Saturday, July 10, 2010

We Need 10,000lbs of Ice in the Merrimack River! Stat!

I'm having a rough mental day today, and this is not the day to be weak with less than 24 hours to race start.  I packed up the car this morning and headed up to packet pickup here in Lowell.  Looks like this is going to be a small race.  There are only 150 people registered in the event and thats split between an Olympic distance triathlon, a sprint triathlon, and a sprint and olympic distance "aquabike".  So my guess is there are at most 50 people in the sprint.  There are only 5 waves total hitting the water.  I'm in wave 3.  The 5th wave was labelled as "novice".  I'm not sure what the deal with that wave is.  There was a box on the sign up sheet asking if this was your first tri which I ticked YES.  So you would think I was in that wave, but nope.  Either way though I'd rather not be in the novice wave.  I'd rather be in a group of stronger swimmers to draft off of and also so I won't have to sight as much if I'm in the middle of a pack that I can sort of trust.

Anyway...   I checked in and got my "packet" if you can call it that.  This is clearly a very small race.  The tshirt they hand out has a nice logo on the front, but has "Race Volunteer" written on the back.  Umm...   really?  Apparently having tshirts for entrants, and athletes was too much to ask.  Oy...   I'm being obnoxious, but its just because I'm frustrated.

After checkin I went across the street to get a swim in to guage the river current.  There is a beach there with a roped off area and after checking in with the lifeguard I found out that I have to stay in the ropes.  Which is fine as I just wanted to feel the current and water temp and decide between a sleeveless wetsuit or a sleeved one.  I got in wearing my sleeveless wetsuit and was very comfortable.  The temperature felt cooler than the ocean in RI and than GVP by a considerable amount.   First thing I did was to float on my back and stare at the ropes to see how fast I was drifting downstream.  It was so slow I couldn't perceive any movment.  Great!  So then I swam up and down the roped area a couple of times.  I didn't notice the current at all.  Excellent!  I got out of the water and ran into another traithlete that was also swimming there.  We chatted for a bit and he mentioned that it was unlikely I'd be able to wear a wetsuit tomorrow.  What!?  He said he had heard the water temp was 82 degrees.  F@#$!!!!!!!    Thats not good!  At that temperature they wont allow wetsuits.  We chatted for a bit and he suggested I do some laps without the wetsuit on since I haven't done that in a long time.  So I did.  And it didn't feel good.  As I expected my legs were sinking and I was kicking way too much to compensate.  About 75 yards later I was exhausted.  This just isn't good.  So then I went back across the street to packet pickup and all I could get out of the woman there was that the river temp had been in the seventies and that they wouldn't make the call till tomorrow AM.  Ugh.  I think a lot of people had asked her that question as she was a bit snippy with her response.

You see I've known all along that my swim technique was not perfect.  But instead of fixing it I put a wetsuit on and switched all of my swimming to open water sessions.  Which I have been doing three times a week for at least a month now, probably more.  And in a wetsuit I can swim 1.11 miles and feel great.  However without one on the longest I've ever swam was 225 yards.  And after that I felt exhausted.  It also took me 20 minutes of warmup laps to get to the point I could do 225 yards.  I'm just not there yet.  But a month or so ago I made the decision to overlook that problem and just wear a wetsuit and fix my body position and technique problems in the offseason figuring I could wear a wetsuit in the tri's anyway.  I had read race reports of this race and the others I've entered and they all allowed wetsuits in past years.  So no worries right?  Apparently not...   its highly unlikely wetsuits will be allowed tomorrow.  Unless the water temps drop.  The outside air temp is supposed to be much lower tomorrow am.  Something around 67 but giant bodies of water dont lower their temperature that quickly.  So I'm probably porked.

So this is wear I had a conversation with myself again.  I am an over-preparer.  I never do anything on race day for the first time.  I've swam 1.11 miles to get ready to swim .33.  I've biked 85 miles to get ready to race for 14.  I've run 26.2 miles to know I can do 4.  But the longest I've been able to swim without a wetsuit is 225 yards.  Thats not even half the distance I have to cover tomorrow.  Which means I'd be doing something new on race day.  Not just that though...    I'd be doing something new that would be irresponsible, and would put the support staff and lifeguards etc at risk.  Everytime they pull someone out of the water they take a risk as well.  And I fully expect that if I try and swim this without a wetsuit the following will happen.

I'll be insanely nervous at the start.  Way more so that I would be when wearing a wetsuit.  My heartrate will be through the roof.  I'll swim about 75 yards and start to panic.  I'll be kicking a lot.  I'll start to worry.  I'll get to the point of hyperventilation and flip onto my back to recover and realize I'm only 100 yards into the race.  At this point I will have three options...   1-swim back to shore using whatever stroke works.  2-start a slow and painfull cycle of flipping onto my back and then swimming 75 yards and then repeating till I finish all the while being watched intently by the lifeguards who will keep asking if I'm ok.  And then after this I'll get out of the water absolutely exhausted and have an awful bike and run, 3-I can get rescued and hate myself. 4-I can do the right thing and packup my stuff and go home no matter how much thats going to hurt. or 5-I can be that guy that does freestyle, breastroke, sidestroke, and anything else I can think of who is also exhausted at the end and has a lousy bike and run.  To me the only answer here is to not do the swim.

I've never not started a race in my life for any reason.  I've never backed away from any of the challenges I've set for myself.  But this one is different.  This one is about being smart and safe.  I honestly can't swim properly without a wetsuit.  So the decision is made.  No wetsuit...  No race.

Now as you can imagine as I sit here in my hotel room I'm pretty much miserable at the thought of not being able to race tomorrow.  I've worked so hard for this and I want it so badly.  I've prepared for this thing way beyond what I needed to finish the race.  I came here to not only race, but to compete.  I'm not about to turn it into a day of survival.  I've read tons of race reports and books about people's first triathlons.  I am NOT going to be the guy that barely survived, or walked in the run in a sprint, or had to grab onto the kayak 5 times to get through a 1/3 mile swim.  Thats not me.  And no...   I'm not happy about this.  I hate the thought of having to answer the "how did your race go" questions from my tri club and tell them I DNS'd.  Thats going to be really painfull, and really embarrasing.  I'm going to feel like I've let myself and others down.  Its nice that there are people that think I'm capable of doing the swim, but they have also only ever seen me swim in a wetsuit.  I do appreciate their kind words though.  Very much so.

So I sit here at 3pm in my hotel waiting...  and hoping the water temperature will drop.  Maybe the ambient temperature drop and all the rain today will help.  I have no idea if thats how it works though.  Some of you may be wondering if I'd consider entering with a wetsuit on if the temperature is in the window where you can still wear a wetsuit, but your results don't count.   No.   Thats not how I roll.  I can do a full brick workout if I want a result that doesn't count.  I don't come to a race to practice...   I come to compete.  Not that I'll ever win, but I come to compete against myself and to put my training to the test.  And I can't do that when I know it doesn't count.  If I end up placing in my AG (which is possible in such a small race) and it doesn't count I'll be really angry.

So yeah...  needless to say I'm in an awful mental place right now.  Not where I need to be less than 24 hours from race start.  So I need to try and turn things around and refocus.  I need to start acting like the water temp will drop and wetsuits will be ok and start getting myself ready to race tomorrow.  I did spend the last hour putting the numbers on my bike, on my racebelt and finishing all the prep work for the morning.  I laid out my tri suit, hr monitor and whatnot so thats ready to go, but it didn't help perk me up.  I guess if I don't race I can rush down to the Tri-NE tent at the HIM which I really want to go to and be there to support my friends.  But I need to make sure that if that happens I'm in the right mental spot for it.  I don't want to go there and be miserable.  Nobody needs to see that.  So we'll see.  I'm just going to have to cross my fingers and hope that tomorrow brings good things.

And obviously it goes without saying that I need to find a new swim coach and get back in the pool and fix this so it goes away.  I also talked to Luis today and we agreed to do one practice a week without wetsuits on as I think he may be in the same boat with his race tomorrow as well.  So here's hoping we all get to race tomorrow in our wetsuits.

If you actually read all of this thanks for listening to me vent to get all this frustration out...   I'm sorry its not more positive.

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