How does the phrase go? “Piss poor planning produces piss poor results?” I think that might be the tag line for my race this past weekend. It was the New Orleans Olympic Distance Triathlon– 1500 m open water swim, 40 K bike ride, 10 K run. The swim location and part of the bike and run routes are the same as the upcoming New Orleans Ironman 70.3, so this was the perfect warm-up race before my first 70.3 in three weeks.
Except it wasn’t the perfect warm-up, it was pretty horrible. Here is the nitty-gritty race breakdown:
The problem with living in New Orleans is that there is always something going on. This weekend was the big Hogs for the Cause BBQ competition and my friends’ team was participating this year (Peace. Love. Pig.- you should check them out) so I volunteered to help them out on competition day. We all had such a great day hanging out, cooking, selling pork sandwiches and piggy pudding, listening to the bands, and checking out what all the other teams were cooking. Unfortunately, I was having so much fun that I neglected to ever eat a proper meal that day, so my pre-race fueling was half a bag of pork cracklins, a few bites of piggy pudding, and a few pieces of the whole hog that had been smoking for 14 or so hours. Not really the kind of nutrition that provides good race day energy. Poor planning. Not only did I neglect to eat, I also neglected to hydrate properly. I drank water throughout the day, but the beer was steadily flowing also, so I probably caused a net hydration loss for the day. Poor planning.
I drank fluids when I got home that evening and figured I’d have plenty of time to hydrate and eat in the morning as well. My friend Diane was picking me up at 5:20 am, so I packed my race bucket, set my alarm for 4:20 am, and settled down at 9 pm for a good night’s sleep. Then, around 2 am, the pre-race nerves kicked in and I found myself wide awake. I stared at the ceiling, unable to sleep for about 2 hours, and then I woke up to Diane calling me to let me know she was at my house ready to pick me up. What!??! I checked my phone and was indeed 5:20 and my alarm had failed me. Thank goodness I’d packed the night before so I was able to brush my teeth, throw on my clothes, fill water bottles, and dash out the door in about 7 minutes. In my haste, I did not have time to eat breakfast or get more fluids in me before I left the house. Again, very poor planning.
I’ll spare you the details of my set-up once we arrived at the course, as everything went smoothly. The swim was 1500 meters through the Southshore Habor and would be my first open water swim. Eeekk! I’ve always been a strong swimmer, so the swim portion usually never bothers me, but this was a little more intimidating than the pool swims I’m used to. Diane walked over with me and showed me where to go (she was doing the Sprint so her swim started in a different spot) and once she left, I made friends with another girl who looked equally as nervous as me. This was her first open water swim as well and she was also doing this race as a warm-up for the Ironman 70.3 in a few weeks. It was comforting that someone else was in the same boat as me. We discussed the path through the harbor- “So, wait, do we zig-zag-zig through those buoys or is it zag-zig-zag?” and reassured each other with the “yeah, we got this” line.
Then we were off. I jumped in, popped my head above water, and started swimming Baywatch- style (head above water) so I could catch my bearings. After about 10 seconds I felt myself starting to freak out. I don’t know if it was my adrenaline or the cold water temperature, but I couldn’t seem to catch my breath. I also couldn’t see. The water was the iced- tea colored and I really couldn’t see more than an arm’s length in any direction, which was also a little disconcerting.
As I was making my way to the first buoy my imagination started to run wild- what exactly could be in this water?! It’s a known fact that there are bull sharks in Lake Pontchartrain from time to time, there are also alligators occasionally, I’m sure some kind of venomous snake species, killer whales, carnivorous plants, Nessy, the list goes on and on and that’s before I even thought about the parasites and bacteria. Clearly I was going to die on this swim. I flipped over to kick on my back for a minute or two to catch my breath, just waiting for nature to take to my watery demise, but it never happened. So, I decided to get my sh*t together and get on with things, because the water was cold and waiting for a shark attack wasn’t getting me out any faster. After that, I was fine. I found my groove, zig-zag-zigged around the orange buoys, made a bee-line to my favorite green buoy (the last buoy!) and got the hell out of that lake. Phew, 1500 meter down in 32 minutes. I’ll take it!
As I was left the swim exit I waved to Diane who was waiting to start her swim and trudged towards transition. My legs were a little wobbly so I was happy to take it slow and let the blood redistribute itself in my body. As I was nearing transition one of the volunteers caught my attention as he was yelling, “the strippers are up ahead.” What?! Damn, I thought, I know this is New Orleans, but that’s a little crazy even for us. But still, I was intrigued, so onward I went looking for said strippers.
Turns out the strippers were two very nice middle aged-ladies who helped me take my wet-suit off. I have to say, I was little relieved. I wasn’t sure I could handle strippers after surviving what I can only assume was a very near miss with the whole shark-attack situation.
Swimming Wins: My new wet suit was awesome, my time was faster than I expected, I swam (almost) the exact Ironman course, no shark attack.
Swimming Fails: Having a mild panic attack, swallowing half of Lake Pontchartrain, need different goggles for buoy sighting purposes.
I took my time in transition, headed off on the bike, and everything was fine. I was fairly confident that there weren’t any man-eating creatures hiding anywhere on this portion of the race, so I felt okay to eat an energy goo and drink some gatorate as I cruised along.
Then I hit “the hills”. Now, we don’t have hills in New Orleans. Our highest point in the city used to be Monkey Hill at the zoo, which was constructed so kids in New Orleans could learn what a hill was (no joke) and it can’t be more than 20 ft tall! However, this bike course was riddled with overpasses and bridges, and I swear every other mile there was another damn bridge to go over. Gah! It wasn’t as bad when the wind was behind me, but on the way back pedaling uphill and into the strong wind got a little tiresome.
Then, to make matters worse, I got a flat tire. This wouldn’t have been that bad, except I used my last tube to change another tire last week and hadn’t replaced it yet. Again, poor planning. Luckily for me, after a while of walking my bike back towards the starting line, Dave the bike-tech guy pulled up in his handy van and changed my tire for me, quick as a flash! (Thanks Dave, and I’m sorry I secretly cursed you for driving across the bike course about a half-hour earlier).
I hopped back on and finished my very underwhelming bike ride. Average pace was around 13 mph, which is incredibly slow for me, but that did include the flat tire factor. However, I did feel like I found my “cruising altitude” as I like to call it, where I have a comfy pace that I feel like I could maintain for hours. This was what I really wanted to feel out on this race so I would have figured out before the Ironman.
Bike Wins: I hydrated well, I found a comfortable “cruising altitude”, I didn’t fall off.
Bike Fails: My pace was slow, I was not prepared for a flat tire, I handled hills (and wind) quite poorly.
The run was pretty horrific overall. My lack nutrition (poor planning) hit me hard and I had no fuel left in my tank. My hydration level was okay and I didn’t have any cramping, I just had no energy. Out of the 6 miles, I probably ran half, and did find a good run-walk interval pace for myself for part of it. We had to run the 3 mile loop twice and honestly I thought about cashing in at 3 miles, but I didn’t. I figured it was better to complete than to cash out early, even if it meant walking a lot. My pace ended up being 12:54 min/mile for the run, which is terrible for me, but I did it and I lived to tell the tale.
Run wins: I did it
Run fails: Everything else.
Today I actually feel okay and not as stiff as I thought, but that’s probably because I was moving slow damn slowly through the race. I’m going to go for a short jog today with Pepper and then stretch really, really well afterwards. Tomorrow it’s back on the bike, hopefully for a 30- 40 miler.
I don’t have any shots from the race (thank God, because I’m not sure I want to remember it), but here is a pre-race selfie of Diane and I and a few that the Marine took of me on the route.