2 gels and drank some coke/perform at most aid stations hoping maybe it would provide a little magic or something but it did not.

Then to add insult to injury, I could feel twinges of cramping coming on… same adductors that always give me issues. It sucked b/c I knew I wasn't even running that fast but it all felt so hard and I'm wondering WHY is it that other people can run so efficiently but if I push with any effort at all my muscles seize up on me in complete spasm?? And then boom, right before mile 12 or so my left adductor went into full spasm and I was just stuck- bent over right in the middle of that run course yelping out loud in pain… not able to stand up straight until it released… ARGH. It did eventuality release and while it felt like an eternity it was probably only ~60-90" before I could walk… so then I walked a little and then resumed jogging… tried to really just relax and get my damn ass to the finish line without it happening again…

Turned around at the final turn around… less than a mile to go and all downhill… phew. But as soon as I started running vs jogging, my other (right) adductor seized on me and much worse this time than when the left one went… So I was back to being bent over on the side of the road this time for much longer because that damn spasm just wouldn't release and I was so pissed and frustrated (that prob didn't help b/c what I need to do when this happens is get my muscles to RELAX and when I'm pissed like that I'm pretty much the opposite of relaxed). 

Eventually I managed to trot my way to the finish line where I saw Krista and Tracy and immediately burst out into tears of frustration. They were awesome and they let me just vent. Krista asked me what I needed and I didn't know but I said I just didn't want her to try to convince me that I did great because I did not and the last thing I wanted was to be patronized. She totally understood which I appreciated more than I can even express.

So then I was in a really tough spot because at this race I was trying to play the role of both athlete and coach… And my athletes all had really solid days so I needed to find a way to get over myself and smile for them but I was just not ready to do that quite yet. So here's a public apology to my athletes for that… I'm sorry. :( Instead I went and found a quiet place where I could just sit alone and allow myself be sad and frustrated and disappointed for a little while. Eventually I came out of my little hole. Nalani found me and gave me a beer and at least for a little while I managed to paint a smile on my face.

Like I said in the beginning, I don't know what the issue was. I really have no excuses which leaves me feeling completely confused and without a real understanding of where to go from here. The reason I like this sport is because typically it's a scenario where you get back what you put into it, where consistent hard work pays off… but yesterday, for me, it did not. I still want to believe in the process. I want to believe that if I just consistently put in the right work that I will get rewarded with a satisfying performance on race day. I see that happening for others. And it has happened for me in the past so I am clinging to that memory right now. 

14 comments:

Damie said...

glad you posted your real thoughts. as always, thanks for sharing and proud of you

JC said...

I love the "raw" post. Sometimes the legs just don't show up. If it helps, I've had that happen a lot more than them actually showing up.
You were out there with the best of the best and guess what YOU were a part of THAT group. Remember that YOU were there and belonged there.
Hugs. So wish I could've cheered you on in person. Congrats lady

sunnyrunning.com said...

definitely real thoughts = better

i don't know how many races I've obsessed over the 'why' it went bad. and, often, there's a whole bunch of little reason, which add up to what people just call "not your day." I don't know; it's hard to deal with that. Sorry to hear it sucked.

Steve said...

Sorry you didn't have your best day Michelle. I can see how important it was to you.

I also feel your frustration where you question things.

No words of wisdom, but I feel ya.

mtanner said...

I like the Raw Michelle. Honesty = Better. I don't understand the why either but I appreciate your story. AND Michelle IT is in there.

Shevaun said...

It's easy to share the posts about races where all went well. It's tough when your body rebels and won't do what you've prepared to do. I know you'll regroup and hit it hard another day. Thanks for sharing this post.

Tawnee Prazak, M.S., CSCS said...

I feel like I could have written this. We had very similar situations going on here. Sorry it wasn't your day either - I can relate. (If you read my blog, you'll totally get it.)

I saw you on the run course several times, and I knew you were struggling but hanging tough, so good on ya.

We love this sport so much, and one bad race doesn't change that nor our dedication! Let's just learn from this one and move on!

Ange said...

those days do suck. and sadly, they do happen for reasons we can't alwasy pinpoint. I had it happen last year in Vegas too. I gave myself a few reasons to make myself feel better but really, who knows. You will rally and great races will happen again. Promise. And, it's OK to cry a little now.
Hang in there. You continue to inspire so many, incuding myself.

JB said...

Thanks for the brutal honesty... kinda reminds me of my Vineman race this year where I was really flat on the run. Your bike comments got me to thinking that you'd enjoyed Cozumel... head down and push a big gear course... I loved it and we'll be back there in 2014.

Angela and David said...

Hopefully some of that rawness has faded. Sucks when all the hard work doesn't pay off like it should. And I know that feeling on the run. I experienced it in Kona - and I am a runner! It sucked.

kimberlymichi said...

The stories you share here are the next best thing to personal experience in understanding both the realities and triumphs of triathlon. Thanks for being a role model and leader in our sport, and congratulations on (another) world championship.

Maggie said...

Sorry you didn't have the day you wanted but you're still a bad ass in my book!! Congrats on putting it all out there and I'm betting you crush the next one!!

Jennifer Harrison said...

I always say: Onward & Upward. There is always another UP. :) Thank goodness for more races and more chances to be great.

Roz said...

I cried after Vegas last year too. Not at the finish line but a lot back in the hotel room. For me, I set up unrealistic expectations for myself and in short - I was head case and melted mentally and physically on race day. BUT it was a good learning experience. It's KIND OF of sad that they're moving the 70.3 Champ venue just because I'd like a chance to have a do-over but that run course although it SUCKS, so not that disappointed at all.

Sounds like you're in the midst of some soul searching. I hope you find your mojo again soon.