St. Anthony's Race Report AKA The Most Embarrassing Race Report Ever

Ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement to make. The road to 140.6 via 70.3 is not paved in gold.

It is paved in poop.

The Race
St. Anthony's Triathlon, the 2nd-largest Olympic-distance triathlon in America and a race known worldwide for its intensely competitive field of elite amateur and professional athletes, was the 3rd (2nd completed) race in my season and the second B/C priority. The course and venue are stunning: set in the center of downtown St. Petersburg in beautiful Vinoy Park, during the temperate April weather (temperate for us is high 80s, medium humidity, bright sun). There is an expo to rival all other triathlon expos and in your goody bag you get a water bottle, a tech tee, AND a pair of cycling socks.

People fight to get into this race. They have to close the field at 4,000. In fact, my only complaint about the event is that there are SO many athletes that some people fall through the cracks. For example, waves go off every 5 minutes from 6:58am and you may be waiting 1-3 hours from race start to go out. Also, "special categories" like Clydesdale/Athena/Team in Training get announced last at the awards banquet. And, if you are that lucky guy/gal who comes across the finish line last, there will be NO beer or food for you - unless you are part of Team in Training. (I guess finishing a race of this caliber is apparently not good enough if you're only doing it for your OWN health. Don't get me wrong - I'm all about the cause, and the support from their friends is huge, which is cool, but the event organizers make it quite clear that TNT really pays their bills.) Otherwise, a beautiful race and one I'd do again.

Last year I was here as a spectator. At the 2007 Subaru Women's Tri, I won a spot into St. A's but was unprepared and my friend IronDawn took my spot. (She came back this year, by the way, and smoked her times from last year. As did TriBrit and a few of my other friends, who all finished in 2:30-2:45.) In case you were wondering, St. Anthony is the Catholic religion's Patron Saint of Lost and Stolen Things. And, no, I didn't lose or steal anything on this course.

Race Prep
I wasn't excited or completely trained for this race - just got over yet another illness and was using it as a barometer for Florida Half Ironman. Nonetheless, I was completely prepped, packed and prepared the night before and I decided to dedicate this one to all the naysayers - something I've never done - just because I needed a reason to get excited. Which I didn't. Until just before the race. I got up at 4am, did my pre-race breakfast and pills and energy drink, sunscreened, watched the pros go off, and got so nervous I just about puked. Then I got in the water to test the temp, felt exceptionally comfortable, and was unexcited again.
Of course, it would have been smart of me to remember that I didn't need to eat until 7am because my wave didn't go out until 9am. And apply sunscreen again before heading out.
The Swim
Wetsuit legal for age-groupers; I don't own a wetsuit. I prefer not to have to deal with it in T1. Despite my confidence earlier in the water, it was a SLOOOOOOOOOOW swim. Got kicked a few times, but no big deal. Ever since I learned to swim "correctly", I've gotten slower and slower and slower. I guess, as with a golf swing, you have a curve before you improve when you fix your stroke. Anyway, I felt good getting out of the water, which was relatively calm, and they have nice people to help you up the stairs (yes, stairs) at the end.
T1/The Bike
T1 was a bit slow - 3:36 - but still not horrible. I felt good getting out on the bike, which was a mostly flat course through St. Pete, until I realized that I was covered in salt and drinking salty-ass sports drink because my water bottle was on the back hydration rack. I had also eaten Shot Bloks and one Gu because I was frankly feeling hungry. Salty and crusty, but still passing people and was going almost 17mph, even 20 in some places.
And then my stomach started cramping. And, when I say cramping, I mean CRAMPING. Now, I've had Code Brown hit me during runs before, but was never able to GO. This, however, was on the BIKE, during a RACE, and they were the worst cramps I've ever felt in my life. Seriously. I felt like I was giving birth. In fact, it hurt so bad I didn't know if I could even make it. Mile 20 and I started desparately looking for a public toilet, even though I was in a questionable part of town. I had officially been struck by every triathlete's worst nightmare.
That's right. You guessed it. Triarrhea.
T2 AKA "The Porta-Potty"
People who were much faster were long done, partly because they started early, and they cheered for me into T2 because I can T2 like it's my job. Then they saw me running full speed for the porta-potty and I heard a few of the guys chuckle and go, "Uh-oh!"
Uh-oh is right. I was in there a full 10 minutes. No matter what way I sat or stood, nothing happened. I decided to rack my bike and try to run, because the clock was ticking, I could still match last year's HOT time, and running's the surest way to . . . um . . . get things moving. But I was limping all the way to the porta-potty on the way OUT to the run and the shoe-changing was excruciatingly slow.
Sitting in a porta-potty in early summer in Florida feeling like you're going to die makes you think crazy things. So at first, I started analyzing my strategy, trying to figure out what went wrong. The only deviation from my usual race routines were that I ate so early - but went out late -a nd that I pinned my race number inside my shorts to save the whole race-number-belt attachment in transition, so I'm not sure what's going on at this point. Then I realized that I took my usual energy shot, my coffee AND my medicine that keeps me "awake" this morning. And that's when I knew I'd had too many stimulants on too little food, because the food I ate at 4:30 was all gone by now. A lady knocked on the door of the porta-potty and asked if I was all right. I heard some other people passing talking. They sounded worried about me.
I was now at the highest level of the Crapper Crazies you can possibly imagine, sweating and about to pass out. This is when those thoughts go through your head like: Oh My God, What if I'm So Dehydrated My Body is Shutting Down; Oh No, I'm Going to Die; This Means There's No Way I Can Do a 70.3, Let Alone a 140.6; What if I Die in a Porta Potty; What if I Poop Myself in Public? (You get the idea.) I couldn't seem to make anything happen but pain and the insanity in my head was driving me crazy, so I left the porta potty limping and crouching. I've now decided that every T2 for the rest of my life will now be referred to as "The Porta Potty." (e.g., "Did you improve on your transition times in this race?'" "Well, my time could have been faster in T1, but I made it out of the Porta Potty alive.")
The Run(s)
Sherpa saw me enter the "run out" chute, wondering where I've been. People were asking me left and right if I was ok ; I mutttered no. I looked like that bag lady you see downtown on the street corner in the torn-up wet clothes that haven't been mended or laundered in months. You know, the one that when you pass her every day she's muttering and gesticulating and yells things at you that make no sense like, "You're the reason the liberals have started this whole puppy-washing campaign, you stupid hippie . . . Hahahahaah, that's great, Spain, Spain, no no Mars no definitely Morrocco . . . ."
Sherpa told me to drop out. I asked him what good that would do and he said, "All right, it's your decision. I'll be waiting at the end for you with a cold drink. You're almost done."
I will now confess something incredibly, horribly ridiculous. At this point, I was in so much pain (and trying so hard to pretend I wasn't, because that's what I have done and been taught to do my entire life) that I secretly wanted him to say, "No! Drop out RIGHT NOW! You could have SERIOUS medical needs! You might DIE out there!" But, silly Meggan Ann, life is NOT a romance novel. And I, being the stubborn b(*h that I am, continued limping along the course, sitting on curbs every few feet, asking people when the course closed and where the porta-potties were (no one seemed to know either), until around 2/10 mile, when I passed a park and found a public restroom. The run to use it, according to my Polar SD lap timer, cost me 47 minutes. But it "moved" me just enough to rid me of the majority of the cramps. I dashed out of the stall ASAP and hoofed it back across the course. I know the other girls knew what I was doing. I didn't give a crap. Well, now, if we want to get literal . . .
The Run
I saw Sherpa around mile 1. He was in flip flops, shirtless, but he ran/walked the entire remaining 5 miles with me, even though his heel was cut open from fishing the night before, he forgot to put on sunscreen, and he hadn't been hydrating because I brought water and he drinks only soda or sports drinks. We counted minutes running and then walked; then we fell to counting cones. But I felt really strong. REALLY strong. I outpaced him (another tiny gripe - the volunteers didn't offer him water, but they offered water to the supporters "walking" alongside their Team in Training mates) and the finish was around the corner in no time. Dolphins were playing in the water. I felt feisty.
No bumps.
No bruises.
No scars.
No pulled muscles.
Around the final turn, some TNT supporters were standing by, waiting for the TNT guys who were still behind me on the course. (I kept asking if I was last and everyone kept telling me there were still about 9 people behind me; then it was 6; then it was 4; then it was who gives a flying damn?) Everyone up till this point had been saying "WOW!!! Are you STILL competing?" And it made me wanna kick 'em. Hard. But the TNT fans were drinking beer and they were all, "Dude! you're almost there! Way to go! Way to go! Finish strong!" So I started to get kind of sassy. "I didn't come here NOT to finish!!!" I yelled back.
The crowd went wild.
Then I almost went off course. "No! No! Sharp left! Sharp left! Not towards the run out chute, the finish chute is through the parking lot!" I looked over to see a car coming, so I hesitated a little (did that on the bike too, by the way - the cops looked like they were bossing me around and not the motorists). "Fuck the car! Make the car move out of YOUR way! You're doing a triathlon, dammit!" I started laughing so hard I almost blew snot out of my nose. I don't remember what I shouted at them, but it was might saucy. Again, the crowd went wild.
Across the finish line, they were wrapping up the St. Anthony's signs and they just about shit themselves (pun intended) when they saw me coming. "Nice kick! Nick kick!" I heard one guy yell as I gave my final 400m a push - and it was a genuine compliment, not just generic pep-talk. I guess they were in awe because, crossing the line at 5:27 and change, I didn't look like some hobbling-ass freak, or some broken novice, or some deathly cardiac patient - even though I kind of am a little of all of those. I looked like an athlete.
And I kind of am a little of one of those.
I will fully admit that this is one race during which I did not smile, pose, or acknowledge the photogs. My pics are probably horrible. But I can promise you one thing: I came across that finish line looking like I knew what the crap I was doing.
# 4183 Meggan Johnson 29 Orlando FL
Finsh Time: 5:27:43
Place: 103/104
Swim: 55:11 3:41 pace
T1: 3:36
Bike: 1:49:39 13.6 mph (kiss 16-18 goodbye when you have triarrhea in aero)
T2 (aka The Porta Potty): 27:47
Run: 2:11:32 21:10 pace (subtract the 47 minutes I spent pooping and this was my fastest triathlon 10k yet.)
This is the best race I've ever had in my life even though it was the 2nd biggest disaster. The swim was my slowest. So were the bike and T2. But my run continues to improve, I am not sore at all today aside from the chafing and sunburn, I'll be on the FL HIM course this weekend and I know what I can do better next time.
And I learned ONE HUGE LESSON. Something will go wrong at EVERY single race you run, whether it's something tiny like you didn't get the race number you wanted, something small like you mismatched your socks and your left toe is a bit blistered, something medium like you didn't get a PR you worked really hard for, or something huge like almost pooping yourself in public. But, most importantly, I proved to myself, much like I did at Philly, that I am willing and able to endure great discomfort to finish a longer-distance race. And a longer-distance race is going to cause that - regardless of the physical condition you're in to begin with. Which means Florida HIM may hurt a little, but I can handle it.
Besides, I've got three more weeks to really get my crap together.

8 tidbits of wizdom:

Duane said...


Joy | Love | Chaos said...

Oh no! I'm so sorry to hear about all this cramping and crapping! Good for you for pushing through -- others would have easily dropped out in that transition. No doubt. You pushed through -- Bravo!

CCP said...

Way to go! You pushed through it and finished strong. You're one tough chic!

Tea said...

LMAO---When I saw your times, I knew there was a good story.

I was even going to email you to say that I had a feeling this one was going t obe a HUGE personal victory.

Congrats on a great race and NOT QUITTING and being proud of your 103 finish....I wonder what happened to the people behind you??

Tribrit said...

Hey, the woman behind her QUIT, but not MAJ!!
You go girl

Sam said...

I was in that TNT tent drinking beer. Way to finish!

Simeon of Kent said...

Sheers guts! Respect to you, MAJ. Triarrhea - that's hilarious! Hey, just think of how much you'll bust your PR next year.

:) said...

This is the best race repor I have ever read. EVER. Way to persevere... :)