Escaping from Fort De Soto (with a PR, no less)

(What's with the spacing and formatting lately, blogspot??)

When you're at the end of your first race of the season, and you're going a lot slower than you'd like, and you've only passed one person, and the volunteer around the last mile tells you, "Don't look back - there's no one behind you," what's the first thing you think?

C'mon, quick.

Holy *%&^ - I'm last. I can't believe I'm THAT slow.

Well, that's what I thought, anyway. "That's MEAN!!!" I shouted. Then the guy tells me, "There's a whole pack of people behind you. They're all WAY behind you. Trust me. No one's even close."


But, I digress.
First of all, let me just mention that I LOVE THIS VENUE. My very first tri was here, and the beach at Fort De Soto is, quite possibly, one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen. And the Mad Dogs are one of the coolest tri clubs I've ever met. I want to BE a Mad Dog. (Hell, I'm already a Crazy Bitch!)
I also had my first real sherpa for this race. The Dude - by a stroke of luck - got the night off and went with me to the race. The problem is, I didn't get off work, get finished packing, eat and get on the road until about 8pm. Which means, by the time I scoped the sight real quick-like and got to bed, it was 11 or 12. Getting up at 4am for a race is not fun when you don't get to bed till 11 or 12. And, if you know me, you KNOW how superstitious I am about my pre-race routine, especially having a low race number, getting to bed ass-early and having my race packet the night before. So I got up with a serious case of race crank. Thankfully, The Dude helped me with everything: packet pickup, packing, unpacking, getting my foot-washing water, and jamming out to my loud pre-race music on the way to the race, at 5 in the morning, as if he does this every weekend. It was like we went to a party and a race broke out.
My goals for this race were low. This was a B-C priority for me, a warm-up for St. Anthony's, which is a warm-up for Florida Half Ironman. And I have been in and out of the hospital in the past few weeks. And I generally do my worst at Sprint distance. So, my goal for the swim was 15-17 minutes, given that my last sprint-distance swim was 750m in 17:36, and I wasn't as bad-ass of a swimmer as I am now. My bike goal was light - under 40 minutes. And my run goal was 45 minutes - I've never managed an 11-minute mile in triathlon, only stand-alone foot-races, but my running's been pretty strong. In short, I didn't want to push it. This was more of a workout for me than a race. Under two hours total, and I'd be happy.
I had a major case of the Race Jitters, and I knew the second I did my water warm-up that this swim was going to SUCK A#$. I was completely dizzy in the water. My vertigo had me all wacked out. And I was just. Slow. As. Hell. Instead of passing people in the waves before me, I got to be the jerk who got passed by waves behind me. I had to pee in the water. It was the slowest swim I've ever done in ANY triathlon in my LIFE. Then T1 was about a half-mile run from the swim. Also the slowest T1 of my life. (Although NO ONE escaped from this T1 unscathed because it was so long.) So I kept singing one of the songs they'd played before the race (Disco Inferno): "I heard somebody say, 'burn, baby, burn' . . ."
The bike was almost as bad. I couldn't get my groove AT ALL. I had to pee the whole time (I always do on the bike), but people were all around me. So I fell back to my race strategy and just gave it a moderate effort: one Gu, no real hustle. (Heart rate monitors are so worth the money for keeping you on your race strategy.) I was definitely BOP'ing (Back-of-the-Pack'ing) it.
At one point, I passed ONE person - a stronger cyclist in his 70's. "On your left," I grunted. "Be my guest," he retorted with a grin. "Oh, don't worry," I told him. "You'll be passing me." "What, is there a downhill coming up that I don't know about?" "Yep," I yelled over my shoulder, at about 17 mph. "It's called me bonking." Which I did less than 200m later. "Oh no!" He laughed as he flew by. "It's the dreaded Lance-Armstrong-ist!!!"
(Did I mention I want to be him when I grow up?)
Toward the final turn, I thought it was time to dismount, so I was already unstrapping my shoes. Turns out I still had a half-mile around the corner, so I couldn't really give a "final push" because I was what my mom would call "barefooted as a yard dog." (Or, maybe in this case, as a Mad Dog??) I know I didn't do this in under 40 minutes, but I had bumped my "lap" button on my HRM, so I couldn't tell.
I heard somebody say, 'burn, baby, burn' . . .
So much for under two hours. Now I'd have to run 4 miles in 30 minutes or less to make that goal. My fastest 5k footrace is about 32 minutes, so 4 miles in 30 just ain't gonna happen. I realized one of my worst race limiters, too: THE TINKLES. I have to pee THE WHOLE RACE LONG. And then that's all I can think about. On the run, after finally getting to pee, I met a really cool guy named Matt - who's doing FL 70.3 for the second time in May - and we chatted for almost a mile, which perked me up considerably. So I actually figured I'd do well on the run. But then, just after mile two, we came around the corner of the fort, and the volunteer cheering us on said something like, "there's water just up the steps, guys."
Excuse you? What steps?
I seem to have forgotten that this race is called Escape from Fort De Soto. So I should have expected to actually ESCAPE FROM Fort De Soto at some point. Up the steps, across the top of the fort, down the steps, AND ACROSS THE SAND FOR OVER A MILE. Thankfully, it was pretty hard-packed sand, so it wasn't too rough. But there was no shade, which was pretty painful - thank GOD this is April, not August like last year's Hammerhead Olympic. Nothing I could do from there but have fun, so I kept singing.
I heard somebody say, 'burn, baby, burn' . . .
Past the cool volunteer who told me no one was behind me. A mile left. All of a sudden, finish line in sight. There's my sherpa. He actually expected me to keep up with his skinny, 8-minute-mile-running behind for the last 400m. I crossed the finish line. The clock said 2:11-something. My very first sprint, last year, was 2:10:05.
I just had my ass handed to me. No, scratch that. I just handed my own ass to myself.
But what did I expect? Really? I mean, I didn't push. I sang to myself almost all the way. So I felt great. I wasn't sore, wasn't dragging ass, wasn't tired . . . . of course, I couldn't eat till a few hours after, but that's me with any workout over 30 minutes.
And then I realized that I was in the 3rd wave.
Which means I was 6-9 minutes behind the start.
Which means I just PR'd.Without trying.
Despite my worst swim ever.
And The Tinkles.
After just being in the hospital and missing weeks of training since December 31.
As my dad likes to say when we watch football (which happens pretty much every week), "We don't care if it's ugly - we'll take it."
What a great time. Now The Dude wants to do triathlons too.
The volunteer toward the last mile came up to me after the race. "Do you remember me?" he said.
"Of course I do!"
"Remember when I said there was no one behind you?"
"And you took it negatively."
"Sure did."
"But I didn't mean it that way. Everyone behind you wasn't even in sight."
"You're right."
"Don't ever let anyone rent negative space in your head."
"You're right."
"We'll see you next time."
You bet your ass you will.
My run saved my race. That really sticks with me. The lower mileage and higher cross-training seem to do my body well. But what that volunteer told me is what really stuck with me, so you can expect me to write all about it for months to come. My worst race limiter is not THE TINKLES at all. My worst race limiter is that I DO let people rent negative space in my head. And the biggest tenant is ME. Even with The Tinkles: if I didn't think about it so damn much, I wouldn't have to pee so damn bad.
From now on, the week of a race - any race, practice or not - I'm going to put signs all over my house, my desk, my car if I have to. I'm going to tape one to the handlebars of my bike. I'm going to sing it to myself.
No one's renting any negative space in my head. Not even me.
So yes. I'm still slow. And NO. I'm still not racing Athena again just so I can get a trophy.
The Official "Hey, At Least I Wasn't Last and I PR'd" Results:
# 167 Meggan Johnson 29 Orlando FL
PLACE: 47 out of 48 in my age group, 849 out of 850-something overall
SWIM: 25:18
T1: 5:34
BIKE: 40:24
T2: 2:51
FINISH: 2:06:06
PR: Around 4 minutes.
Was it the run that saved me, or was it the disco? You decide.
I heard somebody say burn, baby, burn . . .

7 tidbits of wizdom:

CCP said...

YAY!!!!! I'm so proud of you; and you should be as well! You kicked some major behind.

BTW - ABC aired last year's IM Florida 70.3 this weekend. I watched it and was thinking of you. It looks like a great course and you should have a lot of fun out there.

Joy | Love | Chaos said...

FANTASTIC race report! Love it! You did so well!!

Duane said...

Great race report! Good race too!

Tea said...

YES! You rock! What a great race report! I love the volunteer who came up afterward to explain himself. That was SO cool.

I SO don't EVER want to race with you. (I mean that in the BEST POSSIBLE WAY). :)

Tea said...

btw---did you know that tribrit also did this one?

Simeon of Kent said...

ref: TriBrit, I'm doing NYC in July (my 1st Oly) and comparing my time with her St. Anthony's - for a bottle of gin!

Nice race report, well done...

Tribrit said...

I LOVE Fort de Soto and it was a great race. I admire you for all that determination because girl it was HOT out there!!
See you at St A's. Your swim wave goes out before mine you lucky devil....