||oceanside 70.3 2009 - where everything that could go wrong did go wrong
||Half - Ironman
as suggested by some other clubmates who joined me at last staurday's oceanside 70.3, i'm writing a race report, because quite honestly, you just wouldn't believe it was true otherwise. a day where everything that could go wrong did go wrong and many lessons were learned, but stick with me, i promise there's a happy ending.
i should preface this race report by explaining that i last raced at oceanside 2 years ago, my second half ironman, having just recovered from pneumonia 3 weeks prior. being a coach myself and seeing people do some pretty ill-advised things, i had to confirm with another coach, our very own Ian Murray of Triathletix, as to whether i was in fact doing something stupid by racing at all. as i had been free from fever and the chest clearing every day, he advised that i could still do it, but with no intention of "racing at all", instead taking each event one at a time and stopping immediately if i felt uneasy at any point, all the while taking notes for the next one when i was fully recovered. it turned out to be a long and grueling day mostly due to my loss of training and some endurance in those last weeks, but i got through it without incident, and naturally my time was less than stellar...
cut to this past saturday, 2 years later, i find myself at a totally different fitness level, this now being my 5th half and also now a full ironman under my belt. this time it was personal and it would be hard not to beat my time from here in '06. however, this wasn't my "A race", more so a warm up for the second full ironman to come later this season. still, by all estimates i expected to easily beat my '06 "phlegm fest" time by at least 30 minutes, or so i thought...
and it started in the swim: our wave went off at 7:29, yet transition shut down at 6:30, so we got to stand around in the freezing cold for nearly an hour before jumping in the soup. the reward for starting in a later wave though is that you get to see the pros come out as you wait, namely Andy Potts with his course record time of 21:27!!!! and the rumor was true. it was far more cold outside the water than once we got in, so after floating at the start for 2 minutes before the gun went off, i was able to get into a groove pretty quickly. my plan was to try to find someone to draft off of and stick with them, but that proved to be more difficult than expected when we merged with the wave in front of us, and i mistakenly drafted off of a few slow feet and got left in the dust. so it was cut and run, cut and run, and then the next wave behind us caught up by the turnaround. i once again tried to latch on to some male 30-34 speedy until all of a sudden i came upon someone vertical in the water kicking egg beaters. "hey what's this cloudy muck we're swimming in?....." awe geez, gag, yep, this vertical person has thrown up...IT'S VOMIT, IT'S CHUNKY, AND IT'S EVERYWHERE. what'd this kid eat for a pre-race breakfast??? and you know the wonders of a tri wetsuit, different from a surf wetsuit, is that even if you did nothing in it, stood still in the water, you could not sink. this was one of those moments where i wanted to sink, wanted to go as far under the water as i could, but i couldn't thanks to that super buoyant tri wetsuit. finally around the vomit and trying to do everything in my power not to blow chunks myself, i picked it up as best i could and get out of there as quick as possible. up the ramp now into transition as i look down at my watch...same exact time as '06, in fact 13 SECONDS SLOWER!!!! WTF??? a'ight, brush it off and onto the bike.....
having done this race once before, i knew i had to save something in the beginning for the hills to come in the later part of the course. also having pulled a groin muscle a week prior, all i could do was keep it at 90rpm and let my injury dictate how the bike was going to go or not go. still though, i was a totally different person with a totally different body on a very different bike set up than 2 years ago. even if i went super conservatively, i could shave some significant time off here. the wind was certainly more of a factor than i recall before, but still nothing terrible or dangerous feeling. i tried not to mash too much going through the San O' parking lot portion of the course and once back on the base and into the real hills, i held my own, hooting and hollering for every LA Tri clubmate out there. oh how i loved the descents though!!!! WOOOOOO!!!!
then at about mile 35, not on a descent, no hint of wind, in between some base buildings, nowhere near an official aid station but with a few marines going about their business alongside the road, i can hear a cyclist coming up beside me on the left. just in the instant where i had her in my periphery she veered hard left as i continued straight. i heard no "whoa" or any exclamation before i heard her crash right behind me. in an instant, my race went from being about one concept of time to another. i stopped and got off my bike only to turn around and see her face down in the opposite lane of oncoming traffic and not moving AT ALL and making no sounds. i stopped the oncoming cars, yelled for them to call 911, call the base emergency, and then ran towards her as another woman who was behind her also stopped and ran to her aid. within seconds, several marines came to our aid, one halting car traffic, one slowing the cyclists, and then from i don't know where a young marine, not even an official race medic, came running with his medic bag, already gloved and ready to jump into action. at this point an emergency vehicle was on its way, but she was still face down, still tangled in her bike, breathing laboriously and unconscious. we freed the bike from her legs as the medic instructed us all to take a section and on his count, get her body in one direction. he asked us what her name was, but her bib was tangled underneath her and her race number on her helmet completely illegible from the impact. he instructed me to undo her helmet chin strap as he stabilized her head and neck, and we finally got her bib free and learned she was "Penny," but she was completely unresponsive when we called out to her. this young marine medic was a pro though, commanding others to clear her airways, check her eyes, and give cardio rubs. when bystanders offered something to put under her head, he insisted that he was not going to let go, instead stabilizing it himself until the paramedics arrived with a board. i was just in awe of how young he was and his ability to take command of the situation. a race official finally arrived and called in her info and a few minutes later came the paramedics. we were told we should go on with our race, but how?? i was a ball of tears and pretty shaken up. mentally i was SO DONE....
20 some odd miles to go now, and i was a mess. everything i'd planned as far as timing my nutrition and hydration COMPLETELY LEFT MY BRAIN. i just wanted off that bike. i did not want to stop for anything, not even a pee break, which brought up yet another right of tri passage...yes ladies and gents, I PEED MYSLEF on the bike. cool. cool?? yeah, cool i guess. when i came around the bend and to the last aid station on the base, i got some strange looks from the marines when i grabbed for a bottle of water and poured it all over the nether regions. so now i've swam through barf, witnessed a horrific crash AND peed myself. OH.JOY.
after chugging my way out of the base and taking the right turn over the bridge towards the harbor, i suddenly get a sharp cramp in my right adductor muscles. OH.NO. this is when it dawns on me that i haven't taken in ANY of the planned salt tabs. i can't pull up on the pedals AT ALL, and now everyone i passed on that last windy stretch outta the base is whizzing by me as i struggle just to pedal in the small ring on the flats. at this point i figure i'm done. maybe i'll walk it in and bag the run. cool my first DNF. cool?? just then i thought about Penny...NO, NOT COOL TO QUIT. as done as i felt, i wasn't done. i had to finish this for Penny. bike time ended up being 3 MINUTES AND 12 SECONDS SLOWER THAN '06. man, i can't win!!!
coming into t2, i must've looked bad enough on the dismount that some volunteer asked me "do you need medical assistance, MAM??". mam?? really?? ok, i know you're a marine and you gotta follow some sorta protocol, but i ain't that old, kid!!! not a good sign for sure, but no thanks, just get me to my rack and my running shoes and i'll walk this half mary if i have to. just then at my rack, there's clubmate and fellow IM Brasil finisher, Johnny Hossell, walking with his bike. he's had a DNF himself but is cheering for me just as he did down the main drag in Jurere Beach when i still had a half mary to go there too. muito obrigada, Johnny!!! ate mais tarde!!
i'm outta t2 and onto the run, or some variation thereof. i start to come around that first bend and up the slight incline to the bridge when my adductors seize up and bulge out from just above my kneecaps. we're talking like cantaloup size bulges!!! i'm stuck. I.CANNOT.MOVE. i bend over and try to rub them back down into place as i can hear these two spectators who think they're whispering..." oh my god look at her legs!!! she's totally stuck!! that's so insane!!!" yeah, um I CAN HEAR YOU!!!!! so for the record, when you see someone in excruciating pain and you're watching from the sidelines and you think you're whispering, THEY.CAN.HEAR.YOU...i know that all i need is some salt. if i can just get some salt in me and let it kick in, i may have a shot at moving again. as i'm stuck there, i can't tell you how many clubmates passed by asking if i was ok and giving me pats on the back telling me that i could do it. just keep on moving. thanks to each and every one of you!!! after i gulped down a few salt tabs and some gatorade, i got myself moving again at about an 11 minute pace. VERY HUMBLING. i didn't know for how long though before the adductors would seize up again, so it was touch and go there for the first mile. i managed to keep myself distracted by looking for fellow clubmates coming in the other direction. i tell you, at this point, it was all i could do to cheer for you guys just to distract myself from the pain shooting through my thighs. but the salt did finally kick in, and once past the furthest turnaround point, i found my "stride." coming back to the finish area, knowing i had to turn around and do it all again, i was pretty pissed. and there were clubmates Lesley Williams and Gary Michelson who'd come down just to cheer for the day along with our very own Ian Murray fresh off a killer day out there, Anna Wills and the FongStrong crew, all of them screaming their heads off for me, Gary even getting his camera ready to grab a choice shot, and all i could muster up for them was a set of middle fingers. sorry guys, it was really middle fingers i wanted to fly at myself at that moment!!!! and sure enough, coming around the turnaround just seconds later, i was reduced to a walk again. how very humbling to be walking and hearing your clubmates screaming their heads off like you're winning the damned thing or something!!! Ian got all focused and said " you're lookin' good, Monica, just keep it up and do what you can do." but what i wanted to do, and what i actually could do were two very different things at this point, and off i went for leg 2 of the "run"...
there's something to be said for "the second time around" of a multi-loop course. it's always easier, less of a mystery, and with each step, you know you're that much further past halfway and heading for home, and from there it was all about THE COLA. just keep that caffeine comin' volunteers!!!! and it always helps to see your clubmates on the sidelines too, and there's Dave Miller and friends with his infectious smile and cheers of encouragement. i can't help but feel better. now, just before the last little downhill onto the boardwalk i see a sign that reads "MILE 11." SUWEET!!! 2.1 miles to go. i know i can do 2.1 miles. i like to quantify distances to places i run often. that's about from venice pier to santa monica pier. NO SWEAT. PIECE OF CAKE. let's get this done!! just then i feel the shadow of a bird flying low overhead and then..... SPLAT!!!! no f'in way!!! i gotta be delusional at this point..... am i dreaming?? did that just happen?? but sadly, the pack has thinned out and there's nobody near me. i turn around to see a guy a few yards behind me....
me: "did you see that?"
guy behind me: "yep."
me: "did a seagull just s**t on me?"
gbm: "yep. but it's good luck ya know."
me: "well that's nice. at least i KNOW this'll be over soon!!!"
so with two miles to go, i've now swam through barf, witnessed a horrific crash, peed myself, legs seized up then came back, AND been s**t on by a seagull....
i trudge through the sand one last time, up across that bridge one last time as i notice that there are still a scant few people heading out in the other direction. it does not suck to be me right now. i totally feel for each of them. i really do, but i can hear Mike Reily at the finish line, and it's time for him to call out my name.....
"HERE COMES MONICA MORANT, 37 YEARS OLD, FROM LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA!!!!"
as i cross the line, fists in the air i whisper to myself "this one's for you, Penny"
i am done. somehow that hobble to a shuffle of a "run" ends up being 1 MINUTE and 47 SECONDS FASTER than 2 years ago....but the best part??? they actually still have size small finishers t-shirts left!!!! that NEVAH EVAH happens.....
in the end, instead of beating my pneumonia race by an easy 30 minutes, i come in slower by 25 SECONDS. and yeah yeah i know, everyone reminds me that if i take out the time that it took to stop for Penny, i'd a beat that time no problem. and everyone keeps saying how great it was of me to stop for her. please, please don't tell me it's great. it's not great. it's not heroic even. it's what's right, and i want to believe that EVERYBODY i know in this sport, everyone in our awesome club, would have stopped too...
i later found Paula Newby Frasier at the slots roll down and told her i'd witnessed the woman crash on the base. that was the first time i found out that she was actually airlifted out of there. oh man. Paula was kind enough to give me the hospital info, and when i called, the ICU nurse was kind enough to put me straight through to Penny's husband who was also very grateful for my call. i was shocked to find out that while she did have slight bleeding to the brain, she did not require surgery and it was going to take care of itself. she suffered a very bad concussion, and was very nauseous as a result, but was making her own way to the bathroom and would be there overnight for observation. what a relief!!!!
another day, another race, and lots of lessons learned. i wouldn't have traded this day for the other one where i planned to take 30 minutes off. things happen for a reason, and if you're taking notes, you'll always learn something about yourself. i was reminded today of just how lucky i am to have a passion for something so fun, challenging and rewarding, for every day that i'm alive and healthy and able to train and race, and for all the friends i get to share that with.