Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Great Nutrition Experiment - Takes 1, 2, and 3

As I learned from Clearlake Tri, I need to start taking in nutrition in my longer events and training. Sooo... I went to Luke's the other day and bought 1 of everything (well, not really. More like 1-2 of each brand in flavors I thought I might have a prayer of liking) and combined that with what I've gotten in race packets, and I'm going to be trying everything until I find a few that I like. Here's what I tried so far.

Hammer Gel - Orange: Totally nasty. I tried this about midway through a 9 miler. I took in the first mouthful, gagged, forced it down, then thought I was going to puke. It was everything I could do to swallow the second mouthfull. Now, part of the problem here is flavor, I'm absolutely certain. I hate all orange flavored things (except oranges themselves). This was a race packet thing, though, so I figured I should try it. After it was down, it was fine. I felt like I even had a little pick-up at the end. I've bought another flavor to try, so this one isn't out.

Sport Beans - Fruit Punch: Not bad. Took these before a 10 miler, and suffered no adverse effects. They aren't quite as good as a jelly bean - they sort of pack a punch, but I liked it well enough, I was thrilled with how many beans I got to eat for 100 calories, and my stomach seemed to be fine with them. I like these for before a run, but I'm not sure how I'd feel about having to chew during...

Gu - Tri Berry: Not my favorite. Definitely better than the orange Hammer Gel, though. Took this in the middle of a 10 miler. Didn't feel much of anything in the way of pick-up, but didn't fade badly either. Stomach was fine.

Sport Beans - Watermelon: Not bad. Took these before a 12 miler. I had some stomach troubles, but I'm not convinced that it is the beans' fault. I would try again before I rule them out. Not quite as yummy as fruit punch, but has caffeine.

Honey Stinger - Gold: LOVE IT!!! Tastes like Honey. I love sweet stuff. I love honey. I love this gel!! Again, a few stomach issues on this run, but I was having them before the gel, so I'd definitely try this again before ruling it out. Absolutely my fav so far.

Accel-Gel - Strawberry Kiwi: The lady at Luke's warned me that the protein could cause a stomach rebellion. Since I was already having one, I took this just 2 miles before the end of my 12 miler, and ran close to home for that last bit. I actually didn't have any additional problems that I'd attribute to the gel, though I'd try it again before knowing it was safe. I wasn't a big fan of the flavor. It just seemed too artificial. I can't imagine liking chocolate, I know I'd hate orange, so vanilla might be my only shot with this brand.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Belated Clearlake Int'l Tri Race Report

Or: My First Bonk

So, I took a nice relaxing day on Friday, complete with setting up all my tri stuff on the step in the entryway of my house and obsessing over whether or not I was forgetting something. Good times. With everything all packed in my official race day Astros bag, I crashed into an early sleep.

Alarm went off at 3-something. Ate a marathon bar, a banana, and had coffee to get the system moving. As usual on a race morning, boy, did things ever move. The bike was already loaded in the Menace, so it was just a matter of grabbing my bag, my water bottles and nuun that had been in the fridge overnight, and going.

It was a long, quiet drive down to Clearlake, with zero panic until the construction at the end forced us to re-route. (Which ended up being fine.) Got a stellar parking spot with our early arrival, so I started sunscreening up while Preston pumped my bike tires. I was seriously considering making another run for a bathroom when I heard the unmistakable sound of a tire deflating. Crap.

Preston asked me what I was going to do. I didn't have a spare tube or anything with me. I told him let's go over to transition and see if there is bike support around, otherwise, maybe I'll just swim and then DNF. Luckily, when we got to transition, Webster Bicycle was there. They fixed me up pretty quick, and were totally cool. When I offered to pay them, they didn't even take my money! Thanks, Webster Bicycle!!!

After that episode, my stomach wasn't too happy, but nicely, the site had public toilets instead of port-a-johns. Took care of business, set up my transition area (remembered to take the covers off my bike shoes this time - also brought my nice pair of watersocks for the transition area and pre-race, and really liked that too), and was ready to go. I was to be in the last wave starting, so I headed down to the start only about 5 minutes before they closed transition.

The swim was basically 3 sides of a rectangle, with the 4th side being the shoreline. The bouys were set up a little funny, though. From the start, it actually looked like you could get a better line on the swim by staying wide left of the bouys and just swimming straight at the turn bouy. I talked about it with Preston, and that's what I decided to do.

This was totally the right tactic, but so much of the swim is a mental game, and it totally psyched me out!! I was basically the only person in my wave trying to take the short line, and it totally freaked me out. I know (now that I'm out of the water) that it wasn't logical, I actually think I knew at the time that it wasn't logical, but I was bothered anyways, because I was swimming out there totally alone and on my own. It took basically the entire first leg for me to get my heartrate down and breathing down to something resembling normal. I had joined the others in my wave at the turn, and the second wave was fine. I was swimming with everyone else, passing people, and generally hitting my stride. Then came the third leg. I got around the turn bouy, and again the bouys seemed to be lined up really strangely. I decided to swim straight for the exit instead of zigzaging bouy to bouy. Again, it was totally the right strategy, but again I was questioning myself as I swam. What if I wasn't aiming at the actual finish? What if I was totally off course, etc. I wasn't. I came out of the water 5th in my age group.

Swim Time: 1000 meters in 24:34.
Got pulled out of the water, ran up the grassy knoll and into the transition parking lot. At that point I sat down, took a little nap... not really, but I really need to work on my transitions. I tried to dry my feet, got my socks and bike shoes on, tossed on my helmet and sunglasses, and, new for this race, my camelback. (which I also loved, btw. Being such a spaz on the bike, it is waaaaay easier for me to reach down, grab the mouthpiece, stick it in, and then drink while holding onto the bike with both hands, than to grab a waterbottle and drink all one handed.) I had totally discounted the little hill out of the parking lot, so I was in too hard of a gear and Preston says that I looked a little goofy as I was starting off, but I was up it quickly and on the road.

T1: 2:20 (15th in age group (of 17))
For the first 10 minutes or so, I just focused on spinning and trying to get my breathing and heartrate under control. Then, oh my gosh, I turned the corner and there was the Kemah Bridge. I had never seen it before, so I had No. Idea. when I signed up for the race how big it was. It looked like the freaking Galveston Bridge!! (Though it is actually smaller than that.) I cursed out loud, and immediately shifted onto my middle chainring. By the time I got to the top (which I totally had to talk myself through), I was only going 8mph. I didn't brake going down the other side, though, and hit 35mph, and that was way fun!!

For the first half of the bike, I just wanted the number to be over 17 every time I looked down to see how fast I was going. I wasn't struggling too hard to make that happen. Some time relatively soon after the bridge, though, I lowered my standards significantly, accepting 15 and struggling for 16. I hit an emotional low when I saw a lovely horse that reminded me of Lady, who just passed away. I fought my way back out of it, though I never really regained any speed. I was surprised when I was pulling into transition in just over an hour. The course was supposed to be 18.6 miles, and that'd be seriously fast for me! Found out after the race that the course was shortened to 16.4.

Bike Time: 16.4 miles in 1:01:07 (16.1mph avg). Dead last in my age group.
I was so freaking happy to be off the bike that I was grinning through transition. I was still slow, though. There is no excuse, other than I was just flat out feeling it. The only thing I did differently was to grab my hand-held amphipod full of nuun for the run.

T2: 2:14

I started out pretty strong. My Garmin took a bit to find me, so I didn't know exactly how strong, but I felt pretty good to be running. Unfortunately, the feeling quickly passed. Did you know that hot nuun is really gross? Me either. I love the stuff, but, damn, it always needs to be cold!! So I quickly realized that dragging my nuun bottle around me was going to be a waste of energy, but I wasn't about to put it down, so that sucked. I started run-walking pretty quickly. My initial plan was to run everything, but walk the aid stations. Well, we had to run up this mild bridge hill thing, and I decided I deserved to walk a bit. And it went like that, on and on and on, a terrible slogfest where as soon as I started running I started to plan walking. By the middle I was running 3 and walking 2, and by the end I was running to one streetlight and walking to the next.

Looking back on it, I think there were two things in play, here. One is that I was overheating. I was really hot. It was probably 90 degrees by this point, and super humid. When I'd pour water over my head, I'd get this strange shiver, feel like I was going to throw up, and then go right back to being hot. It was hot!! The second factor, I think, is that I was bonking. I hadn't practiced with any nutrition, and I was afraid to try anything new on race day, even though I knew at an anticipated 2.5+ hours I was going to need it. This was a mistake. Big mistake. I just had nothing left after about half of the bike.
Many thanks to the "Hooter's" guys aid station (at the turnaround). I think maybe the station had originally been manned by Hooters girls, but those of us in the back of the pack didn't get to see them because they needed to serve food at the post party. But the boys at that station were freaking hilarious! Gave me a good laugh, which I sorely needed at that point.

By the end my feet were getting hot spots and I was just ready to be done.

Run Time: 1:11:14, 15th in my age group.

Overall: 2:41:31.1, 15 of 17 in my age group, and 241 of 273 finishers.

Afterward, I ate a protein bar and a banana, drank a nice cold bottle of nuun and another bottle of water and headed home, stopping along the way to throw it all up again. Another sign of me overheating.

So, what did I learn? Yes to the watersocks, learning not to freak out when I choose my own line on the swim, Webster Bicycle (and learning to change my own flat some time soon!), and the Camelback on the bike. No to no nutrition, warm nuun, and overheating. Yes to more biking!! The bike is truly my limiter. I was *thrilled* with my swim place, and had I had the run I'm capable of, I'd have been in the top 10 of my age group in the run. That last place on the bike was really honestly the best I could do on that day, and it is really what I need to work on the most.

This'll be my last tri of the 2008 season, but I'm already vaguely planning next season... I know now that I can do an Olympic distance event...