The setting was idillic, nestled in the Fingers Lakes region of New York. The swim was in beautiful Seneca Lake; the bike took us through the rolling countryside between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes; and the run tortured us in the blistering sun along the lake and around town of Geneva. Overall, despite getting heat exhaustion and basically shutting down during the run, I was happy with the race and the course.
As you know, I don't really do race reports. So in an effort to make this as little like a "race report" as possible, I thought I'd pass along some nuggets of wisdom I learned from Musselman.
1. Make a road trip out of your next race: If you haven't done this already, find a race that's not right in your backyard and plan a manageable road trip. There's something to be said for packing up the car and hitting the road, with nothing but the scenery and your music (and coffee of course!), en route to a weekend of race adventure!
The Fingers Lakes were about six hours from me (perfect), and the drive up through Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York was stunning. I'd never been up to this part of the country and I had no idea that my drive would be so mesmerizing, particularly when I got to the part of Pennsylvania that goes along the Susquehanna River.
|Driving along the Susquehanna....|
|I stopped for lunch along the banks of the Susquehanna and just chilled out for a bit...|
2. Stay away from the hustle and bustle of the race: Personally, I'm not one who likes to be right in the mix of the athlete village and host hotel. I like to be close enough to the race so that it's not inconvenient to get there race morning, but far enough away that I don't have to be surrounded by nothing but athletes for the next couple days. Seriously, those of you who compete know what I mean...you get a little tired of seeing people in their compression socks two days before the race, wearing their Ironman or other race t-shirt to let the competition know their accomplishments, and talking about all their races, how many times they've done this race, or their PR's ("personal records" for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about)...
|Peaceful trail that went throughout the property...|
|Two of the three adorable goats on the Mecklenberg property...|
|The mama and her babies...I visited them several times...|
4. Get your mind off the race and do a little touring: One of the other reasons I like to stay a bit off-the-beaten-race course is that it allows me to explore my destination area. It ain't all about racing folks. Coming to the Finger Lakes area meant I could do something I've been wanting to do for several years now...tour the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York. (FYI, being a vegan will make you want to do weird things like schedule races around going to a farm sanctuary). I was absolutely giddy.
The Farm Sanctuary was founded in 1986 and its mission is "[t]o protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals, and promote compassionate vegan living." It now has three locations: Watkins Glen, NY; Orland, CA; and Los Angeles, CA.
The Farm Sanctuary tour was amazing! Not that I needed anything to reaffirm my commitment to being a vegan, but this certainly added more fire to my passion. The Sanctuary is situated in the peaceful hills, with acre after acre of happy farm animals. I won't post all the pictures I took on the tour, but here are some of the highlights:
|The pigs were very sleepy...but they loved to have their bellies scratched!|
|I LOVED the cows! They were like big dogs! And yes, I stepped in a couple cow patties...|
|This is Turpentine...the MAN at Farm Sanctuary. He came out to greet people and puffed up his feathers...Gorgeous!|
5. Attend the pre-race lecture, drive the course. and do your pre-race primer: I cannot emphasize this enough: unless you're a professional triathlete, you are never too cool or too knowledgable to forego the pre-race informational lecture. Every time I've gone to one, I've learned something I didn't know or couldn't have anticipated. Valuable information is given at these talks, such as the 90-degree right turn at the bottom of a hill right on the shore of the Cayuga Lake at mile 25. Take the time, respect the effort the race directors put into ensuring that you have a good time and remain safe, and attend the pre-race talk.
Also, even if you're not neurotic like me, you should at least drive the bike course, and maybe the run course too (although, I have to say, I've never driven a run course). I try to drive the bike courses of my longer distance races. For some reason I find it comforting to familiarize myself with the course over which I'll be hurling myself and my bike. I like knowing the tricky turns, the ups and downs, landmarks that can remind me that I'm at a certain point...It takes some of the mystery out of a 56-mile or 112-mile bike course. Run courses certainly are worth driving as well, but for me, I don't feel as unprepared for the unforeseen fork in the road when I'm running as I am when I'm going 3 to 4 times faster on my bike.
And lastly, do a pre-race primer the day (or two) before the race. This means, go to the site and do a short swim (if they'll allow it), and ride and run a small part of the course. Nothing long at all - I think my entire pre-race primer triathlon was 30 minutes. Do it just to shake your legs out, go over your transition set-up, get your mind focused, and work out some of your jitters..
|Me on my pre-race primer bike ride....|
Also, getting there extra early allows you the freedom to take your time to set up your transition area correctly, make sure you didn't forget anything, get air in your tires or have the bike techs repair any issues, survey the race site for any last minute changes, and take the all-important pre-race pictures to post to Facebook right before you start...For me, it also allows me time to sneak off by myself, get my head on right, and pray for a safe race.
Getting there early gave me time to also to do a swim warmup once I got my transition area set up. I recommend doing this about 20-30 minutes before the race start, if you're allowed. It gives you a chance to see how the water is going to be, work off some of your nervousness, and get your blood flowing.
|Sunrise over Seneca Lake as the race coordinators set out the buoys for the swim course...|
So when our wave went off, I attacked the swim for the first time ever. I'm usually very hesitant, almost apologetically moving out of the way anytime someone comes remotely close to bumping into me. Not this time. I just put my head down and swam. Someone bumped into me, I kept going. And if they tried to swim over me, I had no problem pushing them off. (Yes, I think if you run directly into someone on the swim it's incumbent on you to stop trying to swim over the top of them. Move the hell around them!) My buoy siting was dead on. And there was no panic. No fear that I could drown. No wishing the swim would hurry up and get over. For the first time ever I embraced the swim...and I enjoyed it!
On the bike, I did about as I expected and was happy about that. But half-way through the 56-mile rolling hill course (which included dodging horse poo from Mennonites in their wagons on their way home from church), my neck and shoulders cramped up so bad that I couldn't turn my head to the right without my neck having a spasm. I've battled neck and shoulder cramps/knots ever since I first started riding my triathlon bike. And even though I'd just had another bike fit (my fourth one), I knew the problem wasn't totally fixed. So as painful as it was, I just embraced it. It hurt, it sucked, oh well. It wasn't keeping my legs from pedaling, and that's all that mattered.
The run was a little more difficult to embrace. I don't know that I "embraced" as much as I said "fuck it." The minute I started the run, I knew I was in trouble because the sun was so intense and there was virtually no shade along the mostly asphalt course. Heat + sweat + me = heat exhaustion. Again, something I've battled for years. So my run basically fell apart and I did a lot of walking. I was pouring ice down my shirt and shorts, putting wet sponges on my head, going through every hose that the town residents were spraying on us (bless each and every one of them), drinking all the water/electrolytes I could get my hands on...but my body just wasn't having it. At first I was pissed because I'd really hoped to nail this race and especially the run. But after a couple miles, when I saw that everyone was suffering - badly - I just embraced it and started commiserating with the other runners. Misery loves company, and everyone out there in the heat that day became best friends for 13.1 miles. As my Uncle Bud would say, "It is what it is."
8. Get your nutrition RIGHT: Turns out, one of the reasons that my heat exhaustion was so bad during Musselman (aside from the blistering sun and lack of shade) was the fact that I was taking in half of the calories and carbs that I was supposed to. Apparently there was a miscommunication between my nutritionist and me. After discussing a series of numbers with her, I asked her what my bottom-line calorie/carb intake should be. She thought I was asking her how many calories and carbs were in the sports drink I'd been using and gave me that number. So while I needed to be taking in about 235 calories and 65 carbs per hour, I actually ended up taking in about 120 calories and 35 carbs an hour. Big difference!
Lesson learned - if you're working with a nutritionist, get a specific breakdown - in writing - of your nutrition intake requirements and make sure they are hourly, race-specific numbers.
9. Relax and refuel post-race: Whether you're doing a destination race or not, take the rest of that day and the next day to relax, refuel, and recuperate. Sleep in. Take the day off work. Spin your legs out on your bike or go for a short swim if it will help shed some of the built-up lactic acid, but take it easy. Treat yourself to a massage (which I did). Go to a nice restaurant for breakfast or lunch (and wear your finisher shirt if you want, but don't wear your medal around all the next day...) Allow yourself to bask in the glow of your accomplishment...
|I enjoyed a leisurely post-race morning the next day, just relaxing at the cabin and watching the butterflies...|
|Always a welcome site...|
We all know that we can die or become seriously injured during any portion of the triathlon. But that knowledge means about as much to triathletes as the knowledge we all have that we could die any time we get behind the wheel of a car. You know it's a possibility...you just never really appreciate that it could happen to you.
These two competitors were young, healthy, vibrant people who, in the stroke of a pedal, had their lives ripped away and their families' lives shattered. In that context, the race clock and my age group rank really are meaningless. I finished. Some weren't so fortunate.
When I signed up for Musselman, the registration form asked me why I do triathlons. I'd completely forgotten about this. But when I got into transition the morning of the race and found my designated spot on the bike rack, the amazing folks at Musselman had this reminder:
|I loved that Musselman did this...|
Every time you start training for a race, think about what made you want to take this journey. Whenever you toe up at a start line, remember the blood, sweat, and sacrifices that it took to get you there. And every single time you step or crawl across the finish line, be thankful, above all else, that you made it.
Musselman was a fun, difficult, rewarding, and educational race. And in reality, it was just a training race to see how I'm doing in preparation for Ironman Lake Tahoe this year on September 22...So my journey to be as healthy as I can be and to cross another finish line continues...But next time, it will end (hopefully) in the heart of Squaw Valley after 140.6 miles...
|The road to the end of another Ironman marathon continues...|