As planned, I took a break from the aero position to crack open a gel and wash it down with some Nuun. But when I was done, I could tell that the one gel wasn't going to be enough. So I cracked open another and drank some more. Still, things weren't completely right. But I wasn't carrying any more gels so my options where limited. And since I don't usually worry about things I can't control, I didn't worry. Instead I finished up the 3 miles of the bike, ran into transition, changed for the run, drank more Nuun and headed out on the run course, nutrition issues forgotten.
Right away, I knew that the run was going to be tough. But still I didn't worry - I've been in this situation before. I just tried to find a rhythm. When I hit the 1 mile mark I checked my watch. I ran the first mile in 6:55. This is where I started to worry.
I worried because I know me - I'm a negative split runner, especially in a triathlon. And there is no way I was going to be able to negative split over the next 5 miles when the first mile was sub 7. I had gone out too fast. And on top of that, I had REALLY started feeling like crap. And then it happened - my left quadricep suddenly seized up.
I ran slowly for the next 100 yards while hunched over trying to massage my leg, which of course did nothing. I'm not sure it was the pain or the sudden stiffness that affected me more, but either way I was definitely in trouble. I kept going and at mile 2 there was an aid station. For the first time ever in a race, I came to a dead stop and grabbed two cups of water and a Gatorade. Over the previous mile it had become pretty clear that I'd somehow managed to become dehydrated. So I drank the water and the Gatorade, and then grabbed more. After that, I started up again. I felt slightly better, but I knew it wouldn't last. It's really too bad that you can't snap you fingers and become instantly hydrated.
For the next 15 minutes I ran really slowly 70% of the time and walked the other 30%. Then an Angel in the form of a woman in a Team In Training singlet posted up next to me and said:
Angel: "You look like you are in a little bit of trouble..."So I ate the Clif Bloks and dragged my butt into the aid station at mile 4. I don't know how much I drank or what it even was. I just walked through the line and grabbed a cup every time one was offered to me. Then I started running again.
Me: "I am"
Angel: "I could tell, the back of your tri-top is streaked with salt stains"
Me: "Yeah, I think somehow I didn't get hydration right today"
Angel: "It happens...want some Clif bloks?"
Me: "That would be incredible"
Miraculously, I felt OK by mile 5. My quad was still tight, but I had regained enough strength to finish the race with some dignity. So I picked up the pace.
I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but controversy has a way of finding me. Or maybe it's because that even though I generally have a pretty mellow disposition, my temper can ignite quick and my mouth follows right behind. About 500 yards from the finish the trail is really narrow. To the right is the lake, and to the left is a ditch. And in the ditch was some poor guy in a racing wheelchair who was completely stuck. There were 3-4 people getting ready to pull him out. But to do so, they had to move to the right across the trail. Since there was no way around, I decided to stop and give them the right of way.
The next thing I know, there is some guy pushing me from behind yelling "Hey!!! NEVER stop on the trail!!!"
I'm never really super stoked when some random pushes me and starts yelling. So my temper ignited and as I turned to face him my mouth was already moving.
Me: "What the F*** dude? What's your problem?"
Guy: "Ahhh, I'm in the middle of a race here and you are blocking the trail."
Me: "You see that guy (pointing to the wheelchair)? He's in the middle of a race too. And he's in a ditch. And he can't walk. You and I can walk. So we are waiting."
By now the wheelchair was out of the ditch and the path was clear. The guy behind me shoved me one more time for good measure and then ran past me. So I smiled to myself and ran after him. Actually, I blew by him and didn't look back. Two hours and thirty nine minutes.