Huge Let Down at Boulder 68.3

I got way too excited about this race and the race gods took their wrath because of it. The first thing that went wrong was the water temperature. The pros aren’t allowed to wear wetsuits if the water temperature is above 72ish degrees. “Ish” because there’s definitely wiggle room depending on the race director. Apparently it was on the wrong side of 72ish yesterday morning. I’d like to take a moment to point out how stupid this rule is–that the leanest people are forced to go without wetsuits when the water temperature may be on the verge of cold. I, for one, had numb fingers by the end of the swim, though that’s not the reason I had such a shitty race. The real reason is because I actually suck quite a bit… and don’t blow enough.

I’ll start from the beginning:

I blew up hard after about four minutes into the swim, got dropped from the chaotic froth of the group I was in, and had to go easy for a little while to catch my breath. A few guys came up on me a minute later and I swam behind them for the rest of it, finishing in 31 minutes. We were the last group out of the water, though 31 minutes without a wetsuit isn’t that bad for me. There were 35 starters and I figured I needed to be about 12th, at worst, off the bike to run down enough people to finish 8th, which was the last money spot. I needed to pass quite a few people on the bike.

My power was low and my legs burned pretty good for the first few miles. Although the burning went away, I wasn’t able to bring the power up to where I thought it should be. Despite that, I was still passing a lot of guys so my mood was pretty good. Not having realized that I was the third to last guy out of the water (or seeing that all but a few bikes were gone from the pro racks), I thought that I was sitting in 19th about eight miles into the ride. I passed more guys going up Jay road, four going up Nelson, and three more on 36. By that point, with some good maths, I calculated that I was in 8th or 9th place. I was passed by a guy I’d passed earlier, Sam Long, but a few miles later took over again. In hindsight I wish we’d worked together throughout the whole bike since we’d exited the water together and finished the bike leg in essentially the same time. In non-drafting triathlon you can legally sit six bike lengths back, which saves around 10-15 watts depending on the terrain and conditions.

Entering T2 I had calculated that I was in 6th or 7th place, and was pretty pumped about that, knowing that I have a decent run, especially off the bike (not always). I racked my bike, got my shoes one, decided to go without socks because that would save around 12 precious seconds, and set off.

Before I even exited transition I had developed a huge side stitch high up in my chest. It worsened over the next few hundred meters, during which five guys passed me instantly. I’d already lost almost a minute that I’d worked really hard to earn on the bike. I slowed even more as the cramp worsened and I became incapable of taking in full breathes. I contemplated stopping for a half minute to get it under control because the pain was that severe. After wheezing out,”what place?” to a spectator, I heard that I was currently in 17th after getting passed by those five others, meaning that I had not gotten off the bike in 6th or 7th, which completely destroyed my motivation. I took the pace down even more over the next mile until the lung cramp finally went away by mile two. I contemplated picking the pace back up but my ego and spirits were smashed to bits. I had no motivation to even run the second lap, now loping at around 8 minute pace in 25th place. Might as well just quit.

Nearing the finish, my coach, Michael, yelled at me to keep going for the training aspect and for my spirits after I told him I was done, making a slit throat gesture with my finger. If it weren’t for him and Adelaide I would have just pulled out at the start/finish. Instead, I decided to just finish out the damn run at a slow, grinding, demoralizing pace.

Four miles later I finally decided I was tired of running slow and getting passed by age groupers, so I upped the pace to just under six minutes/mile for two miles, hopping to prove to myself that I would have been capable of running a quick pace if the lung cramp hadn’t happened. Nope. Two miles of running hard and the cramp came back with full vengeance. I jogged the last few miles at 9:30 pace, incredibly pissed and wondering what the fuck was wrong with me. I ate four slices of gluten-rich pizza in the food tent, another half a pizza when we got home (a gluten free one this time), and later had five pieces of cake after a steak and chicken dinner at our friends’ wedding party.

A day later I decided that the swim wasn’t really that bad of a performance for me. I think it would have easily been under 28 minutes had I been in a wetsuit since I really benefit from the flotation, and that’s a time Id’ve been content with. The bike sucked a bit but it was still a decent enough time for doing the whole thing solo. I averaged 298 by the time I crossed the dismount line at 1:57:42 (it was two miles short of the standard 56 miles). That power was around 20 watts lower than I’d anticipated doing, so pretty significant and another bit of a blow to my ego. But, the run was obviously the biggest catastrophe and really the only thing that wrecked my day. I was confident that I was capable of running at least 1:19, and had planned on doing 1:17 or lower. Despite this year’s course seeming a bit slower than in 2015, I did 1:19 last year with almost no run training, and I figured that with the training and big improvements I’ve made this year already, I’d be able to be in the high teens no matter what. It was incredibly frustrating not being able to breathe properly and to not even have the chance to see what I could do. I did some interneting later and have decided that all my recent lung cramps are being caused by too shallow of breathes, which is exactly what Michael has been yelling at me for months.

Exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP) is most likely caused by the cramping of the thoracic diaphragm, which is a sheet-like muscle that expands and collapses the lungs. The only time the thoracic diaphragm is relaxed is when you fully exhale, which I don’t do enough. I tend to take a lot of short, shallow, wheezing breathes on the bike and on the run. By not fully exhaling and letting it relax, the thoracic muscle will apparently cramp when put under duress. There are other hypothesis as to why lung cramps, or stitches, occur. One is from the ligaments that are attached to the thoracic being tugged on by the up and down movement of the guts. I’m not convinced that my cramping is related to gut jostling because my lungs had also cramped up earlier when during the last few hundred meters of the swim, and there is no jostling during swimming, except for position. The only time I never get a chest cramp like this is on the bike. So, during the next two weeks before Coeur d’Alene I’ll be working on longer, fully exhaled breathes, more belly breathing, some intercostal core work (pilates are apparently good for that), and a lot of finger crossing. If that fails, simply not breathing in should solve it.

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It was a super nice day: perfect warm weather and tons of cheerful spectators, each of whom I despised if they told me I was doing a good job. I hate compliments, especially when they’re meant to encourage me. They make me want to do even worse, out of spite. (Don’t try to understand me. You’ll just get confused and angry).

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Chris on his way to 2nd overall. Another one of my training partners, Christen, also had a great race for 6th.

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A sad sight. Last group out of the water. I did not get passed by the lead women this time, so there’s that at least.

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Adelaide, by sheer coincidence of me needing it, got that swim skin for me the night before. For free. That, combined with a free race T-shirt and two handfuls of pepperoni pizza made it an okay weekend.

4 Replies to “Huge Let Down at Boulder 68.3”

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