Choices and Consequences
Going 70.3 miles is always a challenge. I entered this race knowing that just the day before I had experienced some semi-random leg cramps. I had made some poor nutrition choices on the drive from Knoxville, TN to Williamsburg, VA on Friday. My choices had consequences. I had too much sugar and caffeine trying to stay awake on the drive. I figured that since this was a not a major goal race, I could cheat for just a few hours. That may be a reason, but I was well aware that it does not constitute an excuse for a poor performance. Time to buck up and tough it out. I entered the swim stage of the Williamsburg Half with determination to not let this ruin my day.
Lesson/Reminder: You can’t outrun a poor diet.
I have made very slow progress on my swim over my 2.5 years in triathlon, but it is progress. I entered the water thinking an average swim time would be fine. I did not try to push it. I told myself repeatedly: “Do not race; just get into a rhythm and swim.” This worked well for me. I did start to feel a cramp trying to happen in my right calf. Every time it began to threaten to active, I simply relaxed my leg and started my rhythm anew. That got me through the swim with an average official pace of 1:54 per 100 meters. It was a solid start for a B race. I was happy.
The bike course was beautiful! We went down scenic back roads and the course was mostly flat. There were a few wrecks, unfortunately. I was happy to stay healthy and upright. I did face some minor cramping episodes. Each time it started, I would relax until it dissipated. I tried salt, water, food, fancy hydration mixes… none of them helped for very long. This was not an issue that started in the race. I don’t know why I thought I could solve it quickly during the race.
In between a few breaks for stretching and a visit to the porta-potty, I was able to keep my moving pace around 19 to 20 mph for a lot of the time. After a while, my breaks saw a familiar set of people pass me as I stayed there stretching, fueling, etc. Then I would get on my bike and very gradually pass them again. It was déjà vu all over again as I took another break and then caught the same athletes. It was kind of fun. More importantly, I knew that I was maintaining my overall average pace at the goal of 18 mph. I didn’t care if I looked good doing it. The breaks eased my cramping for a while. I was managing just fine.
When I started the run, I had in mind to maintain a 9 min pace per mile. That did not last for very long. The cramps were catching up with me. It was hot. I drank an enormous amount of liquid (by my standards) and never got that sloshy feeling. I was sweating it out as fast as I could pour it in. The first half of the run was solid, but I was getting more crampy. The second half of the run saw me walking a lot more. I did not walk because I was tired. I was not tired. I had more energy than my body could use. I only walked when the crampy twitches were about to turn into a full-fledged cramp. I have dealt with cramps for years, so I know when that moment has arrived. I would only walk as many steps as it took for that feeling to subside. It stayed longer each time as the miles went on. My right hamstring finally locked up with 0.2 miles to go. I stood for about 45 seconds before my muscle calmed down enough to walk and then jog. I ended up averaging 10:12 per mile on the run. That is a full 1:12 per mile slower than the planned pace, but not bad for the heat and my present situation.
The End Results
I finished the whole thing in about 6:05:30. This was a little slower than my goal of sub-6.
Regardless, this race was a success for several reasons:
- It was a Personal Best for a half distance triathlon (70.3) by 17 minutes!
- The swim was solid and a slight improvement.
- The bike goal of 18 mph was met, a big improvement.
- I had fun on the run.
Again, this was not a goal race. My big goal race is the Rev3 Cedar Point Full Triathlon in September. This was a test. I failed at nutrition before the race, but the race itself was a solid success.
Enjoy the run!
P. Mark Taylor