Sunday, September 13, 2009

Nation's Tri Race Report: How One Woman Turned an Almost-DNF Into a PR

Nation's Tri, Sept. 13, 2009
Total: 4:02:36 (2008: 4:08:27)
Age: 52
Swim 1.5 K: 46:56 (2:52/100m) (2008: 48:07)
T1: 6:05 (2008: 5:11)
Bike 40K 1:44:59 (14.2 mph) (2008: 1:45 /14.1 mph)
T2: 4:26 (2008: 3:49)
Run 10K: 1:20:12 (12:56 min/mile) (2008: 1:25/13:49 min. mile)
overall place: 3762 out of 3933
division place: 65 out of 71
gender place: 1313 out of 1453

I'm like the boy who cried wolf: I always say I'm not ready, so people tend to tune me out. But this time, I was really not ready.

I haven't been sleeping well. My training wasn't what it should have been. I wasn't mentally prepared. Plus, Saturday I had an argument with the kid so I was a wreck emotionally.

I just wasn't ready.

I got to transition at 4:45 a.m, for my 8:33 a.m. start (this was mostly so I could get a decent parking place). I was in wave # 31, the very last wave.

I seemed to spend a lot of time before they closed transition just staring at my set up. Maybe I was asleep on my feet. It was weird.

(Sidebar: Big shout-out to TIM! an underground reader who recognized me from these pages. HI TIM!!!)

The ladies around me were unfailingly nice and kind, although one had a little trouble with which way to rack and then where to put her stuff. Luckily, this guy is now an official and was on hand to strong-arm her ("hey I think it might be easier if you put your stuff on the other side..." Adam was fresh from a stellar performance at his first SECOND half-Ironman, the day before. I don't even know how he was standing up!)

Soon transition closed and me and 5,999 of my closest friends moved into the holding pen.

I was feeling jittery, like I was hepped up on caffeine, even though I hadn't had any caffeine. I was cold and tired, and my susceptible brain was busy remembering every swim scare story I'd ever heard. I was trying hard to counter all of that by remembering how many times I've done this, and my new favorite line heard the day before at packet pick-up: Swimming is when you get to lay down!

There was a slight breeze, and the water temp was a refreshing 72F, so wetsuit legal.

Into the water, wait 3 minutes, the horn blew and off we went. My legs felt constricted in the wetsuit. I swam for maybe 10 minutes, trying to loosen up and relax. No go. I suddenly knew that I was done. DONE. I wanted no part of this. I was exhausted, I was upset, I had zero confidence, and the buoys just looked too damn far away.

I looked around for a kayaker, and waved to her. She quickly paddled over, and told me to hang on to the end. I told her I was DONE, it was OVER, I wanted OUT. She told me I could rest and then go on if I wanted. No, I said, I am DONE. She had to keep shooing me back to hanging on to the end of the boat; I guess I thought I was going to climb in with her, but no, she had to signal to the jet ski guy. I was so relieved that I was finished. I told her how I'd swum this distance many many times, and I didn't know what was wrong with me. I told her this would be my first DNF. She (cleverly) said it didn't have to be, that I could still start up again if I wanted. Nope, I'm done, I said again.

I hung on for a few minutes, waiting. I starting thinking about all your comments, and about how I was going to explain this to everyone, and how I was going to feel getting my bike and going home. I thought of AJ, and I actually thought of that cheesey saying, "Pain is temporary, quitting is forever." I thought, well, what the hell, if I have to wait, I might as well swim while I'm waiting. I asked "my" kayaker if she would stay besides me while I tried again, and she said sure. So I started.

Major suckfest. I'm not fast but I'm usually pretty steady. Not today. I ended up doing a lot of breast and side stroke on that first leg, which made it seem like I was swimming on a treadmill.

At some point my kayak escort judged that I was going to make it, and took off. I looked around and realized I still had plenty of company.

After about 10,000 years I made it to the first turn and starting swimming across the river, parallel to the bridge. I think it was here that I finally finally FINALLY got into a rhythm and starting swimming freestyle, counting strokes to try to focus my mind. And from then 'til the finish I passed people like they were standing still. Damn, I'm a good swimmer!

It was a miserable, horrible swim. I was pleasantly surprised to see my watch reading 45 minutes when I finally exited.

Swim 1.5 K: 46:56 (2:52/100m)

I'm guessing that my mental freakout meltdown cost me at least 10 minutes. But yay to the 10th power to me for finishing that swim. God must have been with me because there is no way I finished that by myself.

My heart rate was skyhigh. I took my time in transition

T1: 6:05

The bike course was beautiful and I tried to enjoy it but my legs felt like lead. Despite there being 6,000 people on the course, I spent a good deal of it by myself, right up until the last turnaround when I finally got some kind of groove going.

I spent a few miles leapfrogging with two guys, a son and his father. The son was FILMING the dad as they rode, which meant that most of the time they were either riding side-by-side, or drafting, and of course the son wasn't exactly watching where he was going. These guys were a mess, and a menace.


I told them to please move over, that they were riding dangerously, but they ignored me. I finally dropped them because I was really afraid to ride near them. Fear, ladies and gents, is apparently what motivates me to push.

In fact, I was pushing the entire way. Was there a headwind? It felt like it. The course was relatively flat. I concluded that that I was just undertrained. My long weekend training rides, with their long leisurely stops, were just insufficient.

When I start to look forward to running, you know delirium can't be far off. My back was hurting, my neck was hurting, my legs were hurting. This was not fun.

Bike 40K 1:44:59 (14.2 mph)

Despite everything, I managed to beat my bike time of last year (1:46), which should have made me happy. But by this time I was on automatic pilot, just trying not to think.

T2: 4:26

Last night I had figured out that if I ran 13-minute miles, I would PR on the run. Now, 13-minute miles sound quite doable in the abstract, don't they?? I mean I can WALK a mile in 15 minutes.

My heart was pounding as I left transition. The run out was right next to the FINISH line, where hundreds of spectators lined the finish chute, and tons of athletes who had already finished were milling around. It was rough.

And here is where 21st Century Mom gets a big shout-out for encouraging me to run after every bike ride, which I faithfully did. And thank God.
Run out, scarfing a gu. Thanks Ray!

No matter how bad I feel, stick a camera on me and it's all sweetness and unicorns.

Look, I'm really running!

I programmed my brain to make me run for 13 minutes at a pop. If I took a 2-minute walk break, I still had to run 13 minutes. This strategy actually worked.

15:24 1:20:12 (12:56 min/mile)

If I had a dime for every person who encouraged me and told me "looking good," I'd be a rich woman. My DC Tri peeps were at the mile 5 water stop, where I ran thru a gauntlet of high-fives. I love my peeps.

And then, ta-da, I was done.

I was dizzy. My stomach was a mess. Every part of my body hurt, but especially my shoulders. Carrying a bottle of water felt like carrying a 10-lb barbell.

Miserable as it was, props to the race organizers for moving the finish next to transition, which meant no 1.5 mile walk back, like last year.

I walked back to my bike and just sat on the grass for a while til I got the strength to pack up. I headed toward bike out, and stopped by an abandoned water table to fill up my water bottles when a volunteer yelled to me not to use the gallon jug of bottled water because someone had just taken a swig from it. "Dude," I said, "I just swam in the Potomac." I laugh at the germs on a water jug.

When I finally reached bike out, it was locked up. Last year this was one of two exits, but not this year. I almost cried. There were about five volunteers there, so they could have easily been checking people out. One of them, obviously a saint or an angel, or both, took pity on me and opened the gate for me. I think he could tell I was about to lose it.

And then I drove home, feeling sick to my stomach and weak, and just wanting to get into bed.

Verdict? I am one tough cookie.

Also: I have a the greatest friends in the world. Many many thanks to all my blog peeps for your encouraging words, and to my D.C. Tri peeps (Becky, Sandy, Julia, Tuan, Shannon, Lindsey, Carolina, Lynn, Jason, Alejandro, Neal, Hugh, Travis, and all the rest of you!) for putting up with all my bullsh**.

I couldn't do any of this without you.


LBTEPA said...

((((HUGS)))) that post made me want to cry, you are SO BRAVE AND AMAZING for keeping going when you felt so bad. (((more hugs)))

Susan said...

You are a ROCKSTAR!!!!! One day I'll do a tri, I SWEAR. You will be my coach.

Now, have you abandoned us lowely little marathoners forever?

Lesser is More said...

First half iron?!?! Oh no...this was numero dos for me.

Great job today. Rebecca and I were glad to see you out there. Happy I could be of service ;)

MJ said...

Way to go! You trampled your DNS thoughts of a couple of days ago, and then stomped on DNF'ing to PR?! Mucho guts, enjoy the glory!

Tim (underground reader) said...

Hi Jeanne--it was nice to meet you today! Great job on pushing through everything.

I felt like I couldn't get into a rhythm today either until after I got around the bridge too. Must have been the current on the way back...

See you at the next one!

21stCenturyMom said...

So amazed at this performance. I hope that when you wake up in the morning you can begin to appreciate what a huge accomplishment this was and what a rockstar you are.

Let's face it - you and I are not exactly the stuff athletes are made of and yet we train, we race and we finish. and that, my friend is HUGE!

I will forever remember this race report when I feel like quitting. I'd say your job here is done but it isn't. Your job is to take inspiration from this and really train for the next one. Just think of how truly fabulous it could be!

Karlaj said...

Way to go pulling this one out of the fire. I think there was something in the Potomac water we both inadvertently drank, b/c I felt alot of the same things you did. DC Tri @ mile 5 was a real lift for me too.

iJuls said...


Petraruns said...

BIG ENORMOUS HUG! What an achievement you wonderwoman. ANYONE can race when the going's good but on a day like yours you really showed your strength. What a superwoman you are - we love you and admire you and think you're amazing and inspiring.

You almost make me want to do a tri. Susan? You in? Jeanne can coach us - what she doesn't know about tough is not worth knowing..

Thomas said...

I just wouldn't be you without a bit of added drama.

Congrats on finishing, especially with a shiny new PR!

Jon (was) in Michigan said...

Yea, Jeanne!! I'm so proud of you! That is something I could totally never do. I can't imagine swimming and feeling exhausted. Running, I can sit down in the street. Swimming? I would just drown.

You totally rock, Jeanne!

Lindsey said...

This time you *really* weren't ready? Then you got a PR? I can't imagine why people tune you out :) You're a champ, Jeanne! Congrats - I'm proud of you.

Kelly said...

I kept waiting for the moment in this story when it all turned around and it went great and you felt awesome...

that moment never came.

But congrats anyway to your great PR. I knew you could do it!

Neal Carlton said...

Way to hang tough Jeanne!

Rebecca said...

you are an inspiration. awesome work out there and way to hang in there through it all. congratulations!

ps. saw that father/son duo ride by and was SURE they weren't part of the race... guess i was wrong!

Unknown said...

Jeanne! Wow, I'm impressed. I was on LinkedIn today, saw your name and said, "I wonder what Jeanne's been up to." Lo and behold, you're a triathlete! I guess you caught the running bug big time, huh?

Rainmaker said...

Nice job kicking ass out there! And it was good to see ya at the start of the run. Congrats on PR'ing without training...I need to try that plan.

Maryland Girl aka Michelle said...

YOU ROCK JEANNE! I have been without internet and was so busy moving that I totally forgot you had this race this weekend. Way to push through it all! Congrats!

eileen said...

Well, THAT takes the cake!! You were actually hanging onto one of the kayaks?! You have been places others only dream of! AMAZING effort, THRILLING results! Congratulations, Jeanne!

ShirleyPerly said...

Jeanne, you never cease to amaze me. Seriously, from near DNF to a PR, that is just freaking awesome. Sorry you did not feel well, though ... I mean, this is supposed to be fun, right? But kudos to you for sticking it out. You ARE one tough cookie and I hope the next one will be a PR *and* fun!!

Jack said...

Congratulations on your PR, what an amazing journey that was! I WILL remember this when I line up next year for my first Tri.

Catharine said...

Woo-hoo, woman! Way to go! You totally would have had a swim that began with a 3 if you hadn't had your time hanging out with your kayaker friend.

Calyx Meredith said...

Fantastico! Way to ENDURE! That PR was earned the hard way Chica. Congrats.

Anne said...

Yes you are one tough cookie who scored a sweet victory. I think that son and father team that was filming cinched it for you. Nice work!!

David said...

Such drama.

Well you did it and obviously your best event was the run. What does that tell you?

Let's run another marathon.

I am proud of you.

Jade Lady said...

You rock! I'm so proud of you for hanging in there! Great way to inspire all of us!

Judi said...

oh jeanne, what a great race! 6000 people? DAMN i thought IMKY was big w/ 3000 people! you had a great race. thanks for sharing. keep up the good work. I MEAN THAT!

Vickie said...

Great job, especially sticking it out when you so clearly wanted to quit. That shows toughness if nothing else does.

Dori said...

You're awesome! DNF sucks eggs, so I'm glad you didn't have to experience that. This is one inspiring post!