The Tuesday before Blaine, I was doing a new exercise at the gym and majorly tweaked my back. Following my lifting session I went for a swim and it was even irritated in the pool, which is unusual, if anything a swim session usually helps me loosen up. The rest of the week the back pain only seemed to worsen, Friday came and I wasn’t sure if I should race and risk injuring it further, but I figured if I could tolerate it during workouts I’d make it.
Race morning was pretty chilly and the lake was a smoking 53ish degrees. Due to the cold they decided to shorten the swim from .3 to .25 miles, so we’d be in the water a minute or two less, disappointing but at least we were still swimming and not run-bike-running.
I grabbed my bike to head out for my usual pre-race warm-up, being my second race this would only be my second outdoor ride of the year, (yes I love my trainer) this became very obvious when I went to mount my bike. I clipped into my right shoe and continued leaning right for a nice hip & knee plant into the ground with my bike collapsing on top of me. Classic moment. I sliced my right knee open this time, last race it was my left so I guess my legs are even now? I don’t think that fall was so great for the back but I got up to redeem myself and cycled off with my tail between my legs. After that I did a quick run and stretch and headed to the beach with my gear.
Last year I learned, the most important thing to do before a cold water swim is to get in the water and go under water a few times to adjust. The previous year I didn’t know this so at race start I immediately seized up in the cold water unable to breathe and had to do backstroke for a while. This year I hopped into the lake, got some cold water in my wetsuit, adjusted my face and ears then got out to shake out and keep my body warm until the start.
Race start we dove in and immediately I went to RB2 swimming because that’s about all the time my face could handle in the water. I was surprised to have made a fairly quick break from Gear West teammate Devon Palmer, as he is a very strong swimmer as well (I believe he had some water adjustment issues). Almost instantly my poor bare hands and feet went numb, so I had to think more about pulling with my forearm to make sure I was still getting a decent pull. Luckily for me the swim was just over five minutes. The run to transition (where the timing pad was) was pretty long, I was concerned about not being able to feel my feet but with the adrenaline pumping I didn’t even notice.
I had planned to put on a jacket for the bike and gloves but once I got my wetsuit off I made the last minute decision that the weather felt OK to go without a jacket. With wet numb hands I struggled to get my gloves on, but I definitely wanted them as I find having numb hands on the bike is not fun.
Riding out onto the course I struggled to get my foot into my shoe, crap, this had happened at Alexandria as well and I forgot to work on this, mental note. After finally getting my shoes on it was time to get cranking on the bike, I knew Devon would be flying up behind me any second and I wanted to hold him off as long as possible. Devon passed me around mile six, I tried to keep him in my sight for motivation as long as I could but he was gone fairly quickly. Lucky for me it was a two loop course and just a couple miles later there were plenty of people on the course.
The last mile before T2 I was trying to wiggle my toes to get any sort of feeling into my feet but it just wasn’t going to happen. My feet never thawed from the swim, even with toe covers shield some wind. Putting my running shoes on was interesting, I had tried to shove a foot in but it wasn’t going in, when I looked down to see why, my big toe was hanging out of the shoe, couldn’t feel a thing. Finally slid my shoes all the way on and ran out of T2.
My feet felt like basketballs. I couldn’t feel a thing, I had to glance down to make sure my feet were actually making proper contact with the ground, they appeared to be doing alright but again, I couldn’t feel a thing. I kept a steady pace for the first mile and wanted to build the pace the rest of the way, I knew more racers would be chasing me down. There was one spot on the course where I almost missed a turn, I ran forward and the volunteers shouted after me, turn turn turn! Deja vu struck me immediately; I had almost missed the same turn last year. I do always try to memorize the courses but there had to be ten or more turns weaving in and out of a neighborhood I just couldn’t remember them all.
The best part of the race is when you’re on the run and you start to hear the music and the announcer at the finish line. I was hurting a bit the last mile and just wanted to finish. Crossing the finish line I quickly sat down to stretch out and take my shoes off. I squeezed my big toe and it still had no feeling. Discounting the shorter swim I was about 2:30 faster than my time the previous year. While I was somewhat disappointed in my bike and run I had to realize that the conditions were far from ideal. I think if I were to race a cold water race again in the future I would invest in some booties, the five seconds to take them off would be made up quickly being able to feel my feet for the whole bike and run. In the end it was a still a fun race and a good place to work out the kinks before getting into some serious racing.
Post-race my back was not doing well; by the time I got home I literally could barely move and was in scream out loud pain as I tried to lie down. After visiting the doctor I was put on some muscle relaxants and a heat/ice regiment. I had to ease slowly back into workouts and avoid anything causing pain. As an athlete this is always frustrating but the little rest is worth it not to miss out on an entire season for pushing it too hard when you’re down. Check out the results.
Read Devon’s race report.