First of all, I have to mention that from the looks of it one might think the race was a bust. My first 70.3 race in 2008 was at this venue and I posted a 6:18 (36:13 / 3:20 / 2:14), the following year I returned and posted a 5:58 (33:34 / 3:10 / 2:08). In 2010 I did my first Ironman race so heading into this season, I had grand goals of smashing my PB on this course. After all Since 2009, I would say I have taken the sport seriously and maintained somewhat of a consistent training regime every since. So was it a bust? Finishing in 6:30 this year (31:34 / 3:06 / 2:46!) is by no means a PB but being out there (for that long!!) really helped me evaluate my season and the leadup to this race which was in fact my goal race.
So What Happened?
The week leading up to Muskoka was an intense week. Not in terms of training but in terms of trying to manage an illness. Most likely a flu or a cold charactarized by headaches, coughing, runny nose, congestion, back/muscle aches. I tackled it extremely hard with pretty much everything possible from tinctures, eucalyptus bathes/inhalation, home-made teas, old-time remedies and evnetually succumbing to over the counter drugs!
Coach Sara who recommended I take Neo Citron just so that I get a good night sleep and feel rested for race day. Good call on her part as I woke up Sunday morning having slept better than I had in weeks and another warm cup of Neo-Citron helped suppress the cough, headache, congestion and runny nose too.
So got all prepped, headed down to the race site, set up my transition area, waited around for my wave to hit the shores and up until this point, I was feeling pretty good. Adrenaline (which is a great pain-killer by the way...) was flowing and I had my usual nerves. But added on top of this, I had this fogginess from the suppressants (and the second Sucrets I was sucking on) which reminded me that I shouldn't really feel as good as I did.
8:18am rolls around, the gun goes off and I cranked the propellers as I always do. My swim start is always fast and hard and above a pace and intensity that I can hold for a reasonable amount of time. This burst usually last anywhere between 200m to 300m depending on the race. Since swimming is somewhat one of my strongest disciplines in the sport, this routine allows me to get ahead of the main pack and then settle into a comfortable pace without too many bodies around me. So after of a few minutes of a solid burst of effort, I start to feel the burn in my lungs and legs and that's a sign I need to back off and start to settle into a good rythm. However, even after easing up, the burn in the lungs wasn't going away... Backed off a bit more and still felt like I was going extremely hard. By this point, the pack I was trying to avoid was right around me again and I would even say, most were passing me. I felt considerably slower. I'm pretty good at gauging my pace in the water based on my arm rotation and I honestly felt like I was going slow! I was somewhat puzzled thinking that I felt great before the race but then realized that my wife (being a Naturopathic Doctor) mentioned your VO2Max drops considerably when your immune system is compromised or when you're sick... I sort of dismissed it when she mentioned it but then it hit me like those V8 commercials and realized then and there that it was going to be a very long day!! The rest of the swim was purely a management of effort with random bursts of "hey i'm feeling great" later to realize I was gasping for air and breathing every other stroke. Came out of the water slightly slower than I anticipated but still felt motivated that things could turn around on the bike and still post a great race.
Shuffled my way to T1 and onto the bike and for the next 3 hours and change, my effort was pretty much the same as the swim... I would go through a stretch where I would keep the intensity high, start to feel winded, ease up, feel great, go hard, feel winded etc... However, at about the 60k mark or about 2 hours into it, good ol' Neo-Citron had done its job and punched out for the day... This couldn't have happened at a worse time as the last hour on this bike course has some steep hills that will make you grind and mash your pedals. Each pedal stroke again felt like a hammer to the head, coughing that made me lose focus of my breathing and enough snot rockets to blast me to the moon! I was still fighting though... being slightly off my desired average speed for the day, I wasn't having that bad of a race and thought back to harder races I had done and even dug deeper and thought of harder events I dealt with in my life.
|The look on my face says it all|
Off the bike, shoes on and ready to run a half-marathon. The first few kilometers were a nightmare. The pounding of each step were excrutiatingly painful... However, another rule of mine is to ignore the first 10-15 minutes of the run in order to let yourself settle into it and get your running legs under you... It didn't happen though... Somewhere between kilometer 5 or 6, I told myself it wasn't worth it, started going downhill beyond "race day" tiredness and decided to pull the plug and go for a 15k walk.
You'd think that pulling the plug on your A race would leave you demoralized, ashamed or even baffled as to how and why it could have all happened like that but in reality, throughout my long walkabout to the finish line my season became a lot clearer and the answers to how and why it all happened became very apparent.
Part 2 coming soon!