So I originally planned to be blogging about 2 races and figured I’d have lots of fun pictures of downtown Austin to show you. Well, my body had other plans and after Memphis in May on May 20th, it reminded me who calls the shots around here!
First of all – let’s go back to Memphis (well, technically – Tunica, Mississippi…but it’s a teeny tiny casino town just south of the border so I’m guessing you’ve never heard of it!). My dad and I made the 10 hour trek up there on Friday, just as all the future Ironmen back home were prepping for their big race the following day. (Once again, I have the most supportive family ever – wow!). So much of my time spent waiting around, tapering, being restless, etc…was spent following the OutRival Racing progress at IMTX live on the feed (along with a very small amount of accounting CPE work). It was certainly a wonderful way to pass the time and very inspirational indeed! As my dad proclaimed at dinner Saturday night, “this has been a very uneventful trip so far.” What he meant was that there weren’t any travel mishaps like I had in Knoxville so that’s a very good thing. But the lack of excitement in that area was made up for in other adventures for sure – we experienced Mass at a downtown Memphis church, got in a bit of a fender bender (no damage was left though, thankfully) on the way into town, and my dad got to play a lot of poker which always involves meeting quite a few interesting characters of whom he relayed quite humorously back to me.
Fast forward to the next day, race day. Earlier in the week, I found out that our race wouldn’t actually start until AFTER all the other waves had gone and cleared the course. Which meant that we wouldn’t be starting until 10:30am! Mind you – we were in the south so at 10:30am, we were looking at high 80s/maybe low 90s? It’s very sunny there as well with a whole lot of flat land with no trees so there was not much shade to take refuge in. Well at our pre-race meeting the afternoon before, they took a poll and we all agreed to start 30 minutes earlier – so race time was set for 10am.
I usually start training by 7am most mornings and am up at 6am – I’m just a morning person; I always have been and I really don’t foresee it changing. Even when I try desperately to sleep in – I’m doing well if I make it past 7! So anyways, I digress. It’s Sunday morning and I’m up but I don’t have to race around to get out to transition, warmup, etc. so it was actually kind of nice to ease into the morning and eat a good breakfast while watching the start of the race. The time seemed to crawl by at first but as it tends to do, time marched on and race time finally came.
The swim was actually a time trial swim so this was unique feature #2 of the race. We were started alternating male/female in order of our race numbers, every 10 seconds. I think I ended up being the 5th female in the water or somewhere around there – basically right in the middle. It was a point to point course which I find to be more motivating then circular/triangular swims for some reason. I also liked that it was more like “every man for himself” sort of style since we were in time trial fashion and it was up to each individual to make up enough time to catch a draft if that seemed beneficial (depending on whether or not you had faster people in front of you). This made it a little less crowded and definitely less aggressive – it felt more like a hard effort in a workout. The water was a bit warm but I just went as hard as I could and I ended up with the 3rd fastest swim split amongst the females so I’m pleased with that. I think I could have gone a bit harder but feel that I’m beginning to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in the water – if that makes sense? Baby steps….baby steps.
Out on the bike, I was ready to tackle the headwind that I knew we’d be facing for the front half of the course. In that first mile, there were 2 other gals right around me and we switched positions a few times before I made a hard effort to get in front. Once I was able to pass, I quickly found out that I was going to be up there alone as far as I could tell. The 1st place female and the front males were too far out to see so I just hunkered down and pushed. I noticed that my HR was averaging a bit higher than normal but I figured that was due to the heat so I didn’t do much to change it. The second half of the bike was awesome – I think I was averaging around 27-28mph with that lovely tailwind! My dad was there with the splits at about the halfway point and it turns out I was able to make up some time in the second half which is always motivating. I came into transition, determined to make this one smoother than the last race – I tend to have trouble getting my race belt and shoes on because my hands are all shaky. I was fairly successful this time around but looking back at the numbers, I still have a ton of room for transition improvement!
Now it was time to hammer it out on the run. I’m usually relieved to be out on my own 2 feet with just over 6 miles separating me from the finish line. Well, this time around – I quickly found out that the heat puts a whole new spin on that relieved feeling. It was painful. The course was basically straight out a farm road and straight back with very few spectators besides the volunteers giving us fluids every mile or so. It was so hot and sunny that all I could see was the sun reflecting off the road in the distance, like a mirage. I felt like I was in the desert! But – I pulled the inspirational feelings from watching IMTX the day before and had a little pep talk with myself “they were out in the heat ALL day and ran for 26.2 miles – come on Sarah, you can do this….” That seemed to help along with my usual motivational phrases I count on during races. It still didn’t feel good though, especially after turning into a headwind at the halfway point. I also couldn’t tell how far back the gal was behind me and how her difference in start time for the swim would factor in, etc. I tried not to think too much though and just gave it all I had. Turning the corner into that finish line was wonderful relief! I ended up second place female by about 30 seconds amongst some very talented athletes so I feel very blessed and proud of the performance.
Fast forward a few hours and we’re on the road back home. I noticed that every time I got out to walk into a gas station (I had to drink a LOT to quench my thirst after that heat and thus that required quite a bit of patience from my Dad in all my requested stops!), my left foot felt pretty tight on the outside above my heel/beside my achilles. I didn’t think much of it and just figured it would go away in a few days after post-race soreness subsided.
Well I was wrong, and as the days wore on, there just wasn’t much progress with the pain. It hurt every step I walked. I tried to remain positive. The race plan was that the following Monday, I’d be doing CapTex in Austin which I was definitely looked forward to. With Michelle’s urging, we remained conservative – giving it a lot of extra rest and treatment. By Friday, I still hadn’t decided whether I was going to race although I was preparing to just in case. After a ton of prayer, thought, and advice received, I made the very tough decision to sit the race out. It’s the big picture that matters – this was only one race, as everyone kept telling me. But I was so disappointed, angry, and frustrated. I almost felt like I was taking the easy way out by not racing but as my sister pointed out, just pushing through would have been the easy way out. Who knows if it would have made my foot worse but I really didn’t want to find out. I was relieved to finally decide and although it was tough, I felt at ease so I knew it was the right decision for me.
The time that was freed up by not racing was certainly not wasted! I got to ride with Clint on Sunday and it was one of those awesome rides where you go hard but you feel good and enjoy the company. My sister and niece also surprised us and came into town so I got a lot of Abigail play time which is always wonderful.
I also had more free time for training and I was longing for more volume since I’ve been racing so much so I welcomed the changed training plan. Since my foot was still about the same, I didn’t have any runs scheduled so more swims and rides ensued! Well – once again, my body let me know who was calling the shots. After some extra yards in the pool, my shoulders were not happy with me and of course, my wise coach advised me to back off. Once again, I was frustrated.
After reflection and a bit of rest, I’ve realized that all of these aches and pains are a reminder that I have to be patient. My body has taken me quite a few miles and has withstood and allowed me quite a few great races these past few months. I have so much to be thankful for and there is no sense in pushing too far, too fast, too hard because that’s just a recipe for disaster in the long run. PATIENCE is key here; PATIENCE. I have always been a very impatient person with myself. I used to start my homework in the car ride home from school and would not get out until it was finished. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I cross items off my to-do list. I just don’t like waiting around, watching time pass by. No folks – I am not at all patient by nature….but I’m doing my best to learn to be more patient because believe it or not, speed isn’t always a good thing!