Sunday, June 13, 2010

Renaissance Half Marathon Race Report

I'm amazed that I agreed to do this race. Back-to-back weekends with 2.5+ hours of testing my endurance in high heat and humidity would have seemed unlikely for me last year. Now it's not such a big deal, (now that it's over).
Everyone participating was fairly warned about the dangerous heat situation. We were all urged to prepare ourselves and keep hydrated during the race. I thought I did a good job of that, but even Coach Kay Vee conceded it was almost impossible.
Packet pickup for the race was Friday, an expo-type scenario at the Renaissance shopping mall, an upscale commercial development still under construction in some aspects. I arrived at the expo around 2pm and found Kay Vee's hubby Richard hard at work, passing out T-shirts and overseeing the volunteers who were putting together and distributing race packets. I hadn't intended to volunteer, but Richard hinted that they were short-handed, so I offered to help out for a while. A while turned into about 4 hours, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The other volunteers were fun, and seeing faces and names of the hundreds of participants was very interesting.
Back to the race...
KV advised a 10 minute run, 1 minute walk pace for me, and the run was to be slow. For me, this was a training and survival race, not a competition. I admit I was a little worried about the heat.
The race began at 6am. It was already feeling hot as the mass of people shuffled through the starting chute and over the timing mats. I ran as slow as possible, but just fast enough to avoid getting passed by people actually walking. There were many walking since this race was a Marathon Makeover deal. (Marathon Makeover is an organization that will let you pay them to drive you off the couch and into a long term training plan ending with a marathon. Lots of folks change their lives dramatically this way. Others, as I noticed during the race, do it once and revert to their former selves, but still come out to cheer on their friends.)
Most of the race was uneventful - no chafing issues thanks to Skin Sake, plenty of water in my hand thanks to Kay Vee's orders and water stops about every mile. The volunteers were great, even offering to fill my bottle for me.
Between mile 8 and 10 there were some bothersome hills to climb, and I ran the first ones but had to walk most of the others. I found myself passing more and more runners as the end neared. I was certainly not fast, but apparently more able to extend my runs and shorten my walking. My 10/1 pace degraded to about 2 minute/20 second series of bursts until I was on the home stretch frontage road. I finished strong and feeling pretty good about myself.
Kay Vee and her friend were waiting to see me finish and all seemed well. I drank a bottle of water and stopped to talk, then set off to the car to freshen up. As I walked, I could tell things were not right; my vision was darkening around the edges, and my left calf and foot were trying to cramp. I recognized the problem and kept my legs moving to sustain my blood pressure. I threw some stuff in the car and abruptly walked around a truck and into a trailer hitch. I thought I was certainly going to pass out then, but the pain must have kept me conscious. Fortunately, the damage was minimal to my knee, and I kept moving.
I made it back to the crowd and found people who would be able to identify my body if necessary. I was told my lips were blue at one point, but I gradually recovered. I hung out for the awards with Melanie, Holly, Bo and some others, and my good spirits returned.
And so passed another memorable event, and hopefully valuable conditioning for upcoming weeks.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Heatwave 2010 Race Report

There were rain showers as I awoke just before daylight, making me anxious to check the radar on my computer and get an idea what to expect for race day. No storms were close by, but they would arrive at some point.
I was not as antsy about getting to the race site early as I usually am. This was a mistake, because I always get a nice parking spot close to the transition area. This time I had to park in a restaurant lot, not so far away, but I was not comfortable with it. I felt a little rushed getting marked and chipped and set up in transition. I did a sanity check on my gear and found I had forgotten my cycling shoes, but I had just left them in the car.
I enjoyed pre-race visiting for a while with old friends and local racers, and got in the water for a warm-up swim. The wind had whipped up the water to some respectable chop, but I considered that an advantage.(see previous post)
The mass swim start was much more crowded than any I had experienced, but I fought my way through feet and elbows into some clear water. It was a bit difficult to see the buoys, and I focused on the wrong one for a while. A kayaker guarding the course perimeter paddled over and warned me to swim back to the left. That faulty navigation probably cost me a minute or so.
As I made the final turn toward shore, the water seemed smoother and I turned on the speed as best I could. It was great hearing "go Billy!" from a few voices in the crowd as I left the water and ran to transition. (Swim time 17:52, #5 of 15 in age group)
I had no problems in T1, and headed out in heavy bike traffic. After a few miles I thought the riders would spread out and there wouldn't be so much passing and getting passed, and yo-yoing with other riders, but the race was pretty much that way until the last few miles. I was feeling good and strong, and gave it 100% the whole time. My new bike was great, and I knew I would post a better bike leg time than I ever had.
I risked the one-pedal dismount, where you coast to the dismount line standing on the left pedal, a quicker way than coming to a stop and then dismounting, but a potentially dangerous one if your foot slips. I executed flawlessly and even heard a compliment from the crowd. (Bike time 1:14:33, avg speed 20.0)
T2 was smooth, my fastest yet, 54 seconds, and I trotted out on the well-known jello legs. Kay Vee's orders were to swim hard, ride like a time trial, and ease into the run, but hammer the downhill return leg. The first 2 miles were OK, but the hills were making my thighs really ache since I had pushed hard on the bike. The heat was manageable. I carried a water bottle and filled it twice at the stops, and used it to douse myself when I felt hot. By the fifth mile I was having to stop and walk for 15-20 seconds because of the pain in my thighs. I did notice, due to a good swim and bike, that my friend Steve did not pass me until after the turn, and Kay Vee did not catch me until a half mile from the finish. Becky never did catch me! All this was very encouraging. But it was a poor run, still my biggest weakness. (Run time 1:09:21 11:23 mile pace)
Overall time 2:44:22 - a personal record by 5 minutes!

Annual Lake St. John Swim

We made the trip to Lake St. John on May 15th. The forecast was for afternoon rain, but I was a little worried about the low clouds as we drove west on I-20 toward Vicksburg. We got to the camp house and eventually everyone was in the water - 4 kayaks and a flat bottom fishing boat followed 4 swimmers – Kate, Paul, Mariel and myself. The weather was deteriorating with the line of thunderstorms approaching, so we chose not to swim our triangular path across the lake and back. Instead, we swam parallel to the shore and about 100 yards out, upwind and into some choppy water for ¾ mile, then lined ourselves up with the waves and headed back.

The waves swimming out were hitting us slightly from the left, so I found it difficult to breathe on the left without swallowing a lot of water. I resigned myself to breathing only on the right. I like the right better anyway. The water was cool and comfortable, but likely contributed to some cramping in my feet and calves. I dealt with all the minor cramps, but I got a pretty severe one that turned my left foot inward and hurt like hell. It was one that would have made me grab the edge of the pool or the lane rope, but lacking those, I had to call my trusty kayak escort Susan to paddle over and let me hang on for a minute.

We swam 1.6 miles in about 55 minutes, a 34 minute mile pace. Considering the rough water, that wasn’t too bad. I found it pretty tiring and felt some pain in my left forearm, something new to me. Maybe it was caused by breathing on the right all the time and using the left arm to raise my head a little more.

I was the last swimmer out of the water, of course, and just as we got all the kayaks out and situated the storm rolled in. We would have been very uncomfortable in the middle of the lake in that storm. We ate a nice lunch of muffalettas, chips, pimento cheese and chicken salad, got clean and dry and headed back home. The rain kept Kate and me from getting in a bike ride around the lake.

Overall, the swim wasn’t too bad, and we all agreed that a 3 mile+ reservoir swim might be harder than we had thought. That swim will include some rest stops, though. Our tentative date for the “Reservoir Swim & Kayak Challenge” is July 11.