Big Lick was my last race of the triathlon season and one to do strictly as a fun event with a good friend of mine Susan Airheart. Susan and I had not seen each other in a couple years, so I was very excited to get together. I give credit to Susan as the person who got me initially interested in doing a triathlon.
Susan, driving from NC, and I met at the Fleet Feet in Roanoke, VA to pick up our race packets. Then off for some lunch and to her in-laws house to get everything organized. Jack and Sarah Airheart's house reminded me of a Bed and Breakfast. It was absolutely lovely. Susan and I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning our bikes and getting our stuff together for tomorrow.
Since the race didn't start until 9am (BONUS) we didn't have to get up super early like for most other tris. But we did make sure that we got to the race site early enough to park close to the transition area. I knew that I would have to take it easy b/c I was within my window of possible lung collapse. I usually don't workout or compete during this time, but Susan and I had been trying to get together for so long. I wasn’t going to miss this chance. (I had planned on devoting a Blog post Catamenial Pneumothorax, but have yet to get one together.)
I warmed up in the water which was refreshingly cool. It felt really good. In my second race ever in a wetsuit, I tried a sleeveless version of the neoprene and liked it. I was in wave 5 and started with the collegiate women. Wonderful.... I don't feel old, until I'm lined up with 20 year olds! It was an in the water start, waist high, so no treading water. Right from the first stroke I struggled. Struggled to catch my breath, struggled to find a rhythm. I usually swim 3 strokes b/w each breath. Maybe b/c of my lung issues and the time of the month it was, but I was unable to feel like I was getting in enough air. This causes instinctual panic on my part. My heart rate and respiratory rate sky rocketed. I tried calming myself down and decided that I would have to breath every 2 strokes. That had me pulling with the same arm almost the whole way. I ended up with a nasty little burn on my neck from the wetsuit rubbing where my head turned to breath. But, the good news was I swam less off course then in prior tris and I made it out in 29:21, which is faster then at Annapolis. Swim PR! (Easy to come by when it's only your second Olympic).
T1 was, as usual, a lot slower then I would like. 2:23. I’d like to see something under 2 min.
The bike course was hilly. You had to run uphill out of transition, and most people ran up a bit further b/c of the difficulty of starting on an incline. I thought for sure I would catch my breath now and hammer out a decent ride. But, once again, I was struggling to breath and could feel my lung was not happy to be doing this. There were a couple hills requiring me to get out of the saddle. I had to remind myself that I am not racing this thing, I slowed down and relaxed. After a few minutes I felt good again and was able to pick up the pace. So, although it started rough, my bike ride felt good and I finished strong. Susan caught me on the bike and we pretty much rode in together. Unfortunately, there was a not so lucky guy who wiped out right in front of us in the turns and twists of the finish. It took me 1:21 to cover the 40k course. I don't know what that is for an average, something like 17-18 mph?
T2 was, again, not that speedy. 1:09. I would like to see that under a minute. Susan went flying past me in transition and I never caught her again. She ran an amazing 10k.
Now, let me tell you, this may have been one of the hilliest 10ks I have ever run, let alone attached to a swim and bike. It was getting hot and the shade was minimal. It started along the bike course. The first mile was up, except right at the start. I kept telling myself that this will make for a nice finish. I did not push the run, b/c of the whole lung thing, but didn't jog it either. I would guess it to be a tempo pace. Breathing heavy, but not going as hard as I could. I tried hard to enjoy the run, but the hills were killer. There was one hill that I would say was just plan 'ole mean to include. We shot down one road for, like a quarter mile, then turned around and came right back up that monster! I was down to a shuffle but did not give in to the walking demons. I tried to pick it up slightly in the final mile and shuffled up that final hill and then down to the finish. I ran a 53:32 (8:37). I was happy with that b/c it felt a heck of a lot slower.Once I crossed that finish line, I was so hot, I grabbed a bag of ice, bottle of water and ran right back into the lake. Ahhh.....
Susan ended up winning her age group! I got 8th in mine. Total time was 2:48:21. We enjoyed the Outback lunch and awards. It was a bunch of fun.