Sunday, September 07, 2008

Victory and Defeat

So my race season has come quite aways since my last post. So far this year I've done one 10K run, five triathlons, one duathlon, one aquathlon, and one open water swim race. It feels kind of cool to be a more dynamic athlete than just a runner, which is how I competed in years prior to this one. I've done well enough to win a few medals and trophies in these races as well. In less than a month I'll be doing a half ironman, which is a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile (half marathon) run. I'm looking at this upcoming race as something completely different, and unlike my other races my goal isn't to win....its just to survive. That will be my last triathlon for this year and I'm kind of looking forward to the season being over so I can recover myself a bit. Other races I have coming up are a 5K run, another aquathlon, and a 10K run. Next year I'm going to do the Austin marathon (which I've trained for twice in the past, but got too injured both times to go through with it). I'll do a half marathon race before that as well. Anyway let me focus on what's been going right and what sucks.

Swimming was what I thought would be the biggest challenge for me going into triathlon, but it really hasn't been. I'm a pretty decent swimmer and I've done very well in the swim leg of several of my races. What I hate about it though is that I'm so inconsistent in my results. The pace they report in races is the average time it took you to swim 100 meters. My fastest pace was a 1:30 I swam at that aquathlon, and my slowest pace has been a 2:10 I swam at one of my triathlons. There are things that definitely make me faster or slower on the swim, the big one usually being getting in a bad position relative to the other swimmers and ending up trapped behind a pack of really slow swimmers. But I can't *feel* how fast I'm going when I swim. At the last race I did on Labor Day I thought I was having a fairly fast swim, and later when I looked at the results my pace was 1:55, and that was even with me wearing a wetsuit. I was not happy with that time at all. I was expecting to swim around or below 1:40. And during swimming efficiency is so crucial that I constantly have to check myself and think things like "Are my hips high enough? Are my arms entering the water at the right distance and angle? Are my legs kicking too little or too hard? Are my hands and fingers shaped correctly?". The list goes on. Its not too bad, just annoying sometimes.

The biggest problem I have with cycling are my technical skills. Things like making turns, mounting/dismounting, or taking in fluids on the bike are major challenges for me. I can go fast and straight on the bike but that's about it. I've been slowly teaching myself to do more and more though. My last race was the first time I've used aerobars in a race and I really think they helped me a lot. But I still feel kind of nervous whenever I'm on the bike because my balance is pretty bad. My biggest strength on the bike though is hill climbing. In a race whenever there's a hill, I always blow by at least a couple different cyclists. But sometimes I leave my bike in too high of a gear when going uphill, and after doing that a few times my lower back begins to spasm and eventually destroys me. I've had this happen to me in one race and I've been battling back problems on the bike occasionally ever since. I like cycling though, its a lot of fun. Especially when you're going fast, although going too fast (on downhills) can scare me enough that I end up riding the brake a lot.

Running what was got me into triathlons in the first place. Specifically, I have a history of shin splints and that constant injury prevented me from running as much as I would like to, which brought me to cross training via cycling and swimming, which naturally turned me into a triathlete. Even though I've been running less through my triathlon training, my shins have still hurt enough to cause me major problems throughout the year. I finally got fed up with it and a few weeks ago, went to get fitted for custom orthotics for my running shoes. They've been a great help so far and the pain in my running legs continues to drop more and more. Although I've had enough injuries in other areas that it might just be I notice the other areas hurting more than the shins lately. :/ After triathlon season is over though, I'm going to turn my focus back to purely running for a while, and I'm looking forward to that.

Earlier this week something horrible happened to me which has never happened in any race I've ever done. The race was the Austin Triathlon and I signed up for the Olympic distance, which was a 1500 meter swim, 25 mile bike, and 10K run. I thought everything was going fine during the race. I felt sluggish on the run, but that's nothing unusual for me. With about 400 meters, or less than 100 seconds, left in the race, I suddenly lost consciousness and collapsed. About 15 minutes later I woke up in the medical tent, and couldn't remember a thing about what happened. The last thing I remembered was about another 400 meters back from where I passed out. My memory was in a horrible state. I couldn't remember a lot of things, like people's names, or my own phone number. I couldn't do math either (I was trying to calculate what time I would have finished based on the progression of events). I was really upset when they told me I didn't finish the race, because I have always finished every race no matter what. It upset me enough that I cried a little and was having trouble accepting what happened. In fact I *still* have trouble accepting what happened, because I felt fine on the run. I wasn't feeling dehydrated, or exhausted, or too hot, or anything like that. And I also didn't have any damage from when I fell on the pavement. When the medics got to me my body temperature was 104F, which is a really dangerous state to be in (according to Wikipedia). Once I regained consciousness I felt fine, other than being a little freaked out about the memory loss. I wanted to get up and leave but they made me stay there lying down for what felt like forever. So yeah, I was pretty disappointed with the outcome of that race, especially because I was expecting it to be a really good race for me. But its a learning experience I suppose.

Well that sums up my race season up pretty well. If I wrote these posts more often I'd go into more detail about the specific results and outcomes of each of my races, but that's way too much for a single post. Next time I'll be talking about Allacrost, so look for that in another 2-3 days.

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Blogger Sean Leather said...

From that same Wikipedia article: "In hot weather people need to drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids lost from sweating. Thirst is not a reliable sign that a person needs fluids. A better indicator is the color of urine. A dark yellow color indicates dehydration. Water, not sports drinks, is the most effective in replacing lost fluids."

Were you drinking enough during that race? Or did you let your 25-mile bike ride go by without refilling many fluids, because you weren't confident of your ability to drink and drive?

10:47 AM  
Blogger Tyler Olsen said...

I drank on the bike, but probably not enough. I had maybe 12-16 oz of fluid in the 68 minutes or so that I was on the bike. I don't like drinking on the bike because like I said, my technical skills suck. I slow down a lot when I drink and I'm always afraid I'm going to lose my balance and wipe out. I thought I was fine though. Also I don't get that thirsty when I ride (but I do get thirsty when I run), probably because the breeze cools me off a lot. Anyway, I'm going to take a lot more fluids in during the bike for next time. I'm even buying special large, insulated water bottles to make sure I drink as much as possible.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Sean Leather said...

What about something like a CamelBak?

11:24 AM  
Blogger Tyler Olsen said...

Yeah, I'm probably going to use a camel back for the half ironman since two water bottles for sure won't be enough. But for an Olympic distance race two water bottles should be sufficient and I don't think I'd need a camelback.

6:00 PM  

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