With all my long distance running events this spring, training for the bike and swim portions of the triathlon was largely done as cross training between my focused workouts on running. I've accumulated about 1000 miles of biking during the past 6 months but most of those miles have been short easy rides. I had been swimming regularly until recently when finding pool time has been a bit harder with my event schedule. I'm a stronger swimmer then I was last year, but going into the event I've lost a bit of my swimming fitness that I had a few months ago.
One of our running friends, Ray, was also doing Liberty this year. We decided to drive together which worked out great for me because I could talk to him about all of the small details along the way. Friday after I got off work, I packed up all my gear and drove over to pick up Ray. As I waited for him to get all of his things together, I chatted with his wife Connie who I had run the twin cities marathon with last fall. It was great catching up with her and hopefully we'll have a chance to run together this summer. Once we had Ray's stuff packed up we headed back to our place to pick Erin up and were on our way out of town.
Finding the hotel was easy and as we walked in packet pickup for the race was in full swing. Erin and I checked into the hotel first and then picked up my packet. I quickly looked through it and saw some familiar and unfamiliar things. I recognized the timing chip and strap from other races as well as the bib number. In addition to this I also found a bright pink sticker and a sheet of paper with my number on it that looked like it was meant to be folded over and stuck to itself. I asked Ray about these items and he said the sticker was for my helmet and the other sheet of paper was for the bike. Did I mention it was nice having someone there who had gone through all of this before? We dropped our stuff off in the hotel and waited a few minutes for Ray's buddy to show up before heading out to get a bite to eat. Since no one had a strong preference for where to eat, we decided to go to the restaurant right next to the hotel. After supper, Ray and Ryan left to visit a local triathlon supply store and Erin and I headed back to our room. We decided to meet up with Ray at 5:00am the next morning to find a place to grab breakfast.
Neither Erin or I slept very well and I was up before the alarm went off. I quickly packed up my stuff and loaded up our truck. On my way out, I discovered that instead of the hotels normal 7:00am start to their breakfast they had it ready before 5:00am. I called Ray and we decided just to eat here instead of finding a restaurant. As far as hotel breakfasts go, this one was good. I had some premade french toast warmed up in the toaster with some sausage before heading back and making myself a waffle. The breakfast area was packed when we got there, but quickly cleared out as the other athletes left for the park. We decided it was time for us to get going as well and followed Ryan to the park.
|Ray and I before the start of the race in the transition area|
|JJ and I before the race|
|Waving to Erin before we start|
When I reached the turn-around I was feeling quite proud. I had just gone what seemed like an impossible distance. Now I just needed to turn around and do it again. For some reason, once I turned it felt like I was hardly moving so I put my head in the water and tried to work hard to get going again. I was still having problems breathing because of the waves, but I managed to feel like I was making progress again. I stopped for another rest at another kayak and the guy gave me some words of encouragement. He talked about how far he had gone paddling to this point and I had gone further than this since I was on my way back. The rest and kind words seemed to help and soon I was on my way again. When I made it back to the Olympic turn around I met up with the bulk of the swimmers participating in that event. In some ways it was comforting to have more people around again, but the trade off was more waves and the occasional bumping into people. There was one guy who seemed like he was trying to occupy the same space I was and I had to take a few moments to spit water out and collect myself after our encounter. I tried some more of the backstroke, but with more swimmers around me it didn't work too well. I remember turning over to my stomach at one point and it felt like my brain did an extra turn. I was feeling a little light headed and I wasn't quite sure why. Fortunately, I was getting close to the end of the swim and tried to keep focused on moving forward. As I neared the shore, I tried to see if I could start walking but wasn't close enough yet. I put my head down and pushed hard again and soon enough I was able to start to see the bottom. It felt great once I was able to stand up again and walk toward the shore. As I left the lake, I felt a lot like how I imagine it feels being born. I was lightheaded and dizzy, wet, and I had no idea what was going on. I struggled to walk up the hill to the transition area thinking I should maybe be running at this point. Then I realized running was not going to happen in the condition I was in and kept lumbering up the hill. I had given everything I had in the water and wasn't sure I could do much at all on the bike. I found Erin waiting for me and I asked how long I had been in the water. She told me I was right around an hour and I felt a little encouraged. I felt like it had been a lot longer and was happy that I was close to being on schedule.
Getting out of the wet suit took a little more effort then I would have liked. I remembered to take my timing chip off first, but had trouble reaching the strap attached to the zipper. Eventually I found it and started to pull the suit off. My balance wasn't the greatest at this point and I stumbled a bit. My plan was to eat a nutty bar and take a 5 hour energy, but I forgot all about the 5 hour energy with as tired as I was. I made sure I put my helmet on first so I didn't forget it and get disqualified. I started to walk my bike to where I could mount up. The bike course begins with a hill climb and I took it easy to start off with. Knowing that my time in the swim was close to what I was expecting, I thought I had a good chance to make the cutoff for the run if things went well. I figured I'd hold back for the first loop of the course on the bike and then try to pick up the pace the second time through when I had a better idea of how much time I'd need to make up.
|Heading out on the bike|
I picked up the pace a little on my second trip around the bike course. At this point there weren't too many other riders around me, but most of the time I could see at least 1 other rider. I started to pass people and felt good about my chances of making the cutoff. The first half of the second loop continued to go well for me. After getting halfway on the second loop I started to fade. I had gone through the water that I had with me and was anxiously awaiting the next bottle exchange. Unfortunately, I knew it would be a while before I would get there and started to back off on the effort I was putting in. In addition to being behind on hydration, I was getting very sore from the swim and being on my bike for so long. I could feel a little bit of cramping near my hips but it didn't get too severe. As I continued my ride, I ran across other bikers who were just out for a ride on a beautiful day. Most of them wished me good luck as they passed me and it was nice to hear some positive words when I was hurting so much. The further I went the more and more I needed to get off the saddle to climb hills. As I climbed, my legs burned but the downhill gave me a chance to rest and the burning subsided. When I reached the steep hill, I dropped it all the way down to first gear and did everything I could to keep going forward and keep the bike upright. At the top of the hill I made the turn to do the out and back part of the course. I was thinking I was way behind everyone, but going head to head was a little encouraging to see other people who were a few miles ahead of me. I was looking at my watch and doing a little bit of math and I started to realize that I would miss the cutoff. I rode the rest of the course without the volunteers at the intersections as they were pulled at the cutoff time. I pushed through the rest of the bike and arrived back at the transition area. Erin was there to greet me and I asked her if she had seen volunteers pulling people off the course when they got back. She hadn't seen them doing this, so I had a little dilemma about whether to continue or not. Based on the condition I was in, I decided that calling it a day would be the safest option. If support was pulled from the run course, I would not be able to make it and even with support, I was behind on my hydration and could easily get myself into trouble.
|Coming in after 56 miles|