Two nights before the race, I was busy on call seeing patients in the hospital. On the day before the race, I had to work, and thanks to Ventura County traffic, I didn't arrive at the campground until well after 10 pm, and was chugging Coke Zero wtih caffeine to stay awake for the drive. Thank goodness for terrific friends who brought my tent up with them and pitched it during the day so that I didn't have to wrangle with it at night. But, as I'm not one who enjoys camping, even though I was tired, I didn't sleep very well on the night before the race.
My day just started out bizarre. Just before our wave of women 35-39 started (I'm 34, but because I turn 35 this year, my "triathlon age" is 35. Depressing), we had the chance to get in the water to warm up. I jumped in, swam a few strokes, and noticed that my timing chip felt loose around my ankle. So, I tightened the velcro. Apparently, adjusting wet velcro is a bad idea, because as the gun fired at the start of the swim portion, I felt the chip come loose again. I had to stop in front of a bunch of women running into the water to readjust it. Then as I swam through a crowd of bodies, getting kicked once in the face, the chip was lost and gone!
Now, athletes do not get to finish a race without a timing chip. I panicked as I thought of what I would do. I'd try to find a race official upon getting out of the water. Or maybe I'd borrow my friend Jessica's chip, since she was registered but wasn't racing and might have it with her. Nonetheless, I was quite distracted as I swam, trying to figure out what to do without a timing chip.
Meanwhile, as I swam in the lake, overhead on the microphone to the thousands of spectators and athletes: "Heather Shenkman, we have your timing chip. Please come and get it." That did me no good since obviously I couldn't hear.
I got out of the water, panicked. My time was 44 minutes. Same as last year. I looked for a race official to tell that I didn't have my timing chip. I couldn't find one.
When I got back to my transition area, I looked down and right on top of my bike shoes, there was my timing chip!!! What a relief. I fastened it tightly around my ankle and took off with my bike.
That's me taking my bike out of the transition area to start the 56 mile bike portion of the race.
As always, Lynch Hill is the first hill we encounter as we ride out of the transition area. It's steep. It's tough. Then came some rolling hills, and about 25 miles of mostly flat road. Then there was Nasty Grade, this monster of a hill that's a couple miles long, around mile 42. And I got up it. The ball of my left foot was burning, along with my toes, but around mile 53, the pain was pretty bad. To try to ease it, I stopped pedaling with my left and pedaled strictly with my right foot for about a minute. The brief rest helped somewhat.
I felt a little slow on the bike. And, as it turns out, I was slow on the bike. Over four hours. Last year, the 56 mile ride took me 3 hours and 50 minutes.
As I transitioned from bike to run, I knew I wasn't moving very fast. I knew my goal of breaking 7 hours was gone. Maybe I could break last year's time of 7:11?
The first mile of the run was 11 minutes. The second was about 12. My left foot was in excruciating pain, especially trying to run any hills. I walked about half of mile 3, as I winced and thought, can I really finish this? Will this pain ever go away. Luckily it did. I ran/walk through mile 5, through more tough hills that I should have been able to run. Those five miles took me over an hour! I couldn't believe how slow I was!
Negative thoughts kept creeping into my mind. If this race is going this poorly, can you really do IM Lake Placid? Are you really as good an athlete as you think you are? I am tough on myself, no question. To quash those thoughts, I tried to remember what I had said to other athletes who were disappointed after a disappointing race -- "You're a good athlete who is having a bad day." Right? I wasn't sure.
Then, even on the flats, my run pace was 11-12 minutes per mile though I felt like I was moving faster. Clearly I was not. But, unlike many athletes out there, I was still running. Just one foot in front of the other. I was going to finish.
The half marathon run took me two hours and 40 minutes. My most recent half marathon before this was 1:58. Yikes.
My finish time: 7 hours 39 minutes. That's 28 minutes slower than last year.
That evening, LA Tri Club had an amazing dinner, and it was just a lot of fun to hang out at camp and relax after the race.
I put in the training for this event. I just wasn't rested, and that darn plantar fasciitis (I think that's what was going on with my left foot) flared up. I know I shouldn't beat myself up over this. It wasn't my "A" race -- Ironman Lake Placid is, and I have just under three months to get ready.
I'm staying positive. I've learned from Wildflower, and I will be as rested as can be when it's time to race Ironman Lake Placid.