If at First You Don’t Succeed (Lessons Learned from an Epic Fail)

First off, to the four people that have been following my blog with any regularity, I’m sorry for not posting anything recently. This blog clearly peaked the day it was named. It’s been all downhill from there.

So, it’s been over two months since my last post. What’s new, you may ask.

To start, training has become a grind. It’s mentally draining and each day I find myself bargaining with myself. Usually it goes something like this:

*ALARM ALARM ALARM ALARM ALARM ALARM* Ugh 4:20. Snooze.

*ALARM ALARM ALARM ALARM ALARM ALARM* Die alarm clock, just effing die. Ugh. Gotta swim in the morning and run in the afternoon. Well, tomorrow I only have one workout, I could push off my swim until then and just run this afternoon. But it’s going to be hot this evening. Shit. I really don’t want to swim right now. Shit. Fine, I’ll run this morning and swim after work today (lies — I know I won’t swim in the evening because there are classes in the evening and finding an empty lane is next to impossible) or tomorrow morning (no I won’t).

As this may imply, skipped mid-week workouts happen on occasion. Fortunately, I’m staying true to my weekend workouts, which is very important, but increasingly difficult. Five-hour bike rides and hour-and-a-half runs are becoming the norm and I’m a shell of myself for hours after each workout. I wouldn’t say I’m doing badly, but I’m still a long ways away from where I need to be and I know it.

On June 2, I put all that training to the test during my first half Iron-distance race at Quassy in Middlebury, Connecticut. Unfortunately, I was fighting a losing battle before I ever reached the starting line. As early as Thursday before the Sunday race, my digestive system stopped working properly. Just wasn’t digesting food and my appetite was significantly diminished. Friday evening, I had a 102° fever which broke overnight, but left me with only an hour or two of sleep. Didn’t sleep well on Saturday, thanks to nerves. Yeah, I was a mess.

I came this far though — no looking back. I get set Sunday morning, staring down the barrel of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run. As per usual, I have serious issues swimming a straight line. I know how to “sight” while swimming in open waters, which effectively requires you to pop your head quickly out of the water to find a landmark. There are buoys every 1/10th of a mile, which are helpful, but spaced out far enough for me to get “lost”. After making a 90° turn, I can’t see anything because the glare off the water from the morning sun is blinding. Somehow I even lost the other swimmers. I really need to download my route from my GPS watch. I suspect it’ll be reminiscent of Billy from the Family Circus comic strip. Lesson learned — I need tinted swim goggles for race day and I need to practice open water swims.

Finally, I climb out of the water, and onto the bike. You wouldn’t think Connecticut to be extraordinarily hilly, but Quassy has some serious climbs. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there were six Category 5 climbs and one Category 3 climb (translation: it’s really stinking hilly). The hills weren’t my biggest problem though, it was nutrition. For newbies, nutrition is one of the hardest things to master. On a good day, it can be tough. On a bad day, like the one that I was having thanks to my digestion issues, it can make for a shortened race. I ate about 1/2 of the food I was expecting to (probably about 600 calories — to put this into perspective, I burn ~2,000 calories on 50 mile rides).

Also, I have two water bottles on my bike. It was a hot day, so hydration was going to be an issue. There were water bottle exchanges at Miles 15, 30 and 40, and I grabbed a bottle of either Gatorade or water at each one. Problem was that at Mile 40, the bottle had a hole in the bottom (either because it was defective, or I speared it trying to put it into my cage). Once I realized this, about 5 minutes later, that was it. Mentally, I was done. I was malnutritioned, out of water for the last 16 miles of my ride, and nothing good was going to come out of me fighting through the run (which was apparently more ridiculous than the bike course).

I finished the ride, calmly racked my bike, took my timing chip off, found the nearest race official and said, “here, I don’t need this anymore.” At least I refrained from whipping it at her from close range.

Did … Not … Finish …

It was the first time I did not cross the finish line to a race I’ve started. And despite all of the obstacles stacked against me at Quassy, my confidence was rattled. It has slowly crept back after a successful 105 mile ride last weekend and a wickedly hard bike / run on Saturday, but I’m a much better athlete with a little bit of swagger. I have a chance for redemption this coming weekend as I attempt another half Ironman in Syracuse. But, another failed attempt and I have a very hard decision to make about the full Ironman in August.

It’s not the end of the world and I’m trying to stay positive. Next Sunday will be another good test as it is also hilly, although not as bad. Just hoping to stay healthy between now and then, making the adjustments that I need to on the swim, and getting the nutrition throughout the race. We shall see.

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3 Responses to If at First You Don’t Succeed (Lessons Learned from an Epic Fail)

  1. Carrie says:

    Don’t give up! I’m sure the training is grueling. You had a lot of things stacked against you though. Hope things will go better next time.

  2. Wes says:

    You’ve never Not succeeded and have always turned a negative in to a positive. This weekend will be different. You’ll finish the race!! You’ll hobble off the course a rock star (in your own mind)!! You’ll feel much more confident and can then grab the Full in August by the cajones and make it your bitch!!!! >:D

  3. Kim Smith says:

    Do not lose heart. Learn from the “bad days”. Just like you would tell all of your TNT participants, stop skipping your mid-week practices, they’re important. Figure out why you’re skipping & adjust the schedule. Rest is an important part of training – are you getting enough? You get us through when we’re sure we can’t go further, you know this is just your head messing with you. You can do this Coach!

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