Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Eagleman 2008 Race Report: Did someone say, "HTFU"?* Yes, that was me to myself over and over again.

This was my third year at Eagleman and I wanted to raise money for a great cause. I am raising money for the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Heritage Fund. 100% of the money raised goes to outdoor sports programs for paralyzed and disabled veterans, many returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

As for the race itself you all know about the heat and humidity. I won’t even try to describe it except that hell would have felt cooler.

After finding out about the weather forecast I gave up my goal of going sub 5:30 for a PR and settled for trying to go sub 6 hours. Having gone 5:45 last year I thought this might be doable, particularly if there was little wind on the bike. I contemplated my race strategy and went back and forth on whether I should try to PR the bike. I knew I was going to suffer on the run anyway and thought if I could PR the bike then it would be a good day.

It was getting warm and with the humidity first thing in the morning I knew it was going to be tough out there as I was already sweating a bit just waiting around.

The Swim:
The water temp was 76 and wetsuits were allowed. This was a welcome change from the freezing temp at Columbia three weeks ago when I had a mini panic attack and couldn’t catch my breath at the start. Today I had no such problem and from the start had steady breathing and felt strong the entire swim. I felt like I was really moving and was trying to practice reaching and gliding more, which Coach Ed has been helping me with. The swim seemed to be taking much longer than normal (even for me). I ended up going three minutes slower than last year. Even some strong swimmers have been saying it may have been a bit long. Oh well. Time: 43:41. 2007: 40:27. Now – time for the bike!

Some advice for any part of the race. When something doesn’t turn out as planned just say, “Oh well” and move on. Don’t freak out about it and don’t fret about. What’s done is done. Just move on to the next stage and concentrate on that.

I had to visit the porta pottie, so my time was off by a minute and half for what I normally do at Eagleman. Oh well. Time: 4:46. 2007: 3:16. Last year my T1 and T2 times in my PR half in September were about 1:30.

The Bike:
The air temp wasn’t too bad yet as I began my way from Great Marsh through the neighborhood. The beginning of the bike course changed this year and as I made my way through this new section I thought, “I hope we don’t have to run through this.”

I was fully committed to my strategy to PR the bike and pushed pretty hard the entire time. There was some blatant drafting going on by some women and while I could have taken advantage of it I didn’t want to. I wanted my time to stand on its own, no matter how it turned out. I was surprised how good I felt, but it was getting warmer and I squirted water on my head several times to keep cool.

It got a little breezy and there was a bit of headwind the last 10 miles or so. This is par for the course coming back into Cambridge , but the day was set up for super fast bike times even with the heat. With about three miles to go we rode back through the new section I mentioned earlier. I watched in near horror as the runners trudged their way out and back along this stretch. I was dreading that I would be joining them very soon. On the bright side, I ended up with a Half Ironman bike PR of 2:47:40 (20.1mph).
2007: 3:02:55 (18.5mph).

Repeat of T1 and my times were one second apart. At least I was consistent! My transitions are becoming uneventful so I think this is a good sign. Time: 4:45. 2007: 2:57.

The Run (aka the road to Purgatory):
What can I say? It was brutal out there even at the start. I was hoping to find my legs by about mile one, but it never happened. I just kept slogging along and while my legs didn’t feel tired or sore I couldn’t find the energy to get them to move any faster.

I wanted to start walking from the start and by about mile 3 I did just that through the next aid station. I had never walked at an aid station this soon in a race.

Being from a running background, I don’t like to walk on my runs. However, I walked more at Eagleman than I did during the Kona marathon. I just couldn’t pick up my feet and get any real momentum. My pace was at Z1 and my heart was at Z3. Even this soon in the race and this being my 7th half, I never saw so many people walking before. No one was having a great run; a very few looked strong but most were just trying to suffer through to the end.

The volunteers at the aid stations were amazing and had everything we needed. There were endless cups of ice, ice water and Gator Aid. At one point I picked up a packet of gel and saw that it was chocolate flavored and it felt very warm to the touch. Ewww. I put it back down. I walked through and took my time at every aid station, grabbing at every cup that was offered. I even got a routine down:
Step 1: Dump cup of ice water on head
Step 2: Drink another cup of ice water, or two
Step 3: Drink at least half of a Gatorade (it was mixed pretty strong)
Step 4: Dump cup of ice down sports bra. I learned this by watching Michellie Jones at Kona. You should try it ladies, it really helps keep your core cooler
Step 5: Walk while finishing my water and then start “running” again.

The absolute worse part of the run was running back through the new section. This stretch was about 2/3 of a mile long, but it felt like 5 miles. It was a really wide street and made up of very black asphalt road with no vegetation, no aid stations, and no spectators. It was awful. I heard later that the temperature got to about 111 degrees on the pavement.

I just kept my eyes cast downward as I shuffled along. I didn’t want to look up to see how far I still had to go. Running through this hell hole on the way back to the finish was the worse I ever felt during any race – ever.
I finally made it back to civilization and as we ran back through the neighborhood to the finish there were people out spraying us down with hoses. I muttered thank you and pressed on. This is where I saw Paul Gross again and stopped to walk with him. We chatted and agreed that this effing sucked. I asked him if he had some run left in him and he said yes.

We began our jog to the next aid station which was the last. It was the first time I didn’t stop or take water. We had just over a mile left and it was too late for help anyway. I gave Paul some words of encouragement and continued on. After a couple more turns, I finally made it to the finish.
Time: 2:18:11. This was my slowest half marathon ever and I earned my second PR for the day, but this time it was not good news.
2007: 1:56:15.

Final Time: 5:59:02, 2007 5:45:47

Post Race and Mental Lesson Learned:
I saw Chris and Paul after the race. I didn’t stay to see if I got a Clearwater 70.3 spot, but chances are not. Plus the thought of doing another half IM at that point was not at the top of my to do list.

The biggest lesson I learned again was a mental one. From when I first started the run my body was telling me to quit and my mind was starting to listen. Even though I felt ok physically, my mind was saying, “Stacy, just walk, go ahead, it’s ok”. But I fought hard to shut those thoughts down. I already gave in to shuffling along slowly, so that became my compromise.

Your mind is much more powerful than your body. Sure there are times when you can’t go on physically and you should always stop as was the case with most people on Sunday. They were smart to listen to their bodies. But if you are feeling “ok” physically but just want to stop mentally, then don’t. Shut down those thoughts and keep moving forward even if it means walking. Bottom line: When those negative thoughts start to creep in don’t give in, just find a compromise so that you don’t have to quit completely.

Congrats to everyone who even started. There were close to 600 that didn’t even start so that sets you apart right there. Eagleman 2009, who’s in? Come on, there’s no way it will be that hot again. Right?

*HTFU means Harden the Fuck Up

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